Books Read · New Year · thoughts

Wrapping up 2018

Hey y’all!

It’s already February and I’m just wrapping up 2018.  It feels like the new year should start in the spring, not in the dead of winter!  It’s hard to gather momentum for a new year when it feels like we should still be huddled in a warm blanket, reading and drinking hot chocolate while eating popcorn and thick creamy soups.

Unfortunately the calendar doesn’t agree and the new year is well under way.  2018 wrapped up with a total of 54 books.  This isn’t including all of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries read nightly to the munchkin!  Looking back on this list, it’s obvious that MAGIC was the 2018 reading theme.   I’m amazed by the overwhelming number of Jeff Wheeler books on this list and a little blown away by how much of my reading life was spent in Fairy Tales.

2018 felt hard in all dimensions.  It was simultaneously emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting professionally, personally and everywhere else too.  It makes sense that in a year geared towards destruction my outlet would be in magic and wonder.  If my 2019 book choices are any different, 2019 may be focused more on growth and hopefully a little less on destruction!

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers,

-R

Book Review · India · tear jerker · thoughts

The Storyteller’s Secret: A Novel by Sejal Badani

51GC3g1SSXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Set in India during the reign of the British Raj, The Storyteller’s Secret weaves the lives of a long lost Indian grandmother and her American granddaughter together in an intricate pattern of love, duty, honor, tradition, and heartbreak.

Jaya, an Indian-American journalist, escapes the overwhelming grief of three miscarriages and an impeding divorce by following her Grandfather’s death bed summons, against her Mother’s wishes, to India.  Expecting to reunite with her estranged Indian family, Jaya instead finds herself in an empty house full of secrets and cared for by her Grandmother’s best friend, Ravi.  To ease her grief, Ravi gifts Jaya with the secret of her Grandmother Amisha’s story and the true history of her family.

The Storyteller’s Secret rotates through Amisha, Jaya and Ravi as narrators.  Badani does an excellent job of fleshing out each character and developing their story lines equally, which allows the story to flow and mesh seamlessly.  Badani does not gloss over India’s history of caste systems, the treatment of women or the living conditions in India.   Nor does she use these things for shock value.  These topics are presented very carefully and respectfully to the Indian culture while also very clearly showing how those practices and conditions affected the population.  This took a very fine balance and I appreciated the way Badani’s writing allowed the reader to empathize with the characters on a deeper level while also respecting Indian customs, history and culture.

I loved the smells, sights, tastes and physical aspects of Badani’s writing, as well as the emotional depth she gave each character.  While the majority of the story felt so very real and human, the ending took on a bit of a fairy-tale style wrap up.  The ending also felt rushed compared to the rest of the book, almost like Badani was limited in pages.  I would have loved a little bit more closure and a bit more of a messy ending.

All in all, the writing and the story were both beautifully done and with the last page, I was tempted to rush over to Amazon to buy a copy for one of my best friends.  Amazon readers seem to agree.  Despite being published a little less than five months ago, The Storyteller’s Secret already has over 5000 reviews.  It is also the number 1 Kindle Romance book and hits the top 10 in the Amazon charts for Cultural Heritage, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Contemporary Fiction.

If you’re looking for a historical fiction to take you out of your normal reading comfort zone, give The Storyteller’s Secret a read.

Until next time, Cheers!

-R

 

 

 

 

 

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!

beach read · Book Review · series books · Summer Read

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

everything we keepIt’s been ages since I’ve had a chance to sit down and write anything.  Luckily, nightly reading has still been a priority and keeping me sane!

This year, I’ve been pretty obsessed with old school YA mystery like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.  They’re quick, interesting, intelligent and as a bonus, the whole family enjoys the audio books.  While I do enjoy a good “adult” book now and then, the emotional strength needed for books like The Girl on the Train or Little Bee has just been too much for me this year.  Even finishing The Maze Runner series proved too much emotionally, which led to a good browsing through the Kindle Unlimited section one night and an introduction to Kerry Lonsdale, a writer from California.

Lonsdale’s debut novel, Everything We Keep, follows Aimee and her childhood sweetheart through a compelling tale of love, betrayal, mystery and self-awakening.  Lonsdale weaves a tale that is as romantic as it is mysterious.  This story twists and turns in so many delicious directions that it’s impossible to put down while the characters are so perfectly flawed that you can’t help falling in love with them.

While most series start strong and fizzle out, Everything We Left Behind was even stronger (and better) than Everything We Keep.   It feels like Lonsdale really hit her stride with Everything We Left Behind as she takes Aimee and James through a few more twists and turns.  While these books aren’t high suspense thrillers, aren’t true mysteries or even true romance novels, they do borrow a little bit from each genre to create a good story.

If you’re looking for a little down time with a book by the fire but need some space from the big emotional riveting books this Christmas break, check out Everything We Keep, Everything We Left Behind or All the Breaking Waves.

Cheers!

Bad Ass Women · beach read · Mimosas · Self Help · Summer Read

The Doctor Is In

If there is one type of book I can’t resist, it’s a good old fashioned self help book.  I just can’t help it.  They’re fun, easy to read and occasionally you’ll find a gem in the heap of unconventional life advice.  Self help book are like the flea market of literature.  You never know what treasures you’ll pull out of the pile.  We’re at the beach again this week and my trusty Kindle companion has been Dr. Ruth Westheimer.  Prior to reading “The Doctor Is In”, my knowledge of Dr. Ruth consisted of: cute little old lady with a funny accent giving sex advice.  Post read, I want Dr. Ruth to be my spirit animal. the doctor is in

At only 4’7″ tall, this German Jew refugee has led enough life for ten people.  After escaping Germany on a kindertransport and earning a degree in housekeeping from her Swiss boarding home, she relocated to Israel, becoming a sniper (!) for the Israel army.  In Israel, she became a teenage bride and migrated to France with equally young husband.  After a brief marriage, Dr. Ruth chose her education over marriage and spent the next five years in France.  After another marriage, the birth of her first child and relocating to America, Dr. Ruth found her home and a slew of degrees in New York.  It wasn’t until her 50’s that this wickedly funny therapist found her calling and catapulted to fame on her radio show.  The rest as they say, is history…a history spanning over three decades, 35 books, and countless tv and radio shows.  Dr. Ruth is now a staple of American pop culture!

With a history like hers, it would have been very easy for Dr. Ruth to settle where she was and stick with her lot as a child refugee, a migrant house keeper, a poor single working mom.  Instead, she made the best out of every situation, often edging her way into opportunities, experiences and adventures that were both interesting, scary, and worth the risk she took to get there.

After reading countless self-help books written by numerous bad-ass women, I can say that Dr. Ruth without a doubt, takes the cake.  While most self-help books for women encourage confidence and taking risks, Dr. Ruth’s age and background bring a depth of energy, experience and reality that can be somewhat lacking in other books of this sort.  Yoga books in this genre, in particular, can be harder to connect to.  The author’s story can feel out of touch or out of reach, particularly when they pack up their life and spend months at yoga retreats in exotic locations.  As an ambitious woman with loads of impatient energy and an honest writing style, Dr. Ruth is easily relatable.  We’ve all employed a sneaky trick or two to catch a man,  plotted and schemed for way to advance our careers or relationships, and jumped into things head first while still feeling totally unprepared , scared, worried, and impatient.  This complete relatable-ness makes reading “The Doctor Is In” comparable to sharing secrets with a giggling grandmother over mimosas at a bridal shower.  It’s fun, it’s enlightening and it’ll leave you in a good mood.

Happy reading my friends!