Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten (Mystery) Books I Read In 2014

Top Ten (Mystery) Books I Read In 2014

Top 10 Tuesdays was a meme created by a multitude of bloggers over at the The Broke and the Bookish. Go over and join if you’d like to participate! For this week’s topic, I am limiting my answers to one genre: mysteries (since I read a good amount of them and the “overall” top 10 out of over 200 books is hard to pick).

10. The Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

9. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

8. Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

7. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

6. Night Rounds by Helene Tursten

5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

4. The Hound of the Baskerville by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

2. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

1. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 10 Tuesday or simply tell me in the comments what your picks for this week would be! :)

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Happy Reading!

Review | Neptune by Craig L. Symonds

Neptune by Craig L. Symonds

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published: Nov 25, 2014
Genre: Non-Fiction, History
Edition: Audiobook
Length: 15 hrs 18 mins.

GoodReads | Amazon | BookDepository

THE BLURB

Seventy years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried more than a million soldiers across the English Channel to a fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast in German-occupied France. It was the greatest sea-borne assault in human history. The code names given to the beaches where the ships landed the soldiers have become immortal: Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah, and especially Omaha, the scene of almost unimaginable human tragedy. The sea of crosses in the cemetery sitting today atop a bluff overlooking the beaches recalls to us its cost.

Most accounts of this epic story begin with the landings on the morning of June 6, 1944. In fact, however, D-Day was the culmination of months and years of planning and intense debate. In the dark days after the evacuation of Dunkirk in the summer of 1940, British officials and, soon enough, their American counterparts, began to consider how, and, where, and especially when, they could re-enter the European Continent in force. The Americans, led by U.S. Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, wanted to invade as soon as possible; the British, personified by their redoubtable prime minister, Winston Churchill, were convinced that a premature landing would be disastrous. The often-sharp negotiations between the English-speaking allies led them first to North Africa, then into Sicily, then Italy. Only in the spring of 1943, did the Combined Chiefs of Staff commit themselves to an invasion of northern France. The code name for this invasion was Overlord, but everything that came before, including the landings themselves and the supply system that made it possible for the invaders to stay there, was code-named Neptune.

Craig L. Symonds now offers the complete story of this Olympian effort, involving transports, escorts, gunfire support ships, and landing craft of every possible size and function. The obstacles to success were many. In addition to divergent strategic views and cultural frictions, the Anglo-Americans had to overcome German U-boats, Russian impatience, fierce competition for insufficient shipping, training disasters, and a thousand other impediments, including logistical bottlenecks and disinformation schemes. Symonds includes vivid portraits of the key decision-makers, from Franklin Roosevelt and Churchill, to Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the naval element of the invasion. Indeed, the critical role of the naval forces–British and American, Coast Guard and Navy–is central throughout.

In the end, as Symonds shows in this gripping account of D-Day, success depended mostly on the men themselves: the junior officers and enlisted men who drove the landing craft, cleared the mines, seized the beaches and assailed the bluffs behind them, securing the foothold for the eventual campaign to Berlin, and the end of the most terrible war in human history.

☁  ☁  ☁  ☁  ☁

ramblings

It was a great change of pace to finally get back into reading History books. It has been quite some time and even longer since I last reviewed one so I seem to have lost touch…we’ll try this today anyway.

While listening to the audiobook of Neptune, it struck me that the writing of this book is easily the most lovable thing about this book. It seems to differ from the writing style used in Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (which I am also currently reading) and it is, in its own way, much better. The writing style seems more personal and easier to follow. The author has written (and performed) the book in such a way that it mostly felt like I was listening to a story rather than historical data about a certain event.

At one point in the book, quite early into the book, there is a scene in which Roosevelt is about to give a speech and the author paints such an image of that singular moment that it felt so personal and intense, almost as if I was a part of it. It describes how Roosevelt paced back and forth in his office, revising his speech, and his concentration on making sure his speech was as clear but potent as it could be. The significance of that moment, as I listen to how Roosevelt looks at the speech, crosses out one word, and replaces it with another felt unbelievably real, as if I was in the moment. While Napoleon was a compilation of historical data, Neptune felt like almost like a personal narrative.

Neptune also tends to flow fluidly from one chapter to another. While listening to the book, I wasn’t really ever aware that I’d already finished a chapter and moved on to another. And when I did notice, I realized the author also has a way of ending his chapters is such a way that despite the fact that this book is purely factual, it still makes the reader want to turn the page and find out how the story continues…almost like a cliffhanger. So while listening, these chapter breaks felt more like section breaks and I flew through hours of this audiobook in the span of a week.

What I liked the most about this book, however, is that it focuses on more than one aspect of the Normandy invasion as a historical event. It displays the political drama between nations, the military tactics through which such an event was undertaken, and the somewhat personal side of what war was like for the soldiers themselves and the socio-political relationships between American and British soldiers.

This is what makes this book a really great educational read. And I think it would be appealing to many audiences, well, many audiences who enjoy non-fiction. If you have a history buff in your family and are looking for a gift this Holiday, I would highly recommend trying this one.

Disclaimer: An audiobook copy of this book was provided by Audible in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and have not been influenced by any person, place, or event.

This review is also available on BookLikes.

5star

#1 Stack of Reviews

Hello folks!

Because I read an average of over 15 books a month, it has become impossible for me to read and quickly review books. This has effectively discouraged me from doing reviews completely. I’m down to 1 review a month and that is really sad. But I generally do do short reviews for majority of my reads on GoodReads so I’m deciding to start publishing these short stacks of reviews instead of waiting to revise the shorter versions and lengthen them into full reviews. At times, I will do full reviews but to cover a lot of my reads, this seems to be an easier way to go. So, without further ado, here is my first stack of short reviews…(mostly of books read in November)! Links to Goodreads are attached to the titles (for future information).

Among Others by Jo Walton

(★★★★)

Devoured this in two sittings, easy to read and follow through. Funny, charming, and mystifying (only in the best ways). It is most certainly mislabeled as “fantasy,” think of it more as speculative fiction or perhaps even magician realism. If you are looking for a life changing coming-of-age fantasy story with suspense and plot, this isn’t it. It’s sure to entertain you but I wouldn’t expect anything exciting. It’s a story written from the perspective of a 15-year-old. Remember that. It will help you through those weird and disorienting parts where, though now we find ourselves disgusted by as adults, we know we’ve been there. Lost, confused, and broken.

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

(★★★★★)

I felt so disappointed with humanity when I realized how under appreciated this book went during its publication. This book felt so real, so raw, so personal. I found myself enthralled with Orwell’s narrative. Even with a piece of nonfiction, Orwell has a way of making me go, “so what next?” and it was a wonderful experience. My favorite quote from this book (I have many) is:

“When you are taking part in events like these you are, I suppose, in a small way, making history, and you ought by rights to feel like a historical character. But you never do, because at such times the physical details always outweigh everything else. Throughout the fighting I never made the correct ‘analysis’ of the situation that was so glibly made by journalists hundreds of miles away. What I was chiefly thinking about was not the rights and wrongs of this miserable internecine scrap, but simply the discomfort and boredom of sitting day and night on that intolerable roof, and the hunger which was growing worse and worse — for none of us had had a proper meal since Monday.”

He perfectly summarizes why I have problems with fictional novels that discuss the life of a soldier during the actual war.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

(★★★)

I am actually very happy about having read this book but unfortunately, I just don’t think this book is for me. In my opinion, this is a coming-of-age fantasy story with a lot of military jargon—appealing at first, but fast lost my interest. This book had everything that one could expect from a good book: great writing, interesting characters, and an intriguing plot (by “plot” I mean the world-building and “mystery” about the main character’s magical ability). However…it just felt so utterly boring. It was unbelievable dry and I couldn’t wait to finish this and get it over with. I don’t think I will continue with this series, especially since reviewers who loved this book have mentioned that the second book is even slower and at times even more boring. I would still definitely recommend it to die-hard fantasy fans nevertheless.

Cheers everyone! Hope ya’ll have a good weekend. :)

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2014

Top 10 Tuesdays was a meme created by a multitude of bloggers over at the The Broke and the Bookish. Go over and join if you’d like to participate!

10. Elizabeth Peters

I can’t believe I had never heard of Peters before this summer! Ironically, she’s actually from Illinois (where I live). I have fallen in love with her Amelia Peabody series and it was really sad to discover she died just last year.

9. Ernest Hemingway

I have mixed feelings about him because I didn’t like In Our Time so much but loved Old Man and the Sea but I strongly believe that if I try more novels, I will like him.

8. Jo Walton

She writes Literary science-fiction and aside from David Mitchell, I knew of no one who did this. I read her Among Others last week and oh my, I need more!

7. Kazuo Ishiguro

I had to read The Remains of the Day for class and now I need more. MORE!

6. Brandon Sanderson

I think everything he writes is golden. I can’t think of a single author who does this. If you ever want to dip into Epic Fantasy, he is your man.

5. Dr. Seuss

My family doesn’t read. This is why Dr. Seuss is on this list. But I loved his book-to-movie adaptations so I wanted to give the books a try. Result: His books more than live up to the hype and my family has a lot to answer for.

4. James Joyce

I might not have enjoyed his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man as much as Dubliners, but he is a terrific writer and I could not deny that.

3. Sarah Waters

I loved her The Little Stranger and really enjoyed Fingersmith (my first by her). She knows how to write a story!

2. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky is my latest literary crush. He is a God.

1. Virginia Woolf

I have such a lady crush on this woman. I can’t believe I was scared to read her books. They are beautiful. I loved both Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse this year.


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 10 Tuesday or simply tell me in the comments what your picks for this week would be! :)

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Happy Reading!

November Reads and a Haul

wrapup

November was one of my stressful months of my life. I have been having a lot of issues dealing with my professors and I just haven’t be able to handle the stress very well. I think I might take the time to cry a little bit after this semester ends in Dec. :)

Anyway…here’s what I managed to read regardless:

  1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (no rating)
  2. Click Clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman (no rating)
  3. Stuart Little by E. B. White – ★★★
  4. Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater – ★★★★
  5. Starship Grifters by Robert Kroese – ★★★★★
  6. Hyperion by Dan Simmons – ★★★★
  7. Nothing O’Clock by Neil Gaiman – ★★★★
  8. The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde – ★★★★
  9. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket – ★
  10. Blood Song by Anthony Ryan – ★★★
  11. Matilda by Roald Dahl – ★★★★★
  12. Incarnadine (Poems) by Mary Szybist -★★★★
  13. The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry – ★★★★
  14. Opened Ground: Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney – ★★★★
  15. The Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot – ★★★★
  16. Night Rounds by Helen Tursten – ★★★★
  17. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – ★★★★
  18. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – ★★★★★
  19. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White – ★★★
  20. Amelia Peabody: #3 The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters – ★★★★
  21. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro – ★★★★
  22. Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – ★★★★★
  23. The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde – ★★★
  24. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (2nd reread of the year ;)) – ★★★★★

I am also currently-reading :

  1. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts – it is over 900+ pgs. and non-fiction…I don’t have any idealistic notions about finishing this by the end of the year ;)
  2. Lord of the Rings (One Volume) by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread)
  3. Neptune: The Allied Invasions of Europe and the D-Day Landings by Craig L. Symonds

My December TBR is pretty much nonexistent. I am going on a small vacation for 10 days in December so don’t want to plan for anything besides finishing those books mentioned above. But here’s a small portion of my November haul…I bought a ridiculous amount during Black Friday sales so I won’t show you all but here are a few interesting ones. :)

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What did you read in November? Any vacation plans?

Review | The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

ABOUT THE BOOK

Published: 1988
Genre: Historical Fiction
Edition: Paperback, 2005
Length: 258 pgs.

GoodReads | Amazon | BookDepository

THE BLURB

A contemporary classic, The Remains of the Day is Kazuo Ishiguro’s beautiful and haunting evocation of life between the wars in a Great English House.

In the summer of 1956, Stevens, the ageing butler of Darlington Hall, embarks on a leisurely holiday that will take him deep into the countryside and into his past.

☁  ☁  ☁  ☁  ☁

ramblings

I made some very wrong and abrupt assumptions about this book and I am incredibly ashamed (yet happy) to say this book was unlike anything I thought it would be. The Remains of the Day is the journey of an English butler into his past and an exploration of the what the pre-World War II Englishness was all about.

Stevens, our protagonist, is not a very reliable character. He is an older man and perhaps that is big cause of this but he’s also not very dependable because of the fact that often times Stevens can be a bit too arrogant in my opinion. I actually expected him to be the kind of stiff character who looks down on the lower class and people of lesser qualities but instead, he is simply so logical and statistical a figure that he often portrays no emotions at all. This was problematic because when I read the synopsis I expected a novel that discusses possible regrets, relationship failures, emotional struggles, greater achievements, etc. But instead we get a chain of events which are often times not very easy to comprehend when I’m still trying to understand the emotional state of the main character himself.

This is what made this a stressful read for me and why I set it down half way through.

But when I picked this book up again a few weeks later, I went in a bit more open-minded about how the narrative would play out and tried to focus not so strongly on Stevens himself. At once, my focus shifted to what a lot of Stevens himself wants you to think about and those statements in themselves, revealed a lot more about Stevens.

Stevens discusses levels and statures of “greatness” and “dignity” constantly in this book. He seems to be obsessed with his occupation and constantly tries his best to be the best at everything. The new owner of the Darlington Hall—where Stevens works—is American, which is something Stevens starkly points out as not proper (aka not British). He is uncomfortable with Farraday (the American employer) because of his ease and comfort at communicating with everyone as if they were on the same level. He is always appraising the previous owner of the Hall, Darlington himself, and muses about how great a man he was.

The reality of the situation is that Stevens is, unfortunately, a dying breed. His long hours of thinking about Darlington and the musings on “greatness” and “dignity” seemed almost a cry of help to me. When he is traveling on the road, he comes across people where he has to lie about being associated with Lord Darlington because of the fact that his previous owner fell from grace by being associated with Germany too intimately prior to WWII. These are times when it became difficult for me understand him because on one hand, he admires Lord Darlington over all others, but on the other hand, he hides the fact that he worked for him. The truth becomes clearer as the story progresses that Stevens misses Darlington not because he was so well respected while working for him or that Farraday treats him poorly (which he doesn’t of course) but simply because his role as a butler isn’t considered half as important as in those olden days. Once, a guest of Lord Darlington remarked on the quality of clean silver and this made Stevens feel important, like it mattered what he did and his position as a butler was something of value. But in the present time, the American owner is not only too friendly in conversations, but also doesn’t entertain as much and certainly not the kind of people who would see Stevens’ job as something of importance—certainly not a time in which he will receive any more compliments about polished silver.

But despite the fact that I don’t really like Stevens, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Because he is so “proper” and involved in his job as a butler, he clearly missed out on enjoying life as it was. Particularly in the end where he meets Miss Kenton again. It is clear that he looks back at his past throughout most of the story as something he missed and wanted back but not until that moment when he realizes it is all gone that he understands that all those opportunities were always there—he just hadn’t noticed. The sense of nostalgia which haunts him throughout his travel is so strong that I truly expected him to reclaim some of his past back but when he confronts Miss Kenton after all these years, he finally sees what he has lost. And that sense of disappointment and regret is felt so strongly that I knew Stevens, in that moment, would have done anything to change it all if he could. And that just broke my heart.

But the novel isn’t entirely despairing. It does end on a somewhat encouraging note, perhaps one where Stevens will be able to make the most out of the remains of the day. And that sort of made me smile even while my eyes were a bit misty.

This review is also available on BookLikes.

4star

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2015

Top Ten Books I’m Looking Forward To In 2015

Top 10 Tuesdays was a meme created by a multitude of bloggers over at the The Broke and the Bookish. Go over and join if you’d like to participate! For this week’s topic, I should inform you I already have about 50 books I want to read so this is really just a random list of books right now…;)

10. Demons (or Devils) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I recently read Notes from Underground and loved it. I need more!

9. Iliad by Homer

I look forward to read more classical literature in 2015. I loved The Odyssey so hopefully, this will be just as good. :)

8. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I really just want to read something massive and by Dumas…

7. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This is finally going to happen in 2015. Yes. Yes it will.

6. The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

After my rereading of LOTR, this will be my next Tolkien.

5. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

I don’t know if I’ll actually get to this since I have quite a few long reads to look forward to in 2015, but a girl can surely try!

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I will finally get to read this in my Women’s Lit course in Spring! YES! You have no idea how excited I am to read this in 2015.

3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

A massive read but I’ve heard people say it is absolutely worth it.

2. Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

I’m currently reading this and it is almost 1,000 pages so there is no way I will actually finish it in 2014.

1. Washington, A Life by Ron Chernow

I bought this book as soon as it came out in paperback and have yet to read it. It’s about 1,000 pages of nonfiction so surely you can see why I hesitate…


Please feel free to leave a link to your Top 10 Tuesday or simply tell me in the comments what your picks for this week would be! :)

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Happy Reading!