cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “favorite books”

Reading Round Up: January


January. If I could somehow whisk myself away to a warmer clime, one with no snow, and a proclivity towards blue sky. Just for January. That’s right–January is my least favorite winter month. The day job requires I stick around, so I combat my winter blues with copious book reading. January racked up 17 books. I’ll highlight the hits.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life by William Deresiewicz

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Absolutely provoking, yet falls short of being truly inspirational due to a tendency to bring in too much personal angst. While the author’s experience has meritable points, that an elite education tends to prepare graduates for being stellar at certain aspects, such as being lawyers or being English professors, it falls short at mundane abilities i.e. talking to tradesmen. But that isn’t everyone’s experience, and the point he makes unravels into an unfortunate profanity-laced rant in the last few chapters.

The first half of the book is the most effective, and by the numerous sticky notes I flagged in this section, made the most impact. An abundance of worthy passages on what a college education should be in found the first half; however, the second half of the book becomes more or less conjecture, and loses traction.

Overall, an effective thesis concerning the value of an elite education, give or take a few moments of ranting. No shame in a state university diploma after all.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Continuing right from where the first book left off, Ada relates her story of adjusting to life in Kent during WWII. Much stays the same, the hardships of war, the loss, the deprivation; however, Ada sees many changes as well: her foot surgery is successful, Susan becomes her legal guardian, they must live with Lady Thornton in one of the estate cottages, and Ruth, a German Jewish girl, comes to stay with them.

Ada still struggles with the shadows of her past life in London, but is slowly learning to open her heart to the good things that come her way.

A bit faltering in the beginning, yet once the strong characterization and plot take hold as in the first book, Bradley’s sequel is just as riveting. It’s hoped Ada’s story will continue.

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A reimagining, rather than a retelling of the Chinese folktale of Mulan, Dickerson’s version is set in 15th century Lithuania.

In this version, Mulan is the illegitimate daughter of Mikolai, a warrior father who has died. Mulan serves as a warrior to save her mother from becoming homeless, and to escape from an unwelcome arranged marriage.

The first half of the plot relates Mulan’s adventures as a soldier. With realistic detail, Mulan struggles to meet the demands of fighting amongst men, while trying to hide her identity. During battle she meets and becomes friends with Wolfgang, a duke’s son. Inevitably their friendship develops into something deeper once Wolfgang discovers why he is attracted to and is protective of the young soldier known as Mikolai.

Unfortunately, the second half of the story becomes enmeshed in being more of a romance novel than the adventure story of the first part. Attention to historical detail and the smooth rendering of the multiple points of view, tip this more towards a four star than a three star review.

This story refers to characters from the previous book in the Hagerheim series, yet it can be read as a standalone.

The publisher provided a free copy in exchange for a review, with all opinions being mine.

Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

What of the boy Sherlock Holmes? So little is known of who or what he might have been like, that it is fair game to improvise, and maybe take liberties in creating his backstory.

This is the case in Eye Of The Crow, the first in a series about Sherlock Holmes as a boy. Shane Peacock, an obvious admirer of Doyle’s famed detective, has provided a fast-paced supposition of young Holmes.

Smartly written, and full of action, as well as memorable characters, Peacock provides a worthwhile read.

Prince Not So Charming by Roy L Hinuss

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

What happens when you cross a reluctant prince with a reluctant dragon? Answer: You get a book that fractures the fairytale motif with humor and fast action.

Mike Allegra, writing under the nom de plume of Roy L. Hignuss, presents the first book in a series highlighting Carlos, a prince of a kid who would rather grow up entertaining the court than ruling it.

Throw in some potty humor (because what kid doesn’t appreciate how “duty” sounds like, well you get the idea) and a dragon who shirks his fiery calling, along with royal parents who totally don’t get their son, and a new favorite is shelf ready.

This is a recommendation for those young readers transitioning from early readers to chapter books. A fun read with whimsical drawings.

Rewired by Ajay Seth

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Providence can be the only explanation for the series of events that starts with an infected raccoon bite and leads to an experimental procedure that changes the field of prosthetics.

Dr. Ajay Seth. a professed small town surgeon from Ohio, relates the case of Melissa Loomis through a conversational narrative which includes personal anecdotes that add a warmth to his story. What really stands out is the quiet faith that radiates through Dr. Seth’s writing, as his patient puts her trust in him, and as the doctor acknowledges how the events were beyond coincidence.

More than another medical miracle book, this is a story of exploring options and celebrating victories when defeat seems imminent.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided this book exchange for a review, with all opinions being mine.

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August Reading Round Up


As you know I broke my wrist the end of July which severely cramped the rest of my summer vacation. It’s also difficult to travel when sitting for more than 15 minutes–a side factor of the accident that is not as noticeable as a cast.

So I turned to donuts and books for the month of August. This kind of donut:

No sprinkles or glaze. But soft and comfy.

And here is the list of books:

by Veronica Roth

1. Four

2. Divergent

3. Insurgent

4. Allegiant

5. I’ll Push You by Patrick Gray*

by D.E. Stevenson

6. The Four Graces

7. The Young Clementia

8. Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas

by Fredrick Backman

9. A Man Called Ove*

10. Britt-Marie Was Here

11. And Every Morning the Road Home Gets Longer and Longer

12. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*

13. Portrait of Vengeance by Carrie Park Stuart

14. Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

15. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had by Tony Danza*

by Julianna Bagott*

16. Pure

17. Fuse

18. Burn

19. Amethyst Dreams by Phyllis Whitney

20. Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Veramontes

I’ve starred the books I especially enjoyed instead of my usual reviews. As much as I missed traveling to the coast and catching up on family visits, I have to say reading in my hammock for a month was fairly nice.

I won’t have any worries meeting my Goodreads Challenge this year.

Reading Challenge Met!


2015 Reading Challenge

I signed on with GoodReads mainly to keep track of my books. I so enjoy being spared of the agonizing “Okay, it had a yellow cover and the author only published this one novel…” or some such scenario of “which one and who wrote it.” GR has become my tidy little techno Rolodex of titles.

While keeping track of my books is indeed a boon for this Book Booster, I realized after reading other people’s blogs I was missing out on one other amazing feature (there are still quite a few I’m discovering): The Reading Challenge.

This feature has completely revved up my reading habits. Even though I am voracious reader, I am usually unaware of my volume. Not that it matters, but I would like to know how many books I go through in the course of a year, just because. It’s not that I’m addicted to reading, yet I notice when I don’t have a book to read I’m not feeling quite aligned. For instance, I paced myself and read a long book on my trip (North and Southt) and on Sunday found myself book less because I hadn’t gone to the library to stock up for my return reading afterwards. The reason? I do this odd thing of returning all library books, whether or not I’ve read them, before going on a trip. Even if it’s a just for a few days. I suppose my imagination believes I will fall into a black hole before my return and I don’t want to inconvenience the library of harboring missing books. As a result of my odd ritual of travel preps, I ended up with no book for my usual Sunday nap and read session. Ghastly, I know. On the positive side, it did free up some reflection time for books I have read this year because…

I have met my reading challenge of 50 books way before expected. 

Going through the list I created these stats for myself-I wonder if WordPress would consider loaning their stat monkeys out to GoodReads…

Total pages read:14, 288–I’m not sure if that is profound or pathetic

Average pages: 285–this balances fairly well, since I eclectically read books like The Little Prince, which is 11 pages, and then sit down with books like North and South, weighing in at around 500.

Most popular genre: this surprised me–I consider myself one who favors fiction and read non-fiction sparingly, yet I came up 11 non-fiction books! That’s getting upwards on my list. Gobstoppers! The other genres are 16 historical fiction/classics; Juvie/YA 13; and 12 for contemporary/popular. The numbers add up to 52, so obviously I counted one for two categories–no doubt those Darcy-type books snuck into the historical popular categories.

Fastest cover-to-cover: Little Prince–yet it’s not really a quick read, especially when I stop to investigate and reference all the lovely information found on so many LP dedicated sites.

Longest to read: those 500 page books do drag a bit, yet if they can keep the pace they go by quickly. Ink heart needed a firm editing in parts, considering it’s a Juvie, the pace moored down to boots in molasses at times–don’t kids prefer snap, crackle, action?

Most attractive cover:this is a toughie because attractive is so subjective, and there is that emotional aspect of expectancy involved–for now I’ll say Go Set a Watchman, due to it hearkening back to the original cover of TKAM, of which I am so fond.

Best jacket blurb: Slight Trick of the Mind–what would Sherlock be like in his waning years? I had to know.

Worst jacket blurb: this is actually my 51st book but it should have been the 50th (I won’t bother you with the details). The Guersney Literary and Potato Pie Society sounded like a quaint, character-driven epistolary novel about a quirky group of book boosters. However, as I became more involved in it, it became clear it was more of a historical reference on the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. I tend to shy away from these books having helped edit my mother’s own wartime memoir, and am now over-saturated with the destruction and sadness of this war. Light-hearted is what seemed promised, and what I really needed at that point in my schedule, and I end up crying upon learning about the further cruelty of WWII victims. It had lighter moments, but became too heavy in horrendous wartime details for my comfort.

Top five favorites:

  • The Great Gatsby–a reread and I truly appreciate the symbols and metaphors so much more now that I teach AP Literature. This time around it was on audio tape, although a newer version is needed (pops and skips *grr*)
  • A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mr Holmes)–Cullin truly treated Sherlock with dignity and the plot is quite plausible
  • The Bookseller–not a raging favorite read, but the premise is fascinating and a page-flipper
  • My Salinger Year–a lovely memoir of the yesteryear of publishing
  • The Little Prince–so charming, so profoundly simple

Anyone else in the midst of a Reading Challenge?

Fifty Shades of Greatness


The particulars: 1,311 voters. 1,200 suggested books. The result: the top 50 books which reflect great reads, great choices–nothing shady about good taste (BookRiot). Though I didn’t vote in the first round I shall add in my votes.

  1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (126 votes)
  2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  4. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  6. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien
  7. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  8. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  12. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  13. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  14. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  15. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  16. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  17. The Stand by Stephen King
  18. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  19. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  20. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  21. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  22. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  23. The Brothers Karamozov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  24. The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon
  25. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  26. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  27. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  28. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  29. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  30. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  31. 1984 by George Orwell
  32. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  33. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  34. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  35. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  36. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  37. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
  38. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  39. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  40. Ulysses by James Joyce
  41. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  42. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  43. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  44. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  45. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  46. Dune by Frank Herbert
  47. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  48. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  49. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  50. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (13 votes)

I would have put in votes for The Alchemist and a few of Shakespeare’s plays, like Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, Othello. Come to think of it I’ve yet to come across a Greats list for plays.

Now, your turn. What votes would you cast off the 50 Greats?  And then–what plays would you vote for? Because aren’t plays stories to be acted out?

Rating the Underrated


Thank you for tuning in for another round of lists. This one again comes from BookRiot, being posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky. She shares the results of reader poll for underrated books from the 576 who decided to voice their opinion. Usually I find these findings rather dubious.  Stanford and Gallup were not involved so how do we really know how legit the findings are?  Since you are here take a look at the list.  Any surprises?  I am only familiar with a couple of the votes. Sigh, my illiteracy is showing again, I suppose.

       Posted by   Rebecca Joines Schinsky     

Are These the 13 Most Underrated Books?

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  1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (9 votes)
  2. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (6)
  3. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (6)
  4. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell (5)
  5. Stoner by John Williams (5)
  6. The Fionavar Tapestry Trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay (4)
  7. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (4)
  8. Lamb by Christopher Moore (4)
  9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (4)
  10. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov (4)
  11. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (4)
  12. The Princess Bride by William Goldman (4)
  13. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende (4)

I adored The Phantom Tollbooth in elementary school, grooved on The Princess Bride in college, and skipped The Neverending Story, both the book and the movie. Nothing else on the list rings a bell. I’m not seeing how Tollbooth or Princess Bride could be underrated since both became film adaptations.

Anyone read any of these? Are they underrated?

Check out other Riot polls:

The 25 Most-Hated Books (by Book Riot Readers)

19 Books You’ve Been Meaning to Read FOREVER

20 Books You Pretend to Have Read

Top 10 Books You’re Embarrassed to Admit You’ve Read

20 Most-Loved Literary Characters

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The Best of Books, The Worst of Books?


If  you are here, you are no doubt a Book Boosters. And in that case you may have checked out Book Riot. If you haven’t–I do declare, you truly should.  It’s all things books and then some.  I get a direct feed to my iPhone and love, love, love sorting through the various articles.  A recent article dealt with a poll Book Riot ran concerning the books readers most disliked (trying to not be hating on any book-remaining open to preference here). The interesting part? Many of the same books showed up on the most liked list.  What does that say about readership and perspective? Don’t know. But I do like this kind of meaning/ful/less kind of trivia.  Check out the entire post here:

Oh, yeah–this was out of 937 reader votes:

  1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (102 votes)
  2. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (90)
  3. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (90)
  4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (53)
  5. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (41)
  6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (41)
  7. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (35)
  8. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (33)
  9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (31)
  10. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (30)
  11. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (28)
  12. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (26)
  13. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (26)
  14. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (25)
  15. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (24)
  16. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (23)
  17. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (21)
  18. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (18)
  19. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (17)
  20. On the Road by Jack Kerouac (14)
  21. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (14)
  22. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (14)
  23. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (14)
  24. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (14)
  25. Ulysses by James Joyce (14)

See a pattern? Most of these books were foisted on us in school. Forced reading either produced favers or haters of the titles.  Jury is out.  What is your verdict?  Are these repeaters or leavers on your all-time list?

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