Friday Five: Books everyone has read but me

Happy Friday!

Today on Friday Five I’m going to tell you about five books that everyone has read but me, or at least it feels like everyone has read them.

I’m not going to talk about classics that everyone should read, because there are so many it’s impossible to keep up, but instead I’m just going to mention the new(ish) books I haven’t read. Yes, there are still so many and I can’t keep up, but there are still a few that stand out as the ones everyone reads.

Some of these books I haven’t read because I honestly had no interest in reading them, but some I haven’t read simply because I didn’t want to read what everyone else was reading…yeah, I’m stubborn.

Feel free to comment about what a horrible human I am for not reading these books, and I will respond by saying “yeah, I know, I’m the worst.” 😉

1. The Twilight Saga

This one probably falls under both reasons I mentioned before: I didn’t want to read it because it looked completely uninteresting to me, and I didn’t want to read it because every girl in my high school was reading it and I was at the end of the table like “so, which Musketeer would you pick? I’m personally an Athos type of girl, but I see the appeal for the other three too…” so…yeah, it just didn’t seem like my cup of tea. Also, after seeing the first movie, I was pretty thankful I never did. 

2. The Da Vinci Code

I believe this one was pretty big when I was in middle school, and at that point it seemed like an adult book and I really didn’t have any interest in it. When I did start reading “adult” books, I was more interested in the classics then the books popular a few years back. I still don’t have much of a desire to read it, even though it is considered one of the best books of 21st century.

3. The Fault in Our Stars

This was one I definitely didn’t read because everyone else was reading it. Also, I have a problem with stories that make you sad for the sake of being sad, and this one seemed like that kind of book. I’m sure it’s pretty good, and I know a lot of people who really like it, but I’m really can’t see myself reading it. 

4.  Gone Girl

This one I’m probably going to read…eventually. I was in Europe the year this was really popular, and I just never got around to it…I was more concerned with buying wine and cheese in the south of France. However, the story seems so creepily cool, and I really want to see the movie, but I need to read the book before I do, or else there really won’t be any point because all the twists would be spoiled. So, eventually.

5.  Harry Potter Series

AHHH STONE ME NOW!! I know, I know, this is a mortal sin in book world, but yes, I confess, I have never read the Harry Potter Series! Dumbledore is rolling in his grave at my horrible act (too soon?). Anyway, I’ll explain my reasoning to you. So in third grade the first HP came out and my 3rd grade teacher read it aloud to my class. I thought it was good, but honestly I didn’t think it was the best thing in the universe. When I was in 4th grade, my father read The Hobbit to me and my siblings and that became my life. Seriously. In 5th and 6th grade Lord of the Rings took over my life, and then the movies came out, and it became more of my life (yeah, I’m a proud Tolkien nerd). By then the “which is better” arguments began to emerge from the shadows and I chose my side and stuck to it. From then on, I had zero interest in Harry Potter, but all my friends did, which made me even less interested (remember the stubborn part I mentioned earlier?). Even when the movies came out I had no desire to watch them. Then the Christmas break of my freshman year of college, I had the desire to watch them–so I did–all of them (except the last two because they hadn’t come out yet). Ok, I liked them, but I still wasn’t obsessed. They were entertaining, but, in my humble and uneducated opinion, I felt like they got worse as they went on. Later in college I had a roommate who was OBSESSED with HP–therefore we had four things constantly playing in our apartment: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Supernatural, or Sherlock…needless to say our grades suffered that year. With the information that was infused into my brain from her or the movies, I can now say that I know as much as a lazy HP fan, and I’m pretty satisfied with that. I feel like I should read them, for the sake of literature or whatever, but it’s such a huge undertaking, and honestly, I’d rather read a Russian book…it would probably take the same amount of time ;). 

So, there you have it, my friday five of book failures. Am I shunned from the book world?

All the Missing Girls

static1.squarespace.jpgAll the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

Rating:★★★★

Favorite Line: “People were like Russian nesting dolls—versions stacked inside the latest edition. But they all still lived inside, unchanged, just out of sight.”

Review:

*mild spoilers..no major plot ones, but I do talk about the characters, which is somewhat of a spoiler. Sorry.

Man . . . cannot learn to forget, but hangs on the past: however far or fast he runs, that chain runs with him.

-FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

Time. Time is important, but it’s not real. It’s only real because we make it real, but without us time doesn’t exist. This was, more or less, the philosophy of Mr. Farrell, Nicolette Farrell’s father, this is the philosophy Nicolette grew up with, until all the bad happened. Until she left her small town without the intention of coming back.

Years later, she returns to help her brother convince their father that now is the time to sell their old family home, she knew it would be a struggle, but what she got was much more than she anticipated. Not only was she struck with the memory of her high school best friend, Corinne, who had gone missing in the woods years ago and never found again, but she was also thrown into the case of another missing girl, Annaleise Carter, who happened to be her next door neighbor and her ex-boyfriends newest fling.

The book starts off as Nicolette (Nic for short) is leaving her Philadelphia apartment and her fiancé to drive down for the summer to her hometown to help her brother with their family issues. That’s day 1. On day 1 she see’s her brother, moves into her old house, plans on visiting her father in the nursing home, and sees her ex-boyfriend Tyler and his new girlfriend–it was a busy day. The next chapter is day 15–Annaleise has been missing for 2 weeks, Tyler is a suspect for murder, her father keeps muttering about “seeing that girl on the porch,” and the police are asking Nic too many questions. From there the book works backwards day-by-day until slowly the truth about everything, and everyone, unravels.

“It is quite true what philosophy says; that life must be understood backwards.

—SØREN KIERKEGAARD”

Phew. This book was a roller-coaster (pun intended as a lot of it revolves around the county fair). First of all, I absolutely LOVED the plot setup. Working your way backwards is a rare form of storytelling, but here it worked perfectly. It’s really fun and interesting meeting characters for the first time after you already saw them in action.

Everyday we find out more about the different connections in the town, about Annaleise, and about Corinne. Slowly we figure out the timeline, and slowly we figure out that there are way more puzzle pieces than expected.

Ok. Let’s talk about characters. There are quite a few, but I’m only going to talk about 3 because any of the other ones would lead to spoilers.

Nic –she’s kind of a hot mess, and she doesn’t let on to most of what she’s thinking or feeling. The story comes from her point of view, so we are inclined to understand her emotions and actions more than others, but had she been a side character, I don’t think I would have been as empathetic toward her. When I finished reading and reflected on the story, I found myself more and more upset with her than with any other character. She is a victim, in a sense, but some of her actions are quite stupid.

Tyler — I liked Tyler…most of the time.  I feel like he tried many times to do what needed to be done, and to be a good man, but he just fell short more times than not. He also made some stupid choices and he was so completely infatuated in Nic, it became a little ridiculous…I mean, this guy had it bad.

Daniel — Daniel is Nic’s brother and they have a strange, secretive relationship. However, he was extremely protective of her, to the point where he would hide horrible things just to keep her safe. He is also hard to understand because he doesn’t say much, but what he doesn’t say is important.

These three are intertwined in multiple ways. Nic and Tyler used to date, Nic and Daniel are siblings, Tyler and Daniel are friends (possibly best friends), Daniel hates Tyler dating Nic, Nic and Daniel have an odd love/hate relationship.  However oddly related these three are, they are loyal to the death, which really makes the story come together and give you insight to the events. Their loyalty to each other is extremely important, and this story shows it so well.

These three try to run from time, they try to erase time, they try to fast forward time, they try to hold on to time–they try to do everything but allow time to take it’s course, but even with their best efforts, time seems to take revenge on them.

“There is nothing more dangerous, nothing more powerful, nothing more necessary and essential for survival than the lies we tell ourselves.

Um, Megan Miranda, did you grow up in a small town? I would almost be willing to bet money that you did (almost, don’t get any ideas), because you describe what it’s like to live in one so well that I would be shocked if you grew up somewhere like New York City. I know authors are supposed to blend in to any situation, but there’s are some things you only gain through experience. Her description of the setting is perfect–I felt like these were people and places I knew well.

My main problem with this story was the ending, mainly the “3 months later” section. I don’t want to give anything away, but I thought the ending was complete B.S. and it really made me angry. The other problem I had with it was the character of Everett. He was an excellent character and was, perhaps, the most victimized out of all of them. He is really the only completely innocent character and he gets the short end of the stick. Furthermore, I didn’t like how he was given an “aggressive” side at the end since there was nothing aggressive about him until that point–it seemed to try to justify him getting completely screwed over, but it didn’t work for me.

Other than those final points, I found this novel to be excellent. I’m excited to read the second book of this series, although (correct me if I’m wrong) I believe it’s a completely different story, just a similar type of story.

The Dollhouse 

9781101984994.jpegThe Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

Rating: ★★★

Review:

The hottest trend in books lately seems to be the alternating point of view between multiple characters or multiple time periods. Sometimes it works splendidly, and sometimes it crashes and burns. This book falls somewhere in the middle of that range, but for me it leans closer to the latter, because it just didn’t really work for me.

The story follows two women, Darby and Rose, who live in the Barbizon (nicknamed the Dollhouse), a once hotel/apartment building for working woman in the ’50s and now turned condo building in the middle of New York City.

Rose, a journalist in NYC, just moved into the Barbizon Condos with her boyfriend, who is recently separated from his wife. Soon after we meet our young protagonist, we find out that her boyfriend is going back to his family and trying to make things work with his wife. Taken completely by surprise sends Rose into a mild mid-life crisis, which results in her diving deep into a story about the old Barbizon hotel and mainly the life of one particular resident, Darby McLaughlin, who still resides in the building and always covers her face with a veil.

Flash back over 50 years before and we meet the Darby, a young girl who left her country life behind in hopes of making her way through secretary school. Darby’s life get’s crazy fast and she finds herself mixed in things she never dreamed of being apart of.

This book was entertaining, but as I mentioned before I wasn’t the biggest fan of the alternating p.o.v.  I think the main reason why it didn’t work for me was because the stories were not equal. Darby’s story was by far the superior of the two, and this made the chapters with Rose boring. This novel would have been far better had it focused solely on Darby’s story and brought us deeper into her life in the ’50s.

While the setup of a wonderful mystery was there, I felt the result was rather anti-climatic, and the build up seemed a bit wasted. I think the mystery would have seemed more alive had we only had Darby’s point of view, however, I do see the benefit of having Rose build up the idea of the mystery by snooping into Darby’s life (yes, snooping–her journalist ethics went out the window in this one).

There were some twists in this book, but I found most of them to be either predictable or so completely out of left field that they were unbelievable. However, on the ones that did work, they worked well, there just seemed to many for me, and to outrageous at times.

Despite my problems with the book, I did read it very quickly and the story kept me reading, which I guess is a major goal for a novel. It is exciting and interesting, and I did want to finish it and find out the big mystery.

I will also say I was shocked when I found out this is Fiona Davis’ debut novel–that’s impressive! Even though this book was a little disappointing for me, I am very excited to see what she gives us in the future; I expect great things!

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Read the Day Away 

Happy Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is brought to you by the Broke and Bookish blog! This week’s topic is top ten books you can read in one day. 

My list is mainly compiled of classics, but it has a couple new(ish) books and it also has a short story. Not only does this list include my top ten to read in one day, but many of them are some are on my all-time favorite books list as well! 
1. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams


I read this book on a train in that took me from Spain to Belgium, and I couldn’t stop reading until it was done. I had put off this book mainly because I thought it sounded stupid, but I was so wrong. This book is entertaining and funny. It keeps you reading with its exciting plot and interesting characters. It’s 216 pages long, but you will end it wishing it was much longer. 

2. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

This is a very perplexing book, and it good for a day (or afternoon) where you can sit down with a glass (or bottle) of your favorite adult beverage and really get into the human complexities this book exposes you to. I really enjoyed this book even though the characters and plot are very hard–not hard to understand, but hard by nature. This book is 112 pages long, but you may need to pause a few times to refill your glass. 

3. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 

This is my favorite Christie book to date. This classic who done it will keep you guessing throughout its entirety. It’s a little bit longer than others on this list, 264 pages, but you really won’t want to put it down until you figure out the thrilling mystery. 

4. Animal Farm by George Orwell

You’ve probably already read this one by Orwell, but it’s always fun to pick it up now and then and bring back this work of satire genius. I don’t usually read books more then once, but it helps when they are fantastic reads and when they are only 122 pages and you can read them cover to cover in a day. 

5. The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe

This is technically a short story, but I think it should count. The next time you find yourself in late October with a few hours to spare, sit yourself in a comfortable chair and read this epically creepy short story by Poe. It’s 16 pages long, but leave some extra time because you may want to reread it right after. 

6. The Hound of Heaven at My Heels

Have you ever read a book that was written so well it makes you doubt if it was truly fiction? Well, this is one of those books. I actually found myself angry at the end solely because it wasn’t real. This book is fantastic and packs so much emotion and life into its 124 pages, that you will be aching for more. 

7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This one makes you wish magic existed the way the stories tell us it exists–and then again, it also makes you happy it doesn’t exist that way. This quick read of 178 pages packs adventure and sacrifice into a the lifetime of its characters. Told with a commanding voice, Gaiman leaves you wanting more with a side of magic. 

8. They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth

Oh happiness in 254 pages! This book was my favorite book growing up and the well-worn pages of my copy are proof to that. I read it many times then, and now, years later, I find myself reaching for it when I need a read that will bring me back to my childhood. This book is beautiful and I highly recommend it. Side note: don’t judge this book by it’s cover. The cover is terrible, the book is not. 

9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I was surprised by this book’s short length, but not disappointed in the story. This book not only makes you want to travel, but it makes you believe in yourself and those in your life. Only 197 pages, this book is great for a day on vacation. 

10. The Death of Ivan Illych by Leo Tolstoy 

I recommend this book for anyone who has a snowy winter day, a bottle of wine, and a desire to discuss philosophy (after all, this is a Russian book). This book makes you reevaluate your life and choices, and helps you recognize the relationships you have with the people around you. It’s a great book for those deep-thinking nights. Also, if you really want to feel Russian, switch the wine with vodka and it will make the 86 pages last a little longer ;). 
And that’s my list! Now all I want is a nice open day where I can reread them!

Friday Five: Books with Irish Characters 

Happy St. Patrick’s day! 

Oh, I love this feast day! A few years ago I wrote this blog post (on a totally different blog) about my favorite quotes from Irish authors, and this year I decided to highlight some of my favorite books with Irish themes or characters.

Irish characters are some of my favorite, not only because I see my heritage in them, but mostly because through all their struggles and hardships, the Irish always find joy in whatever they do. 

Irish themes are similar. They express pain and loss, but also joy and hope. 
1. The Bantry Bay Series by Hilda Van Stockum

This series was my favorite as a child, and I think it helped stir my love of travel and adventure. These books, The Cottage at Bantry Bay, Francie on the Run, and Pegeen, are so much fun. They are about a poor family in Bantry Bay, Ireland, and mainly follow the mischief of the young twins, Francie and Liam. 
These books take you all over Ireland and bring in the culture, folklore, and characteristics of the land and the people of the wonderful island. I highly recommend this one to be read aloud with your family, or even alone, if you want a spark of Irish magic. 

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith 

Francie Nolan is a child of an Irish-American man and a Austrian-American woman. Her Father brings his culture into their lives through his lively spirit and his joy. Frankie’s fondest memories of her father revolve around his songs–his Irish ballads he would sing as he came home and again as she sat with him in their small apartment. 

This book is an amazing story of a family living in Brooklyn in hard times. I recommend this book to anyone, and I even think this book should be read at all different stages of life, because the themes and messages can be reached by all. (Disclaimer: you may be singing Irish songs, especially Molly Malone, for weeks after reading this novel.)

3. Ireland by Frank Delaney

This book is lovely. It follows a storyteller who wanders around Ireland and trades stories for a meal and a bed for the night. Each chapter in the book switches from being about the teller and the story he is telling. In doing so the reader is able to become attached to a character all while hearing a dozen folktails from Ireland.

Again I recommend this story to anyone. It’s a little slow at time, but due to the way it’s set up, you can pick it up whenever, read a couple chapters, and be content. 

4. Dubliners by James Joyce

This collection of short stories brings to life the ordinary people of Dublin town. There is nothing extraordinary about these stories, but that is what makes them so precious. As someone who has only spent a short time in Dublin, it is so special to be transported into the homes of the Irish people whom I have longed to be apart of my whole life. 

5. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt 

This book is talked about so much, you almost think it’s overrated. Well, I think it is and it isn’t. I think it is in the sense that I don’t think it’s one of the most important books of the 20th century, as some may claim, but I think it’s not because it really is a good book. It is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, and at times I had to put it down because it was too hard to read, but at other times the story was so compelling that I had to keep reading. I put it on this list because, like I stated before, even in all the suffering that happens in this book, there is an underlying sense of hope and joy, which is so characteristically Irish. 

*Bonus: my favorite Irish movie

The Secret of Roan Inish

Growing up I thought everyone knew this movie, but in high school and college, much to my dismay, I found out no one knew this movie. 

This book takes place mainly on the western coast of Ireland, but also out on the Island of Roan Inish. The story follows a young girl, Fiona, as she tries to get her family to move back to their home on Roan Inish. This movie has humor, folklore, beautiful scenery, and lovely Irish charm. It’s definitely a great one to get from your library this St. Patrick’s Day weekend 🙂 

Book Review: The Iliad 

Last night I went to this local Greek restaurant, and they served us so much Greek food and wine that I’m pretty sure I was speaking in verse by the end and quoting the Iliad 😉 so I decided to blog about it!

1371.jpgThe Iliad –Homer (683)

Rating: ★★★★★

Favorite Line: Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

Review:

The Iliad is perhaps the oldest piece of literature in the world, passed down from generation to generation, translated into hundreds of languages, and dated back to somewhere between 1260-1180 BC. There are many reasons why it has stood the test of time. It is a poem of epic proportions, bringing the mythical world and the natural world into one fantastic war. It gave us characters that now hold their own power, known outside of the story for their immortal qualities.

Two events many people associate with The Iliad are the famous shot to the heel that killed Achilles, and the Trojan Horse. Unfortunately, if you were able to go back in time and ask Homer what The Iliad was about, neither of those events would appear in his answer. Both the death of Achilles and the overthrow of the city of Troy happen after the end of the poem and we only know about them thanks to the Homer’s follow-up epic poem The Odyssey.

The Iliad is about the Trojan War, but it only really covers the final year of the ten-year war. Furthermore, it includes not one, but three different “wars” which last throughout the narrative. The first being the primary conflict between The Trojans and the Greeks, the second being the conflict between Achilles, the Grecian hero, and Agamemnon, the Grecian king who leads the armies against the Trojans, and the third being the battle between the mythological gods, which influences the mortal battle.

The first war I mentioned is the primary reason for the story. The Greeks go to Troy to take back their stolen princess (who wanted to leave, alledegidly, because her husband is a crazy person), but the war turns into a much bigger quest than just that, and we see the greed and pride take over the hearts of men, and any virtuous reason for enagaging in war was lost in the end.


The second war, between Achilles and Agamemnon, shows how deep ones pride can pierce the soul, and how this pride can take over your entire being until it guides and twists all your thoughts and emotions. The pride of these men costs the lives of thousands, and it probably made the war last 9 years more than it should have.


The third war is the hardest for us to understand because it is supernatural war, and we no longer view the “gods” the way they did in the ancient world. This war, however is just as important as the other two. The gods take sides in the war and are constantly aiding their side and sabotaging the other. I think this is a fun side of the poem because to think of the mighty Mythology gods basically using the Greeks and Trojans as toy soldiers is an amusing idea. However this part of the story also shows the impact we all have on each other. In this world, the humans and the gods are so close, they both feel the affects of the other ones actions, and so the gods feel they must interfere and the people feel they must sacrifice to the gods in order for peace to return. We all rely on each other for peace to reign and chaos to subside.


Homer’s ability to compose a poem that has withstood the test for thousands of years is beyond extraordinary. This story covers themes all men can relate to, not just those living in the time of Homer. Themes of love, friendship, mortality, pride, and bravery are portrayed throughout with the same value and influence as they do today.

There is no point further critiquing this epic-poem because it has proven its right to be the classic of classics, so I’m just going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes that just proves that even in the time of Homer, long before the car was invented, human beings suffered from severe road rage:

Top Ten Tuesday: My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is brought to us by The Broke and the Bookish and it features a new top ten category each week and they invite their readers to do the same. This is my first Top Ten Tuesday, but I hope to keep this going throughout the year!

Top Ten on my Spring “To Be Read” list:
  1. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter30267929.jpgThis book follows a Polish Jewish family who is separated during WWII and desperately try to find each other. I’m sure it will break my heart in more ways than one.

 

  1. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis 51IwA+rT1YL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis classic by Lewis is one of my favorite books and we happen to be reading it for my book club, so I am very excited to read it again. It is about the correspondence between a young devil (Wormwood) and his uncle (Screwtape). Wormwood is new to the job of tempting humans and Screwtape is giving him advice. This book is brilliant and every chapter leaves you thinking.

 

  1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy51vPf2CfSEL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI probably won’t finish this one in the spring because it’s a billion pages long, but I’m going to try! I’m trying to read at least one big Russian Lit. book a year and this is it for 2017.

 

  1. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
    17262203.jpgThis is the third book in Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy and I am so excited to finish off this series. It’s a really interesting dystopian world, and the characters are riveting!

 

  1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab22055262.jpg This is another book I know nothing about, but I’ve seen this book series everywhere and I want to be apart of the fun. It’s about magicians, so it should be fun.

 

  1. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe5a37e7c2e687af84ad6bba7c777c62eb.jpg I haven’t read Poe in a long time, and I have read more of his poems than his short stories, so this one will be a but of a refresher…an eerie, horrific refresher, but a refresher all the same.

 

  1. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda23212667.jpgI’m also on a mystery kick this spring, and this one caught my eye because of the beautiful cover. I also saw it on a few list for books to read in 2017, and thought I’d give it a go!

 

  1. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha ChristieMurder-on-the-Orient-Express.JPG Like I said, I’m on a mystery kick and who better to read then the Queen of mystery herself? I’ve been work my way through Christie’s books, and with the upcoming movie based on this book, I decided I need to read it sooner rather than later.

 

  1. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden25489134.jpg I picked this book 100% because of the title and the cover. It looks gorgeous and it sounds gorgeous. I know nothing about it, but I’m sure it will be gorgeous.

 

  1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. LewisTill_We_Have_Faces(C.S_Lewis_book)_1st_edition_cover.jpg You can never have too much C.S. Lewis, right? This book is a retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. I don’t know much about it, but I’m looking forward to it.

 

There we have it! First Top Ten Tuesday in the bag!

 

 

The Well-Read Twenty Something Book Club

Earlier this year a friend of mine asked me to put together a reading list for her. She’s been wanting to read more classics, but said she sometimes had a hard time with them, so I decided to do a mix of both new and old, mainly because I believe everyone should read a little (or a lot) of both. Therefore, it’s almost half classic, half new, but all fantastic!

If any of you are interested to join in the fun, here is the first annual book list of the Well-Read Twenty Something Book Club!

*the highlighted ones are the books I have reviewed.

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1.The Night Circus by Erin Morgnestern.

Following the career of Celia, a magician born with unbelievable talents, and Marco, a self-taught illusionist The Night Circus transports you to Le Cirque des Reves, a magical circus that appears in towns all over the world without warning and only opens at night. Celia and Marco are unknowingly bound to each other in a magical competition enforced by their mentors. The two must prove who is the superior magician and Le Cirque des Reves is their battleground.

This book brings magic alive and is incredibly fun to read. There are few dull moments, and a few side plots that are just as interesting as the main one.

Favorite Quote:

“There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”

2. Joan of Arc by Mark Train

This book is Mark Twain like you’ve never seen before. If I didn’t see his name right there on the cover, I would never believe the same person who wrote the books about Tom and Huck, wrote this one about Joan of Arc. This book is long, descriptive, deeply researched, and wonderful. Twain said this was his favorite book and he put more time into this book than any of his other ones. Twain spent 12 years researching and 7 years writing this brilliant novel, and frankly if anyone spends that much time on a book, I think it deserves our attention. This book has been one of my top 5 favorite books since I read it in 2007 (while in France) and I try to reread it as often as possible.

Favorite Quote:

“To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the one only essential thing.”

3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

What’s a book list without a WWII novel? This is a much different WWII story than most of the books I have read, and I think that’s why it captivated me so much.  Set in Southern France the story follows two sisters, who could not be more unlike each other than they are, and yet they both find themselves caught in the war in ways they could never foresee.

I won’t say this is my favorite WWII story, but it was very, very good, and the book captivates you quickly. It really shows a new battle that we don’t think about during WWII and it reminds us of the impact the war had on ordinary people living ordinary lives.

Favorite Quote:

(Has nothing to do with the plot, but it speaks to my heart).

“I had forgotten how gently time passes in Paris. As lively as the city is, there’s a stillness to it, a peace that lures you in. In Paris, with a glass of wine in your hand, you can just be.”

4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie 

I had never read an Agatha Christie book until last summer and now I’ve read 8…I’m obsessed. She really is the Queen of Mystery. And Then There Were None is one of her more popular books, and it’s a stand-alone novel so you don’t have to worry about not knowing her previous characters. It’s about 10 random guests invited to a party on an island and chaos ensues. It’s a fun who-done-it book.

I don’t know if her books are technically classics but they should be, so I’m counting this book as one ;).

Favorite Quote:

“Crime is terribly revealing. Try and vary your methods as you will, your tastes, your habits, your attitude of mind, and your soul is revealed by your actions.”

5. The Martian by Andy Weir

Guy stranded on Mars with no communication to the outside world, but he’s a botanist and an astronaut so he’ll be ok, right? This book follows Mark Watney, through the means of his daily logs on the computer, as he struggles to find a way to survive on mars after the rest of the crew leaves him behind under the false pretense that he died in an storm. This book is full of humor and excitement, and, even with all the science talk that I did not understand, it keeps you reading until the end.

Favorite Quote:

(This one basically sums up the entire book).

“Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but I’m not dead, so it’s a win.”

6. 1984 by George Orwell

Ok, I know this one is a little cliché to have on a book club list, but if you haven’t read it you get to get on it, so here’s your motivation.  This book is perhaps the most famous dystopian novel ever written, and it really is craziness in 330 pages.

In a world of total government control and no personal freedom, Winston finds himself experiencing thought of his own, which is a very serious crime and he tries his hardest to hide. His thoughts, however, start to turn into actions and he begins to discover freedom without the government.

Favorite Quote:

“Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

7. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

I actually haven’t read this book, but everyone I know who has read it raves about it, so i’m going out on a limb and recommending it prematurely, also I am planning on reading it this year, so if it’s horrible, I’ll apologize ;).

This novels follows the story of the last priest in Southern Mexico after a new political movement has taken over and God has been outlawed. The priest is on the run as he tries to remain true to his religion, yet still keep his life.

8. Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee

I think I must have an obsession with France because this is 3rd book on the list that takes place primarily in France (4th if you count Night Circus, but that kind of takes place all over the place), but oh well, they have good wine and cheese, so it’s a good place to be obsessed with. Queen of the Night is about an up and coming opera soprano in the “Phantom of the Opera” days of Paris. This book is compelling and beautifully written. There were a few times I had to push myself to keep going, but overall the story took me along with it, and I really enjoyed it.

Favorite Quote:

“When the earth opens up under your feet, be like a seed. Fall down; wait for the rain.”

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This book is CRAZY! I remember when it was really popular, but I never read it, and then when I finally did, I was blown away. It was fantastic.

The Girl WIth The Dragon Tattoo is about a journalist who gets fired for liable and then is immediately hired by a millionaire who wants him to investigate the disappearance of his niece, who disappeared roughly 20 years earlier. There is also a girl with a dragon tattoo. It’s good…and crazy.

Favorite Quote:

“Armageddon was yesterday, today we have a serious problem.”

 

And that’s a wrap! Happy reading everyone!

 

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Rating: ★★★★★

Favorite Line: “Look at everything always as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time: Thus is your time on earth filled with glory.”

Review:

“There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of Heaven. No matter where its seed falls, it makes a tree which struggles to reach the sky. It grows in boarded-up lots and out of neglected rubbish heaps. It grows up out of cellar gratings. It is the only tree that grows out of cement. It grows lushly . . . survives without sun, water, and seemingly without earth. It would be considered beautiful except that there are too many of it.”

A professor in a writing class once told me that a great story is impossible to summarize, and that’s what we have here with A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. There aren’t cliff hangers or nail-biters that move the plot along, nor is their a crucial climax that signifies the change in the story, there is just the story–the beautiful, heartbreaking, poetic, hilarious, terrifying, and joyful story that makes up the life of Francie Nolan, the Brooklyn girl who never stops living.

This book did a number on me emotionally. I felt such a strong love and relationship with every main character in a book that you would think that they were apart of my own family. Smith describes and humanizes them so well, it is impossible for me to doubt their actual existence. I firmly believe the Nolan family lived exactly as Smith said they did, and Francie Nolan, the daughter of Katie and Johnny, found her place among the stars.

Francie was a loner for most of her life. This was not because she was too weird or too anti-social, but mostly because she chose to be alone.  Growing up she had few friends, aside from her brother, her aunt Sissy, and the one little girl who she went to confession with, but this does not stop her from being so full of life. She wants to know, see, and experience everything. She is determined and hard set on her goals (this is the Katie in her), and not once does she see her poverty as something that will stop her from reaching her goals (this is the Johnny in her).

“Dear God,” she prayed, “let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry…have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere – be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost.”

Francie is very well-read, even at a young age, which is partially due to her goal to read every book in the library, and partially because of her mother’s rule that she and her brother had to read a page of Shakespeare and a page of The Bible every night.  It’s through these books that she found her friends and allies. Her love of reading gave her the means and desire to not only excel in school and further her education as long as she could, but also in her work she did after school.

Francie’s relationship with her parents is a major theme in this novel. Francie adores her father–to her Johnny hung the moon and every night he brought it’s light down to her window himself. He is her comforter, her confidant, her biggest fan, her ally, and her hero–she, to him, was his pride and joy. She spent every moment she could with her father, even waiting up late into the night to greet him when he sauntered up the stairs singing an Irish tune.

“She had heard Papa sing so many songs about the heart; the heart that was breaking – was aching – was dancing -was heavy laden – that leaped for joy – that was heavy in sorrow – that turned over – that stood still. She really believed the heart actually did those things.”

Her relationship with her mother was different. They seemed not to understand each other they way they both desired to be understood. Katie had a tough love approach to Francie, but from an outside point of view we see her tactics as true and just, but to a young girl, we can see how they were devastating to Francie. If Smith had decided to only have the story from Francie’s point-of-view, the reader probably wouldn’t give Katie the praise she deserves, and likewise if it had been only from Katie’s point-of-view Francie would probably seem like an ungrateful little girl, but thankfully Smith gave us insight to both characters and we see that they would do anything for each other, and we clearly see how similar they really are.

“And that’s where the whole trouble is. We’re too much alike to understand each other because we don’t even understand our own selves.”

To say this book is about Francie Nolan is only mostly true, but really it is about the family of Johnny and Katie Nolan. Yes, Francie is the main character, but the story offers so much depth into the lives of Johnny and Katie as well, that, without much editing, the story could have shifted to have either of them, especially Katie, as the main character.  Johnny and Katie have a beautiful and frustrating love. They met young and even though Johnny was dating her best friend at the time, Katie was determined to marry him–so she did. They are exact opposites and this was the cause for so many of their troubles, but it was also the cause for so much of their joy.

“Katie had a fierce desire for survival which made her a fighter. Johnny had a hankering after immortality which made him a useless dreamer. And that was the great difference between these two who loved each other so well.”

Due to Johnny’s bad luck, inability to hold a solid job, drinking, and having a dreamer’s mentality, Katie was left with the task of being the, at most times, sole provider for their small family. They were dirt poor, and Johnny inability to provide for the family causes resentment in the book and in the mind of the reader. It’s sometimes hard to sympathize with him and you want him to act more like Katie, to get his act together and be a man. But then he comes into their small apartment singing “Molly Malone” and his booming voice lifts the spirits of the family and you see Katie fall in love with him all over again. I realized that while it wouldn’t have hurt for him to make a few more dollars than he did,  if he had been just like Katie, the happiness of the family would ultimately suffer.

“You married him. There was something about him that caught your heart. Hang on to that and forget the rest.”

Katie is the rock that holds the family together and keeps them alive, Johnny is the air they breath that lifts them above the poverty they live in.

Francie’s world is full of so many other characters that shape her life and whose life is shaped by her. Her brother Neeley is her closest friend, her aunt Sissy is her example of confidence and independence, her neighbors, the librarian, shopkeepers,  and her teachers influence her outlook in life more than they could imagine. This book is more than just a “coming-of-age” novel; it’s a coming-to-life novel, and Francie, the tree growing up through the concrete, is the perfect spokeswoman for it.

I’m going to end with a quote from Francie that I found particularly profound, especially because she was a young girl at the time. Francie had a beautiful love for God and His world, but with religion she went back and forth in fits of love and rage, but at one point she states her creed and declares her love for religion and childlike faith, and whether or not you are religious, it’s hard to deny the beauty in her revelation.

“It’s a beautiful religion and I wish I understood it more. No, I don’t want to understand it all. It’s beautiful because it’s always a mystery. Sometimes I say I don’t believe in God and Jesus and Mary. I’m a bad Catholic because I miss mass once in a while and I grumble when, at confession, I get a heavy penance for something I couldn’t help doing. But good or bad, I am a Catholic and I’ll never be anything else.
Of course, I didn’t ask to be born Catholic, no more than I asked to be born American. But I’m glad it turned out that I’m both these things.”

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend 

  The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Rating: ★★★

Favorite Line: “For as long as she could remember, she had thought that autumn air went well with books, that the two both somehow belonged with blankets, comfortable armchairs, and big cups of coffee or tea.”

Review

This book follows Sara, a young Swedish girl, as she travels to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet her pen pal, Amy, an elderly woman who shares Sara’s love of reading. For years Amy and Sara had shared books with each other, and finally Sara decided to meet the lady who had made such an impact on her life. Regrettably, by the time she reaches the one-stoplight town of Broken Wheel, Amy had died and Sara has to decide what to do next. 

With nothing to go home to, Sara decides to stay in BrokenWheel and open a bookstore with Amy’s books-not only to have something to do in the town, but also to keep Amy’s spirit alive. Her presence forces changes in the community that are at times unwanted, sometimes welcomed, and at other times terribly shocking to the people who have called Broken Wheel their home all their life. 

As a book lover, it warms my heart to read books about books, but this one was hard to get into. I found Sara to be a little crazy, not like crazy crazy, but a little too odd to relate to. This also applies to most of the characters in Broken Wheel–they all seemed very polarized, an intense version of whatever characteristic they were supposed to convey.

While too many overeggaterated  characters creates an unbelievable aspect to the story, it also creates a very entertaining plot, and this book did have that. It was slow at times, but it kept me reading because I really wanted to see how the characters were going to pull of their latest scheme.

This book is great for romantics, book-lovers, and the live-by-the-seat-of-your -pants people. It has charming characteristcs, and a unique setting (although, being from Iowa, I didn’t see the town as being much like an actual Iowa town). 

If you have a lazy summer day, this is a good book to pick up and read, and afterwards you will want to read every book mentioned in the story.