Our Top Ten (or Twelve ) Favorite Books of the Last 3 Years

The Broke & The Bookish chose a cruel theme for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday your favorite favorites of the last 3 years.  I considered knocking Holly off this list entirely so I could pick all my best reads, but decided to be sisterly and share.

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Holly:

  1. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta
  2. The Poisonwood Bible (re-read) by Barbara Kingsolver
  3. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  4. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  5. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Dude, I cannot remember any books I liked before we started blogging.

Amanda

  1. Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta.  We’re clearly kind of Lumatere obsessed.
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  Does Gaiman write anything that is not perfection?
  3. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.  I clearly have a thing for books about curmudgeons and about books about books.
  4. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.  Loved this fantasy  I am dying for my sister to catch up and read the sequel with me!! Long live the Queen!
  5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.  I loved this book while it broke my heart! Official Moyes fangirl here.
  6. Chimes at Midnight (October Daye #7).  I loved this one so much I haven’t been able to read the next book in the series yet.
  7. InCryptid Books 1-3 by Seanan McGuire.  These are just really fun books with kick ass women.  Totally therapeutic reading for me. And shut up yes, I’m counting 3 books as one.

Review or Why I Loved “A Man Called Ove”

A Man Called Ove,  Frederik Backman

Amanda

Published July 15th 2014 by Atria Books

Hardcover, 337 pages

Source: Purchased

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When I started this book I kind of worried about what the Paperback Princess led me into.   I quickly realized that she is my new favorite for recommending this book because I adored Ove.  Ove is a Swedish curmudgeon in his late 50s and when we meet him he is waiting to die.  He basically gives zero fucks about anyone who crosses his path-unless they drive a car where it’s not meant to go in his residential area.  He makes up unkind nicknames for his neighbors and then uses them straight to their faces.  He tries to shoo a Cat Annoyance from living in his shed out into the Swedish winter and considers electrocuting the dog that’s peeing on his paving stones. Then he meets his new neighbors…

You will realize despite all this that you have fallen completely and totally in love with Ove.  Backman takes the reader back and forth in time so we see the events and the people that turned Ove into the man he is.  I loved how his father molded him into a man of character.  Even more, I loved how he fell in love with his wife and how he learned to show that to her.  This book made me snicker loudly on the train and it definitely made me cry as well.  I forced this book onto a friend who said she gave herself a headache crying at the end.  Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

The Goodreads blurb for A Man Called Ove refers to him as “the neighbor from hell.”  Which he is in a sense, but once you give Ove a chance you begin to understand why he feels strongly about rules.  He follows the rules and he expects the same from everyone else.  Ove isn’t a man of prejudices – he dislikes nearly everyone equally. I found that to be part of his charm.   He not an easy man to get to know, but once you give Ove a chance you’ll fall in love too.

Goodreads is giving away copies! Go enter!  Or go to the library.  Buy it!  Read this book-but have a tissue on hand when you do.

A Few Books I Couldn’t Finish

Amanda

I really try to finish every book I start, but I’m also trying to be ok with letting go when I just don’t attach to a book.  Here are a few books I’ve started recently but I decided to put down.  I’m not afraid to try again if you’ve read either and can convince me to give them another chance!

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Some Other Town, Elizabeth Collison

Paperback, 288 pages

Published February 24th 2015 by Harper Perennial

Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss

From Goodreads…

Margaret Lydia Benning lives adrift in the same Midwest town where she went to college. By day, she works at a low-level job for the Project, a university-sponsored educational publisher housed in a former sanatorium. There she shares the fourth floor with a squadron of eccentric editors and a resident ghost from the screamers’ wing. At night, Margaret returns to her small house on Mott Street, resigned to the disturbing overtures of her strange neighbor, Mrs. Eberline.

Emotionally sleepwalking through the days is no way to lead a life. But then Margaret meets Ben Adams, a visiting professor of art at the university. Despite the odds—and their best intentions—Margaret and her professor become lovers, and she glimpses a future she had never before imagined. For the first time, she has hope…until Ben inexplicably vanishes. In the wake of his disappearance, Margaret sets out to find him. Her journey will force her to question everything she believes to be true.

Quit at 24%.  This is a book of alternating perspectives from Margaret and a man who I assume is the missing Ben.  Margaret and Ben have broken up and she hasn’t heard from him since.   Not atypical right?  Margaret believes he just hasn’t called because he is angry, but her neighbor convinces her that something is wrong and they have to find him.  When I read the synopsis for Some Other Town I was so excited to read it and to try to find out what happened to Ben.  At this point, I just don’t care if really he disappeared.  Ben appears to be living on a farm keeping geese-why is he talking to geese?  Again, I don’t care.  There’s a very whimsical quality to the writing and maybe that’s why I couldn’t connect.  When I decided to give up it seemed to me like Margaret was disconnecting herself from reality.  It was getting too strange for me inside her head.

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Woman with a Gun, Phillip Margolin

Hardcover, 320 pages

Published December 2nd 2014 by Harper

Visiting an art museum displaying a retrospective of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran’s work, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is stunned by the photo at the center of the show—the famous “Woman with a Gun,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and launched the photographer’s career. Shot from behind, the enigmatic black and white image is a picture of a woman in a wedding dress, standing on the shore at night, facing the sea. Behind her back, she holds a six-shooter.

The image captures Stacey’s imagination, raising a host of compelling questions. Has the woman killed her husband on their wedding night? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? Obsessed with finding answers, Stacey discovers that the woman in the photograph is Megan Cahill, suspected of killing her husband, millionaire Raymond Cahill, with the six-shooter on their wedding night. But the murder was never solved.

Drawn deeper into the case, Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of Megan’s culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story—Kathy Moran—isn’t talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer or the truth may never see the light of day.

Quit at 22%.  How cool is this cover?   The photo and the premise definitely made me want to know what this woman was doing with the gun.  The book begins in aftermath of murder and then eventually moves to the future with the shooting left unsolved.  Unfortunately I didn’t make it that far.  I felt like the dialog was stilted between the parties investigating the murder and kind of forced.  It seemed to me the story was being told to me, not actively unfolding and I just wasn’t feeling drawn in.  Those flocking to the murder suspect felt flat and predictable and I’m calling this one done as well.

Thank you to Harper, Harper Perennial and Edelweiss for these advance copies in exchange for an honest opinion.

How long do you give a book you don’t like?  Hopefully my next read is a better pick for me!

Pink for All Seasons: Books 4-6

We are halfway through with Pink For All Seasons, a Lauren Willig read-along of her Pink Carnation series. We will be officially hosting book # 9 of the read-along over at The Bubblebath Reader in May, but once again we’ve decided to offer our unsolicited opinions. Here’s our take on books 4, 5, and 6.

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The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (2008)

Synopsis: In modern times, graduate student Eloise continues diving into the lives of English spies and French counterspies – while also deciding that she is interested in Colin for more than just his family’s archives. From there, the story dives into scheming Mary Alsworthy (sister of the heroine in book 3) and equally conniving Lord Vaughn, as the two embark on a business relationship that turns into something else.

Holly: After the virtuous naivete of the ladies in the first three books, I found Mary to be a refreshing change. Of course, I loved Amy, Henrietta, and Letty while reading about them, but Mary’s point of view offered an entirely different perspective on her life and her choices.

Amanda: I admit on my first read of this series I wondered why Lauren would want to write about Mary Alsworthy.  She just sounds like a jerk!  And then you get into her head.  She’s well aware of her place in Society -she has the face everyone wants but no money to back up a marriage.  So despite myself I found myself sympathizing for Mary a bit and then rooting for her to find her own happily ever after.  After all the pleasantness of the other heroes and heroines I have to say I really enjoyed the snark Mary and Vaughn bring to the series.  They can be a bit too condescending for me, but I suppose as the son of an Earl Vaughn can be as rude as he’d like.  These two are simply perfect for each other in the end.

The Mischief of the Mistletoe (2010)

Synopsis: Arabella Dempsey, friend of Jane Austen, has grown up on the outskirts of the ton, the British high society to which so many of the characters in the Pink books belong to. She takes a teaching position at a girl’s school, and finds herself involved in a web of school girls and spies, while one Turnip Fitzgerald finds himself suddenly quite interested in visiting his sister at school. Notes – here, Lauren Willing recommends reading the series slightly out of order from their publication years, so this book jumps over some earlier published titles. She lists the order here. Also, unlike the rest of the Pink books, this one has no modern Eloise & Colin storyline.

Holly: I was prepared not to like this book – we’ve got a random appearance of Jane Austen, a serious lack of Eloise and Colin, AND the male lead is played by the comic relief of book #2 (I mean, not that Hen and Miles need much comic relief as they’re pretty hilarious on their own). However, Lauren got me again, because I loved this one. I thought it was interesting that this is the first book without um, a vivid romantic scene, but I think that is quite fitting. I’m pretty sure Turnip would call it deuced dodgy to talk about his and Miss Dempsey’s business like that.

Amanda: Something about this book made me grumpy when I started and I was prepared to rate it much lower on my re-read.  Maybe it was the Jane Austen cameo?  I love Austen so I don’t know why this irked me.  But Turnip- or Reggie as I now prefer to think of him- is just so stinking pleasant! And like Arabella, I fell a little bit in love with him.  I did miss Eloise and Colin but I was totally entertained by Arabella and the antics of her students.  Even though this was a reread for me I was surprised in the end by the spies!

The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (2009)

Synopsis: Eloise spends time at Selwick Manor – both hanging out the Colin and researching in the family archives. She uncovers the letters and diary of Charlotte Lansdowne, who has fallen in love with her just-returned-from-India-very-very-distant cousin Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, who seems to be hiding something.

Amanda:  I have such a good story about this book! My best friend wanted to get this for my for my birthday-but it was not going to released until later that month.  She emailed Lauren and explained what fans of the series we were and asked if she knew any way to get a copy early. Lauren mailed me one of her very own copies and signed it!  Sweetest author ever!  Dear Charlotte is also the sweetest and you just have to want her to be happy.

Holly: I adore Charlotte. In sharp contrast to the heroines of Pink 1-3, she is not at all afraid to tell Robert what she feels about him, what she wants, and how his actions affect her. I just loved reading her story, and six books in, I am still quite enjoying the series!

Are you reading along with us?  Or eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the Pink Carnation series?

Top Ten Favorite Heroines

Today is Tuesday so again we’re linking up with the Broke and the Bookish with a list of Amanda’s favorite heroines.

cafc6-toptentuesdayI think this is a pretty random list-in no particular order.

  • Hermione Granger.

Who’s on your list?

2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon Interview

Thanks Alexa Loves Books for hosting the 2015 Book Blogger Love-a-Thon!

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  1. What’s your name?  Amanda and Holly
  2. Where in the world are you blogging from?  The frigid midwest. Complete with neverending snow and ice.
  3. How did you get into blogging in the first place?

Amanda: Our fairy blogmother is my friend Christina who was blogging at Allodoxaphobia at the  time.  Those ladies have moved on to other endeavors but thankfully Christina continues to answer all my blogging questions and always is willing to talk books with me!

Holly: Amanda made me do it!

       4. How did you come up with your blog name?

Amanda: The name is in homage to our amazing high school English teacher.  He taught us “If there’s a gun on the wall in Act One, its going to go off by Act Five.”  RIP Bro Ruhl!   If he could, Brother Ruhl would come back from beyond the grave to beat me with my inappropriate comma usage as well as my inability to correctly use “it’s” vs. “its”.  Sorry sister.

    5. What genre do you read and review the most on your blog?

Amanda: That’s a good question-I don’t think I can answer.  I think both of us will try nearly anything.  I admit to reading much more smut and YA than my sister.  But I don’t think that’s all of what I read.

    6.  What other types of posts do you do on your blog, apart from reviews?

 Profound Ones.  Completely profound discussions.  And TTT when we’re in the mood!

     7.  Best blogging experience so far?

Holly: Getting a comment from a Pulitzer Prize winning author here

     8 .  Favorite thing about the blogging community?

Amanda:  That there is always someone willing to listen to me rapture about my latest read. And then chances are good they’ll point me to my next best read!

     9.  Name the 5 6 books you’re most excited for this 2015!

Amanda:  The Wrath & the Dawn; Re Jane; The Invasion of the Tearling; A God in Ruins; Pocket Apocalypse

 Which should I read first?  The first 4 are all on my floor staring at me.

   10.  What’s an underrated book or series that you think everyone should read?

 Amanda: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson.  Totally shocked me.

   11.  Which book boy or girl would be your book BFF?

 Holly: I really hate questions about book friends or boyfriends. Books are not people and that is okay.

Amanda: Books are not people I know sister. But it’s still fun to think about sometimes!  I will avoid picking a boyfriend lest my husband ever read this and feel offended.  But I can think of 2 BFF’s I take- 1. Elisa from Girl of Fire and Thorns.  2. Robin from The Cuckoo’s Calling.  Clearly those are very different books – but two chicks that are smart, self aware and can kick booty!

   12.  Apart from reading, what are your other hobbies or interests?

 Holly: Cooking, tennis, annoying my sister

Amanda: Chasing my 4 year-old. Daydreaming fantasy vacations. Going anywhere in Chicago I can walk-when its not freaking snowing.  Texting my sister.  Also currently obsessed with the Americans and Orphan Black.  Debating trying the 100 after the twitter obsession I see.

     13.  Apart from book shopping, what else do you like shopping for?

 Holly: Plane tickets.

 Amanda: Shoes.  All the shoes.

     14.  At a party, the DJ suddenly changes the song – and it’s your song. What song would be playing?

 Holly:  Who goes to parties with DJs?

Amanda:  How do I follow that up?

    15.  Pick out either a book you want turned into a film/TV show, or a film/TV show you want turned into a book.

Holly: The Lumatere Chronicles. Obviously.
Amanda: Obviously, I agree with my sister 100%.  On a totally different note, I think The Pink Carnation series would be totally fun.

Thanks for stopping by our Love-a-Thon post!! Please link us back to visit you!

Review: Into Thin Air 2015 TBR Challenge

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, Jon Krakauer

Amanda

Paperback, 333 pages

Published October 19th 1999 by Anchor (first published 1997)

Source: Purchased

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From Goodreads…

Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer’s book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author’s own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.

Holly and I signed up for the Roof Beam Reader’s 2015 TBR Pile Challenge and this is my first book off the list.  I bought my copy so long ago that my husband and I actually got into an argument over who the book belongs to – though neither of us had read it.  Also- don’t you agree its all marital property anyway?!

Anyway, I knew that Krakauer tells a good story from reading Under the Banner of Heaven and I knew that he had actually been a part of this disastrous expedition.  What I didn’t realize was that  this book was also a confessional of the experience on the mountain and Krakauer’s own role in the loss of life.

Honestly, I found this book a bit depressing.  People are paying (in the late ‘90s) $65,000 to fight their way up a mountain that might kill them. And in doing so they’re ruining the mountain itself:

It seems to me that to want to climb mountains you have to have an appreciation for nature, right?  So why be a part of ruining what you’re going to see?  That’s not even getting into the dead bodies left on the mountain.

I just don’t understand why you’d willingly go into a situation where you know there’s a good chance you’ll have to decide between your life and someone else’s before you go home.  Or where there’s a fair chance you’ll die yourself.  These climbers walk past people that are dying and just leave them. Do people just think it can’t happen to them, I wonder?  Or are they so determine to say they’ve been to Everest that they don’t care?  It is beyond me.

This might sound silly, but what I really wanted in this book was more photos.  Krakauer talks about the Hillary Step as a significant waypoint-but I didn’t really understand how.  He talks about how perilous the Iceflow was to ascend and descend-but I wanted to SEE it.  So I spent a fair amount of time on Google images while reading.  [Beware if you do this you can also see a lot of the bodies left behind on the climb.] This is how you cross the Icefall in portions:

Who thinks that’s a smart thing to do?!

All that being said, this was a fascinating story.  Its a terribly sad story for the men and women who died both on Krakauer’s expedition and in climbs after.  I respect Krakauer for coming out and explaining his own role and for the addendum chapter addressing the version put out by another guide.  I might like to read other stories of this expedition some day, but for now I am more than satisfied with this version.  I’m thankful to the Roof Beam Reader Challenge for getting me to read this one!

Major takeaway from this book- Why in God’s name does anyone want to climb Mt. Everest?

4 stars!