Falling in love again

Hello, hello Internet World!

I have severly neglected this blog which is a crime because when I don’t do it I forget how much I love to write about books. It is, at times, difficult to convey the true levels of passion that one feels through the written word, BUT, like my foremothers before me I shall do simply that.

So what has changed since my last post in 8 months ago?

Well, I graduated from Simmons College with a Masters degree in library science! Somestimes dreams do come true, but only with a lot of hardwork and determination–and a willingness to get into a bit of student loan debt, but that’s another story for another blog. In July, I started a position as a Children’s librarian in Lexington, MA WHICH if you know me is quite the surprise. I was confident that after leaving New England I would never return, but this job is such a dream. I couldn’t pass it up, and I am thankful to work in a place that encourages me to grow.

But you came here for information on great books, and I’m rambling about life! I’ve been keeping a journal filled with quotes and random thoughts on all of the books I am currently reading. Stay tuned for those to start appearing, but in the meantime, I will reward your patience with a list of some of my favorite reads in 2017! You can check out my “full” list of 2017 reads on my Goodreads page!

Favorite reads of 2017

Who didn’t love this book last year? Man, realistic fiction is generally not my favorite, but Angie’s story was timely and SO well told. I was hooked from the first chapter, and my heart raced until the ending. Please do yourself a favor and pick up if you have not already!

“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

Oh, Lazlo Strange, how I adore thee! The story of a young librarian literally shaped by books. I cannot describe this book in a way that doesn’t give away a bit of the plot, but it was simply goregous. One of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. I started this as an audiobook, and after two chapters insisted on stopping at the first bookstore we encountered. I ran inside, grabbed the book, and whilst clutching it possesively to my chest proceeded to tell the bookseller a the register how much I adored it. She promised me she’d grab a copy herself and I spent the rest of the evening locked in my room reading, and I intend to read it again this month with my book club.

That’s the best recommendation I can give you.

You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable,” she pleaded. “Something beautiful and full of monsters.”

“Beautiful and full of monsters?”

“All the best stories are.”

Well…this book left me crying on the T so there’s that.
Beautiful story, excellent adventure, and the cover art is just stunning. Book 2 in this duology was sweet, but not as enthralling as this one!

“It was easy to be good and kind in times of plenty. The trying times were the moments that defined a man.
And love? Love was something that did much to change a person. It brought joy as it brought suffering, and in turn brought about those moments that defined one’s character. Love gave life to the lifeless. It was the greatest of all living powers.
But, as with all things, love had a dark side to it.”

I finished this book in August, and I still find myself thinking about it. A world where death has…well, died, and the only way to keep the population under control is to have a class of people called scythes that are responsible for weeding the population. Dark, fascinating, and wholly original. The sequel came out earlier this month, and I am eagerly awaiting my copy!

“Human nature is both predictable and mysterious; prone to great and sudden advances, yet still mired in despicable self-interest.” 

Based on the invention of the first typewriter and yet it reads like a modern fairy-tale. This book left me with a deep longing to know more. It was hard for me to say what I wanted to happen because no outcome seemed particularly good, but it did beautiful things for my imagination and my heart. I’m intrigued to know the true story–even though I know I never will because all that we have to go on are the things that were later fantasized about in this book.

“His small compliments and offhand remarks formed a new scripture, and in breathless conversations and lonely, dream-drunk nights they built whole theologies from them.”

Darkly gorgeous. If these stories are any indication of what the rest of the Grisha Verse is like then I know that I am in for a treat. Bardugo weaves words in the most spellbinding of ways. Each story makes you question the nature of story as well as the world around you.

Recommended for anyone because who doesn’t need folklore to remind us of why we live?

“You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that hollow place can never be filled – not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it as the boy did.”

Cora’s husband dies, and she heads off from society in London to live in Essex only to learn about some mythical serpent that’s terrorizing the lands. Fascinated by natural history, Cora, of course, goes off to investigate. Along the way she meets and forms a friendship with Will, a young priest who has no time for the sacrilegious stories of country folk.  You don’t read this story just for the plot. You read it because Cora is the heroine my heart unknowingly yearned for!

“The point is not what I see, but what I feel; I cannot see the ether, yet I feel it enter and depart, and depend upon it. I feel that something is coming; sooner or later, my words be marked. It has been before, as well you know, and it will come again, if not in my lifetime in yours, or in your children’s, or in your children’s children’s, and so I will gird my loins up, Parson, and if I might make bold a moment, I would recommend that you do similar.”

If you adored The Bear and the Nightingale (which I did! It was my favorite book of 2016!), this sequel will leave you swooning. Vasya is back with a vengeance. Arden sweeps you immediately into this world, and leaves you not wanting–yearning for more! I won’t say more on the off chance that you haven’t read The Bear and the Nightingale .  Just read it, and please gush about this series with me!

“Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.”

We got this book in my library, and before we’d finished processing it to share with the public we passed it around to EVERYONE else. We all just gushed, and swooned and sighed. Focusing on the simple beauties that make life truly worth living, this book filled me with such joy. I wanted to lose myself entirely in this world forever.

Katie O’Neill, please grant us the gift of reading more about The Tea Dragon Society. My heart needed this moment, and I’m sure I am not alone.

This book is simply sweet. That’s all there is to it. In a world filled with chaos and dischord, I need a book just like this to help me escape.

“I thought about how many elements it took to create the simplest of things – a pink sky an unusually perfect day, a happy family, a deep friendship, a moment of pure delight. I wondered, too, what it took to undo these things. It seemed to me that undoing something was far easier than creating it.”

If you just want your heart to be lightened by a feel good read. This is it. Your protagonist, Nina, has a gift for finding the perfect books for her readers, but when her library gets a tech update there’s little room for Nina. Trying to find her purpose, she buys an old van and drives out into the Scottish countryside–selling books from her bookmobile. It’s lighthearted, and the sort of story many of us just yearn for!

“Some people buried their fears in food, she knew, and some in booze, and some in planning elaborate engagements and weddings and other life events that took up every spare moment of their time, in case unpleasant thoughts intruded. But for Nina, whenever reality, or the grimmer side of reality, threatened to invade, she always turned to a book. Books had been her solace when she was sad; her friends when she was lonely. They had mended her heart when it was broken, and encouraged her to hope when she was down.”

My heart summed up  in a quote.

Until next time!

xx

 

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Children’s Book Week!: The Phantom Tollbooth

Children’s books are a wealth of knowledge that lasts with us far beyond our initial reading. One of my absolute favorite books as a child was The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I still have the copy my father gave me for Easter in 1997 (I think!) I was 10 years old, and I fell head over heels for that crazy world. As an adult, I still manage to turn back to it for a bit of wisdom.

If you’ve never read The Phantom Tollbooth, pop over to your local library and pick it up today. You won’t regret it in the least! The essential premise of the story is a young boy named Milo, who is always bored with life, comes home to find a mysterious tollbooth in his bedroom. He hops into his toy car and drives through to a world where letters grow on trees, numbers are mined, and the Princesses of Pure Rhyme and Sweet Reason have been banished to the Castle in the Air (cue scary music!) by their warring brothers King Azaz and the Mathmagician. Milo with his friends Tock–the watchdog who ticks and the Humbug head off to rescue the princesses. Crazy adventures ensue filled with clever wordplay and a million life lessons.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens.”

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”

“…many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

“Just because you have a choice, it doesn’t mean that any of them ‘has’ to be right.”

Happy reading!

Children’s Book Week!

May is here! And along with the delightful mixture of fresh flowers and petrichor, May brings one of my favorite literary celebrations–the celebration of Children’s Literature!

When did you fall in love with reading? Chances are if you are anything like me it was a very young age. I have vivid memories of going to the library with my mother and listening as she read me my favorite stories. (She was a genius and also recorded said stories so that I could listen to them over and over again as many times as I wished!)

I remember my father, who was a submariner, leaving me a book that he’d loved as a child  whenever he went off to sea. I voraciously devoured Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and my absolute favorite The Phantom Tollbooth anxious to share in the things my father loved.

I remember most vividly that beautiful evening when my mother let me accompany her to the house of a friend who happend to work in a bookstore. Knowing my love of books she gave me a copy of one she’d recently read and adored. It was the story of a boy wizard, and she thought I enjoy it.

Fastforward nineteen years later, and here I sit writing to you as a 30 year old woman finishing her masters in library science with a dream of working with children and young adults to share that love with the world.

Stay tuned because this week I’ll be writing about things that I love in the world of Children’s Books!

So what about you? Care to share your favorite children’s books with me?

 

Love Letter to a Book: The Bear and the Nightingale

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‘Frost-demons have no interest in mortal girls wed to mortal men. In the stories, they only come for the wild maiden.’

Have you ever read a book that you enjoyed so much that in attempting to describe it you threw out were generic phrases that never seemed to be enough?

“It’s absolutely brilliant, I swear!”

“This is one of the best books I’ve ever read!”

“It’s just….SO GOOD!!! AH! READ IT!”

In truth, this doesn’t happen to me often. I read a lot of books that I really enjoy. Those books that I know I will revisit a million times over simply for the sake of living in the world again. Being around those characters that became like a second family to me whilst lost among the pages that brought them to life. I in no way want to downplay the beauty of those books.

Sometimes, however, I read a book that leaves me speechless. I close the final page and simply sit in stunned awe. For me, The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden is the latest to inflict me with a love beyond explanation.

Set in in medieval Russia, The Bear and the Nightingale tells the story of a young girl named Vasya who has the ability to see the spirits that guard her people. When a priest arrives attempting to nullify their pagan leanings for the sake of the church, Vasya essentially defies everyone to keep them safe.

This story is that perfect mix of history and fairytale that keeps my heart yearning for more! Vasya is wild and strong both physically and mentally, and manages to constantly retain her youthful spirit. I found myself constantly cheering for her, yearning for her to be able to break free of the chains placed upon her because of her sex.

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”

I remember quite clearly the moment that I finished this book. I was sitting on my boyfriend’s bed in Colorado while he sat working on his computer. I held the book to my chest and closed my eyes. I sat in silence trying to take it all in. Kyle disrupted my revery, “Are you okay?” he asked quietly. I opened my eyes and turned to him and immediately burst into tears. He looked at me shocked (and then proceeded to laugh because he’s never seen my reaction to the ending of a book!) I tried to explain why I was crying, but that only made me cry even more.

That was in December. It is now April, and I have only just gained the words to talk about why I loved this book!

 

If you decide to read it, or if you’ve already done so, let me know so we can chat about it!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman

“You were never easy, darling difficult sulky you, never diplomatic. You might even have been easy to dislike at times. But no one, absolutely no one, would dare tell me you were hard to love.”

During the summer of 2010, my beautiful grandmother died of dementia. I was out of the country at the time, and could not make it home for the funeral. My memories of her are filled with happy times, but there is also the darkness that covered her last years. I watched as she slowly disappeared; transforming from the vibrant woman of my youth into a depressed, lonely woman in a nursing home. Losing her both broke my heart, but also gave me peace because I could see how painful life had become for her. If I close my eyes, I can still see her smile and hear her beautiful voice telling me she loves me and that is what matters most.

This book. It does the same thing. Backman creates an almost sweet story from a heartbreaking topic. He reminds us both of the pain and the joy of loss. The relationships between Grandpa, Noah, and Ted made me want to laugh and cry. The moments that Grandpa lost himself in the memory of grandma left my heart wanting more. Imagine what it would be like to no longer remember the person you love. It is a pain that no one can describe or understand, and yet somehow Backman allows us to feel some semblance of empathy for Grandpa’s plight.

Short, but dense. This book left my heart a bit better than before I read it.

Booksmithies Recommend

What is the best gift you can take away from a year of working at a bookstore?

Book recommendations, obviously!

In the month before my departure from Boston I presented my fellow booksellers with a challenge:

  1. Pick a book that you love, and that you think I should read
  2. Write an inscription inside of said book
  3. Stay tuned for my thoughts!

I knew from the start that this would be a difficult task for most. When you have a deep love for books, it is nearly impossible to choose just one, BUT this beautiful family of mine rose triumphantly to the challenge before them. Below is the assortment of books that sit rather proudly on my “Boston Recommends” bookshelf.

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Throughout this year (and well, until I finish them all) I will be writing my thoughts on each. You can follow the reviews with the tag #booksmithiesrecommend, and if you’d like to purchase any of these books, click on the links which

In no particular order the books are:

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon recommended by Amanda (This one I’ve already read, but I very much intend to re-read it and send my love!)
  2. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty recommended by Katie
  3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides recommended by Jess
  4. These Dreams of You by Steve Erikson recommended by Dan
  5. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray recommended by Paul
  6. Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, and Craig Hamilton  recommended by Travis
  7. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson recommended by Liz
  8. The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra by Thict Naht Hanh recommended by Gwen
  9. A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit recommended by Shuchi
  10. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrick Backman recommended by Joell
  11. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken recommended by Alex
  12. Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky recommended by Lydia

Not pictured:

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I highly recommend that you ask your friends to do the same. These recommendations make me feel so close to my friends despite being nearly an entire country apart, and no matter where I go in life, I will have these books and so a constant tether to them.

Happy reading!

2016 in Review!

2016 was a strange reading year for me. Between getting into my core classes in my masters to working in a bookstore, I found little time for writing and a surprising amount of variety in my usual reading choices. I started the year optimistic that I would complete a rather specific reading challenge, and by the end of it realized that while I believe it was one of my most satisfying years as a reader, it was certainly my least well-tracked.

Without further ado, Reader, I will now share a few of my favorite books from 2016! Continue reading