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2023 Bookish Books Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 30 books. 77% done!

20 Books of Summer 2023

My Progress:

17 / 20 books. 85% done!

2023 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (2)
- Alaska (1)
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (12)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (3)
- Delaware (1)
- Florida (1)
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho (1)
- Illinois
- Indiana (1)
- Iowa (1)
- Kansas (1)
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (3)
- Maryland (2)
- Massachusetts (3)
- Michigan (2)
- Minnesota
- Mississippi (1)
- Missouri (1)
- Montana (1)
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey
- New Mexico (1)
- New York (11)
- North Carolina (4)
- North Dakota (1)
- Ohio (3)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (4)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (3)
- Virginia
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia (1)
- Wisconsin (2)
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)


- Australia (3)
- Canada (7)
- Chile (1)
- England (19)
- France (2)
- Ireland (2)
-Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- South Korea (1)
- Sweden (1)
- The Netherlands (2)
-Vietnam (1)

My Progress:

41 / 51 states. 80% done!

2023 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 25 books. 100% done!

2023 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

Booklist Queen's 2023 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

49 / 52 books. 94% done!

2023 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

46 / 52 books. 88% done!

2023 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

34 / 40 books. 85% done!

2023 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

29 / 40 books. 73% done!

2023 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

13 / 25 books. 52% done!

2023 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

Book Bingo Reading Challenge

20 / 25 books. 80% done!

2023 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

85 / 109 books. 78% done!

Children's Book Reading Challenge...For Adults!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Dust Bowl Novel-in-Verse Tells a Gritty, Unforgettable Tale

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

More than anything, 14-year-old Billie Jo Kelby wants to leave.  Leave drought-choked Oklahoma.  Leave the crumbling family farm.  Leave her broken father.  Leave behind the grief and guilt she carries over her mother's death.  It's 1934; plenty of folks are abandoning their failing farms for brighter prospects out West.  Billie Jo longs to follow.  If only her hands hadn't been burned to useless stumps in the fire that killed her mother, she could make a living playing the piano.  If only ifs weren't all she had.

As Billie Jo tries to eke out a life in a difficult, desolate landscape, she'll have to rely on her own cunning, bravery, and determination to survive.  Fortunately, she has all of these in spades.

Told in free verse, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse is a raw, powerful read that is as spare as it is evocative.  The setting comes to life so vividly that you can feel the grit between your teeth, taste it in your throat, and feel it stinging your eyes.  This overpowering imagery makes Out of the Dust truly unforgettable.  Billie Jo, herself, is almost as compelling as her surroundings.  She's courageous, real, and wholly sympathetic.  Although this novel is written for young readers, it's not a gentle story.  In fact, it's harsh, haunting, and heartbreaking.  It's also an inspiring tale that will make you think long, long after you finish it.  If you enjoy historical novels, I highly recommend this noteworthy Newbery winner

(Readalikes: I haven't read any other children's books about the Dust Bowl, but Out of the Dust reminded me of adult novels like The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for disturbing subject matter (death, child abandonment, suicide, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Dickens Biography Paints An Intriguing Portrait of a Colorful, Complex Man

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Back in June, I was taking a college class on family history and was given an assignment to research an ancestor by taking a close look at the time and place in which they lived.  One of the methods we could use was to read biographies of famous people who were contemporaries (both in time and place) of said ancestor.  Since my great-great grandfather was born in England less than 20 years after Charles Dickens, I thought it would be intriguing to study up on the well-known novelist.  After reading reviews of a number of biographies, I chose Charles Dickens: A Life by American novelist Jane Smiley.  At just over 200 pages, it's a short but fascinating portrait of one of the most influential men in the history of English literature.

Born on February 7, 1810, Charles was the second of eight children.  His father, a clerk for the Navy Pay Office, was an unscrupulous debtor; when he was imprisoned, Charles had to quit school and work long, grueling hours in a factory to support the family.  This humiliating experience made a lasting impression on Charles, who spent his life championing the poor and unfortunate.  

Despite his low-class background and lack of education, Charles became an almost instant success in the literary world.  While working as a parliamentary reporter, Charles published his first sketch in 1833 at 21 years old.  This and subsequent sketches were unique in that they featured characters and scenes from the lower classes of London society.  Despite the less than highbrow subject matter, Charles' sketches were well-received.  They, along with later writings, proved him to be a keen observer, a philosopher, and a man who knew how to keep readers enthralled.  He went on to pen 15 novels, as well as numerous letters, plays, etc.  A tireless writer and editor, Charles was also a social commentator, an activist, and a philanthropist.  His work, which was popular in his day, continues to be relevant in ours.  Many modern readers adore Dickens, especially his iconic holiday story, A Christmas Carol.  The beloved author died June 9, 1870, in Kent.  

Charles Dickens: A Life draws an intimate, intriguing picture of the acclaimed author.  Although I think I would have preferred a more linear biography, I did enjoy the way Smiley dissected his various works, showing how they were influenced by what was happening in Dickens' life at the time.  Charles Dickens: A Life is not exactly a page turner, but it does make for an interesting read.  Overall, I enjoyed it and learned a great deal about a colorful, complex man.

(Readalikes: Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, non-graphic references to sex and prostitution

To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Charles Dickens: A Life from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
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