Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Releases: Penguin Christmas

If you're still looking for a stocking stuffer or two (or five), you can't go wrong with the new Penguin Christmas Classics series, featuring

A Merry Christmas & Other Christmas Stories by Louisa May Alcott
The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Christmas At Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories by Anthony Trollope

They have beautiful foil-stamped covers ...

and lovely inner artwork as well, all in petite books that will fit in a purse or jacket pocket. I read the Alcott stories last week and am rereading A Christmas Carol tonight. I'll read the others during the coming week and I know that they will set the perfect mood for a lovely Christmas Day.

Seasons readings,

Thursday, December 18, 2014

#amonthoffaves: 5 Must-Haves for Winter Survival

Today's prompt is a fun one -- Five Must-Haves for Winter Survival --

First is tea. And not just any tea. MarketSpice Cinnamon Orange. I bought this nice 8oz bag that should last me another month or so and then I'll be off to Pike Place Market again to pick up some more. This is the most cinnamony tea that I've ever found and the orange gives it just enough sweetness that I am always satisfied just drinking it straight. When I have to get up early, I make two cups and fill a big travel mug and it gets me through the dark and usually damp mornings.

Second is lip balm. I come from a family of lip balm addicts. I've tried a lot of them over the years and my current favorite is the Cocoa Butter Lip Care Stick from The Body Shop. It's thick but not greasy and smells yummy.

Third is a down throw for the couch. Mine is sage green and is frequently featured in the background of my book photos. It's starting to get a bit worn so I may be shopping for a new one soon!

Fourth are the touch screen gloves. These are the most awesome invention ever. I love the look of these ones from World Market and am going to have to go looking for them to replace my current plain gray ones.

Fifth and finally, a good book. I got this one, The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson, from my Secret Santa, Heather. I can't wait to cuddle up under my blanket, with my lip balm and tea (or gloves if I happen to be reading in the car)!

What is your number one winter must-have?

Hunkering down,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#amonthoffaves: 5 Fave Winter Reads

Today's prompt is Five Favorite Winter Reads, taken from our reading last winter. I feel like I'm getting repetitive with my book mentions though so instead I'm going to share five of my favorite chunksters. Chunksters (which I consider to be books near or over 600 pages long) are the type of book I love reading when all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays is done, there's nothing to entice me out of the house into the frigid air, and the evenings are long and dark.

So, in increasing order of pages ...

Starting at 695 pages,
The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox

Up to 781,
The Quincunx by Charles Palliser

A nudge to 782,
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

A jump to 1024,
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Finally, a pair to top it off at 1168 pages,
Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis

Do you like reading chunksters in the winter? Which is your all time favorite?

Upping the stakes,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

#amonthoffaves: Top 10 Books That Blew My Mind in 2014

Today's prompt is Top 10 Books That Blew My Mind in 2014. I'm taking this literally and I chose books that have a wow! factor. There were other books this year that I enjoyed but these were the most exciting, the ones I thought about for days, weeks, and months later. Here are my choices with excerpts from my reviews --

The Supernatural Elements - Edgar Cantero
As soon as I finished the book, I went to my reading spreadsheet where I usually record a couple of brief thoughts. All I could come up with was "holy crap". I tweeted this thought and the author himself found my tweet. He asked if it was the sort of crap he should retweet or not. I chuckled and said that it was absolutely the kind to retweet because I loved the book and the end was simply mind-blowing. I didn't see it coming at all. I would love a sequel that just expands the Epilogue.

The Ghost in Love - Jonathan Carroll
... it's about many things and it's hard to describe but believe me when I say that its uniqueness makes it fresh and thought-provoking and beautiful, all in an unusual way -- because this is definitely a strange book and it's not ashamed to be that at all.

The Land of Laughs - Jonathan Carroll
It has been three months since I finished this book but I can't stop thinking about it and I already want to read it again. I can't explain exactly why I loved this book so much because it's really rather strange and sometimes violent and disturbing and the relationships are very dysfunctional and it's about books that I can never read. But it's also about the magic that is in the best stories and what would happen if that magic escaped and took form and that's pretty awesome if frightening.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate - Jacqueline Kelly
I loved this book SO SO SO SO much. I honestly can’t think of a single moment when I wasn’t enjoying it completely. I wish I had marked some passages and taken notes as I read because there were so many small, wonderful parts that all added up to make this a stellar story.

The Final Solution - Michael Chabon
This was such a beautiful meditation on [Sherlock] Holmes and his legacy and his inevitable decline.
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
I LOVED this book. I loved this book so much that I want to tell you all to read it right now. You don't have to take my word alone for it either. Ask anyone else who has read it. They'll also sing its praises because it's just that good.

Constable & Toop - Gareth P. Jones
It takes a bit of effort at the beginning to get used to switching between multiple narratives (it changes each chapter between three or four story lines) but once you learn patience, it pays off with a story where you find yourself truly caring about the fates of ghosts. Because, though Sam is the main living character of the story, I'm not sure that he's any more important than ghostly paper-pusher Lapsewood, young and transparent rogue Tanner, or the comical and clearly insane Marquis. I can't wait to give this one a reread during a future RIP season.
Murder on the Home Front - Molly Lefebure
I loved Molly and I loved this book. It turns out the the TV series is fictional and just based off of these memoirs (the lead character is called Molly Cooper, I believe) but I'm still looking forward to watching it soon. If it has half the wit of this book (something one certainly doesn't expect when reading about murders), it will be a fun show!

Jackaby - William Ritter
I loved, loved, loved this book. It has some of everything and it is all brought together in an interesting and fun way. Jackaby is smart and amusing and Abigail is brave and also intelligent. But what I loved most is that they still needed each other. Their world views are very different but they are definitely complementary. I'm so excited to see that there is a sequel to Jackaby already in the works.
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern (reread)
I loved the story just as much (if not more) as I did last year.

and, the bonus series, ...
The Last Policeman, Countdown City, and World of Trouble - Ben H. Winters
I didn't expect this series to become one of my all-time favorites but somehow it did. Between the first book (The Last Policeman), the second (Countdown City), and this one, I only spent about four days reading. I just couldn't put these books down. I can't say if it was the sense of urgency of an impending asteroid strike or the need to help Detective Henry Palace find what he was looking for or simply the morbid desire to watch the breakdown of civilized society as the end of the world approached. Whatever it was, this was an incredible ride and I'm sorry it's over.

(Pre-post edit: I already chose all of my books and wrote and scheduled this post and everything and then ... I read what is actually probably my favorite book of the year and it is so WOW! that I still have to process it. So, I'll just drop the title here and then you will have to wait a few days to see my review of it ... The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers.)

Which book blew your mind this year?

Looking forward to a mind-blowing 2015 read or two,

Monday, December 15, 2014

Today at The Estella Society: Little Women

I've read Little Women as the next book in the Top 100 Chapter Book Project. Head on over to The Estella Society today and see what I thought!

In the holiday spirit,

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Baker's Dozen of (Non-Bookish) Photos From the Year

As I always share so many of my book photos through the year, I thought I would also share some of my favorite non-book photos from 2014. Enjoy!

Okay, so I'm starting with one that has a book in it but this is really a picture of my fat cat. The cat in the book is fat because she gets pregnant. My cat is a boy.

Strange illumination

At the Washington State capitol

On a field trip to the estuary

By the sea, Padilla Bay

A walk through the woods on San Juan Island

Bumper cars

The end of ... everything?

The Seattle Great Wheel, from the Seattle Aquarium

At the local park

Chickens who are ...

In Pittsburgh (name that building)

And it seems only appropriate to end with a double rainbow.

Looking forward and out,

Friday, December 12, 2014

Joining Up: The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience

It's time again for The 2015 Sci-Fi Experience, hosted by the wonderful Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings. Through the months of December and January, he has invited readers to join him in reading and enjoy as much science fiction as they choose. There are no rules, no limits.

I was thinking about which books were on my TBR but then realized that I've already started this 1000 page tome of sexy sci-fi. I have already read the first five or six stories from The Time Traveler's Almanac over the last month or so and would love to settle in this winter and plow through the rest of it (winter pun intended). This should keep me busy for a while!

Do you have some science fiction you want to read this winter?

Here yesterday, today, and tomorrow,

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Release: The Glass Sentence

I was seeing a lot of hype online for The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove so I got on the library hold list nice and early and then promptly forgot why I wanted to read the book. Luckily, I picked it up anyway and realized just why there was so much excitement about it. The world building was amazing, the story was exciting, and I can't wait for the second book in the trilogy.

Sophia Tims lives with her uncle Shadrack, a cartographer in a world where maps are incredibly important (and are still being drawn) because, a few generations earlier, something happened and the Earth split into many different time periods. Now, on the eve of the two of them setting out to try to find her missing explorer parents, Shadrack is abducted and Sophia must set off across a divided continent to follow her uncle's last clue.

Though 500 pages is long for a children's book, I sped through it and I assume that any child would too. The characters are vivid and complex, the villains are truly terrifying and there is so much more that I want to know about the world.

Checking the coordinates,

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