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 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)?

Contemplation

Last Friday I finally finished The Brothers Karamazov.  (I know I’m still on about this.  I promise this is the last post.) Anyway, it was…dense…heavy…long.  It is not a book I would really recommend.  There are many other classics I would recommend instead.  But on Friday night when I was standing in my kitchen updating my Goodreads account, I realized with a thunder bolt like flash that I had to give this monstrous tome four stars.

How is it that you give a book four stars, but not recommend it?  And use less than flattering adjectives to describe it?

Well…

There are books.  And then there is literature.  This is literature.  And literature at probably its finest. It is extraordinarily well written. It has a remarkable number of moving pieces that come to relevance in the end.  It presents profound philosophical views of religion and morality.  It employs psychology and examines intent versus public lip service.

It is one of those strange reads that I won’t be re-visiting.  I can even quite decide if I liked it or not, but I understand the respect that it gets and deserves.  It is something that I’m glad I read, and yet I’m also very glad it’s done.

It is a bizarre quandary.  A book I didn’t exactly like, but I admire for what it is.  I guess it’s like the Mona Lisa.  I don’t particular care for the painting, but I admire and respect it for what it is and what is stands for in the artistic world.  Perhaps that’s the best description that I can give that others may understand. This truly is a masterpiece, but not necessarily one I would want to hang on my living room wall.

Does this make any sense?

Box o’ Books

The past few Christmases my parents have given me a box of books instead of just a Barnes and Nobles gift card. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with B&N gift cards, but there is something truly delightful about getting actual books for Christmas.  Maybe it’s because there is no delay in being able to thumb through them, smell their pages, and ogle their pretty covers.  Wow…that’s creepy.  But you get the idea.

Since this has become a tradition of sorts, and I’m just about to finish the last book from last years box.  Yes, I’m still reading  The Brothers Karamazov, but I’ve almost conquered the beast. Woof.  But that’s another blog post.  However, since the Christmas season seems to be upon us (even though it’s only November), I thought I should start making this years list.

Yes, every year I give my parents a list.  I read too many books for my mom to stab in the dark.  This year the process of making the list has been much harder.  There are just so many wonderful books out there, and I struggled with what I should ask for specifically. Nevertheless, after much contemplation I have the list.  Like any wish list I will not obtain the full list and my mom may throw in one or two she thinks that I might like, and naturally this makes it all the more fun!

Okay, I’ll shut up. Here’s the Box o’ Books  list of 2017:

Rebecca by: Daphne du Maurier- A former roommate mentioned that this was one of their favorite books and for whatever reason, it’s been stuck in my head ever since.

Brave New World by: Aldous Huxley- I’ve seen this book appear numerous times on lists of books everyone should read, so I thought perhaps I should see what everyone is on about.

Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us by: Sam Kean- Mr. Kean is my favorite non-fiction writer, so his latest book was an absolutely must on this years list.

The Rithmatist by: Brandon Sanderson- I’ve again see this book recommended quite often, and I’ve liked Sanderson’s other work.

Words of Radiance by: Brandon Sanderson- This is the second book in the Stormlight Archives series.  I really enjoyed the first one which I received in last year’s box.  Naturally, I want to find out what happens next.

The killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by: David Grann- This book was recommended to me by my aunt and uncle-in-law. They said it was a tremendous read and apparently many others agree.  This book was originally on my book date list, but it didn’t make it into my basket that day.

Sense and Sensibility by: Jane Austen- I’ve only read one other Austen novel: Pride and Prejudice while it wasn’t my favorite. I’ve decided I need to give Austen another go.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper  by: Phaedra Patrick.  This book also was on my book date list, but I could not find a copy in our search.  The title has me very intrigued.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by: Benjamin Alire Saenz- I know nothing about this book, but I thought the title and cover were amazing and thus on the list it went.

When the Moon was Ours  by: Anna-Marie McLemore- Yes, I also shamefully picked this book because of its cover.  It looks so magical.

Otherland by: Tad Williams- I have been meaning to read this book for years.  It was recommended by a few friends, and I thought maybe it was high time that I get around to reading it.

There it is folks! Thoughts?  Did I pick some doozies or duds?  Let me know your thoughts below!

Happy Friday!

The Beast

After reading a series of quick reads, I’ve decided it is time for me to take on the 702 page classic with breathtakingly small font: The Brothers Karamazov. This will be the last book that I have to read from my box of books I received from my parents last Christmas.  It will be the first book ever that I read that I’m not 100 percent sure how to pronounce the title.

I adored Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.  And thus, I have high hopes that after days and weeks of reading, which I’m sure will cause me to have to strengthen my contact prescription, that this verbose work will have been well worth the effort. I do understand that it may be another Anna Karenina which after a month of painstaking dedication I determined that time would have been better spent elsewhere.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to this endeavor because let’s face it 19th-Century Russian literature is always a challenge.  Progress will be slow, but I will keep you posted on my new adventure.  I hope to have about 300 pages read by the end of the week, but I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.

But until then…Happy Reading!!