Tag Archives: favorites

Can’t Wait Wednesday

Can’t-Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings to spotlight and discuss the books we’re excited about that we have yet to read. Generally they’re books that have yet to be released.

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TitleReturn of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Publishing Date: October 6th 2020 

Goodreads Synopsis: The thrilling, twenty-years-in-the-making, conclusion to the New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief series, by Megan Whalen Turner. This beloved and award-winning series began with the acclaimed novel The Thief. It and four more stand-alone volumes bring to life a world of epics, myths, and legends, and feature one of the most charismatic and incorrigible characters of fiction, Eugenides the thief. Now more powerful and cunning than ever before, Eugenides must navigate a perilous future in this sweeping conclusion. [And a bunch of other stuff that would totally spoil the plot of the other books]

Honesty, I don’t know whether I’m excited or terrified of this book’s publication. It will be amazing, obviously. But I read the synopsis and I am 100% certain I am going to bawl my eyes out when I finish this series. Heck, I’m tearing up just thinking about it. 

If you haven’t already read the Queen’s Thief series, I highly recommend checking it out. And yes, I know, the first one is boring but keep reading because I promise it gets so much better. Truly a one of a kind series fantasy series. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 7 (The Re-Reads)

François Mauriac apparently said, “If you would tell me the heart of a man, tell me not what he reads, but what he rereads.”

Well, I don’t know what the list says about me, but I re-read 58 books over the last year. 30 of them were 5-star reads. I’ve decided to provide a list of them. There are too many for a write-up but I recommend them for a good read!

Mr. Malcolm’s List by Suzanne Allain
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Persuasion by Jane Austen
In Another Girl’s Shoes by Berta Ruck
The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer
The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer
False Colours by Georgette Heyer
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Arabella by Georgette Heyer
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer
Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer
Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
Regency Buck by Georgette Heyer
The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffmann
The Iliad by Homer
The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye
Bargain Bride by Evelyn Sibley Lampman
The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker
Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diane Peterfruend
Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Dear Enemy by Jean Webster


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 6 (Mary Stewart!)

Some authors woo you slowly. Erudite and witty, you don’t fall at first glance, but you eventually come to love them. Other authors never quite win you. The spark should be there but no matter how many of their books you read, it never becomes more. More rarely, but infinitely precious for it, you fall for an author at first glance and, more marvelously still, stay in love with them past the cover or the opening line.

That would be me and Mary Stewart. It was love at first read and 9 books later, I am still obsessed. 7 of her books got 5-stars from me, the remaining 2 got 4-stars. I decided the five-stars deserved their own blog post. Two caveats: Mary Stewart is mostly known for her Arthurian fantasies. I have not read those yet. I have only read her romantic suspense novels. Second, she writes romantic suspense novels primarily aimed at women. They lack mystery, but they make up for it with awesome, Gothic atmosphere and kick-butt females. So, if you read her books, don’t go in expecting a whodunit. 

That said…I present my favorite books from my favorite ‘new’ author! (But also not so new as she wrote these mainly in the 1950s and ’60s.)

 Madam, Will You Talk? 

WW2 widow Charity Selborne decides to take a leisurely vacation in France to pull the pieces of her broken life back together. When she arrives at her hotel, she befriends a terrified boy on the run from his enigmatic, possibly murderous father. The book is full of eerie settings and long, descriptive passages. Character pause constantly to drink cognac or smoke cigarettes. Yet despite the slow, descriptive nature of the book, it is also an adventure novel and abounds with murderers, neo-Nazis, and exciting car chases. And best of all, you can listen to a brilliant audio version for free on YouTube.

This Rough Magic

When failed actress Lucy Waring agrees to join her sister for a vacation on Corfu, the last thing she expects is to get entangled with murder. Complete with communists, scenic beaches, and loads of Shakespeare quotes, this is probably my favorite Mary Stewart novel.

The Ivy Tree

While on vacation in England, Mary Gray gets accosted by a gentleman who says she looks just like his cousin, Annabel Winslow. Annabel disappeared years ago but her grandfather still refuses to leave his wealthy farm to anyone but her. He asks Mary to pretend to be Annabel and convince their grandfather to leave the farm to him instead. But mystery surrounds Annabel’s disappearance and Mary quickly realizes she might be in over her head.

Nine Coaches Waiting

When Linda Martin first accepts a position as an English-speaking governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, she assumes her ability to speak French won’t matter. But she quickly learns that the Count’s French guardians intentionally advertised for an English speaker and that more is going on than meets the eye. When her young charge nearly dies, she decides it is up to her to save the day.

Airs Above the Ground

Vanessa March quarreled with her husband and now feels dreadful about it. But he’s off on a business trip in Stockholm so there is no use fretting to death…until she sees him in the background of a newsreel at a fire in Austria clutching a very pretty girl. Then all bets are off. And if she happens to get embroiled in the mystery of who set the fire while tracking down her missing husband? Well, that’s just a bonus. 

The Moon-Spinners

Nicola Ferris, secretary at the British Embassy on Crete, decides to take a walking holiday and further explore the beautiful island. But things quickly go awry when she stumbles upon a severely injured man in an abandoned shepherd’s cottage and learns there may be more to the nearby village than meets the eye. 

Touch Not the Cat

Bryony Ashley of Ashley Court has a secret. For as long as she can remember, she has shared a psychic bond with one of her cousins. The problem is, she doesn’t know which one. When her Father dies and leaves her a cryptic warning, she hurries home to find out once and for all who her mysterious ‘lover’ is and what dark secret Ashley Court holds. I particularly enjoyed this one because the whole ‘psychic bond with a stranger’ plot reminded me of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan which was one of my favorite reads of 2016. 

 

 

(Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BETHANY!!!! ❤ )


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5 (Greeks and Romans)

Welcome to my favorite reads of 2019…Part 5! I TAed this past semester for a class on early Western political thought which means I finally knocked off a lot of Greek writers from my to-read list! However, I will be the first to say that I only understood most of these books because I was taking a class while I read them. Accordingly, while these hit five stars and were favorites of the year, I don’t necessarily recommend just picking them up for fun.

The Histories by Herodotus

Basically, the book where we get the story of 300. Full of facts and legends, it really was an interesting read and fascinating as the first “history book” as we know the term today. I found it surprisingly fun as well as historically significant. 

Clouds, Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth by Aristophanes 

Arisotphanes was an Athenian playwright who lampooned the Iliad-like honor culture of Greek society. I read 4 of his plays. They are extraordinarily vulgar, extremely astute, and quite funny. And considering 2,000 years have passed since he wrote this stuff, it is incredible that his poop jokes are still funny. I think Wealth was my favorite. 

Phaedo by Plato

 Plato’s account of Socrates last hours before his death. It is a final look at his philosophy towards life and the philosopher’s call. Brief but impactful. 

The Republic by Plato

An incredibly important book for Western thought and the more I study it, the more I realize how much it impacted the world we know today. I kept pausing to exclaim, “But that’s something C.S. Lewis says!” or “That’s straight out of Saul Alinsky!” or “This is foundational to a G.K. Chesterton arguments!” But of course, it isn’t a book a book that depends on Lewis or Alinsky or Chesterton, but rather the common background for all them. That said, definitely a philosopher’s book. It begs for debate, discussion, further analysis but it doesn’t entirely satisfy because it leaves much unanswered. 

Ethics by Aristotle

I actually read this one twice: first at the beginning of the year while in Thailand then for my class. It definitely made way more sense the second time through. Context does amazing things for your understanding. I particularly liked the section on Friendship. Quite thought provoking. 

The Aeneid by Virgil

I did not like The Aeneid as much as The Iliad, but it certainly deserves credit for historical significance. The Aeneid follows the fall of Troy through the founding of Rome. Tons of hilariously bad passages foreshadowing the glory of Rome and Caesar and whatnot. But also tons of familiar scenes that are part of our modern mythos. So, worth a read. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Be prepared to learn and laugh about all the intimate, awkward parts of being a mom that no one talks about. I am definitely not the intended audience for this book, not being a mom  and all. However, it still made me laugh really hard and gave me insights to relate better to my friends who are moms. I highly recommend this one as an irreverent and upbeat look at the challenge of motherhood and how to support the moms in your life. 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is that guy you know everything about but somehow haven’t met. You have all the same friends and maybe work in the same field but your paths never cross. And everyone says, “Oh my gosh, how do you not know Hamlet?” and all you can do is shrug and be like “IDK, dude. IDK.” Anyway, I’ve finally met Hamlet. And he’s awesome. Wonderfully ambiguous and funny. This is officially my favorite Shakespeare play.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies focuses on how people respond to expectations and how those expectation motivates them. Gretchen Rubin claims four types exist: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Upholders are motivated by internal and external expectations. Questioners only by internal expectation. Obligers only by external expectations. Rebels are motivated by neither. It sounds pretty simple and in a way it is.The book is not particularly mind blowing once you understand the initial framework. But I actually don’t think the author intends it to be. Perhaps it is just her legal style, but she cuts through a lot of the fluff one would typically expect. It made the whole thing a straightforward and fast read. Quite insightful and practical. 

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

A sporting story about cricket and the friendship of two, unlikely schoolboys at the turn of the century. Wodehouse’s distinctive comedic style mixes with the boarding school vibe to give a lovely, old fashioned flavor. Psmith is one of the most delightful characters I’ve met in a long time. You don’t even have to know anything about cricket to enjoy this story! 

The Enchiridion by St. Augustine

In The Enchiridion–Latin for “the handbook”–St. Augustine summarizes Christian doctrine in under 144 pages. It is brief, profound, and definitely worth chewing over. He expounds on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in a way that was new to me. If you are at all interested in reading more by the early church fathers generally or St. Augustine in particular, this is a good place to start. 

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

The only cozy mystery to make it on my 5-star list, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions is actually a German novel semi-recently translated into English and set in Sicily. The author does a great job conveying life in Sicily through quirky characters, beautiful descriptions, and odd jokes. For being a light-hearted murder mystery, it also tackles many heavy topics. The heroine of the piece, Auntie Poldi, is a depressed, alcoholic divorcee/widow who moves to Sicily with the intent of drinking herself to death. But her family won’t let her. Her sisters-in-law drop in regularly to make sure she is doing okay. Her nephew–the narrator of book–comes regularly to stay with her. The book has some genuinely brilliant quotes, funny scenes, and great characterizations. Oh, and murder. I cannot wait to read more in the series. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Before being killed by pirates, Bronte Mettlestone’s parents leave a will requiring their daughter to deliver a series of gifts to her many aunts. If she fails, the world ends. NBD. Precocious heroine, odd adventure, cast of caricature characters…you know the type. At the end of the day, a wonderful story that tugged on my heartstrings. It deals with grief, laughter, extended family, and the memories that bring us together. It was very sweet, very heart-aching, and satisfying. Generally aimed at middle school readers but good for all ages. 

Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince by Megan Morrison

Megan Morrison is one of my favorite authors and her fairy-tale retellings are creative and wonderful.  Transformed–book 3 in the Tyme series–did not disappoint. The series provides a wonderfully developed world with great, memorable characters, solid, believable character change, and unexpected endings. I do recommend reading the first one, Grounded, and the second, Disenchanted, before tackling this one. That is why I am keeping my description vague. But let me tell you, it is worth it. Highly recommend for all adults, but series aimed at high grade school/middle school readers. 

When You Read This by Mary Adkins

This is the story of a woman given six months to live. Of a blog where she processes chemo and dreams and memories. A boss left grieving. A sister unable to move on. Like Where’d You Go, Bernadette or a book by Jaclyn Moriarty, it tells a story through texts, e-mails, and blog posts. It shows and it tells. Most of the action happens off-screen but it works because the real power of the story comes from the grief of the characters and the way they process it. And that’s not something you see up close. It is something that happens slowly and over time. I loved this book from the first chapter. Almost made me cry.

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants: A Foundation CEO Reveals the Secrets You Need to Know by Martin Teitel

An odd book for this list of favorites but I found it an interesting and informative read. It reached 5 stars because of the writing. I really liked the engaging tone. This isn’t where you go to find something mind-boggling, or even specific advice. You go because it feels like grabbing coffee with someone who knows more than you and sometimes that’s just the encouragement you need.

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work by Ilona Bray

Where The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants gives general advice, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits provides strategy.  The book covers a very wide range of topics, is chalk full of relevant information, and left me with several new ideas. (I particularly appreciated the chapter about non-profit websites.) The writing is easy and enthusiastic, yet also structured enough that you can pick it up and jump around as needed. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for more from Nolo generally and Ilona Bray specifically. (And if that is not high, albeit odd, commendation for a reference guide, I don’t know what is.)

The Tyranny of Clichés by Jonah Goldberg

Some political books do not age well. They feed off the outrage of the moment and rely heavily on names and places. So despite its 2012 publishing date, The Tyranny of Clichés reached five stars because it did not fall into this trap. The book (at its heart) deals with ideas and languages. No references to popular politicians date it because any reference circles back to the idea being discussed. It was a very thoughtful discussion packaged more controversially than it actually is. 


2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Best reads of 2019…continued. 

Since You Asked… & Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Since You Asked… was Maurene Goo’s first novel and Somewhere Only We Know her most recent. I loved them both. But honestly, I have yet to meet a Maurene Goo novel I did not love. She writes about Korean-Americans and usually references Korean dramas which is the way to my heart. Since You Asked… feels very “first novel” but the snarky heroine, tight friend group, and lack of any overarching plot make up for it. It balances angst with character growth and I found it super heartwarming. Meanwhile, Somewhere Only We Know is the story of a K-pop starlet trying to take a day off and a paparazzi who tricks her into hanging out with him. The K-pop starlet carries the plot with a quirky, driven character and it made for some fun, fluffy reading while still maintaining an undercurrent of emotional punch. If looking for some good YA, I will always recommend Maurene Goo. 

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism and Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti

I recommend this book with a caveat: a formally Buddhist (now Christian) friend recommended it to me while I was studying in Thailand because I was struggling to understand Eastern Buddhism. (It is quite different from Western Buddhism.) The book does a great job differentiating the two. It perfectly fit what I needed at the time. But I would not recommend this to the casual reader hoping to compare the two religions. The main purpose of this book is to be a very short and to the point primer for Christians going on short term missions with the intention of witnessing to Buddhists in Asia. It might be an “insider’s view,” but it is a very select view with a very specific mission. 

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (audio book version

This was an absolutely delicious audio book and if you decide to read The Knockoff, I recommend checking it out in the audio format. Katherine Kellgren somehow manages British posh, valley-girl, and start-up tech nerd without once making it feel forced or awkward. Delightful. The story itself is a novel about a middle aged woman who returns to her position as editor of a fashion magazine after a long leave only to find her boss turned it into an app. Now, surrounded by Millennials and baffled by e-mail, this Gen Xer must learn to find commonality with her co-workers and save her magazine. Despite a rather over-the-top villain, I found the story surprisingly thought-provoking and sweet. I really liked it. Very memorable. 

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

This memoir tells the story of an American missionary who was held in a Japanese POW camp for four years during WW2. While it certainly recounts God’s grace to the prisoners during a very harrowing time, my favorite parts were when Darlene Deibler Rose lets down her hair a little and lets you know what she really thinks. For as much grace as she shows to her Japanese captors, she might suddenly name drop someone and be like “Yeah, that woman was a skank who had 3 amazing kids and I have no idea how they turned out amazing with a Mom like her.” And you would think it would come across as offensive and maybe it does to some. But to me it felt genuine. The personality of the storyteller really shines through. This is an imperfect memoir that feels super genuine and honest because of its imperfections.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

So, Crazy Rich Asians made 5 stars. China Rich Girlfriend did not. Jury is still out on Rich People Problems. We shall see. But I sure loved this one. It is a not-so-subtle mockery of the glitzy, rich life of an elite few and I ate up every word. Like the movie, my favorite part is how the intertwining stories balance the soap opera of Nick and Rachel’s life with the [still soap-opera-y] but more hard hitting drama of Astrid’s crumbling marriage. Of course, it is not perfect. Definitely vulgar at times and more language than I like. But so fluffy and ridiculously over the top I could not help loving it.