Whimsical Reading – Family Relationships

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As I mentioned when I was talking about my aims and intentions for 2014, this year I’ll be continuing with my whimsical reading challenge, if you need a refresher of the rules, check out this page.  Today I thought I’d share some suggestions for the ‘Family Relationship’ category; there are tons you could pick, but here are a few I would recommend:

Mama Rose’s Turn by Carolyn Quinn

This fabulously written biography tells the story of Rose Thompson, the infamous stage mother of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc. Rather than mulling over the already well publicized lives of her daughters, Quinn looks into the wild and controversial life of the woman who shaped their destiny.

Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

Most people say their favourite Dickens novel is Great Expectations, but this is mine. I’d never been that interested in reading his work before I was given this as a set text, but I have definitely been converted! Check out my review (link above) for more ramblings.

Council of Dads by Bruce Feiler

Feiler’s memoir documents his battle with an aggressive form of cancer, and the way he chooses to deal with it – by putting together a group of men to help raise his twin daughters after his death. I know I’m making it sound quite morbid, but it’s more of a celebration of all the men that have influenced his life.

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

This was one of my favourite books read in 2013. I first decided to read it when I start the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club challenge, and I’m so glad I did – I absolutely loved it. The story starts as Katie finds out that her sister has died while travelling of what appears to be a suicide. Overtaken by grief, she uproots her life and follows in Mia’s footsteps, with only her journal as a companion. It’s indescribably well written, hugely emotive so unbelievably worth reading.

Granny is my Wingman by Kayli Stollak

Granny is my Wingman is based on the blog of the same name, and tells the story of Kayli and her Grandmother’s experimentations with online dating. It’s a fun light-hearted read.

Mother’s Curse by Thaddeus Nowak

This is the first instalment in a fantasy series by Thaddeus Nowak, which follows the quest of Stephenie, a princess with a curse, attempting to flee her evil mother and find her brother. Throw in a lost city, a ghostly love story and a few big betrayals and you have a recipe for fantastical excellence. Enjoy!

There really are soo many you could pick for this category… what would you go for?

D x

 

Best in Books 2013

2013 - A Year in Books

The other day I came across this survey from the Perpetual Page Turner, and I thought it sounded like a great way to sum up my reading achievements for the year. There’s a second part heading your way next week, so stay tuned!

Best Book You Read in 2013. If you need to cheat you can break this down by genre.

There are many, but all are mentioned at some point in this post so for now I’ll just talk about:

Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

After twenty years of marriage Chloe comes home to find that her husband Nate has left her with nothing but a cryptic note, telling her he’s returned to their home town, the place they’ve been avoiding for the past two decades. While waiting for him to get in contact, she comes across a notebook of his, written in a code they made up when they were children. From this point, we’re told their story from two perspectives – through Chloe’s recollections as an adult, and Nate’s diary entries. Each memory is triggered by the mention of a book they’d read together at a significant point in their relationship… it’s hard to tell which they loved more, books or each other! The fact that Nate’s diary is written in code foreshadows the suspense that is built later. Arnold increases the sense of mystery consistently throughout while dealing with a boat load of ‘issues’ – from teen pregnancy, to abortion, to abortion, religious fervour, murder, adultery, terminal illness… All surrounded by the air of an unnamed evil getting closer and closer. Book of Secrets was a subtly crafted, heart wrenching pleasure to read, and I would definitely recommend that you give it a try.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t.

Little Beauty by Alison Jameson

From the blurb of this book I was expecting a light-hearted Maeve Binchy-esque treat, and that’s very much the way it started… but before long I was faced with frustrating characters, unappealing plot twists, pointless sadness and a general air of disbelief. The writing itself is great, but I just didn’t like the story.

Most Surprising (In A Good Way) Book of 2013.

Escape by Carolyn Jessop

I used to avoid non-fiction (specifically memoirs), but reading Escape was like a turning point… since then I’ve been much more open to reading memoirs. Some (like What Falls Away) have been amazing, others (Teaching the Pig to Dance) not so much, either way, I’m glad I’ve given a different genre a chance!

Book You Read in 2013 That You Recommended to People Most.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

This book kicked ass. I don’t remember a time when I’ve been faced with a collection of character so real, so vivid and so flawed. The story was gripping, and surprising, and emotional… I’ve recommended it to everyone who’ll listen to me on Twitter, to anyone who dares talk to me at the pub, and I’ve even bought a couple of copies for friends. I think really I just wanted someone to talk about it with me!

Best Series You Discovered in 2013.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I hate that everyone was so right about The Hunger Games – I usually like to avoid the books that everyone raves about… but these were fantastic. I read the lot over the course of three days (and then got upset that I’d finished them so quickly) I can’t wait to go see Catching Fire at the cinema!

Favourite New Author You Discovered in 2013.

Isabel Allende – she wrote two of the books I’ve loved this year, Island Beneath the Sea and Zorro. To be honest, I’m not sure if I first picked up Zorro because I saw that she’d written it or because I adored the film… and I’m really, really glad the book didn’t try to deal with the same areas of the plot that the movie did. It took me quite a while to read, but it was so much fun… I’m a sucker for the swashbuckling adventure!

Best Book That Was Out of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre For You.

Mother’s Curse and Daughter’s Justice by Thaddeus Nowak

When I was little I used to love fantasy, but I’ve definitely stepped away from it recently. I really enjoyed getting back into the genre (and I can’t wait for the third installment of the series!)

Most Thrilling, Unputdownable Book in 2013.

The Sculptor by Gregory Funaro

I think we all know that I’m a big fan of crime novels, and this one was FAB. It’s been a while since I discovered a new mystery writer that I loved, but this one was electric. Disturbing at times, but electric.

Book You Read in 2013 That You’re Most Likely to Reread Again Next Year.

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

Written by my favourite Gilmore Girl, I knew I was going to love it. It was just the kind of book that I could read over and over – check out my review for more information.

Favourite Cover of A Book You Read in 2013.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

I have a bit of a thing for the colour grey, and I just live the quirky, doodled effect. It was a hard choice though (because I judge most books by their covers!)

This is actually the book I’m in the middle of reading at the moment (does it still count?) I’m really enjoying it so far… I’m a big fan of retellings, and this one is a reinterpretation of the legend of Odysseus, told from the perspective of his faithful wife Penelope and her twelve hanged maids.

Most Memorable Character in 2013.

Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore

You can just tell from the title that this has to be amazing… and the characters in it were just… indescribable. It took some thinking to pick a favourite, Tuck the playboy pilot came close, as did the cross-dressing navigator with a talking bat… but nobody could surpass Beth Curtis, the ex-stripper, current Stepford wife and part-time Goddess. Pure genius.

Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2013.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This magical realist novel has to be one of the most breathtaking books I’ve ever read. Everything is described so spectacularly that it seems to appear before your eyes. It is not merely a beautifully written story, with beautifully vivid characters, but it showcases a beautiful (if dangerous) world. We get to be part of the most beautifully tragic love story, while being let into the truly beautiful Circus of Dreams…. the whole book is just a big load of beautiful!

Book That Had the Greatest Impact On You in 2013.

Germinal by Emile Zola

It seems like such a long time since I read this, but it wasn’t even a year ago… It was one of my set books for AA316, and it’s quite hard to explain why it had such an impact… A lot of the ‘classics’ I’ve read have been good, but didn’t incite any particularly strong emotional responses… Germinal, on the other hand, was so deliciously dark, and grim, and tragic that it sparked a whole new appreciation for those dusty volumes stacked at the back of my bookcase. the best part? It’s part of a twenty volume series!

Book You Can’t Believe You Waited UNTIL 2013 To Finally Read.

Hmmm… probably The Hunger Games trilogy again… they really were so good! Although, having said that, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it at the same time as the rest of the world. The endless gushing I hear from everyone reduces the pleasure I get from reading.

Favourite Passage or Quote From a Book You Read in 2013.

I don’t really have one… I’m not really one for picking out quotes from the books I read (unless they’re set books of course). However, I did really enjoy a lot of the very poetic passages from The Awakening, for example :

“The voice of the sea is seductive; never-ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.” 

Shortest & Longest Book You Read in 2013.

Robber Bride (528 pages) by Margaret Atwood

This book took me forever to read… partially because of the length, but also because it wasn’t particularly fast paced or compelling. The characters were very well designed, and three-dimensional, but they were all pretty hard to like. The narrative is peppered with beautiful, well-crafted phrases, but the story was just illogical; I couldn’t understand any of the characters’ motivations at all. I really, really, really wanted to love it, but I just felt there was something missing…

Bones in Her Pocket (64 pages) by Kathy Reichs

This was a teeny, tiny, straight to e-book short story from the Tempe Brennan series (which I love).

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The Hunger Games was absolutely full of these moments, and What Falls Away had me ranting about the evils of men, but I think the book with the single most OH MY GAAAD moment had to be Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie. Read it then we’ll talk.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc). 

The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke

This was a book filled with great relationships – some inspiring, some maddening… but I have no idea which was my favourite, Mia and Katie? Katie and Finn? Finn and Mia? They were all pretty kick-ass!

Favourite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

I’ve loved every Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, they’re so easy to immerse yourself in… and it rarely takes more than a day to get through one. Safe Haven is probably my favourite one so far, it was touching and surprising, and the movie is on my Christmas list!

Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The quintessential romance from the Regency period infused with gossip, gowns and gentlefolk… To be honest, I only read this book because everyone kept pestering me to – if I had 5p for every person who describes it as the best book ever written I could probably buy another house. I liked the plot of the actual story, but then my love of Bride and Prejudice (the Bollywood adaptation) could probably have told you that! I also really enjoyed the character of Mr Bennett, he was so wry… he just reminds me of my Grandad! However, I thought the style of writing was quite convoluted (and not just in a ‘it was written hundreds of years ago’ kind of way). I didn’t think it was a particularly compelling story, certainly not compelling enough to be described as the best ever! I also thought most of the characters were quite superficial, I don’t mean frivolous (although they were); I just thought they could have been developed a lot more.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

That would have to be non-fiction! Non Fic November is definitely partly to blame, but I also read quite a few memoirs earlier in the year…

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Well Diego de la Vega (from Zorro) is my favourite rebel-hero EVER, but I’ve loved him ever since he was Anthony Hopkins, so technically he’s not a new fictional crush… A very close second would be Charlie from The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud (because who doesn’t love a tortured loner), with Finn from The Sea Sisters as an even closer third (because he’s just lovely. And tall.)

Best 2013 debut you read?

The Biscuit Witch by Deborah Smith

Despite my preference for longer books, I really enjoyed this novella, and as the first of three installments there’s plenty more good stuff to come!

Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013? 

Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing

After reading it, I found out that Circus of Ghosts is actually sequel of The Mesmerist (which I have since added to my collection). Ewing creates a vivid, magical snapshot of turn of the century New York (with a sprinkling of decadence from Silas P. Swift’s extraordinary circus)… the characters are totally eccentric, and totally loveable (apart from those dastardly baddies of course!). The balance of humour, mystery and heartache is just perfect… you really can’t help but get invested!

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Bossypants by Tina Fey. Enough said.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

I’m not really a big crier, but there are quite a few that may have provoked a tear or two this year… The Sea Sisters, Becoming Indigo, The Hunger Games, The Sweetest Hallelujah and Charlie St Cloud were probably the main ones. Don’t tell anyone.

Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Natural Causes by James Oswald

This book was part of the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club List, and in my opinion it was one of the best. However, it seemed to be missing from any ads that were around at the time, and I couldn’t even find a copy at WHSmiths or my local library!

If you fancy playing along I’d love to hear your responses to these questions!

D x

P.S. Will be link up to this week’s Book Chat, don’t forget to come check out the other entries!

{Non Fic November} Book Chat

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Hey Guys! Today I’m co-hosting Book Chat with Jessica over at the Tangerine, and this week the topic is (you’ve guessed it…) non-fiction!

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One of the reasons I decided to embark on this Non Fic November journey was to make my way through some of those pesky ‘to be read’ piles. The other day I posted about all the things I’m planning to read over the month, and so far I’ve managed to stick to it (yay!). However, I appear to have added a few more to my wish-list… I’m not even going to try to justify this (I actually, that’s a lie, I keep telling myself that this is allowed because Christmas is coming and people need present ideas). One of these days I’m going to have to embrace the fact that I’m just destined to be a spinster with a cat collection, and towers of books to reinforce my damp walls.

If you’ve read any of these, let me know your thoughts!

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

I have wanted to read this book ever since I studied the World Wars for my A-Levels. It tells Vera’s story after dropping out of Oxford in 1915, and enlisting as a nurse with the armed forces. After losing practically everyone she loved by 1918 you can expert tears, lots of tears. And I have a sick kind of love for books that can make me cry.

Necropolis: London and its Dead / Bedlam: London and its Mad by Catharine Arnold

Cat Arnold was my creative writing tutor last year, and ever since meeting her I’ve been intending to add these to my collection. She’s also written a few more in this series, all chronicling the seedy underbelly of London’s history.

Stranger the Books by Chuck Palahniuk

Despite being completely scarred by the first and only Palahniuk novel I’ve read, I really like the idea of this one. Essentially it is a series of non-fictional anecdotes that have inspired his works of fiction. I may not be ready for the end result, but I think I can deal with the inspiration… no matter how strange!

Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History Without the Fairy Tale Endings by Linda Rodriguez

This one only crept onto my list this morning after reading Megan’s Non Fic November post, but I NEEEEED this book. Described on GoodReads as being for ‘history buffs, feminists, and anyone seeking a different kind of bedtime story’, this one is so up my street it’s sat on the doorstep.

Printmaking Unleashed by Traci Bautista

Ok, so technically this book has not hit the shelves yet, but it can be pre-ordered. I adore Traci Bautista – she is one of my favourite artists; I’ve taken tons of her workshops, and have copies of both of her other books, so this one is an absolute no-brainer for me!

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran is funny. That’s about the gist of it. Nobody has better Twitter rants/vicarious romances with Indiana Jones and because of this I’m expecting marvellous things from her book PLUS how cool is that font?

So tell me, are you reading (or planning on reading) any non-fiction this month? If you are, I’m always willing to accept recommendations!

To join in with the Book Chat…
1. Please follow the host and co-host
2. Visit a few other book chat links and show some support.
3. Link back here in your post. Or use the button provided.
4. Old posts are always welcome if you have blogged on the topic before.

Unfortunately due to WordPress incompatibilities I am unable to paste the linky widget here, but please feel free to link your posts up on Jessica’s blog – I’ll come and check them all out!

D x

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GUEST POST – When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

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Hi everyone! I’m Megan from Semi-Charmed Kind of Life, and I’m excited to be posting on Doing it the Open Way as part of Daire’s Non Fic November. (Great idea, lady!) Books and reading are a huge part of my blog, but I also try to find time to post about travel and other personal interests like pretty stationery. Please feel free to stop by after you read this post! 🙂 And now—for what you really came to read—the nonfiction stuff:

They say “truth is stranger than fiction.” Do you agree? I’ve compiled a list of fiction/nonfiction pairs based around certain topics. I initially wanted to do this because I’m hosting a seasonal reading challenge over at my blog, and one of the categories is to read a pair of such books. The example I used in my challenge post was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and The Woman Who Wasn’t There, which are both about 9/11. After soliciting ideas from my readers and perusing my local library, here are some other pairs: 

History: I’ll admit it: I love historical fiction. Once I had a few of my favorite historical fiction novels in mind, it was so easy to walk through the history section of the library and find nonfiction books to pair with them. You can also look in the back of almost any historical fiction novel and look at what sources the author used to research his or her book. Here’s just a short list of the many possibilities:

Health: I don’t know if “health” is the best word for this category, but this is for book pairings that address medical or other conditions.

Just for fun: Personally, I think this is the most fun-sounding pairing of the whole list. 🙂

Other ideas for topics include sports (e.g. a fictional book about a high school football team and Friday Night Lights), religion (e.g. Angels and Demons and a nonfiction book about the history of the Illuminati) or basically anything that interests you!

What good pairs can you think of? Thanks for letting me post today, Daire! I’m looking forward to the rest of the month’s nonfiction-based posts. 🙂

Whimsical Reading – Birds

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We haven’t talked about it in a while, but I’m still plodding away at the whimsical reading challenge (for more info, click on the tab above)… and today I thought I’d share a few more reading suggestions with you, this time on the theme of ‘birds’.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is one of those ‘must reads’ I’ve had on my shelf for a good long while… and my bestest friend in the whole wide world is always raving about it, so it’s inevitable I’ll get there one day!

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Number#5 in the Harry Potter series seems to get a bit of a slating… but I love it! It’s not my favourite (that honour goes to the Prisoner of Azkaban) but it is far, far superior to the last two… call me crazy but they were just disappointing!

The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

I’ve wanted to read this for years, ever since I saw the film adaptation starring Helena Bonham Carter (who I’ve always adored), I don’t really know why I haven’t got to it yet… especially considering I have a copy on my shelf and on my Kindle. I read another James novel this year, and I found it equally fabulous and frustrating, for my review of Portrait of a Lady click here.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

This is the final installment of the Hunger Games trilogy. I rarely fall in love with book that gets loads of hype, but I just had to make an exception here!

Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang

Every single charity shop I’ve walked into seems to have a copy on the shelves… and every single time I see it I think ‘hmm, I’d like to read that…’ – I love history, and Chinese history is something I really haven’t read a lot about… I just haven’t got to this one yet. Sometimes I think there aren’t enough years ahead of me to fit in all the books I’d like to read.

So have you picked your ‘bird’ book yet? Any recommendations?

D x

Words of Advice

Today is day 22 of Rosalilium’s Blog Every Day in May challenge. Yes, that’s right, I’ve blogged for 22 days in a row! The prompt for today’s post is: If you could talk to your thirteen year-old self, what would you say?

If I were to meet up with my thirteen year-old self, I’d give her a list of books to read. These books may never become her absolute favourites, but they’ll teach her some important life lessons, that will definitely come in handy during the tumultuous teenage years to come.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen: Some people are just plain crazy. And yes, I’m talking about your mother. Just grin and bear it for a couple more years, then you’ll be able to flee the country. Literally.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell: Life can be really, really hard and there are times when you’ll have to do the unappealing just to survive. People aren’t always going to like you and you just have to be ok with that. Appreciate your loved ones while they’re around, because they won’t be forever, and NEVER steal your sister’s man.

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy: Don’t be afraid to do something completely impulsive every now and again. Sometimes you just have to go for it!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Never play around with other people’s feelings. Love triangles belong in soaps and they will NEVER END WELL.

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume: Real friendships are always complicated. Sometimes they’ll take over your life in a good way, but sometimes you just need to walk away from the drama.

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott:  Families are MESSY, especially yours. You might not find ‘home’ in the place you expect to, but you’ll end up exactly where you’re meant to be!

Pirates by Celia Rees:  Girls kick arse, but you already know this. Just remember it’s always safer to stick together.

As an unapologetic bookworm, I’ve probably learnt everything I need to know from the pages of books and I can’t see that ever-changing. If you had to recommend a book to a younger you, which would you pick?

D x

On Relaxation

The theme for today’s ‘Blog Every Day in May‘ post is Pampering. What is your ideal way to pamper yourself and relax? I don’t really do the whole ‘pamper’ thing. I don’t own a bath. All my candles belong on a cake. Most of my cosmetics have sealed themselves shut. But that’s not to say I don’t indulge myself, because I do. In just under four weeks (following my final exam), my season of self-indulgence will commence.

My self-indulgence takes a number of forms:

TV – I like to spend the summer catching up on entire seasons of the TV shows I love. I tend to avoid watching things on a week-by-week basis, I’m not patient enough for cliffhangers. This summer I have the latest seasons of Revenge, Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries and Bones  to entertain me.

Arty Stuff – See this post for more information on the classes I’m taking this year.

Leisurely Reading – As an English student, a lot of my term-time reading can be pretty heavy. It’s not that I don’t love Classic literature, because I do, but you can’t really kick back and relax to Les Mis can you? I came across a ‘reading for fun’ challenge yesterday on Books, Biscuits and Tea that I’m going to have to take part in…. the idea is to work your way through all of the books on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list:

Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

This is How It Ends – Kathleen MacMahon

Natural Causes – James Oswald

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

The Sea Change – Joanna Rossiter

The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Simon Mawer

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

[Click on the links to read the Amazon blurb/reviews]

The good thing about this challenge is that I would never have picked any of these books myself, so hopefully I should be introduced to something new that I’ll really love (as they all sound pretty good). To sign up for the challenge, visit this page.

So tell me some of the ways you like to relax.

D x