Reading Challenges

Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 2

Hello and welcome to another check in for one of my reading goals for 2021. Every year I make it a goal to read the International Booker Prize short list, so far this year I have done one update, Reading Challenge | Reading a Shortlist Vol. 1 Update, where I talked about my thoughts on The Memory Police and Hurricane Season. In this update post I am going to be sharing my brief thoughts on Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann.

The Book

Image
Picture of Tyll

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann

Honestly, this book gave my some serious Loki vibes with the tricker that we follow and hear tales from. There was magic, lore, and a court jester. Following the adventures of Tyll was a very interesting ride that was woven with historical events and was a bit of historical fiction. I have to say, it is hard to pin down what this book is, but I did very much enjoy it. It was fast paced, kept me engaged from page one till the end. I honestly would have kept reading about Tyll if the book went on a few more hundred pages.

Tyll himself was a very interesting character and has a very interesting personal history. I really enjoyed learning about him. From my little research I found that this Tyll is apparently based on a Till Eulenspiegel from German folklore. I want to explore this more, because I feel like it could be really interesting. I have always loved reading folklore from different places around the world.

The only thing I can really see as difficult about this book is the way it jumps around in time. It was an adjustment for me at first, after the first few jumps I was fine.

Overall, I am very happy with how this challenge is shaping up this year. I have read books about places I heard of, but didn’t really know about. This years shortlist involves quite a bit of magical elements, but I feel like even with the fantastical elements of the books I have read so far, they cover serious topics from a life changing events, historical events as well as sharing legends and myths from the authors culture. At this point in time I have few more books to read from this list.


Have you read either of these books? Would you add either of these to your TBR?

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Reading Taste Test · Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | Cousin Edition | Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Hello and welcome to the July edition of Someone Picks My Books! This month I reached out to my cousin to pick a book for me. She ended up picking Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami, but you probably figured that out from the title. I have read a few of Murakami’s books so I was thrilled when she brought this one up so I get to read it. I was able to get it right from the library on my ereader so I got right to reading!

Description

A dazzling new collection of short stories—the first major new work of fiction from the beloved, internationally acclaimed, Haruki Murakami since his #1 best-selling Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Across seven tales, Haruki Murakami brings his powers of observation to bear on the lives of men who, in their own ways, find themselves alone. Here are vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles, woven together to tell stories that speak to us all.

Marked by the same wry humor that has defined his entire body of work, in this collection Murakami has crafted another contemporary classic. –goodreads.com

What I Liked

I really enjoyed the bite sized looks into the lives of those within the stories. I felt like the stories were well paced and the length of each one was perfect. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything, but I also never felt like a story went on too long. A very difficult balance to maintain as a writer. I felt that while we got a snippet of each of these men, each was unique and I didn’t feel like a plot was recycled in any way.

Another thing I really enjoyed was the fact that these short stories has the same feel that I have previously loved in works I have read by the author. This is personally a worry for me when I am used to reading novels by an author, changing the type of fiction an author writes can at times ruin an author for me because they can loose a sense of what I enjoy about them. Happily that was not the case at all here.

What I Didn’t Like

As with short story collections there are some winners and some not great ones. I normally have this experience with collections, but I have to say I felt overall very positive about the collection and I didn’t outright hate or fully dislike one in particular.

Overall

This is a great collection of short stories and I am very glad that my cousin picked this for me to read. I was lucky enough to bring this with my on vacation and it was honestly perfect for that setting. It was bite sized chunks of great works by a very talented writer. The stories didn’t go to fast or drag on in any way. If you love Murakami or have been wanting to give his works a try, but 1Q84 is overwhelming I think you should look into this collection.

Up Next

Next month I am reading a book picked by the lovely Minna, where you can find them on twitter as @bookishminna and on their blog bookishminna. I really love their combination of book content and life where their personality shines through as well as their passions.

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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Reviews

Someone Picks My Books | JJ Clapton | The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Someone Picks My Books where I ask for volunteers to pick a random book for me to read and see if I like it just as much as they did. This past May I had the wonderful JJ Clapton, who you can find over on twitter as @JJClaptonWrites as well on her website jjclapton.com. Yes, I am sorry I am late to posting this because I have been rethinking my blog a bit, but this series is one I truly love and wont to continue into the future. Anyway, I really excited to share my thoughts on this adventure of a book!

Description

For his entire life, Charley Sutherland has concealed a magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world. His older brother, Rob — a young lawyer with a normal house, a normal fiancee, and an utterly normal life — hopes that this strange family secret will disappear with disuse, and he will be discharged from his life’s duty of protecting Charley and the real world from each other. But then, literary characters start causing trouble in their city, making threats about destroying the world… and for once, it isn’t Charley’s doing.
There’s someone else who shares his powers. It’s up to Charley and a reluctant Rob to stop them, before these characters tear apart the fabric of reality. –goodreads

What I Liked

First and foremost, I absolutely adored the imaginative aspect of this book. I mean, the ideas of book characters jumping off the pages is something a lot of us book lovers say as a figure of speech and most likely has been around for a while. The thing is, the author actually made this figure of speech seem like a reality and created a whole book around it, amazingly I might add.

This book opened up the readers in such a great manner it was a mixture of explaining and showing that was balanced really well. I felt like the author explained just enough that the reader isn’t lost, but we are thrown right into the action of the story. The writing really was just wonderful throughout. The plot was well done, the atmosphere was great, and when I read it felt like I was falling into the book just as much as the characters in this story were coming to life because of Charley’s abilities.

What I Didn’t Like

Honestly, I really enjoyed this book and I can’t think of a single thing I did not enjoy about this book.

Overall

If you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It was imaginative and unlike anything I have read personally and on top of that was executed amazingly. I was honestly shocked to see that this was the authors first book, but very happy too see that they have others out and another one in the works. This review was hard to write because all I wanted to do was gush about it and say, how much I loved it. I will say that there are a few scenes in the book that depict a few dark things that could be triggering to some such as violence, if curious here is a list of trigger warnings. If this is something that does not affect you, I highly suggest giving this book a try. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I could not be more ecstatic that JJ Clapton picked it for me to read!

Up Next

The next installment that is coming very soon was picked by the wonderful Whitney, who you can find on both twitter as @whitreadslit and over on her blog, whitreadslit.com. She is a very kind individual and her content is amazing!

Have you read this book before or is it on your TBR?

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Hauls & Unboxings

Book Haul | April 2021

Hello and welcome to a bit of a haul from the month of April. I went on my first day trip this past month after getting fully vaccinated. It was my first time doing so in over a year and it felt so great! On this trip I went to a really awesome bookstore that was new to me and found some gems to bring home with me and picked up a few books from my local bookstore and sent one by a friend. Anyway, here are the books!


The Books

Record of A Night Too Brief by Hiromi Kawakami and Ms. Ice Sandwich by Mieko Kawakami I picked up on a day trip to a Japanese market. They have a really awesome bookstore there and I always find gems like this I would not have found otherwise. Record of A Night Too Brief caught my attention because it seemed to have so much packed into such a small package. Ms. Ice Sandwich caught my attention because of its talk of starting something new and possible love.

The Orphan of Cemetery Hill by Hester Fox, was a gift from the amazing Adrianna. I am really excited to get to this historical fiction novel with a possible paranormal twist to it.

Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, I also picked up from the Japanese market. But, I have read this authors work quite a bit. He is a known horror manga writer. This book tells tales of his own life experiences as a dog person then owning two cats. It is quite funny and it was fun to read.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, this book has been on my radar for quite sometimes and I finally picked it up. I am really excited to get to it this month as well.

Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella, I will be honest the cover of this book really pulled me in. The cover alone has such a great atmosphere for a thriller and sets the tone so clearly. Then, when I read the description I added it to my pile before checking out from the store. This books talks about a girl going to Harvard to try and figure out what led her brother to suicide. There also seems to be ghosts possibly present in this story as well.


What book have you recently added to your shelves from the library or the store?

What book have you recently read?

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Let's Talk · Lists & Recommendations

Let’s Talk | Series I Read or Started in 2020

Hello and welcome to a post where I share a few of the book series I finished or started in 2020. Now, to be honest I don’t read too many series so the ones I start I really have to be interested in. I have realized that series reading is not something to take lightly because of the commitment. I have realized that type of reading is generally not for me as the years have passed, but there are a few exceptions and here they are!


Series I Started

Assassination Classroom by Yūsei Matsui

Assassination Classroom, Vol. 01

Now, I will be honest here. I have watched the entirety of the anime and loved it. The next logical step for this reader was to read the manga. So, I finally decided to start reading them this year and at this point in time I have read the first two volumes and I have a few waiting for me on my shelf. This series takes place in a school where the students are tasked by the government to assassinate their teacher who seems to be a monster or alien that blew up the moon and promises to do the same to Earth. The funny thing is, this teacher is probably the best teacher ever and really cares about the kids and helps train them to try and get him. It really is hard to explain but I cried a few times and it takes a lot for me to cry.

Frankenstein by Dean Koontz

Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein #1)

This series I started as a buddy read with Jenna and Reg. We all read the first book, Prodigal Son, in the series together but we have all stalled funny enough. It was a good start for sure, but just something I am in the mood for currently. It has a mixture of horror with an immortal and also has aspects of a thriller with a serial killer on the loose. It really left off on a great point in the plot so I really do want to continue one day.

Series I Continued

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander, #7)

I have been reading this series over the last few years and I have been enjoying it, but I have been reading about two a year. At this point in time I am up to An Echo in the Bone, which his book 7. I am hoping to read it the last week of December or early January. I tend to read one in the Winter and one in the Summer. Since I am so far in the series I don’t want to say too much at this point.

Series I Finished

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café

I read the first two books in this series, that is all that is available in English at this time so I am going to count this as completed. I do hope the third installment of this whimsical, emotional, and magical collection of short tales. I don’t want to say too much about these because I feel like the less you know the better, but do know that these are amazing!

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magicians Trilogy Boxed Set

This year I started and finished Th Magicians Series. I have to say I really loved this series throughout. If fact it got better as it went on. I really loved that the characters started learning magic in college and that it took place in a world hidden within our own. I also loved the fact that his fantasy novel is new adult as well. I also liked that the main character isn’t perfect, it really makes all of the characters feel like actual humans with flaws and all. I really feel like I might reread this series in the future as well. I also read these with Jenna and Reg!

Margaret Harkness and Arthur Conan Doyle Series by Bradley Harper

Queen's Gambit

This last series I read this year because I was part of a blog tour of the first book, A Knife in the Fog. I then decided to continue the series because I enjoyed the first one. This fast paced historical mystery was a ton of fun and gave off a ton of Sherlock Holmes vibes.


What series have you read this year?

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Reading Challenges · Reviews

Reading Challenge | MyTBR.co Issue 1

Hello and welcome to a new quarterly series on my blog where I get reccomedations from mytbr.co and read and review them to see how well they can guess my reading tastes from me filling out a huge form non their website. I will not hesitate to say I got this idea from watching Books and Lala over on youtube and seeing her trying the same book service and I wanted to try it for myself.


This is to go over the first recommendation letter I received them from. In this letter I was recommended The Hunger by Alma Katsu, The Incarnations of Susan Barker, and The Changeling by Victor Lavalle. I will say that my first reaction to this recommendations were, “Wow, these sound amazing”. So far, this service is off to a really good start.

The Reviews

The ChangelingThe Changeling by Victor LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book ended up being so much more enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. It was beautifully written and surprising. I expected the story to be one thing, but it transformed into something magically different in the best way possible. I really enjoyed the rollercoaster of emotions this book put my through as a reader as well as a family legend that ties into myths.

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The HungerThe Hunger by Alma Katsu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very intriguing, imaginative and haunting horror. Not only was this horror atmospheric, but it mixed “real world” horror and monster based horror. This mixed with history only made it just seem even more real. The writing was well done, the pacing, characters, and relationships were all done so well. I will be trying more books from this author in the future.

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The IncarnationsThe Incarnations by Susan Barker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel was just something outside of the genre it was labeled as. It is a thriller, fantasy, and historical fiction all mixed into one. This book follows a cab driver in Beijing and the story goes through time as you learn about his past lives as he does. Each life had its own chapter where you explored the lives of these two souls, the lives they lived varied quite a lot and they endured a ton as well (violence, sexual violence, and suicide to name a few). The writing itself was beautiful, and the way the author organized the book was perfect. At no point did I think the pacing was off or was bored. I was glued to this book when I was able to find time to pick it up. Another aspect I enjoyed was the fact that the author intertwined these stories with Chinese folklore, classic, and history.

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Overall, I would say that this service did a really wonderful job in picking books for me for this round. I ended up giving every book a 4 or 5 rating and when I did get to pick up these books I tended to read them for long periods of time. I very much look forward to my next recommendations.


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Let's Talk · Lists & Recommendations

Let’s Talk | Wintery Books

Hello and welcome to a post where I talk about a few of my wintery themed books. I am not usually a seasonal reader, but I feel like there is nothing better than snuggling up next to a fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa with a winter read. It is just so relaxing during the long nights. Anyway, here are the books I think wold be great to read in the winter.


NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

While this is a horror novel, it has a large wintery and Christmas theme throughout. I mean it has a place called Christmasland in it, it doesn’t get more christmas-y in a horror novel than that. On top of this it really is a really enjoyable horror novel on its own that I recommend to quite a few to my friends to read this time of the year. I feel like the mixture of horror and the holiday season really is a great tie in between Halloween and Christmas.

One by One by Ruth Ware

If you are in the mood for a thriller and a wintry backdrop, this is a wonderful option. This thriller/mystery takes place at a ski retreat where the characters are trapped and cut off the from the rest of the world at the top of a mountain in the middle of a snow storm. This is a great option to read as soon as the temperature starts to drop.

The Widow of Pale Harbor by Hester Fox

Now, this one is a really atmospheric read. It is a really great thriller with a very big dark feeling to it that is hard to explain. It is not dark in a way that is evil, but the novel just reads like it takes place in the time of year where the nights are long. On top of that it takes place in a really small lovely town where everyone is really close, but also it a historical fiction. It has a lot going for it.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Does it get more wintry than a classic Russian novel? This novel is a classic for a reason, this book covers themes and such that are still relevant in todays world. While there is a lot of drama in this book, a lot of the issues the characters face are still feelings that a lot of us still feel during 2020. When I first read this novel I gave it 3 stars, but as time past I realized that I liked it more and more.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

I just finished this very cute romance last night, I have not stayed up this late to finish a book in a while, but this book had me needing to know what happened next between the two main characters. The main character, Vivian, travels with her daughter, Maddie, across the ocean to spend Christmas with her while working for the royal family, then the story builds from there. It is an adorable setting, the characters were wonderful, and takes place the week surrounding Christmas.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold and Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

These two collections of short stories that are about 200 pages are so wonderful and heart wrenching focus on making connections with those in our lives and celebrating and making the most of the time we have together. With all of the holidays where family is the main focus I feel like this really is a wonderful time to read both of these. Plus, a cafe where you can travel in time, I mean, this is just a great addition!


I hope you found a book that you might enjoy reading over the long nights this winter or holiday season!

Are there any wintery themed books you are enjoying currently?

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Hauls & Unboxings

Book Haul | November 2020

Hello and welcome to my November book haul. This past month I picked up a few books to finish out some 2020 reading challenges as well as finally getting my hands on a few books I have been very much looking forward to. I don’t want to drag on the introduction, so here are the books I picked up in November.

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, this is the final book I need to read for my reading a shortlist challenge for 2020. I am really looking forward to this “contemporary twist on the Odyssey”. I have had to read the Odyssey quite a few times through my education so I am really excited to see how someone updated it and came it more modern.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, I happened to come across this book while shopping one day. I saw the over and thought to myself, “this looks interesting”. Then I read the description and I really wanted to read it. It reminded me of the Tardis, the building being bigger on the inside. Plus they say if you like Neil Gaiman and Madeline Miller’s books, chances are you will enjoy this.

Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger, now this one I have been waiting to come out for some time. I did a zoom event with an author named Megan Miranda who wrote The Girl from Widow Hills, whichI loved. The event was great we got to talk about our love of Ruth Ware and she recommended this book to us.

Women in Art by Rachel Ignotofsky, I have loved the work of this artist for some time. I used to have a whole thing of postcards with their art on them that I sent to people via postcrossing for a good amount of time. Well, I happened to see she had a book out talking about influential women of art and I needed to get it. PLUS IT WAS ON SALE!

Titan by Ron Chernow, I mainly picked this on up because I enjoyed reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton. I figured if he could keep me entertained for nearly 1000 pages and not bored while reading non-fiction I should check out his other works. Plus, John D. Rockefeller seemed to have a very interesting life from my current understanding.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama, I have been looking forward to this book since it was announced. So, I preordered it and now I have my hands on it.


What are some books you added to your TBR this past month?

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To Be Read

To Be Read | Last TBR of 2020

Hello and welcome to the final TBR of 2020, it is hard to believe I am writing that sentence honestly. While this year has been very difficult, it has felt slow, but also really fast to me. But, here we are, tis the season to write an end of the year TBR. I am going to be keeping it quite small this month, but I still have a few books I want to get to before 2021 comes our way.

Book stack of Lovecraft Country, The Changing, An Orchestra of Minorities, The Incarnations, and A Promised Land.

Love Craft Country by Matt Ruff, this first book on my TBR was picked by Erica for the Someone PicksMy Books series I have on my blog. I have to say, it took a lot of self control not to read this book sooner. I have been eyeing it since she picked it for me.

The Changeling Novel by Victor LaValle and The Incarnations by Susan Barker are both horrors I wished I had gotten to sooner. I feel like in general this TBR should have the theme, “books Luna should have gotten to sooner” honestly. But, both of these sounded really fascinating and I really want to read already.

An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma is the last book I am reading for my reading a shortlist Man Booker challenge. I decided I am not going to be reading the sequel to the Handmaids Tale because I really don’t think she should have won. Anyway, I have been looking forward to An Orchestra of Minorities for a few reasons, the first being it is narrated by a guardian spirit and secondly a life changing event.

Lastly, I am planning on reading A Promised Land by Barack Obama. I had this book preordered at my local bookshop and did not get around to starting it in November, but I want to read it ASAP. I really loved his wives book and her story and I am interested in hearing his story in his won words as well.

There you have it, those are the five books I plan on reading before the end of the year. I am really hoping I am able to finish them all in time. I know my reading slowed down quite a bit the second half of November, but I hope this post motivates me a bit to get going and pick up a book!



What are you planning on reading before the end of 2020?

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Wrap Up

Middle Mark | November 2020

Hello and welcome to my mid month reading check in! I cannot believe there is only a month and half left of 2020. This year has gone both very slow, but also very fast. I am glad to share that I have read a decent amount of books already and I am hoping that this continues the rest of the month and beyond. Any who, here are the books!


The Night is Darkening Round MeThe Night is Darkening Round Me by Emily Brontë
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting collection of poetry. While it was good, it is not my favorite collection.

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Envelope PoemsEnvelope Poems by Emily Dickinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really loved this collection of poems for two reasons. The first being the fact that this book includes scans of the original writing on the envelopes and also a typed version that is in the same format. It really makes her work feel more tangible and keep its authenticity. The second reason I loved this was because the poems themselves. I have never read her poetry before, but I can see why she is so popular now.

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the CaféBefore the Coffee Gets Cold: Tales from the Café by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I never thought I could like a sequel as much as I loved this collection of stories. Toshikazu Kawaguchi is such a talented writer, being able to add so much atmosphere and elicit emotions so quickly is a true gift and talent.

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Transcendent KingdomTranscendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a lovely written book that deals with loss and an individuals journey to find answers and make sense of the world around her. This book talked about quite a few large topics, addiction, religion, and mental illness. I don’t want to say too much, but this author is very talented and I feel like this book will be one I think about from time to time and now just fade away.

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Clap When You LandClap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am currently having a hard time putting into words how great this book is. It explore the complexities of relationships and people, on top of that explore the life of two half sisters that have no idea they experience until a tragedy. More in depth review to come in my Someone Picks My Book series.

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The House in the Cerulean SeaThe House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved the setting, the plot, and the relationships within this story. The author did an amazing job in creating distinct and unique characters and giving them such great personalities. I felt like I was reading about actual people and not just characters. I have a feeling that this book is going to be at the top of the list for my favorite reads of 2020.

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I am currently reading Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. As I am writing this I am 20% into thee Cemetery Boys and I am already getting emotionally tied to the main character of this story. I am really looking forward to see what will happen. As for The Nickel Boys, I plan on starting it the day this post goes live. I really enjoyed The Underground Railroad a few years ago so I feel like I will enjoy this as well.


hat was the last book you read, did you like it?

How are your reading month coming along? 

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