Thursday, November 05, 2020

Where Is Your Bookmark? (A Gorilla Named Ivan, Last Year's Christmas Romance & TBR Short Story Collections)

Three of my mom friends and I decided to start a book/movie club for our girls, and our first pick was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao. Mouse and I finished reading it last week, and joined our friends for a Zoom movie party this past weekend. We enjoyed both the book and movie, although--you can probably guess which I would say was better. It happens to be the book I have handy as I am prepping this post, which is why I am sharing it with your today. 

Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal and a #1 New York Times bestseller, this stirring and unforgettable novel from renowned author Katherine Applegate celebrates the transformative power of unexpected friendship. Inspired by the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, this illustrated novel is told from the point of view of Ivan himself.

Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

In the tradition of timeless stories like
Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create an unforgettable story of friendship, art, and hope. [Goodreads Summary]

A weekly meme where readers share the first sentence of the book they are reading and say what they think. Hosted by the amazing Gillion Dumas of Rose City Reader.

I am Ivan. I am a gorilla.

It's not as easy as it looks. [opening lines from The One and Only Ivan]

My initial thoughts: A simple and straightforward introduction, isn't it? I like it, but it was really that third line that piqued my curiosity more. I could tell that Ivan had a story to tell, and I was ready to read it.

My daughter's first impression was "Hmm. A gorilla who can talk?"

A weekly meme in which readers share a random sentence or two from page 56 or 56% of the book they are reading. Hosted by the wonderful Freda of Freda's Voice.

Mack gives me a new black crayon and a fresh pile of paper. It's time to work again.[excerpt from page 56]

My thoughts
: This is where my daughter got excited and said, "Ivan is going to draw again!" Or something similar. I love how seriously Ivan takes his art and enjoys doing it. Although this moment doesn't capture it, the book up to this point made both my daughter and I sad more often than not. To live a life in captivity . . . We both really feel for Ivan and his friends. We didn't know yet the role art would play in events to come, but we were eager to find out. 

Have you read The One and Only Ivan? Or perhaps you have seen the movie? What did you think? If not, does this sound like something you would like to read?

Following the example of  Maria from ReadingMaria who started 
the Last Year I Was Reading feature, I will be looking back to what 
I was reading around this time last year and comparing it to what I am reading now. 

The One and Only Ivan couldn't be more different from The Christmas Keeper by Jenn McKinlay, which I read around this time last year. Well, both do share characters who are determined to help their friends . . . So there is that.

I really liked The One and Only Ivan--a bittersweet story told with humor and compassion. I also enjoyed The Christmas Keeper quite a bit when I read it. In this holiday romance, the heroine is in town to rebuild her bruised and battered reputation by helping her best friend market her new bookstore. There is a guy, of course. The one she wants nothing to do with--at least her brain says no; her heart says something different.  When the two get wind that the bookstore might be in trouble, they agree to work together to build up publicity to turn the store’s fate around. It was sexy and charming with just the right amount of humor and drama.

Have you read The Christmas Keeper? What were you reading at this time last year?

*                           *                          *

What I was reading five years ago . . . 

Connect Five Friday is a weekly meme where readers share a list of five books, read or unread, or bookish things, that share a common theme. 
Hosted by the  Kathryn of of Book Date.

I was in between books, struggling to decide what to read next (yes, again), and pulled a short story anthology off my shelf. I did not actually start that particular collection, but decided I was on the right track--and so picked up Together, Apart which did catch my interest in that moment (and so far I'm enjoying the stories, set during the pandemic). I do not often read short stories, preferring full length novels much more, but sometimes the mood strikes and they make perfect in between reads. Or for those times I find myself short on actual reading time, I can dip in and out of a volume at my leisure. 

Here are five short story anthologies in my TBR pile I would like to get to soon-ish:

Reader, I Him Married
ed. by Tracy Chevalier
This collection of original stories by today’s finest women writers—including Tracy Chevalier, Francine Prose, Elizabeth McCracken, Tessa Hadley, Audrey Niffenegger, and more—takes inspiration from the opening line in Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel, Jane Eyre.

A fixture in the literary canon, Charlotte Brontë is revered by readers all over the world. Her novels featuring unforgettable, strong heroines still resonate with millions today. And who could forget one of literature’s best-known lines: “Reader, I married him” from her classic novel
Jane Eyre?

Part of a remarkable family that produced three acclaimed female writers at a time in 19th-century Britain when few women wrote, and fewer were published, Brontë has become a great source of inspiration to writers, especially women, ever since. Now in
Reader, I Married Him, twenty of today’s most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination. [Goodreads Summary]

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
ed. by Tess Sharpe & Jessica Spotswood 
History is filled with stories of women accused of witchcraft, of fearsome girls with arcane knowledge. Toil & Trouble features sixteen stories of girls embracing their power, reclaiming their destinies and using their magic to create, to curse, to cure—and to kill.

A young witch uses social media to connect with her astrology clients—and with a NASA-loving girl as cute as she is skeptical. A priestess of death investigates a ritualized murder. A bruja who cures lovesickness might need the remedy herself when she falls in love with an altar boy. A theater production is turned upside down by a visiting churel. In Reconstruction-era Texas, a water witch uses her magic to survive the soldiers who have invaded her desert oasis. And in the near future, a group of girls accused of witchcraft must find their collective power in order to destroy their captors.

This collection reveals a universal truth: there’s nothing more powerful than a teenage girl who believes in herself.
[Goodreads Summary]

The Frangipani Hotel
by Violet Kupersmith 
From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there, to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster, to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam. [Goodreads Summary]

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories
edited by Audrey Niffenegger
From Edgar Allan Poe to Kelly Link, M.R. James to Neil Gaiman, H.H. Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, Ghostly reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre with tales going back to the eighteenth century and into the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic Horror to Victorian, stories about haunting--haunted children, animals, houses. Every story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, an acclaimed master of the craft, with some words on its background and why she chose to include it. Audrey's own story is "A Secret Life With Cats." 

Perfect for the classic and contemporary ghost story aficionado, this is a delightful volume, beautifully illustrated by Audrey, who is a graphic artist with great vision.
Ghostly showcases the best of the best in the field, including Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, A.S. Byatt, Ray Bradbury, and so many more. [Goodreads Summary]

The Thing Around Your Neck
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In these twelve dazzling stories, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie—acclaimed author of Half of a Yellow Sun—explores the ties that bind men and women, parents and children, Africa and the United States. Searing and profound, suffused with beauty, sorrow, and longing, these stories map, with Adichie's signature emotional wisdom, the collision of two cultures and the deeply human struggle to reconcile them. [Goodreads Summary]

Do you ever read short stories? Have you read any of these collections or authors? What short story collections would you recommend?

 I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Be sure and tell me what you are reading and are up to!

© 2020, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I've not read The One And Only Ivan, but for some reason it sounds like a tearjerker...

    1. Eustacia - It did make me teary-eyed a few times. It's a sweet story. Sad, and at times funny, but sweet too. Thank you for visiting!

  2. I love all the different ways you look at books, especially what you were reading a year ago compared to now. I want to do that too! I started reading Transcendent Kingdom this week, among several nonfiction books.

    1. Lisa - It's fun looking back at my reading over the years. :-) I hope you are enjoying your reading this week so far! Thank you for stopping by.

  3. Great snippets, and I felt drawn into the story. Thanks for sharing, and here's mine: “FINDING MRS. FORD”

  4. got a nice variety and great snippets. hope you enjoy them all
    sherry @ fundinmental

  5. I really need to read that book before watching the film too! :-) Happy weekend!

    1. Freda - There are a lot of movies I haven't seen yet because I first want to read the book. LOL I hope you have a great weekend too. Thanks for visiting.

  6. The Christmas Keeper sounds like a fun holiday read. :D

  7. I've read Toil and Trouble. I liked most of the stories. And I didn't read Ghostly if like to. Short story collections are good for a break now and then. Nice post!

    1. Laura - That's usually the way it is with short story collections and me too--I like some of the stories, but not all. I am glad you enjoyed most of the stories, at least. :-) Thank you for visiting!

  8. I read the One and Only Ivan to my class when I was teaching. Yes it was sad in places.

    1. Kathryn - It would make a great one to read to a class. My daughter and I enjoyed our discussions as we read it. Thank you for stopping by!

  9. Hi Wendy,

    I'm not much of a seasonal reader, however as 'The Christmas Keeper' features a bookstore, that has to be one for my 'maybe' list this year. Knowing me, it will probably be spring before I get around to reading it though, but I don't mind that!

    I also have my eye on 'A Dictionary Of Mutual Understanding'. I wasn't particularly grabbed by the title, so felt I had to check it out, just to see what it was all about. This sounds like such an emotional story and I have never ventured as far as Japan in my reading, so it is heading for my list!

    Thanks for such a lovely post and wander through your book shelves. Have a good weekend. We are back in lockdown, here in the UK, so it will be a quiet one for us :)

    Yvonne xx

    1. Yvonne - I think Halloween and Christmas are the only times I really do any seasonal reading. I admit I have a soft spot for Christmas romances around this time of year. Of course, holiday-themed books are good just about any time of year if the mood strikes. :-)

      I hope you like A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding if you read it. I really liked it.

      I hope you are enjoying your weekend despite the lockdown. It seems the numbers are rising everywhere right now. Stay safe! Thank you for visiting.

  10. Just love the snippets. Sounds like a funny book to read.

  11. I really want to read The One and Only Ivan. My mom watched the movie and loved it. Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a lovely weekend! :)

    1. Ashley - It was a touching movie. :-) I hope you like the book when you read it! Thank you for visiting!

  12. I listened to the audiobook of The One and Only Ivan and Danny Devito narrated it. It was wonderful. I haven't seen the movie yet.

    1. Carla - I bet that was a hoot, listening to Danny Devito narrate the book. :-) Thank you for stopping by!


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.