Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Books You’ve Never Heard of – New Titles for Your TBR

Greetings friends. I hope this entry finds you well, in body and spirit. I’m doing quite well, thank you. Fall has arrived, and I’m very happy about it. Most days are still in the upper 90s, but the morning’s and evening’s are so dusky and crisp, and I’m loving them. But I’m not here to talk about the weather (*again), I’m here to talk about books–my other favorite topic of discussion. It’s about that time when readers all over the world start to rummage around, and squirrel up some juicy reads for the remainder of the year. And since we are all eternally, foraging for good books to add to our lists, I thought it would be fun to share a few books that you may not have heard of before. In the book world there are many books circulated that nearly everyone has read, or has plans to read. But there is a vast library of hidden gems out there, and maybe your new favorite book is still waiting for you to find it. Today, I’m sharing a few books that you may not have heard of, that I really enjoyed, and that you might enjoy as well.

The Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Dianna Wynne Jones (Middle-Grade Fantasy)

I’ve mentioned Dianna Wynne Jones on my blog many times before, since she is one of my favorite authors. But apart from Howl’s Moving Castle, not many of her other books get much attention, which is a shame because she’s written a lot of books. One book that I truly adored was, The Dark Lord of Derkholm. This is a fantasy book, with a premise that’s almost too convoluted to describe. It takes place in the same universe as all her other works–which consist of many different worlds. In this novel, there is an event which takes place each year, where those from across the worlds can take part in a Pilgrim Party–an all expenses paid trip to a neighboring world where “pilgrims” a.k.a. “tourists” can take part in a rehearsed adventure. These so-called pilgrims get to defeat dark lords, and dragons, and experience a “real” adventure. And for this year’s event, Derk, and his eccentric family are chosen to host it. We follow our main characters as they endeavor to put on the show of a lifetime, and create a convincing experience for the good paying tourists. The book is hilarious and completely enthralling.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne BrontΓ« (Classic Literature)

We are all familiar with the BrontΓ« sisters, and their widely acclaimed books, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights–but you don’t often hear about the third sister, Anne. If you haven’t heard about this book, I’d just like to say that in my humble opinion, the The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, far surpasses the two aforementioned, both in plot and writing style. Wildfell Hall, centers around a reclusive young woman, and her son, and their mysterious past. When a young gentlemen takes a liking to the woman, he makes it his goal to befriend her, and find the truth about the unfortunate events that lead her to the quiet, secluded cliff-side town. This is one of the most honest, and poignant works of fiction from the 18th century, I’ve ever read.

Blur, by Steven James (YA Thriller)

Occasionally, I like to pick up a story in the thriller, or paranormal genre. I read this book on a whim, when I wanted something gripping and dark, and I was pleasantly surprised by the story. It takes place in a small, quiet town in Wisconsin, where the body of a teen girl is discovered. The death is ruled an accident, but the main character Daniel, soon comes to believe that may not be true after all. He tries to get to the bottom of the case, while strange and unexplainable things begin to happen in his personal life. For anyone interested in a chilling, and mysterious story you might want to pick this book up. Oh, and Blur, is the first book in a trilogy, but I didn’t really like the other two books as much as I liked the first.

The Forest of Wool and Steel, by Natsu Miyashita (Contemporary, Slice of Life)

This year I’ve been delving into some Japanese Fiction. I decided to pick up The Forest of Wool and Steel, and the title is what initially drew me to this story, but I then stayed for the characters. This story is about a young piano tuner, apprenticing at a piano shop in a small mountain village. The main character Tomura, was someone I really related to in many ways. The book managed to make the challenges and difficulties he faced while pursuing his dream, somehow feel like my own struggles in life. This is a heartwarming and true to life story about a young man forging a path for himself, while walking in the footsteps of great teachers.

The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery (Classic Literature)

As a self-professed member of the Lucy-Maud-Montgomery-Fan-Club, you can imagine my surprise when I found this book, while doing some online book shopping. I knew Miss Montgomery wrote other books besides her famous Anne series, but somehow, The Blue Castle slipped by my radar. As soon as I read the title, I immediately, ordered the book. I might be the only one living in ignorance of this book, but in case you too have not heard of it, don’t worry, I just fixed that problem. It was interesting to read a more modern book by L.M. Montgomery, and a story very unlike that of Anne of Green Gables, or Emily of New Moon. Our main character, Valency, is only months away from turning thirty when she receives shocking information that spurs her to break free from her overbearing, and stifling family. Much to the chagrin of several aunts, uncles, and cousins, Valency casts public opinion aside, as she chooses to live the life of her dreams. This is probably my favorite read of the year, and is one of those books I know I’m going to want to read over and over again. So if you’re in the market for something humorous, uplifting, and heartfelt, I think this is just the book you’re looking for.

Book Sticker for iOS & Android | GIPHY

Thus concludes my list of lesser-known masterpieces. Searching for hidden gems in the book world is one of my favorite hobbies, and something I intentionally seek out. The mainstream book market dominates nearly all of social media, yet when you take the time to find books outside of that realm, you may be pleasantly surprised by the treasures that are out there.

Tell me, have you heard of any of these books before? What are some of your favorite lesser-known reads? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Reading Wrap-up: 2020 Edition

Hey there! Welcome to a brand new year, and my very first post of 2021. I can’t believe it’s already mid January, time really does fly. Today, I’ll be sharing my completed reading list for 2020. It wasn’t the best of reading years for me, but it wasn’t the worst either. When I compiled my list I realized I’d actually read more than I thought, and even surpassed the previous year’s record, (by the skin of my teeth). I tried to include a wider variety of genres, but of course, fantasy and sci-fi won out for the most reads. I had pretty good luck with the non-fiction reads I chose, but as for fiction, most of the books I read weren’t great. With the exception of a few, it seemed like most of the novels I picked up last year were just average, and didn’t capture my attention. Which led me to feel very uninspired about my TBR. But looking back, it turned out to be a rather decent reading year, despite my lack of enthusiasm.

Now let’s get to the list:

Ratings: 1-5

Favorites in bold

Non-Fiction

  1. The Universe Next Door, by James W. Sire – 4
  2. Beyond Brilliance, by Lucas Miller – 4
  3. Writing Your Story’s Theme, by K.M. Weiland – 5
  4. Reversing Hermon, by Dr. Michael S. Heiser – 5
  5. True Legends, by Steven Quayle – 5
  6. Herbal Home Healthcare, by John R. Christopher – 5

Sci-fi/Fantasy

  1. Fireborn, by Rosaria Munda – 4
  2. Beyond the Deep Woods: The Edge Chronicles 1, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell – 5
  3. The Christ Virus, by Dave Slade – 3
  4. Starsight, by Brandon Sanderson – 4
  5. Into the Fire, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  6. Among the Flames, by Kim Vandel (re-read) – 5
  7. A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes – 3
  8. The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater – 5
  9. The Malamander, by Thomas Taylor – 2
  10. On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the Wingfeather Saga book 1, by Andrew Peterson – 4
  11. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini – 3
  12. The Dark Hills Divide, The Land of Elyon book 1, by Patrick Carman – 4
  13. The Lost Colony, Artemis Fowl book 5, by Eoin Colfer – 4
  14. Paranormia, by Paul Regnier – 5

Classics

  1. The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins – 4
  2. The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff – 4
  3. The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy – 5

Contemporary/Historical

  1. The Heart of a Samurai, by Margi Pruess – 5
  2. The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge – 5
  3. Rose Cottage, by A.K. Madison – 4
  4. The Penderwicks book 1, by Jeanne Birdsall – 5
  5. A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness – 4

Total : 28

Top 4 Mini-Reviews:

Beyond The Deep Woods, by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

In this story, we follow a misfit boy who was raised by an adoptive family in the Deep Woods; a dark and dangerous place filled with all sorts of strange, and ferocious beasts. He sets out all alone on a journey through the wilds, and has many curious encounters with some very odd characters. This is a Middle-Grade book, but it can be read and enjoyed by anyone looking for an adventure. The storyline was very original, and I was surprised to find out that it was not a modern publication, but was published over twenty years ago.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Steifvater

Taking place on the small, windswept, isle of Thisby, we follow Puck Connolly, and Sean Kendrick as they prepare for The Scorpio Races. A yearly event where racers compete for a grand prize—and sometimes to the death—atop the violent, and wild, water horses called, capaill uisce. This book had me staying up late into the night, and reading for hours to reach the end. I actually found this book at a thrift store a few years ago, and left it sitting untouched on my bookshelf for so long! I’m happy that I finally got around to reading it. I loved everything about this book, and I think it’s my favorite book of the entire year.

Paranormia, by Paul Regnier

Chris Loury is young, broke, and kind of a nerd. Struggling to find his way in life, and hoping to land a contract for his original comic, he ends up in a strange accident. After that fateful night, he is swept into a series of wild encounters, and has several run-ins with a lunatic who claims to be an angel. But as events unfold, and Chris finds himself digging deeper into trouble, he starts to believe the lunatic is actually who–or rather what he says he is. I appreciated the way the supernatural elements were handled in this story, and I thought Chris was a very relatable character, especially to all of my fellow twenty-something’s out there, who are trying to make their own way in the world. Overall, a solid read.

The Scent of Water, by Elizabeth Goudge

The perfect, cozy British tale to curl up with under a blanket, and a cup of tea. This story centers around Mary, a woman who retires to a small English village, and becomes acquainted with the inhabitants there. Learning to love the quiet of the countryside, Mary also finds herself becoming involved in the many joys, and heartaches with her new neighbors. This was one of the few books I was actually sad to finish. I’ll likely be reading more books, by Miss Goudge in the future.

Most Disappointing:

Unpopular opinion here: I was actually very disappointed in, A Time to Die, by Nadine Brandes. I’d read so many great reviews of this book, (and I enjoyed her other books,) but after reading, A Time to Die I don’t really get the hype. For starters, it felt sort of like two books squashed into one, with so much going on. I never connected with the main character, Parvin, and I thought it a little unrealistic how much trauma she went through, and still survived. (Though that was kind of the point of the story.) In general, there were many aspects of the story that I found very unrealistic, and slightly annoying. I wanted to like this book, but I just couldn’t, and as of right now I don’t think I’ll continue with the series.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, by Christopher Paolini

Firstly, I loved the cover, and this title is exactly what I like to see from sci-fi novels. I was a big fan of the Inheritance Cycle, by Paolini, but unfortunately I didn’t love this book. This is not a YA book, nor does it pretend to be, but I felt like I went into it a little blind. Especially for younger Paolini fans, I’d warn them about the amount of profanity, and adult themes throughout. It was an interesting story, and read like any space epic, but, I didn’t find it out of this world fantastic. Die-hard sci-fi fans would probably enjoy this book, but I’m not adding it to my favorites list. Also, it’s nearly 900 hundred pages, so beware.

Thus concludes my list, and a few reviews, for all the books I cracked open during the year 2020. I may have forgotten a few, since I didn’t keep track very well. There were also a few DNF’s (Did Not Finish), throughout the year which I didn’t list here, but that’s for the best. This year I’m hoping to read more, since I feel like I’m finally in a good reading mood, but then again I say that every year, and things don’t always pan out. I would like to continue to expand genres, and read more non-fiction. And in general, just read outside of my comfort zone, because I feel a bit like I’ve read those genres dry, and I know I’ll find some new, unexpected favorites, if I’d only look to new avenues.

What about you? How many books did you read in 2020? What was your favorite read of the year? Leave me a comment, and let me know!

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews, reading

Discovering Forgotten Books: the Weird, the Wacky & the Wonderful

Recently, my bedroom has gotten a major makeover — fresh paint, new floors, the whole shabang. As a result, I had to completely empty out all of my belongings, including my bookshelf which was a major undertaking, due to the fact that it’s a hefty floor to ceiling structure, (custom made by my brother, I might add ;p). It was easy enough to empty all of my “junk” a.k.a., shove everything in storage bins. But when it came time to unpack it all and return everything to its proper place, boy oh boy, was that a challenge. It took me several hours to complete the job, likely because I spent most of the time sitting on the floor staring dismally at the piles and piles of books, instead of delivering them back to their designated place.

It can be very hard to let books go, but I realized I had so many books that I was never ever going to read, and even books that I disliked but was still hanging onto. I was determined to minimize, and be honest about the books I didn’t want, so I buckled down and weeded out lots of books that simply did not spark joy in my heart. (Marie Kondo, anyone??) I was able to eliminate a whole bin full of books that were taking up very valuable space on my shelves! Clearing things out not only cleared my mind but allowed room for my future acquisitions.

While sorting through almost every book I’ve collected in the last ten-or-so years, I was able to rediscover so many books I’d forgotten about. And today, I wanted to share with you some of my most epic finds from the depths of my little library. Some weird, some awesome, and some slightly eccentric books I didn’t even remember that I owned. Let’s start with…

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

Let’s just call this one book research. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Plants and herbs have the ability to do amazing things from healing wounds, and disease, to becoming a valuable tool for sabotage. Because you never know when you might find yourself in a situation where you need to poison your enemy– I mean, when your characters need to poison their enemies, you know, in fiction. ;p

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

Next, we have a middle-grade book, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. This is one of the oddest books I’ve ever read, about a strange boy who appears in a small town in a camper trailer which he is unable leave, for reasons I’m not going to tell you. Some of the other children in town visit him regularly, and try to get to the bottom of the mysterious predicament the boy is in. If you want to find out more, and don’t mind reading something a little wacky, you’d better get yourself a copy.

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

I stumbled across this series at a thrift store, and it sounded interesting so I snatched it up. I found book 1 and 3, but I was missing the second book, so I waited patiently and lo and behold, the next time I went thrifting there it was, just sitting on the shelf waiting for me, (a major success in my book). Honestly, about 90% of the books I own came from thrift stores, many of which I knew nothing about before I purchased them. Sometimes they can be a flop, but sometimes they are true winners. This is an extremely underrated series, that I think a lot of people would enjoy if they knew it existed! It’s a sci-fi/dystopian retelling of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s totally epic.

The Milagro Beanfield Wars

A lot of the books on my shelf were inherited by me, from my brother when he moved out, and thus I have no idea how, or why he acquired some of these titles. The perfect example, would be these books right here. I don’t know much about this series, other than it being a historical, and possibly magical tale. It looks so strange and creepy I just have to keep it, and perhaps read it one of these days.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

I’m sure a lot of you have heard of this book, and probably read it, as it is the rightful bearer of the Newbery honor medal. I’m not someone who cries easily, but this is the one and only book that has ever made me shed actual tears. Heartwarming, and heartbreaking, this is a touching story of a young girl on a journey to her mother. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read this book, but it left a lasting impression.

Michael O’Halloran by Gene Stratton-Porter

I love to collect vintage books, and read them too. There’s something so captivating about cracking open an old book with yellowing pages, and a creaky spine. Not to mention, the musky old-book smell, that generally accompanies such treasures. The thrill of diving into a story from days gone by is priceless, and Gene Stratton-Porter is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I’m slowly reading my way through all of her works. She has a unique talent for making somewhat simple stories, flow so deep, and tug on your heart-strings. I would recommend any of her books.

Magic Tricks

Back in the day, my brother was quite the magician, always showing off his newest trick and such. He used to guard his secrets with his life, but no longer… Looks like his secrets are about to be exposed. What do you think? Should I try out some of these tricks on my own, or keep his mysteries hidden?

Dune by Frank Herbert

I bought this book more recently, and I read it only last year. It’s considered a classic in the sci-fi world, so naturally I wanted to give it a go. While I did find it interesting, and somewhat entertaining, it was just a little too weird for my taste. It had some very dark, and slightly occult themes which admittedly, turned me off. Though I must say, I did like the sand worms, and thought they were absolutely terrifying. I would describe this book as Star Wars meets Tremors. There are many more books in this series, so I can’t say if/how my opinion would change if I were to continue on with with it, but as of now I’ll call it a done deal.

Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, book 2 of the Airborn Series

This is another one of my favorite underrated trilogies. I borrowed this series from the library, so I don’t own all of the books, except for book two which I happened to find at–you guessed it–a thrift store. I would really like to re-read this series if I ever get my hands on the other two books. From airships to spaceships, this story takes you on a wild ride, and really gives you that “steampunk” vibe. Fun fact: I found out about this series from Adam Young, (a.k.a, Owl City), after I learned that one of his songs was based off of a line from book two. All I can say is, Adam never let’s me down and if you like adventure you’ll like these books.

So there you have it, the conclusions of my discoveries for today. It took a lot of work to get my books looking all nice on the shelf, and my back surely paid a fair price. It was a lot of fun to remember many of the books I had forgotten about, and fawn over my favorites. And it was surprising to find that I have so many awesome, yet underrated books that I don’t think many people have heard of. If you’re interested, I can do another post dedicated to some of my top underrated books, and series. Let me know.

I hope you enjoyed exploring my bookshelves with me, and maybe added a few new titles to your TBR. Do you have any strange books on your shelf? Do you like to search through your shelves for old and forgotten books? Tell me about it down below, I’d love to hear from you.

As always, thank you for reading,

Lady S

P.S. If you’re curious, this is the Owl City song I mentioned. Give a listen.