June wrap-up & what’s up next


June was a hit or miss month for me in my reading life…and it didn’t help that I was so so so busy–audiobooks really saved my life. But now, my reading life is more or less back on track, so July is looking up! 

Finished:

Winter of the World (Century Trilogy #2) by Ken Follett. ★★★

The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien. ★★★★★

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley. ★★★★

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter. ★★★★ 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. ★★★★

Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker. ★★★

Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner. ★★★

Coraline by Neil Gaiman. ★★★★

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3) by V.E. Schwab. ★★★★

**I stared reading The Badass Libranians of Timbuktu and it was very good, however I was not paying enough attention so I’m going to read it when I have the right mindset–so far, however, I highly recommend it. 

Bought or received: 

The Second World War Series by Winston Churchill

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

My Antonia, O’Pioneers, and Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan 

Seven Riddles to Nowhere by A.J. Cattapan

St. Magnus: the Last Viking by Susan Peek

The King’s Prey: Saint Dymphna of Ireland

The Captain’s Daughter (London Beginnings #1) by Jennifer Delamere

High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

The Lord of the Rings Box Set 😍😍😍

Currently Reading:
The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings #2) by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Angelhood by A.J. Cattapan

A Good Man is Hard to Find and other stories by Flannery O’Connor

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Department Q #1) by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Next on the TBR: 

Well, I have quite a few review books I need to get to, so I’ll probably try to push through those soon, and I’m also working on reading all of O’Connors’s short stories, so I’ll continue on those as well. Other than those, I’m planning on reading The Name of the Rose, Neverwhere, The Benedict Option, and the next book in any of the series I started this year! 

There’s my wrap up! It’s quite a lot, but that’s what happens when you make two 20+ hour road trips and lots of audiobooks 🙂  have you read any of these? Or do you have any recommendations? 

Coraline & The Graveyard Book Mini Reviews

I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading Neil Gaiman. I have a problem, and I’m accepting that it is a problem, but I’m not willing to fix it…I just love this man.

These two books are children’s book, but being a Gaiman book, they are highly entertaining for adults and they are creepily enchanting for kids.

I listened to these on audiobook (thank goodness for my Overdrive App), and I was just as entertained as any child would be.

Coraline

Rating: ★★★

Favorite Line: “It is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see.”

Review:

This book is seriously creepy. It’s about a girl, Coraline, who lives with her parents in an small apartment building. She finds ther  is nothing to do, and one day wandering through a normally locked door, and she finds her mother on the other side. Only, it’s not really her mother, this is her other mother and she is determined to keep Coraline forever.

This is a perfect road trip story for you and your middle school aged kids to listen to. It’s creepy, but the way Gaiman tells it, the reader feels and believes what Coraline feels and believes, and she is a very brave girl.

My one complaint about this book is not really Gaiman’s fault at all, but it is that he quotes G.K. Chesterton at the beginning of the book when he says:

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

-G.K. Chesterton

I really love  that he uses this quote because it’s one of my favorite ones. However, now I always see this quote accredited to Gaiman, not Chesterton, and it really bothers me. In fact, the first quote on GoodReads attributed to this book is this quote. Again, not Gaiman’s fault because he properly quotes Chesterton, but it really bother’s me when Authors get misquoted or misrepresented *end rant*.

The Graveyard Book

Rating: ★★★★ 

Favorite Line: “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.”

Review:

The plot of this book is better than Coraline, in my opinion. It also isn’t quite as creepy, yet still hold mystery and suspense.

This book follows a boy called Nobody (nicknamed Bod). Bod was orphaned as a child and adopted by the most unlikely people, mostly because they were not in fact people any longer, but ghosts. Bod grew up in the graveyard. He had the ghosts as companions, teachers, caregivers, and protectors. However, Bod got older and soon he wanted to know more about the world outside the graveyard, and the world outside the graveyard wanted to know more about Bod, and that’s when adventures begin.

The characters in this book are charming and warm, despite most of them being dead, and it shows the length family will go to protect the ones they love. Bod is lovable from the start. He is smart, kind, brave, and thoughtful; he plays a perfect child protagonist. There are, of course, monsters and goblins and bad men, and the ending isn’t necessarily a happy one, but even in the veil of sadness that surrounds the book, there is the hope of a child and that makes the overall story a happy one. This is another good book for middle-aged kids, and for extra effect one should read it around Halloween.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books of 2017…so far

toptentuesday.jpg

Happy Tuesday! This week The Broke and the Bookish asked us to share our favorite books so far from 2017. This has been a pretty good year so far for me, I’ve listened to a lot of good Audiobooks, read some great books, read some decent books, and read some that I never want to lay eyes on again…anyway, this list was pretty fun to make because I love reliving the ones I really enjoyed!

1. Shades of Magic Series, V.E. Schwab (Counting it as one, don’t hate me)

I just wrote a review on this series, so if you want to read that click here, but basically this series was awesome, and I’m so glad I got over my fear of it being overrated and picked it up!

Opening Line:

“Kell wore a very peculiar coat.”

2. The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

A classic that changes every time I read it. This book is a satire about a demon-in-training getting advice from his wise uncle about how to corrupt humans. It’s really fantastic. You can read my review for it here.

Opening Line:

“My dear Wormwood,

I note what you are say about guiding your patient’s reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend.”

 

3. The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown

This true story is fascinating and it makes you want to join a rowing team immediately. It tells a rare story of hope and triumph during war. You can read my review for it here.

Opening Line:

“This book was born on a cold, drizzly, late spring day when I clambered over the split-rail cedar fence that surrounds my pasture and made my way through wet woods to the modest frame house where Joe Rantz lay dying.”

4. The Martian, Andy Weir

This book is suspenseful, clever, and completely hilarious. If you liked the movie, there’s a good chance you’ll like the book. If you haven’t seen the movie, well you should watch that too.

Opening Line:

“I’m pretty much f*****.”

5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

This was one of my “I’m embarrassed I’ve never read it” books, so I decided to just get it over with…and I fell in love. I wasn’t expecting to, but I did and I can’t wait to read it again.

Opening Line:

“1801 — I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with.”

6. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

Norse literature is one of my all-time favorites, therefore I jumped on this book as soon as I could, and it did not disappoint. I will also say what I always say for a Gaiman book, don’t read it, listen to it, trust me.

Opening Line:

“Many gods and goddesses are named in Norse mythology.”

7. The MaddAdam series, Margaret Attwood

While this series wasn’t my favorite, it was very good and I really enjoyed it. It’s really creepy (as all dystopians should be) and very clever (as most dystopians are…well the good ones anyway). It’s worth a read, and not a very long one for a 3 book series. My review of the series can be found here.

Opening Line:

“Snowman wakes before dawn.”

8. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

I’ve been telling everyone who will listen to read this book. It took me by force and now I find myself thinking about it all the time. Read this book, it is easily in my top 5 favorite books of all time. My review for it can be found here!

“Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.”

9. The Great Good Thing, Andrew Klavan

I’ve talked a lot on this blog about how much I dislike memoirs, and it’s true…mostly…The Great Good Thing is one exception. It’s very funny and very eye-opening, and worth the read, even though it is a memoir ;). You can read my review here!

Opening Line:

“The Church of the Incarnation stands on the corner of 35th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan.”

10. Life of Pi, Yann Martel

This book was very popular when I was in finishing college/starting college, so I never had time to read it, but I finally did earlier this year and I saw why it was such a big deal before. It is a very good book and if you haven’t seen the movie, it’s definitely worth the read. Annnd last but not least, you can read my review here!

Opening Line:

“My suffering left me sad and gloomy.”

 

There you have it, I think those are my favorites so far! Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten Lists!

Music of the Ghosts

images.jpegMusic of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner

Rating: ★★★.5 // A tragedy restored to beauty

Favorite Line: Love….hope…humanity. Intangible, yes, but also the building blocks of self-preservation, renewal : These are the most durable possessions I have.

Review:

Through music and memories, this enchanting book brings you into the lives of those caught in the devastating Cambodian genocide.

Summary (via GoodReads)

Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago.

In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate.

Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end.

A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.

Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the Cambodian genocide, and I definitely didn’t know how large of a genocide it really was. It is estimated up to 3 million Cambodians were killed and even more were driven from their beloved country, many never to return.

Music of the Ghosts follows Teera, a Cambodian woman who had fled with her mother when she was young and escaped to Thailand and then to the United States. Years later she returns but not as a Cambodian, but as a foreigner. This reunion with her past sparks emotions she never knew existed, and she is forced to remember the story of her past and of her people.

The main story of this book is fantastic. It is just beautiful. If you have ever read The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, it is much like that–young girl returns to the land she was born in and is met with new revelations. Unlike The Joy Luck Club we follow Teera’s journey with her and experience these revelations first hand. This part of the book is so wonderful and captivating. If the entire book was focused on only that (and flashbacks to the genocide, of course) this book would be a 5 star book for me.

What bumped it down was all of the side character stories. I understand why they exist and some I like, the back story of the Old Musician, for example, is one I like. But then there are more of other monks and her parents and friends, and I got a little lost in them. Even the Old Musician story lost my interest at times.

These other stories slowed the pace down a lot, and made the book much longer than it needed to be.

The subject matter is one that needs to be written about over and over and over and over again. There are too many genocides that don’t get the coverage they need, and this one is one of them. The people who suffered and died during this time deserve their stories to be told, which is why I would recommend everyone to read this book, because I don’t know of any others written about it.

The writing style is lyrical and musical, and it flows just like you would expect it to based off the name. The contrast of music and genocide is very powerful. The author takes the pure beauty of music and set it against the pure evil of mass murder, and the beauty in her story shines brighter because of it.

Overall, I do recommend this book. It is slow at times, and you will need to pay attention to characters and timeline shifts, but once you get passed those, the beautiful story will find you.

 

You can buy Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner on my BookDepository affiliate page here!

Poem of the Week: The Highwayman

The Highwayman
by Alfred Noyes
PART ONE
.
.
The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.
 .
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
         His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
 .
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.
 .
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—
 .
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
         Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”
 .
He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
         (O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.
.
.
PART TWO
.
.
He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
         Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.
.
They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
         And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.
 .
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
         Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!
 .
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
         Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!
 .
The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
         Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.
 .
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
         Riding—riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.
 .
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
         Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.
 .
He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
         The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.
 .
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
         Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.
 .
.       .       .
 .
And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
         Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.
 .
 
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

Shades of Magic Series

ShadesMagic-USShades of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Rating: ★★★★ // A magical series I can get behind! 

Favorite Line(s):

“Battles may be fought from the outside in, but wars are won from the inside out.” (From A Darker Shade of Magic). 

“We’re all here for a reason, Bard. Some reasons are just bigger than others.” (From A Gathering of Shadows).

“Life isn’t made of choices, it’s made of trades. Some are good, some are bad, but they all have a cost.” (From A Conjuring of Light).

Review:

The Shades of Magic Series follows the adventures of Kell, one of the last magicians in London, and Lila, an orphaned girl who wanders into Kell’s path and seems to have some kind of magic of her own.

The setting is London, all four of them (well, technically all three of them, but there are four). Each London is layered on top of each other, Black being the first, White the second, Red the third, and Grey the fourth. In this story we are in the time after a war that had destroyed Black London, left White London in a state of poverty, left Red London basically unscathed, and taken away the magic (and memory of magic) from Grey London. After the war the doors to the London’s were closed and only the magicians could travel between them.

These mini reviews are mostly spoiler free and completely free of crucial spoilers.

A Darker Shade of Magic

This book had a lot of hype around it when I finally picked it up, so I was a little nervous I would be disappointed. Luckily I had avoided reading any reviews that had spoilers, and I really didn’t read too deeply into the plot, so I found myself entranced as it unfolded. I had a lot of fun with this novel, and I think I liked it most because it can easily be read as a stand alone novel (I LOOOVEE it when first books do this). Yes, after reading it you want more of our dark eyed prince and our thieving mystery girl, but the initial story is done, and no major holes remain to be filled.

Oddly for me, I didn’t find many things that I disliked in this book, which is why I’m having a hard time figuring out why I didn’t come away from this book head-over-heels in love with it. I liked it a lot, but it didn’t grab me enough to where I go into my obsessed state, I just can’t figure out why.

The setting is phenomenal, Schwab sets up the different London’s flawlessly and the characters in each fit seamlessly into their assigned London.

The characters are very interesting, yes, I guess each of the main ones, Kell and Lila, did annoy me from time to time, mostly because they are both prone to feeling sorry for themselves while insisting that they are the only ones who don’t feel sorry for themselves…an annoying trait in anyone. Holland is a great evil character, mostly because he’s only mostly evil. Rhy is an o.k. character, but I’m not as in love with him as Kell is and that bothers me a little, because it makes it hard for me to really get invested in his character’s well-being. Oh, and Kell’s coat is the coolest and it’s basically a character of it’s own.

The plot was very good and it keeps the book movie with a satisfying speed. The magic is explained in a way easy to understand, yet there remains some mystery to it, which is important when it comes to magic. My one complaint in the magic department is that Kell insists through the whole book that the words aren’t important, but at the end the words seem to be the most important part, so that kind of confused me. Maybe I didn’t understand the explanation, but that seemed like a semi-major inconsistency for me.

Anyway (this was supposed to be a mini review..yikes), I did really like this book, and the hype was not too over hyped for me.

A Gathering of Shadows

Woah, now that’s some character development, if I do say so myself.

I did not like this one as much as the first, but I will say it grew on me as the book went on. The opening scene was actually really awesome, but the rest of the beginning was kind of bland. Once the plot of the tournament was introduced, the pace picked up, and so did my interest in it.

One new major character is introduced, Alucard Emery, and he is WAY more complex than any character in the first book. This guy has layers upon layers, and his character forces the development of Lila, Kell, and Rhy, which is a key aspect in this book.

My main complaint for this book is there wasn’t enough of the side plot, and it showed up so infrequently I actually forgot about it until it appeared again. I think more of it would have improved the pace of the book and given it a greater sense of haste.

This book is not a stand alone, which is fine, I just assumed it was so when I got close to the end and realized there was more things that needed to happen than there were pages, I got a little nervous. Furthermore, I was so mad that it ended where it did, not because it was a bad place, but just because it was at such a crucial point.

Again, I can’t figure out why I’m not completely crazy about this series, there’s something about it and I can’t put my finger on it. But regardless, after reading this book, there was no question that I would pick up the third…excellent use of the cliff hanger, Schwab.

A Conjuring of Light

All things yes.

This is definitely a third and final book, meaning there are no major plot points introduced, just the expansion of the plot formed in the second book. That’s not saying it is boring, because it isn’t at all, nor is it saying that there are no twists to the plot, it’s just saying that it is a perfect continuation of the second book…which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.

While I don’t think this was the best book of the series (I still think the first was the best) this book made me like the series much more…I can’t explain it, but it was just the perfect third to bring the other two together.

The one thing that really threw me for a loop had nothing to do with the plot, but more about the main character Kell–he’s like 18 years old!!! (or something like that, I don’t remember the specific age, but I think he’s 18). I don’t know if his age was mentioned his age in the first two, but I was definitely picturing someone  a little older than a teenager, or I just thought he was ageless, or something magical like that. I know it’s a silly thing to get caught up on, but it really threw me for a loop.

Other than that, I really don’t have any complaints about this book. Like I said, it just a great 3rd book. Traditionally, the third book of a series is my least favorite, but Schwab really showed she has pure, raw skill with this book.

I don’t really want to talk about this one because I don’t want to spoil anything. I especially don’t want to tell you if the ending was awesome, tragic, or bland…ok, it wasn’t bland, it was one of the first two. But I will say that it is an ending, it doesn’t leave any strings untied or twists unresolved.

Overview: 

I really can’t get over how much I liked this series. It just got better and better as it went on. The characters continued to grow more complex, yet they are still completely them. The Kell we meet in the beginning of the first book is still the Kell we have at the end, same with Lila…they are just expanded. It’s really wonderful.

The plot is fun and fast. The different view points offer fresh outlooks, and it moves the plot along at a very interesting pace. Usually I’m not the biggest fan of jumping from character to character, but I since the narrater remained 3rd person throughout the book it made it much better than books that jump from 1st person to 1st person.

Overall, awesome series. It is one of the best newer series I have read lately and I highly recommend it.

Friday Five: Summer Reading List

It’s officially Summer!! Let’s get reading!

I have quite a few summer review books to read, but aside from those, there are a few I’m planning to read or listen to on my own. Here are my top 5 most anticipated reads for summer 2017. (summaries via GoodReads).


1.Laurus by Evgenij Vodolazkin

It is the late fifteenth century and a village healer in Russia is powerless to help his beloved as she dies in childbirth, unwed and without having received communion. Devastated and desperate, he sets out on a journey in search of redemption. But this is no ordinary journey: it is one that spans ages and countries, and which brings him face-to-face with a host of unforgettable, eccentric characters and legendary creatures from the strangest medieval bestiaries. Laurus’s travels take him from the Middle Ages to the Plague of 1771, where as a holy fool he displays miraculous healing powers, to the political upheavals of the late-twentieth century. At each transformative stage of his journey he becomes more revered by the church and the people, until he decides, one day, to return to his home village to lead the life of a monastic hermit – not realizing that it is here that he will face his most difficult trial yet.


Laurus is a remarkably rich novel about the eternal themes of love, loss, self-sacrifice and faith, from one of Russia’s most exciting and critically acclaimed novelists.

2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

3. The Gathering Storm by Sir Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was not only a statesman and leader of historic proportions, he also possessed substantial literary talents. These two factors combine to make The Gathering Storma unique work. The first volume of Churchill’s memoirs, this selection is broken into two parts. The first, From War to War,consists of Churchill’s critical observations on the settlement of World War I and its place in the causes of the Second World War. The second volume contains letters and memoranda from the British government–of which Churchill was part–as the country plunged unprepared into war. This stands as the best of history: written as it was made, by the man who made it.

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon – all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman 

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

 

This isn’t all the books on my summer reading list, and I may not get to all of them, but these five are the one’s that intrigue me the most and I can’t wait to crack them open!

What’s on your reading list this summer?

Top Ten Tuesday: Series TBR

I love book series, and I love talking about them, so this Top Ten Tuesday topic by The Broke and The Bookish is just great! I’ve done a couple of these lists already, so I’m going to combine a few of them, plus add a couple more series to the list, because it really never stops growing!

 

Children of the Last Days by Michael O’Brien 

  1. Strangers and Sojourners
  2. Eclipse of the Sun
  3. Plague Journal 
  4. Father Elijah: An Apocalypse
  5. Sophia House
  6. A Cry of Stone
  7. Elijah in Jerusalem

The Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French

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  1. In the Woods
  2. The Likeness
  3. Faithful Place
  4. Broken Harbour
  5. The Secret Place
  6. The Trespasser

Jason Bourne by Robert Ludlum (5/14 listed here)

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  1. The Bourne Identity 
  2. The Bourne Supremacy 
  3. The Bourne Ultimatum 
  4. The Bourne Legacy
  5. The Bourne Betrayal 

Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton

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  1. The Innocence of Father Brown
  2. The Wisdom of Father Brown
  3. The Incredulity of Father Brown
  4. The Secret of Father Brown
  5. The Scandal of Father Brown

The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg

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  1. The Emigrants
  2. Unto the Good Land
  3. The Settlers
  4. The Last Letter Home

The Second World War by Winston Churchill

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  1. The Gathering Storm
  2. Their Finest Hour
  3. The Grand Alliance 
  4. The Hinge of Fate
  5. Closing the Ring
  6. Triumph and Tragedy

Peter Grant / Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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  1. Rivers of London
  2. Moon Over Soho
  3. Whispers Underground
  4. Broken Homes
  5. Foxglove Summer
  6. The Hanging Tree

The Divine Comedy by Dante

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  1. Inferno 
  2. Purgatorio 
  3. Paradiso

Emperor by Conn Iggulden

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  1. The Gates of Rome
  2. The Death of Kings
  3. The Field of Swords
  4. The Gods of War
  5. The Blood of Gods 

Welsh Princes by Sharon Kay Penman

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  1. Here Be Dragons
  2. Falls the Shadow
  3. The Reckoning 

 

Bonus: Series I’m currently reading

Department Q by Jussi Adler-Olsen & Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley

 

There’s the list! I’m so excited to read everyone else’s list so I can add more series to mine!

 

Mr. Rochester

mr. rochesterMr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker

Rating: ★★★ // A classic in a new light

Review:

This review is really only a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. If you have read it, read on, if you haven’t read it, you could probably still read this, you just won’t fully understand my rants, so it may be a waste of time to endure my run-on sentences.

Summary (via GoodReads)

For one hundred seventy years, Edward Fairfax Rochester has stood as one of literature’s most romantic, most complex, and most mysterious heroes. Sometimes haughty, sometimes tender-professing his love for Jane Eyre in one breath and denying it in the next-Mr. Rochester has for generations mesmerized, beguiled, and, yes, baffled fans of Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece. But his own story has never been told.

Now, out of Sarah Shoemaker’s rich and vibrant imagination, springs Edward: a vulnerable, brilliant, complicated man whom we first meet as a motherless, lonely little boy roaming the corridors and stable yards of Thornfield Hall. On the morning of Edward’s eighth birthday, his father issues a decree: He is to be sent away to get an education, exiled from Thornfield and all he ever loved. As the determined young Edward begins his journey across England, making friends and enemies along the way, a series of eccentric mentors teach him more than he might have wished about the ways of the men-and women-who will someday be his peers.

But much as he longs to be accepted-and to return to the home where he was born-his father has made clear that Thornfield is reserved for his older brother, Rowland, and that Edward’s inheritance lies instead on the warm, languid shores of faraway Jamaica. That island, however, holds secrets of its own, and not long after his arrival, Edward finds himself entangled in morally dubious business dealings and a passionate, whirlwind love affair with the town’s ravishing heiress, Antoinetta Bertha Mason.

Eventually, after a devastating betrayal, Edward must return to England with his increasingly unstable wife to take over as master of Thornfield. And it is there, on a twilight ride, that he meets the stubborn, plain, young governess who will teach him how to love again.

It is impossible not to watch enthralled as this tender-hearted child grows into the tormented hero Brontë immortalized-and as Jane surprises them both by stealing his heart. Mr. Rochester is a great, sweeping, classic coming-of-age story, and a stirring tale of adventure, romance, and deceit. Faithful in every particular to Brontë’s original yet full of unexpected twists and riveting behind-the-scenes drama, this novel will completely, deliciously, and forever change how we read and remember Jane Eyre.
At times this book was a 4 for me, at others it was a 2, but it finished strong at a solid 3.

I have to start by saying that I hated Jane Eyre. Ok, maybe hate is a strong word, but I really really disliked it and I get very angry when I think about it…so maybe hate isn’t too strong of a word. As someone who loves classics more than any other genre, I was so disappointed. The only thing I really liked (or actually loved) about it was the language and writing style–the Bronte’s were truly masters of the English language. I kept telling myself I have to re-read it and give it another chance, but after reading Mr. Rochester, and being reminded about the plot, I really don’t think I do…it’s just not my cup o’ tea.

Due to my dislike of Jane Eyre, I did not have high expectations for this book, yet I tried to keep an open mind because stories from another point of view are usually quite interesting, and I was actually hoping this different perspective would make me like the classic better…at times it did, but overall, nah.

This book starts strong and I loved reading about Rochester’s childhood, and slowly I started to gain more respect for the man I considered a serious creep because before. It goes through his dysfunctional relationship with his father and brother, and his childhood friends and teachers who took him under their wings, and gave him the closet thing he had ever known to be a real family. This is definitely the strongest part of the book, and I flew through it, excited to learn more about this poor, lonely boy, whose one desire was to make his father proud.

Once I got about halfway, however, my enthusiasm died as the book slowed down quite a bit. This is around the time he heads off to Jamaica and all that drama begins to take shape. At times the story would pick up and my interest would rise, but then it would fall again. By the time Jane came into the picture, I was already ready for the book to end, and the plot of “will they or won’t they” just drove me crazy (as it did in Jane Eyre). Like I’ve said before, the book isn’t bad, and the story from his point of view is intriguing, it just moves at a very very slow pace, and I just wanted to get to the wedding drama and then be done.

When it comes to our protagonist (Rochester, not Jane), I do think his character was explained very well in the beginning of the story, and it helped form the background that is lacking in Bronte’s story. However, the excuses and reasons he gave for hiding his wife in the attic and then not telling anyone about it, even the girl you are literally about to marry, still fall short for me and I still see him as practically as crazy (just in a different way) as his attic wife.

Jane’s character is exactly the same, so there is nothing new there. Bertha’s character is, well, interesting, to say the least and I think Shoemaker did a very good job portraying her illness given the information in Jane Eyre. 

 Mr. Rochester is written well, however I think it is very difficult to try and rewrite classics with modern language because it doesn’t flow the way you want it to when you mesh old style with new. Again, not terrible, it just seemed forced at some points.

Unfortunately, I do think my dislike of Jane Eyre tainted my opinion of this book, because I just couldn’t get over how much I disliked Jane and Rochester together.

HOWEVER, I really do think that fans of the Jane Eyre story will like this book and they will be tickled to see the story come back to life.
Lastly, (this is really a spoiler if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, so stop reading if you haven’t) but hands-down the best part of the book was when mirrored the famous line “reader, I married him” and wrote “reader, she married me.” –that was awesome, well done Mrs. Shoemaker.

**I got this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review! Thank you for the copy!