Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Reads 12/30/16

It's that time again! Time for a wrap up of what I read this week. It was a wonderful quiet week and honestly I expected to read more than I did but I guess I try to read too many books at once and therefore don't accomplish as much as I think I am. In total I read 5 books. 2 of them were rereads and 2 of them were specifically Christmas themed.

A Whole Nother Story by Dr. Cuthbert Soup

     This is a middle grade book reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Mysterious Benedict Society: intelligent children on the run from villainous men. This book was alright, cute in a way, but for me it lacked the originality of other books in the genre. It was a quick and easy read but it's not a series I will continue on with.

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket

     The first of my rereads this week, this is the third installment in A Series of Unfortunate Events and one of my personal favorites. Who doesn't love Aunt Josephine and her constant grammar correction? Only two weeks until the Netflix series is released!!!

A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas

     This is a charming picture book recounting Christmas through the eyes of a child. Even though this is a picture book I don't see it holding the attention of a child because it reads almost like poetry. As an adult however, I loved the sweet and simple reminiscences of a different time and place. 
     "Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept."

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien

     I had heard of this book but had never gotten my hands on a copy until earlier this year when I discovered it at a garage sale. I happily purchased it for 25 cents and tucked it away until the appropriate time of year...and then I, of course, forgot about it. Luckily I saw it on my shelf just a couple days before Christmas so it all worked out in the end. 
     Every year Tolkien would write a letter to his children from Father Christmas relating the many adventures that happened to him during the preceding year: tales of battles with goblins, stories of the accident prone north polar bear who was always breaking things, and mischievous reindeer who sometimes managed to get loose. 
     These letters are just wonderful, so imaginative and fun. This is definitely a book I will pull out every Christmas and reread!!!

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery   

     The second of my rereads this week. I don't even know how many times I have read this trilogy. In my mind it is the perfect series to curl up with next to the fire with a cup of hot cocoa. Emily is our spunky young heroine who (like most of us) takes things a little too hard, loves a little too deeply, and grieves to the depths of her soul. The tragicomedy of her life is something that I think we all can relate to. (Just in case you were wondering, I am halfway through book 2 in the trilogy. I was hoping to finish that one today but I don't think that will happen.)

I hope you all had a beautiful Christmas! We'll see you in the New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday 12/28/16

Today's topic is: Characters You Would Invite to Your New Years Eve Party

As usual, I had to think through this topic to decide which angle I was going to take. It couldn't be simply people I would like to have a conversation with because a party is not the best place to have an in-depth conversation. In the end I chose characters whom I felt would be fun and light-hearted without being obnoxious or getting wasted and destroying the house.

Merry and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings                        
Because every party needs people who are willing to
break out in song and dance.

Fauns from The Chronicles of Narnia
Fauns know how to have fun. I'm thinking specifically of the snow dance they have in The Silver Chair.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
If you're going for the slightly more sophisticated, but still imaginative and fun party.

Marco and Celia from The Night Circus
Because they're magicians and they will make your party the most incredible and memorable party that has ever happened.

Kvothe from The Kingkiller Chronicles
Because he would add an element of mystery and intrigue to the party.

Who would you invite?

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday Reads 12/23/16

It's weekly wrap up time! 
This week I only read two books but I am planning to make up for it next week and read piles and piles of books over Christmas break.

I completed a reread of The Reptile Room, the second book in the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. I am rereading the first four books in the series in anticipation of the Netflix adaptation coming out January 13 (Soooooo excited!!!). I just love these books. They are so fun and creative and I never get tired of them. 

And then I read this wonderful book:

(Can we just pause for a minute and mention this gorgeous cover. 
This may be my all time favorite book cover.)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
I don't even know how to begin describing this book for you. It's a love story, but not really. It's a fantasy but not like any you have ever read before. It is magical and whimsical and unexpected and beautifully poetic. It is the tale of Celia and Marco, two magicians engaged in a duel. It is the tale of how the circus changes the lives of those involved. It tells of a place you long to be able to visit and people you desire to know personally. 

I have read many reviews of this book and people seem to either love or hate it. For me, this book worked and I thought it was fantastic. On the other hand, I absolutely understand why it doesn't work for some people. The plot is on the thin side and the prose just meanders around and often isn't really going anywhere. For me, that is part of the magic of the story and it creates an incrediblely evocative environment. But this book is not for everyone. 

So take it or leave it. The Night Circus may not be for everyone. But for me it was a definite 5 star read.

"People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see."

Thank you for giving me a few minutes of your Christmas break! I hope you have a wonderful holiday full of family and friends (or alone with your books, whichever you prefer)! I will be taking the day off on Monday but will be back next Wednesday with our last top 5 Wednesday of the year. (Hint: It involves literary characters and New Years parties!!!)

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Favorite Non-Fiction of 2016

Since my post on Monday focused on fiction, today I wanted to mention just a few of the great non-fiction books I have read this year. 

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
I mentioned this one just a few weeks ago. It's a sweet memoir about an American in Paris and his love affair with the piano, not just with music, but with the piano as an object, as a piece of art. As a pianist myself, I loved this new perspective on my art form. 

Time Was Soft There by Jeremy Mercer
Another memoir in Paris, this one set in the famous Shakespeare & Co bookshop. This is a must read for book lovers. Mercer captures a world that we would all like to be part of. (Did you know people actually live in this bookshop?)

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck 
This one is not set in Paris. This is the story of Buck and his brother recreating a journey on the Oregon trail, complete with mules and covered wagons. This book is full of humor and history and the author manages to keep you interested even when he goes into a 20 page history of mules...I never knew I wanted to know about mules...

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
This is the book that set of the barefoot running craze a few years back. No matter what side of the fence you land on in that argument, if you are at all interested in running I suggest picking up this book. I found the history of the reclusive Tarahumara tribe and their passion for running to be fascinating and inspiring. 

The Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer
If Elizabethan England fascinates you and you want to more than who ruled and who was fighting whom, I suggest this book. It gives you all the mundane details of everyday life for both the rich and the poor from what they ate to what they wore, to how they lived, the games they played, even the words they used. If you like interesting random tidbits, this is the book for you!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Top 5 Books of 2016

Today I'm going to rate the books I read this year. 

Well...not all of them...

Today it's going to be just my 5 favorite reads of the year. Just for the sake of simplicity I'm going to include only books that are new reads for me. Re-reads have already earned a spot on the favorites list simply by being re-read. 

How do I define "favorite"? For me, it is a book I know I am going to pick up and read again, probably more than once. It's a book that I lost myself in, that I either couldn't put down or couldn't wait to get back to. It's a book that I was thinking about while I was supposed to be focusing on little fingers playing scales. They are not necessarily classified as the greatest literature, but they are books that, for me, were magic.

(Disclaimer: I really really wanted to include the book I am currently reading. It ended up being a choice between leaving it off the list or changing the title to Top 6 Books of 2016, so in the end I left it off. But you can look forward to Friday when I will tell you all about it!)

Almost all of these books I have talked about before so I will not go into a lot of detail. I have not ranked them in any order because that is just too difficult. So without further ado, here we go.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The story of a grumpy old man, a stickler for the rules, a man who no one likes...until new neighbors move in. This book made me laugh and cry in almost every chapter. I'm looking forward to reading more of Backman's books in the coming year. 

Crosstalk by Connie Willis 

A sci-fi romantic comedy romp. Bridie works for a cell phone and communications company but discovers the dangers of too much communication when her implant (designed to allow her to feel what her boyfriend feels) delivers more than promised. Willis is one of my favorite authors and her books are always a win for me!

Furthermore by Taherah Mafi 

A middle grade fantasy about Alice, a colorless girl in a colorful world. Definite hints of Alice in Wonderland but overall a creative story written in beautiful poetic prose. 

The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

Another middle grade book, this one is a mystery/adventure story including an invisible villain, hidden treasure, and a lighthouse. What more could you ask for?

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien

Unbelievably, I read this book for the first time this year. I immediately fell in love with it and was momentarily sad that I had not read it at a child. But at least I get to enjoy it now and pass it on to my nieces. If you grew up watching the movie but never read the book be sure to change that in the coming year!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Friday Reads 12/16/16

I started off my week with a reread of The Bad Beginning, the first book in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is at least my fourth reading of this book. I just love these books. They are so creative and witty and and have such a snarky sense of humor to them. Even in the darkest parts (of which there are many) they make me laugh. I definitely recommend giving the series a try. The first few books are very quick reads. The audio books, read by Tim Curry, are also excellent and the Netflix adaptation come out in less than a month! *squeal* Here's the trailer in case you missed it.

I also finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This is the story of three women in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962, one a 22 year old white girl, recent college graduate and aspiring writer, the other two black maids for local families with years worth of stories to tell. These women develop a unique friendship and in their own way begin to challenge the strict lines of racism and segregation. This book was full of love and hate, hope and humor. Well worth reading!

I also read a very short children's book, The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. At less than 80 pages this sweet story will not take you long to read. It is 1945. Wanda comes to school every day in the same worn blue dress but when she calmly states that she has a hundred dresses all lined up in her closet at home the other girls will seize the opportunity to tease her, until they learn the truth... 

Thank you for reading and have a happy bookish weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday 12/14/16

Welcome back for another Top 5 Wednesday! As always, if you are interested in knowing more about this group or being part of it be sure to stop by the goodreads page here.

Today's topic is Series that got worse with each book/season. This topic has also been opened up to TV as well as books so my first two will be from television and the last three are book series.

Once Upon a Time
*sigh* This show was such an amazing concept and the first season was so promising. I loved the characters, the dialogue, and the way they tied so many different fairy tales together. The second season, while not as good as the first was still enjoyable. And then there was season three...and four... I quit watching just a few episodes into season 5. I know the show is still going and people are still watching, but they just lost me. The plots became too weird and good characters were turning evil...I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm sorry...I really wanted to love you!

I admit, I'm a late comer to this phenomenon. It has only been this past year that I watched this show (yes, all six seasons). I visited Hawaii last year and saw where it was filmed and decided to give it a shot and I really enjoyed it for a while. But in the end it suffered the same fate as Once Upon a Time. It became ridiculous. I have this mental image of the writers sitting around in a room and someone says in a sarcastic tone of voice, "I know, let's try time travel." And someone else, "Hey that's a great idea." "Oh...I...wasn't...actually...serious..."

Okay, enough of that, on to books!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I know, I've talked about these books in multiple posts lately. I do really like this trilogy. I like all three books, but I like each book just a tiny bit less than the one before it. The Hunger Games is a 4.5 star read, Catching Fire is a 4.25, and Mockingjay is a 4. They're all good, just not quite as good as the first one. (The movies get progressively better though, just in case you were wondering.)

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Hey, another series that I talk about a lot and another series that I really do like. However, the later books that focus on Anne's children rather than Anne, while still enjoyable, are just not quite as charming.

The Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle
I grew up reading what at that time was The Wrinkle in Time Trilogy and I still love this trilogy. Then, in the late 80s, the fourth book, Many Waters, was published. It was a long time before I read it. I was told that it was not very good, but the day came when I had to discover for myself how awful it really was...and it so in my own happy little world it's still just a trilogy.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Winter Wonderland Book Tag

Winter seems to finally be arriving here in the pacific northwest. Christmas is fast approaching and the first snow has covered the ground (and of course melted away). Now seem like the perfect time for a wintry book tag. The Winter Wonderland book tag was created by JackEatsLife and you can watch the original video here.

What book is so happy and sweet that it warms your heart?
Anne of Green Gables
I feel like I always talk about the same books but I can't avoid it on this question.'s Anne of Green Gables!!!

What is your favorite book with a white cover?
This is a tough one but I'm going with All clear by Connie Willis. This is the conclusion to her World War II time travel duology and it's just so good. If you're going to embark on reading Willis though I recommend starting with Doomsday Book.

You're sitting in a nice comfy chair, with a lovely hot chocolate. What monster of a book are you reading?
This is a great question because I have just started reading a monster of a book. So this month the answer to this question is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. I've only read the first 50 pages so I haven't formed an opinion on it yet...stay tuned for that...

It started snowing. What fictional character would you love to have a snowball fight with?
Merry and Pippin...even though they would give me a sound beating, it would be hilarious!

Sadly, your fire is beginning to go out. What book would you tear the last few chapters out of to throw in the fire?
Looking for Alaska by John Green. Honestly though I would burn the entire book. I don't understand why everyone seems to love John Green. The two books I read of his were more than enough to discover that I wasn't a fan!

What book is so close to your heart that you would gift to someone this Christmas who hasn't read before but wants to get into reading?
Hmmmm, this is a tough question because it would really depend on the person. I don't want to necessarily give them my favorite book. I want to give them something that will speak to them. But I think something I always recommend for non-readers is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. They are quick reads full of adventure and beautiful fantasy. Always a win!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Reads 12/9/16

Time for the wrap up of what I read this week!


All I finished this week was my reread of The Hunger Games, so I read Catching Fire and Mockingjay. 

I made some progress on The Help as well but basically 4 days of straight reading on The Hunger Games last weekend kind of burned me out for the rest of the week. I watched Fellowship of the Ring yesterday since it was a snow day...does that count?

So, just out of curiosity, I'm wondering what my readers prefer, having weekly wrap ups or just doing one at the end of each month. Please share your thoughts. 

Thanks for reading, sorry for the super short and lame post! I have not been staying on top of my blogging this week. I'll do better next week!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top 5 Wednesday 12/7/16

Today's topic is Books you want to FINALLY read in 2017. These are not new releases that you are looking forward to or the books you receive for Christmas this year. These are the books that have been on your TBR the longest. The ones that you say every year you are going to read. The ones that keep getting pushed out of the way. 2017 is the year!!! I will finally read these books this year!

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
This book has been sitting on my shelves for years. It is barely 100 pages and I have no excuse for not having read it yet. I really just need to get to it! Moment of brutal honesty: Russian books intimidate me...

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This has been at the top of the classics I need to read list for a long time. It always stays near the top but just hasn't been picked up yet. However, with my recent reread of The Hunger Games I'm thinking the time is finally right. I think I'll get to this one soon.

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
I love historical fiction but it can be a little overwhelming at times. This book clocks in at almost 1000 pages so I guess I have a little bit of an excuse for not attempting it yet. Soon...soon...

I Will Bear Witness, Vol. 1 &2 by Victor Klemperer
I really really really want to read these books. Written in secret by a Jewish man in Nazi Germany beginning in 1933 all the way up to 1945. These are said to provide a vivid first hand account of life during this unstable time. Each volume is over 500 pages, another monster that I will read in the coming year.

And lastly, 

Excuse me while I hang my head in shame...

This may be my most embarrassing confession to date...

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
*Sigh* I know...
I have read bits and pieces of this book over the years but never the whole thing through. That will change in the coming year! Plus, once I read it I have an excuse to reread all his other books...not that I need an excuse...

Thanks for reading! As always, check out more about Top 5 Wednesday here

Monday, December 5, 2016

Un-put-down-able Books

After binge reading the entire Hunger Games trilogy this weekend I got to thinking about other books that suck me in. I admit, they are few and far between. I usually like to take my time with books and not feel rushed. As I thought about it I also realized that it takes a certain type of book to do it, some mysterious quality that makes it addictive. Books that I devour in one sitting are not necessarily my favorite books or even my favorite genre. There is just something about them that makes you keep turning the page, makes you want to know what happens next. So today I'm going to talk about recent reads that have had this same impact on me. (Recent = books read this calendar year)

Way back at the beginning of the year I read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This is not something I would normally pick up. Thrillers are not my normal go-to reads but we were reading it for a book club I was part of at the time. I think I read this book in two days. I liked it. It's not a new favorite but I did like it. It read quickly and was fast paced and full of plot twists and surprises. It just keeps reeling you in. You want to know what happens. You don't want to be left in the dark. (Just a brief warning if you are a more sensitive reader than I, there is quite a bit of rough language.)

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Forgive me for being late to the party but I had never read this book until this year. Just in case you're missing the party too, you should know that it's hilarious and you should read it! I think I read this one straight through on a Sunday afternoon. It's not a long book. Find a couple spare hours and give it a try. You won't regret it.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
This was totally a cover pick that I got from the library this summer. (Isn't it pretty???) I assumed it was a fairy tale retelling. It's not, but it is about time travel which I also enjoy so that turned out okay. This is the epitome of a guilty pleasure read. It is by no means great literature. In fact it's pretty cheesy and I will probably never read it again. But the day I read it it was just the perfect fit for me and in the moment I really enjoyed it.

The last two books I'm just going to mention briefly because I've already talked about them on this blog in the last month or two.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis is one of my new favorite books. I just love her writing and pretty much any book of hers is going on the favorites list.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi, also a new favorite. I really enjoyed this middle grade fantasy story and it is well worth reading.

What books have kept you intrigued recently? Which book have you lost sleep over?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Reads 12/2/16

It's Friday!!! DO you know what that means? We have a weekend full of reading ahead of us! YAY!!! I read three books this week so let's get to it.

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart
In this sweet memoir Carhart writes of his love affair with the piano. Not just with playing the piano or with music but with the piano as an object. The history and the mechanics of it and what makes each instrument unique and different. As a pianist myself, I loved this book. And as someone who has a decent understanding of music history I discovered many little tidbits that I hadn't previously heard. If you are not a musician yourself I don't know if you would find this book nearly as interesting as I did but if you have even the slightest interest in things musical I highly recommend it.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
This was my first venture into Forster and to be completely honest, I only read it because my book club is watching the movie next obviously I had to read the book first. Generally, books like this are not my cup of tea. The plot lines tend to be too predictable for my taste. (Girl is in love with an unacceptable man, oh no!) However, this was an enjoyable read. The characters were engaging and humorous. And it will be interesting to compare it with the movie while it is still very fresh in my mind. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I read this book literally binge read the entire thing...that's pretty much all I did today. Yes, this is a reread. I have a very distinct memory of reading it 3 or 4 years ago. I got home late in the evening and decided to read a chapter before I went to bed...and then it was going into it a second time I did not expect that to happen. I know the story now. I know who lives and who dies. I know how it ends. But, here I am, having cried more tears the second time around and being even more struck by some of the themes that seem even more timely today then they did a few years ago. If you haven't picked up these books yet, you probably should do that soon.

What am I currently reading? Oh I'm glad you asked. In the last two days I have started two books: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (which was on my November TBR and I am just now getting to) and The Help by Kathryn Stockett (which is the first book I pulled randomly off of my December pile of wrapped books). So those are the two I will be working on this weekend. Although, I wouldn't be surprised if Catching Fire and Mockingjay manage to make their way onto the stack...