The Fireman by Joe Hill

The Fireman by Joe HillThe Fireman
by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow
on May 17th 2016
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 768
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
Amazon
five-stars
From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author ofNOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke. -- From Goodreads.com

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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I feel like my meager reviewing skills are not up to the task of reviewing this book. I can’t find the right words to say just how much I completely and totally adored this book. There is only one other book I can think of that ranks as high with me and that is The Stand by Stephen King. How “odd” that both are apocalyptic plague novels – and that the men who wrote them are from the same family.

In both books, a deadly pandemic reduces the worlds population by millions. Both feature a pregnant woman who is a survivor of the plague, and also carrying someone who will prove if humanity will perish or not. Both feature a deaf man named Nick (saw what you did there Joe!) and, for me, I just had the same…”feeling…” that I had reading The Stand. I can’t explain it any better than that. It was a feeling and both books made me feel it. And lastly, while both books are dystopian both have an optimism that I can’t help but love. Humanity is dying, long live humanity. Perhaps that is the “feeling” I can’t identify? Do I put these books down feeling more hopeful for our future?

I hope so.

The writing is great. The characters are memorable, root-for-able, and real. The book, while long, does not feel long – which I always find to be quite the accomplishment when it happens. Kate Mulgrew reads the audiobook; which is how I plan to reread this book, and soon! I can’t say more than what is in the summary. I don’t want to say anything more than what I’ve said. The Fireman is one of those books I think one is best reading with little to go on other than, hopefully, my opinion that it is a fantastic book. I hope you believe me. I hope you decide to get it, take it on vacation this summer, and devour it. I’m ready to read it again.

Favorite bits:

“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone ALWAYS dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”

“Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”

“It’s so fucking cheap when people say I love you. It’s a name to stick on a surge of hormones, with a little hint of loyalty thrown in. I’ve never liked saying it. Here’s what I say: We’re together, now and until the end. You have everything I need to be happy. You make me feel right.”

It’s easy to dismiss religion as bloody, cruel, and tribal. I’ve done it myself. But it isn’t religion that’s wired that way – it’s man himself. At bottom every faith is a form of instruction in common decency. Different textbooks in the same class. Don’t they all teach that to do for others feels better than to do for yourself? That someone else’s happiness need not mean less happiness for you?”

Mother Tongue: My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish by Christine Gilbert

Mother Tongue: My Family’s Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish by Christine GilbertMother Tongue: My Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish
by Christine Gilbert
Published by Avery
on May 17th 2016
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Goodreads
four-stars
One woman’s quest to learn Mandarin in Beijing, Arabic in Beirut, and Spanish in Mexico, with her young family along for the ride.

Imagine negotiating for a replacement carburetor in rural Mexico with words you’re secretly pulling from a pocket dictionary. Imagine your two-year-old asking for more niunai at dinner—a Mandarin word for milk that even you don’t know yet. Imagine finding out that you’re unexpectedly pregnant while living in war-torn Beirut. With vivid and evocative language, Christine Gilbert takes us along with her into foreign lands, showing us what it’s like to make a life in an unfamiliar world—and in an unfamiliar tongue.Gilbert was a young mother when she boldly uprooted her family to move around the world, studying Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico, with her toddler son and all-American husband along for the ride. Their story takes us from Beijing to Beirut, from Cyprus to Chiang Mai—and also explores recent breakthroughs in bilingual brain mapping and the controversial debates happening in linguistics right now.Gilbert’s adventures abroad prove just how much language influences culture (and vice versa), and lead her to results she never expected. Mother Tongue is a fascinating and uplifting story about taking big risks for bigger rewards and trying to find meaning and happiness through tireless pursuit—no matter what hurdles may arise. It’s a treat for language enthusiasts and armchair travelers alike.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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When I was 8 years old, my school district had something called Summer Enrichment. It wasn’t just summer school. You didn’t have to go if you didn’t want to. It was fun classes. You could take Art, Newspaper, the kind of PE classes you DID like, like swimming, printing (little did I know I’d wind up in the field), and foreign languages. I was desperate to go, because, crazy little me loved to learn.

I went for years, until I aged out, and I learned lots of fun things I would have never learned without SE. One of those things was French. I took it for several summers and retained enough to excel at French in high school and then college. In fact, my college professor really wanted to pursue a degree in it, but I knew I would never want to leave home and that degree would necessitate it.

Now, I find opportunities to speak French with some French Ghana friends I have made around campus. The French I use the most? The French I learned in Enrichment. I have often regretted not learning a more useful (for me) language, such as Spanish, since my part of NC has a rich Latino population, but French was, and remains, my love. I have often dreamed of learning other languages, but fear I’m too old.

So, when a representative from Avery (a division of Penguin Random House) contacted me about Mother Tongue, I jumped at the chance. What better way to see if I’m too old to learn something as difficult as a new language, than to read the escapades of a woman trying to do just that?

It was eye opening.

Gilbert and her family travel to China, Beirut, and Mexico in an effort to fully immerse in the culture and the language and learn. Just learn. How to speak, how to converse, how to read, how to understand. And they have varying degrees of success and I admire how Gilbert dealt with the situations AND that she owned up to them in her book. Learning a new language at (most) any age is not easy and Gilbert doesn’t sugar coat it. She worked her ass off and it shows. This book is fascinating not only from the learning aspect, but the glimpses of the different cultures Gilbert encounters and how her husband and son deal with those changes as well. At times repetitive, this book is still a fascinating look at what taking a huge risk can earn one who takes the chance.

Rave Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Rave Review: Sleeping Giants by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants
by Sylvain Neuvel
Length: 8 hours 28 minutes
Published by Penguin Books
on April 26th 2016
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
five-stars
A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton,World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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I’m not sure where I first heard about this book (perhaps Litsy?). I’m not even sure why I wanted to read it so badly. But as soon as I saw it, I KNEW I had to read it. When it showed up in an email from Penguin Audio, I hurried to download it and added it to my queue. I started it on a Wednesday afternoon, when I was doing some really menial, repetitive (read: boring) work at work. I went in blind. I had no idea what it was about (serious, WHY did I want to read it so badly) and I certainly didn’t know that the story was told in interviews, journal notes, and such and I really didn’t know it had multiple narrators.

At first, since I didn’t know the narrative structure, I was a little put off. The main narrator, the one questioning all the other characters, was a little off-putting. Yet, as it went on, it became quite compelling. I couldn’t help but be interested in a woman who, as a child discovered a metal hand, grew up to study that hand – and the rest of the giant robot that went with it! As each character was introduced, they were so interesting and well-formed! I wanted to know more!

The next thing I knew, the work day was over and I was over a quarter of the way through the book! I listened all day Thursday, barely pausing to talk to anyone at work because I didn’t want to stop listening. I finished Friday morning and felt bereft. Especially with the way the book ended. I’m ready for the next book, without a doubt.

By the end of the book, I really appreciated Neuvel’s choice in telling his story and, since I listened to the book, I can’t imagine reading it any other way. The actor’s really shined in their parts and completely made the book for me. I don’t mind multiple narrators, especially when they are in an audiobook, so in my opinion audio is the way to go here. It was just fantastic and I think it would make a great beach read.

The Wander Society by Keri Smith

The Wander Society by Keri SmithThe Wander Society
by Keri Smith
Published by Penguin Books
on March 29, 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
Amazon
five-stars
wan·der
verb  \ˈwän-dər\
to walk/explore/amble in an unplanned or aimless way with a complete openness to the unknown

Several years ago when Keri Smith, bestselling author of Wreck This Journal, discovered cryptic handwritten notations in a worn copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, her interest was piqued. Little did she know at the time that those simple markings would become the basis of a years-long, life-changing exploration into a mysterious group known only as The Wander Society, as well as the subject of this book.

Within these pages, you’ll find the results of Smith’s research: A guide to the Wander Society, a secretive group that holds up the act of wandering, or unplanned exploring, as a way of life. You’ll learn about the group’s mysterious origins, meet fellow wanderers through time, discover how wandering feeds the creative mind, and learn how to best practice the art of wandering, should you choose to accept the mission.
Clicking the above affiliate link, will provide me with a small sum of money, which is used to fund my blog and my book habit.

The Wanderers are Everywhere. 

Do you like to wander? Do you like to disconnect; from life, your phone, from everything – even just temporarily? Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with nature, yourself, with the world?

Then this book, this SOCIETY, may be for you.

It’s easy to do:

wanderprecepts

When we constantly fill up all our “empty” time with stimulation in the form of electronic devices, games, and distractions, our brains become disengaged and the thinking process is effectively halted. We never get to hear our own inner voice-we don’t develop a relationship with ourselves and our minds. We don’t get to know who we are because we’re not listening.

I find that I am too connected. I have to have my phone with me. I can get lost on the computer, for hours at a time. I do not want to be this way. I have started wandering. And I will wander more.

Join me?

Bite Size Reviews: Comics from February

BITE SIZE REVIEWS

Bitch Planet Volume 1 – I have decided Kelly Sue Deconnick can do no wrong. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds.¹ I feel like this is the best description possible. Besides the story, there is so many great things going on here; commentary on body image, race, sexuality, politics, and just about anything noncompliant can get you arrested and sent to Bitch Planet, a horrible prison where terrible things happen. That makes it sound terrible, but it really isn’t. It’s empowering, it’s outspoken in all the right ways, and it never apologizes. Great stuff.

Captain Marvel Volume 2: Stay Fly – Again with the Kelly Sue Deconnick! Seriously, you can’t go wrong with her. Captain Marvel is great fun. Carol Danvers’ space adventure continues, with her cat Chewie and her stowaway Tic in tow. Guest appearance by Rocket Raccoon is much appreciated (because I like that crazy raccoon) and the storylines are just fun. Carol is my favorite Avenger.

Captain Marvel Volume 3: Alis Volat Propriis – Last Kelly Sue Deconnick. Really. It’s the last of her arc with Carol Danvers and I’m sorry to see her go! This did feel the weakest of the series and I didn’t appreciate the random issue from another series, but the ending was beautiful and I am interested to see where Marvel takes the character next.

Jem and the Holograms Volume 1: Showtime! – OMG YOU GUYS. I am a total 80s kid and I watched Jem RELIGIOUSLY. Jerrica and the girls were so cool and so fun and so COLORFUL. And they still are. This reboot is just as fun, just as cool, and just as colorful. I found it to be a great reboot. It takes what made the cartoon as success and builds on it while making it feel modern and fresh. There is still a lot of pink glitter involved, but also brings in new diversity in race, sex, and body type. The girls are back, and better than ever.

Morning Glories Volume 1: For a Better Future – A prep school. For truly…exceptional…children. All the students are brilliant. They were all born on the same day. And they all have no idea what they are getting themselves into here at Morning Glory Academy. Next volume please!

The Sculptor – I have never read a book by Scott McCloud and I now consider this a travesty. This book appears to be quite divisive, especially in regard to the ending, and for me, it was perfect. I loved every panel. The art, the story, the ideas. I loved it all. I don’t even know how to describe it. The protagonist, David, is lonely, conflicted, and ambitious. He’s an artist. An artist that no one will work with. All he wants to do is share his art, to make people feel, and he just can’t make it happen. He’s at the point where he might just give up, when he meets his Uncle Harry, his Dead Uncle Harry, who gives him an offer he can’t refuse: the ability to mold anything out of anything with his bare hands, but only for 200 days. Then David’s life is forfeit to Harry. All is fine and dandy until he meets Meg. Ugh. I can’t do this books justice.

This isn’t all the comics I read in February! A few may get their own reviews. Stay tuned!

ps: all links go to Amazon, where, if you should buy a book, I’ll get a small cut

In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Other Words by Jhumpa LahiriIn Other Words
Published by Random House Audio
on February 9, 2016
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars
From the Pulitzer Prize winner, a surprising, powerful, and eloquent nonfiction debut

In Other Words is at heart a love story—of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language. For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. And although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterward, true mastery had always eluded her. So in 2012, seeking full immersion, she decided to move to Rome with her family, for “a trial by fire, a sort of baptism” into a new language and world.

In Rome, Lahiri began to read, and to write—initially in her journal—solely in Italian. In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice. Presented in a dual-language format, it is a book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Nabokov. A startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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I want you to just take a minute to click on the underlined more… up there and read what this book is about. Read it carefully.

There. Did you do it?

So you realize that Lahiri, a woman born in London, raised in Rhode Island, and raised in her mother’s Bengali heritage, sought to learn to read and write Italian AND THEN DID IT. And then she wrote a book about it IN ITALIAN.

Go ahead. Just sit back and think about that. And realize she is THE WOMAN. I’ll wait.

Are you impressed? Because I am. Not surprised, no, cause we all know Lahiri is a brilliant woman, a fantastic writer, and, obviously, brave — but I can’t help but be impressed. Mainly because, while I have often wanted to learn another language beyond the high school French I remember, I would never have the ambition to do what she did to reach her goal. And then to just do it – DO IT – so damn well. Truly, this book is a wonder. And the audio? Y’all. Lahiri reads this book. In English. Then in Italian.

It is amazing and I highly recommend listening to it.

Thoughts on Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Thoughts on Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha HuntMr. Splitfood
by Samantha Hunt
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
on January 5, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Friend
Goodreads
Amazon
five-stars
A contemporary gothic from an author in the company of Kelly Link and Aimee Bender, Mr. Splitfoot tracks two women in two times as they march toward a mysterious reckoning.

Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic. To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead. Decades later, Ruth’s niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant. After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention. She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who — or what — has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?

In an ingeniously structured dual narrative, two separate timelines move toward the same point of crisis. Their merging will upend and reinvent the whole. A subversive ghost story that is carefully plotted and elegantly constructed, Mr. Splitfoot will set your heart racing and your brain churning. Mysteries abound, criminals roam free, utopian communities show their age, the mundane world intrudes on the supernatural and vice versa.

You guys. I am so gullible; I mean; it really doesn’t take much to talk me into trying out a book. I tried this book because:

  1. Andi told me to
  2. It’s compared to Kelly Link in the first line of the book description
  3. There are orphans. And a road trip. And religious fanatics.
  4. But basically because Andi told me to.

Do you ever read a book that you just totally loved, even though you know you didn’t totally GET IT? This is me with Mr. Splitfoot and it’s also why I know I’ll be rereading it in a year or so. I just know there is so much I missed. Yet I loved it. Basically, all I can say is that. I loved this book and I don’t know what else to say. Andi said that was perfect, so, there you go.

I loved it and I just don’t even know. It’s just so goooood. Read it.

The Dead Ladies Project + a personal challenge

The Dead Ladies Project + a personal challengeThe Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries
by Jessa Crispin
Published by University of Chicago Press
on September 22, 2015
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 248
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Goodreads
five-stars
When Jessa Crispin was thirty, she burned her settled Chicago life to the ground and took off for Berlin with a pair of suitcases and no plan beyond leaving. Half a decade later, she’s still on the road, in search not so much of a home as of understanding, a way of being in the world that demands neither constant struggle nor complete surrender.

The Dead Ladies Project is an account of that journey—but it’s also much, much more. Fascinated by exile, Crispin travels an itinerary of key locations in its literary map, of places that have drawn writers who needed to break free from their origins and start afresh. As she reflects on William James struggling through despair in Berlin, Nora Barnacle dependant on and dependable for James Joyce in Trieste, Maud Gonne fomenting revolution and fostering myth in Dublin, or Igor Stravinsky starting over from nothing in Switzerland, Crispin interweaves biography, incisive literary analysis, and personal experience into a rich meditation on the complicated interactions of place, personality, and society that can make escape and reinvention such an attractive, even intoxicating proposition.

Personal and profane, funny and fervent, The Dead Ladies Project ranges from the nineteenth century to the present, from historical figures to brand-new hangovers, in search, ultimately, of an answer to a bedrock question: How does a person decide how to live their life?

Earlier this year, I read The Dead Ladies Project by Jessa Crispin (thanks to Kerri from Etymology of a Book Worm!). Crispin’s story has been stewing in my head and my heart ever since. Who hasn’t, at some point in their life, wanted to just burn it all down and start all over? Or, perhaps, end it all? What do you do? How do you survive that panic, that fear, that panic? If you’re Jessa Crispin, you turn it all in and go off, in search of – something. Just go off and find something else to do with your life. And, you know, sometimes…just sometimes…I get that feeling. That if I wasn’t tied down…if I wasn’t tied down by family and job and bills and had just a modicum of gumption – it is exactly the type of thing I would want to do. This idea, of selling of my life, breaking all ties, and roaming the world in search of the places where expats go to work, to live, to find themselves; is fascinating. What’s more:

“It was the dead I wanted to talk to. The writers and the artists and composers who kept me company in the late hours of the night: I needed to know how they did it. I’d always been attracted to the unloosed, the wandering souls who were willing to scrape their lives clean and start again elsewhere.”

Some small part of me is attracted to this too. That is attracted and wonders, fleetingly, what it’s like. To start all over.

I would never do it. But I’ll never stop wondering either.

And this idea, of picking someone, immersing myself in his or her life and ideas, his or her struggles and successes…. It just sounds fascinating.

I really want to do it.

So I am.

Don’t mistake me, I’ll be doing it in a very limited way. I’m going to pick someone, most likely dead, not necessarily an ex-pat, and learn about her (or perhaps him). I already have a list. I have books. I’m lining things up. And I’m super excited. I’m going on an adventure. And I can’t wait.

I have a long list of (mostly) ladies I want to learn more about, and I’m starting off with Beryl Markham. I plan to reread West with the Night, Markham’s memoir and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun, a fictionalization of Markham’s life in Africa has a horse trainer and pilot.

Anyone you suggest for my list? 

That Time When a Book was More Than I Thought….

That Time When a Book was More Than I Thought….The Penguin Lessons: What I Learned from a Remarkable Bird
Narrator: Bill Nighy
Length: 6 hours 6 minutes
Published by Random House Audio
on October 27, 2015
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 240
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Goodreads
five-stars
I was hoping against hope that the penguin would survive because as of that instant he had a name, and with his name came the beginning of a bond which would last a life-time.'

Tom Michell is in his roaring twenties: single, free-spirited and seeking adventure. He has a plane ticket to South America, a teaching position in a prestigious Argentine boarding school, and endless summer holidays. He even has a motorbike, Che Guevara style. What he doesn't need is a pet. What he really doesn't need is a pet penguin. Set against Argentina's turbulent years following the collapse of the corrupt Perónist regime, this is the heart-warming story of Juan Salvador the penguin, rescued by Tom from an oil slick in Uruguay just days before a new term. When the bird refuses to leave Tom's side, the young teacher has no choice but to smuggle it across the border, through customs, and back to school.

Whether it's as the rugby team's mascot, the housekeeper's confidant, the host at Tom's parties or the most flamboyant swimming coach in world history, Juan Salvador transforms the lives of all he meets - in particular one homesick school boy. And as for Tom, he discovers in Juan Salvador a compadre like no other... The Penguin Lessons is a unique and moving true story which has captured imaginations around the globe - for all those who dreamed as a child they might one day talk to the animals.

Okay, I admit it. I picked this book for the cover. So sue me. In my defense, LOOK at that cover. Is there anything cuter than a penguin wearing a long scarf? Okay, I could probably go for an owl or a fox wearing a long scarf, or a Doctor (wink), but not many animals, or people, can pull off this look.

Judging by the cover, I was expecting a sweet, slightly whimsical, and completely charming story of a man and his penguin. I got all of that. But I also got so much more, for during the time Michell owned his pet penguin, he lived in Argentina and it was an Argentina in turmoil. It is the post-Perón years and it is a time period I absolutely knew nothing about. So, intermingled with adorable stories of a penguin who rules a boarding school in Argentina are stories of coups and all the problems of living in an impoverished country where violence, deprivation, and uncertainty run rampant.

Now really. Is there a better way to learn some history about a time period and place you know little about? Surround any history lesson with stories of a cute penguin (or an owl, fox, or octopus to name a few others) and I think one could teach anybody anything.

The absolutely icing on the cake, for me, was Bill Nighy’s narration. Yes, ole Davy Jones himself reads the book and he reads it masterfully. He can read to me, anything, anytime. Loved it.

That Feeling When One of Your Favorite Authors…Disappoints You?

That Feeling When One of Your Favorite Authors…Disappoints You?The Rest of Us Just Live Here
by Patrick Ness
Published by Walker Books
on August 27, 2015
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
three-half-stars
What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Award-winning writer Patrick Ness’s bold and irreverent novel powerfully reminds us that there are many different types of remarkable

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

YOU GUYS. MY HEART IS CRUSHED.

Okay, no, not crushed, but I am at a loss for words because…I didn’t love this book. I was….I was…I was all…

bored

I DID LIKE IT. Do not get me wrong. I did like it. But I have become accustomed to a certain level of…complete and absolute adoration…when it comes to Patrick Ness’s work that, when I don’t feel it, I’m left feeling confused, bereft, and severely lacking in my mental acumen. In other words, I am at a loss for words. I’m left wondering what is wrong with ME, that I don’t like this like I should? It had all the usual Ness-excellent writing. The characters were fun. I liked the story-within-a-story aspect. The INDIE kids and how the world was ending for them (again) and how the normal, regular kids, were worried about love, and school, and graduating before the high school blew up (again).

Or, well, yeah. It DID feel a little gimmicky, I’ll give you that. And no, I didn’t really feel engaged with any of the characters. I never felt…connected…. Despite their being “normal” and “not the Chosen ones,” I didn’t identify with them at all. And I don’t feel like that’s because they are all teenagers and I am most assuredly not a teenager any more. Still, I was a teenager once. I remember what it was like. It has not prevented me from identifying with teenagers in other books.

No, upon closer examination, it was determined, by me, that my standards are set impossibly high. Certainly I can’t expect this brilliant, impossibly engaging man, to hit them all out of the park. Can I? No. I cannot.

And, just to prove that the writing is still awesome:

Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly. All the while knowing that the world makes no sense but trying to find a way to be happy anyway.

Feelings don’t try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous. You’re responsible for it’s consequences, you’re responsible for treating it. But Michael, you’re not responsible for causing it. You’re not morally at fault for it. No more than you would be for a tumour.

Have you read this book? What did you think? What was I missing????