Book Brawl Part I

The year is coming to a close, and I’ve read a personal record number of books.  I’m currently on my 52nd book of the year.  And lately, I’ve been seeing things about “best book of the year.” This has got me wondering what book would I dub best book of the year out of all those I’ve read.

Hence the book brawl!  I’m splitting this up into four parts otherwise this would be a crazy long post.  So, the brawl will end on Friday, December 29th and announce my best book of the year winner.  This will be fun but also challenging.

I will present all the books I read in a given month.  I will then pick a monthly winner.  The monthly winner will then brawl the previous month’s winner to see who comes out on top.  So for instance, I will pick a January winner and a February winner.  I will then pick a winner of these two and that winner with battle March’s winner and so on.  I’ve split the year up into quarters, so let’s begin the battle for Q1.

In January, I read four books:

  • Death by Black Hole by: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • The Divine Comedy by: Dante
  • The Little Paris Bookshop by: Nina George
  • The Venetian Betrayal by: Steve Berry

While I enjoyed all these reads, the clear winner is The Little Paris Bookshop.  It had a ton of feels and even the snarkiness of Tyson and the epiciness of Dante could not take it down.  It was a wonderful read for the dark winter months and will be very tough to beat.

In February, I read three books:

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • Sidney Chambers & the Perils of Night by: James Runcie
  • Inferno by: Dan Brown

Sidney Chambers was a cute novel, but kind of forgettable and while Inferno was action packed and clarified some of the more confusing parts I had read the previous month in the actual Inferno, Hugo gets February’s prize.  The book was great.  Disney totally lead me astray, but, nevertheless, it was an interesting read and made some unique points.

However, in a battle between Hunchback and the Paris Bookshop. I say the Bookshop clearly wins.  Delightfulness is a hard one to beat for me.

In March, I made it through four books:

  • Otherwise Engaged by: Amanda Quick
  • The Wise Man’s Fear by: Patrick Rothfuss
  • The Charlemagne Pursuit by: Steve Berry
  • The Paris Key by: Juliet Blackwell

I did not care for Otherwise Engaged. It was too much on the romance side for my taste. The Wise Man’s Fear was good, but a bit of a disappointment in comparison to the first book in the King Killer Chronicles. I can’t even remotely remember what Mr. Berry’s novel pertain too, so the clear winner is The Paris Key. It was again a delightful novel.

In a brawl between the two Paris novels The Little Paris Bookshop wins.  Both would be reads that I highly recommend.

This gets us to the end of Q1 and The Little Paris Bookshop remains undefeated, so tune in next Friday to see if it hangs on to its title or if it gets ousted in Q2.

Until then, happy reading!

What book would take the top prize for the first three months of your reading in 2017?

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A Comparison

As many of you know, in the last few months I have read two major classics, The Brothers Karamazov  and Lord of the Flies.  The former took me almost a month to read.  As I stated in a previous post while it wasn’t something I cared for, I respected it and felt that it deserved four stars.

I can’t say that about the latter, however. While it only took me three days to read Lord of the Flies, I found myself wanting it to be over. I did feel that way about Brothers, too, but it took me about two and a half weeks to get to that point, not mere hours.

I found Dostoevsky’s work well-written with profound philosophical ponderings. I didn’t find Lord of the Flies particularly well-written or profound.  The pacing and lack of speaker tags made it confusing and clumsy.  It seems that Golding was trying a little too hard. I feel that it’s books like this one that give classics a bad name.

Granted I didn’t hate the book, but I didn’t like it.  And it does not fill me with the sense of respect Brothers did even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of that book either. If I were to choose between the two to read again, I would without a doubt choose The Brothers Karamazov. It has something to dig into, something to grapple with, something to find a deeper meaning.  I didn’t get that feeling with  Lord of the Flies. I gave it two stars on Goodreads and moved along.

I know that many people poo-pooed this book before I read it, but I don’t think it influenced my thinking.  I see what people were talking about.  If anything, I really wanted to like it.  I wanted to be the odd man out from the people I’d talked to, but I just couldn’t be.

Happy Reading!

A WOW-ing Literary Reference

My husband and I occasionally have dates nights where we drink Gin & Tonics and play World of Warcraft (Yeah, I know one of these things is not like the other.) What can I say? We may be nerds, but we’re classy about it.

Anyway, WOW is actually a heck of a lot of fun. And let’s face it; these days playing WOW is pretty mild in nerdom.  I’m mean it’s not like we are LARP-ing (Live Action Role Playing) those guys are hard core. Although, we did attend a murder mystery dinner that involved us dressing up and playing as our assigned characters, but that’s completely normal.

I digress. Scott and I were playing WOW and when you get to a certain level you can fight random dudes to get experience, but also mega loot.  So here we are roaming around, and Scott says:

“Oh! Let’s go fight the bull.  We can get cool shit.”

“Ok!”

So I run with Scott up to this bull who happens to be sitting under a tree surrounded by flowers and the bull’s name is Ferdinand! I was all,

“Dude, that’s Ferdinand the Bull.”

“Yeah…his name is Ferdinand.”

“No dude, it’s from a children’s book called The Story of Ferdinand.  He’s a bull that doesn’t want to fight. He just wants to sit under a tree and smell the flowers.”

“Oh! Well, that’s interesting… Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?”

“To kill the bull.”

“What!?! I can’t kill Ferdinand the pacifist bull.  Are you crazy?”

“But you get loot. That’s why he’s here.”

“This is a moral dilemma.”

“What is?  Killing a bull in a fantasy game?”

“No… Well… Yes. But I think I’m more befuddled as to whether I should send Blizzard a letter of appreciation, applauding the genius of designing a bull to sit under a tree with flowers named Ferdinand.  Or if I should be writing a rage quit letter about destroying people’s childhoods, by making a target of Ferdinand the flower-smelling bull.”

“Oh…”

“I also feel that I should write a tersely worded e-mail to your mother and all of your elementary school teachers for not having read you The Story of Ferdinand.  I mean seriously.  You were about to charge in and kill this bull without getting the simultaneous horror and comedy of it.

Blank stare.  I think it was at this moment my husband became slightly less than enthused about my reading addiction.  To my ever-lasting shame we did slay Ferdinand, but he popped right back up under his tree. Because, ya know, it’s a fantasy game and re-spawning is a thing, which I guess made it slightly less terrible.

I did finally decide to applaud Blizzard for this little literary nod because it was pretty nifty to see such a cleverly placed reference that book lovers can secretly relish. Even if it is in a fantasy world where I’m running around as a gnome sorceress with a mean frost bolt.

Train Wreck

I started reading Lord of the Flies the other day.  It’s a classic I hadn’t read, so I decided I would add it to my TBR list.  I was able to pick up a copy on the Book Date for $4.50 at a used bookstore. Since my purchase, I’ve had numerous people tell me that it was a less than stellar read or rather a downright terrible read.

What’s strange is that this prominent poo-pooing has motivated me to read it sooner rather than later, and not to get it out of the way.  I’m genuinely intrigued to see if it really is as bad as people have indicated.

I’ve noticed that book reviews of really, really terrible books by enraged reviewers, at times, prompt me to actually want to read them.  I’m not trying to downgrade the reviewers’ opinion.  I guess it’s a bit like watching a train wreck. I know it’s going to bad, but I can’t help but see for myself.  Can a book so bad have really been published?  I then remember that Twilight was a thing, so yeah, it’s possible.

Anyway, I guess hype in either direction can get me to read a book.  I mean the editor (Kelsey) ranted so much about A Handmaid’s Tale I put it on my TBR list.  Partially because she wants someone else to go through the misery and then do a drunk, rage review about it, and honestly what are best friend’s for? But also because I want to see if I feel it’s something worthy of my abhorrence. But I’ll be honest, I’m pretty stingy with my hate.

Nevertheless, if Lord of the Flies is really God awful the good news is, it’s short, so it will be over soon.  I’ll keep everyone posted.  It will be interesting either way.

Does a desire to read supposedly terrible books ever strike you?

A Booked Weekend

It’s post-turkey day!! And since I am avoiding this blackest of Friday’s- it means three whole days of reading! Let the confetti fly and trumpets sound. Well three whole-ish days I still have to do those annoying things like sleeping, eating, and probably some house cleaning, but that one is purely optional. I might get mad at a character and need a break.

Anyway, my favorite reading spot: the deck is currently out of commission due to the fact that I live in blustery Chicago and it’s only 3o-some degrees outside.  Thus, I will have to make due with a second-best option my couch or my comfy red armchair. (It’s ridiculous comfortable.  I’ve had numerous people get chair envy after sitting in it.) I’ll probably do a rotation given that couch reading will inevitably lead to napping.  This will inevitably lead to a bit of drooling, which in turn will inevitably lead to my husband poking fun at me.

It is also easier to consume delicious cocoa or red wine in an upright position. I hope to one day have a bona fide reading nook or a couple if I dare to dream big, but until then a blanky, a beverage, a book, and a cushioned seat will certainly suffice.

Do you have weekend reading plans? Do you have a favorite reading spot? Let me know in the comments below!

A Book, A Dream, and A T.V. Show

This past spring my husband and I took a road trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.  How we ended up deciding on a trip to the great state of Maine is actually a rather interesting story involving a book, a dream, and years later a TV show.  It began when I was in third grade.

You see in third grade, my class read Sarah Plain and Tall.  It was a great book. I loved it, and its sequel Skylark. I thought Sarah was the bee’s knees.  And Sarah was from Maine. After reading both of these books and watching their respective films, I decided that when I grew up and became a writer I was going to live in Maine. I had wanted to be a writer since I was in Kindergarten. I couldn’t spell to save my soul, but boy did I have some tales to tell.

Anyway, I grew up and kind of forgot about Sarah…and Maine…and gave up on becoming a writer…at least for a while.  Instead, I moved to Chicago, got a job that’s quite entertaining at times, fell in love, and was puttering blissfully through life when…

One evening Scott was out with some friends.  I was at home scrolling through Netflix looking for something new to watch when I came across Murder, She Wrote. I like murder mysteries, so I put on the first episode.  I was surprised by how much I liked it.  The next evening Scott was home, but dinking around on his computer, so I asked if it would bother him if I put on another episode.  He said he didn’t mind, and the next thing I knew he was snuggled up on the couch watching right along with me.  We loved it.

The main character, Jessica Fletcher, is a novelist who lives in Maine.  She was who I had wanted to be as a kid. The scenes of Maine were beautiful, and I remembered all about Sarah Plain and Tall. I told Scott about my dream as a kid, and we thought it might be fun to visit to see if what I had envisioned was really true.

Thus a few months later we packed our bags and meandered our way over to Bar Harbor, Maine.  Honestly, it was more magical than I had thought it would be.  I don’t know if I’ve been to a place that’s quite that pretty.  I mean look at that pic! It’s just one of many we had the pleasure of taking!

When we got back my husband and I joked that we would like to move there.  And all kidding aside, maybe someday if jobs become more virtual, I actually get something published, and we decide to get a bit more daring.  I just might end up with that third-grade dream after all.  And won’t that be a helluva tale?

Rising Above Expectations

The other day I ran across an article about how to tackle hard reads.  I found this particularly relevant to me give what I had just finished reading.  It mentioned how you kind of need to tough it out because tough, boring, or confusing reads can have really good bits or be really good in general.  This got me thinking about what books that I’ve read that I wasn’t that excited to read, but when I finished them I thought they were great. Below is a list of a few that popped to mind, these weren’t necessarily hard reads, but they were books that I really wasn’t that interested in pursuing, and rose far above my initial expectations.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by: J.K. Rowling

I know gasp.  I received this book as a gift before Harry was the in-thing. I only had one other classmate at the time that knew about it. The only reason I started it was because I didn’t have anything else to read that day.  I fully thought I would take it home stick it on a shelf and move on with life. All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t have anything to read that day.

The Road by: Cormac McCarthy

This was assigned to me for a college course.  I thought it would be something to get through like a lot of other assigned reads, but I can honestly say this is probably the best book I’ve ever been assigned. It’s bleak, but amazing!

Nightfall by: Nelson DeMille

DeMille has a re-occurring character, John Corey.  He’s an amusing character, and I really like the first book Plum Island, but the second book was meh.  So, when my mother sent me a bag of books home after the holidays, and I found this one I wasn’t super excited.  But this book grabbed me and won’t let go. I was shocked.  It honestly might be my favorite of his books thus far.

The Blade Itself by: Joe Abercrombie

This book was thrown at me at a BBQ. I’m not opposed to getting books thrown at me when attending a BBQ, it was just unexpected.  And for whatever reason, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be crazy great.  However, I was very wrong.  It was great! I really want to continue the series and see what happens.

The Night Circus by: Erin Morgenstern

I picked this book every time I went to the book store for a least two years and every time I would stick it back on the shelf.  The cover and title were captivating, but the summary just didn’t seem like the story was going to live up to the marketing.  Finally, a friend purchased it, so I borrowed it.  And wow! Was I ever wrong about this book. It would probably be one of the few out there I would happily read again.

Tale of Two Cities by: Charles Dickens

I’ve written about my drive into the classics and how many of them surprised me, but my first by Dickens still was the biggest shock. I loved it, and it sent me off reading several others of his. Just because it’s been around a few years certainly doesn’t mean that it loses it’s awesome-ness.

Any books that have risen far above your expectations?  Did any on my list surprise you (sans Harry Potter)?