6 beautiful book covers (with equally incredible stories inside)


The beauty of this cover is a little non-traditional, but I love it. You’ll learn it tells a bit about the story inside and it’s just so eye-catching.  Books with male main characters sometimes get the shaft when it comes to beautiful covers but this one did a great job. And then there are the words – it’s a page turning, heart-thumping historical fiction that highlights a time I wasn’t familiar with.  It’s worthy of its reputation.


This is a historical fiction that will make you wonder if it actually happened. It was so expertly woven, the truth and tales of the times intermingled with the fiction so beautifully, I thought it had to be true. I adored this (audio) book. It’s a historical fiction that reads like a mystery. I knew the instant I picked this up it would be a winner of my heart: Spain, flamenco, and ballet? It’s like Alexandra knew what draws me to a story and decide to put it all into one place – beautifully at that. If you don’t already have a soft spot for any of those items, you’ll be hard pressed to walk away from this tale without one.


The story behind this beautiful cover will surprise you. As flowery at this story appears, the book is definitely not for the weak of heart, which is part of the reason I like it so much. Furnivall took me by surprise nearly around every corner – no one quite reacted the way I thought they were and the plot twists themselves were numerous but elegant.


I’m a sucker for colorful towns on the water, so maybe this cover doesn’t appeal to everyone. I also love the font.  Did I mention I love the story too? This book is amazing. The characters are beautiful. The story line unfolds in front of you perfectly and seamlessly and yet with a new surprise around every corner. You truly feel like you are reading about lives, not just characters in a book. It’s undeniably poetic and equally real.


Probably one of my favorite things about YA books is that they always have incredible covers.  I was then so pleasantly surprised to find the inside was wonderful, too. I love this book’s imagination, the colors, the scenes. It’s all so beautiful. The setting is incredible – Prague, the art studio, Poison. Even better are the people! Humans, angels, and creatures – they are all fascinating. Taylor does such a great job of showing me everything without overloading me with exposition. I can see so much, and I don’t even think that’s because I’ve traveled to many of the places (Prague and Marrakesh being two main settings – gorgeous on paper and in real life!).


Here’s another YA fantasy series that is worth it’s weight to the eyes and the imagination. This series is unique and beautiful. I like the flavor of the setting. I love the back and forth between suspense and life. I like our main character and how we get deep but not too deep. I like the conflicting romance and, even more, I like what took me by surprise. Characters evolved in great ways. Bardugo had my hand quivering at a page turn because I didn’t want to see what would happen next and that’s what I want out of a really good YA book.

What did I miss?  What’s your favorite beautiful book?

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2014 End Of Year Book Survey


Each year, Jamie from the Perpetual Page Turner does a Year-End Book Survey. I’m a total sucker for surveys – so here is my own take from this year! (P.S. – if you don’t know about Jamie’s blog yet – GO there! It’s amazing!)


Number Of Books You Read: 58
Number of Re-Reads: 1
Genre You Read The Most From: Hard to tell – probably a tie between YA and women’s fiction


Best Book You Read In 2014?


In my opinion, Sue Monk Kidd blew this away.  This book is just perfect in so many ways – fascinating historical fiction, great characterization, excellent writing, good pacing. It’s perfection and she deserves all the praise!

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


As a lover of women travel memoirs, I thought this was going to be a great read.  I really didn’t like it though – it just fell flat.

Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014?


This book was surprising in a number of ways – one because Atwood is one of my favorite authors but I wasn’t 100% in love with the book (it took me FOREVER to get through) and two because of it’s shocking ending!

Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?


I didn’t have to push too hard – this book is well-known for being excellent (and it is!)

Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014?


Outlander is still so incredibly fantastic.  This isn’t the season ender (thank goodness!) but it’s going to be AGES before the next one comes out!

Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?


It’s a little hard to say that Alexandra is a favorite author since I’ve only read one book,but this one was incredible and I am absolutely going to try another one from her ASAP.

Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?


This is definitely a newer genre for me – in truth I don’t know if I’ve ever read a crime thriller.  I had some issues with this first book in the series but I liked the second one much better.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?


Definitely “unputdownable” – I read this all in one sitting and was completely taken with it. Highly recommend.

Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?


I love to re-read parts of series in preparation for the next one!

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?


Women in pretty dresses on the front of romance novels are always wonderful, but I find this one particularly gorgeous.  Look at that color!

Most memorable character of 2014?


It’s not really fair to say just “character” – I think all the characters in this series are totally memorable. Very unique (as is the whole story) and it all works so well together. Karou is fantastic.

Most beautifully written book read in 2014?


I adore the way this story unfolds. I’m a sucker for any kind of novel that includes letters but I really enjoyed how this one left mystery throughout.  The life was an unveiling – very well done!

Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?


Okay, so I think “life-changing” is a bit heavy-handed but thought-provoking, certainly.  There’s a lot to ponder about who are and aren’t the bad guys – and the ending through a wrench into everything. I found it fascinating (and really readable!)

Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?


This book has seriously been on the list forever.  I am sad I waited so long, too, it’s an incredible story and I’d like to try more of Kingsolver’s books.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?


“I love you,” he whispered. “I hope you don’t mind.”

Okay, so I technically finished re-reading this in 2015 but I read 80% of it in 2014.  I love how simple this line is and it totally works for the story.  Ahhh, Touchstone!

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?

fierycross hishaven

I was really surprised to see that Fiery Cross was longer than the latest George R.R. Martin.  It did not feel like it at all – I plowed through this installment so fast!

Book That Shocked You The Most


With any biography like this, there are things that will shock me, but maybe I was most shocked by how tame this one ended up being.  I really felt like a lot of it was sugar-coated or glossed over.

Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year


Cinder and the Captain ❤

Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously


This was just a wonderful second installment – and it almost made the list for the book that shocked me the most!

Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:


I read this book only because it was for my sci-fi book club and absolutely LOATHED it.  Ugh!

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?


Graham was frickin’ adorable, even if the book overall was not. I wish we could have seen MORE of him. (If you know what I mean!)

Best 2014 debut you read?


I actually didn’t really read many/any debuts this year. It’s kind of a cop-out to call this a “debut” but it is, technically, her only publication.

Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?


As many things as I don’t like about Martin’s writing, you certainly have to give him credit for world building.

Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?


Oh my goodness, this book is the definition of a fun read.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?


Oh yes, this book has ALL the feels.  Add in the fact that it’s based on fact and it’s impossible not to get misty-eyed.

Hidden Gem Of The Year?


Per what I said before, this is a book that can easily sweep you away if you let it.

Book That Crushed Your Soul?


Okay, so “crushing my soul” is a little dramatic, but I was really disappointed by this book. It had so much potential and it all just fell so flat.

Most Unique Book You Read In 2014?


It wasn’t so much the story that was unique, but the way in which it was written.  Definitely a nice change of pace.

Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?


It made me mad just because I really want to like Hemingway and I can’t do it.  This book was a beast to get through and I definitely consider it a waste of my life to have trudged through it. That direct Spanish to English translation of dialogue is just horrible.


One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?


I don’t buy a lot of YA books because I read them so quickly and this was always checked out at the library.  I hope some of the popularity will go down and I can get my hands on it this year!

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?


Oh man, I loved the first installment of this series and I can’t wait to listen to the next!

2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?


I actually don’t keep up much on debuts, but I saw Jamie’s review for this one and my interest is definitely piqued!

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?


Seriously. So excited.

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

Successfully have my baby in March!  That’s pretty much the one life goal. It would be great to keep reading some books, too, but let’s be honest, I’ll have some other priorities. 🙂

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Put Downs | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ashley’s Top 5 Favorite Travel Memoirs (So Far)

Work has been SO busy lately. Whenever that happens I just want to get away and enjoy something new and wonderful.  Unfortunately, what with buying a house and all, money is a little tight so gallivanting off to a foreign country just isn’t in the cards.  At least not without some serious deal hunting.

Instead, I’ve decided to live vicariously and seek out a memoir or two.  For those of you who might be in the same boat at me, let me draw you attention to my five all-time favorite travel memoirs (so far).  In case you’re wondering, Eat, Pray, Love is not on the list.

1) In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah


If you’ve read a few other posts of my blog, you’ll probably have already heard me gush about Tahir Shah and Arabian Nights. I can’t help it, this man just speaks to me.  Shah is such an incredible writer and when you add that in with his reflection on his move to Morocco… well, it’s magic to me.  This book might not quite fit the category of “travel memoir” like some of the others, but the core is the same.  It’s a book about discovering a new land – and therefore discovering yourself.  Everybody and their brother needs to read this book (IMHO)!

2) Wall to Wall: From Beijing to Berlin by Rail by Mary Morris


For me this book is the definition of the perfect woman travel memoir. This book was phenomenal – not only is Mary Morris probably the most self-honest person on the planet (I don’t think I could write my actions with truth like she, does even if I wanted to) but she’s a fantastic writer. Her personal struggles combined with the fascinating travel events make this a truly enthralling read. It’s set in such a dramatic time in history – Morris was in China, Russia, and Germany in 1986. Seeing some of those historic events happening through her eyes is unbelievably interesting. Great read!

3) Somebody’s Heart is Burning: A Woman Wanderer In Africa by Tanya Shaffer


Shaffer’s memoir seemed very familiar. Woman travel memoirs tend to have a similar theme – the driving force in these stories is often a man back home. Why does she travel – is it because she’s running away or does she just love and enjoy what she’s doing? It’s hard, of course, to know. Part of a person, as a traveler, loves it. But the other part is exhausted. When you’re away from the place you grew up, even if you’ve been there for quite some time, you never can quite let down all of your guard.

There are two things very unique and refreshing about this book – the pictures and people. Shaffer had snapshots scattered throughout and it was fascinating for me to go back and forth between her descriptions and compare them to the face in the photograph. And she described people a lot. In fact, every chapter was focused on someone else – someone she met along the journey. She didn’t so much analyze them as she did talk about her experience with them and by the end of the chapter you realized how Shaffer felt changed by them. It was a very refreshing way to read a memoir.

4) Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer by Barbara Sjoholm


You can probably tell from the title that I’m a bit biased by the plot of this story.  It’s about travel, and writing, and it’s set in Spain.  Clearly, I’m going to love this.  Sjoholm doesn’t disappoint.  She does a great job about remembering herself in this time the way she took chances, the people she met.  She really learned who she was in the process of this journey and it wasn’t until later when she was reflecting and writing this story that she was able to understand the way her life was affected by this trip. It’s such a beautiful thing to be let in on – and my main reason why memoirs are some of my favorite reads.

5) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan


Like Arabian Nights, this book has more to it than just the travel bit. but it still will pull at your travel bone if you take it in.  Grennan did what I would love to do – do something crazy because you feel like it’s the right thing to do and let it change your life. He has had such an incredible journey and has been able to take his travel to a new height.  His book highlights that journey in of himself but he doesn’t forget to talk about the travel and country and people he met either.  Did I mention, to, that this book is funny?  Not something I expected from something about orphaned children!  I read his via audio book and Grennan narrates it himself – so good!

So, what’s next?

The best part about travel is that there’s always more to see – and the great thing about memoirs is that there’s always another one to read.  I’ve narrowed down my choices to these three – any suggestions to which one I (hopefully) enjoy first?

Don lost NoHurry

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2013 End of the Year Book Survey

The Perpetual Page-Turner‘s 4th annual End Of The Year Book Survey

Jamie, a wonderful person and amazing book blogger, has posted a survey for the end of the year.  Once I saw it I immediately started making my list.  I can’t help it – I freaking love filling out surveys!

Seriously, though, if you’ve never checked out her blog, you have to.  She puts my blog to shame.

This year I read 70 books – here are some of my selections!

1) Best Book You Read In 2013?

This, of course, is a really hard question to answer.  I want to cheat and put down a couple but I’m going to get my focus together and make a commitment. Drum roll please….!


This book just gave me so many FEELS.  It touched me, it fascinated me, and it made me really believe in the idea of traveling (not that I didn’t before) for the sake of meeting people but also for meeting myself.  Tahir Shah is a man who really understands the written word and it humbles and excites me all at the same time.  Not to forget just how beautiful the stories in this book are as well.

2) Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

This one was much easier to choose.


Man. I took me forever to commit to this book.  I had heard such good things but it’s so LONG that I never felt like I had time to read it. So when Eric and I went on a 40 hour road trip we thought this would be perfect.  But the end of the trip it was torture.  This book is just so long winded!  It could be half the length.  Even though the story is good and the writing is interesting the length just ruined it.  So disappointing.

3) Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 


I know very few people have read this, will want to read this, or will ever read this, but it’s the best answer for this survey.  This book is about a bombing that happened on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus back in the ’70s. I had this book on my life forever but never got around to reading it.  When I finally got it from the local library I almost choked – it is over 400 pages long!  Dullsville, I assumed.  I still checked it out, however, thinking I would just skim the interesting parts and return it.  I didn’t though. I ended up finding it fascinating and learned so much about the school I call home.  I found myself talking about it and recommending it.  It totally surprised me!

4) Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?


It’s hard to say, because I recommended quite a few, but I think this was the most likely.  I loved this book and I think it’s one of those books that I lot of people could like.  It’s fascinating because of its truth but it’s also just an incredible story.  As a memoir buff I realize that not everyone gets the same kick I do when truth-sounds-like-fiction but I think the popularity of this book shows that the author really did it right.

5)  Best series you discovered in 2013?


Hands down.  I put off reading this forever because it was so daunting.  Not only are the books long in of themselves but the series is long – and still going!  I didn’t want to make a commitment to something that would take up so many hours of my life.  But I don’t regret it one bit. I’ve been power-reading these books on audible and I don’t often do the one-after-another read when it comes to series. I have had one of these books in my currently reading list for the majority of the year and I’m not even close to being sick of Davina Porter’s voice.  Love it!

6) Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?


Okay, so I’ve only read one book by her so it’s hard to call her a favorite author for the year but I really loved I’ve Got Your Number.  It was so damn FUN!  You can just tell she’s good and she really gets the whole chick-lit scene. I would love to be able to write books like her and I fully intend to make my way through others by her.

7) Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?


This was out of my comfort zone for a couple reasons – one being, as you can see, it was written in Spanish.  My Spanish is pretty competent but I still read with a dictionary and it takes some time.  Pair that with it being a mystery and my first Agatha Christie novel this was definitely not a typical read for me.  I loved it though and will definitely be getting more of Christie’s books under my belt- probably in English next, though. 🙂

8) Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?


There a lot of books that I power-read but “thrilling” is an entirely different category.  Gone Girl is pretty dense and I still ate it up.  In the end it didn’t hold as being a favorite book of mine but it still did the trick in the moment.

9) Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?


I’m not the kind of person that re-reads books very often.  Even my favorite book of all time, The Catcher In The Rye I’ve only read two or three times.  Caravan was a re-read for me this year, actually, and I freaking loved in.  Gilman is a master writer and Caravan is a story of such twists and such a strong protagonist.  I love it and will likely read it again, if not next year, sometime in the next couple years.

10) Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?


It’s just cool.  I like covers that not only are pleasing to the eye but also tell you a little about a story – Cinder’s cover is just perfect.  You know it’s a Cinderella re-telling but you also know it’s totally different but any other retelling you’ve heard!

11) Most memorable character in 2013? 


The Darkling (Shadow and Bone)

I don’t want to say much since The Darkling’s character is, in of itself, a kind of spoiler.  Let me just say that I loved how dynamic The Darkling is – I also love how he has no name.  It’s kudos to the author that this character kept me guessing.  As a reader I definitely find him arousing and terrifying all at once.

12) Most beautifully written book read in 2013?


This book was just really well done, such an interesting story and when it got exciting it got really  exciting.  I love when you’re reading a book and you can just take a deep breath and think, “This.  This is a book of beauty.”  This is one of those.

13) Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 


Somaly Mam – she knows how to tell you like it is.  Because I really like to read memoirs I think I already knew more about the sex trade than a lot of people in the U.S. do and this still shocked me. Maybe what shocked me even more is how Mam has survived.  This is a book that people can’t read without feeling it’s impact, I believe.

14) Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 


I’m very much a read-such-and-such-book-before-you-die kind of person. When I hear from the masses that something is good or a classic, I tend to pick it up.  As much as I disdain the public opinion sometimes I still can’t withstand the curiosity of picking up a well-known book.  I picked up Slaughterhouse Five probably 10 years ago, read a few pages, got confused, put it down, and never picked it up again.  I finally got around to reading it here.  I was no less confused, but I definitely appreciated it more.

15) Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?


“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.” – Tina Fey, Bossypants

16) Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013? 

christmas finebalance

All I want for Christmas was just a fun little novella.  A Fine Balance was polar opposite of that.  A Fine Balance was truly a wonderful book that I would never wish upon anyone. (Don’t think too hard about that. Just trust me.)

17) 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. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!


This is the fourth book in the Outlander series.  My husband is reading all the Outlander books after me, but he’s one book behind.  Something happened in this book that I was positive couldn’t happen and I almost exploded for wanting to talk about it.  But, of course, he’s not to this part yet so I am STILL waiting!

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


Jamie and Claire from Outlander

I know, Diana Gabaldon is taking over this survey but Jamie and Claire are the reason why those books are what they are. Seriously, so good.  It’s so believable and real and for one of the first times in a series I can see a parallel between my relationship with my husband and the characters.  No, Eric is not a 7 foot tall Scotsman, but I do really love him.

19) Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously


I’ve actually read a lot of new authors this year so this is a bit hard.  That being said, Lola and the Boy Next Door is just adorable and I had loved Stephanie Perkin’s Anna and the French Kiss too.  I’m excited to get my hands on Isla, too!

20) Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:


I never in a million years would have picked up this book (okay, that’s not true, but I doubt it would have crossed my path).  But I kept seeing it pop up on my GoodReads feed from friends and decided to give it a true.  I’m so glad I did!  This book is heartbreakingly beautiful.

21) Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?


Young Adult

I think I’ve read more Young Adult this year than I have since I was a young adult.  One of the reasons is because there are so many new young adults out there and a lot that have excellent ratings. The other was that I decided to write young adult for my NaNo novel this year and I wanted to do some “research” 🙂

22) Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?



Let’s face it – Four is a lovely brooder.  When it comes to real like I love it when men are sweet and cuddly.  But when it comes to a novel I’m more than happy to find someone who is totally scary.

23) Best 2013 debut you read?


This book is so good.  She’s balls to the wall about how she talks about her experience, which is so brave.  I know that Lundhout had a co-author as well but I’ll still give her a lot of credit for telling us so much about her incredible ordeal.

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

night circus

It’s not very often that I am excited for a book to be made into a movie – normally I’m pretty nervous about it.  This book, though, is going to be an incredible movie.  The writing is so vivid and there are so many wonderful things happening.  It’ll look great with real visuals.

25) Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?


I cracked up over this book.  Giddy, maniacal laughter in public, the lot of it.  It was just a blast to read.  Literary books that are all deep and stuff are good, too, but this stuff is just awesome.

26) Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?


This is a book about kids with cancer and I don’t have a heart made of stone.  ‘Nuff said.

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


Can’t help it – this book has always  been overlooked.  It is SO good.  All must read!

28) One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?


I know that Angelfall is popular in its own right but I never really hear much about it. I feel like I’m getting ahead of the bandwagon curve which is a pretty new location for me and I’m excited to stay there.  Angelfall left off in such an interesting spot, I am so curious to see what Ee does next!

29) Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014 (non-debut)?


It feels like so long since I’ve read Scarlet!  I love Meyer not only for her books but for being a NaNoWriMo author.  So curious to learn about the next step in this series!

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Young Adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

6 Books to Remind Us of Bigger Problems Than Bad Calls in Football

Last night, my Facebook news feed exploded. It was one in the morning and almost everyone I knew was up in arms – the most horrible thing had happened. They were tearing their hair out, cursing their lives, rolling in agony. The Wisconsin Badgers lost to Arizona State University on a terrible call – or lack of call as it may be.

Now, I am guilty of this behavior as well. I even woke up still angry about it. (Really, it was crap – the refs just walked off the field! I mean – well, never mind. You can read about/see the madness here. )

That being said, I felt a bit sheepish this morning.  How is it that football is the only thing about which we can jointly get overwhelmed?  Shouldn’t we be much more upset about the lack of world peace and starving children?  I’m no bleeding heart, but sometimes there are just bigger things in life.  To make up for my own shortcomings, I decided I would make a short list of books that have helped to give me a bit of perspective.

1) The Road of Lost Innocence: True Story of a Cambodian Heroine by Somaly Mam


Sometimes it’s not about the quality of the writing, or the style. Sometimes it’s just the purpose of the story, the reason for writing it. That alone makes this book worth reading. Mam’s ability to tell her story and the stories of others with a real, intricate, and critical eye just makes it that much better.  I don’t think I need to give you any more information about that – I think this book should be read in an effort to make people, especially those in the west, understand that human trafficking and forced prostitution is a huge and horrendous problem and there are people out there still living with it, and people like Mam, who are actively fighting against it.

2) Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan


This book is unbelievable – it is SO good. If you can listen to the audio book version; do it. Conor Grennan narrates it himself. He’s fantastic at it and unbearably funny – something I did not expect to find in a book with such a serious and heartbreaking subject. It adds a great element to reading non-fiction like this and I really appreciate it. He had such an incredible experience and story. There are so many parts that will make your heart stop. Wonderfully done.

3) Wine to Water by Doc Hendley


I saw Doc Hendley speak at a conference, prompting me to buy his book. Why did I buy it, you ask? Well, I’m a sucker for any memoir, particularly one where the individual goes off and does something pretty awesome. So I know I would like this book before I even read a single word. Doc Hendley is obviously an amazing person. I had the opportunity to speak with him briefly and sneak a picture with him. He’s a guy who decided to get passionate about helping the world. I’m both envious and guilty/thankful that I haven’t done the same.  It’s definitely hard work to go out there and do good.

To the point of the book itself, I do have to say he’s obviously not a writer. The book isn’t painful, and it’s really quite quick for how reasonable thick it is, but I didn’t find it completely drew me in like other books I have read that take place in the area. To me, the book seemed repetitive – certain stories and situations came up numerous times without a clear distinction of their difference. Plus – since I saw him speak – I had heard some of the stories before (obviously that won’t be most people’s problem but it still challenged my reading).

That aside it is worth reading the book just to understand how lame most of us are in comparison. It’s also worth reading the book to persuade you to donate; or volunteer somewhere yourself.

4) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah


Ishmael Beah told his story straight up – this is what happened and this is what he felt. This is one of those stories where I had to keep reminding myself, “This is a memoir, this is not fiction.” I honestly can’t say much about this other than that you should read it. It is one of those books that really means something. Great memoir.

5) Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi


“If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn’s prayer.”

I found this to be one of the most powerful lines out of a book that, if you let yourself really see, always kept you gasping for air. This is a book that never should have been written, because it is a tragedy that never should have happen. But because it did, we must all read and never, ever understand.

5) We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories From Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch


“Odette nodded at my notebook, where I was writing as she spoke. ‘Do the people in America really want to read this? People tell me to write these things down, but it’s written inside of me. I almost hope for the day when I can forget.'”

Mind numbing, mind boggling, and mind blowing. Gourevitch manages to write this book with clarity and depth and in a way that tells me all the brutal facts but without completely overwhelming me as a reader. I really appreciate that I felt he was able to really convey to me the horrors and emotions but didn’t do it in such a way that I had to put the book down for a while. Because this is kind of lengthy, I really value that aspect.  Well done and I think a great reminder that while this was published in 1999 there are still horrible things happening in that region.

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Top Seven Books I Loved From the First Line to the End

Ever get two pages into a book and think, “Oh man, this is going to be good.”?   Expect that from these reads.

1) The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer


This book is powerful. If you enjoy WWII literature at all – this is totally worth your while. Even if you don’t, you should read it. Andras Levi, the protagonist, is a great character. He’s one of those central focus characters that is almost perfect in nature – kind, intelligent, thoughtful – who provides a fantastic window to see the other characters and the rest of the world. I miss his mind already and I’ve only been out of it for a day.

The writing itself is spectacular, Orringer is overwhelmingly good. She describes settings that make me feel, even more than see.

Beautiful beginning, middle, and end.

2) In Arabian Nights by Tahir Shah


This is the only book I have ever finished and immediately wanted to re-read. I originally read this on my nook and have now bought a paper copy as well.  This is one of those books that I want to scribble on, highlight phrases that jumped out at me and somehow said everything I never knew I wanted to express. Maybe my significant attachment came because I was reading this while I was living and traveling alone in Spain, knowing that a visitation to Morocco was on the horizon.  Regardless, it’s excellent.

So why? Why am I so ga-ga over this book? One of my greatest loves in life is traveling and this book just oozes with the emotions of a traveler. Shah is an individual who is restless, who is curious, who judges people with an eye of disbelief AND understanding, who takes people as what they are and, while human beings are unable to completely ever fill another’s shoes, he incorporates what he can. It’s incredible – I stopped multiple times while reading to ponder or scribble down a sentence. Shah’s words described my own emotions: it’s so wonderful to feel understood.

This book is both memoir and story – it’s a mixture of tales, events, meaningful and not. His ability to tie in everything makes me believe he’s led not only a great life but also a fascinating one – I believe this book is filled with both truths and fibs and it works beautifully into one tapestry.

3) Fanny: Being the True History of the Adventures of Fanny Hackabout-Jones by Erica Jong


This book was pretty astounding and probably the least expected to be on the list. Very rarely have I reacted to a book with as much gusto – and I’m not talking about tears and laughter here, I’m talking about flat out shock. In terms of fiction, I’ve never had a book startle me as much as this one did and I loved it all the more for it.

Erica Jong wrote this in such a manner that I truly believed she was Fanny Hackabout-Jones. She said in the beginning that she would keep no modesty, and she kept true to her word. The events in this book had ways of simultaneously disgusting and arousing me but ultimately making me truly care for, and hate, the same ones that Fanny did. Fanny wanted to teach Belinda, her daughter, all the things she had learned in the world.

At the very least, I think she succeeded in teaching me.

4) Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


I have read this book a number of times and, yep, still love it.  This is one of those books that every time I see a used copy for sale somewhere, I still want to buy it.  As it is I’ve bought two copies for myself, mostly just because I love to lend it.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Baraboo, Wisconsin – a small town where the Ringling Bros museum and winter headquarters are – but this novel is like gold to me. Circus stuff fascinates me and Gruen puts together all the deeper, darker parts to make this a story completely for adults.

The images are brilliant without being overwhelming. It’s told from the eyes of an old man named Jacob looking back on his life as a young man. Because of this, I feel like we see things precisely the way humans remember them. I noticed Jacob’s feelings: his anger, frustration, confusion, compassion, and helplessness the most throughout the book. It thrilled me throughout.

5) Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

wildwood dancing

Ho-ly cow, this is good. This is good good. This is really good good.

I don’t know what I really expected when I began this. I had briefly read some reviews, heard it was a fairy tale and decided to pick it up. When they say fairy tale they mean it in the Grimm sense of the term – man, this is DARK. I was spooked and concerned far more than I was laughing.

The characters are fascinating. We see the world through the eyes of Jena; second oldest of five. She’s the most sensible, mildly attractive, easy to relate to. She and her sisters have been visiting the ‘Other Kingdom’ every full moon for dancing, relating with other world creatures, etc. Right from the beginning we learn that, while her sisters seem at ease, Jena has always had some trepidation about the whole experience. That feeling of unease only grows through the book. It’s extremely high powered.

Probably my best praise of this book is how Marillier puts it together. Let’s see if I can explain this properly: This story is full of twists and turns, however nothing quite took me by “surprise” – I managed to at least kind of guess each new and exciting part to the story. However, I don’t believe that was at all my intuition. I think that Marillier does a fantastic job with foreshadowing – she kept me in the dark for as long as SHE wanted to keep me there. Very well executed.

6) City of Thieves by David Benioff

This book was recommended to me by my history professor – and for good reason. It’s fantastic. It’s everything I want in a WWII setting novel. It had the history, the imagery, but it also had a story that was independent of it all. It was nice to have that fresh piece in there, something many other WWII related novels are missing. The events are so horrific – death, starvation, siege – and yet it’s so contrasted by the vibrant characters. I never thought I would have loved a character like Kolya so much. I seriously wanted to marry him by the time the book was half over. Exceptional story for a little history, a little fiction, and a great story

7) The Help by Kathryn Stockett


Holy cow. What a phenomenal book. I read this book at the height of it’s popularity – before the movie and when you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about it. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into – all I knew was that it was a supposedly good book and that it was that month’s read for my book club. I can’t even begin to say how happy I am to have read it.

And, what’s funny is, my favorite part is technically not part of the book. It’s the very end, where Stockett takes a moment to say why this book exists and how she felt, being a white woman who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, writing it. For me, this helped solve all the questions I had, and the mixed emotions I felt, throughout the book. This is the kind of book that even though some might not agree or might not think she had a right to write it… I’m glad she did.

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Five YA Books To Read Cover to Cover on a Beautiful Day

Sometimes it’s not about the politics, the strategy, the mechanical prowess.  Sometimes it’s about a book that keeps you propelled forward, flipping pages, and giggling incessantly.  This Labor Day I found myself without a care in the world and a beautiful sun in the sky.  All I want is to sit down and read something light, fluffy, and a little wonderful out in the mild summer sun.  Just in case you want to join me, here are five books I’ve read in one big gulp.

1) Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles


I’ve seen this popping up in bookstores lately, so I thought I would highlight it. This is a girl’s throw away wonderful summer read at it’s best.  It’s classic high school angst.  Alex, the main man, is Cutie McCute.  The dialogue made me laugh aloud, groan, and lunch-room-with-my-girlfriends-giggle.  The best friend, Paco, is freaking hilarious.

Probably the best part is that mixed up with all this traditional young adult goodness is a healthy dose of racial tension. Don’t read this book to bust some stereotypes, that’s for sure. But that’s not why we like it, is it? Read this in one go and you’ll love it.  Then maybe immediately pick up the sequel. I know I did.

2) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


If you’re a YA fan and haven’t heard of/read this book yet, you’ve probably been living under a rock.  There’s a lot of hype over this and while I don’t think it’s all deserving, I really enjoyed the read all the same. It was cute and I ate it up.  It has everything you could want in a quick YA novel – cute boy, cute girl, no parent supervision, and Paris.  Done and done.  You get to read about the main character dealing with the typical areas of boy trouble in Paris, boy trouble at home, Daddy issues, but you also get some neat dynamics of culture shock, of growing up away from your best friend, and how that can change everything without you even realizing it.

Sure, there are some parts that are a little hard to swallow -making friends instantly, flawless men with a jealous streak, lack of communication between friends – but that’s why this book is so good read quickly.  The faster you read this, the better it is.  The problems, especially with their families, are real and heartwarming. The characters are graciously mature and immature.  It’s perfect for a summer day.

3) The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy GIlman


This isn’t the kind of book most people would think to put on this kind of list, but it works perfectly. This is a story about a young woman finding herself just as much as it is a mystery novel. This is one of those books that’s a blast to devour. The protagonist is amazing. She’s so incredibly believable and interesting in of herself; she comes across as a real human being that you want to learn more about. But Gilman doesn’t overload you with personality, she intricately intertwines the story, the mystery, and the characters effortlessly for one truly exceptional read.

I’ve re-read this book multiple times and it just keeps getting better. I honestly don’t think there’s a better heroine out there than Amelia Jones. Take this outside with you to the backyard with a lounge chair and don’t forget your sunscreen – you’ll need to re-apply because you won’t want to come inside until you’ve finished this book.

4) The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen 


Sometimes you just need some straight up young adult chick lit to read. When that’s the case, go ahead and pick this one up, because it’s darn good.

I’ve always struggled with these kinds of stories – you already know it, basically. You have a girl, she’s pretty (but doesn’t think she is) and all around good, super easy to relate to. She meets a boy that is, of course, gorgeous, one that every other girl is ga-ga for, but somehow, someway, he’s interested in the main star. You know what’s going to happen a mile away… but it’s still worth the read.


Well, first off, Macy, the main character, while she has all those predictable aspects, she’s also refreshingly clever. The conflicts that arise in this book aren’t just a result of teenage angst. It’s genuine and believable and as a reader decidedly older than the “young adult” category myself, still very helpful in putting life into some perspective.

Also, the supporting cast is fun and funny and heart-breakingly sweet.  It’s a perfect page turner that will leave you feeling great with some good memories to boot.

5) Summer in the City by Robyn Sisman


This is a stretch to consider this book “Young Adult” but it has the fun, flirty feel we’re looking for in a read. My only qualm with the book was that I wasn’t ready for it to end. This book took me completely by surprise. I bought it because the back described it as being lighthearted and funny and, frankly, it has a gorgeous cover. I couldn’t be more pleased with my purchase. Sisman has a great wit and I understood the characters instantly. They were dynamic – as the characters interacted with each other, they grew, changed. Even though the plot line was predictable, it was still unique and well developed. Obviously, if you are looking for the the next great American novel you’re not going to find it here, but if you want well-written entertainment I highly recommend Summer in the City. I found myself unwilling to put it down; this novel was truly engaging and the perfect summer read.

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8 Books to Read Now, Before Hollywood Steals Your Characters

I’m all for book being made into movies, if it makes people more aware of a great story, bring it on.  Even when the movie doesn’t exactly match the book, I don’t always mind.  For me a movie is a different entertainment medium and sometimes things are altered – so long as the movie is good and done well, more power to them.

Regardless of how much I support movies, though, there is one thing I will always hate.  It doesn’t matter how much you try not to – your image of those characters will be forever altered.  That actor, actress, set, whatever, will forever be in your mind as portrayed in the movie and however you imagined it before is taken away from you.  It’s, easily, the move depressing part of movies from books I can come up with. I can still vaguely remember my version of Hermoine and, no offense Emma Watson, I miss my Hermoine like crazy.

Therefore, here is my life of movies soon-to-hit-theatres you should read before it’s too late to create the magical world yourself.

1) The Book Thief
Release Date: November 15, 2013


You don’t have much time as this is scheduled to come out in November.  As it’s a long book, too, I suggest getting started on it right away.  I always recommend books be read before the movie is seen but I super emphasize it with The Book Thief.  If you are going to read this book, I highly suggest doing it in audio book format. The narrator is phenomenal – I imagine that is exactly what death sounds like. I truly think hearing it read aloud made the experience for me; some of the other reviews I have heard indicated the story can drag a little, but in the audiobook format that flowery, somewhat backwards and fascinating imagery (my favorite kind of imagery) really came alive.

I like this book for so many reasons – it’s a genre I read a lot, it’s a perspective that’s new, and, while I’m not entirely thrilled with death as a narrator, I appreciate the newness of it. Liesel as a protagonist was amazingly real. Her personality was one of the most… well… authentic I’ve read in a long time.

My rating: 4/5 stars

2) Ender’s Game
Release Date: November 1, 2013


This is another one you have to get to soon – also set to release in November.  It’s a little shorter, and faster, of a read than The Book Thief, so I have faith you can do both.

Any book that makes me stay up until the wee hours of the morning is a good book; so, by the transitive property…

This is one of those books that I dove into with zero background. I didn’t even read the back cover. I’ve just noticed that a lot of people love it and when I asked the husband what to read next, he put it in my hands, and I started reading. And overall, I liked it. Unique, interesting, involving… but not quite five stars. I found the sibling relationships so… off-kilter and the ending didn’t hold a whole lot for me. But pick it up and give it a try – you won’t regret it.

My rating: 4/5 stars

3) Gone Girl
Release Date: 2015?


I’m mostly interested in seeing this movie because I’m curious if they can pull it off on film.  The reader’s facts are entirely based on one character’s thoughts, and translating that to film is going to be tricky business.

This book is too long and dense to complete in just one evening – which is unfortunate because you’ll spend the time not reading it thinking about it.

In this book, Nick Dunne’s wife goes missing.

And I think that’s just about everything can say. Anything else would be a spoiler.

My rating: 4/5 stars

4) The Night Circus
Release Date: 2014

night circus

I don’t often get excited about a book being turned into a movie – at most I’m interested.  But this movie, if they do it right, it could be phenomenal.  The images… I mean, they could do so many fantastic scenes!  I’m positively giddy about seeing a visual representation of this circus and, to be honest, it might make me feel better about the book. I found myself getting confused at time and the sequencing of a movie could probably help a lot.

While many people find this hard to get through on paper or e-reader, I myself had a hard time connecting with the characters, I think it would be great coupled with the visuals of Hollywood.

My rating: 3.5/5 stars

5) Suite Francaise
Release Date: 2014


This is an example of a book being made into a movie that makes me sigh in relief.  Even if the movie isn’t perfect, it might get more people to read the book, and this is a story everyone should make a part of them.

When I first picked it up, I was only so-so involved. I was confused by the characters, and, to be honest, alarmed by how small the font size was. But the more I read the more entranced I became. What a fantastic writer, and even more, what a fantastic story. This if the kind of novel I would love to write – a myriad of characters, loosely connected in passing but wholly connected by the horrors of war.

My rating: 4/5 stars

6) The Fault in Our Stars
Release Date: 2014


For me, this is a book you need to read now because I could really easily see the movie not being able to capture the true essence of the book.  Within two minutes of turning on this book (yes, I read it in audio book) I knew two things – it was going to be good, and it wasn’t going to end happy.

First off, unless you live under a rock and somehow this book ended up on your doorstep, you probably already know that this book has amazing reviews. So amazing that I wasn’t even cynical about it. I started this book because I knew enjoying it would be a done deal. Sometimes it’s nice to have the confidence.

Second, you know immediately that the main character has cancer. This main character is a teenage girl. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that sad things happen in this book.

When you get this combo, I think it’s easy to do it wrong, to mess it up.  Green did a great job writing this to make the perfect balance.  It’s going to take that same balance on the screen to get it right.  Read first and see if you agree!

My rating: 4/5 stars.

7) Angelfall
Release Date: ??


It looks like the movie adaptation of this might be a long way off.  That makes sense, considering the rest of the books of this series aren’t even published yet.  Regardless, I can definitely see the movie potential to this.  It’s young adult, it’s fast, it’s a unique world.

I personally liked this book more for the world – the fallen angel theme, while not entirely unique, certainly is well done on this book.  For me the characters weren’t always the most interesting, nor did they react the way I thought they should all the time, but their world and interactions were exciting.  I read this book in no time at all, it’s definitely a page turner. This will likely be really great on film.

My rating: 3.5/5

8) Unbroken
Release Date: End of 2014


I positively gush about this book. This was one of the most incredible books I’ve read. I was even lucky enough to enjoy it in beautiful audiobook format, which I would highly recommend. There are parts to this book where I know, reading on paper, I would have skimmed in an effort to learn what would happen next – the audiobook made me listen to each and every detail, and I’m thankful for it.

This book is a perfect example where ignorance is bliss. While I have savored many WWII memoirs and stories, I’d mostly stuck to Holocaust areas and that created the entirety of my understanding of the war. I learned next to nothing in school (hooray, US public school history classes) and was completely unaware that someone names Louis Zamperini ever existed. That, coupled by my purchase of this book without even reading the blurb, led me to a tumultuous read that sent my emotions through the roof.

Hillenbrand is a magician of factual, interesting details. The amount of research that went into this story is incredible, and so worth it. The descriptions told from the eyes and memories of those who lived it – for how many people we learned about – it was all so moving, so overwhelming. It’s a book I truly felt. I wanted at every moment to gush over what I had just learned to everyone I knew, but resisted, because I didn’t want to ruin anything for the people I plan I harassing until they read it.

Now, stop reading this, and read the book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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