January Reading ReCap

January was a bit of a slow reading month if you look at number of books completed, but, given that these were both audio books if you look at hours listened it was a bit of a marathon with nearly 60 hours of listening time combined.

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I started off the month listening to Sand: Omnibus Edition. The goodreads description of this one intrigued me, and I’m glad I gave it a shot. Some of the reviews are kind of ehh, so I was a bit worried, evenso I like the read. I especially like it as an introduction to Howey’s work. I think many of the not-so-great reviews were disappointed with the work due to their experience with his other novels. I however, found it well written and captivating. What appears to be a series of short stories quickly blends into an over-arching plot featuring a dystopian world where scavengers dive through sand dunes looking for lost treasure – all the while Howey encourages readers to examine familial ties and interpersonal relationships. And, while I probably won’t read the book again, it did intrigue me enough to want to check out Howey’s other works, specifically Wool.

After Sand, I read 1Q84 – at over 46 hours long, the audio book took me the rest of the month and a few days into February to finish. Originally written in Japanese and then translated to English, the book itself is a bit tricky to explain. At it’s core I would say it’s about a woman, a man, a girl, and how they end-up in and try to escape from an alternate world. Drawing heavily from Orwell’s 1984 there are themes of big brother, espionage, and overtly controlling organizations. There’s also a heavy dose of Bradbury-esque sci-fi with “little people” spinning “air chrysalises” that serve as cocoons for alternate versions of the characters. It can be a bit dense and a bit slow, but was perfect as a sewing companion and later as a “I’m sick in bed and can’t just lie here” read. Overall, I really enjoyed the book – I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say I loved it, but I think it’s one of those that will grow on me as time goes by. There are definitely some themes and scenes that will stick with me.

What about you, what have you been reading lately?

My Favorite Reads in 2014

I consider myself a reader, a lover of books, a bibliophile. My first job was at a library, and my Master’s Degree is in Library and Information Sciences. That being said, you might think that I read all the time – that I rack up books like some people rack up speeding tickets. And, for the most part, I’d like that to be true – but it usually isn’t. After counting up all the books I read in 2014, I came up with 35. 35 books read in 2014 – for me, that seems like a very small amount – it’s much less than I expected. I think that’s mainly due to the fact that I am actually listening to more books via Audible than I am reading the hard copies – So while I’m enjoying a book nearly every day, I’m not finishing them at the same rate (audiobooks are a much slower form of reading for me). Even so, I read some great ones. Below are my Top 5 for the year. Enjoy!

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1. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

This was by far my favorite read of 2014. Think spy novel mixed with conscious reincarnation. Harry August, born to average parents in an average village, is destined to relive his life – his exact life – over and over, all the while, combating the indisputable fact that the world is ending. Not just is the world ending, but it’s ending at a faster rate with each life Harry lives. Without giving too much more away, you’ll have to settle with the simple fact that I adored this book, and strongly recommend it to history enthusiasts, scifi fans, and readers of adult fiction. Seriously, go read this book!

2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

This was an underdog of a book for me – a short read/listen as I drove across the state to visit a friend for Christmas (the audio book was roughly the same length as the drive). Yet, the little book packed a big punch. A.J. Fikry is the owner of the only bookstore on Alice Island – and he is just going through the motions until he can retire. That is until, a series of somewhat unfortunate, and somewhat amazing, events give A.J. a reason to live life – to really live. This book is an amazing read for the book lover. It made me laugh. It made me cry. I loved it.

3. American Gods

First, I love Neil Gaiman’s Young Adult works. American Gods, therefore, did not disappoint me. Easily the longest read of 2014, it was also one of the most intriguing. When ancient gods (think Oden) must face off against new gods (like Internet), Shadow gets caught in the middle. Settle in for a ride full of norse mythology, coin tricks, and human relationships. It’s an epic tale, for sure, but one worth the investment. It will forever change the way you view the world.

4. Howl’s Moving Castle

By far, this is my favorite movie by Hayao Miyazaki, and for years, I had no idea it was based on a book. So, when Dad was laid up for his second hip-replacement back in January, I used this book to pass the time on the drive to/from the hospital and during our hospital stay. The book, as usual, has so much more depth than the movie and I love the magic in it. It forever changed the way I look at the film, but in the best of ways. If you’re looking for a family read, or a book to recommend to your middle-schooler – this is it.

5.  The Girl Who Chased the Moon

This book was my introduction to Sarah Addison Allen – and I loved it. It’s a quick read, full of magic realism and good ole southern charm. If your looking for a quirky, fantastic read, I highly suggest The Girl Who Chased the Moon.

Runner’s Up:

I had an unexpectedly hard time coming up with just 5 best books. The 3 below are my honorable mentions – and well worth your time if you’re looking to add to your to-read pile.

  1. The Phantom Tollbooth – How had I not read this before? My fourth-grade self is kicking me. Seriously, have your kids read this – and read the hard copy you’ll miss all the puns otherwise.
  2. The Rosie Project – Listen to this one, the audio version is hilarious and I adore a quirky narrator. Think Asperger’s Adult looks for love using a systematic formula. How could it go wrong? (Plus, I just learned there’s a sequel published in September 2014!)
  3. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – History enthusiasts will love this one where Allan, bored with his retirement home life, escapes, forming varied friendships and reliving his history-defying past.

What were your favorite reads of 2014? Have anything that I simply MUST add to my to-read pile?

May Reading Recap

So it appears that the Spring and Summer months are shaping up to be slow reading months around here – and that makes sense to me. In the Winter, the lack of sunshine definitely brings me down, and books make a great escape when I can’t get outside to work in the garden or soak up some rays by the pool. In the summer, I find myself in more of a “doing/going” mood and spend my free time out in the sun: flea marketing, gardening, and swimming – this leaves my commute to and from work and my primary “reading” time; and I take full advantage of it by loading up on audio books galore. MayReadingIn May, I easily checked out half a dozen books from the local library, but ended up finishing only one – an audio book secured through my audible subscription. The three books pictured above sounded fantastic, but just didn’t live up the hype, and I returned them all unfinished. Below are my thoughts regarding the three unfinished books and the one complete read.

The Firefly Dance by Sarah Addison Allen & Others: First off, I totally overlooked the fact that this was a novella of short stories written by 5 authors when I picked it up from the library. I’ve been riding the Addison Allen high and was looking to enjoy more of her southern magical realism when I grabbed this one off the shelf. I made it through the first short story before I put the book down. It just wasn’t what I was in the mood for – no Southern Charm, no magical realism, no way I’ve got time to muddle through this.

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker: This one caught my eye from the shelf, and after reading the description in the jacket, promised to be similar to Addison Allen’s writing. And, while the premise is structurally similar, the plot was simultaneously too predictable and too jumpy for my taste. I got about half-way through before giving up and moving on. Overall, I feel like this story should have been broken into 2, maybe 3, different books and expounded into a fuller, richer narrative.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder: Written by a Norwegian writer and translated into English, the plot follow’s the life of Sophie as she is introduced to philosophical thinking and the history of philosophy. Again, the book jacket promised magical realism, yet the book delivered a very elementary explanation of various philosophical schools of thought. I’m not sure how much of my distaste resulted from poor writing and how much resulted from poor translation, but this “adult” fiction felt like it should be on the juvenile fiction shelf. And while I love a good juvenile fiction, this one was definitely not my cup of tea.

Now, for the good:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North: I loved this one, really loved it. It was a fantastic listen on the way to and from work, and fit in with a developing trend in my listening taste: something I’m going to call “lives lived again.” Like my earlier reads, Life After Life and, to an extent, Never Let Me Go, this book deals with choices made, lessons learned, and the impact a single person can have on the grand scheme of things. The reader was perfect for the narrative, and I am hoping and praying that Ms. North decides to write a sequel – it was just that good.

Have you read any good books, lately?

 

 

March & April Reading ReCap

March and April were extremely slow reading months around here – and I only managed to finish 3 books, 2 of which were audio books. But, let me just say, I am now utterly addicted to Audible and audiobooks in general. I have at least a 45 minuted commute to and from work 5 days a week – and audiobooks trump the radio every time. every single time.

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The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I have fallen down the rabbit hole and cannot get enough of Sarah Addison Allen’s books. They all follow the same recipe: 1 part southern charm, 1 part hopeful love, and 2 parts magical realism; which results in the best chick-lit I’ve read in a long, long time. Seriously, everytime I sit down with one of her books, I don’t get up until it’s completed. If you’re looking for a bit of fun, a bit of the South (complete with idioms and accents), and a bit of fantasy/magic, I highly recommend any of Allen’s works.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

On Audible, I often search for the longest titles – I want to use my “credit” on the most expensive items, which, in audiobook terms means the newest and longest releases. Enter The Goldfinch. I’d been hearing quite a bit about this book across social media and various blogs, and after reading the short description, decided to try it out. Honestly, I really liked it – not quite loved it, but would definitely listen to it again at some point in the future. I’m not sure that I could have drudged through the text heavy, plot-thin book without listening to it, but it was perfect to pass the drive to and from work for a solid month. If you like high-action, plot twists, and plausible mysteries, this is not the book for you. All in all, it’s a bit slow- lots of patchy character development, lots of back-story. But, for a look at how a tragedy can have a profound impact on the human psyche – how quick decisions have lasting consequences, this is worth the read.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I love Neil Gaiman’s books – but I will say, he is very much a love-it or hate-it author. Like Sarah Addison Allen, Gaiman incorporates a healthy dose of magical realism into his writing – enough for the book to be solidly grounded in this world, but to also convince the reader that the extraordinary is also possible – that old Norse Gods roam the earth hoping to stay alive amidst the new American Gods of “Internet,” “Highway,” and “Television.” I loved this book and would read it again and again. Definitely a must if you’re into ancient gods, mythic tales, and even the tried and true road trip story.

Feb. Reading Recap

February has been another good month for reading, a surprisingly good month; especially considering I haven’t had as much time to read this month as I did last month. I’ve been able to bust through a good portion of my to-read list, though. So, once again, I thought it might be a good time to share some of my favorites.

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The Girl Who Chased the Moon: Ok, I totally loved this one. I read it in one sitting and was enamored with the story from the get-go. I cannot wait to read more by Addison Allen, and despite a few shaky details surrounding the actual ‘mystery’ of the book, would recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of chick-lit mixed with fantasy.

The Mysterious Benedict Society: This on took me longer to read than it should have. I’m not sure why. I really enjoyed the storyline and the characters. I would definitely recommend this as a child’ read aloud or read alone for say 4th grade and up? It’s the first in a series and while I’m not sure I’ll finish the series I think if I were a child or had children, this would be a favorite of mine.

Night Circus: Although this wasn’t exactly what I expected, I still really enjoyed it. It has some strong Romeo and Juliet undertones, but the magic of the storyline keeps everything in check. The locations are very vivid and I had no trouble getting lost in within the pages. It’s a strong 4 out of 5 stars.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar ChildrenMy friend, Jessica, has been trying to get me to read this book forever; and to be honest – I really thought it was meant to be a scary book and thus I avoided it. I could not have been more wrong. I finally gave in and listened to the entire tale on audible and was so disappointed in myself for not giving it a shot sooner.

Pride and Prejudice: Ok, let me hide behind a low wall over here before I tell you that I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice before now; seen the movie yes – the BBC series, no. I know, I know, it’s a shame that had to be made right. Again I listened to it on audible, got hooked, binge watched the BBC series on amazon and then lamented when it was over. Also – Darcy the true introvert is fantastic – simply because he is clearly an introvert.

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Language of Flowers: I adored this book. Every single part of it. It’s well written, engaging, and entertaining. I started this one with the intention of reading only a few chapters, and put it down at 2am when I finished. I could totally relate to the main characters, and despite being annoyed by some of their decisions, could understand why they acted the way they did. For a first novel, this one knocks it out of the park. Well worth the read.

Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction: When Amy announced an online, non-fiction, leadership/business/self-helpy/personal development book club I was quick to join. I was not as quick to read the first book, however, as it took me nearly the entire month to even pick it up. I found it very interesting and full of great, though-provoking notions. It’s free at the link above, and worth a once-through for any creative out there.

GuildedEach month I get an email with the choice of a free ebook from Amazon Prime. This month, I chose “Guilded” by Christina Farley, and read it while waiting for Dad’s doctor. I enjoyed it more than expected and will likely read more by this author.

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Have you read anything great this month? Have any good recommendations?

Find Your Voice: Week 1

 

I am so happy to be featured as a contributor to the Find Your Voice Free Summer Storytelling Workshop created by Kristen at rukristen.com. I’m also happy to be following along and ‘doing’ the workshop myself. Each week, I plan to share my Find Your Voice projects right here, and I’d be thrilled if you shared yours, too 🙂

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It’s only been a few days and already I’m loving this workshop. Lesson one is all about creating a project that represents you at the beginning of your storytelling journey. To do this, I made a simple book by stitching a few pieces of card stock together. I added a card from the Jade Project Life kit to the front, and plan to add the Find Your Voice stamp to the bottom right corner (once it comes in – I ordered it a bit late. woops).FYVTitle

For the title page, I used alphabet stamps and my Amy Tangerine date stamp.FYVContents

I used a 4 x 6 Jade Project Life Card for the table of contents – but I’m waiting until the book is complete to fill it out.

Finally, for the inner pages, I stamped headings using the alphabet stamps and the June stamp add on for Studio Calico by Elise Cripe. Underneath the headings I transferred my answers from the lesson 1 worksheet. FYVInsidePages

I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like documenting the workshop like this when I started, but after these first few pages I’m warming up to it. I like that the book I created is on the smaller side: only 5×6.5 inches; and I’m a fan of the cohesiveness of it all. Limiting my selection of stamps, filler cards, and colors has really tied it all together. I must say, the Jade kit is not one of my favorites to use for project life – it just doesn’t fit my style there. Yet, surprisingly enough, I’m absolutely loving it here.

Are you participating in the Find Your Voice Workshop? If so, I’d love for you to link to your weekly work either in the official link-up over here, or in the comments below. I look forward to seeing what everyone else came up with this week 🙂 Cheers & Happy Storytelling!