Friday, December 29, 2017

My A-Z of 2017...

Authors I ended up reading the most this year (with 5 books each):  Anna Lee Huber (Lady Darby series) and Rob Thurman (Cal Leandros series.)  Best of all? These were new authors to me this year.

Borrowed the majority of the books I read this year from the library; it never has all the books I want to read, but I'm very grateful for the ones it does have...especially when there are multiple available copies!

Celebrated my blog's 5th anniversary. I published my first post on Dec. 21, 2012. Can you believe I've been doing this for five years? Because I can't!

Didn't read as many classics this year as I normally do...I'll try and read more than four next year.

Enjoyed doing "buddy reads" with both Bettina and Melody this year and chatting with ALL my blogging friends. You guys are the best!!

Favorite new fictional character:  Magnus "Steps" Craig from Spencer Kope's Collecting the Dead. His second book comes out in April and I can't wait!

Genre hopped between mystery & suspense, non-fiction, fantasy, supernatural, dystopian, survival, romance, and then back to mystery & suspense.

Hoping that The Broken Girls, the new Simone St. James novel coming out in 2018, exceeds expectations (and makes up for the disappointment last April when its publication was delayed for an entire year.)

In desperate need of more bookshelves...mine are double-stacked and starting to spill over.

Just finished reading:  An Unwilling Accomplice by Charles Todd

Keeping too many lists of books that I want to read; I'll never get to them all, but at least I'll never run out.

Longest book read this year:  The Shining by Stephen King with 659 pages.

Managed to read 10 books from my own TBR shelf this year. Only 39 more to go.

Not my cup of tea:  erotica, graphic novels, anything political, and those l-o-n-g multi-generational family sagas.

Only purchased 26 books this year (because I was trying to be good). But it wasn't easy. And I already have a list of books that I'm planning on buying in January.

Popcorn (preferably Smartfood's White Cheddar) along with roasted peanuts are my two favorite bookish snacks.

Quote from a recent read:  "...courage and endurance are useless if they are never tested."  --Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop

Long-Eared Owls
Reached #161 on my birding life list this summer when I spotted some long-eared owls on a birding field trip.

Superpower I wish I had:  Teleportation.  That way I could go wherever I wanted without the hassle of going through airport security, or the discomfort of flying economy class.  (My own private plane would be okay, too.)

Tried to read more books from around the world this year and managed to read books set in Yemen,  South Sudan,  Romania,  India,  Syria,  Egypt,
Zimbabwe, and Hungary.

Undecided on whether or not I'll sign up for any reading challenges next year; they're fun, but they can also be a bookish burden. And I didn't exactly finish the ones I started this year. I think maybe it's time to take a year off.

Solar Eclipse, August 2017

Viewed my very first total eclipse of the sun back in August up in Rigby, Idaho. It was indescribably awesome!! (And totally worth the 10-hour traffic jam we got stuck in going home afterwards.)

Wasted way too much time watching TV this year; I should really work on changing that habit in 2018.

X marks the spot!
marks my favorite reading spot. It's not much, but it's a comfortable place to curl up and get lost in a good book:

Young adult fiction pet peeves:  love triangles, instalove, and alternating POVs written in first person. All three have been done to death. I think it's time we all move on.

Zombie read of the year:  Can You Survive A Zombie Apocalypse by Max Brailler. Why?  Because it's a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book which are always fun. I especially loved the Barnes and Noble ending in this one; although the fan convention detour was also great.

Hope you had a great 2017! 
I'll see you in the new year.
Happy Reading!!
And Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A little bookish randomness...

Never go to the library on an empty stomach. Especially when it's bitterly cold outside. You end up coming home with an armful of cookbooks from off the display shelves like The Southern Slow Cooker and the Grilled Cheese Kitchen-- 
--cookbooks with mouthwatering covers that you'll never actually cook from. They'll just sit on your couch, mocking you, because you have NONE of the necessary ingredients to make ANY of the recipes inside and absolutely no desire to go shopping.  At least that's what happened to me when I ran to the library right before lunch last week to check out Felicia Day's slightly nerdy and very humorous memoir:  You're Never Weird on The Internet (almost).  

Her book is a delightful read with some wonderfully funny insights and advice. I loved it as much as I do Felicia's quirky character, Charlie, on Supernatural. And I related to it, too. Like when she writes in her introduction:
"The heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am--unapologetically. My story demonstrates that there's no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art. Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed."
Don't you love that?
I also love this little bon mot:  Knowing yourself is life's eternal homework.

Day's honest and funny biography made me smile and totally brightened up an otherwise cold and gray winter day. And isn't that the best kind of book of all?

Happy Reading!


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

He came upon that wondrous night
So very long ago--
A tiny baby wrapped in cloth,
Laid in a manger low.

The Christ child who lay quietly
Within that stable poor
Would carry out God's pledge that we
Might live forevermore.

So, Christmas morning when you find
Your gifts beneath the tree,
Remember the best gift is the one
God gave to you and me.

--Jeannie Lancaster, The Gift

Wishing everyone a joyful Christmas season
filled with love and peace!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

From the I Shelf...

There's slim pickings on the I shelf at my library, especially if you're not interested in reading a book by Greg Iles or John Irving. Which I'm kind of not. So when I spotted a thin volume on the bottom shelf, the very last book before the names switched from I to J, I knew I'd found my book.

Title:  Beasts of No Nation
Author:  Uzodinma Iweala

This is the story of a young West African boy named Agu who is forced to become a soldier when his country is torn apart by war. It's a heartbreaking and powerful account of a child soldier who once loved going to school and reading the Bible and who now must kill...and kill again. I couldn't put it down. Here's a taste of this unforgettable novel:
"So we were playing all this game then and thinking that to be a soldier was to be the best thing in the world because gun is looking so powerful and the men in movie are looking so powerful and strong when they are killing people, but I am knowing now that to be a soldier is only to be weak and not strong, and to have no food to eat and not to eat whatever you want, and also to have people making you do thing that you are not wanting to do and not to be doing whatever you are wanting which is what they are doing in movie. But I m only knowing this now because I am soldier now."
"All we are knowing is that, before the war we are children and now we are not."
"Time is passing. Time is not passing. Day is changing to night. Night is changing to day. How can I know what is happening? It is like one day everything is somehow okay even if we are fighting war, but the next day we are killing killing and looting from everybody. How can I know what is happening to me? How  can I know?" 
This is a tough read:  haunting and sad and mesmerizing all at the same time. Iweala does a masterful job of portraying the brutality of war along with the hopes and fears, enthusiasm, confusion, horror  and guilt of those who fight in it. And all I can say is, "Wow." I'm glad I found this one on the I shelf.

Happy Reading!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Survive this!

"The missiles, Fin. Something's gone very wrong. We don't know much, but it looks as though regions in the north of Asia have been hit as well as the Gobi Desert. Word is it's a nuclear test gone wrong, but it might have been deliberate..."
By the time we got into town the sky had changed. It was like the sun was being choked with thick orange dust. The sky glowed, throbbing with colour, but it was like it had swallowed up all the sunlight. ... It was beautiful--and wrong.

In one afternoon, Fin's world changes--from warm summer to nuclear winter. Now there's no internet, no phones, and no power. The water supply has been compromised and the food is running out. With their Mom over an hour away in Sydney and their father missing, Fin and his younger brother, Max, must figure out how to survive on their own.

In The Sky So Heavy Claire Zorn has written a post-apocalyptic YA novel of survival set in Australia that's "scarily realistic", fast-paced and entertaining. I really like these kinds of novels, especially when they're well-written and believable. And this novel is both (although there were a few times when I felt things happened a little too conveniently). Fin is resourceful and smart; I liked him and his pesky younger brother. And I liked the friends he teams up with, too. This book made me wonder how I would survive in a similar situation...and what choices I would make. Which is what I like about these kinds of books:  they always make stop and think....and stock up on extra chocolate! This particular survival/disaster book is as good as John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. All three are worth reading if you happen to like post-apocalyptic novels like I do.

Happy Reading!

Another similar read:

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Child Finder

"This is something I know:  no matter how far you have run, no matter how long you have been lost, it is never too late to be found."

Her name is Naomi.  She has a gift for finding lost children.  Maybe because she knows what it's like to be lost herself. Her case this time involves a girl named Madison Culver who went missing three years ago in Oregon's Skookum National Forest in the middle of a snowstorm. She'd be eight now...if she's survived. To find her, Naomi must start from scratch.
"Naomi always began by learning to love the world where the child went missing. It was like carefully unraveling a twisted ball of yarn. A bus stop that led to a driver that led to a basement room, carefully carpeted in soundproofing. A ditch in full flood that led to a river, where sadness awaited on the shore ... Each missing place was a portal."
Then there's Madison. Only she's not Madison any more. To stay alive she's had to become something else...someone else.
"The snow girl could remember the day she was born. In brilliant snow she had been created--two tired arms out, like an angel--and her creator was there. His face was a halo of light. ... When she woke it was dark, like the inside of a cave. Snow was falling outside. She couldn't see it, but she could feel it. It's funny how you can hear something as soft as falling snow."
I loved this book. It's a mystery that reads almost like a fairy tale. Naomi is such a luminous character. And I loved the way the author, Rene Denfeld, interweaves Madison's narrative with the Snow Girl tale. In many ways, this book reminded me a lot of Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child, even though they are two very different stories. Each is magical. And Denfeld's writing is amazing. After two disappointing reads in a row, this novel was a breath of snow-fresh air. I hope Denfeld writes many more just like it.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

December's bookish art...

Jessie Marion King -- The Magic Grammar
"And she read! ... not because someone advised her to, 
not even for self betterment, 
not so as to acquire more interesting conversation, 
but out of passion."
-- James J. Healey

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A bookish journey to Budapest...

Title: Katalin Street
Author:  Magda Szabo
Summary:  In prewar Budapest, the Elekes, Held and Biro families live side by side on gracious Katalin Street, their lives closely intertwined, their four children inseparable. Then, in 1944, during the German occupation, all their hopes and dreams for the future are shattered. Lives are lost. And those who survive are forever changed. They are haunted, not only by their own guilt and sorrow, but by their longing to return to their former lives on Katalin Street.

Adjectives that describe this novel:  introspective, poignant, and bleak

Favorite quotes from Katalin Street:
There were several ornaments and objects from her former home too, but none of them conjured up the magic he had been hoping for. Iren's new abode had turned out to be nothing like the one in Katalin Street, and even here he was haunted by the sense of being somewhere else. The marriage to Iren had showed him that she yearned and pined for Katalin Street just as much as he did, that she had not found it, and neither had her parents, who were locked in the same hopeless quest to recover it ... This tyranny of somewhere else was a cruel one. It stopped Balint from seeing both the reality that existed and what he would have liked that reality to be.
The people who were with me on that day were imprinted on my memory--some of them permanently, some for many years afterward--exactly as they were at the time...
It was the first time in my life that I had an inkling that the dead are not dead but continue living in this world, in one form or another, indestructibly...
It is not only facts that are irreversible, our past reactions and feelings are too. One can neither relive them not alter them.
This isn't exactly a happy read, but it is an interesting and thoughtful one. (It's also not very long.) I  like reading about Europe, and World War II, and the time period following it during the Soviet occupation; I think it's important for all of us to know and remember what those times were like for the people who had to endure them. So even though this novel is a little depressing and sad...

Happy Reading!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Wrapping up The Backlist Reader Challenge...

So the whole point of this challenge (hosted by Lark at The Bookwyrm's Hoard) was to finally read some of those older books that have been piling up on your TBR pile and TBR list. Which made it a great challenge for me 'cause I've got a pile of books in my room waiting to be read and an even longer TBR list of book titles I've been meaning to read for years. The best part of this challenge is that I got to set my own goals for it. So last January, I picked ten books from my TBR list that I wanted to read in 2017.

How did I do?

I read 8/10! And six of those were books from off my own TBR shelf. So not too bad. Here are the books I read:

Thanks, Lark, for hosting this challenge! I had a lot of fun...and I read some books this year that I probably wouldn't have read otherwise. 

My favorite of the eight:  The Radleys followed closely by Dance Night and Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand.
My least favorite:  We Hear the Dead

Happy Reading!

P.S. I should probably repeat this challenge again next year because I have a new stack of books piling up in my room and even more books I want to read on my TBR list. It's a neverending bookish mountain that I seem to be climbing.