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Peace Like a River

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. My first encounter with Peace Like a River came almost 15 years ago. I came home from AmeriCorps*NCCC, and when my family came to pick me up from the airport, my mom—who has long read out loud to the family on long car trips—was about half-way through reading the book aloud to my dad and sisters. Even coming into the story late, I immediately fell in love with Enger’s style. His lyrical prose is like a comfortable jacket on a fall day—cozy, and yet full of the promise of something exciting. I was so enchanted that I had to stop listening so that it wouldn’t spoil the book for me, because I needed to start from the beginning. I knew it was going to be a doozy when my mother handed it to me a few days later and warned me to keep a box of tissues nearby. Peace Like a River is told through the eyes of Reuben Land, an 11-year-old asthmatic whose older brother, Davy, is controversially charged with murder. When Davy escapes from jail and disappears, the remaining Lands—including their father Jeremiah (a man of such conviction that he has been known to produce miracles) and their precocious younger sister Swede—embark on a cross-country journey to find the fugitive teen before the Feds do. Filled with an unexpected cast of characters and colored by the romantic imagery of old Zane Gray westerns, the story is at once a tragedy and a celebration of the power of faith. Evocative and charming one moment and heartbreakingly honest the next, Peace Like a River is like nothing else I’ve read. In the years since that first reading, I have returned to this book many times. This time, I shared it with my husband—and keeping with tradition, I read aloud to him whenever we sat for a long stretch in the car. It’s a magical book to read aloud—if you can. The faith of Jeremiah often made me pause to blink until I could see clearly again, and the final chapters left me hopeless in that endeavor. It filled me with no shortage of marital bliss when I turned the final page and Brett said, “That was really good.” It is really good. The best, in my opinion, even considering the stiff competition it has faced. It won’t be the last time I read this book. Peace Like a River Author: Leif Enger Genre: Fiction Rating: A very enthusiastic [clear] Don’t forget to save this book to your reading list!

What I’ve Been Reading: Prairie Stories with Willa Cather

Sunrise over the hay field

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  “I used to love to drift along the pale-yellow cornfields, looking for the damp spots one sometimes found at their edges, where the smartweed soon turned a rich copper color and the narrow brown leaves hung curled like cocoons about the swollen joints of the stem. Sometimes I went south to visit our German neighbors and to admire their catalpa grove, or to see the big elm tree that grew up out of a deep crack in the earth and had a hawk’s nest in its branches. Trees were so rare in that country, and they had to make such a hard fight to grow, that we used to feel anxious about them, and visit them as if they were persons.” – My Ántonia So began my love of Willa Cather’s My Ántonia. Cather’s perfect, lyrical prose sweeps you into its pages and makes you feel as if you are right there on those Midwestern plains. As vastly different as this Nebraska was from my own childhood in New York and Georgia, it still made me nostalgic for exploring my own little corner of the natural world. It made me long for the landscapes I have loved and brought back the memory of scents, sounds, and sensations long forgotten. There is something so enchanting about stories where a love of Land and Place is woven so seamlessly into the narrative. Scattered across this landscape are souls as vibrant and intractable as the country that shapes them. Observant, intelligent Jim Burden. Wild and independent Ántonia. Surly Ambrosch and his proud, ungrateful mother. Sad, sweet Mr. Shimerda, for whom the new kawn-tree was just too much to bear. The Russian brothers. The Harlings. The foul Cutters and lovely Lena Lingard. And the Cuzaks, whom we only get for a chapter or two but who swept me into their family, baked me kolaches, and made me feel at home. And what a cast of strong, independent women! From loving matriarchs to survivors, entrepreneurs, adventurers, and women who dream of being wives and mothers themselves, there’s no shortage of positive role models among My Ántonia’s female players. Every one of them has a dream, and every one fights for it. In fact, Cather is no stranger to strong female characters. I loved My Ántonia so much that I immediately turned to O Pioneers!, another member of Cather’s renowned Prairie Trilogy. In it, I found the world of the Divide, with its own hardscrabble immigrants scraping away at the dirt to make a living. I also found Alexandra Bergson. Never before has a character spoken so well to my heart and made me feel like someone had taken my soul and turned it into words. Alexandra is the me I wish I could be. Smart. Resilient. Independent. Successful at farming in a world dominated by men. She does what no one else wants to do, whether that’s holding on to unfruitful land or taking in a neighbor no one else will love. And when someone does something that tears her whole world apart, she forgives. The right thing is usually just what everybody don’t do. – Alexandra Bergson O Pioneers!   I would call neither My Ántonia nor O Pioneers! romance novels, and yet each is a love story in their own right. A love story for a land of hard scrapes and possibilities. A love story for memories, communities, and the relationships that sculpt our lives. And a love story for light and color and dancing, for sitting under apple trees, and for finding your own way to the life you dream of. My Ántonia Author: Willa Cather Genre: Historical Fiction Score: O Pioneers! Author: Willa Cather Genre: Historical Fiction Score: [clear] And don’t forget to save these books to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

Bloody Jack

Book Review: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer | Jest Kept Secret

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: Bloody Jack Author: L.A. Meyer Series: Bloody Jack #1 Genre: YA Historical Fiction Content Warning: Thematic elements, mild language, and war violence Blurb Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy Life as a ship’s boy aboard HMS Dolphin is a dream come true for Jacky Faber. Gone are the days of scavenging for food and fighting for survival on the streets of eighteenth-century London. Instead, Jacky is becoming a skilled and respected sailor as the crew pursues pirates on the high seas. There’s only one problem: Jacky is a girl. And she will have to use every bit of her spirit, wit, and courage to keep the crew from discovering her secret. This could be the adventure of her life–if only she doesn’t get caught. . . . – Goodreads My Thoughts I had never heard of this series before, but when I found it listed as a free-to-stream audiobook on Audible Channels, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m really glad I did—what a fun book! Jacky is quite the protagonist: saucy (yet insecure), resourceful, loyal, and funny. Her relationships with the other ships boys lead to plenty of humor, and the sailors aboard the ship provide a motley cast of mentors, bullies, creeps, and heroes. I will definitely read more of this series. Score:   And don’t forget to save this book to your Pinterest reading list! Thanks!

The Chaos of Stars

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Chaos of Stars Author: Kiersten White Genre: YA Fantasy Content Warning: Mild language and a few crude jokes Blurb Kiersten White, New York Times bestselling author of Paranormalcy, is back with The Chaos of Stars—an enchanting novel set in Egypt and San Diego that captures the magic of first love and the eternally complicated truth about family. Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up—which comes with the territory when you’re the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she’s only worthy of a passing glance—so when she gets the chance to move to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic—and dangerous—complications . . . and Isadora quickly learns there’s no such thing as a clean break from family. Blending Ally Carter’s humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there’s no place like home. – Goodreads My Thoughts I didn’t love this quite as much as White’s Paranormalcy series or Mind Games, but it was still pretty enjoyable. I liked the main character a lot and related to her on many levels. The cast of supporting characters was varied and well-done, and I enjoyed their friendship with Isadora. Ry, the love interest, was a bit too perfect for my taste and seemed really unrealistic, and his “big surprise” at the end wasn’t much of a surprise. But I liked the weaving of myth throughout the narrative and enjoyed watching the relationships between the characters evolve. The plot was well-paced, the writing was solid, and the climax was exciting. This was a fun, easy read. Score:  

The Last Bookaneer

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read my affiliate policy here.  Title: The Last Bookaneer Author: Matthew Pearl Genre: Historical Fiction Thoughts: To be perfectly honest, the only reason I picked up this book in the first place was because I thought it had a dumb title. Bookaneer? I thought. Seriously? But then I read the cover copy, which goes like this: book’a-neer’ (bŏŏk’kå-nēr’), n. a literary pirate; an individual capable of doing all that must be done in the universe of books that publishers, authors, and readers must not have a part in London, 1890—Pen Davenport is the most infamous bookaneer in Europe. A master of disguise, he makes his living stalking harbors, coffeehouses, and print shops for the latest manuscript to steal. But this golden age of publishing is on the verge of collapse. For a hundred years, loose copyright laws and a hungry reading public created a unique opportunity: books could easily be published without an author’s permission. Authors gained fame but suffered financially—Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, to name a few—but publishers reaped enormous profits while readers bought books inexpensively. Yet on the eve of the twentieth century, a new international treaty is signed to grind this literary underground to a sharp halt. The bookaneers are on the verge of extinction. The Last Bookaneer is the astonishing story of these literary thieves’ epic final heist. On the island of Samoa, a dying Robert Louis Stevenson labors over a new novel. The thought of one last book from the great author fires the imaginations of the bookaneers, and soon Davenport sets out for the South Pacific island accompanied by his assistant Fergins. But Davenport is hardly the only bookaneer with a mind to pirate Stevenson’s last novel. His longtime adversary, the monstrous Belial, appears on the island, and soon Davenport, Fergins, and Belial find themselves embroiled in a conflict larger, perhaps, than literature itself. Okay, you’ve hooked me. And better yet, the book actually lived up to the high standards set by its blurb. It was fun, suspenseful, and very well written. The characters are wonderfully dynamic, even the supporting cast. I haven’t read any of Pearl’s other work, but it’s definitely on my list now. He has a way of turning small details into magical ones, and the way he writes about books and publishing is enchanting. Score:  

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