Top 10 Tuesday is a long running bookish link up which offers a weekly prompt for book bloggers and bloggers who simply love books. I’m excited to participate in today’s theme: My 10 Most Recent Reads.
Lately, my book choices have been dictated by two things: my desire to cull my unread bookshelves (both physical and digital) and my participation in The Book Voyage: Read Around the World reading challenge hosted by The Book Girls’ Guide. To turbocharge the culling process, I’ve been reading more than one book for each category of the challenge. This is the reason many of the books in my list below will seem related. Books are listed in order of completion along with their setting and my emotionally driven and very subjective star ratings.
The Last 10 Books I’ve Read
Disappearing Earth by Julia Philips. Kamchatka Penninsula (Russia) for the Eastern Europe category. 4 stars
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Chechnya for Eastern Europe category. 4 stars
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. Ancient Troy (Turkey) for Middle East category. 5 stars
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. East Prussia for Eastern Europe category. 4 stars
Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys. Lithuania and Russia for the Eastern Europe category. 4.25 stars
If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha. South Korea for Northern Asia category. 3.5 stars
Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes. The Philippines for Southern Asia category. 3.5 stars
Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck. China for Northern Asia category. 3.75 stars
The Astonishing Colorof After by Emily X. R. Pan. Taiwan for Northern Asia category. 4 stars
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. Korea and Japan for Northern Asia category. 4.25 stars
My recent reads have been intense, dishing out large doses of hardship, tragedy and trauma. But, I’m also getting a crash course in world geography, history and culture. I am constantly searching the Internet for clarification about dates, places, foreign words, native/traditional costumes and historical context. The reading challenge has also proved beneficial in helping me reduce the number of unread books cluttering up my life. Of the ten books listed above, eight had been wallowing in book purgatory for years.
Educating myself, decluttering my shelves and completing categories for the Book Voyage reading challenge – now that’s a winning combination.
The entertainment industry uses the term to describe a movie that becomes a big hit despite a small financial investment, little promotion and/or slow opening success. I use the term to describe a book I expect to be good (or even great) but ends up exceeding all my expectations. Sleeper Hits aren’t always 5 star books. They do garner at least a solid 4 star rating and are always a happy surprise when it comes to my personal enjoyment of them.
My reading life in 2020 was no differet than the rest of my life in 2020 – weird. I alternated between binge reading comfort genres and long dry spells of no reading at all. Even with all the reading weirdness, I still managed to consume 71 books. This amazes me, because I’m currently experiencing one of those long dry spells and feel like I haven’t picked up a book in weeks. A Sleeper Hits of 2020 post almost didn’t materialize because I wasn’t sure I’d have enough books to write about. As I looked through my stats on Goodreads, though, I was reminded of several books that were wonderful surprises and I’m happy to share them with you. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to try a book or two from the selection below or make a list of your own Sleeper Hits.
Stephany’s Sleeper Hits of 2020
What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld and Will Damron. A time travel tale set in 1920s Ireland during the struggle for independence from England, What the Wind Knows is surprisingly informative and suspenseful.
My Goodreads note:A great time travel book with a fascinating peek at 1920s Irish history. I was engaged from the beginning and fell in love with the setting, storyline and characters. I can’t help myself – I love a bit of fantasy, especially when it’s mingled with believable real world stuff. 4.5 stars.
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare. Shortly after the COVID – 19 quarantine began in March, I went on a Regency romance reading rampage. This is not a genre I typically turn to but it kept me reading during a difficult time so I’m going to honor it here. Romancing the Duke is a fun riff on Beauty and the Beast that absolutely doesn’t take itself seriously. (Warning – this is an open door romance, meaning intimate activities are described in detail. If that’s not your jam, just skip those parts or skip the book.)
My Goodreads note: A surprisingly smart, enjoyable and engaging Regency romance with a very open door (which I can skip, truthfully, because the writing is just corny). I liked the incongruence of modern sensibilities set in the early 1800s. It feels very tongue in cheek; the author is definitely trying this and I appreciate the absurdity. A palate cleanser/recovery read with very likable characters, propulsive storyline and happy ending (of course).4 stars.
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier, narrated by Michael Page. Welcome to middle grade fiction with a Charles Dickons vibe and loads of magic and mayhem. If you are looking for an escape from the the current reality we find oursleves facing, give Peter Nimble (or any of Jonathan Auxier’s other books) a try.
My Goodreads note:Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was fantastic. This quest/hero myth is filled with lovable characters, hidden kingdoms, evil villians, talking animals and MAGIC. Action-packed means no lags in the story. There is death, abuse and other difficult topics in this book BUT there is also a very satisfying happily ever after. Love Jonathan Auxier! I will continue to seek out his dark but hopeful stories. 5 stars.
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, narrated by Philip Franklin. I read Into Thin Air shortly after both of my sons came home from college to quarantine in March and talked about it so much that my entire family went into an Everest deep dive. This book is a chilling (no pun intended) account of survival and death in a very inhospitable place.
My Goodreads note:I thought this was an excellent book as an eye-witness account of a journalist hiking Everest in 1996 during a deadly storm. It was gripping, touching, and (I felt) as honest as could be given the writer was a participant who survived and was still dealing with the guilt and shock of the experience. I learned so much. I talked about the book so much with my family. I continue to Google information about the tragedy and about Everest. It’s nonfiction that reads like a thriller. Aside: I will not be climbing Everest. 5 stars.
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. I am not even sure how to describe this mindbender of a book which was recommended to me by my daughter. It’s a complicated mystery that requires complete concentration from its reader. I experienced one of the worst book hangerovers in years after reading this one.
My Goodreads note:What did I just read?! A dark, propulsive mindbender of a book which would weirdly pair well with Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter. I’m exhausted from all the time-travel, sustained urgency, and abundance of facts and people to keep straight. There are several mysteries going on, not just Evelyn Hardcastle’s death, but I wasn’t really trying to figure them out. I just wanted to enjoy the ride. And what a crazy ride it was! I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep; my brain is too agitated… 4.5 stars.
The Night Tiger written and narrated Yangze Choo. This book, filled with myth and magical realism, transported me to the Malay penninsula in the 1930s, which was colonized by the British. The audiobook, narrated by the author, was a joy to listen to and enhanced the reading experience for me.
My Goodreads note:Thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was a slow start for me. The peak into Malaya, the myths and legends of the area (especially weretigers), all the superstitions, the 1930s timeframe, the mysteries that propelled the storyline – quite fascinating and so different from my experience of the world. The stories of Ren and Ji are beautifully and expertly entwined. There is a lot going on, gilded with the fantastical. A long, langorous ride with a few rapids. Audiobook superb for pronunciation and accent. Def in my lane. 5 stars.
Code Name Helene by Ariel Lawhon, narrated by Barrie Kreinik and Peter Ganim. I need to thank Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy for putting Code Name Helene on her 2020 MMD Summer Reading Guide. I’m weary of WWII stories so I don’t think I would have given this book a second thought without her praise of it. Ariel Lawhon bases her fictional story on the real, larger than life Australian, Nancy Wake, and I was blown away by it and by her.
My Goodreads note:Excellent! Loved the structure of two timelines converging. Loved the characters. Loved the fact that this was based on a real woman who had a tremendous impact on the outcome of WWII in France. Fantastic storytelling. Loved Henri and his relationship with Nancy. Not an easy book to read but I’m so glad I did. Audiobook narrator was superb. Highly recommend! 5 stars.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Sherman Alexie has a gift for infusing difficult situations with humor and hope. And make no mistake – this book is full of difficult and heartbreaking situations experienced by a Native American teen in Spokane, Washington. Still, the beautiful writing, the realistically portrayed experiences, the clever illustrations and the undercurrent of quirky familial love and respect make The Absolutely True Diary a pleasure to read.
My Goodreads note:From the very first sentence I was hooked. How can a story that covers such incredibly difficult topics be funny and ultimately hopeful? I don’t know, but Sherman Alexie is a master magician doing exactly that. Why did I wait so long to read this? Fiction really works for me when I want to learn about someone’s life experience, especially when it is so different from my own. And Arnold “Junior” Spirit’s freshman year is light years away from my own high school experience. Wow, what a book!! I highly recommend it.5 stars.
The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow. I’ll admit that The Other Bennet Sister will probably only be appreciated by Pride and Prejudice lovers. However, if you are someone who knows and loves that classic well, then Other Bennet Sister will be right up your alley. Janice Hadlow skillfully imagines the life of Mary Bennet, the plain, prim and intense middle sister in the Bennet family and in the process creates a believable and interesting story. This book was a treat!
My Goodreads note:Absolutely loved this book. Mary is given a personality, an inner life and believable experiences that mold her into the unhappy character of Jane Austen’s P & P. What made this so enjoyable was the growth of Mary post P & P – her maturity and self-awareness. Well written, with a similar tone to P & P, I found myself getting grouchy when I didn’t have time to indulge in the story when I wanted to. Of course, there is a happy, believable ending and for this story, that was what I wanted.4.5 stars.
The Saturday Night Ghost Club by Craig Davidson. This book came out of nowhere. I never heard of it or the author until I came across it in an e-book sale. It’s a coming of age story that reads like a memoir. I honestly love books like this – weird books with unusual and often sad or dark surprises, yet which are ultimately hopeful and uplifting. I don’t want to say too much; this book should be approached with no preconceived notions.
My Goodreads note:Just wonderful! Everything I love – coming of age story in a short timeframe, beautiful writing, strong sense of place, unexpected story arc. Wistful, bittersweet, nostalgic. Tragedy juxtaposed with hope. Reads very much like a memoir. Loved it.4.5 stars.
There you have it – my happy reading surprises of 2020! Although I am not hopeful in the least that 2021 will, in general, be an upgrade from 2020, I am hopeful that I will encounter more Sleeper Hits in this new year. I’m certainly off to a good start and it’s only the second week in January.
How about you? Do any of these books sound good to you? Or, do you have Sleeper Hits you want to share? Please do in the comments below.
Last January I set 2 reading goals that I was confident I could reach. The first was a Goodreads goal to read 60 books in 2019. I exceeded this goal with ease, topping off at 72 books. I fell into a pretty nasty reading slump in November and December (which was directly related to my second goal) or I probably could have ticked off a few more books by the end of the year.
My second goal was to complete the Booklist Queen’s (formally the Pingel Sisters’) 2019 Reading Challenge containing 52 reading prompts. I completed 42 prompts and then realized I was left with several of the harder, less appealing prompts to finish the challenge. As a hard core mood reader, I found the prompts beginning to feel dictatorial and restrictive and I quickly lost my desire to pick up any book. Thankfully that dark time has passed; I read four books in 2020 and one of them will probably make my Sleeper Hits list for 2020. Of the 72 books I read in 2019, ten were true Sleeper Hits for me and I can’t wait to share them here.
So, what is a Sleeper Hit?
The entertainment industry uses the term to describe a movie that becomes a big hit despite a small financial investment, little promotion and/or slow opening success. I use the term to describe a book I expect to be good (or even great) but ends up exceeding all my expectations. Sleeper Hits aren’t always 5 star books. They garner at least a solid 4 star rating and are always a happy surprise when it comes to my personal enjoyment of them.
I keep track of the books I read on Goodreads. I don’t write public reviews but I do write a private note about each book I attempt or finish. Instead of writing formal explanations for my Sleeper Hits in this post, I thought it would be fun to quote my private Goodreads note about each book. These notes are not intellectual. They are my gut reactions to what I’ve read and will provide an insight into my initial thoughts and feelings about each book.
Without further delay, Stephany’s Sleeper Hits of 2019…
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. (Read February 2019, 5 stars). I loved this book! Beautifully written. Hefty content with a very light touch. The characters are so memorable, especially Rueben and Swede but also Dad and Roxanne. I laughed out loud. I wanted to sob, too, but I controlled myself because I wasn’t alone. The Christianity that I live is realistically displayed here and is believable (even the miracles). And the peek into heaven is exhilarating. Why did I wait so long to read this book? I’m sure my thoughts will return to it again and again.
Anne of Green Gables, written by L. M. Montgomery and narrated by Rachel McAdams. (Audiobook, February 2019, 5 stars). I love this book so much! Matthew and Marilla are so wonderful. Anne is a pip. And L. M. Montgomery’s descriptions are sublime. Such growth! I’m sure I didn’t love this book as much the first time I read it (when I was younger) but I know I loved it. Rachel McAdams does a lovely job with the narration, too. I’m going to read the second book because I can’t help myself. I wish Rachel narrated that one, too.
My Sister, the Serial Killer, written by Oyinkan Braithwaite and narrated by Adepero Oduye. (Audiobook, March 2019, 4 stars). Well, this was an unusual and interesting story and I did enjoy it. I certainly inhaled it, anyway. I just don’t know how to review it because my feelings are mixed. The good: interesting premise – the main character is the older sister of young woman who is also a psychopathic serial killer of boyfriends. Older sister cleans up the messes related to younger sister’s dirty deeds. Flashbacks relate sisters’ issues to abusive, sociopathic father. Younger sister does not change at all throughout story. Older sister changes for the worse and that’s my struggle. She gave up so much to be her sister’s “caretaker”!
The Parfit Knight, written by Stella Riley and narrated by Alex Wyndham. (Audiobook, April 2019, 4 stars). A very fun 18th century historical romance/comedy of misunderstandings along the lines of Georgette Heyer. Loved the narrator (Alex Wyndham), too. I’m not a romance reader but this book read more like a fairytale, which I love. Really liked the main romance between Rosalind and Amberly as well as the secondary one between Phillip and Isabel. Amberly’s friends are good characters, too. Isabel’s brother is perfectly evil. A light, satisfying read – would definitely consider the next book.
Good Morning, Midnight, written by Lily Brooks-Dalton and narrated by John H. Mayer and Hillary Huber. (Audiobook/read July 2019, 4.5 stars). Very solid four stars for this soft apocalyptic literary novel. Beautiful writing. Characters with interesting headspaces (Augie and Sully). Stark setting (the Arctic, space). Not plot-driven by any means, but that didn’t matter to me. This book is written to be savored and pondered over. Themes include loneliness, connectedness, purpose, regret. Not for Sci-Fi readers who want drama or action (the apocalypse is never articulated), for sure, but I enjoyed it immensely. Audiobook was great, by the way.
Recursion, written by Blake Crouch and narrated by John Lindstrom and Abby Craden. (Audiobook, August 2019, 5 stars). Wow, wow, wow! What a thrilling, exhausting, thought provoking mindbender of a read. I had no idea what I was stepping into. I liked Dark Matter but this just felt so much deeper, more stressful and better developed. I loved exploring the concepts of time, memory and self-knowing and how they intersect. With the right creative leadership, this would make some kind of intense thrill ride of a movie. It has the feel of Inception. Loved this!
Nine Coaches Waiting written by Mary Stewart and narrated by Ellie Haydon. (Read August 2019, 4 stars). Four solid stars. Lovely writing. Engrossing story/mystery. Interesting characters with a capable female lead. I read this in a little over 2 days – unputdownable. Not high literature but wholly entertaining. I will definitely read more Mary Stewart.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. (Read September 2019, 5 stars). Melancholic. Pervasive sadness. Implicit evil and related blindness to the immorality. “A page-turner and a heartbreaker, a tour de force of knotted tension and buried anguish.” TIME
I have so many feelings about this book. The dystopian aspect is always an evil, dark undercurrent but the innocence, the growth and the relationships of the main characters are at the forefront. Much to think about – will stay with me for a long time.
Atomic Habits by written and narrated by James Clear. (Audiobook, September 2019, 5 stars). Excellent, succinct, applicable approach to building habits and making positive changes. I’ve already applied some of the concepts to health changes I want to make and it is working! Listened to this (narrated by author), but also bought the book and will reread. Highly, highly recommend.
Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher. (Read December 2019, 4 stars). Exceptionally charming – setting, characters, story. Especially loved the Scotland setting and Christmas time frame. Hope from very difficult situations. Ultimately a good feeling, warm fuzzy story. Highly recommend as a palate cleanser or reading slump/book hangover recovery book.
I have a few honorable mentions this year, too. These books were better than I expected but not to the degree that my mind was blown. My Sleeper Hit honorable mentions are:
The Worst HardTime by Timothy Egan, narrated by Patrick Lawlor (Audiobook, May 2019, 4.5 stars). A fascinating deep dive into the Dust Bowl period of American history.
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore. (Read September 2019, 4 stars) Fun, frothy, STEAMY historical romance with surprisingly good writing and solid research into the suffragette movement in England.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. (Read November 2019, 4 stars). Beautiful, philosophical writing focused on the natural world and the intentions of its creator.
Do you have any Sleeper Hits you’d like to share? Please do in the comments.
The month when night comes early, sweaters replace T shirts and Halloween is just around the corner. It’s the perfect time to snuggle up and indulge in a spooky book or two. While the horror genre is not my cup of tea, I love a darkly atmospheric story that is creepy without being too graphic. I also enjoy a dash of weirdness and some psychological tension. A compelling plot, interesting characters and strong writing are all that’s required to complete my idea of the perfect spine-tingling book .
Am I asking too much? I think not.
The middle grade books in the list below hit that sweet spot of well-written, strong storylines coupled with atmospheric creepiness. They are also compelling enough to satisfy readers of all ages who want some spookiness in their lives but don’t want to be scared witless by a story.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. First, let me say that Neil is my go-to author for creepiness. He does it so well! With Coraline, he takes the experiences of moving to a new home and benign parental neglect and turns them into something very sinister. While investigating her new flat (located in an old home divided into several apartments), Coraline discovers a portal to another flat just like the one in which she currently lives. At first, everything in this other flat seems better than her ordinary life, including the parents that reside there. But something is strange about these parents and they want her to stay with them and be their little girl forever. It doesn’t take long for things to go south for Coraline. This book is perfectly creepy and the best way to experience it is by audiobook, which is narrated by Neil Gaimen himself.
Dorp Deadby Julia Cunningham and illustratedby James Spanfeller. Several decades ago Mr. Hoin, my fifth grade teacher, read Dorp Dead to my class after lunch each day; I still remember the feelings of dread I experienced as I listened to him. Dorp Dead is an odd story that falls squarely on the psychologically dark and dreadful side of creepy. It’s about a grieving ten year old boy who is placed in an orphanage after his grandmother dies. He protects himself by hiding his intelligence and withdrawing from the world around him. His behaviors are misunderstood so he is sent to live with a wealthy ladder maker whose obsessive-compulsive behavior hints at something truly dangerous. I can’t say anything more without ruining the story but I recommend this book for readers who enjoy heavy foreboding and psychological tension. It’s a quick read, too, and the illustrations enhance the creepiness.
The Seer of Shadowsby Avi. Do not be fooled by the middle grade label of this book. Avi is a masterful storyteller who takes his readers on one hair-raising ride with this tale. It’s an intense and chilling story about a ghost bent on revenge. Early photography plays an important role in the plot and the author enhances the story with rich historical detail. The Seer of Shadows is perfect for anyone who loves a good ghost story or an atmospheric Gothic tale. My kids and I listened to this as a book on tape (that’s how long ago we read it) and I loved it as much as they did.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. Take two abandoned siblings and send them to work for an eccentric family living in a crumbling manor house in the middle of a dark forest. Add a witch, a big spooky tree, a strange nighttime visitor, a mystery and a curse. Glue it all together with fantastic writing and main characters a person can really get behind and the result is the Night Gardener. Part fairy tale, part mystery, part spooky story – this book has it all. It is my personal favorite on the list and I highly recommend it.
Small Spaces by Catherine Arden. Small Spaces is the story of Ollie, a girl who has recently lost her mother. She has also recently found a book that tells of a “smiling man” who can grant your dearest wish, for a price (of course). On a field trip to a nearby farm, Ollie and her classmates have a frightening encounter which prompts her and two friends to run into the woods near the cornfield where the bus is parked. When they emerge, they are in an alternate world. A world that contains “the smiling man”. As you can guess, bad things happen. With pumpkins, scarecrows and cornfields sprinkled throughout, the setting of this book is the most Halloweenish of the bunch. It is also suitably dark and nightmarish for the season. For those who are in the mood for listening rather than reading, the audiobook, narrated by Renee Dorian, is very well done.
The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. At the risk of stating the obvious, October is the perfect month to indulge in some Harry Potter. Dip a toe into a single book or go all out and read the series. The plot, the world building, the characters – everything, actually – perfectly fit my idea of a creepy, atmospheric and imaginative story. The scare factor is real and sometimes intense but it’s balanced by believable human drama, meaningful relationships and humor. If you’ve never read Harry Potter, now is the perfect time to give him a try. Or, consider revisiting his wizarding world if it’s been awhile since you hung out with The Chosen One. You won’t be disappointed.
Happy spooky reading! If you have any suggestions to add to the list, please share in the comments.
After reading untold numbers of Best Of and Top 5 (or 10 or 15) Books of 2018 lists in December and January, I feel compelled to add my two cents and compile a unique list of favorites from the past year. Circe by Madeline Miller, How Then Should We Live by Francis Schaeffer and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman would top my Best of 2018 list if that was how I was gonna roll with this post. But that’s not the way I’m rolling. I’m going to go in the Sleeper Hits of 2018 direction, a tradition I started last year that I would like to revisit (even though it’s the middle of February and 2018 is long gone).
What’s a Sleeper Hit?
The term comes from the entertainment industry and describes a movie that becomes a big success despite a small financial investment, little promotion and/or slow opening success. I’m using the term to describe a book I expect will be good (or even great) but ends up exceeding all my expectations. Sleeper hits aren’t always 5 star books. They usually fall solidly in at least the 4 star category and are always a happy surprise when it comes to my personal enjoyment of them.
Without further delay, I give you my Sleeper Hits of 2018…
Rabbit Cake by Annie Harnett, narrated by Katie Schorr. There is a special place in my heart for quirky kids trying to figure out the world while navigating difficult circumstances. Elvis Babbit is on of those kids. She tells the story of her quirky family’s grieving process after her mother dies in a drowning accident. This book is funny, sad and pleasantly weird. The tone reminds me of The Bellweather Rhapsody or the movies Moonrise Kingdom and Little Miss Sunshine. I listened to this as an audiobook which I’m sure enhanced my enjoyment of it. Katie Schorr does an excellent job with narration. You absolutely believe you are listening to a curious and observant twelve year old girl.
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. This YA novel has all the components of a fun fantasy/adventure: interesting characters, a well developed setting, a journey of self discovery and growth through adversity, an epic good versus evil battle, a bit of romance, and, of course, magic. And, the main character is a heroine. It’s a quick read and total escapist pleasure. In the right directorial hands, I think it could be a fantastic movie.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt is a weird and often very funny Western about two hitman brothers, narrated by the contemplative and compassionate brother, Eli Sisters (I loved him!). There is a dream-like quality to this story that made it feel like an epic but quirky myth or parable. That alone would be my reading jam but the unusual characters, strong writing and tidy ending (which I really loved here) cinched The Sisters Brothers as a Sleeper Hit. Plus, that cover art! One caveat – this is a Western about hitmen. As you can imagine, there is violence aplenty so consider yourself warned.
When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen. This book explores grief, faith and relationships in a small town after a fatal car accident involving four cheerleaders. There are several secrets revolving around the accident that creates a surprisingly compelling storyline. Although there is tragedy and sadness, the resolutions are uplifting and positive; it’s sappy in the best kind of way. I also felt that the Christian faith was treated realistically and fairly. When We Were Worthy won’t win the Pulitzer, but it was a satisfying way to spend my time.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman’s retelling of the Norse myths are modern, accessible and funny. I enjoyed them so much! Allow me a disclaimer here, though. I had the pleasure of reading Norse Mythology while I was traveling in Iceland last summer which added significantly to my reading pleasure. There were so many nods to Norse mythology throughout Iceland, i.e., the Bifrost sculpture at Keflavik airport and Thorsmork (Thor’s Valley). I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this book half as much if I hadn’t been reading it after long days of adventuring in the land of fire and ice.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, narrated by Scott Brick. What a great book! I enjoyed it even more than the movie, mostly because I appreciated the more detailed look at chaos theory presented by Ian Malcolm which is only superficially addressed in the movie. The plot is propulsive; I was compelled to finish as soon as possible to out what happened EVEN THOUGH I ALREADY KNEW THE ENDING from the movie. That is a telling aspect of a great book. Jurassic Park isn’t high literature but it is a well researched and very enjoyable tale with a just a dash of mind tickling philosophy.
Off the Clock written and narrated by Laura Vanderkam. Productivity and time management hold a weird fascination for me, (probably because I’m uber-afflicted with the planning fallacy) so this book caught my eye as soon as it was released. Instead of being a how-to for managing the minutes of your day, the book focused on making the time you have meaningful. Laura suggests being off the clock means making worthwhile memories, spending less time doing things that don’t have lasting meaning in our lives, and choosing things that do matter. I especially appreciated the better than nothing (BTN) concept, being a satisfizer rather than a maximizer (hello, perfectionist), and keeping track of how I spend my time to see were I’m wasting it. I can see myself returning to this book on the regular for a steady reminder to be mindful about the time I have at my disposal.
The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett , narrated by Charles Armstrong. Take a stuffy English scholar named Arthur Prescott, place him in a medieval town with a famous crumbling cathedral and ancient library and add a delightful supporting cast and a few mysteries related to Arthurian legends. The result is The Lost Book of the Grail. While not a page-turning thriller, it is a delightful mystery that focuses on character growth, friendships and Arthurian legends. It’s also another book with a seriously satisfying ending. I enjoyed taking my time with it.
Born Standing Up written and narrated by Steve Martin. An intimate look at the professional development and personal life of one of America’s favorite comedians.
Blessing Your Grown Childrenby Debra Evans. Chock full of wisdom for maintaining strong and supportive relationships with older teen and young adult children that I find myself returning to again and again.
Now I can finally close the book(s) on 2018 with a satisfied conscience. Happy reading!