Gifts for #BookLovers, #Readers & #Writers

Anne of Green Gables Hoodie (Women's)The Jungle Book BackpackAs a book lover, reader, and writer, I love literary themed gifts. Every holiday I scour the internet for literary gift ideas. To that effect, there’s a great new website that I wanted to share with everyone. They not only have a great selection of T-shirts, but also book and tote bags to carry all your reading material around this summer.

Alice in Wonderland Tote BagOrigin of Species Charles Darwin T-Shirt (Women's)Even better, I have a coupon code that allows you to save 20% on your order – no minimum purchase, no maximum savings, and you can use it unlimited times! Simply go to the website https://literarybookgifts.com and use the promo code: SHANNONHOLLINGER20  (They say that sharing is caring, so feel free to share the love and pass this code along far and wide!)

Gray's Anatomy T-Shirt (Women's)Dracula Tote BagThe website is easy to navigate, and features a TON of fantastic images from some of my favorite books! I’ve selected some of my favorites to share, but there are many, many more on the site itself!

Our National Parks BackpackEdgar Allan Poe Hoodie (Women's)Despite the awesome discount code, I am in no way affiliated with this site, and will make no money off your purchase. I’m a big proponent of supporting small businesses, especially when they sell exactly the Frankenstein T-Shirt (Women's)kind of stuff I like to buy, and the proprietress was cool enough to offer a 20% discount code (SHANNONHOLLINGER20), so head on over to https://literarybookgifts.com  and show some love! They have so many different colors and styles, you’re bound to find something you or a friend will love!

(I just placed my first order, and it was incredibly easy!)

 

Beartown by Fredrik Backman ~ #Fiction #BookReview

316757875 stars! Maybe it’s an odd way of starting a review, but in this case, it’s fitting. Every once in a while you stumble across a book that changes you. This is one of those stories. It’s raw and insightful and profoundly beautiful.

The themes aren’t particularly new. The plot isn’t astoundingly fresh. But what the author does with the words, with the characters, the way he somehow manages to display the actual hearts of the people he’s created as clearly as if he dissected them and pressed them between the pages (without the gore) is nothing short of amazing.

You don’t have to like hockey to enjoy this book. Actually, I wouldn’t even bother reading the blurb on the back. Just pick it up and read it and let it speak for itself. I’ll say it again – 5 stars!

The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurty ~ Fiction Book Review

2116376I have some mixed feelings about this book by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurty. On the one hand, it’s a powerful coming of age story. Raw and real and blunt. Probably a little scandalous, too. How do you resist that?

On the other hand, I wasn’t a fan of the writing. Parts just didn’t read well. There was an underlying awkwardness that was perhaps intentional. Regardless, when a sentence isn’t grammatically correct (incomplete is fine by me, especially as an agent of effect), but when it reads like a conversation you hear at Walmart and it’s narration, not dialogue, I get an itchy feeling under my skin where I just can’t scratch and make it go away.

So . . . on the scales of literary justice, the love and hate evens out to about a 4. A quick read good for a laugh, a gasp, and a WTF? I love books that reveal that depravity isn’t a recently grown branch on the tree of humanity. 4 stars.

Lost in the Land of #Litsy

In case you haven’t noticed, I read. A lot. I read when I take my dogs out, I read while I’m brushing my teeth, I read while I’m ‘watching’ a movie. Some people understand the compulsion to always have their nose buried in a book. Many do not.

memeMy reading addiction habit sometimes leaves me feeling awkward and inadequate on social media. I’ll read what others are posting, skim the conversations they’re having, but my possible responses don’t seem appropriate. “Never seen that show. Haven’t watched that. Ohh, I read the best book while that was on.”

I felt myself drawing away from Facebook. I gave Google+ a try. Found myself spending more and more time on Goodreads. Instagram was good for a quick fix, but really, none of these provided me with what I was looking for.

PhotoHuman connection, interaction, something that makes you feel in touch with, a part of the rest of the world. Then, about a month ago, I found what I was looking for. Litsy. A land of literature, where everyone loves books as much as you do. The sight, the smell, the very thought of the written page triggering emotions that, for once, are shared.

Litsy has been described as Goodreads meets Instragram, except you interact more, everyone is always super nice, and you never come across a ‘no-no’ picture. There are book pictures, book quotes, book review – seriously, the most this place deviates from books is when people post pictures of their adorable reading companions – also with books.

If this sounds like a place you’d want to be, you can get the app here. And because this isn’t the type of social media where there’s stranger danger, look me up @BookDragonNotWorm. We’ll be friends that talk about – what else? Books!

 

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld ~ Fiction Book Review

18142324This book! Powerful prose oozing with ominousness, the pages practically sticky with sinisterness! The timeline was a little jumpy, disconcerting at first, but the pattern is quickly established and I soon developed a strange appreciation for it. The chapters alternate present and past, with the present moving forward, the past lapsing deeper and deeper into days gone by.

The reader is filled with anticipation while being unable to pinpoint the cause of suspense, knowing only that menace lurks somewhere in the shadows nearby. It was literary without being dull or boring, the refined edges sharp enough to cut yourself on. I can’t say I understood all of the slang, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the main character, an Aussie living on a remote island off the coast of Britain. A quick read that portrays a perfect example of how to break the rules of grammar the right way. Impactful writing, eloquent imagery, a beautiful work of art. 5 stars!

 

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell ~ Fiction Book Review

13551935The Alexandria Quartet is a series of four interconnected books set in Alexandria, Egypt in the 1930s and 40s. These books are a work of art as far as atmosphere, imagery, philosophy, character and voice are concerned. But they’re not easy to read, and at times I had no idea in which direction the story was going. Looking at reviews left for the series, it’s quite obvious that most readers either love or hate these books (much more love than hate), which makes sense, because I both loved and hated them .

The prose is incredibly gorgeous and well crafted, but, for me, the plot left me spinning my wheels. I’m used to mystery, psychological horror, suspense, and this quartet is more growing pains, slice of life, romance. I kept expecting . . . more, yet after finishing the last book, I felt strangely satisfied. A very odd reading experience, not for the faint of heart, but for the sake of craft, I highly recommend giving it a try!

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami ~Fiction Book Review

3646541This was by far the strangest book that I’ve ever read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. The best I can come up with is a book burrito with the works – part LSD trip, part existentialism, with some sci-fi, horror, romance, tragedy, and comedy, all wrapped up in tortilla that is deep and insightful.

Parts I loved, parts I hated, but by the last page it was clear that this is a book that will stay with you long after reading it. A haunting story, murky yet at the same time crystal clear. Translated from Japanese, I can’t hep but wonder how powerful it must be if read in its native language.

The writing is at times excessively detailed,  reading like a grocery list. The author leaves no stone un-turned or action unmentioned. At the same time, this book made me think in a way that few books have done, and none in a very long time. For that I give it 5 stars!

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood ~ Short Story Fiction Review

22642472What can I say about this collection of short stories by notorious author Margaret Atwood? I have mixed feelings. The first few stories are interrelated, with characters mentioned in one story featured in the next. I love the idea. I didn’t love the stories. I’d give these a rating of 3.5 to 4.

However, the later stories in the book appealed to me more. Enough to redeem the book for me as a whole and make me glad that I read it. Enough for me to understand the longevity of Atwood’s career.

Some of the stories in this collection are more genre than literature. It is these stories that capture the reader’s attention and takes their brain by storm. I give these stories 5 stars. The book as a whole, 4.5 stars.

The O. Henry Prize Stories 2014 ~ Book Review

wpb14One of my goals for this year was to win an award for one of my short stories. Maybe an O. Henry Award is a bit ambitious, but when I stumbled across this anthology, I thought I might as well read what the competition was up to. That said, book read, I’m thinking I might focus my efforts on mystery story awards. It’s not that the stories in this book weren’t good, because they were, it’s just that with a short story, where an author has a very finite amount of time and space to make their impression, what resonates with me are stories that linger. By that I mean stories that I’m still thinking about days, weeks, months, sometimes even years later. I don’t feel that any of the stories in this anthology will linger with me.

This is, perhaps, (probably and most likely) a personal issue. Literature is writing about everyday life in a way that you strike a chord with the reader. You present something that they can relate to, something they identify with and thus make your impression, making the mundane memorable. In genre writing, such as mystery, you have the unfair advantage of crafting a plot that doesn’t necessarily have its roots planted in reality. Real life doesn’t impress me nearly as much as a plot twist that blindsides me, leaving me shocked and breathless. The last short story anthology I read was Eighteen by Jan Burke and I thought it was incredible. It’s been two months and a few of the stories are still as fresh in my mind as if I just read them. I can still recall most of them. I’d be hard pressed to remember any of the stories in this book next month. Again, my biased and personal opinion. Four stars.

Book Quote Challenge ~ Day 1 of 3

I was nominated to do the Quote Challenge by The River of Books Blog.

The rules are:

  1. Post for three consecutive days
  2.  Pick three quotes per day
  3. Challenge three different bloggers per day

For my first day of the challenge, I’ve picked 3 quotes from books that are timeless classics:

1) “For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.”

~ Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

2) “If only there could be an invention that bottled up a memory, like scent. And it never faded, and it never got stale. And then, when one wanted it, the bottle could be uncorked, and it would be like living the moment all over again.”

~ Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

3) “Burdens are for shoulders strong enough to carry them.”

~ Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

I nominate:

  1. The Storied Life
  2. The Bookshelf of Emily J.
  3. The Sarah Doughty