Girl Waits With Gun book review

It has been awhile since I’ve reviewed a book.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading in that time.  I’ve read plenty, but I’ve also had many other obligations to tend to.  Finishing up my online class in the fall took precedence and was soon followed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’ve just started my second online class to renew my teaching license and I’m crossing my fingers that it continues to be less rigorous than the literacy class I took in the fall.

The latest book that I’ve read is Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart.  This spunky and delightful read is based on the true story of Constance Kopp and her two sisters who were the focus of an intimidating gangster in the year 1915.   Historical fiction is not a genre that I’m usually drawn to, although I almost always enjoy reading it once I get started.  When I read the review for this book in our Sunday newspaper, I immediately added it to my Goodreads list.

 

Stewart, who is best known for writing non-fiction books about botany, creates a fantastic tale in turn of the century New Jersey.  City girls turned country spinsters, the Kopp sisters lived their daily lives trying to avoid the limelight until one fateful summer day when their horse and buggy collides with an automobile driven by the notorious Henry Kauffman.  In attempting to seek payment for their demolished buggy, Constance seeks out Mr. Kauffman.  What she gets in return is much more than she bargained for.  The sisters begin receiving threats that would make the average woman shake in her bloomers.  But these tenacious sisters won’t go down without a fight.  They take on arsonists, kidnappers, and gangsters all while trying to protect a secret of their own.

This was such a fun and delightful read!  If Mrs. Stewart were to write another historical fiction book in this same style, I would be one of the first in line to read it.

If you enjoy historical fiction featuring brave and daring feminists like the Kopp sisters, I encourage you to add the following books to your to-read pile:

A run-down of what I’m reading

So, life happens and I’ve had a full plate lately.  I’m up to my eyeballs in after school enrichment registrations and helping out with other things at Grace’s school.  I’ve had lots of family time over the last few weeks, which I’ve treasured.  But between keeping my house clean, my people fed, and stressing out about things that are currently beyond my control, my blogging has suffered as has my sleep.  I’ve managed to squeeze in reading, but that is about all the extracurricular activity that I’ve had time for.  Though I may be tired, I’m grateful for this busy season in my life.  It means that I am surrounded by people and activities that I love!

With that, I am going to do something a little different today to catch up.  I am going to do a quick rundown of the last few books I’ve read.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider has been sitting at the top of my review list for the longest, so I will start with it first.  I downloaded this one from the library.  I LOVE being able to download books from the library directly to my Kindle.  If I come across a few that are available now while I’m browsing, I usually download them instantly.

Extraordinary Means is a YA novel about two teenagers who fall for each other under strange circumstances.  Lane and Sadie are sent away to a sanatorium for students with tuberculosis.  Latham House is a former boarding school, turned hospital that acts as a means to quarantine young TB patients during an epidemic outbreak.  Comparisons of Extraordinary Means to The Fault in Our Stars aren’t without merit, but to me it fell a little short of TFIOS greatness.  I gave this one 3/5 stars on Goodreads, but would probably make it 3.5 if I could.  It is an interesting story, with some predictable circumstances, but worthy of a good discussion.

Up next on my Kindle was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertallianother great library download!  Being that it was only recently released last spring, I really didn’t know what to expect from this book.  At first, I didn’t love the tone of this book.  It was brooding and kind of angry.  I’m not sure if it was the book that changed or if it was me.  As I continued reading, it grew on me and I ended up really loving this book for its boldness.  Simon is a gay high school student, forced out of the closet against his will.  And though his dignity has been stripped away, Simon manages to carry on with grace.  This is a sweet teenage love story that gives me hope for our younger generations and it is very worthy of 4/5 stars.

I pulled Donna Tartt’s A Secret History off my bookshelf next.  I have a stack of used books that I purchased over the summer that I’ve barely delved into.  Must stop reading Kindle books!  But in all seriousness, I picked A Secret History as my next read because there was so much buzz about it on my Instagram feed.  People were raving about it and calling it a favorite!

This book was hefty, weighing in at 628 pages.  Having devoured The Goldfinch earlier in the summer, I was sure I was in for a treat with A Secret History.  Boy, was I wrong.  Set in the late 80’s at a small private college that strives to be Ivy League, A Secret History is about a group of pretentious students who study Greek and only Greek.  They are an elite group of six who happen to have the rare and unusual privilege of being educated privately by an eccentric old professor.  When the group stumbles into some trouble and one of the odd men out threatens to reveal their transgressions, the rest take measures into their own hands.  For me, where this book differed from The Goldfinch was in its characters’ likability.   I’ve said it before, I just can’t enjoy a book with unlikable characters and this book was rife with them.  This book has all the feels of a classic, but I’m not sure it will ever live up to that distinction.  I give this one 2/5 stars, leaning towards a 2.5.

 

And just this morning, I finished up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, another highly anticipated YA library download that I had on hold.  It was hugely disappointing to me and what’s more is I have all the other Rainbow Rowell books on hold at the library, as well!  I’m still holding out hope for Eleanor & Parkbut may have to abandon the others.

Fangirl is the story of Cath, a socially awkward freshman fumbling through her first year of college, while also dealing with some fairly serious family issues.  Cath writes young adult fan fiction, based on the fictitious Simon Snow series, to a huge internet following.  Simon Snow is a play on the Harry Potter series, but a poor imitation at best.  Excerpts from Simon Snow and Cath’s fan fiction are sprinkled throughout the pages of Fangirl.  I found myself skipping over these sections entirely because they were so poorly written.  I wanted to cheer for Cath, but again, I didn’t find her to be all that likable of a character.  She doesn’t make it easy to like her, even the other characters in the book have a difficult time befriending her.  My overall feeling of this book was one of disappointment.  It was just not a compelling read, nor was it very well written.  I give this book a solid 2/5 stars, with better expectations for Eleanor & Park.  

So, what have you been reading lately?  Anything good?  Because it sure looks like I could use some decent recommendations!  I think I’m going to have to pull something highly anticipated off my bookshelf to make up for these last two snoozers.

All the Bright Places review

It was difficult for me to choose which book to review for my very first blog post because I have read so many great books lately!  However, All the Bright Places stood out to me as the first one I should share because the setting is Indiana, which is where I happen to live.   Indiana may not strike you as all that interesting of a place to live.  I’m sure that I’ve had that same thought myself a time or two.   But author Jennifer Niven manages to creates intrigue in the obscure as she highlights some of the Hoosier state’s strange and little known attractions in this young adult novel.

all the bright places cover

Violet Markey and Theodore Finch meet one morning on the ledge of their high school clock tower.  Both of them sullen and depressed, it is unclear who saves whom that morning.  When they are are given a research project designed to inspire pride in their state, Theodore chooses Violet to be his partner.  Together, they set off to “Wander Indiana,” determined to find the most unusual and obscure attractions the state has to offer.  I’ll admit that this was the most interesting part of the novel for me.  I am old enough to remember the Indiana tourism commercials from the 1980’s that encouraged viewers to “Wander Indiana.” And that catchy jingle has not stopped running through my head since reading this book.  During my time with All the Bright Places, I found myself putting down my Kindle so that I could Google each of the attractions that Violet and Theodore visited.   I had never heard of, let alone visited, most of them.  The World’s Largest Ball of Paint, DIY backyard rollercoasters, houses shaped like birds’ nests, and the state’s highest elevation (spoiler alert here:  it’s just a hill) and several more are highlighted in this book.

Though all of these adventures may seem exciting, both Violet and Theodore are struggling.  In each other, they find strength and develop a strong and unlikely friendship.  All the Bright Places explores mental illness, a topic all too often shrouded in shame and secrecy.  However, I’m not sure this particular book does anything to dispel the myths of mental illness, nor does it encourage one to seek help for it.  And given the target audience, I feel the author may have really missed an opportunity here.  As a young adult, the author herself had an experience that seems parallel to Violet’s.  Perhaps, for her, this book was more of a catharsis, rather than an opportunity to educate.

I wanted to love this book.  I expected to love this book.  While it was a good read, I found myself more drawn into their adventures than to the characters themselves.  So much so, that I was inspired to “Wander Indiana” myself recently.  You can read about it here.  If you’ve read All the Bright Places, be sure to leave a comment below letting me know what you thought!  No spoilers for those who’ve yet to read it.

If you liked All the Bright Places, you may also enjoy: