Friday Five: Travel Quotes

I’m driving out to Colorado today! My best friend is getting married in June, so a girls weekend in the mountains is a must before she says “I Do” 🙂

I have a severe travel bug right now, so this trip comes at a perfect time, but usually when the travel bug hits I have to settle it down with travel quotes and pictures of beautiful places. Here are some of my favorites:

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but–well, I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.” 

-St. Augustine of Hippo

“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met.” 

– John Green

Rome, Italy. Taken in February, 2015.

“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the edge of the wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” 

 -J.R.R. Tolkien

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventure…” 

-Lewis Carroll 

Happy Friday, everyone!

The Confessions of X

 

25331320.jpgThe Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe

Rating: ★★★★ // Historical fiction with an interesting point of view. 

Favorite Line: “I am the living heart of a tree uncovered by the ax, still pliable, still green and full of sap.”

Review:

Since reading St. Augustine’s famous work Confessions, I’ve wondered about the mystery woman who had his heart before his conversion, and before he became the the famous Theologian that the world knows him to be today. Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe tells her story.

GoodReads Description:

Before he became the sainted church father of Christianity, Augustine of Hippo began a love affair with a young woman whose name has been lost to history. They were together for over thirteen years, and she bore him a son. This is her story.

She met Augustine in Carthage when she was just seventeen years old. She was the daughter of a tile-layer. He was a student and the heir to a fortune. They fell in love, despite her lower station and Augustine’s dreams of greatness. Their passion was strong, but the only position in his life that was available to her was as his concubine. When Augustine’s ambition and family compelled him to disown his relationship with the her, X was thrust into a devastating reality as she was torn from her son and sent away to her native Africa.

A reflection of what it means to love and lose, this novel paints a gripping and raw portrait of ancient culture, appealing to historical fiction fans while deftly exploring one woman’s search for identity and happiness within very limited circumstances.

I really enjoyed this book. It is very strange to put yourself in the place of “the woman”, but the way it is written, it is very easy to do and it seems very natural to view things from her point of view.

I was a little hesitant about reading this book because I am a huge fan of St. Augustine’s writing. He presents a beautiful narrative about his love of God and about the beauty of humanity. Therefore I was worried this book would make him look like a scoundrel and I didn’t want to read a book basically defaming one of my favorite writers. This was a very stupid mindset to have for multiple reasons:

  1. St. Augustine himself tells us over and over and over and over again, in Confessions, that he was a scoundrel. The whole book his about his failings and his mistakes. He wrote about how unworthy he was to be considered good or holy because of his past. He owned up for his mistakes and he wrote them all down for the world to see, and he spent the rest of his life trying to make up for his wrongdoings.
  2. Any mention of “X” by Augustine is with the deepest love by Augustine. It was clear that he loved her and she loved him. Their love seemed more like one of the forbidden loves in a Shakespeare play.
  3. She went through a huge conversion before he did, as he mentioned in Confessions. She must have urged or at least influenced him to change his life.

“She was stronger than I…and made her sacrifice with a courage and generosity which I was not strong enough to imitate.”

-St. Augustine, Confessions

So once I got over my petty mindset, I picked up this book and found it to be a wonderful book. Yes, sometimes I got very angry at Augustine, and yes, sometimes I got very angry at X, but mostly I just felt the love between them, and I felt sad for their situation.

Their situation was this: they were in love, he wanted to marry her, the law would not allow it. They had a decision to make, either they go their own ways or she moves into his home as his concubine. She chose to stay. For us this sounds like an awful situation because we see it basically as a role as a prostitute, while in fact he held her in the position of his wife, and he raised her to a much higher status than would have been granted her before their relationship. He remained faithful to her (even though it would not be looked down upon to have relations with other women) and she remained faithful to him.

This story follows her struggles, her joys, her thoughts, and her pains. While this story is fictional and we have no way of knowing much about X, the personality of the woman is reflected in the little evidence we do have of her.

This is a great read for historical fiction readers, especially those who like Roman era stories.

*All links are connected to my affiliate Book Depository page if you are interested in purchasing any of the books mentioned in this post!

Mini Christie Mystery Reviews

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We’re back again with the Queen of Mystery! Today we will look at a Miss Marple mystery and a Hercule Poirot mystery. The Marple is a smaller, lesser known one, but the Poirot is one of the more popular Christie novels.

9641812.jpgA Pocket Full of Rye (Miss Marple #7)

Rating: ★★★★ // A Nursery Rhyme Retold

Favorite Line: “I should hardly advise you to go too much by all I’ve told you. I’m a malicious creature.”

Review:

I felt pretty happy with myself when I accurately guessed that the nursery rhyme would play a large role in this book–now this is a very obvious guess and I really shouldn’t feel proud about noticing the obvious ;). However, I’m going to take whatever pat-on-the-back I can get with these stories, because I NEVER guess the ending correctly.

This one follows a string of deaths in a household, and like always Miss Marple intervenes, and through her witty narrative, is able to accurately figure out all the details before anyone else.

This story was quick paced and very entertaining. The characters (I should say the main family members) are horrible people, but they are interesting enough to keep you engaged in their story.  Marple is actually not the primary detective in this story, and Inspector Neele is a rather enjoyable character, and I enjoyed his presence in the book.

While I am not the best at figuring out the whodunnit in her books, this one really seemed like it came from way out in left field. I may have missed a big clue that made it a little more obvious, but this one, more than her others, really shocked me, and I would have liked a some more hints that it could be a possible outcome.

Miss Marple remains one of my favorites after this one, she is witty and sassy and I kind of want to be her.

To buy this book through my affiliate page on Book Depository (discounted and free shipping, click here!

 

6251564.jpgMurder on the Orient Express (Hercule Poirot #10)

Rating: ★★★★★ // WOAAHHH….trust no one…

Favorite Line: “The impossible could not have happened, therefore the impossible must be possible in spite of appearances.”

Review:

There is a murder, and Hercule Poirot could not be happier! What a beautiful coincidence that our amateur detective happened to be on the Orient Express during the rare occasion that a snow storm forces the train to a complete standstill in the middle of nowhere, AND the rare occasion that a murder takes place on the train.

In my last review of a Poirot book, I mentioned my slight dislike of this character, and at the beginning of this book, I still held that dislike. As the story went on, however, he grew on me. I saw less of his character as annoying and more of it being oddly charming (nerdy charming, but charming nonetheless). This change in opinion is the same for the book too. I thought it started much slower than any of the other Christie books I have read, and I really was not liking it. I was shocked! I had liked every book of hers and then I come to one of her most popular and I don’t like it!?!?

Luckily, like a cheap bottle of wine, the book gets better the further you go. What seems like a mystery that will be solved quickly and uneventfully, turns into a highly complex mystery where you are start to blame everyone and nobody at the same time–I’m pretty sure I blamed myself for the murder somewhere in the middle there.

I really don’t want to give anything away, but if you, like I did, find yourself not liking the beginning, just keep pushing, it gets better, I promise, and toward the end, I really couldn’t put it down.

To buy this book through my affiliate page on Book Depository (discounted and free shipping, click here!

Writers of the Future (Review)

 

9781619865297.jpgL. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future, Vol. 33.

*I received this volume of short stories in exchange for a honest review. Thank you to LibraryThing.com and Galaxy Press for the opportunity!

Volumes of short stories are hard to review, especially when they are from multiple authors. Each story is very different from the next, and aside from knowing it will either be a sci-fi story or a fantasy story, you really don’t know what you are going to get when you start a new story.

The Writers of the Future volumes are compiled of stories from up-in-coming authors who entered the Writers of the Future competition and were selected by L. Ron Hubbard and a panel of judges. This contest opens doors for young authors, and allows them to see their hard work pay off. I really like this aspect of the book. Knowing that these authors are brand new was what really sparked my interest in this book.

Some of the stories in this volume were very good and I really enjoyed reading them. I don’t have much experience reading sci-fi short stories, and I was impressed that the authors were able to condense sci-fi materials into a short story and make them comprehensible.

Not every story was my favorite, and there were a couple that I had no interest in, but usually right after one I didn’t like, there were a couple in a row that I did like. Furthermore, almost every story was accompanied by an illustration, which I think is a valuable contribution to the short stories.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes sci-fi and fantasy, but doesn’t want to commit themselves to a long series or book.

You can buy the book discounted AND with free shipping here on Book Depository!

Top Ten Tuesday: Biggest Bookish Turn-offs

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Happy Tuesday! Today The Broke and the Bookish blog decided they want to hear us all rant, so they gave us The Top Ten Things that Will Make Me Instantly NOT Want to Read A Book as the topic today.

Here is my list of my bookish turn-off’s, but to the spirit of fairness, I will also include some exceptions to these rules ;).

  1. A raunchy cover/language
    • If it looks trashy, I probably won’t read it. Also if it has a to of unnessasary cuss words, I’m probably going to pass (I’m not talking about cuss words now and then or used for emphasis, I do that too, but when they are thrown in the book like commas, I start to have a problem. 
  2. “You absolutely have to read this book or you cannot consider yourself a lover of books.”
    • This is a pretty big pet peeve of mine, and I try really hard not to be one of those people. I mean, we all have different tastes, and it’s perfectly ok. Read books, suggest books, critique books, but don’t tell people their taste in books is worthless because they don’t agree with you.
  3. The phrase “Coming-of-Age”
    • Oooo this phrase really makes me cringe. I don’t know why I dislike it so much, but when I see it in a book description, I tend to lose interest in the book. My exception is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which is one of my favorite books.
  4. Celebrity/Comedian memoirs
    • Some people really like these books, but I am not one of them. Even when it comes to celebrities and comedians I really like (e.g. Tina Fey, Jim Gaffigan, Carrie Fisher, etc), I just can’t find the desire to read their books. My exception here is Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini. I really enjoyed this book, however I only picked it up because I was doing a reading challenge and I had to read a celebrity memoir…I don’t think I would have read it on my own.
  5. Memoirs in general
    • I have a hard time with memoirs in general because I don’t find them 100% believable. I also tend to find them drawn out and pretentious. There are a couple I have liked, but even so I am very hesitant when it comes to memoirs.
  6. Chick-Lit
    • Similar to “Coming-of-age” phrase, this description gives me the hibbie-jibbies. I wasn’t sure if I really did avoid books in this genre, so I went to the GoodReads’ Popular Chick Lit Books List to double check. In the first 300 books on the list, I had only marked 3 as “read” and 5 as “to-read” so I guess it is safe to say that I don’t ususally go for these books.
  7. Pet/animal stories
    • I have zero desire to read pet stories. I went through a stage in middle school where I read a bunch of pet stories, but I’m totally past that. Lately “A Dog’s Purpose” has been strongly advertised, but it has zero pull on me. My exceptions to this point are ones that I read in middle school, but I will gladly go back and read at any time: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, and The Horses of Central Park by Michael Slade.
  8. Fix yourself books
    • Financial books, organization books, health books, motivation books, etc…I should read them, probably, but I do not and I have no desire to do so. Exception: The Whole 30 book was fascinating, but even then I mostly just skimmed it.
  9. Fanfiction 
    • This one I wish I liked reading, because it seems to be right up my alley, but I just can’t get behind it, and it makes me sad.
  10. When the movie/tv show was blah.
    • Nothing ruins a book much like a bad movie. I try not to watch the movie before the book, but it does happen sometimes, and if the movie happens to be awful or totally uninteresting, I have zero desire to pick up the book.

 

Well, the rant is over for now and we all survived! Happy Tuesday everyone, I look forward to reading your rants for the week!

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

51FP5gnZ4EL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSPQR: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard

Rating: ★★★★ // History that is read like a novel

Favorite Line: “It is a dangerous myth that we are better historians than our predecessors. We are not.”

Review:

GoodReads Description:

In SPQR, an instant classic, Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome “with passion and without technical jargon” and demonstrates how “a slightly shabby Iron Age village” rose to become the “undisputed hegemon of the Mediterranean” (Wall Street Journal). Hailed by critics as animating “the grand sweep and the intimate details that bring the distant past vividly to life” (Economist) in a way that makes “your hair stand on end” (Christian Science Monitor) and spanning nearly a thousand years of history, this “highly informative, highly readable” (Dallas Morning News) work examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

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SPQR: Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The Roman Senate and People”)

I am by no means qualified to review a non-fiction book on the history of Ancient Rome. I studied Ancient Rome in high school and college, and I have read multiple books from that time period. I have a strong interest in Roman myths and in the Roman Empire, but my knowledge does not go past that of an intrigued lay person. Therefore I cannot attest to the accuracy of the statements nor the legitimacy of Mary Beard’s assumptions or speculations. I can, however, say that this book absolutely fascinated me.

I have not read a book by Beard before this one, but now I want to go back and read her earlier ones. The details are incredible, and they are told in a lighthearted way that gives the book a conversational tone. Truly, while reading it I felt as if I was sitting across from her in a pub or at dinner, and she was telling me these things as if she had seen them all happen first hand.

“Vespasian continued his down-to-earth line in self-deprecating wit right up until his last words: ‘Oh dear, I think I’m becoming a god …”

SOQR covers early early early Rome (which is why it says “Ancient” in the title), and it is not at all about how Rome fell, a topic widely covered in school, but rather how it rose to glory. It talks about the myth of Romulus and Remus (one of my personal favorites), it talks about separation of classes and how it changed over the years, it talks about the thought processes behind the forming of government and political philosophy, and it talks about the military changes and how Rome became the ultimate power in the world.

“There is little point in asking how ‘democratic’ the politics of Republican Rome were: Romans fought for, and about, liberty, not democracy.”

Most of the book is straight fact, but as with most ancient civilizations, there are gaps in history and Beard seamlessly tells the reader how she believes those gabs are to be filled in, but she also tells of how others believe they should be filled in, and how she came to her conclusion. This aspect of her writing really impressed me because while she is an expert in her field, she was able to recognize other expert’s ideas and she gave them credit for their differences of opinion.

It amazed me how often I found similarities to our own government, here in the United States and that of Ancient Rome. It became clear that our founding fathers were well versed in the beliefs of the Roman Empire and many aspects of the ancient government (but by no means all of the aspects) found their way into the building of our government here.

“He divided the people in this way to ensure that voting power was under the control not of the rabble but of the wealthy, and he saw to it that the greatest number did not have the greatest power – a principle that we should always stand by in politics.”

As I previously stated I am not qualified to properly review this, so I decided to go through and read reviews of this book of people who may be a little more qualified than myself. Most of the reviews were very positive, there were some, however who were less than enthused about her take on Roman history. These reviews mostly stated that her book was a great outline of the times, but lacked the depth needed for this kind of study. I think this is a fair critique as a proper and fully in-depth book would be 5 times as long as this book (it’s over 500 pages already) and I would have never ever ever picked it up to read. Some people disagreed on her personal opinions, which is again fair, and some of the reviews started with statements that went something like “I don’t like history books,” which makes me wonder why they picked up this book in the first place.

I would love to talk to someone who knows a little more about this subject to see what I missed or how their views differ from Beards, but for now I am sticking to my opinion that this is an excellent book on Ancient Rome.

You can buy the book here on Book Depository!

 

Mystery Blogger Award!

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I got nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by Kayla and Neko over at the Books, Boxes, & Baubles blog! Thank you so much for the tag, your blog is awesome, and everyone should go check it out! This award was created by Okoto Enigma’s Blog, which also rocks!

Ok, so the rules of this tag are:
  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

 

3 Things About Me
  1. I’m a travel junkie! My money goes to plane tickets, and my heart goes to maps, picture perfect hikes, and pubs all over the world.
  2. I have 8 siblings (I’m number 3), 3 nephews, 2 nieces, and 30 first cousins…safe to say it’s a party when we are all together.
  3. I was the Cheshire Cat in my high school production of Alice in Wonderland, even though I only tried out for the part of a flower…it must be because of my cat-like features 😉

 

Kayla and Neko’s Questions:

1. Least favorite book you have read and why?

I don’t know what my all-time least favorite book is, but my least favorite book I’ve read recently is Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Basically the whole book was a bust for me. I couldn’t get into the plot, couldn’t get captivated by the characters, and I found it rather overblown.

2. Favorite genre and why?

How can one choose?!?!?!?! I really do read a wide range of genre’s, but I guess if I had to read one genre for the rest of my life, it would be historical fiction. There is such a wide range of topics that could be covered, and WWII books happen to be some of my favorite.

3. Should hamsters be allowed to rule the world?

You know, this is a tough one. I was inclined to say yes right away, but then I did some good hard thinking, and I don’t think hamsters should be allowed to rule the world. Don’t get me wrong, hamsters are super cute, but have you ever seen an angry hamster? It’s not a pretty sight. I mean, in some cases Hamsters are known to fight to the death and even eat other hamsters. Now, as rulers, they may not force cannibalism upon their subjects, but then again, they just might. It’s always the little animals that you underestimate, and you never know when they might turn on you.

4. What’s your passion outside of books?

I would have to say I’m most passionate about sports. My dad played football in college, and he raised us not only to love sports, but to understand them. One of my fondest daddy/daughter dates was to a college hockey game, but I don’t think he knew how passionate I would become for the sport (I’m actually watching a hockey playoff game while I’m writing this).

5. If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?

Well, I want to go everywhere, so this is tough. I recently went to New Zealand, and I’m kind of obsessed with that country now and I would love to go back. But right now Iceland is next on my list. I don’t know when I’m going to go yet, but I hope it’s my next big trip.

 

My questions are:
  1. If you could jump into any book as a side character, what one would you choose?
  2. Desert Island: 1 book, 1 movie, and 1 song, what do you choose?
  3. You have to spend the rest of you life either talking in third person or only in questions, which do you choose?
  4. What is your favorite non-fiction book?
  5. What is your dream job?

 

I nominate:

Jillian @ onedayireadjaneeyre

Phantom Paper 

Reads & Reels

Hedgehog Book Reviews

Bionic Book Worm

Please don’t feel obligated to do this tag if you don’t want to, but I would love to see your answers!

 

My most popular post(s):

Theme post: Top Ten Tuesday: Unique Books

Review: The Screwtape Letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Five: Series I Gave Up On

I’m sticking with the series theme for another week. Two weeks ago I wrote about series I want to start, the week before that was about series I need to finish, and now this week I’m doing series I gave up on.

I really don’t like giving up on series, that’s why I’m pretty picky when it comes to starting a new one. With that being said, sometimes you just have to cut something loose.

A lot of these are pretty popular series, and at first I really couldn’t figure out why I didn’t like them, but then I just came to terms that we all have different tastes in books and we can’t be expected to like every book ever written. Once I accepted that, it became easier for me to admit that some series I just don’t like and it’s o.k. to stop reading them in the middle. Most of these series I try to at least start the second book, because historically the second book of a series tends to be my favorite, then if by the second I still can’t get into it, I drop it. Seems pretty fair, right?

Ok, here we go!

1. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

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I really liked the first one in this series, but halfway through the second something came up and I stopped reading, and then had absolutely no desire to pick back up. It definitely didn’t capture me as much as the first did, which is a shame. (I’m not giving up on Follett, however, as I just started The Fall of Giants, and I really like it so far).

2.The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Claire

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I was very happy to finish the first book of this series, and I didn’t make it past the first chapter of the second. It wasn’t anything major, I just wasn’t entertained. I was pretty disappointed because I had heard so many good reviews about these books and I was so excited to start a big series.

 

3. Frank McCourt Series

Angela’s Ashes is one of the saddest books I have ever read, yet I really loved it with all my heart. When I heard there was a second book, ‘Tis, I was very excited, yet when I started ‘Tis I kept getting flashbacks of Angela’s Ashes, and I did not want to relive that book with every sentence I read, so I stopped.

4. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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I may have set my record for eye rolls while reading this book. I think the main character was my problem–something about her just irked me. This was another one that was all over my Instagram and blog, that I thought for sure I would like it. After this book I actually took a break from YA for a little bit because I thought maybe it wasn’t the book, but more the genre that I wasn’t thrilled about anymore…I still don’t really know the answer.

 

5. Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

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The first book was decent, a little strange, but not bad, however when it was done, I was also done. It was an interesting premise, but ultimately I was satisfied with the ending. There are just some stories that you don’t need to continue.

 

 

I think that wraps up my series friday posts for the time being. Are there any here I should give a second try?