Tag Archives: reading

Books that have had the most impact on me

Back in December, when the current meme of Top Ten Most Influential books was going around Facebook for the first time, I made a list but never got around to sharing it. I was just tagged (this time it says Top Ten Favorite books, but since I struggle so with choosing favorites, even in multiples, I’m going forward with the initial idea), so I’m sharing now.

This is the list I jotted down in December 2013, so it naturally doesn’t include any book I’ve read since then. And if I wrote it today, it might be different, but.

  1. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  2. War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Traveling Mercies / Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  4. Dakota by Kathleen Norris
  5. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
  8. The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
  9. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  10. The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue
  11. A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz
  12. CS Lewis’ space trilogy / The Screwtape Letters

I’m not tagging anyone because I’m not that kind of person but also because I think nearly everyone has already done this. I’d love to see your lists, though!

The Catch by Taylor Stevens

the catchI LOVED The Informationist.

I read and loved The Innocent. And The Doll.

So it’s no surprise, really, that Taylor Stevens’s latest, The Catch, was another winner for me.

For one thing, I love the specific-countries-of-Africa that we get to know a little and Stevens’s treatment of them (in this book and The Informationist). We don’t get a generic setting, or a generic Africa. We get specifics and distinguishing characteristics, while still acknowledging that some overriding truths do apply across the board.

For another, I love the role language (and languages) play.

Mostly, I just love Michael Munroe.

The Catch wasn’t as jaw-dropping as The Informationist or The Doll, though. I think the factors that make me respect The Catch the most are the same things that make it not as much of a thrill ride as the earlier installments of Vanessa Michael Munroe books.

Michael is healing, you see. As the series has progressed, she’s becoming more in control of herself. She’ll never be normal (“normal” is a fallacy anyway), but she’s getting much closer to that than she was when we met her in book one. This is a very good thing; Stevens has allowed her protagonist to grow in a logical and believable way. But I’m afraid it’s also a bad thing. Will this be the end of the series? Will we as readers never again get to watch Michael work simply because she’s more capable of dealing with her past than she used to be?

This installment, because of the character’s growth, is much more character-driven than previous books were. But again, this is something I like in a book, yes, even in a thriller.

The world still has a place for someone with Michael’s skills; I certainly hope the book world still has a place for her, too. I may be better at delayed gratification than I used to be, but I’m not perfect. There’s still plenty for me to learn and do. Perhaps that’s an appropriate corollary? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Do you like character driven books? Have you ever read a book where character growth made said book unpalatable?

Other views:
Books and Movies
S. Krishna’s Books
Stacy’s Books
A Bookworm’s World

Disclaimers: This book was provided to me by the publisher. This post has affiliate links. If you click through and buy something, I might get a few pennies, without it costing you any more.

Quote

‘Living simply isn’t actually an option these days …’

“‘At first,'” … “‘it was more a matter of what I didn’t want. Well before I finished college, it had become clear to me that the standard deal — a modicum of luxury, in exchange for one’s free time and comfort — wasn’t for me. I was happy to live frugally, if that was what it took, in order to avoid the nine-to-five cubicle. I was more than willing to sacrifice the new car and the sun holidays and the — what are those things? — the iPod.'”

… “‘It wouldn’t have been much of a sacrifice, no. But what I failed to take into account is that no man is an island; that I couldn’t simply opt out of the prevailing mode. When a specific deal becomes standard through a society — reaches critical mass so to speak — no alternatives are readily available. Living simply isn’t actually an option these days; either one becomes a worker bee, or one lives on toast in a wretched bedsit with fourteen students directly overhead, and I wasn’t particularly taken with that idea either. I did try it for a while, but it was practically impossible to work with all the noise, and the landlord was this sinister old countryman who kept coming into the flat at the oddest hours and wanting to chat, and … well, anyway. Freedom and comfort are at a high premium just now. If you want those, you have to be willing to pay a correspondingly high price.'”

“‘Have you ever considered the sheer level of fear in this country?'”

“‘Part of the debtor mentality is a constant, frantically suppressed undercurrent of terror. We have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world, and apparently most of us are two paychecks from the street. Those in power — governments, employers — exploit this, to great effect. Frightened people are obedient — not just physically, but intellectually and emotionally. If your employer tells you to work overtime, and you know that refusing could jeopardize everything you have, then not only do you work the overtime, but you convince yourself that you’re doing it voluntarily, out of loyalty to the company; because the alternative is to acknowledge that you are living in terror. Before you know it, you’ve persuaded yourself that you have a profound emotional attachment to some vast multinational corporation: you’ve indentured not just your working hours, but your entire thought process. The only people who are capable of either unfettered action or unfettered thought are those who — either because they’re heroically brave, or because they’re insane, or because they know themselves to be safe — are free from fear.'”

The Likeness by Tana French, pages 336-337, Daniel speaking

Random on a Monday

  1. In the past week, I preordered a book for the first time ever. Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidently Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary I’m looking forward to the e-book she’s giving to those who preorder: The Family-First Creative: 42 Tips for Following Your Dreams While Putting Family First.
  2. I think birthday party planning for the little one is coming together. Yay!
  3. I need a train engineer’s hat for said party, but I’m having trouble finding one that will last beyond the one day. Any ideas?
  4. I’m thinking about trying oil cleansing for my face. Have you tried it? With what results? Here’s a brief intro, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
  5. I’m working on getting our meals all written on little slips of paper for this menu planning system. I think this might finally be the solution for my meal-planning woes. Thanks for sharing, Trish!
  6. How do you do birthdays and holidays in your family? Are they a big deal? I love the idea of really celebrating as a way to show what’s important to us. But I don’t love the stress of over-doing. I don’t think I’m a Pinterest Mom, but I like going big for birthdays and holidays. Where’s that balance for you?
  7. I’m paying attention to what we spend and where we spend it again. What budgeting tools have you found helpful? How do you stay motivated to work toward long-term goals?
  8. How do you keep your mind active in stages of life when it feels like you don’t have the opportunity to exercise this muscle?
  9. Some of these feel like they can or should be posts of their own, expounded upon, but hey, at least I’m posting?
  10. Oh! I got a new reading chair, since my old chair completely broke. I like it — and it’s red — but it’s not as good for sleeping in as the old one was. (I often sleep in the recliner when I’m sick and congestion keeps me from being able to breathe in a prone position (thus also preventing sleep).) The redness of the chair brings to the forefront of the mind the fact that our living room doesn’t have any kind of a plan or design to it. It’s kind of haphazard. So I’m casting about for ideas in my spare thinking time. (Ha!)
  11. While I not blogging, earlier this month, this blog turned 7 years old. Happy blogiversary to me! At least I don’t usually feel guilty for my paucity of posting these days.


I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Best of Reading for 2013

I’m borrowing shamelessly from Trish at Love, Laughter & Insanity (who got it from Jamie of The Perpetual Page Turner) so I didn’t have to come up with the questions, too. Just the answers will be enough blogging work for me these days, thank you very much.

2013 EOY book survey

1. Best Book You Read In 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Lots of other great ones, but they pale in comparison to this one.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I wasn’t really all that underwhelmed by any books that I finished. Although Theodosia and the Serpent of Chaos was kind of annoying. And The Explanation of Everything was pretty disappointing, too, actually.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?
Maybe Daystar by Kathy Tyers?

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2013?
Daystar, The Dragon’s Tooth, The Reluctant Prophet (not a 2013 read for me, though; does that count?), With a Name Like Love … And then there are the book club books; since I picked them, does that count?
:: How to Save a Life, Small Damages, Maisie Dobbs

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
• the ND Wilson one
• Robert Liparulo’s series that started with The 13th Tribe
• Also, started (but not really discovered this year): Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles books.

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2013?
Harper Lee? Except my standard for declaring someone a favorite author generally includes having read more than one of their books. So. ND Wilson?

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Looks like I stayed mostly within my comfort zone for reading this year.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
The Doll / Dragon’s Tooth / Eleanor & Park

9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:
Um, maybe Eleanor & Park, if I pick it for book club. I only very rarely reread, but I did more in 2013 than normal, by a lot. And that’s mostly because I picked them for book club and then needed to refresh my memory before the actual discussion.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages / How to Save a Life

11. Most memorable character in 2013?
Well, it’s hard to say it’s not Maisie Dobbs, since I’ve read like 10 books starring her, but Sherlock Holmes might be a strong contender … Oh. Also Scout Finch, and Eleanor and Park.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird. Small Damages. How to Save a Life.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?
TKAM? Me: Broken Record.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?
I don’t really keep track of quotes.

16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest: Man of Action is a standalone short story (87 pages); The Sign of the Four clocks in at 136 pages, according to what I can find.
Longest: Daystar (652 pages)

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!
A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).
Eleanor and Park
Maisie Dobbs and James Compton

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You Read Previously
The Doll. Small Damages. Eleanor & Park.

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:
With a Name Like Love, I think.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?
mystery/thriller

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?
Atticus Finch?

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
I’m not even sure I read any 2013 debuts.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Small Damages.

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?
The Dragon’s Tooth

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?
To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe?

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
Into the Free. Daystar. With a Name Like Love.

And then looking forward…

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2013 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2014?
Jane Eyre
Count of Monte Cristo
Cloister Walk

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2014?
The new Maisie Dobbs? Really want to get to Matthew Quick’s latest, too.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging In 2014?
Actually blog, maybe? Continue clearing the TBR book case.

So what did I read in 2013? (links lead to posts)

1. The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson (2012)
2. The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello (2012)
3. To Far to Say Far Enough by Nancy Rue (2012)
4. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (2013)
5. Doors Open by Ian Rankin (2010/2008)
6. The Missing File by DA Mishani (2013)
7. The Girl in the Green Raincoat by Laura Lippman (2008)
8. Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (2012)
9. Seeking Unseen by Kat Heckenbach (2012) (ebook)
10. Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (2012)
11. Dead Man’s Hand by Eddie Jones (2012)
12. A Light in the Darkness by Heather Sutherlin (2012)
13. The 13th Tribe by Robert Liparulo (2012)
14. Daystar by Kathy Tyers (2012)
15. Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker (2012)
16. Freeheads by Kerry Nietz (2011)
17. Placebo by Steven James (2012)
18. Cake: Love, Chickens, and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin (2012)
19. With a Name like Love by Tess Hilmo (2011)
20. Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan (2012)
21. Soul’s Gate by James L. Rubart (2012)
22. Double Blind by Brandilyn Collins (2012)
23. The Dragon’s Tooth by ND Wilson (2011)
24. Caught by Margaret Peterson Haddix (2012) (ebook)
25. So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (2010)
26. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans (2012) (ebook)
27. The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo (2013)
28. Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by RL LaFevers (2007)
29. Still Midnight by Denise Mina (2009)
30. A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley (2011)
31. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1887) (ebook)
32. The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina (2011)
33. Goodness and Mercy by Patti Hill (2013) (ebook)
34. A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell (2013)
35. The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1890) (ebook)
36. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1892) (ebook)
37. Sidekicked by John David Anderson (2013)
38. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
39. The Explanation of Everything by Lauren Grodstein (2013)
40. The Doll by Taylor Stevens (2013)
41. Small Damages by Beth Kephart (2012)
42. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
43. Motorcycles, Sushi & One Strange Book by Nancy Rue (2010)
44. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2011) (reread)
45. The Drowned Vault by ND Wilson (2012)
46. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1894) (ebook)
47. Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (2003) (reread)
48. The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (2001)
49. The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen (2002)
50. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1902) (ebook)
51. Man of Action by Matt Bronleewe (2013) (ebook)

Quick Stats

Book Posts: 18 (44%) [not counting this post, oops]
E-books: 10 (20%)
Library Books: 4 (8%)
From the Shelf: 11 (21.5%)
Male/Female Ratio: 21:30 (41% : 59%)
Book Club: 3+
Fiction/Non-Fiction Ratio: 50:1 (98% : 2%)
Books Abandoned: 20

How was YOUR 2013 reading year? I’d love to hear what your favorite book of the year was.

Mini-reviews: Mysteries

Warning: Some of these reviews contain spoilers.

leaving everything most lovedLeaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (March 2013, Harper), 352 pages

I loved the color and spices of India that infused this novel, the tenth in the Maisie Dobbs series.

I felt a little manipulated by Winspear. I wondered if she was delaying a decision on Maisie’s relationship with James just to prolong the series (ugh!). On the one hand, I just want to see them together. I think they’ll work well, and I want to see that. But on the other, I think Maisie still acted within her very independent nature. So mostly I’m just sitting here wishing and hoping. And a little sad.

Another great installment in one of my favorite historical mystery series.

doors openDoors Open by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur (Little Brown), 2010), 368 pages

I’d heard lots of great things about Ian Rankin’s books, so I was glad to get the chance to pull this one from its lingering spot on the TBR shelf. Mostly, though, I was disappointed by this one. If I hadn’t heard such great things, I probably would have put it down mid-read (and I maybe should have abandoned it regardless).

I did enjoy the Edinburgh setting, though.

I plan to give Rankin another try, starting with book one of his Inspector Rebus series, Knots and Crosses.

missing fileThe Missing File by D.A. Mishani (Harper, March 2013), 304 pages

This is another one that didn’t really live up to my expectations. Again, I enjoyed the setting (Israel this time). But most of the book really plodded. The protagonist’s low self-esteem seemed to pervade the book. We have this supposedly great detective, who doesn’t do or learn anything really. It’s like he’s living in an allergy fog like those commercials, except we’re given no explanation for his inaction.

The twist at the end is pretty great, though, I thought. And how the main points are never really, truly, nailed down.

red herring without mustardA Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley (Bantam, 2011), 432 pages

This third Flavia de Luce mystery was the needed rebound after the sophomore slump that was The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (my review). Our precocious protag is back at it, and I quite enjoyed this one. I hope it’s not too long until I can return to the series (I think I’ve got books four and five on my shelves waiting patiently).

I received some of these books from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

Board Book of the Week: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Books can be hard to talk about. And children’s books — especially ones with less than 20 pages — can be particularly tough, at least for me, so far. But I think I found a way to make this work.

I finally started taking A to the library. And when you go once, there’s a pretty strong pull to go back — the books have to be returned at some point, and the drive through drop box seems almost cruel when there’s so much fun to be had inside (there’s some seriously great play areas set up, let alone all the books).

I brought home a stack of books this week, as you do. Seven books last time, nine this time. Most I considered quickly but somewhat carefully, and a few I added to the pile after A pulled them off the shelves.

Some books I like, but he either doesn’t get or doesn’t have the patience for, or something. And others he insistently brings me over and over, but they make me want to gouge my eyes out. You know how it is.

This post highlights A’s hand’s down favorite, which is one I really appreciate, too. (Which is not to say *I’m* saying “again, again,” once he tires of it, but still.)

red truck

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (2008, Viking Penguin, board book) is a delightful book.

A likes:
• Pointing at all the trucks and making truck sounds.
• Also the “Vrooom,” “Sploosh,” and “Zoom” exclamations usually elicit big smiles.

Mama likes:
• The writing is clear and engaging, the perfect balance of fun and educational, no wording is awkward or annoying. There are rhymes, but it’s not over the top. There are just the right amount of words, too. I never have to read/recite at break-neck speeds to get all the words in before he turns the page.
• The illustrations are whimsical and clear, cheerful. The background recedes and yet remains fun. The colors are bright and mostly primary without being overtly so. The tow truck driver looks enough like a cross between Mario and Luigi to make me smile but still unique enough to be his own character.
• I like the text treatment, too. Colors and sizes vary some, but it’s still completely legible. And it’s not all caps. Also, there aren’t exclamation points on every. single. page. (Ahem.)

Maybe it’s just the perfect timing in terms of his attention span and vehicle fascination, but this book certainly hits the spot. I’ve enjoyed Hamilton’s YA books in the past (Tyger Tyger (my review) and In the Forests of the Night — ooh, looks like book 3 of that Goblin Wars series is out this week: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears) and I’ll definitely be looking for more of her children’s books now too.

For more on children’s books this week, check out Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection.

I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

8721893974_1f51cdfb67_zFor Mari’s Sherlock Holmes reading challenge, I’ve read the first two books (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course) so far.

I honestly can’t remember if I’ve read any Sherlock Holmes books before. I mean, surely I have, at some point, especially given my love of mysteries? But at any rate, I’m reading afresh now.

The first one, A Study in Scarlet, introduces the reader to Sherlock and we see him meet Watson. I did get a bit confused when a new second section started and, instead of the familiar London, we’re abruptly in Utah. It took me a long time to even feel confident the chapters of my ebook hadn’t gotten jumbled with another book somehow! It all became clear in time, though.

The second, The Sign of the Four, also had a somewhat similar detour, but it was much less abrupt and I didn’t get confused nearly as much. :)

Each is less than 200 pages (somewhat significantly less, actually). They read very quickly. Despite the (very rare) French or German quote that aren’t translated (a sign of a true classic, maybe?), the language is flowing and easy, not too stilted or old fashioned.

Reading these, I’m appreciating the adaptations I’ve been loving (both BBC’s Sherlock and Elementary) even more, both as treatments of the books and as their own, individual works.

I just love these stories!

On to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

(I got these ebooks from Project Gutenberg.)