Top Ten Tuesday!! ~ and an update.

Quick update before I get into Top Ten Tuesday – grad school has been eating my face lately, so with a lot of papers and presentations due for school as well as being in relatively poor health at the moment, I haven’t had the time or energy to devote to this blog.  For that, I apologize.  This is the last week of classes before a 3 week break, so I should be able to get back into doing Throwback Thursdays again by the time next week rolls around.  Once again, I’m sorry for being so behind – apologizing both to you, and to myself, since this blog is a fun challenge for me.  Okay~ now, on to Top Ten Tuesday!! 😀

 

Top Ten Words or Phrases that Will Make Me Pick Up or Buy a Book.

(From the Broke and Bookish blog.)

1) “Gothic.” – I love anything to do with Gothic-style writing.  Whether it’s du Maurier or Bronte or anywhere in between, I’ll most likely buy a book if it’s described as being a Gothic mystery or similar.

 

2) “Like P.G. Wodehouse.” – I love P.G. Wodehouse’s work (dry and clean British humor!!) and if I find a book that is described as being similar to his, I will probably pick it up and browse through it, at least, to see if they’re at all accurate. (However, I am currently reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, and it was described by one reviewer to be similar to Wodehouse… I’m afraid I can’t see the similarity myself.  That kind of puts a damper on my trust of reviewers stating that certain modern writers write Wodehousian humor.)

 

3) “WWII-era Europe.” – As I’ve mentioned before, I absolutely adore fiction set in the WWII era, especially in Europe.  More likely than not, if I spy a fiction book that takes place in WWII-era Europe, it will be on my shelf shortly.  I have read quite a few, and have quite a few more waiting on my shelves to be read.  Among some of the most recent ones that I’ve read is Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay,

 

4) “Thrilling.” – Put that word next to anything, aside from “romance,” and I am likely to pick up the book to at least flip through it, read the blurb, perhaps take a peek at the first chapter to see if it grabs my attention.  Especially, perhaps, if it is a spy story.  Granted, I haven’t read a great deal of spy stories in my life, but those that I have read, I have greatly enjoyed (most titles are now escaping me, though, although Mr Churchill’s Secretary is coming to mind… but of course, that also takes place in WWII-era Europe, so it’s a win-win book for me… ;))

 

5) “Italy.” – I don’t know why, but I’ve discovered that I love books written about Italy, whether modern-day or set centuries back.  Something about that country seems so sensuous… but also, it seems to be a popular place for thrillers to be set, as well. (Books such as The Venetian Betrayal, by Steve Berry, come to mind.) I’m currently reading The Secret Papers of Madame Olivetti, by Annie Vanderbilt, and it’s definitely one of the most sensuous, relaxing novels that I have read in some time.

 

6) “Jane Austen.” – Anything that mentions Austen, whether speaking of the writing style, the characters, or the plot… it captures my attention.  Books like Pride & Prescience, by Carrie Bebris, are ones that I enjoy.  Perhaps a guilty pleasure – slightly – since they strive to copy Austen’s style as well as further develop her characters, but books such as that one are quite fun, light, relaxing reading.

 

7) “Mental illness.” – Memoirs of people who have lived with eating disorders (most well-known, Marya Hornbacher’s Wasted), or who have gone through times of psychosis and/or hospitalization (such as Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen), or anything similar… I find these books to be so amazingly fascinating.  Or, alternatively, if I see a book that is about some type of treatment of mental illness, such as EMDR (eye movement desensitization & reprocessing), I will probably buy it.  Not just due to professional curiosity, but personal curiosity as well.

 

8) “Redemption.” – I am a romantic.  If I see that word pasted on the front of a book, more likely than not I’ll pick it up to see what the book is about.  If it’s about a mother-daughter reunion after many years apart or a husband and wife being reunited after a schism, I will probably buy it, because I love reading stories about redemption and the power of forgiveness.

 

9) “Pathos.” – This word always makes me curious.  It certainly doesn’t mean that the book is a shoe-in for my love, but it usually means that the book will have interesting aspects to it (indeed, as most books do).  I can’t say much else about it since it’s been awhile since I’ve found a book that has been described as such, but it is indeed a word that draws my attention.

 

10) “Haunting.” – This word can usually make me buy a book. 😉 I mean, of course, not just reading that word alone, but if I read the blurb of a book and also see that it is described as being a haunting story, one that stays with the reader long after the book is put down… yes, of course, I want to try it out and see if I am pulled in as so many readers have been (apparently, at least).  I have a love/hate relationship with books whose stories stay with me after I am done reading them… often I describe it as “being stuck in the story” – and it can be quite discombobulating, although at the same time, enjoyable, in a weird way.

 

There we go!!  The top 10 words or phrases that can get me to pick up and/or buy a book.  Now, you reviewers out there, you know a little better what will make this chick, at least, take a deeper, more contemplative glance at a book. 😉 Hope you enjoyed!!

 

What are your top ten words/phrases? 😀

Top Ten Tuesday!!

From the Broke and Bookish blog comes today’s top ten!! – 5 books I thought I would like and didn’t, and 5 books that I thought I would hate and liked.

 

I may not be able to come up with all of each, but it’s an interesting idea, so I am going to attempt to come up with a list. 🙂

 

Five books I thought I would like and didn’t (like much or like parts of)

Since I’m not a very picky reader, this is a little more difficult for me than it would be for some other people.  I am going to modify this a bit.

1) Soulless by Gail Carriger – the first in the Parasol Protectorate series.  I have to say that I am really enjoying the book as a whole (and it is currently being read – I’m close to the end but please, no spoilers!! ;)), but some of the parts just seem… overly sexual.  I am not a fan of erotic passages in books that were otherwise very enjoyable, but that’s really the only complaint I have about this book.

 

2) My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara.  You’d think that since I am an animal lover, and adore horses of all shapes and sizes, I would enjoy this book… but nope.  I can’t even put a finger on why I didn’t like it, but I remember that I couldn’t even get through it when I tried reading it several years ago.  I may have to try again at some point, since it’s a classic in its own right, and I may enjoy it more now than I did years ago – who knows.

 

3) Dune by Frank Herbert.  I like the premise of the book, and I understand that it’s a classic sci fi novel, but I have a hard time following the politics in the world that Herbert created.  I got about halfway through it before I couldn’t read any more, but I am planning on picking it back up when I have some time to actually dig in and spend time figuring out what exactly happens.  I like Herbert’s writing style, though, I will admit.

 

4) Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey.  I read this one with my online book club, and while parts of it were enjoyable, once again, overly erotic parts really ruined the book for me.  Erotica has its place in the writing world, but it’s not something I enjoy (obviously) and I also wasn’t expecting it when I read this book.  I hadn’t ever heard of Carey’s work before and didn’t know the reputation that her other books have (re: erotica).

 

5) La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith.  I love McCall Smith’s books, and while I really liked this book for the attention to detail that is inherently in all of his books, and while the premise was interesting… the last quarter of the book really dragged.  I enjoyed the story for the most part, but the ending was awfully dragged out – as was the beginning – so I felt a little gypped when it came to the actual story of La’s Orchestra.  I felt as though McCall Smith could’ve included more story about the orchestra itself (and what he did write was very moving, for me at least) and less introduction and less ending, and the book would’ve been much better.

 

 

Five books I thought I would hate but liked

This should be easier. 😉 Maybe… once again, I’m not really a picky reader so I don’t really go into books with the assumption that I will hate them.

 

1) Dune by Frank Herbert.  I know, I know, it’s on both lists – what?! – but it deserves a place here because I avoided reading it for years because I was afraid that I would hate it when family members and my husband have all enjoyed it.  When I finally picked up a copy, it was a lot more absorbing than I expected.  Although I haven’t finished it yet, I am planning on finishing it when I have the time to get absorbed into a very detailed fantasy world.

 

2) The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian.  This book was read for my IRL book group… it’s about a married couple in their 80s, both with chronic/fatal illnesses (cancer and Alzheimer’s), who go on a road trip.  It sounded like an interesting premise, but I was a little put off by the fact that the protagonist was so old – I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to relate to her at all.  However, as the book progressed, I became more absorbed in her narration of the story.  Definitely a good read.  I highly recommend it – it was surprising to see just how well Zadoorian managed to paint the lives of two elderly people when he himself isn’t that old.  Also, it was surprising to my group how well he “got into the mind” of a woman, since the book is told from the perspective of Ella (first person).

 

3) Boneshaker by Cherie Priest.  This one was another book that I read for my online book club.  It was my introduction to the genre of steampunk, and I have to say, I truly wasn’t expecting to enjoy steampunk as much as I do.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride, reading through this book (no pun intended ;)), but the more I read of it, the more I got into the groove of the story and the more absorbed I got in the plights of the main characters.  It was definitely a good summer read.

 

4) Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander McCall Smith. (See? I read a lot of his books. ;)) This book was very different from the other books by McCall Smith that I have read, and I was not prepared for just how different this one would be from his others that I’ve read.  Since I come from an academic family, it was interesting to see a humorous perspective on academia from one of my favorite authors.  I wasn’t actually sure what to expect when I first started this book – I didn’t expect to hate it, but after the first few pages I wasn’t sure if I would be able to finish it.  However, by the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

 

5) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I thought that this book sounded interesting from the get-go, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually enjoy it since it was on the bestseller list for so long, and often I don’t really adore books that are bestsellers.  But this one I truly did enjoy, and I now have the sequel to it, waiting for me to read it.  While I didn’t have any huge “Aha!!” moments while reading this one, it was a fun read, and was also fairly thought-provoking.

 

And there we go!!  I actually managed to do the entire top ten. 🙂

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Guernsey1

(Not mine: from here.)

As you may have been able to guess by now, WWII history is fascinating to me.  Recently, my mom and I read The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer; I’d run across the title when I was browsing my recommendations on Goodreads last summer, and finally I picked up a copy at a local bookstore.  Reading the back of the book, I realized that it might be one that my mom would enjoy, and since we’ve been reading books together for about a year now, I suggested it to her and lo and behold, she was interested. 🙂 So we read it together and discussed it as we progressed through the novel.

The title certainly pulls one in, doesn’t it?  Shaffer, who died in 2008, wrote this book in conjunction with her niece, and I believe that they did an excellent job of working together to create a gem of a book.  The story takes place in post-WWII London – and Guernsey, of course – and is told by a succession of letters to and from different people.  Juliet is our protagonist – an author who is struggling to find something to write about after the war… and as the book progresses, does she ever learn a lot about the Guernsey Islanders and their experiences during the war!! – certainly enough for a novel.  However, the more that she learns about the Islanders and the Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the less focused she is on writing and getting another work published, and the more involved she gets in the Islanders’ lives… and into the arms of one Dawsey Adams, so different from the flashy Mark from the States, who wants to marry her and have her as a witty, charming trophy wife.

I don’t want to give too much more of the story away, but it is a delightful read.  At first, I was a little concerned that I would get confused in regards to the different letters, since so many were being exchanged between so many different people, but Shaffer did a wonderful job of keeping that all sorted out neatly.  Juliet becomes more likable by the end of the book than she was at the beginning, and perhaps that is how it should be, since we know her much better at the end than we did at the beginning.  However, perhaps part of it is that she loses some of her London socialite “sheen” and instead becomes more earthy and comfortable moving around in Guernsey, rather than crowded, bustling London, and therefore becomes more relatable to the reader.

5/5 stars to this book. 🙂 If you are looking for a quick, fun, interesting, and funny read, I highly recommend The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society as something you should definitely delve into.  It doesn’t take long to read and is a delight for all of the senses, since Shaffer brings the time period and places alive with vivid imagery, even through letters alone.

In the Garden of Beasts.

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(not mine: photo credited from here)

 

In the Garden of Beasts is a remarkably well written book about the politics of 1933-1937 Berlin, from the eyes of an unassuming American ambassador named William Dodd.  Dodd was actually Roosevelt’s fifth choice for American ambassador to Berlin at that time, but oddly enough, he was the one that accepted the position, although he was certainly not the “average” ambassador.  He hated to squander money, and often spoke of things that other men in his same situation would have avoided.

 

The book focuses in on the relationships between the many different people that the Dodd family met in their time in Berlin.  Martha, William Dodd’s daughter, is the one that gets the most attention, in regards to her relationships, though.  Much of the book is focused on telling her story, since in her “wild ways” she got to know plenty of men intimately – men that were higher-ups in German government, the Gestapo, or the Stormtroopers.   By the time the book ends, the reader is left wondering just how many affairs Martha had had over the years with young, handsome German men… and just how much she actually came to know of the threat that Hitler posed for the entire world during that time.

 

While In the Garden of Beasts ends prior to World War II beginning, Larson captures the very essence of the terror and heightened awareness within Germany, as well as the strained relations between Germany and other countries.  It is said that Larson is master of novelized history, and indeed, this book did read like a novel… while it was definitely a nonfiction book, there were many sections that were written with such lifelike detail, it felt as though Larson were actually creating the characters himself – or at the very least, had known them personally.  Of course, neither is true.

 

Normally, I don’t read much nonfiction, because in the past I have found that most nonfiction is dry and difficult for me to get through.  This selection was this month’s book group’s selection at my local library, and although I had to miss the discussion about it due to health problems (much to my chagrin), I highly recommend it to anyone.  Yes, anyone.  It is so fascinating, yet is not overly political, overly sexual, or overly terrifying.  It has all of those aspects and more, painting a wonderfully broad and fulfilling picture of pre-WWII Berlin.  If I were you, I would go out and buy a copy if you’re at all interested in WWII history; In the Garden of Beasts captures perfectly so many of the feelings that are lost in modern-day literature about WWII.  I love all fiction that has to do with the WWII time period, especially if the story takes place in Europe, but this book captured so much more than an average literary novel would.  With the liberal use of letters, diaries, and excerpts from speeches, Larson recreates a dazzling world filled with danger, love, fear, anxiety, and excitement.

 

Update.

Sorry I haven’t been posting much recently – my health has taken a dive for the worse so I have been not much of an online presence.  I’ll try to post something this weekend (book recs, perhaps!! :D) but no promises.  I’m still working on trying to get some pain relieved and until I do that, I won’t be able to write or think very well (yey for extensions for things for classes?  I think yes ;)).

 

Sorry guys!!  I’ll update when I can though, so stay tuned.

Throwback Thursday!!

The Giver (cover)

 

(Image from here)

 

Welcome to the most exciting (to me) idea which I have dredged out of my mind – Throwback Thursdays.  It’s “a thing” on Facebook and Tumblr where people post old pictures of themselves… but I decided to do a spin-off here, and instead post about books from my childhood that I enjoyed reading, or books I have specific memories about as a child or teen.  This will happen every other Thursday, and the Thursdays in between I will be doing book reviews of books that I am currently reading – or I will do updates on my WIPs or similar.  At least, that’s the plan right now. 😉 As many plans are, it is subject to change.

But on to the book!!  The Giver by Lois Lowry was a book that my sister read when she was fifteen or so and I was eleven/twelve (we’re three and a half years apart).  I wanted so desperately to read it after she did, because it was a YA novel!!  I could read YA novels!!  I was grown up enough to!!  Honest!! …but she didn’t let me.  She said that it was too depressing for me to read (which probably sparked an argument between us, come to think of it), and now that I’ve recently read it – I have to agree.  I won’t give away the ending, since I don’t want to spoil it for anyone… but it was a very interesting dystopian novel.  Honestly, I think that adults get more out of it, perhaps, than children/youth would.

I found myself getting caught up in Jonas’ story, and when the Giver gave him memories of color and love and other feelings – things that we take for granted – I wondered… what does this “Sameness” look like, in the community where Jonas lives?  Is everything grey and flat – since he wasn’t even able to envision a hill without the Giver helping him?  How was his world lit – since he didn’t know what “sun” was until the Giver gave the memory of it to him?  What was the weather like in his world – since he didn’t know of “snow” until the Giver showed him?  I can’t imagine a world where everything is The Same… which, in turn, makes me think about how amazing all of those things are, all of the things that we just take for granted day by day.  The sun, the moon, the stars, the breeze, the colors… I could make endless lists.  He didn’t know what “death” was for the majority of the novel either.

All in all, I highly recommend this if you’re looking for a good, quick dystopian novel.  I look forward to reading the other books in the “series” that Lowry wrote all set in the same world (I think – or at least, very similar worlds).  I am glad, really, that I didn’t read this book when I wanted to, even though I really, really wanted to at the time. 😉 I think it might’ve overwhelmed me – or else I wouldn’t have understood it at all.  One of the two, and I’m not sure which.

Top Ten Tuesday!!

Today’s Top Ten over at the Broke & Bookish blog are: the top 10 fictional characters you would have a crush on if you were also a fictional character.  This one should be fairly interesting, since I have difficulty remembering a lot of characters in books that I read. 😉 I’m not sure if I’ll be able to come up with ten since I don’t remember many of the characters that I’ve read about in books… my memory is so bad.  But I’ll do my best!!

 

(All links lead to Goodreads.)

 

1) Aragorn from The Return of the King.  He’s such a strong character, loyal to Frodo and destined to be a king, yet humble in his own right.  Plus, it helps that Viggo Mortensen is a hunk in that movie.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t base this on film adaptations, but wow, he was eye candy… 😉

 

2) Augustus from The Fault in our Stars.  Well, if I were a younger fictional character, since he was 17 – if I’m remembering correctly.  He was a brilliant person, yet one that was easy to relate to, and I think that were I Hazel Grace, I would have fallen in love with him as well, even if I knew the “ending of the book” ahead of time.

 

3) Sirius Black from Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.  He was mysterious, wise, and a very strong character in terms of how Rowling wrote about him, in my opinion.  And of course… once again… movie adaptation… they did pick a good actor. 😉

 

4) Dawsey Adams from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. (This is one that I am still reading, but he’s SUCH an adorable character.)  While he seems a little on the rural side – definitely not a match for Juliet (protagonist) in terms of London socialite behavior – he is still a very likable character, and one who is prone to helping friends in need.  I consider that to be a mark of a true friend, as long as it is not done begrudgingly – and I don’t believe that Dawsey has a grudging bone in his entire body.

 

5) Maxim de Winter from Rebecca.  So mysterious, tall, dark, and handsome.  The mysterious bit alone is enough to get me to like him and want to get to know him more.  I suppose that’s what got to Rebecca as well.  I would have wanted to win him over and figure out what his secrets were… and although they are revealed by the end of the book, I think that it would be such an adventure to be able to live that story.  Scary, yes.  But Maxim de Winter is… well, a hunk.  At least, in my mind. (The only film adaptation that I saw was made long ago, and I don’t particularly remember Maxim’s character from it.)

 

6) Mr Darcy from Pride & Prejudice.  How could I have forgotten him?!  Once again, the mysterious side that he has… and the frustration that Lizzie encounters… the entire love story is adorable and… well, yes, film adaptation.  Colin Firth is also eye candy. (I think I’m on a roll with these film adaptations.  Sorry, everyone… ;))

 

I think that’s about all that I can come up with right now… but I did give it my best shot!!

 

Soon, I will try to come up with some more book recommendations since my top ten last Tuesday definitely did not cover the all of the ones that I loved!!