Cupa Tea · Favorite Books

My 5 Favorite Books of All Time

I browse Pinterest a lot and one of my biggest pet peeves is the unrealistic expectations that site brings to the table.  Unicorn cupcakes and Death Star hand carved pumpkins aside, my biggest beef is with the “Top 75 books you MUST read this fall!”.  Seriously? 75 “must read” books to be consumed in the 3 months of fall? Who writes these impractical lists and what reality do they live in?  It’s annoying.

Anywho, rant aside, the hubs got me a writing class for my birthday!  Excitement abounds! Right out of the gates, the instructor jumped to the merits of writing…you guessed it…LISTS!  Luckily, she’s much more reasonable than Pinterest and recommended lists of 10. (You got that Pinterest? 10…not 75).  So with her suggestion, I figured this week’s post would feature a list of my favorite books of all time.

In no particular order, I bring you my 5 favorite books of all time!

 

1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London  

No joke, this book actually put the fire of Alaska in me and when we finally made it to Denali and saw sled dogs in action, it was like a part of my soul broke loose and tore through the track with those big beautiful Huskies.

2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders is the ORIGINAL teenage angst manifesto.  I’ve been in love with Ponyboy since the 3rd grade. This is one of those rare books where after reading, I sigh and start reading all over again.  And after that 2nd reading, I’ll turn on the movie and sigh all over again for the next two hours.

3. Who Rides With Wyatt by Will Henry  

This yard sale bargain box book hooked me on Westerns for life.  There’s something endlessly romantic and all American about cowboys, the Wild West and the fine line between right and wrong.  Did I mention “Tombstone” is my favorite movie?

4. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This book is entirely responsible for my obsession with Arthurian legends.  Zimmer Bradley took a male dominated tale and turned it entirely on its head. The Mists of Avalon is an incredibly deep and rich tale that draw its strength from the strength of the female characters.  I have read this book at least once every couple of years since high school.

5. The Light Between Oceans by M.L Stedman

There are good books and then there are books that curl up and wiggle like worms into your heart and take up permanent residence.  The Light Between Oceans is the latter. I’ve never cried so hard while reading a book in my entire life. The pages were literally soaked and got all crinkly water-damagey.

If you have time to sit and read for several hours, I recommend the first three books.  If you’re looking for something longer than an afternoon read, The Mists of Avalon or The Light Between Oceans are fantastic books to curl up under a warm fall blanket and snuggle with.

Until next time, happy reading!
Cheers-

-R

 

beach read · Favorite Authors · Favorite Books · series books · Summer Read · thoughts

I am officially obsessed with the worlds created by Jeff Wheeler

It’s official y’all.  I am completely obsessed with the worlds Jeff Wheeler has created.  This entire summer has been spent immersed in Muirwood and Kingfountain, day dreaming about kingdoms and castles, banished princesses and magic.  So.  Much.  Magic!  I love it!  So far I’ve devoured 15 (!) of Wheeler’s books and started on the 16th last night.  While each series is its own world and series, they do weave very loosely into one another, which is incredible.  It’s almost like Wheeler is writing his own fan fiction after each series and building world up on world that roots back to the original.  However, if we’re being honest, it’s hard to tell which world is the original world and it feels like Wheeler somehow wrote all of these books simultaneously rather than sequentially.

While Wheeler’s website recommends reading the books in the order which they were written, I’ve just read them in haphazard order by series, which has worked out fine.  The Kingfountain Series is still my absolute favorite so far.  This series felt like Wheeler’s best work, the stories and characters were so rich and well developed.   However, Owen Kiskaddon and Ankaratte Tryweony just wrapped me up so completely and were two of my all time favorite characters this year, so this may be coloring my love for the Kingfountain Series.

One of the great things about Wheeler’s series is that they tend to be 3 books of about 300-ish pages.  They also wrap up quite neatly while leaving room for expansion and tie-ins into his other series.  While I love Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, these series are hefty and take some serious dedication to get through.  Whereas with any of the Wheeler books, you can fly through them in about a week (or weekend if we’re being honest about our obsession here) which makes them really great summer pool/beach/camping reads.

Now is probably a really great time to sing the praises of Kindle Unlimited as every one of Wheeler’s books has been included in my Kindle Unlimited subscription.  Well worth the $11/month.

Alright friends, magic world obsessions aside, it is time to get back to real life.

Happy reading and until next time, cheers!

-R

beach read · Book Review · Favorite Authors · Favorite Books · Mythology · series books · Summer Read

The Kingfountain Series by Jeff Wheeler

 

Happy summer y’all!

If you’re like me, you’re getting your summer reading list ready for beach days, lake days, hammock days, park days!  There is nothing better than reading a good book in the summer sun.

With that being said, I have been obsessed (OBSESSED!) with the Kingfountain Series by Jeff Wheeler the last few weeks, reading book after book and losing hours of precious sleep in the process.   Probably should have saved this series for a long beach weekend but it was too good to stop reading and save for later.

Wheeler is one of the founders of the e-zine Deep Magic and a few chapters of The Poisoner’s Enemy were featured in the last edition I read.  It was soo good, I had to find the book immediately.  Unknowingly, I read The Poisoner’s Enemy first despite it being the last book Wheeler wrote in the series, however it did make the rest of the series make more sense, particularly since it is intended to be a prequel to the series.  Even though Wheeler’s website recommends reading this book last, I recommend reading it first as it sets the stage for understanding the complexities of the main character, Owen Kiskaddon.

The entire series is incredibly compelling and moves quickly with strong under tones from the legends of King Arthur and Joan of Arc, as well as inspiration from the War of the Roses.  Wheeler does a fantastic job tackling the issues of faith, religion, tradition and duty, with “The Fountain” playing a major role in each character’s moral and emotional development.

World building isn’t Wheeler’s strong suit.  Majestic waterfalls aside, I had a hard time envisioning the countries and locations of the Kingfountain series.  His character development, on the other hand, is absolutely fantastic.  It was nearly impossible to not fall in love with Ankarette, Owen, The Maid, Captain Staeli and Trynne.   The “villains” are as equally well developed as the heroes.  Severn, for example, is a tyrant you’d ful expect to hate, except Wheeler expertly fleshes him out to be a man with weaknesses and ambitions, decisions and regret, longing and loneliness that allow the reader to sympathize with Severn and understand Owen’s loyalty to a very complicated man.

Like The Mists of Avalon, The Kingfountain Series features women in a strong primary role with many of the female characters taking the lead for several of the books.  Unlike The Hunger Games where Katniss’ femininity was essentially nonexistent or The Outlander Series, where Claire’s femininity was a major hinderance, the women in The Kingfountain series are as strong, capable, and independent as they are loving, gentle and vulnerable.

Overall, The Kingfountain Series ranks as one of my top series favorites and I’d highly recommend for summer reading.  The story is fantastic, the character development is amazing, and the subtle threads of familiarity that weave the reader in with the Arthurian legends, Joan of Arc and British history were very well done.

Until next time, happy reading!

-R

 

Book Review · Books to Movies · children's books · Favorite Books · horchata · thoughts

Ferdinand!  Book to Movie review

ferdinand the bull book coverYou guys! So you remember how excited I was to find out Ferdinand was being made into a movie?  Well, the Little Man and I had a date to see Ferdinand last week and after a false start with a sold-out showing and calming down a pissed off child with an ice-skating adventure, we finally got to see my childhood fav up on the big screen.

Whenever a favorite book gets turned into a movie, there’s a huge chance the director will take beloved characters and plotlines and turn them on their head (HP, Twilight, I’m talking to you).  There’s also the chance the director will take the book and magically transform everything in your imagination directly onto the big screen.  Wimpy Elijah Wood as Frodo aside, Lord of the Rings was fantastic for this.  While it’s easy to see how they can turn chapter and series books into movies, it’s a bit harder to see how a director will stay true to a story from a children’s book that’s less than 20 pages, so I was very interested to see what they’d do with Ferdinand.

Let’s start this book-to-movie review with John Cena.  Despite his tough guy appeal, wrestling fame and action flicks, John Cena has always come across as the love-able meat-head, just like Ferdinand.  Celebrity crushes aside, he was absolutely, hands down, the BEST choice to voice Ferdinand.

Like the book, Ferdinand-the-movie, was based in Spain, told the tale of a gentle, flower-loving bull, involved a bee and a bull ring.  And that’s about where the similarities end.  Ferdinand-the-book is a sparse gentle tale that allows the reader to infer and imagine many things about Ferdinand, his mother, his home and his life.  So much so, that the book became controversial in its interpretations.

Ferdinand-the-movie, on the other hand, is a coming of age tale whose message of self-acceptance cannot be disputed or misinterpreted.  The movie places Ferdinand, the gentle flower loving calf, smack dab in the middle of a bull fighting farm with his father, where he is surrounded by bulls and calves determined to fight their way into the bullring.  Like the book-Ferdinand, the movie-Ferdinand is a misfit who prefers flowers to fighting, earning him the ire of the other baby bulls.

From here, the film races forward with action and adventure not found in the book, with Ferdinand eventually finding himself squaring off with El Primero, the number one matador in Spain.  Despite all of the deviations from the original tale and the addition of a weird annoying sidekick, for me, seeing Ferdinand staring into the eyes of El Primero is where Ferdinand-the-movie shows a true understanding of the character Munro Leaf created.

While I won’t be re-watching Ferdinand endlessly until the DVD just gives up like I did with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Ferdinand-the-movie was a fun afternoon adventure with my kid.  I’d def recommend it if your family, like ours, enjoys reading books and watching the movies based on those books.

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers,

-R

Favorite Books · Self Help

My 5 Favorite Books to Jump Start Your New Year

Happy New Year Dear Readers!

It’s that time of year when we call go nuts making resolutions and big plans for the year ahead.  Whether you’re hoping to lose weight, stop smoking, be more social, read more, or take control of your finances, there’s guaranteed to be a book for you!  Here are 5 of my favorite “self-help” books.  Enjoy!

  1. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything by Joshua Becker
  2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  4. The Life Changing Habit of Cleaning Up by Marie Kondo
  5. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley
Favorite Books

You Are What You Read…

There’s a chalkboard sign on my desk that reads “What you THINK you become.  What you FEEL you attract.  What you IMAGINE you create. – Buddha”.  This little sign has prompted many a good daydreaming thought sessions, particularly with what I let myself think and feel.

Last year, I started binge watching Sons of Anarchy with the goal of making it through all 7 sevens.  After a few episodes, I began to notice myself feeling a lot more jumpy in public.  After watching a few seasons, I was a nervous wreck while running.  The roar of a passing motorcycle sent chills down my spine.  I found myself diligently assessing every trail head and corner for predators, all the while telling myself “it’s just a tv show.”  It’s an absolute credit to the producer’s talent that they can create something so powerful it affects our daily life.  Unfortunately, for me, it was a very very negative impact.  Even though most of the people I talked to about it thought it was silly, I gave up watching.  Within a few weeks, the trails were welcome safe havens again and I stopped shuddering involuntarily every time a motorcycle blared past.

There were 2 things I learned from this weird experience. 1) Binge watching violent tv can seriously alter your emotions.  2) I need to be more selective about what I’m letting into my brain.

There are a lot of really excellent although highly violent books in my library.  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series, Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, anything by Stephen King.  I spent a lot of time reading some fairly violent books in 2016, which may have contributed to the weird Sons of Anarchy experience.

My normal book selecting MO is to read whatever is recommended by my reading friends, has an interesting sounding title or looks interesting on the library shelf.  For 2017, I decided to be a lot more selective in my reading choices.  In the process, I spent a lot of time reading Amazon reviews, reading a lot of YA fiction and returning to my own childhood favorites.  The question that kept running through my mind was: Can a book be a GOOD book, without a lot of sex and violence?

The answer was overwhelmingly yes.

There were 4 books that really shone for me this year as good old fashioned “Good Stories”.

  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – Beautiful written, heartfelt, emotional…I cried and cried and cried…and then gave the book to my best friend who cried and cried and cried.  Absolute must read.

 

  • The Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder- This book is the crown jewel of American western/cowboy literature, in my opinion.

 

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley- I read this book in high school, which sparked a decades long love affair with Arthurian legends.  Told from the perspective of Arthur’s sister, Morgaine, The Mists of Avalon provides a rare glimpse of the Arthurian legends through a female’s perspective.

 

  • The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble- This was a surprise find while browsing on my Amazon Kindle one night. The most excellent example of a good old fashioned “Good Story”, The Mermaid’s Sister is full of romance, adventure, gypsies, and coming home.

 

Wishing you many nights wrapped up in “good old fashioned stories”.

Cheers!

Bad Ass Women · Favorite Books · Grab a Martini · Self Help

How to Dress for Success by Edith Head

how to dress for successWe’ve gotten quite a few graduation announcements and invites this year and I’ve been so excited to mail off Congratulations cards with a few little gifts tucked inside.  Of all the gifts I received over the years, there are several books that were literally life changing and would make fantastic graduation gifts.  One of those books was How to Dress for Success by Edith Head.

This book changed my entire approach to fashion, shopping, personal style and gently nudged me on the path towards minimalism.  Prior to reading this book, my closet was full of ill-fitting fast fashion, a thousand different styles for every body type but mine, and a bunch of clothes that I would never wear.  This book opened my eyes to the reality of doing more with less.  While Edith Head never even mentions the words “capsule wardrobe” or “minimalism”, the concept is clear: a few quality pieces of clothing that fit well, are well kept, and accessorized properly can make a killer wardrobe.

For those interested in classic vintage style, this book is a gold mine.  With that said, much of the book is full of old school wisdom that seems more appropriate for the 1950’s than today.  However, the concepts, ideas and suggestions are perfect for young professionals looking to make their mark as stylish and well groomed without breaking the bank.

 

 

 

children's books · Favorite Books · Grandparents · library

7 Books for Grandmother’s to share with their Granddaughters

7 Books for Grandmothers to share with granddaughtersAs the one year anniversary of my Grandma’s passing creeps slowly closer, I’ve been drawn subconsciously to all things reminiscent of her.  During the months after her passing, I found myself dialing her number on the way home from work to share a funny story or searching in a drawer for the perfect postcard to mail.  Catching myself in these moments hurt deeply and I had to delete her phone number from my contacts using my laptop.  It felt too intimate, too personal somehow to do this on the phone itself.  While these moments have mercifully ceased, the other day, I found myself drawn to a section in the library that held all of the books my Grandma read with me as a little girl.

Flipping through the books, I realized that most of these books shared a common theme of strong independent girls and young women.  In her own way, Grandma was planting the seed in my mind; affirming, cultivating and accepting those traits in me.

Reading together bridged the gap between us throughout the middle school years, giving us something common to discuss during those years which are notoriously difficult and known for moving children away from their grandparents.  Reading books like the Little House on the Prairie series and Blue Willow also opened up a gateway for Grandma to share her own story and those of her parents and grandparents.  These stories fueled my (very unusual for an adolescent) passion for history, Westerns, and ancestry.

I highly recommend these 7 books for Grandmothers to share and read with their Granddaughters.  Most of these books have been adapted into movies, giving Grandmas one more activity to share with their Granddaughters after finishing the book.

  1. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  2. Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  4. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  5. Blue Willow by Doris Gates
  6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
  7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Happy Reading!

p.s. These are also wonderful books for Mothers to share with their Daughters!

Books to Movies · children's books · Favorite Books · horchata · WWII

Ferdinand The Bull

ferdinand the bull book coverMy absolute favorite children’s book of all time is the 1936 classic, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  My grandmother read it to me as a child and I’ve read it to Huck as least 1000 times in the last few years.  History has it that Leaf wrote the story in a single afternoon as a way to help his friend, Robert Lawson, showcase his artistic talent.  The book was a hit, and at $1 per copy the 1938 sales topped those of the ever popular Gone with the Wind.  The Story of Ferdinand has never been out of print despite the many political waves this little story has caused.  1930’s America received Ferdinand in two very different facets.  Some saw the strong but gentle Ferdinand as a fascist, a pacifist, a sit-down striker, and a communist, while others received the children’s tale as story of being true to oneself.  Both receptions say more about America at that time than the story itself.

World wide, Ferdinand entered the political arena with mixed reactions.  In Spain, Ferdinand was banned as a pacifist book until the death of Francisco Franco.  Nazi Germany declared Ferdinand a symbol of democratic propaganda and ordered all copies of the book burned.  Ironically, this sweet tale was the only American children’s book sold in Stalinist-era Poland.  In 1945, following the defeat of Germany and the end of WWII, 30,000 copies of Ferdinand were published and distributed to the German children to encourage peace.

Despite all of the historical political heat, at its heart, Ferdinand is a book children will love.  This adorable tale about a strong young bull named Ferdinand who would rather sit and smell the flowers than participate in the normal young bull activities is one that children (and their parents) will relate to.  There are so many deep themes gently layered into this story: self acceptance, parental support and acceptance of a child who clearly steers away from the normal expectations, and being true to yourself despite what everyone else wants from you.  If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend borrowing your favorite child and enjoying the sweet story of Ferdinand together, especially as this classic is coming to movie screens in December.

Title: The Story of Ferdinand

Rating: 5 stars

Location best to enjoy: Snuggled in a good reading nook with your favorite child

Best Paired with: A glass of horchata 🙂