Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Reading Challenge Update: Closing In

As a reminder, I am aiming to read a book from or set in each country the Department of State recognizes, which is 195 countries!
I finally feel like I'm staring at the end of this challenge. It may take me longer than December to get through the rest of the books but I know that I've made a valiant effort this year!
I read books from this many countries in November:
You can check out my progress on my map or see a list of where and what I'm reading here.

I have read 125 books for this challenge so far.

Here are the countries that I still need suggestions for. Got anything for me?:

  • Iraq
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Panama
  • Portugal
  • Qatar
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland

Monday, December 9, 2019

Review: Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra

Title: Meg and Jo
Author: Virginia Kantra
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: December 3, 2019
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams."

My Two Cents:

"Meg and Jo" is a contemporary retelling of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women." "Little Women" is definitely one of my favorite classics. I love the story of sisterhood that it represents and that sisterhood is such a universal theme that it still resonates all these years later and still inspires retellings like this book! Holiday season is often comfort read season for me and this book definitely fit that bill!

In this retelling, Jo has left her small North Carolina town for the grandeur of New York City to try to make it as a writer. With the recession, she finds herself instead as a cook in an amazing restaurant with a side gig as a blogger to make ends meet. Meg has stayed in North Carolina and is a stay-at-home-mom to her two adorable toddler twins. While Jo is making her way in the world away from home, it seems like it is up to Meg to hold down the home front as the myth of the idyllic March family home life begins to fray.

I loved the different touches throughout the book that hearkened back to the original. You see it in Jo's love affair (oh my, did I love Chef Eric) and in Meg's marriage to John, that is much more than what it seems when the book first opens. Amy is there and Beth is as well (she spends most of the time in the book chasing her dreams as an actress in Branson, Missouri, an interesting - and happier- twist). The Laurie character is there and I suppose that is the one place where I felt the retelling fell a little bit for me. He is such an integral part of the original story but here, he felt a bit flat and more like an annoying bit player that didn't have the same sort of purpose the original character had. But overall, I liked the new takes on the characters!

This book definitely kept the same spirit as the original and I loved seeing how the author imagined some of these beloved personalities in a contemporary story. This book definitely made me so very happy!


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: Shooting For the Stars: My Journey to Become Ireland's First Astronaut by Norah Patten

Title: Shooting For the Stars: My Journey to Become Ireland's First Astronaut
Author: Norah Patten
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: The O'Brien Press
Publish Date: September 16, 2019
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In 2017 Dr. Norah Patten, from Ballina in Co. Mayo, was one of 12 participants from around the world selected to take part in a unique scientist-astronaut training programme, Project Possum. She is now on course to become Ireland’s first astronaut!

Follow Norah as she brings you on a journey high above the earth and into space. You will learn about space travel, astronaut training and life without gravity. Norah will answer those all-important questions such as how long does it take to become an astronaut and where exactly astronauts go to the toilet?!

Did you know that our sun is a star, just like all the stars we see at night?
Did you know that, in space, the astronauts have to use special ropes to hold themselves down while running on the treadmill?
A fun and engaging book about space and becoming an astronaut but most importantly a book about following your dreams no matter how big!"

My Two Cents:

"Shooting for the Stars" is a fantastic book by Dr. Norah Patten who has a chance of becoming Ireland's first astronaut. My daughters are very space obsessed right now. We love watching the live feeds from the International Space Station and one of my daughters was Buzz Aldrin for Halloween. We love looking at the night sky and my girls have said that they want to go to space someday together (twin astronauts FTW!). When your kids have cool interests like this, you jump in head first! This book was perfect for continuing to stoke those fires in my daughters!

Norah Patten has always dreamed about going to space. She has made a fascinating career out of being a scientist and now has a chance to take the next step. My girls were super interested in her and her story made for a good entry into talking about what my girls dream of doing some day.

The book also has a lot of good information about general space travel and what life on the International Space Station is like. The book explores a lot of the work that astronauts do and what their lives are like in zero G! I also really liked that the book had such great illustrations, which allowed my girls to picture what the book was talking about even though they are younger than the age that the book is geared for. This was a great book that I know we are going to keep going back to over and over again!

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