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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harld Fry

I was attracted to this book, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce automatically. I have a thing for long titles.  When I read the flap and found it was about an old man trying to save a woman from his past from cancer by walking all the way to Northern England from Southern England, I knew it was something I had to read.

I waited until it was available through interlibrary loan because I have a book buying problem (well, not problem, money deficit disorder perhaps) and within a month or so it was in my hands.

Joyce introduced me to Harold, a lovely retired British man that lost control of his life at some point rather sedentary and boring. We also meet his wife Maureen, who clearly detests Harold and spends all her time cleaning. She used to cook and garden and love her husband she wanted to make him happy and fill the gaps in his life.

The story switches between Harold and Maureen, as Harold walks to Queenie to “save” her and Maureen deliberates about her life. They both go through life transformations that were both painful and joyful to watch.

This is Rachel Joyce’s first book and it is lovely. It flows beautifully and I felt like I knew Harold and Maureen very early on. I won’t spoil the end, but it is satisfying and complete. This book will stick with me.

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When i read “Growing your Handmade Business” by Kari Chapman and wrote this blog post, I was all ready for jump in and write a business plan, look at rental properties, launch a new marketing technique, etc, etc.  . . Then I went a little crazy at the local library and took out about six books on inter-library loan also on business planning for small creative businesses.

One of these books is “Etsy-Preneurship” by Jason Malinak. Now this book is an eye-opener. Where Chapin’s books are very inspirational and definitely geared towards the creative person, this book reminded me of the things I have really been putting off, like taxes, EINs, and other procedural paperwork kind of things.

So I’m back to the drawing board for a while getting my ducks in a row with the state. In Illinois fortunately they have something called the Illinois Business Gateway. I love the name. I’m picturing a magical gateway leading into a realm of possibility and dreams coming true . . .

Once I register with the great state of Illinois, I will be much more legitimized and all confident again. I am registered with the county, but to be fully realized, I must register with the Illinois Department of Revenue. Thank you Jason Malinak for prioritizing for me. Once I get through all this boring stuff, I can get back to marketing and business plans and endless hours of research into my dream store location.

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Not all of these books were published in 2012. This is my list of favorite reads.

Map of TimeThe Map of TimeFelix J. Palma
Palma is one of the greatest authors I have ever read. I know that seems a bit far reaching and possibly even naiive, I feel a bit childish saying it, but the truth cannot be denied. The story plays out over three acts, that interlace together with similar themes and the same characters, but the main character changes in each act. H.G. Wells is present throughout the book playing an important role to all the characters and plots.

Truly this book is a testament to H.G. Wells, science fiction and the Victorian world. The Victorians were fascinated by the changes occurring around them. Factories with mechanization sprung up and their imaginations ran with it. Wells’s “Time Machine” couldn’t have been printed at a better time. The public never read anything like it. Stuffy upper class men and women discussed the possibilities of time travel over tea and biscuits or brandy and cigars. Palma discusses the change in consciousness that occurred with the spontaneous arrival of “scientific romances,” how the imaginations of a whole generation went in directions give us the fantastic science fiction novels we have today.

WickedWicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
by Gregory McGuire
I know I’m late jumping on the bandwagon with this one. It was a happy accident that I ended up reading the series.

I love Elphaba! Her life is so full of misunderstandings and confusion. She never quite knows what’s going on or how to deal with it. The characters surrounding her range from talking Animals to evil head mistresses to preachers  and nuns to dwarves with mysterious motives to the Great and Good Glinda herself. I worried it wasn’t going to make sense with the original Wizard of Oz and I was mistaken. It works perfectly with Baum’s world of Oz. Whereas the original was written for children from a child’s POV, “Wicked” is the world of Oz from a grown up’s eyes It’s darker and more intense. We learn about the politics of the land and it is fascinating.

Casual VacancyCasual Vacancy
by J.K. Rowling
A lot of people are disappointed in this book. I am hearing horrible things from a large range of people and I have to those people I sadly shake my head. It’s true “Casual Vacancy” doesn’t really have a “plot” as some would think of it. This is not a fast paced murder mystery or a mystery at all. It’s very British, I think. The humor is dark and very dry.

There are about 20 characters in all and the POV shifts constantly between them all. This was confusing at first, but Rowling is so amazing at character development that shortly after starting the book, I grew used to each character’s individual voice.

The way these characters are toward each other and how they react to the events surrounding them is how real people react. Rowling lets the people be people. They think and do the things most of us never admit to think and doing. It is occasionally uncomfortable to read.

I hate to even mention Harry Potter in connection with this book as they are totally different, but I want say that I love HP and have read them multiple times. I banished all expectations when I read Casual Vacancy. I knew it was going to be something completely different and so it was. I let myself be ok with that and I’m so glad I did. I will read anything Rowling writes. She is a brilliant writer. I know the content of Vacancy was occasionally very dark and uncomfortable, but when reading a spectacular writer it is not necessarily the content, but the execution and overall reason for the content.

Notable Mentions:

Gone by Michael Grant
Lord of the Flies meets young adult dystopian fiction. It was really interesting and I would like to read the rest of the series.

Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
It’s hard to read a book where you don’t like the main character by a writer that at times is sub par, but I persevered because I had been reading the series since high school and I found likeable characters to latch onto. I have a love/hate relationship with Paolini, but I do think the series is worth the read. The world is well executed.

Under the Poppy by Kathe Koja
This book is totally unlike anything I have ever read. It’s in two parts and I was tempted to give up the first part. I fell in love with a couple of the characters, though, and couldn’t help finishing it. I’m so glad I did. The second part was much more my cup of tea. The entire  thing is fabulously written and I would read Kathe Koja again.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I have to admit I loved this trilogy. I think although I disliked Katniss and often wanted to punch her in the face, the story was well done. I read some of another series by Collins for younger readers, Gregor the Overlander, I enjoyed them as well. She is a great writer. Both series have similar themes of war. I find a lot of truth in her approach.

Eyes of Lightning by Erin Keyser Horn
A local author I really enjoyed. See my full review here.

Eyes of LIghtningIn my sudden spurt of blog activity, I decided to write book reviews. This is something I haven’t every done before so here it goes.

First a bit of boring detail.

Eyes of Lightning
The Thunderbird Legacy Book 1
By Erin Keyser Horn

Self Published
2012
9781480256583
Cover Design by: Rod Karmenzind
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal

My first review is for “Eyes of LIghtning” by Erin Keyser Horn. I am thrilled to report that Erin is a local to Galena and this book is great. To say I have been disappointed with many books by local authors, is an understatement. Again and again I tried. I even made Local Authors a topic for my book club, but finding something I truly enjoyed reading seemed like it wasn’t going to happen.

I was given “Eyes of Lightning” as a gift by my manager at the book store. Erin is lovely in that she signs every book personally to the recipient, not something that effects how good the book is but something I appreciated nonetheless. Looking at the book in my hands, I was pleasantly surprised to find the cover art so wonderful and intriguing. THe illustrator, another local by the name of Rod Karmenzind, did a fantastic job. It looks like something you would find on the self of a bookstore. What a novel idea!

My eyes gazed further down past the title and I noticed “Lightning” is the first book of a series, interesting . .. Book One of the Thunderbird Legacy. Hmmm . . . what is a Thunderbird? Come to find out it is a part of Native American Mythology, something I really have no idea about, nor every had any interest in learning. But the beautiful cover, combined with the fact that this was a gift caused to to crack it open and start reading.

And BAM! I was introduced to Ivy Nimiki, unsatisfied fifteen year old girl taking her life into her own hands. Slowly by surely more characters were introduced either in person or in Ivy’s mind’s eye. The first thing I noticed, gleefully, was the very clearly different voices of each character, even though they are all told from Ivy’s point of view. Erin did a superb job defining each character both from Ivy’s perspective and the reality of the person. I am a stickler for character development to the point where I would rather have inner monologue than plot and I came love Ivy and her friends.

About a quarter of the way through, I was hooked and couldn’t put it down. Ivy is her own character. She is sarcastic, intelligent, and fiercely prideful and independent. The reader watches her become somewhat humbled in her quest and realization of her heritage. She learns to accept friendship and guidance as well as to be more accepting of herself.

Reading a book that took place in Galena was a lot of fun as well. I recognized landmarks and will have to visit the Thunderbird Effigy at Casper Bluff (the location on which Erin based NImiki Bluff) I am even finding myself wanting to know more about the Thunderbird and the mythology surrounding it and of course I am anxiously awaiting to come out in the Fall.

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