Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In a Day

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Let me just say that I’m not really good at reading books in one sitting. I’m not even very good at reading one book at a time. If I’ve “lost” my current book around the house, I’ll just pick up another one. This usually leads to a lot of library books nestled in strange corners of the couch or atop precarious laundry piles or hidden under papers I just took off my desk. I’m also not that focused as a reader, reading for an hour before getting up to do something else and then coming back to my book. Or I’ll switch a chapter on and off with one book with another book or another task. So reading a book in a day for me is very unusual. Here are ten (recent-ish books) that overcame all the odds. Or were very short.

 

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the English Countryside by Andrea di Robilant

I’ve talked about this book before on the blog, but it sticks in my mind. I read it years ago now, but it was one of the first books in a long time that I felt utterly consumed by. If you’re interested in Italy (and why wouldn’t you be), and you like people who chase down weird family history and/or roses, you should read this.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

I sat down to read a few pages of this at the library, and didn’t look up until the whole thing was finished. Fun and clever.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

I was just captivated by the stories along with the recipes. One of the better cookbooks I’ve read in a while.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This book is pretty depressing, but it’s very short and well-written. So that’s something.

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

I really liked Possession, so when I saw another book by Byatt at the book sale, I knew I needed to read it. It’s definitely nothing like her other work, but it was really interesting and immersive (even if maybe you didn’t want to be immersed in it)

Butter Celebrates! Delicious Recipes for Special Occasions by Rosie Daykin

I read this book quickly, as there wasn’t much to it besides the recipes. I’ve only tried one so far and it didn’t really work out. This is why I get cookbooks from the library instead of buying a bunch of them. But I have hopes for the next recipe anyway.

Patience by Daniel Clowes

Read it fast to get it over with–I didn’t feel like I could not finish the graphic novel since it takes such a short time to read them, but it wasn’t my favorite by a long shot.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Another graphic novel, which I read quickly because it was very good.

A-Z of Wedding Style by Kate Bethune

Another very short book, with lots of pictures and white space. I really enjoyed the illustrations though. A good book for people who like fashion.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving about this book, but it definitely deserves it. In addition to being a great book, it was also a very quick read.

 

So there’s 10 recent book I’ve managed to complete in a reasonable amount of time without getting too distracted by anything else. What’s the last book you read in a day or in a single sitting? Let me know in the comments!

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Reading Challenge #5: A Book By a Person of Color

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Title:  Sula

Author: Toni Morrison

How it fulfills the challenge: Toni Morrison is a person of color, and many of her books center on what it is like to be a black woman in America. Sula was nominated for the National Book Award, and her 1987 novel, Beloved, won the Pulitzer prize.

Genre: Fiction

Quick Description: Morrison’s book is a study on the nature of friendship and womanhood. The novel follows Sula and Nel through their lives starting in the 1920s.

Opening line: In that place, where they tore the nightshade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion City Golf Course, there was once a neighborhood.

She had clung to Nel as the closest thing to both an other and a self, only to discover that she and Nel were not one and the same thing.

Highlights: A quick moving, and sometimes shocking portrait of friendship. The drawing of life that it renders is as moving as it is unflinching.

Low Points: More melancholy than uplifting–this isn’t really a low point (just something to keep in mind before reading this book). It’s powerful, but not exactly fun to read.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars. Probably deserves 4.5 because the writing is so good.

Reading Challenge #52: A Book Based on Mythology

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Title: Ragnarok

Author: A.S. Byatt

How it fulfills the challenge: This book is an adaptation of the Norse end of the world myth (Ragnarok)

Genre: Fiction (maybe could be considered fantasy? Literary Fantasy…)

Quick Description: A detailed and almost poetic interpretation of a Norse myth with amazing imagery and a complex look at good and evil, power and weakness, as seen through the eyes of a child obsessed with the story.

Opening line: The thin child thought less (or so it now seems) of where she herself came from, and more about that old question, why is there something rather than nothing?

It began slowly. There were flurries of sharp snow over the fields where the oats and barley were ready to be harvested. There was ice on the desponds at night, when the harvest moon, huge and red, was still in the sky. There was ice on water jugs and an increasing thin, bitter wind that did not let up, so that they became used to keeping their heads hooded and down.

Highlights: Beautifully descriptive and evocative retelling of an ancient myth. My favorite section is on Yggdrasil, the great tree that contains so much life and death.

Low Points: I’m not super familiar with this myth, and Byatt does little to familiarize it. Instead she delights in the strangeness and otherness. It’s a more faithful retelling than other adaptations (or so I’ve read), and it feels older and darker, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not exactly what I was expecting and it was very different from Byatt’s Possession.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars.

Reading Challenge #28: A Novel Set During Wartime

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Title: Victory of Eagles

Author: Naomi Novik

How it fulfills the challenge: This book takes place during the Napoleonic wars, though the battles that are depicted never actually happened.

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Description: In the 5th book of the Temeraire series, the dragon’s captain, Laurence, has been branded a traitor and Temeraire has been sent to the breeding grounds, no longer in active duty. But as the war comes closer, the reluctant Aerial Corps will have no choice but to call them both back to the front.

Opening Line: The breeding grounds were called Pen Y Fan, after the hard, jagged slash of mountain at their heart, like an ax-blade, rimed with ice along its edge and rising barren over the moorlands: a cold, wet Welsh autumn already, coming on towards winter, and the other dragons were sleep and remote, uninterested in anything but their meals.

We will be our own army, and we will work out tactics for ourselves, not stuff men have invented without bothering to ask us…

Highlights: The Temeraire series is a great choice for anyone who thinks that history is all well and good, but it would be better with dragons in it. Novik does a really good job of capturing the period through both her setting and through her characters. This book in particular was interesting because for the first time we see the story through Temeraire’s perspective as well.

Low Points: Book #5 wasn’t my favorite out of the series so far (I think the 1st and 2nd ones get that honor). The tone was a little more melancholy, bordering on the despondent in some places, and this book in particular was more concerned with battles and troop movements and strategy, which aren’t my favorite things. Still, I’m eager to read the next one.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars. The fifth book is consistent with the rest of the series and was fun to read.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’ve Read Recently that I Wasn’t Looking For But Glad I Found

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

I think that you find books at the right times to read them…or you don’t and you miss out on that book. Sometimes the book is the right one for you, and you can read it over and over again without it ever feeling stale. Sometimes you try to read it again, and the magic is gone. The books you find at the right time just by chance stick with you. Did someone in the know recommend it? Did you find it on a bookshelf while looking for something else? Where do you find books that you aren’t looking for?

These are some of my favorite books, even if they aren’t that great, even though they don’t do anything to help my TBR list. Sometimes it’s the right time to find a book that you weren’t looking for.

In addition, this list of books also only includes those that have fewer than 15,000 ratings on Goodreads.

In the “New Books” Section of the Library

Even when I tell myself that there should be a limit to the number of books I should be checking out, I always look over at the “new” section–just to see what’s there.

Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson

About: A sort of Arabian Nights meets the digital world. Alif is the equivalent of a code   name, one he uses online where he protects anyone’s presence on the internet from the eyes of the Hand for a price. When weird things start to happen, Alif is shown an entirely new world that he never could have believed to exist, one that is far from virtual.

Verdict: This was a really fun read that I probably never would have come across if I had stuck to my reading schedule. It had really interesting things to say about technology, magic, and censorship–not to mention religion and government.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin

About: This book is about Truman Capote through the eyes of the society women he captivated and later betrayed. The story is told through the women’s perspective and paints an interesting portrait of both society in question and of the writer.

Verdict: I read this book before In Cold Blood, and it actually gave me the determination I needed to start what I thought would be a pretty daunting venture (it really wasn’t, but I’m glad I was able to get into the book and see that). If you don’t like to read about wealthy women, you probably won’t enjoy this, but the characters, for all their privilege, are extremely vulnerable and interesting.

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson

About: An eccentric young boy with a reclusive authoress as his mother and a nanny who’s been sent by the publisher to give his mother time to write. The book follows the nanny’s perspective (who in her regular job isn’t a nanny at all), her frustrations and trials as she deals with a child who dresses like he’s 30 years old in the 1930’s, knows everything there is to know about his favorite old movies, and doesn’t like his things being touched.

Verdict: This book is all about personalities, the most captivating one being Frank’s. This woman loves this family that doesn’t really accept her into it, at least not right away. I found this book to be charming. The plot moves slowly, but plot isn’t really the point here.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

About: The last living descendant of the Bronte sisters enters a venerable old British institution. She’s told everyone that there’s no mystery fortune that’s been passed down from the Brontes, though the press refuses to believe it. But when she starts to receive copies of the Bronte’s books–books that should have been burnt in her father’s library years ago when it caught fire–she thinks maybe someone is trying to tell her something different.

Verdict: A modern, and only slightly gothic, romance/mystery that fits into the Bronte tradition. For anyone who likes Austen or the Bronte sisters.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

About: A classic trying-to-have-it-all story about a mother who thinks she can make everything balance until life starts getting crazy.

Verdict: This is a great beach/vacation/cozy time read. It’s not all that serious or difficult, and you could be finished with it in a couple sittings.

 

Found Wandering the Library

There are times when I’ll just wander through the shelves and see what strikes me. Some of these were found in specific sections (graphic novels are great for browsing, since there’s usually a limited number of them).

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

About: The book moves backward in time and follows the lives of two ex-pat families living in the Mediterranean. It’s sort of a Romeo and Juliet story with an olive grove twist.

Verdict: I’d seen this book many times at one of the bookstores I frequented in college. It always caught my eye, but I never bought it (mainly because I don’t usually buy books randomly). When I saw it on the shelf, I knew it was time. It wasn’t one of my favorites. I liked the time flow and loved the setting, but on the whole I found the characters difficult to either root for or summon much dislike for (with some exceptions). I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but it was really a 3.5 I rounded up.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua

About: The story/alternative history of the first computer.

Verdict: As I’ve mentioned before, this was one of my favorite books of the year, and I only found it by browsing the shelves.

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

About: One woman’s journey with her favorite book throughout her life. It’s part memoir and part literary criticism.

Verdict: Since I read Middlemarch the year before, it was definitely the right time to read this book, which turned out to be interesting and well-written and researched. Reading books like this is a holdover from my college days, and I always enjoy bringing new perspectives to a text.

 

Staff Picks at the Library

I gave this it’s own section because it’s more like getting a book recommendation rather than just strolling along a shelf.

James Joyce: Portrait of a Dubliner by Alfonso Zapico

About: The life of James Joyce in graphic novel form.

Verdict: A really great biography of a complicated man. Translated from Spanish.

 

Mom’s Recommendation

There actually would be more books in this section if I had been more dedicated to reading at the end of the year. My mom and I share books back and forth a lot, and she is really good at picking things out for me and vice versa.

Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

About: An archaeologist hires a translator in China to help him in his quest for dig approval. (There’s no connection to the Bill Murray film just in case you were wondering)

Verdict: This book was so good! If you like archaeology and romance and a little history thrown in I think you should give this book a try. The characters are really interesting and the writing is atmospheric and sensual.

 

Reading is all about discovery. What have you “discovered” lately?

 

 

 

Reading Challenge #18: A Book You’ve Read Before that Never Fails to Make You Smile

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Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

How it fulfills the challenge: The Night Circus is one of those books that uses its imaginative and fantastical powers to charm and delight. The circus Morgenstern creates is one that I would love to experience. It’s a book that made me happy the first time I read it, and it didn’t let me down the second time.

Genre: fantasy/historical fiction

Quick Description: The circus is merely a venue for two opponents to exhibit their skills. But more than just the two of them are involved in the complicated game, and their own attraction for each other could lead to disaster.

Opening Line: The Circus arrives without warning.

The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.

Highlights: My absolute favorite part of this book both on my first and second reading is the nature of the magic both contestants perform and the illusions they create for the circus. The circus has to be one of the most enchanting settings I’ve ever seen. If it were real, I would definitely be someone you would see wandering around with a red scarf.

Low points: The ending of this book is definitely where it falls flat. The end comes quickly and is vaguely unsatisfying. Not only that, you’re removed from what little action there is and so the suspense and intrigue just isn’t there. Plot is definitely not the point of this book.

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars (I kept my rating of this book the same because myenjoyment of it overshadowed my issues with it. It still feels magical)

 

(photo from Goodreads)

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 2016 Releases I’m Really Excited About

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is all about what 2016 releases we really meant to get to, but weren’t able to read for whatever reason. My reading is almost always at least a year (if not a century) behind, so I actually like waiting for the best-of-the-year lists to come out, and a lot of times I build up my to-read list from these compiled lists by people who do actually read the books when they come out. In particular, I really like NPR’s list because it’s super fun and visual and easy to sort through (I am a huge nerd about good indexing and cross indexing), not to mention the blurbs are written by people like librarians and NPR staffers instead of publishing houses. I like the different perspectives. So here are ten books that I mostly haven’t mentioned yet, but that I can’t wait to read whether that’s this year or years down the road when they happen to find me.

  • The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson–Starts on the brink of WWI in a small English town–a book about manners and how they’re affected by the chaos of war. Sounds like a great read. (in the Book Club Ideas Section)
  • Umami by Laia Jufresa–I love reading translated books (part of the enjoyment being thinking about how the book is different in the native language–pure speculation), and this debut novel about loss and connection in Mexico City seems like a great read. (in the Staff Picks Section).
  • Patience by Daniel Clowes–Graphic novels are so interesting and moving, and I like the change of pace from regular novels every now and again. This book is supposed to be a love story, but also involves time travel. Can you really ask for more than that? (in the For Art Lovers section)
  • Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung–A boarding school story set in Australia with a young woman who struggles to find a place for herself and her heritage, a YA with plenty of nuance–my favorite kind. (in the Tales From Around the World section)
  • The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th Century Bookseller’s Obsession With A Lost Masterpiece by Laura Cumming–a nonfiction book about a man obsessed  with a work of art. (in the Seriously Great Writing section)
  • The Glass Universe: How The Ladies Of The Harvard Observatory Took The Measure Of The Stars by David Sobel–A group of female astrologists, long relegated to the sidelines are brought to the forefront. This books talks about the women themselves as well as their contributions to science. (in the It’s All Geek to Me section)
  • The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg–A spin on the 1,001 Nights, and that’s all I have to know to be interested in this graphic novel. (in the Ladies First section)
  • The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts by Joshua Hammer–A nonfiction book about brave librarians who risk everything to save books…um yes please. (in the Identity & Culture section)
  • The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman–YA historical fiction that takes the historical part seriously but isn’t afraid to throw a few demons in. (in the Rather Long section)
  • The Book of Magic: From Antiquity to Enlightenment ed. by Brian Copenhaver–I love reading about magic and how the perception of it has changed over time. This book looks like something of an undertaking, but a good one. (in the Eye-Opening Reads section)

 

How do you find new books for your TBR lists? Was there a book you missed this year that you really were looking forward to? Let me know in the comments!