2019 Reading Challenge: Accomplished!

Maybe it’s all this free time on my hands (definitely that) but I blew through 40 books this year. I’m also the sort of person who crams entertainment into every few minutes she can (reading for the 2 minutes it takes to brush my teeth, listening to podcasts while I get ready for the day, driving or cooking to Spotify playlists…) and I need at least an hour of unwind-reading-time before I fall asleep. I’ve made my stretch goal 65 books…let’s see what I can do to read 25 more books before New Year’s Eve!

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa
  21. The Firethorn Crown– Lea Doué 
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson
  31. Mirage – Somaiya Daud (A young woman is taken from her family to be the stand-in for an enemy princess–who just so happens to be her doppelgänger. Once at the palace, though, she learns things aren’t what they’d appeared)
  32. Queen of Ruin – Tracy Banghart (excellent sequel to Grace and Fury, all about girl power, sisterhood, and trust)
  33. Captivate: The Science of Succeeding With People – Vanessa Van Edwards (ever see the show Lie to Me? She discusses micro-expressions and how to read people quickly to overcome social anxiety and awkward interactions…I’m still pretty socially anxious, but I learned a lot of interesting things reading this!)
  34. Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo (A girl discovers she has a great power that’s been repressed her entire life, but could be the key to saving her people from the monsters who lurk in the darkness)
  35. Yes, Please – Amy Poehler (as funny and heart-warming as she is, Amy Poehler’s memoir is full of interesting life advice, anecdotes about Parks and Rec, and features a stellar cast of voices if you listed to the audio book)
  36. The Ladies’ Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzie Lee (sequel to The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and just as charming and witty. Featuring an asexual leading lady who just wants to be a doctor and/or go on an adventure–and ends up getting much more than she bargained for)
  37. The Lost Girls – Heather Young (told from two POV, that of the sister to a young girl who went missing in 1930s Minnesota, and her great-niece trying to start a new life for her family. Family secrets are uncovered, long buried mysteries are solved, and a family finally finds peace)
  38. Wicked Saints – Emily A. Duncan (a girl is hunted for her ability to commune with the gods and combat the blood magic used by the heretics of an enemy country. She places her trust in one such enemy, with their joint goal of ending the war between their countries. But when she arrives at the enemy king’s court, she isn’t sure who she can trust)
  39. Mistress of the Ritz – Melanie Benjamin (told through competing POVs–that of Blanche and her husband Claude–we see the Nazi occupation of Paris during WWII and the lengths people go to in order to protect everything they love–including a glamorous hotel)
  40. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver (this was very much along the lines of Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, and Girl on the Train. Friends are accused of murdering their best friend when they were 13. Five years later, they’re thrown back together with a new clue to finding the actual murderer. Everyone’s a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. I’m usually good at figuring out these twists, but I didn’t realize who the murderer was until shortly before it was revealed, despite the well-laid clues.)

There you have it, 40 new books in 2019! My bookshelf is full in the Libby app, and I have four unread books in my den just waiting for me, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many books I can experience before the year is out!

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2019 Reading Challenge: 10 to Go!

I’ve hit 30 books read, with 5 1/2 months left to go in 2019. I think it’s safe to make a stretch-goal of 60 books. Especially since I’ve pre-ordered a few books by authors I love, and I *just* downloaded the Libby app (which gives me access to e-books through libraries) so I don’t need to be as choosy about which books get my dollars.

To Recap:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusa

  21. The Firethorn Crown – Lea Doué (12 sisters become cursed to dance each night in an enchanted garden until the eldest agrees to release the cursed prince by marrying him–and forfeiting her own crown, and chance at happiness)
  22. Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi (SO GOOD. A girl who can kill with merely a touch is kidnapped to become a weapon, but escapes with a boy she remembers from her childhood. The villain is really well written, and the language is poetic without being too flowery/overdone)
  23. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein – Kiersten White (what if Victor Frankenstein had a playmate who tried to temper his more sociopathic tendencies?)
  24. King of Fools – Amanda Foody (the sequel to Ace of Shades)
  25. Girl, Stop Apologizing – Rachel Hollis (I thought Girl, Wash Your Face was good, but this one was even more empowering for me. Highly recommend!)
  26. Legacy of Kings – Eleanor Herman (plops Alexander the great into a fantasy world)
  27. Girls of Glass – Brianna Labuskes (A detective whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered now works a very similar case for a high-profile judge and a family with a lot to hide…)
  28. Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty (I was expecting an And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie type murder-mystery, but this took me by surprise. Nine people check into a health retreat for various reasons, only to find out things are not what they seem)
  29. The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe – Allie Condy (my gifted book from this post, a fantastic story about loss and redemption and finding a path forward beyond vengeance)
  30. Dance of Thieves – Mary E. Pearson (super sexy male MC and badass-yet-relatable female MC, a queen’s soldier is sent to find a traitor amongst an outlaw family’s kingdom, but a joint kidnapping throws her together with the leader of the outlaws, joined in their goal to survive and maintain order and peace)

 

Any suggestions for the last 10 books to round out my 2019 reading list? Have you read any of the same books? I’d love to hear what you thought!

…And her nose stuck in a book

The other night after a (very) happy hour and dinner with my husband, we stopped at our local bookstore so I could run my fingers over spines and stare, starry-eyed, at all the lovely stories I’ve yet to read, and imagine *one day* my book joining them. They had a bunch of signed copies of several books by authors I love, so I decided to buy one (because it’s the next best thing to having it autographed for me, personally). My husband held it for me as I continued to drift around, admiring the beautiful journals and St. Louis-themed children’s books, until next thing I knew, he’d bought it for me.

This seems silly writing it out, because we’re married and what’s his is mine and vice versa (he even said that as he was paying), but there’s something so magical about being gifted a book, even if it’s paid for with the same account that my money goes into. I hugged the book to my chest the entire walk home. Naturally (because, St. Louis), someone sitting outside eating ice cream spotted me carrying my new book like a precious baby and asked what book it was, so I got to make a new friend (read: admit to a stranger I had almost no idea what the book was about but it’s signed by Ally Condie and the MC’s last name is the same as my #1 fiction love’s, so I figured I’d give it a chance, and it might be about pirates?). That’s around the time I *noticed* I was still carrying the book like I was Belle from the beginning of Beauty and the Beast which of course prompted me to sing the line “and her nose stuck in a book” all the way home no matter how many times my husband sarcastically complimented my excellent singing.

In case you’re curious, the book I purchased is The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe by Ally Condie. She wrote the Matched series, as well as an interesting, quasi-mermaid tale Atlantia that was really good.

2019 Reading Challenge: Halfway Point!

Refresher: One of my goals this year is to read 40 new (to me) books. Not to toot my own horn, but I am #crushing this goal…

toot toot

I’m already halfway toward said goal, and nowhere near the midpoint of the year. And before anyone tries to argue that maybe some books are short/superfast reads (like the graphic novel) I’ll have you know #20 on my list was a whopper of 500+ pages (which all flew by, honestly–LOVE me some Mark Zusak!). Without further ado, here are all the lovely tales I’ve met so far this year:

  1. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – a child born with down syndrome is sent away to be raised by the nurse who delivered her, unbeknownst to the child’s mother.
  2. The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Clint McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Griffin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch – it’s the graphic novel version of their amazing podcast!
  3. Wildcard by Marie Lu – a gamer/bounty hunter is enlisted to hunt down a hacker during a worldwide tournament
  4. Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne – Jane Eyre but with spaceships!
  5. Seafire by Natalie C. Parker – All-girl pirate ship on the hunt for revenge…until they learn the captain and first mate’s brothers may still be alive and in enemy hands
  6. Spindle Fire by Lexa Hillyer – a twist on the Sleeping Beauty fairytale, in which Aurora has a blind sister trying to find her true love to break the sleeping spell
  7. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donad Maass – pure writing-craft book, but some really great insights for what attracts readers to story and character
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – see this post for all my feels
  9. Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart – sisters separated by bad luck and worse consequences fight to stay alive and find a way back to each other
  10. The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman – ’nuff said, these two are the cutest and their written “oral” history is a delight
  11. Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody – intrigue, a hunt for lost loved ones, high stakes gambling
  12. Courting Darkness by Robin LeFevers – a duology quasi-spinoff of her FANTASTIC His Fair Assassins trilogy
  13. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – see link for my thoughts on how adorable this story is
  14. The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the wonderful sequel
  15. The Master Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg – the fantastic ending
  16. The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – two women’s stories intertwine–a young woman searching for her cousin after WWII convinces an older woman, a former spy during WWI to help in her quest. Really beautifully told story based on an actual female spy-ring
  17. “I Give You My Body…” by Diana Gabaldon – full disclosure, this one is about the craft of writing sex scenes. Incredibly helpful for dialogue and action scenes as well. Maybe not so much “for fun” reading (though there are PLENTY of steamy excerpts from her Outlander and spin-off works) wink!
  18. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman – classic western, complete with a hunt for gold, gunfights with a band of outlaws, and a sexy cowboy who doesn’t realize our MC is a girl at first…
  19. A Question of Holmes by Brittany Cavallaro – the final in her Charlotte Holmes series, one of my favorite book series I’ve come across.
  20. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak – I’ve already mentioned how much I adore his writing style. This book is full of his poetic language as well as heartbreakingly beautiful depictions of 5 brothers raising themselves the best way they can. Lots of fist fights, swearing, and love in this book.

 

Rambling Recommendations: The Paper Magician Series

I am OBSESSED with these stories! I got The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg (the first installment) to check out for free through Amazon Prime Reading, and I just fell in love with Ceony and Emery.

I wasn’t sure at first–fairly early on, Ceony goes off on an adventure (seemingly) far from the magician she’s apprenticing for (the adorable and charming Emery Thane–a pairing I was already shipping HARD) so my interest waned slightly. But, guys, there’s still a pretty great love story woven into her battle for Emery’s literal heart, one that I think is sustained really well throughout the three books. Full disclosure, there’s a fourth book in the series but I haven’t read it…yet.

The summary, for those who need more: in this world, magicians are bonded to a certain material that they’re able to manipulate (paper, plastic, metal, glass, rubber…). Ceony is assigned to a paper magician despite her desire to become a Smelter (one who works with metal). She grudgingly learns all the weird lessons Emery assigns her, until a woman breaks into his home and steals his literal heart (she’s evil/bonded to flesh, so *mom disclosure* there is some fighting involving tossing vials of blood around, but it never really struck me as graphic/gruesome, so I think even the more squeamish will be ok). Ceony creates a paper placeholder heart and chases her down, determined to save her mentor’s life.

Also, there’s an adorable paper dog who just melts my heart. The whole thing is so imaginative and delightful. It’s a fast read; I read through all three books in about a week (granted, I was on vacation for some of that time, but we were exploring Louisville so my reading time wasn’t *so* extended). I highly recommend this series for anyone looking for a fun, easy read that will still linger in your mind long after you’ve set it down!

Rambling Recommendations: Anne of Green Gables

I know, I know: What?? Annie, your favorite movie of all time is Anne of Green Gables. How are you only just now recommending the book?

I’ll tell you: So I’ve seen Anne of Green Gables more times than I can count. I’m talking the 1985 Sullivan Entertainment Anne of Green Gables (I adore the trilogy, but the first one is 100% my favorite movie that has or ever will exist). Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie will forever be the true Anne and Gilbert. And speaking of Gilbert, other girls can keep their Prince Charmings and their Mr. Darcies. Gilbert Blythe is the bar I measured my potential love interests against (fun side story: extremely early on in dating my husband, there was a day I kept pushing back our date to continue spending time with friends until one of them said something along the lines of ‘you can’t keep delaying, he’s going to get pissed’ and I just laughed and naturally as could be said he would “stand on his head if I asked him to!” which I knew to be 100% truthful, and recognized to be the same level of confidence Anne had in Gilbert’s affections and that’s how I knew I’d found my Gil).

Sometime around middle school, I picked up my mom’s copy of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. I *maybe* read the first page or two before putting it down. It had been (and continues to be) my experience that the movie is never as good as the book. Already, I adored Megan Follows’s Anne Shirley with the core of my being. I simply couldn’t bear the thought that this book might tarnish in anyway the perfection of my favorite movie. What’s more, I didn’t want to read a book and think “that’s not how they did it in the movie” the entire time. I resigned myself to the idea of never reading the series in favor of cherishing the movies.

But then I was searching for the exact wording of one of my favorite quotes (Anne Shirley is the source of so many excellent ones), and noticed a Kindle special: the entire 8 book series for $0.99. Um WHAT. I figured it is time.

I told my mom it’s really nice that I’ve waited nearly 3 decades to read the book. Now, Anne and Gil, Matthew and Marilla, Mrs. Lynde and Diana Barry are all like dear friends, and as I began reading that first page, it felt like that’s all this was: a book about dear friends. Some things might be a little off, not quite what I *know* the truth to be, but an entertaining and rich view of those I love so much.

I’ve only finished book 1 so far, but it was rather delightful. Full disclosure: I skimmed over a lot of the setting exposition. But then, I already know what Green Gables looks like. 😉

Rambling Recommendations: Brightly Burning

Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne was the 5th book I finished this year (because OF COURSE I’m counting) and it was such a delight.

It takes my favorite classic: Jane Eyre, teases out all the modern-day young-adult themes I know and love, and plops the storyline on a futuristic space ship orbiting Earth.

Stella, our main character, is a delightful young woman who is both bold and understands her “place” in terms of social structure. I could relate whole-heartedly to her, preferring to keep to her quarters and read or draw rather than socialize with her peers, getting brazen only under the influence of a few strong drinks, or once she’s comfortable. Hugo, the love interest (yes, that’s the role I’m designating for him–I suppose he could be a quasi-antagonist much like the Mr. Rochester he’s based upon), is mysterious and broody, maybe more handsome than the original but I let that slide. Personally, I liked the mysterious Mr. Rochester being so much older (maybe it’s my thing for Bruce Willis making age gaps feel so irrelevant), and so was a touch disappointed Hugo was around Stella’s age–but then I figured it’s way less ok for a 17-year-old to start a love affair with her older employer in this day and age than it might have been in Charlotte Brontë’s time.

I loved that this story had that comforting familiarity of a well-loved story, yet enough new twists/plot points to keep things fresh. More than once I found myself thinking “well Jane Eyre went this direction, but there’s no way for that to happen here” or “how will she handle X if Y is so different in this version?” so nothing felt stale.

If you like SciFi YA (that’s science fiction young adult, mom), hundo p–this book is for you. If you’re a fan of Jane Eyre, I’d also highly recommend this novel.