Top Ten Tuesday: The best books I read in 2018

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Happy New Year! Welcome to 2019! 

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Best Books I Read In 2018.

According to Goodreads, I gave a 5-star rating to 73 books in 2018, and a 4-star rating to 83. That makes 156 books that I pretty much loved. Yowza, what a year! I don’t think I can limit myself to just 10 books here… so I’ll highlight a few, include a few others by category, and see how it all works out…

Here are (just a few of) my favorites from 2018:

1) Powerful family drama set in Alaska: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (review)

2) Two views of an an ancient classic: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (review)

3) Terrific historical fiction that I read because of my book group: The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (review) and The Chilbury Lady’s Choir by Jennifer Ryan (review)

4) A surprising moving short novel by Stephen King:  Elevation (review)

5) Amazing woman-power science fiction:  The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (review)

6) Action/adventure with THE BEST heroic duo: Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer (review)

7) New books in beloved series:

8) Deliciously fun contemporary romance: 

9) Intriguing story collections:

10) A couple of classics that I finally read!

 

What were your favorite reads of 2018? Please leave me your link!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Wishing one and all a terrific new year filled with wonderful books!

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Where my Dickens peeps at? I need your help, yo.

Dickens rocks, amiright?

ca. 1840s-1860s — Original caption: Photograph of Charles Dickens (1812-1870) seated. Undated photograph. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

In 2017, I finally lived up to one of my long-time goals and read Great Expectations… and I loved it!

And so, in 2018, I’d like to continue my blossoming friendship with Mr. Dickens, and I need some advice. So far, the only Dickens I’ve read are Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities (one of my all-time favorite books). And while I haven’t actually read A Christmas Carol, I’ve seen enough stage and screen adaptations to make me feel like I know it well enough and don’t need to spend any more time on it.

So…

Here’s where you come in. I’m looking for recommendations:

What’s your favorite Dickens book? What do you think I should tackle next?

Leave a comment with the title of the book you’re recommending, and — very important — tell me why you recommend it.

As a thank you, in addition to my eternal gratitude, anyone who leaves me a comment with a suggestion will be in the running for a small prize — so don’t be shy! 

We readers are an opinionated bunch. Now’s your chance to tell it like it is!

What Dickens book should I read in 2018, and why?

THANK YOU!

Thursday Quotables: Ivanhoe

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

 

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
(originally published 1820)

I’m reading Ivanhoe with my book group, 2 chapters per week — and I’m actually really enjoying it! We’re moving slowly, so I haven’t gotten very far into the story yet. One of this week’s chapters  is a description of a big tournament — and this paragraph just really jumped out at me:

Thus ended the memorable field of Ashby-de-la-Zouche, one of the most gallantly contested tournaments of that age; for although only four knights, including one who was smothered by the heat of his armour, had died upon the field, yet upwards of thirty were desperately wounded, four or five of whom never recovered. Several more were disabled for life; and those who escaped best carried the marks of the conflict to the grave with them. Hence it is is always mentioned in the old records, as the Gentle and Joyous Passage of Arms of Ashby.

Silly me. I thought a tournament was just for show. So — four dead, 30+ wounded, bunches more disabled — and they call it “gentle” and “joyous”? I think they had a very different idea of a good time way back then!

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Thursday Quotables: Far From the Madding Crowd

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Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
(first published 1874)

Well, this caught me by surprise! I decided to start another book via the Serial Reader app, and picked Far From the Madding Crowd, a book I’ve always meant to read. With Serial Reader, you can read all sorts of classics via 10 minute installments each day… but I found myself immediately drawn into the story, so I’ve read about 10 days worth of installments in the first 2 days. I may have to give up on the incremental reading and just read the damn novel all at once!

So far, I’m especially enjoying some of the funnier descriptions, which I really didn’t expect. Here’s a small bit that I thought was pretty cute, about a young man falling in love:

His dog waited for his meals in a way so like that in which Oak waited for the girl’s presence, that the farmer was quite struck with the resemblance, felt it lowering, and would not look at the dog.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Add your Thursday Quotables post link in the comments section below… and I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week too.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Saturation point

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Saturation point…

Might I add another variation of the definition?

  • the stage beyond which no more book content can be absorbed by the reader’s brain.

Which pretty accurately describes my current state of being, which can also be described thusly:

brain-full

For the past few years, I’ve been able to successfully juggle multiple books at once — a book for fun, a book for book group, an audiobook for while I drive. I never thought I’d reach the point where my brain feels maxed out, but now I know:

My magic number is: five

Yup, I think I’ve reached my reading saturation point — the point at which my brain will not accept a single additional plot line, character, theme, or main idea. And symbolism? Foreshadowing? Don’t make me laugh.

I haven’t had quite this problem before. I usually do have several books on the go — typically, a big huge book from the Outlander series as part of my group read with Outlander Book Club; a classic read, also with the book club; whatever book I happen to be reading just for me (just for fun), and an audiobook for while I’m driving or exercising.

So why do I suddenly feel maxed out at 5?

Consider this: Of my five current books, 4 — yes, four — are brand-new to me.

The Outlander book (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) is a re-read, and although we’re reading and analyzing two chapters per week, it’s not taking up a huge amount of grey matter. I already know what happens. It’s not that I don’t have to think about it, but it’s still not taking in new concepts and information.

Then there’s the group classic read. Our last group classic was Emma by Jane Austen, which was oodles of fun — but which I’d read several times before. It was a blast reading it with the group, but again, it was a re-read for me. Hey, if you know any neurologists, can you ask them if re-reading a book uses different parts of the brain than reading a book for the first time? I’m no brain doctor, but I’m betting the answer is yes.

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Our current classic read is A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway… and it’s completely new to me. I know nothing about the plot or characters, and I’m definitely having to put more effort into learning what’s what, getting the rhythm of the writing style, and understanding the shades and nuances of the story.

Then there’s the audiobook. I do a lot of re-reads via audiobook. I find that my mind is often slippery when it comes to listening to books, especially while I’m driving. If there’s bad traffic or I get stuck looking for parking in a crowded neighborhood, I can’t concentrate at all on what I’m listening to. But if I’m listening to the audio version of a book I’ve already read, I can relax, not worry too much about hearing every detail, and just enjoy revisiting something that I loved already the first time around.

At this moment, however, I’m listening to a new-to-me audiobook, The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. Granted, this is a pretty silly and light-hearted science fiction novel, but even so, I find myself getting caught up in the story… and even when I get out of the car or remove the earbuds from my ears, my brain does not want to disengage.

Plus, there’s my book book — whatever I’m reading right now, either via physical or e-book — my normal, everyday, just because I feel like it book. Basically, my daily reading fix.

And finally, I’m now tackling Moby Dick via the Serial Reader app, and I think it’s this one that’s pushing me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really loving Moby Dick! And I love the serial approach to reading such a huge book, getting manageable bites delivered each day.

The problem, I think, with my current reading, is that with 4 of my 5 reading commitments being completely new material, my engagement is getting split in way too many directions. I read a bit of Moby Dick, and I want to know more… but then I turn on the car and start listening to The Android’s Dream, and I can’t get the action sequences out of my head. When I have a few minutes of down time, I pick up my current novel (right now, The Magician King by Lev Grossman) and get totally into it… but then in the evening, I read the next day’s chapter of A Farewell To Arms and want more of that too.

brain4So…

Saturation point.

I think I’m there.

Five plotlines and sets of characters may finally represent my breaking point… my saturation point… the point beyond which I absolutely cannot absorb one more detail or shred of story.

Not that I’m willing to drop any of my five reading projects. But man, my head feels full to bursting sometimes.

Remind me to STOP THE MADNESS next time I need to choose an audiobook or rethink my reading commitments. Maybe it’s time to scale back on the amount of new fiction I’m trying to cram into my brain.

Meanwhile…

brain-is-full

Thursday Quotables: Moby Dick

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

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Moby Dick by Herman Melville
(published 1851)

Call me crazy, but I’ve decided to finally buckle down and read Moby Dick, thanks to my favorite new toy, the Serial Reader app. (For more info, check out my post about Serial Reader here.)

Wait, call me crazy? Shouldn’t that be…

Call me Ishmael.

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I’ve read 10% so far, and I’ll admit that I’m actually really entertained! I love the main character’s description of Queequeg, a “savage” with whom he shares a bed at the inn before they ever even set sail:

With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and hideously marred about the face — at least to my taste — his countenance yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand devils.

And a moment later:

He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Bookish Goodies: Serial Reader app

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Anyone out there using the Serial Reader app?

And more importantly, why am I only discovering it now?

Less than 24 hours ago, I stumbled across Serial Reader, and I think it’s going to change my life.

IMG_3905This very cool app (cool, as in, perfect for book geeks like me) seems like the ideal way to tackle those big, heavy classics that you’ve always vowed to get to… eventually. When you have nothing else to do. Hey wait, doesn’t the oven need cleaning?

I digress.

Serial Reader lets you subscribe to a book, set your delivery time, and then receive daily chunks of the book to read. There are tons and tons of titles to choose from, including classics in genres such as fantasy, gothic, and adventure, as well as quirkier categories like “Lost Worlds”, “The High Seas”, and “Retro Futurism”.

I think it’s all rather brilliant, to be honest. Each daily chunk is meant to take about 10 minutes or so. And hey, even if I’m juggling a few other hot reads right now, I can surely fit in 10 minutes for a bite of a classic, right?

IMG_3906At the moment, I’m thinking about biting the bullet and starting Moby Dick. Crazy, right? I watched In the Heart of the Sea last night (good movie!), and started thinking about what a shame it is that I never was exposed to Moby Dick back in my school days… and from there, after poking around online for a bit, I stumbled across a mention of reading Moby Dick via Serial Reader.

According to the app, the book is broken down into 79 “issues”. This might seem a bit daunting, but for the $2.99 upgrade option, there’s a pause option — which means that if I want to take a break during a busy week and come back to it, I can!

I haven’t quite made up my mind to go for it, at least as far as Moby Dick is concerned. Maybe I’ll end up choosing a different book instead. But either way, I think Serial Reader sounds like a lot of fun, and it definitely seems like an awesome way to make big, intimidating books seem a lot more friendly.

Have you tried Serial Reader? Does this sound like something you’d enjoy?

Wish me luck! If (when) I get started, I’ll definitely report back!

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What do you think? Should I go for it?

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Thursday Quotables: A Farewell To Arms

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Farewell to Arms 2

A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway
(published 1929)

I’m only on chapter two at this point — but I’ve never read Hemingway before, and I really enjoyed this paragraph from the very first page:

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

I have no idea what to expect, but I’m intrigued by the writing style and want to know more!

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Audiobook Review: The Call of the Wild

Call 2I’m so glad Audible featured The Call of the Wild as a daily deal recently; otherwise, I might have gone through life never having read this powerful, beautifully written book.

Shocking, I know, but I’d never read anything by Jack London, except for the short story “To Build A Fire” which I think pops up in pretty much everyone’s high school English anthology sooner or later.

The Call of the Wild is the story of Buck, a huge dog of Saint Bernard mixed descent. When we first meet Buck, he’s literally the top dog on a farm in Santa Clara, California. But a deceitful farm hand out for money steals Buck and sells him one night, and Buck ends up passed from hand to hand until he ends up in the snowy north. With his size and strength, Buck is sought after as a sled dog by the adventurous men heading off to the Yukon during the gold rush. Buck’s domesticity is left far behind, as he learns to heed his instincts and allow his inner fearless predator to take over.

The use of language in The Call of the Wild is outstanding. The descriptions of the rugged land, the struggles of men to survive without resources, and their foolhearty, often fatal journeys are intensely vivid. Best of all is Buck’s inner life. It’s not at all cutesy, and it’s not presented as though Buck himself is telling his story.

Instead, the omniscient narrator takes us through the evolving thought processes and emerging instincts that transform Buck over time from a tame farm animal into a true beast of the wild.

The narration of the audiobook is slow and steady, giving the words a stately, dignified feeling. There’s not much dialogue, and yet the narrator’s use of tone and inflection keeps the narrative from sagging or bogging down.

I found The Call of the Wild to be an engaging, enjoyable listen, and would like to either read or listen to some of London’s other adventure tales in the future.

A final word: Those who find animals-in-peril stories too painful to read should be warned that you may have a hard time with this book. Bad things do happen to Buck and many of the other dogs in the story, and it’s not pretty. I’m glad to have read it, but it won’t be for everyone.

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The details:

Title: The Call of the Wild
Author: Jack London
Narrator: John Lee
Publisher: Varied (many different editions in print)
Publication date: 1903
Audiobook length: 3 hours, 28 minutes
Printed book length: 208 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Audible

Thursday Quotables: The Call of the Wild

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild by Jack London
(originally published 1903)

I’m on a classics roll! I needed a new audiobook this week, and The Call of the Wild happened to be an Audible daily special. I can’t believe I’ve never read a Jack London book before. Simply listening to his story makes me feel all rugged and outdoorsy! It’s a quick listen, but I’m really enjoying the descriptions of life in the Yukon, as seen through the doggy eyes of Buck.

Buck’s feet sank into a white mushy something very like mud. He sprang back with a snort. More of this white stuff was falling through the air. He shook himself, but more of it fell upon him. He sniffed it curiously, then licked some up on his tongue. It bit like fire, and the next instant was gone. This puzzled him. He tried it again, with the same result. The onlookers laughed uproariously, and he felt ashamed, he knew not why, for it was his first snow.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!