A Good Man is Hard to Find  

As part of my Classic Book Club Challenge, I’m reading The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor. This book is quite large so I’m taking it slow and reading only a few stories at a time.

Flannery O’Connor is a American author, who was born in the 1925 and died at the young age of 39. During her short life she wrote multiple essays, 2 novels and 32 short stories. Her Complete Stories won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1972.

Here is my review of “A Good Man is Hard to Find” found in The Complete Stories. All my reviews are based off my initial reaction/thoughts, however I do think O’Connors work needs and deserves more reflection and study because they are loaded with further meaning.

AGoodManIsHardToFind.jpg“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

Rating: ★★★★ // wow. I tell you what, wow. 

Opening Line: “The Grandmother didn’t want to go to Florida.”

Review:

I have a friend who describes O’Connor’s stories as “a normal day in a normal life and then somebody has a gun,” which, in fact, is the exact plot of “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” This story follows a grandmother, her son, and his family as they from Georgia to Florida. Along the way normal “road trip” activities ensue until they have an accident and are approached by an escaped convict.

This story, if nothing else, shows us the corruption of people, especially those who feel they have been mistreated or misunderstood their whole lives. The criminal claims he never knew what he did to be put in jail, and he doesn’t think his punishment fit his crime. This belief turned him evil, he no longer cares about choosing good because, in his mind, what’s the point?

The second point I gathered from this (and as I said before I should read some articles and reflections because there is probably so much more to gain from this story) is that in order to be good we must choose to be good. This is an obvious point, but one that is much more active than we usually think. Every decision we make is a good or evil decision. Yes, some may be a good or a not as good decision, but if we constantly make the not as good decision we will soon find our selves choosing the evil choice and not even realizing it.

At one point we see this in the convict. The grandmother tells him that if he prays, Jesus will help him, and he responds by saying he is sure Jesus would, but he doesn’t want his help, he doesn’t want to be good. The convict has gotten to the point where he is no longer capable of choosing the good because he has chosen to be evil.

I enjoyed this story mainly because of the moral discussion it brings up. The narration is strong and the story is concise without leaving out anything important. The characters are believable, and even in the short time ellapsed, the reader is able to feel connected with the characters.

Before reading it, I know O’Connor was a gothic writer, but I did not expect it to be as dark as it was. I also didn’t expect to be blown away by 25 page story, and yet, I was.

***

To learn more about the Classics Club and to start your own list, check out their blog!

 

Poem of the Week: The Star Spangled Banner

O say can you see, by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hail’d at the twilight’s last gleaming,

Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,

O’er the ramparts we watch’d were so gallantly streaming?

And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there,

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,

What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,

As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?

Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,

In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,

’Tis the star-spangled banner—O long may it wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion

A home and a Country should leave us no more?

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand

Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!

Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land

Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,

And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”

And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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!

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: Recently added to the TBR list

Today the gals at The Broke and Bookish Blog asked us to make our Top Ten Tuesday about books from a specific genre that we have added to our TBR! This is a really fun challenge because there are so many genre’s out there that all the lists will be incredibly unique. My TBR is all over the place so I decided to do this week’s challenge about Foreign Translated Books on my TBR. 

I’m a sucker for a good translated book, and recently I’ve been eyeing them like crazy–there is something truly magical about reading a book that was written in a different language. The real beauty here is that books are so unique and yet so universal that even when they jump from language to language the ideas and the philosophies can be understood and discussed–ah, the beauty of words. 


1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

Every time I look at the beautiful turquoise copy of War and Peace on my bookshelves, my desire to read it grows stronger–what’s stopping me? Well, it’s over 1,000 pages long, that’s what. However, I’ve recently become addicted to the new broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” which is about one of the love stories woven within this massive book. It has made me determined now to pick it up and read it! 

2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon 

I don’t know much about this book aside from the glowing reviews and the amazing cover. I’m really looking forward to reading it! 

3. The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

When I heard this book and it’s sequels were similar to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I was sold! I just got it on Audiobook for my trip this weekend, and I’m so excited! 

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco 

I have read very few books translated from Italian, and I’m looking forward to seeing the difference in styles, especially compared to old French writers.

5. Laurus by Evgenji Vodolazkin

This is probably my most anticipated read of this year. This is a newer book, but is said to resemble Russian classics in style, philosophy, and complexity. 

6. We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen

This one also had some amazing reviews, plus the description looks so intriguing! 

7. The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

I’ve been meaning to read more Victor Hugo, and I added this one to the list mainly because I had never heard of it before. It looks beautiful. 

8. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

This is apparently a book everyone needs to read, and I’ve heard it’s a literary beauty.

9. The Emigrants by Vilhem Moberg

This is a story of a Scandinavian family who immigrants to Canada. I love these types of stories and I’m interested in reading this series and hear their story! 

10. The Big Green Tent by Lyudmilla Ulitskaya

Surprise! Another Russian novel! I have a problem, but it’s definitely a good problem to have! This book, I heard, is terribly sad, yet very good. It is about post-Stalin Russia, which isn’t as common in novels as other time periods in Russia. 

There you have it! My top ten most anticipated translated books! Should I add any others to the list? Let me know! 

Everything I Need to Know I Learned From a Little Golden Book

51QR3OUXC+L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEverything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow

When I was little, my mom used to take me grocery shopping with her, as most mothers do, but instead of dragging me along with her other 4 kids, she would drop me off in front of The Little Golden Book display, and I would sit there and look through book after book until she was done shopping. I would then beg her to get one (or all) of the books, but as we were a large, one-income family, I almost never got my wish. However, my mom would console me by assuring me the books would be waiting for me the next time we came to the store.

These days, mother’s would cringe (as do I and my mom when we think back on it) and probably call my mom out on every form of social media for leaving her child unattended in a grocery store, but we all know back in the early 90’s, this was completely acceptable. While I wouldn’t dream of doing that now, I have to say those trips I spent sitting on a cold grocery store floor are some of my fondest memories of books as a child.

I was a very slow reader (thanks a lot, dyslexia), so reading was very very frustrating for me. I really thought I would never be able to read. I know for a lot of kids like me, the frustration turns into an indifference or even a hatred of reading, but my love of books stayed and when my ability to read finally clicked in my brain, I took off in turbo mode and soon I was reading everything I could get my hands on. As silly as it sounds, I give quite a lot of credit to the Little Golden Books.

These books are fun, uplifting, beautifully illustrated, and highly appealing to kids. I never thought, however, that those books had real life lessons in them until this weekend when my mom gave me Everything I Need to Know I Learned From A Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow, the editorial director at Golden Books. This book takes the themes from the books and shows us just how they formed us as children.

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For example, do you have money problems? Well you should read 5 Pennies to Spend, which teaches you how to budget properly. Do you feel stuck in one place? Read Open Up My Suitcase and plan that dream vacation. Stressed out? Take a page out of The Little Red Hen and take a day off when you need it.

This book is so cute and it really took me back to my childhood. Pick it up for your kids, your little siblings, as a graduation present, or just for you!

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Poem of the Week: Sonnets are full of love

Sonnets are full of love 

-Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Carve the Mark

30117284.jpgCarve the Mark by Veronica Roth

Rating: ★★.5 // Can I wake up now? 

Favorite Line: “I saw, for the first time, how thin the line was between fear and love, between reverence and adoration.”

Review:

Ummph. This book was hard to get through.

Summary (via GoodReads)

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

Apparently I live under a rock because I had no idea this book had a lot of controversy until I was in the middle of reading it. I usually try to avoid spoilers of books I want to read and therefore I don’t read reviews, I just look at ratings. The rating on GoodReads was around the 4 star area, and Veronica Roth is a talented storyteller, so I figured it was good. Halfway through I was still struggling to get into it, so I looked up some reviews to see if others had this problem (this is usually my tactic to see if I should stick it out or drop it). And that’s when I found all the negative comments.

Most of the negativity was about the book being racist and about how Roth addressed chronic pain (the main character has chronic pain). I can see the racist part because the whole book pits one race against the other (the races aren’t based on skin color necessarily, but more on country of origin). One race is the powerful and bad race, while the other is the good and beat-down race. With the two main characters, the one with the power to inflict pain has dark skin and the one who brings her comfort has light skin…yes, there are racist tones in this book. I do not think, however, Roth was intentional about racist undertones, my suspicion is that she only intended to add more diversity but did not realize she was making it racist by doing so–this mistake should have been discussed and corrected by her editors before publication.

The chronic pain is a major plot point, but since I have never had chronic pain I really don’t feel qualified to address the subject, or critique the way it was portrayed. All I know is that it is hard to properly portray things that you have not experienced, especially when everyone experiences it differently, and I’m sure she was trying to portray it the best she could, but apparently it was not accurate, and she should have done more research.

Ok, now with those two out of the way, let’s talk about the book. I found this book extremely boring. Honestly, I think I need to stay away from YA novels for awhile–almost all the ones I have read in the last 2 years have bored me and/or aggravated me. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong ones, but maybe it’s just not my thing anymore.

The main problem with this book was that it was a character-driven action book, but the characters were bland and the action was all over the place it made the plot hard to follow. I can’t tell if the plot was too complex or not complex enough, but I almost think there were just too many changes to the plot. Same with characters, all of the sudden there were tons of characters that came back in that I had completely forgotten about, and they introduce a whole different aspect of the plot. It was all very jumpy.

The characters, as I said, were bland. There wasn’t a single one I felt any affection for, which is extremely rare for me because I’m pretty empathetic, and I tend to attach to other people’s situations easily. One main problem, I believe, were the character’s names…they were all bizarre. I mean, can’t we have a dystopian/futuristic/sci-fi book where characters have names like Jim, Bob, and Katie? I understand the book needs a sense of distance because it’s set in space, but even Star Wars had a Luke and Ben, so I think a normal name every once in a while would be ok.

Speaking of space. I really forgot this was in space several times throughout the book. I was also confused about how the space would was set up, or even how the different planets work. Mainly, the world building could use some more work, or at least some more explanation.

Positive parts:

ummmmmm…well, I am giving it more than one star, so I have to have something positive….ok, well, I did like the idea of the currentgifts. I thought it was clever to have a world where some people are granted gifts from the current (an powerful energy source that really isn’t explained very clearly…it’s just there), and I think that idea is very intriguing.  Also, the cover is pretty bomb.

Overall, I do feel sorry for Roth and all the backlash she is getting, because, after reading the book, I do not think she was intentional in offending anyone, and all of it could have been avoided had she done more research, had a focus group, had an editor who caught things like this, really anything except what she did. It’s a shame though because there are a lot of negative reviews from people who haven’t even read it, they’ve just heard negative things about it…rule of thumb people, read it before you bash it. There may be some people out there who like this book…I’m assuming big YA fans could really like this book, I am just not one of those people (just how many people think classics are the biggest bore ever, and I’m over here rereading Frankenstein for fun).

Ok, rant over. This book was a miss for me, but check it out if you are into YA, Space, unique cultures, unexpected friendships, and overcoming tyrants.

If you want to purchase the book, you can do so here on my affiliate Book Depository page (for a discount).

 

Friday Five: Laugh until you cry (TV edition)

It’s Friday!!!

After being away last weekend for a bachelorette party, this week seemed to go especially sloooowwww. Now, at last, it is finished and I have a free weekend ahead of me. Usually I spend my free weekends reading/coffee shop hopping/playing with my nephews/catching up with friends, but like I said, it’s been a long week and I think some binge watching may be in my near future.

I’ve been in a TV slump lately, as I haven’t found another show to start it’s really a shame. There are a ton of new dramas that are decently good, but I really need a new comedy. They are my favorite to binge because they don’t require my full attention, yet they can support my full attention if need be. Yet, I really haven’t been hooked on any new ones, therefore, I have a few favorites that I always go back to, and they never fail me.

1.Psych

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Gosh this show is amazing. I was so sad when they ended it (even though it was time), and I was completely devastated when they took it off Netflix. It’s been months since they did, and I’m still very very angry about it.

If you aren’t familiar with the show, you need to be. It follows Shawn and Gus, two best friends who decided to start a Psychic Consultation Business, and their biggest client is the Santa Barbara Police Department. The catch is that neither of them is actually psychic, Shawn is just extremely observant and Gus is basically forced against his will to go along with it. It’s hilarious and the character development is AMAZING!

2. The Office

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This one is my all-time favorite TV show. I think I could actually watch it all day and never get tired of it. The humor is spot on, the romance is adorable, the pranks are amazing, and the hilarity never ceases. It’s a perfect comedy. Also, if I never find my personal Jim Halpert, I’m suing NBC for false hopes.

3. Parks and Recreation

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Very similar to The Office, just more quirky and silly. Ron Swanson is my spirit animal. I love the characters in this show, and how they grow with the audience is wonderful. I really can’t make it through an episode without cracking up.

4. 30 Rock
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There was a time when The Office, Parks and Rec, and 30 Rock were all current shows on NBC…those were the real glory days. 30 Rock is one of those shows where it starts off a little weird and crazy, but ends by being one of the cleverest shows on TV. Their last season was literally about NBC crashing their own network by canceling their best shows–trolling at it’s finest. Tina Fey is an excellent writer and actress, and the other characters are so absurd they will bring you to tears.

5. The Grinder

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Watching this show is like having a delicious cake set in front of you, and after taking a wonderful bite, you go in for a second one only to find that Fox has stolen your cake from you because they don’t know a good thing when they see it. The Grinder is so flippin’ funny, and I really do not understand why it was canceled after one season. It’s absurd.

Staring Rob Lowe, it follows an actor who recently quit his TV show because it wasn’t “real enough”. After quitting he moves back to Boise to find himself, and he ends up crashing at his brother’s house. It was there he realizes he wants to join the family business, which is a law firm. With only his career of being a lawyer on TV as his credentials, “The Grinder” successfully turns the law firm upside down, and drives his brother crazy. It’s smart, witty, sarcastically funny, and good natured. I wish it could come back for more seasons (I’m looking at you Hulu or Netflix).

 

Ok, there you have it! If you have any comedic suggestions, please let me know, or I promise you I will be watching The Office for the umpteenth time ;). Happy Weekend, everyone!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Book Covers

Sometimes I add books to my “to-be-read” list based on the Author who wrote them, sometimes I add them because of the description, sometimes I add them because of a recommendation, and sometimes I add them based solely on the book cover.

This week’s TTT (hosted by the wonderful Broke and Bookish Blog) is all about covers, so I am going to highlight the top ten books on my TBR list that I pick only because the cover drew me in…what can I say, I love judging books by their cover ;).

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Ahhhhh, they are all so lovely! Well, another awesome TTT topic for the books 😉 Feel free to comment and link up your TTT so I can check out your spin on this week’s topic!