Posts Tagged With: list

5 Books to Read AND Watch

Movies don’t always (rarely, even?) get the book right.  Here are what I feel are notable exceptions.  Read the book and watch the movie and you’ll love them both!


The Girl on the Train is the most timely of this collection.  Do you ever read a book and think, “oooh yeah, this will be a movie.”?  That was this story for me.  I could just tell it was going to work on screen. It was fast paced and gripping on paper but on the big screen the intrigue was that much better.  The things that needed to be laid out in the book were able to be short quips and scenes in the movie. This is one I actually would consider watching the movie first – suspense is great that way.


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an oldie but a goodie.  Seriously, Kesey’s story of the mental institution is incredible and then Nicholson’s portrayal in the movie?  Gold.  I’ll admit I like the nuances of the characters in the book better – they do change a few things in the movie that to me make certain scenes darker than necessary – but overall the movie performance is just incredible. It’s worth experiencing both.


Chocolat was one of the rare occasions for me where I watched the movie before the book. Usually, when that happens, I expect the book to fall short.  There’s something about understanding a movie plot line, or envisioning actors for characters, that can turn a book sour. Not this one.  Chocolat, both book and movie, is full of magic and wonder and things that make my tummy growl. Harris is one of my favorite authors and Chocolat is one of my favorite movies.  A win/win.


Water for Elephants bore the scrutiny of the re-read. I adored the story.  Maybe it’s because I grew up near Baraboo, WI where the Ringling Bros Circus has been for almost 150 years.  Maybe it’s the exoticism of characters, the era, the mesmerizing colors and interactions.  Maybe it’s because it’s a NaNoWriMo novel (something I always hold dear).  Who knows exactly.  All I can tell you is that the story is fantastic and, surprisingly, the Hollywood adaptation did an incredible job.


Outlander might not be a movie but it’s even better – it’s a STARZ original series that, I believe, is planning to go through all the books in this epic series.  SQUEAL. I’ve re-read Outlander at least three or four times and it’s one of my absolute favorite stories.  It just grips me.  The STARZ series has done an incredible job with bringing it to life on screen.  It is 100% accurate?  No, but Diana Gabaldon is involved in the making and I think her adjustments have actually enhanced the story.  Really, it’s lovely all the way around!

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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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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

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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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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.

Categories: Lists, Pick Ups, Young Adult | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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