Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems

This week's prompt from The Broke and the Bookish is "Top Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books We've Read In The Past Year Or So."  I've decided to follow their lead and narrow this down by only including books I've read in the past year that have fewer than 500 ratings on Goodreads.  

I'm listing them alphabetically by title, and all but one of the titles is linked to my review of that book, if you want to know more about them.  And I've included my movie-style rating in parentheses for those who are interested.

Ain't We Got Fun by Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke -- a fun, light-hearted collection of letters between two sisters during the Great Depression.  (G)

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute -- a quiet, gentle story of people living in the idyllic English countryside about a hundred years ago.  (PG-13)

I, Claudia by Charity Bishop -- a fictionalized account of how Pontious Pilate and his wife Claudia married, went to Jerusalem, and were involved in Jesus Christ's trial and death.  (PG-13)

Letters on an Elk Hunt by a Woman Homesteader by Eleanor Pruitt Stewart -- an enthralling collection of real-life letters from an intrepid woman in the last days of the Old West.  (PG)

And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field -- a rich, engrossing story about a deaf woman and the doctor who brings her hope of hearing once again.  (PG)

Once by Elisabeth Grace Foley, Rachel Heffington, J. Grace Pennington, Emily Ann Putzke, Suzannah Rowntree, and Hayden Wand -- six fairy tale retellings with settings ranging from the Old West to steampunk to WWII to fairy tale kingdoms.  (PG-13)

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- a beautiful look at how love can both repair and damage people.  (PG-13)

Sixguns and Society:  A Structural Study of the Western by Will Wright -- an in-depth look at how western films changed as America's society changed during the 20th century.  (PG-13)

Song of the Ëan by Emily Nordberg -- a high-fantasy story about a pampered young noble who becomes mixed up with guerrilla fighters and sets about righting some grievous wrongs.  I'm not done reading this yet, but so far I'd rate it PG.

The World of Raymond Chandler (In His Own Words) edited by Barry Day -- Chandler is my favorite author, and this collection of his letters gave me lots of insight into his life and writing.  (PG-13)

That's all for this week, friends!  Have you read any of these?  Did you participate in TTT this week too?  Do you have some "hidden gems" you'd like to recommend to me?  Please share!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

My Fifty Favorite Novels

About four years ago, I posted a list of my 40 favorite novels right here. I have read roughly 40 novels a year since then, possibly more, which means I've read at least 150 since I made this list. I've found a lot of new favorites. I've reread more than a dozen on my original list of 40, and reconsidered others -- there's been a good deal of shifting within the list, in other words.

And so, today, I present you with My Fifty Favorite Novels (and a bunch of pictures from Pinterest). I love each of these dearly, have read most of them at least twice, and consider them all to basically be my friends.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
3. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
4. The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss
5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle
6. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
7. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
8. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
9. The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery
10. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

11. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
12. Persuasion by Jane Austen
13. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
14. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
15. The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum
16. Shane by Jack Schaefer
17. A Family Affair by Rex Stout
18. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
19. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
20. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster

21. Homer Price by Robert McCloskey
22. A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay
23. Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
24. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
25. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
26. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
27. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
28. Greenwillow by B. J. Chute
29. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
30. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

31. A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz
32. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
33. Henry Reed, Inc. by Keith Robertson
34. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
35. Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery
36. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
37. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
38. Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
39. Shadows Over Stonewycke by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella
40. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

41. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
42. An Antic Disposition by Alan Gordon
43. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
44. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
45. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
46. The Man in the Box by Mary Lois Dunn
47. Fear is the Key by Alistair MacLean
48. Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart
49. I, Claudia by Charity Bishop
50. Sixteen Brides by Stephanie Grace Whitson

So there you have it! My list of the 50 books I love best. In another four or five years, I'll have to revise it again, I'm sure, but for right now, these are they. What do you think of the list, book friends? Do you love some/many/all of these too?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Announcing I Love Austen Week

Do you love Jane Austen?  Her books, the movies based on her stories, and so on?  If so, then please join me over on my other blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy, for I Love Austen Week!  I'm holding it February 11-18, and it will involve a giveaway, tag, games, and you can even sign up to contribute a post about Austen yourself.  All the details are right here, including lots more nifty buttons for your blog :-)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Nimona" by Noelle Stevenson

This was simply too adorable, funny, poignant, and awesome.  I first heard of it on An Odd Blog, and her review here is way better than mine, so go read it!  I'm really glad my library had this, because I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Nimona is a shapeshifter who becomes the sidekick to archvillain Ballister Blackheart.  The two of them fight against a government organization and its champion, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin.  I'm having a terrible time figuring out how to explain the quirky charm of this graphic novel, which started out as a webcomic.  It's steampunky and off-beat, filled with questions about morality and duty and loyalty, but in a fun way.  

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and some hints that Blackheart and Goldenloin may have been in a relationship at one point.  It's very subtext, nothing overt, and should fly over the heads of most kids.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"A Wreath of Snow" by Liz Curtis Higgs

Jamie at Books and Beverages recommended this to me earlier this month, and I'm so happy she did!  Thanks, Jamie!  This was a much meatier story than I'd anticipated, with characters facing up to past sins and misdeeds, reaching out to right wrongs, and learning that the truth can set you free.  It's also got a bit of romance, but really just the beginning of one, which is a neat change from what I rather expected -- usually Romantic Christian Historical Fiction takes us all the way to engagement or wedding, but as this takes place over only a few days, that would have felt unrealistic, and I like that Higgs didn't go that route.

Margaret Campbell returns home to Stirling, Scotland, to share Christmas with her family and crippled brother.  Along the way, she meets a handsome stranger, who turns out to be Gordon Shaw, the man who accidentally crippled her brother many years ago.  There's a violent snowstorm, stopped trains, surprise revelations, and lots of great details about life in Victorian Scotland.  I hope to read more by Higgs, as I really liked her style.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Nothing whatsoever objectionable here.

This is my fourth and final book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Challenge.  Thanks so much for hosting it, Tarissa!  I hope to participate again next year, if you hold this again :-)

Friday, December 30, 2016

"Where Treetops Glisten" by Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin

This is a trio of novellas telling intertwined stories.  The three Turner siblings each find love at Christmastime during World War Two, on three successive Christmases.  

In "White Christmas" by Cara Putman, it's 1942 when college student Abigail Turner meets factory worker Jackson Lucas accidentally.  She offers her father's lawyering services to help save the Lucas farm, and as she and Jackson meet up over and over, they become friends, then fall in love.

In "I'll be Home for Christmas" by Sarah Sundin, it's 1943, and Air Force ace Pete Turner is home on furlough in time for Christmas.  He gets reacquainted with widow Grace Kessler when her little daughter Linnie decides he's the answer to her prayer asking God for a new daddy.  

In "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by Tricia Goyer, it's 1944, and Meredith "Merry" Turner is working as a nurse in a field hospital in the newly liberated Netherlands when she encounters the man she had loved years previously, but had suspected of being a Nazi spy.

All three stories are sweet and fun, and they were the perfect sort of light reading I like during the busy end of December.  Each one had a nice message of trusting God, with characters growing and learning in believable ways.  If you're a fan of Christian fiction, holiday stories, clean romance stories, or simply the WWII setting, you'll probably get a kick out of these.  I read it as an e-book with my Kindle app, but I wouldn't mind owning a paperback copy.

Particularly Good Bits:

"I guarantee no woman has ever fallen in love with me after one kiss.  It takes at least twenty.  I happen to be quite resistible."  (from "I'll be Home for Christmas")

"The thing about love," Nancy said, more serious now, "is that it's slow to fade.  It's not a bad thing.  Love is meant to last."  (from "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for war-related things like talk about concentration camps, hiding Jewish people to protect them, people being killed, and some surgical and medical situations in the final story especially.  The romances do involve kissing, but nothing more.

This is my third book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Challenge hosted by In the Bookcase.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Ten Favorite Books of 2016

For the past two years, I've one a list of my ten favorite reads for the year -- you can read 2014's list here, and 2015's list here.  This time, I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish, since their topic today is Top Ten Best Books of 2016.

I read and reviewed 48 books this year (plus a handful I read but never reviewed, and a couple I'm reading right now but haven't finished yet), which seems to be about my usual number.  Like before, I'm breaking these down into new-to-me books and re-reads.

New To Me

A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay -- I read all four of Reay's books this year, and this one I loved so much I had to buy my own copy as soon as I'd finished it.  It's a heartfelt look at the meaning of family, love, and belonging.

Greenwillow by B. J. Chute -- Cute and charming and funny and sweet.

I, Claudia by Charity Bishop -- A brilliantly imagined look at what life as Pontius Pilate's wife might have been like.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart -- Second in a series based on the real experiences of one of the first woman police officers in the United States.  Much funnier and more rambunctious than it sounds.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien -- A beautiful labor of love from a highly creative father for his four children.

And Now Tomorrow by Rachel Field -- A moving, rich exploration of a woman's search for meaning and identity.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë -- Simply my favorite book of all time, that's all.

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton -- I consider this the ultimate coming-of-age story.

Shane by Jack Schaefer -- A beautiful picture of how one person can impact the lives of others.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery -- Another example of how a person can impact others.

How about you?  What were the best books you read this year?