Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday 11/30/16

It's time for another Top 5 Wednesday. For more information be sure to check out the goodreads group here. Today's topic is Favorite villains. For me, villains I especially like are not going to be pure hate-able evil. Example: Saruman from The Lord of the Rings. He is an excellent villain but not one I would label as 'favorite' because I just hate him too much. So for favorite villains I've gone with ones that are a little more on the quirky side or that bring some humor to the story. 

So here they are, in no particular order:

Prince Humperdinck from The Princess Bride by William Goldman
If you are only familiar with this movie then you are missing out! Yes, the movie is fantastic but so is the book. 
     “[Prince Humperdinck] was seventy-five minutes away from his first female murder, and he wondered if he could get his fingers to her throat before even the start of a scream. He had been practicing on giant sausages all the afternoon and had the movements down pretty pat, but then, giant sausages weren’t necks and all the wishing in the world wouldn’t make them so.” 

Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I think this is a pretty fitting description of Count Olaf:
     “If you were going to give a gold medal to Count Olaf, you would have to lock it up someplace before the awarding ceremony, because Count Olaf was such a greedy and evil man that he would try to steal it beforehand.” 

Josie Pye from Anne of Green Gables by L.M.Montgomery
(Happy Birthday L.M.Montgomery!!!) Every girl needs that one girl to antagonize her and make her goodness shine a little extra brightly.
     “Josie is a Pye,” said Marilla sharply, “so she can’t help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don’t know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles.” 

Napolean from Animal Farm by George Orwell
He's an evil pig, what more do I need to say? Another book that you really need to read if you haven't!
     “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” 

And the most classic of all villains,
Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
     “I wanted to end the world, but I'll settle for ending yours.” 

That's all for today, thanks for reading!

Monday, November 28, 2016

December TBR

Here it is, the long awaited December TBR!

Yep, those are the books I am planning to read in the month of December. I know what all of you are thinking. Wow, 31 books, you must have spent a lot of money. No, I didn't. About half of these were bought used for a couple bucks each. The other half were pulled directly off of my shelves. Seriously. I went through my shelves and pulled books I hadn't read yet. And then I wrapped them all. And now I don't know what is in each one! So now I have the fun of being surprised every time I need a new book to read. How fun is that?!?!?! 

So here is the plan. There are 31 books and in a perfect world I would unwrap and read one every day for the entire month. Now, we all know that is not going to happen. There are a couple little ones that I might manage in a day. There are also a couple over 500 pages that I will definitely not manage in a day. So I will just pull one every time I need a new book to read and get through as many as I can. I'm actually thinking of having this be an ongoing thing. Every time I buy new books I just wrap them up and add them to the pile. Maybe that will prevent things from sitting on my shelves too long, unread. 

Also, I will not be pulling exclusively from these books. I want to do some rereading this month because, in my mind, Christmas is the prime time of the year for favorite books. So I would like to read some L.M. Montgomery and C.S. Lewis this month. I am also thinking about rereading The Hunger Games and I still need to get to the first four Series of Unfortunate Events books before the show comes out in January. 

So that is my plan: fun new surprise books and favorite old books blended together.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your Christmas preparations!!! 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Reads 11/25/16

Well, you'd think since it was a holiday week I would have read more than usual and I honestly feel like I did, but my read list for the week certainly doesn't reflect that. 

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
The second installment in the Shakespeare Star Wars series (or 5th depending on how you look at it). These books are just so creative and humorous. Who doesn't want to hear what R2-D2 is thinking? I didn't like this book quite as well as the first one, but I didn't like the movie version quite as well as the first one either. 3.5 stars

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return by Ian Doescher
Yep, once I finished book 2 I went right on to book 3 and honestly I felt the same way about it as I did about the second. I enjoyed it but still didn't quite measure up to the first one. Maybe the concept was just so new and fresh in the beginning but as I got used to it the shine wore off a little bit. Still a great read, especially for fans of Star Wars. 3.5 stars

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
This is the new book by the author of The Mysterious Benedict Society books. I loved those books and was definitely looking forward to this one as well and it did not disappoint. The Secret Keepers follows young Reuben, an 11 year old boy who is a loner and spends his days wandering around his neighborhood trying not to be seen. One day he finds a mysterious artifact and soon discovers it's almost magical properties. He finds himself hunted by a powerful man with a dark secret of his own. Reuben's discovery leads him to new friends and exciting and dangerous adventures. This book definitely has the same sort of vibe as the Mysterious Benedict Society and I loved it just as mush, if not a little bit more. I have heard some complaints that this book is too long and at just over 500 pages I understand that criticism but I did not feel that was the case. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it never felt like it was dragging. Highly recommend, 4.5 stars

I still have a holiday weekend ahead of me so here's hoping for much more reading time!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday 11/23/16

Today's Top 5 Wednesday topic is:

Books I want to Re-Read!!!

I love to re-read books. Given the choice between only reading new books or only re-reading books I would, without hesitation, choose to re-read my favorites for the rest of my life. I wouldn't want to live in a world where I could never again pick up those well worn paperbacks on my shelves. In thinking about this topic there were a couple different ways I could address it, but I have chosen to go with books I re-read most often. These are the books the go on the re-read list as soon as I put them back on the shelves after a re-read. Without further ado:

#5 The Anne of Green Gables Books and the Emily Trilogy by L.M. Montgomery

Okay, I know that this is cheating a little bit but I couldn't pick just one. They are so good. What I love about these is that they are the ultimate comfort read. Any mood, any setting, any time of year, these are the perfect books to pick up and get lost in. Absolutely wonderful!

#4 The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

These books are the ultimate adventure story. A story of good versus evil. A story of triumph, perseverance, and friendship. A story of doing the right thing even when it is not the easy thing. Seriously, I could read these book over and over again (and do!). 

#3 The Thursday Next Series by Jasper Fforde

I cannot sing the praises of Jasper Fforde enough. This series is candy to book lovers. Thursday Next is a Jurisfiction agent, meaning she polices the book world. So for example, when Hamlet escapes from his book, she gets to track him down.  The more I re-read them the more literary references I discover and the more humor I catch. Also, if I ever go to a literary costume party, I am dressing up as Thursday Next.

#2 The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

What re-read list would be complete without these wonderful books? I have such good memories of having these read to me as a child and reading them myself as soon as I was able. These are books I often pull out around Christmas time.

  #1 The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Yes, we're going back to the world of L.M Montgomery. This book, though not nearly as well known as her other books, is my absolute favorite book of all time. I cannot even count how many times I have read this treasure. Whenever I make a new friend and we are discussing books (because why else would you make a new friend?) this question always comes up. "But have you read The Blue Castle?" Half the time I am met with the widened eyes and eager assurances of a kindred spirit. The rest of the time I am met with confusion. I always hand over my paperback with the cover falling off and wait to see what their response is once they have read it. That alone determines whether we can continue with our friendship or not. Do yourself a favor, read this book. You'll thank me. 

That's it for Top 5 Wednesday. If you want more info be sure to check out the goodreads group here.

Thanks for reading! 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review: The Secret Garden

Almost two months ago I signed up to participate in a classics reading project. My goal was to read 50 specific classics in four years. (You can read the blog post here if you missed it.) The good news is I finally finished my first one and yes, I realize that I am going to have to work a little harder if I want to meet my goal.

I read The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett. Shockingly, I have never read this book before but I have memories of watching the movie version (the 1987 edition) many many times as a kid. My main memory of the movie is that Chopin's Nocturne, Op. 72 is played while Mistress Mary is wandering around the big dark house at night looking for the source of the crying she hears. Creepy!!! For the record, this is very possibly where my love of Chopin began. I was also surprised to discover that some of the major plot points of the movie are not actually in the book. What?!?! A movie that doesn't follow the book?!?! Absurd!!! Yet another reason that as an adult I always read the book first.

The Secret Garden is the story of Mary Lennox, a spoiled child who comes to live with her uncle when her parents die in a cholera epidemic. The best word I can think of to describe this book is lovely. It is a lovely story. It is slow moving and just sort of meanders around. There are no big plot twists, no unexpected reveals. It is just the story of children growing and changing, and discovering who they want to be. Just as a garden needs to be pruned and weeded and given room to grow, so do the children and given the proper space and air and a little bit of pruning, both the children and the garden will thrive. 

Simply a lovely book, you should read it!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Wrap Up 11/18/16

As promised, today I am going to start doing weekly wrap-ups. So this post will cover the last almost 3 weeks, from November 1 until today. In that time period I read 5 books, all of them new to me.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The first book in a relatively new mystery series set in England around 1950. One of the things I found most interesting about this book is that even though it is marketed for adults the protagonist is an 11 year old girl. Flavia de Luce is a self taught chemist who is fascinated by poisons so when she discovers a dead body in the garden she is convinced of foul play. I  really appreciated how clean this book was. I am always looking for books to pass on to my nieces and nephews but so often adult books, even if they aren't inappropriate, have adult themes. I love having an adult book that I would give to my 14 year old niece. This was an enjoyable read, nothing earth shattering, not my new favorite series, but just something fun and entertaining. 3.5 stars

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I loved this book. It is a simple story of a stereotypical grumpy old man who yells at people and is a stickler for rules. The story begins when new neighbors move in and force their friendship on him. You slowly learn more about Ove's past, his childhood and his relationship with his wife. In almost every chapter of this book I went from laughing out loud to tears. It is beautiful and hysterically funny and deeply touching. Very possibly my favorite book of 2016. 5 stars

The Alabaster Box by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
This book was given to me as a gift. It is a story of how bitterness can impact an entire community and the power of forgiveness and letting go of past harms. Overall the was a pleasant book with a leisurely moving plot line. 3 stars

The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
It is amazing to me that I have never read this book before now! The good news is I thoroughly enjoyed it. The rest of my thoughts I am going to save and I will be posting a more in depth review next week. Nope, not even going to give you a star rating...

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
I know this book is considered one of the great American novels and it has long been on my list of books that I want to read. But now that I have read it, the question emerges, why? I find myself not exactly sure how I feel about this book. I like the writing style and I think Toole has a unique way of stringing words together that I enjoyed. I understand why people find this book humorous. However, I really disliked the vast majority of characters. Ignatius J. Reilly is a millennial before the days of millennials. He was whiny and obnoxious and rude and I really didn't even want to know what atrocious thing he was going to do next. Many of the lesser characters were blatant stereotypes. Overall, though it was a reasonably interesting read, it is not something I would pick up again or recommend. 2.5 stars (Don't hate me...)

As always, thank you for taking time to read my ramblings.
Happy Friday and Happy Reading!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Life Update

First of all, I need to apologize for being MIA the last week. Sometimes in life other things need to take priority over reading. I know, shocking but true. So last week, I took a couple of days to try and catch up on goals and accomplish other things that needed to be done. Ironically, once I get out of my normal routine, even if it's only for a day or two, I find the ripples from that small upheaval last for days or even weeks. So after not reading much or blogging for a couple days, I found myself in a bit of a reading slump. I have a goal of reading at least 100 pages per day and I don't think I have achieved that for over a week now. So Friday rolled around and I just had nothing to say. I tried, I really did. Truthfully, I actually had plenty to say, but none of it was book related and I've already promised not to subject you to my thoughts on relationships, politics, or general non-book related life. Then Monday rolled around and, if I continue being honest, I didn't even try. The thought of blogging strolled through my mind but I easily ignored it. The good news is, today all of that changes. I am back on track! I am blogging and I am going to get my 100 pages of reading in (hopefully more)!

I do want to let you know about a couple of changes that will be coming up in the next couple of weeks for this blog. I am going to be switching from doing a monthly wrap up of what I read to a weekly wrap up and currently reading post every Friday, starting this week. I'm hoping this will prevent me from letting books sit too long on the currently reading pile. We'll see, but if I decide I don't like it I can always switch back. 

Next week I'll have my first Classics Club book review to post and we'll have Top 5 Wednesday again. Also, I have a very exciting project lined up for December and I'll talk more about that next week as well. Teaser: It involves wrapping things...

That's all for today, now shut down your electronics and get out there and read...unless you read on an electronic device, then don't shut it down...either way, HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Recommendations: Middle Grade

I love reading middle grade books. These books are full of whimsy and adventure and tend to focus on simple pleasures. They make for great comfort reads. If you think you are too old for a good middle grade novel then you are missing out on some of the greatest books that are out there.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page, let's define what qualifies as 'middle grade'. Technically it is books written for ages 8-12. Basically, it's anything I would call a chapter book. They mainly tend to focus on family and friendship and the internal development of the protagonist.
It is not the same as young adult.

The series I always recommend giving kids when they are first confident enough to read on their own is The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I cannot tell you how many times I read these books as a kid (and sometimes still do). These books follow the adventures four orphaned siblings through many adventures. There is always a mystery to solve and someone that they help along the way. These are great easy reads for beginning readers. One little note: there are well over 100 books in this series now. I only recommend the first 19. After that they are authored by someone else and not nearly as good. If you have already read this series and would like something along the same lines, try The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. More stories of intelligent, creative, caring children.

No list of middle grade books would be complete without mentioning Roald Dahl. His books are creative and funny and sometimes bizarre, but always worth reading. I recommend starting with either Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, or The BFG.

Another author worth mentioning is Kate DiCamillo who wrote Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and Flora and Ulysses. Check out her books especially if you have a child who loves animals.

And while we're on the subject of animals: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM by Robert C. O'Brien. I have only read this book in the last year and I am so sorry I missed out on it as a child. This is the book that the movie The Secret of NIMH is based off of and it is so so good.

(Side note: Both Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and Flora and Ulysses will be under my own Christmas tree this year as gifts for nieces. Shhhh don't tell...)

We are just going to hit on one more category today and that is family sagas. I love books that follow a single family. There aren't necessarily huge adventures or dramatic endings. They are just simple stories of families living life together, siblings fighting and learning to love each other. They are feel good stories. I especially love The Melendy Quartet by Elizabeth Enright (be sure to start with The Saturdays) and The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall.

I hope this gave you a few new ideas. This is just scratching the surface, there are so many great middle grade books out there!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Goodreads Tag

Since I talked briefly about Goodreads on Friday this seemed like an ideal opportunity to do the goodreads tag. This tag has been around for several years and I honestly don't know who started it so I'm not going to link any videos or blogs, I'm just going to get right to answering questions.

1. What was the last book that you read?
The last book I read was A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and this book was phenomenal!!! Seriously, you should read it.

2. What book are you currently reading?
I am currently reading two books, The Alabaster Box by Mary Wilkins Freeman and A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

3. What was the last book you marked as 'to read'?
The last book I marked as 'to read' was Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War, 1941-1945. I believe I saw it on one of my friends profiles.

4. What book do you plan to read next?
Well I have a stack of five sitting next to me that I will pull from. The options are The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett, In the Hall of the Dragon King by Stephen Lawhead, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart, The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's always good to have options, right? 

5. Do you use the star rating system?
I do but I really wish you could give books half stars. 1-5 just isn't enough options. 

6. Are you doing a 2016 reading challenge?
Yes, I set myself a goal of 100 books and I have already met and passed that. I think next year I will set a goal of 120 because that averages out to 10 books per month which I think is a good goal. 

7. Do you have a wishlist?
I do have a wishlist but on Amazon, not goodreads. And it is not exclusively books, there are assorted Lego sets and episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 on there as well.

8. What book do you want to buy next?
I have no idea!

9. Do you have any favorite quotes?
"There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."
 - L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

10. Do you have any favorite authors?
Yes and they fall into two different categories, living and deceased. My favorite deceased authors are C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and L.M.Montgomery. My favorite living authors are Jasper Fforde, Connie Willis, and Kate Morton. 

11. Have you joined any groups?
I belong to two different groups: Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon and Top 5 Wednesday

That's all for today. If you want to follow my goodreads profile you can find it here
Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 4, 2016

How I Find Books to Read

"How do you find the books you read?"

I have been asked this question so many times so I thought I would attempt an answer today.

Simple answer: I discover books in pretty much any way you can imagine. But let's break it down a little more.

I have certain friends that I refer to as 'book friends'. This doesn't mean that the only thing we have in common is books or that I don't care about other aspects of their lives. It does mean that asking them what they are reading is a normal part of our conversation. My book friends have introduced me to some of my favorite authors!

Whether at a bookstore or library nothing beats the adventure of simply exploring the shelves. You might find a hidden gem, you might find something that makes you want to vomit, you never know! Browsing was how I discovered Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events back when it first came out.

Books about books:
This seems so obvious but is so often overlooked. Yes! There are books that are full of lists of other books that you should read. My favorites are the Book Lust series by Nancy Pearl. For those of you that don't know Nancy Pearl, she is pretty much the rock star of librarians. (They even made her into an action figure!) She published four books that are simply lists of books. Pick a topic or location or genre and she has a recommended list for you. It's like having your own personal book guru. I also recommend checking out 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up. These are absolutely beautiful full color books that you will easily spend hours perusing.

Specifically Goodreads and Amazon. Goodreads tracks what you read and what you want to read and recommends books accordingly. Plus you can see what your friends are reading. (Most of the time if my friends are reading something I have to read it too.) Amazon often gives me great ideas in the "people who purchased this item you're interested in also purchased _____" section . I'm pretty sure I purchased the entire Enola Holmes series because of just such a recommendation.

Online Book Groups:
There is an incredibly vibrant and active online bookish community. Find a group to be a part of. Join a goodreads group, participate in a readathon, check out some booktube videos. Trust me, you will never ever run out of reading ideas if you do!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October 2016 Wrap-Up

It's time to tell you all about the books I read in October! I read a total of 11 books, and only one of them was a reread. 

My reread was The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. Since I had reread Jane Eyre last month I decided it was a perfect time to reread this one (for at least the third time). I've said it several times before and I will continue to say it: Jasper Fforde is brilliant and I never tire of his books. They get better every time I read them. 

There were two books that especially stood out to me as new favorites this month: Crosstalk by Connie Willis which I talk more about here and Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi. I read Furthermore during Deweys 24 Hour Readathon and I thought it was a fun middle grade fantasy, definitely some shades of Alice in Wonderland but creative as well and the writing was very beautiful and poetic. 

My most unique read this month was definitely William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher. If you just read that title and thought 'what the heck?', this book is for you! If you are a fan of Star Wars, this book is for you. Basically, this book is for you. I mean, where else will you get to see R2-D2 beep in iambic pentameter? 

There are certain words and phrases that appear on the covers of books that are guaranteed to catch my interest. "Library of Alexandria" is one of those phrases, and that is what drew me to Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine. This is a young adult alternate history novel which features a world where the great library was never destroyed and is now a controlling force in the government, allowing or restricting access to knowledge. Private ownership of books is forbidden and the black market thrives. Sounds fascinating, right? It was good, I liked it but not to the point that I would read it again. I've decided I need to read the sequel before I make my final judgment so you can look for that in the next few months. 

The next three books all fell very middle of the road for me. They all came from Book of the Month club. They were entertaining but I would not read them again and will probably not keep them on my shelves. 

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend
I think I like the idea of this book better than I liked the actual book. It is a fictionalized account of the true story of Francis Conway, a woman who, with her husband, went to live on the Galapagos Islands on the eve of World War II. At least, that is how the book is advertised. I found it to be more the story of her life long friendship with her childhood friend Rosalie. It traces their journey from rural Minnesota to Chicago and eventually California. I very much enjoyed the relational aspects of this story and it's emphasis on love and friendship and honesty. I also really enjoyed the account of their time on the island. But there were a few things that seemed very out of place, paragraphs that would jump out at me as seeming not to fit with the flow of the novel. I also really disliked the last 50 pages or so. I felt like the characters did not stay true to themselves and in the end the story wrapped up a little too quickly. 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
A thriller that wasn't all that thrilling. I did read it straight though but only because it was during the readathon, otherwise it would not have kept me engaged. It was too predictable and the characters too expected. Nothing surprised me or caught me off guard. 

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Disclaimer: I am not well versed in highly technical science fiction, it is most definitely not my forte. I liked the idea of the novel and I thought it started strong but it did not keep my interest beyond the first 100 pages. It is written in an interview format so almost everything is dialogue. I really like the idea of the book and the writing style but in the end it just didn't work for me. It was too dry and I felt the characters lacked depth.  

I'm going to finish off with the children's books I read this month. I've been working my way through the Oz series by L. Frank Baum and I read a bind up of volumes 4-6. As always, these books are fun and interesting and always introduce unique characters as well as bringing back well loved ones. I was excited to see that Dorothy and family are finally permanently lodged in the Emerald city, but what will their next adventure be?

Enid Blyton is an author I was introduced to at a very young age but I have actually read very few of her books. I have been intending to read more so I was excited to start her Malory Towers series. This month I read the first two books, First Term at Malory Towers and Second Form at Malory Towers. I said earlier that there were certain 'trigger' words that make you want to read a book. "Boarding school" is another of those magic phrases. These are fun, sweet books following the adventures of a group of girls. There is nothing spectacular about these, they are just light and clean and uplifting. Very enjoyable. 

Overall, it was a good reading month for me and I'm already excited for the books I will be reading in November! Thanks for reading!