Author Archives: Madeleine Book Owl

About Madeleine Book Owl

Madeleine roosts, reads, and writes from the Twin Cities. When not reading, she can be found working in a library.

Readathon Wrap-Up: Madeleine

I read or listened to a book pretty much straight through the day until somewhere in Hour 18, though I slowed down after about Hour 12. Due to rain/thunder/hungry cats used to being fed at 5:30AM, I woke up and read for the very last hour of the challenge too!

In total, I finished three books, made progress on three books, and didn’t even touch the remaining five books in my stack. I read a total of 1,253 pages and listened to 1 hour and 56 minutes of my audiobook.

Finished Books

  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. 3 Stars. 209 pages
  • The Wrath & The Dawn. 4 Stars. 404 pages
  • The Complete Persepolis. 5 stars. 341 pages

Progress Made

  • The Happiness Project. 164 of 289 pages
  • Yes Please. 135 of 329 pages
  • Armada. 1 hour, 56 minutes of 11 hours, 58 minutes

Not Read

  • 4:50 From Paddington
  • Midnight Riot
  • Gone Girl
  • I’ll Give You the Sun
  • Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Snacks, Social Media, and Mini-Challenges

I made this easy crockpot springtime minestrone soup and it was delicious. Also, shoutout to my roommate-sister Brenna, who felt inspired to make no-bake chocolate cookies, which was yummy surprise. She also kept me on track, drill sergeant-like. “Are you reading? You’re not going to get your page count up if you’re looking at GoodReads!”

The mini-challenges and social media were nice, because they made it feel like a group event, and not just me sitting in my apartment reading as much as possible all day.

In short, I’m really glad I participated. I’ve been jealously watching this happen over the last few years while I was in grad school. I’m glad to have been a part. Readathon also has me in the book blogging mood, so perhaps I’ll work on posting more consistently here.

Looking forward to October!

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour #readathon: Madeleine

Now that grad school is over, I can join in on something I’ve been eyeballing for awhile–my first ever readathon! Essentially, readers around the world spend the same 24 hours trying to read as much as possible. I don’t know if I’ll make it the full 24 hours, because honestly, I love sleep.

As a BONUS, Nox is also doing readathon, so we’ll be cheering each other on from afar. You can also follow my progress on Twitter: @knsievert.

The Books

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Most of what I read comes from the library. This means that I never read the books I own, because they don’t have approaching due dates. So I’ve decided to read all of my own books this time around. I’ve also thrown a few in the stack that are owned by a friend. In some cases, I’ve had the book over a year! Moral of the story–don’t loan me books without giving me a due date.

Unlike Nox, I don’t have any self control and picked out many books so I’ll have choices tomorrow. I did try to choose a variety of genres, but focused on shorter books. I also threw in the only graphic novel I have on hand that I haven’t read yet.

Titles and authors:

  • Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. Bought in the airport because it had the better UK cover
  • 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie. Stripped of its cover because I saved it from a bin of mass markets to be pulped.
  • Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard by Kiran Desai. I, uh, recommended this in a video for work, so now I can read it!
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Yay happiness?
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I saw the movie first. Don’t hate me.
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. From ALA! Signed!
  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Borrowed from a friend since December 2014
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi. Borrowed from the same friend since December 2014
  • The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Borrowed from a different friend since–October 2015, maybe?
  • Illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. This one is mine. Don’t steal it.

I also have a few audiobooks downloaded from the library, for moments when I can’t have a book in my hand.

  • Armada by Ernest Cline. Narrated by Wil Wheaton
  • Bellweather by Connie Willis. I was going to take a break from reading her backlist, but it was just sitting there in Overdrive!

Snacks

I have all my snacks purchased! I will have to make them tomorrow, but that is what the audiobook is for.

  • Blueberry muffins
  • Crockpot spring minestrone
  • Hummus, carrots, and pretzels
  • Swedish fish
  • Tea, coffee, etc.

I also still have some Girl Scout Cookies on hand in case of emergencies.

Modern Day Selkies

The Visitors

 Author: Simon Sylvester
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 368 pages

When I first heard about this book, I knew it included so many aspects that I love in books: an atmospheric and foggy feel, a mystery, a coming-of-age story with a female narrator, a modern day story touched by mythology, selkies, a remote island in northern Scotland. Official blurbs were throwing out lots of comparisons to Neil Gaiman and Tana French.

And the good news? I predictably really liked this book.

Flora lives with her mother, stepfather, and baby brother on the remote island of Bancree. She’s in her final year of school, and all she cares about is graduating and getting off the island. She doesn’t quite fit in at home or at school. Then, several things happen. A strange man and his daughter, Ailsa, move into an abandoned house. And men around the area, often on the fringes of the community, begin disappearing.

As Flora begins the school year, she’s drawn into a school project researching selkies. She finds a macabre book about selkies and begins collecting selkie stories from several sources, including her grandfather and a sennachie, or storyteller, who lives in a hut near the sea. And she befriends Ailsa, another girl who doesn’t quite fit in, and finds out she and her father have been moving from place to place across the Scottish coast. Motivated by his own loss, Ailsa’s father has devoted his life to tracing a string of strange disappearances, much like the disappearances that are now happening in Bancree.

The book isn’t perfect. It’s slow to start (a bit too much rumination over breaking up with the boyfriend) and gets a bit overdramatic for my taste at the end.

That being said, The Visitors is well-written, atmospheric, and evokes a sad, lonely feel for life on what feels like the edge of the world. Flora was a great narrator. The story is a mystery, but it didn’t feel like a traditional mystery story throughout. Flora doesn’t set out to solve it, like a Scottish Nancy Drew. For most of the book, it feels more like a strange backdrop, until events draw Flora in. Also, the selkie elements were wonderfully woven in. The book is sprinkled with different selkie myths that are told to Flora, and these tales were some of my favorite parts. Selkie myths are so interesting to me–stories of people torn between the land and the sea, the way love and loss are intimately braided together.

Final disclaimer: I won this book from a GoodReads Giveaway (thanks!) in return for an honest review.

Book Madness 2015 (Madeleine)

Madeleine's completed bracket for Out of Print Book Madness

I participated in Out of Print’s Book Madness last year, and it was a lot of fun. I actually got the final two and champion right. Last year, the theme was heroes vs. villains, which was a bit more fun to imagine than this year’s theme of classics (Atticus vs. Voldemort, anyone?). But, here are my predictions for this year.

In the final four I have Jane Eyre vs. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and To Kill a Mockingbird vs. 1984, with Jane Eyre and 1984 advancing to the finals. It was a hard choice, but in the end I chose 1984 as the winner.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

book cover of As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAuthor: Alan Bradley
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery
Length: 392 pages

There isn’t a good way to discuss this book without spoiling the previous. If you haven’t read The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches, you may not want to read on.

Yaroo, a new Flavia book! I dearly love Flavia de Luce. I read this series to see what sorts of shenanigans Flavia gets into and how she works her way out of them, not because I’m really engaged the mystery. Given the end of the last book, I was nervous about The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust. What would a Flavia story be like without her father, her sisters, and Dogger? Without Buckshaw?

On many counts, Flavia works really well in a different environment (her dramatic insistence that she has been “Banished!” for example or her plotting out how she would poison her chaperone). She’s still getting in and out of trouble, being clever and wonderful, doing chemistry, and making me laugh aloud. The boarding school setting and strange Nide, secret society intrigue were also interesting if a bit over the top.

Bradley spends a lot of time building the world of Miss Bodycoate’s. There is a dizzying cast of girls with as many names and nicknames as a Tolstoy novel. Even by the end, they all seemed very similar. I had trouble keeping them apart.

My biggest struggle, however, was with the end of the book, which seemed to negate the entire point of the book.

3 stars to As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust because it’s Flavia and I still enjoy reading about her quite a bit, but this was definitely a weaker entry in the series.

I received an advanced copy of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday

I’m trying something new this week and participating in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, book bloggers put together their Top Ten list around a common theme. This week is “Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To.” I initially thought this was going to be a hard one to think of ten, until I perused my GoodReads to-read list and was reminded of all the great books I haven’t had a chance to read yet.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks definitely belongs at the top of this list, because I tried really hard to read it. I’ve gone through three or four rounds on the library hold list and missed picking it up or had it come in during a particularly busy time. I loved Cloud Atlas, so I can’t wait to actually read this one.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah

Wolves. A missing sister. Snow. Tragic pasts. Hallucinations. Count me in for this YA book.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Two girls on opposite sides of the Civil Rights Movement are forced to work together on a class project. I’ve had my eye on this one ever since Zelda reviewed it.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Aliens land in Lagos, Nigeria, and three people must race to save their country. The blurb on GoodReads promises me the story includes “everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.” I haven’t read this one yet, because it hasn’t been published in the US. I did recently get a copy through interlibrary loan, though!

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

The Violinist’s Thumb was one my favorite non-fiction reads. The same author (Sam Kean) is back with this popular science book about neuroscience.

Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Siblings grow up separated, until the older brother brings his sister home to try to reconnect. Set in the Minnesota wilderness.

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

A book by Amy Poehler? Yes, please!

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Whenever Harry August dies, he is reborn into the same life with his memories intact. He eventually finds the Cronus Club, a group of people who also die and are reborn. They have rules (no changing history, etc.), but then someone begins to mess with time and history.

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

A young girl, Ava, has the ability to heal people. When this is discovered, people begin flocking to Ava for healing. But the ability comes at a cost to her own health…

How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Astronomy. Religion. Cosmology. Fate. This one got a bit of buzz earlier this year, and then seemed to vanish. Besides the concept and catchy title, I also really love cover on this one.

What about you? What new books from 2014 are still on your to-read list?

Two 2014 Favorites

I’m sneaking one last review on here before 2015 begins. I realized last night that I had yet to review two of my favorite books that I read this year (quite possibly my top two favorite books).

All the Light We Cannot See

Cover of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrAuthor: Anthony Doerr
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 531 pages

Towards the end of World War II, the seaside city of Saint-Malo, France is bombed by the Allies. Werner, a young German soldier with a innate understanding of electronics is trapped underneath the rubble with a radio. Across the city, a blind girl, Marie Laure, finds herself alone in her uncle’s home, hiding from a Nazi treasure hunter obsessed with a precious jewel in her possession, with a radio transmitter and her braille copy of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

There are so many beautiful details in this book, particularly surrounding the story of Marie Laure and her father. Her father, the master of locks at the Museum of Natural History in Paris, builts miniature replicas of their neighborhood to help Marie Laure learn how to navigate on her own. Werner’s life is more difficult, but he remains inspired by a strange radio broadcast he heard with his sister as a child.

Besides the details, the writing is very beautiful. The prose can be a bit dense at times, however Doerr counters this with very short chapters with give the book some breathing room. I really wish I would have had time to read this one more slowly. Since I was reading it for class I had to clip through it at a very fast pace. I’m planning on a reread once it’s published in paperback (June 2016).

Station Eleven

cover of Station Eleven by Emily St. John MandelAuthor: Emily St. John Mandel
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Literary Fiction/Science Fiction (very light)
Length: 333 pages

I’m going to use a word here to describe Station Eleven, but I don’t want you to let it turn you off the book. Station Eleven is a post-apocalyptic (but not dystopian) novel set in the near future after the Georgian Flu wipes out most of the Earth’s population as well as crippling most technologies. Small communities have formed, often near wherever a group of people happened to be at the time the flu hit.

However, this isn’t a particularly science fiction-y book. The story is not centered on survival or plot or what happens next. Rather, the story moves back and forth in time (pre- and post-flu) weaving together multiple characters, but focused on the Traveling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel across North America performing, because “survival is insufficient.” Station Eleven examines art, humanity, memory, and those things that may survive us: the smart phone in the Museum of Civilization, an obscure sci-fi graphic novel, a Star Trek quote, Shakespeare’s plays.

The title of the book comes from the title of a graphic novel one of the characters creates over many years about a failing, partially flooded space station now consisting of interconnected islands led by Dr. Eleven and the group of people hiding in the Undersea who only want to return to a ruined, alien-dominated Earth. I wanted this graphic novel to be real. I really wanted this graphic novel to be real. Sadly, it is not, although the cover designer, Nathan Burton, did illustrate a few pages.

And like All the Light We Cannot See, the writing in Station Eleven was absolutely beautiful to read.