Wednesday, December 31, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: All The Light We Cannot See

Good morning everyone and Happy New Years' Eve! So I have ended the year on a great note. I finished my final book of the year for the Goodreads challenge and now I am at an even 160 books. Yay! It has been a great year. Considering the fact that my original goal was 50, I am happy.

Now I want to end the year on a good note with my blog as well. I finished All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr over a week ago and I am still thinking about it. It seemed like a great choice for my last review of the year.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as a locksmith. When she is six, she goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and find her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis invade Paris and they flee to her reclusive uncle's home in the city of Saint-Malo. With them, they take what may be the museum's most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert in building and fixing radios, a talent that earns him a spot at a brutal academy for Hitler youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance.

This book goes back and forth between Marie and Werner's point of views. It takes a long time to realize the connection between the two, but in the meantime my advice is just enjoy the beautiful writing and not worry so much about that connection. Because Marie is blind, Doerr has a way of writing the most beautiful imagery that convey just how heightened her other senses are.

Here is one example of Doerr's imagery when Marie visited the ocean for the first time: "When she raises her face to the sky, she can feel the thousand tiny spines of raindrops melt onto her cheeks, her forehead."

There are so many intricate stories in this book. The title refers to the radio waves Werner works with, the fact that Marie-Laure is blind, and it is a metaphor for all the invisible stories of World War II. Little Marie becomes a spy working with the resistance and she is one of my favorite characters by far. She is sweet and independent and so, so brave. I never thought I would read a book where I actually felt sympathy for someone working for the Nazis, but I did. Werner was caught up trying to leave his orphanage and the main reason he went to Hitler's academy was because he wanted to further his scientific education. He pushes aside his doubts about what the Nazis are doing to achieve this goal. By the end of the book, I loved Werner almost as much as Marie. I won't give away any spoilers, but the ending was not quite what I expected. And it wasn't what I wanted. This book was one of the most beautiful books I have read this year. I give the book a 5/5.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bout of Books Read-A-Thon

Yes, I did it! I have signed up for the Bout of Books Read-A-Thon!

What is it, you ask? The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books read-a-thon information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog

This challenge is great timing because my husband will be out of town from Monday, January 5th until Friday, January 9th. I am sure I can get a lot of reading done without him as a distraction (but seriously, I do love him). The number of books I read in a week varies; it can be as few as 1 or as many as 4 (I think that may be my maximum). I am going to try for six. It can be done, right? I just have to remember to take breaks for things like eating, bathing, walking the dog. My dog is not nearly as understanding of all my reading as my husband. But I love her anyway.

Who else is joining the Read-A-Thon?   

2014 End of Year Book Survey!

This is an annual end of the year survey hosted by Jamie @ PerpetualPageTurner. Feel free to go to her blog and join!

2014 Reading Stats

Number of Books You have Read: 159 (I am trying to read one more book in the next 48 hours to make it an even 160!)

Number of Rereads: 3; Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, Women, Food, and God: An unexpected path to almost everything by Geneen Roth (I am not a religious person, but this is a great book for anyone struggling with disordered eating), and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Genres you read the most from: Not completely sure, but I think young adult

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2014?
I did a post where I named my top ten, but I think my number one favorite was Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Book you were excited about and thought you would love but didn't?
The Lovely Bones; It was very boring

Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read in 2014?
The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon; I was not expecting to love that one as much as I did

Book you pushed the most people to read (and they did) in 2014?
I don't really "push" books on to people because different people love different things. I did recommend We Were Liars by E. Lockhart to several people though.

Book series you started in 2014? Best sequel of 2014? Best series ender of 2014?
Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, book 1) by Margaret Atwood (still haven't finished this one yet)
Wayward by Blake Crouch
The Last Town by Blake Crouch

Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
I read quite a few new authors this year (you can see my full list here), but I guess my favorite was Jojo Moyes. I immediately read three more of her books after finishing Me Before You. She is so good.

Best book from a genre you don't normally read/was out of your comfort zone?
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott; I don't normally read nonfiction but this one was really good.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
The conclusion to the Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch, The Last Town; this is the only book I have ever had to put down because my heart was pounding too fast.

Book you read in 2014 that you are most likely to reread next year?
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?

Most memorable character of 2014?
Marie from All the light we cannot see; Marie was a blind girl living in Paris who became a spy against the Nazis during WWII. She survived incredible odds and was so brave. Please read that book. You will fall in love with little Marie just like I did.

Most beautifully written book in 2014?
All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2014? 
I Am Malala: the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

Book you can't believe you waited until 2014 to finally read?
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2014?
"Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it." - The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Shortest and longest book you read in 2014?
Tips for the Table: all you need to know when dining out in Italy by Paolo Tosilini (shortest)
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (longest)

Book that shocked you the most in 2014?
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart; the ending completely blew me away

OTP of the year (you will go down with this ship!)
Cole and Isabel from The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

Favorite non-romantic couple of the year
Marie ands Werner from All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

Favorite book you read in 2014 from an author you've read previously
Panic by Lauren Oliver

Best book you read in 2014 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else/peer pressure?
The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon; bought this on a whim based on a book review by a fellow blogger. Best decision I have ever made

Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
Park from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Best 2014 debut you read?
 An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting you read this year?
 Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Book that put a smile on your face/was the MOST fun to read?
Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan; yes, the ending made me cry but the dog's antics made me laugh out loud. It also made me grateful for my own dog. She is pretty well behaved and extremely well trained.

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?
I did a post on the top ten books that made me cry, but I suppose the best one was An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Hidden gem of the year?
The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

Book that crushed your soul?
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Most unique book you read in 2014?
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Book that made you the most mad (doesn't necessarily mean you didn't like it)?
The Chocolate Rose by Laura Florand; I disliked both of the main characters and there was no heat. I was mad that I took the time to read the whole thing.

Your Blogging Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014?
I discovered all book blogs in 2014, but here are a few of my favorites that I read on a regular basis: Joyous Reads, Caffeinated Book Reviewer, Captivated Reader, Book Journey, and Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Favorite review that you wrote in 2014?
Not sure about this one, but I guess it would be my review of An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
I am brand new to the blogging world so no events this year. Maybe next year!

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?
Starting my blog. Check out my first post published on November 18!

Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My Top Ten Tuesday post on best new to me authors in 2014 with 76 views

Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
My posts without many comments, mainly my book reviews.

Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Book Riot, NetGalley, and Book Challenges

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
Yes. I have completed my 2014 Reading Challenge on Goodreads. Click here to see my challenge.

Looking Ahead

One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone (I have the ARC for this so I will be reading it soon!)

Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?
The conclusion to The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey (I hope it comes out in 2015!!)

One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?
I joined some 2015 Challenges and I hope to complete all of them.

A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:
After Birth by Elisa Albert; The expected publication date is February 2015

I had a lot of fun doing this survey and I look forward to doing it again next year. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Books I would read in an apocalypse

Last week, I finished Station Eleven. If you haven't read it yet, please do it now! It is one of my favorite books of 2014. It is a dystopian novel that bounces between the present flu epidemic that is wiping out the population and twenty years in the future, where people are trying to rebuild civilization after the flu. Emily St. John Mandel does an incredible job with the description of the new society and how everything has changed. One thing that stuck out for me is that many people were either children when the epidemic hit or were born after everything changed. Because of this, there are a lot of things we take for granted that they don't remember: things like electricity, computers, telephones, credit cards . . . and even books and magazines!

So this made me think about what I would do for reading material if something like this happened. Yes, if the worst did happen my first thought would be about books, not inconsequential things like food and water. Obviously, if this happened my Kindle would become obsolete. No electricity = no ability to charge it. So what would I read? I would not be able to carry every book in my collection with me.

Then I began thinking about which books I would carry with me. These would have to be books I would not mind reading over and over again. I gave this a lot of thought and came up with these books:
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  3. Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay
  4. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Of course, I only own the digital copy of three of these books so maybe I should work on that. Ha.

What books would you carry with you in the event of an apocalypse?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Read Harder Challenge

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I apologize if I have been late responding to some of the comments. I have been soaking up every minute I can of family time before I leave the States and fly back to Italy, which is TODAY! I really love living in Italy, but I miss my family.

Anyway, today I wanted to talk about the 2015 Read Harder Challenge, hosted by Book Riot. I know, I know, I said I would try not to overwhelm myself with challenges but this one seems kind of fun. There are 24 tasks, so roughly two books a month if you wanted to complete all of them. I like this one because it seems more like a scavenger hunt for books! The tasks are very different so I am hoping they take me out of my comfort zone with books. Sometimes I feel I read the same genre or the same type of author over and over. I hope to change that.

Here are the tasks:
  1. Read a book written by someone when they were under the age of 25.
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65.
  3. A collection of short stories.
  4. A book published by an indie press.
  5. A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ.
  6. A book by someone whose gender is different from your own.
  7. A book that takes place in Asia.
  8. A book by an author from Africa
  9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
  10. A microhistory
  11. A young adult novel
  12. A sci-fi novel
  13. A romance novel 
  14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade.
  15. A book that is the retelling of a classic story (fairytale, classic novel, Shakesperean play, etc.)
  16. An audiobook
  17. A collection of poetry 
  18. A book that someone has recommended to you 
  19. A book that was originally published in another language 
  20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
  21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over.)
  22. A book published before 1850
  23. A book published this year (2015)
  24. A self-improvement book
You can talk about the challenge on social media with the hashtag #Read Harder. There is a Goodreads group dedicated to this challenge as well. Click here to join that group. I have already joined it! Also if you go to the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge page, they have resources for each category to help.

I am not going to kill myself to finish all 24 tasks since I do have other challenges. But I think it will be fun to try to do a lot of them.

Would you like to join me in this challenge?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Top Ten of 2014: Books that made me cry

Time for a week of looking back! Thanks to Jamie @ Two Chicks on Books, Rachel @ Reading YA Rocks, Mindy @ Magical Urban Fantasy Reads, and Nancy @ Tales of a Ravenous Reader for hosting the TOP TEN OF 2014!!

Today's topic is my choice so I decided on the top ten books that made me cry in 2014.

1. Sea of Tranquility

2. An Untamed State

3. Tell the wolves I'm home

4. The Law of Moses

Are there any books that made you cry this year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. They feature a different top ten list every week. This week's topic: top ten books I wouldn't mind Santa bringing me this year.

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy box set by Suzanne Collins - Yes I have already read this set but I had borrowed it. Seeing the most recent movie made me want to reread the entire series. It has been a while!
    2.  Rick Steves' Prague and the Czech Republic - Yes of course there is a travel book on my list. 
         Living in Italy means lots of opportunity for travel. My husband and I are planning a possible trip 
         to Prague for my birthday in May. And Rick Steves travel books are the best!

     3   The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - I have never read this book, but it is a classic. Shocker, but it is not 
          available on Kindle. D'oh! 

     4.  E.B. White box set with Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and The trumpet of the swan - Believe it
         or not, I have never read Charlotte's Web! How on earth is that possible?? I have never read any  
         of those books by E.B. White so I would love this box set!

     5.  Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - I just read Eleanor and Park and absolutely loved it (click here for
          my review)! Reading the reviews for this one makes me want to read it even more.

    6.  The Lottery and other Stories by Shirley Jackson - Have you ever read The Lottery? Scariest 
         short story ever! I read it in junior high and it has still stuck with me. I would love to read the 
         story again, along with some of her other stuff since that story is the only thing I have ever read
         by her. This book is also one of the ones I will be reading for my 2015 Banned Book Challenge.

     7.  The Bookshop Book by Jen Campbell - A book about bookshops? Sign me up! Would it be 
         weird if I planned my Europe travel around different bookstores? Or would it be weird if I didn't?

    8.  Redeployment by Phil Klay - This book has been getting so much buzz this year. It tells of 
         different soldiers, what they go through in times of war, and the struggles they face returning 
         home to their "normal" lives. I have only read a sample, but it seems like a beautiful book.

     9.  The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan - A young woman with a 
         promising future ahead of her dies in a sudden accident just five days after graduating from Yale.
        These are essays written by her and they have received so much love from reviewers that I need to
        see what the fuss is about.

    10.  Infinity + One by Amy Harmon - Harmon's book The Law of Moses is one of my favorite 
          books I have read this year. It blew me away (click here for my review). Reviews are just as
         good for her other book as well.

Of course I also wouldn't mind an Amazon gift card. Hint, hint. Ha

Are there any books you wouldn't mind getting for Christmas?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Best Books of 2014

Time for a week of looking back! Thanks to Jamie @ Two Chicks on Books, Rachel @ Reading YA Rocks, Mindy @ Magical Urban Fantasy Reads, and Nancy @ Tales of a Ravenous Reader for hosting the TOP TEN OF 2014!!

So I have read 158 books this year (and still counting). There was stiff competition for the top ten of the year. I have read so many great books! So without further ado, here is my list! (FYI, these are in no particular order. If I actually tried to rank these, I would be in real trouble.) You can click here to see the full list of books I have read this year!

  1. Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay - Did you ever have one of those books that you dreaded finishing? This was that book for me. I immediately wanted to reread it after finishing it. If it wasn't for my extensively long TBR list, I probably would have. The only thing I regret about this book is that it was on my Kindle a whole seven months before I read it!

     2.  An Untamed State by Roxane Gay - I am not kidding when I say that this is probably the best
          book I have read all year. It was freaking brilliant. Roxane Gay deserves all the hype and more.
          Click here for my review of this book. 

    3.  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - A beautiful book about first love that made me swoon
         and sigh numerous times. Bring on the next book by Rainbow Rowell please! Click here for my
         review of this book.

    4.  The Wayward Pines series by Blake Crouch - Okay, so I cheated on this because this one is
         three books in one. But I will cheat to give praise to this amazing series. The final book in this
         series was so intense I actually had to take a break because my heart was pounding so hard. And
         when I finished the book, I didn't start another one for two weeks, partly because I was too
         emotionally drained but also because I couldn't imagine another book being that intense.

   5. The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon - This was a book I preordered on a whim and I have never
       been so happy to have low self control. It wasn't what I expected, but it was amazing. I can't wait
       to read her other stuff. Click here for my review of this book.

    6. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - This book really made me think and I can't believe it
        took me so long to read this classic. I have all of her books on my TBR list now. Such a powerful

    7.  The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin - Wonderful historical fiction about the Lindbergh
        family and of course, the Lindbergh baby. I know the author took some liberties, but most of what
        is in this book is rumored to be true. This made me want to rush out and read everything I could
        about the Lindberghs.

    8.  Tampa by Alissa Nutting - Do not let the material scare you away. This is about a woman who
         sexually preys on younger boys and became a teacher because of this attraction. I actually used to
         counsel sex offenders and I think it is so refreshing to see a book about a women sex offender
         because they do exist. This is a book that I couldn't put down and couldn't wait to see how it
         would end.
     9.   The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes - An engrossing and gripping mystery that also involves
           time travel. Yes, time travel. It really is the murder mystery that has everything. 

   10.  Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt - An emotional book that takes place in a time
          when we didn't know a lot about AIDS, how it spreads or how to treat it. This book made me
          mad, it made me cry and I really, really enjoyed the ending. I wasn't sure if I would like it with
          all the hype that surrounded it but it was easily one of my favorites this year.

Honorable Mention: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Just finished this one. WOW. It is a dystopian novel set twenty years after the collapse of civilization brought on by a flu epidemic. It is very engrossing and I am fascinated by the ways all these different people try to rebuild a society after so many people die.

Man, it was hard to narrow this list down to ten. Are there any on the list that you have read? What was one of your favorite books of 2014?