Wednesday Wish: Angelique Ink Custom Stamp Bookplate

Feb 29, 2012

Is there anything better than claiming a book as your own? When I was a little girl, I loved writing my name in the front of my book. That way, if anyone found it, they would know exactly who it belonged to. My perfectionist side would take over, though, and I had to find the perfect place to write my name. And heaven forbid if I messed anything up while I was writing it.

Fast forward to today, and I rarely write my name in my books. I wish I did it more often, but it doesn't usually cross my mind. However, one of my favorite things to do while browsing around antique stores is to flip to the inside of the old books. I like to look for a name, a reminder of the journey this book took and the lives it has lived.

So imagine my delight when I found this custom bookplate stamp by Angelique Ink. It satisfies my perfectionist tendencies because you can't go wrong with a stamp. It also makes my little heart happy simply for the fact that it is such a lovely way to build a library.

Literary Heroine Blog Party

Feb 27, 2012

I've been browsing the blog world recently trying to find some more diverse book blogs to follow. Most of the ones that I've found so far are dedicated to YA. Don't get me wrong, I love me some teeny bopper books... but I don't read YA exclusively (or even typically). I was so excited to find Jillian at A Room of One's Own who started blogging in 2010 to chronicle her journey through the classics. Needless to say, I was pumped to find a blogger that loves Austen, Dickens and some good ole Gone With the Wind.

She just participated in The Literary Heroine Blog Party, hosted by Accordion to Kellie, and I absolutely loved reading through her answers. I've mostly reviewed contemporary literature so far, and I thought this would be a great way for anyone following along to get to see another one of my passions - classic literature.

Go check out some of the other posts - you'll be so impressed! The event ends February 29, so you've still got two days if you want to participate.

Thanks for hosting, Kellie!

The Questions

Introduce yourself! Divulge your life's vision, likes, dislikes, aspirations, or something completely random!
For as long as I can remember, I've loved to read. My reading journey has been a varied one. From memorizing Madeline to hiding in my bathroom to read just one more chapter after bedtime, I have long been in love with the written word. I love the adventure and escape of reading. The way words can come alive to create another world. The way you can connect to the story to the point that it almost feels real. The way books are so personal and revealing, but also so perfect for sharing. I'm completely and totally sold on the magic of reading.

I grew up on a steady diet of series - Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, the American Girl adventures, the Saddle Club books... Those books have given me a soft spot for series and sagas. Most of all, I adore getting to see a character go through life and grow into themselves. I also love how reading a book can help you grow into the best version of yourself. It's funny how that works, isn't it?

I collect copies of Pride and Prejudice and secretly wish I was British. I'm in love with Gilbert Blythe. I cried when Fred Weasley died in the last Harry Potter. I wish I could un-read the Twilight series. My favorite place to read is at the beach. If I can't be there, it's in the bathtub. I like to use receipts and postcards as bookmarks. I can't pick a favorite genre because I love too many, but if I could only read one I'd pick the classics. I refuse to fold the page corners down. I love to re-read books, and that's not limited to just my favorites. I want to be someone who loans people books, but I can't bring myself to part with my books. I usually organize my bookshelves by genre, but lately I have two categories that have caused me to re-arrange my bookshelves: to read and to re-read. I'm Hannah, and I'm a book nerd.

What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine?
The essence of a true heroine is rooted in her mind. All of the qualities that I love in my favorite heroines can be traced to their mind. They love to read (and sometimes write). They're intelligent and clever. They're wise - they might make mistakes but they recognize them. They're kind and treat others with respect. Even if they delight in imagination, when it all comes down to it, they are grounded and solid. They are so much more than just a pretty face. They are women you want to call friend.

Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables (and the rest of the series) -
From her love of reading to her enthusiasm for life, I love Anne Shirley. She stands up for herself and her friends. She is loyal and kind. She's got a temper that gets her into trouble. She talks an awful lot, but it's just so endearing. While she can be a total drama queen, I laugh along with her antics and appreciate her spirit. I love her - and she helped me fall in love with reading.

Jo March from Little Women - 
Headstrong and passionate Jo. She is independent and has huge dreams. Whether she's in a fit of temper or locking herself in the attic to write furiously, she is whirlwind that flies across the page. She knows her own mind, which makes me love her all the more. Jo is a spitfire, but she's the kind of woman you'd love to have as a friend.

Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice -
Lizzy is sensible and down-to-earth. She's witty and not afraid to speak her mind. She doesn't care much what other people think of her, and she loves her family despite their faults. I love that she isn't just pretty - she's clever and smart! I want to either be Lizzy or be best friends with her. She is, without a doubt, one of the most memorable heroines in all of literature.

Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility
Unlike my other three heroines, Elinor is calm, steady and very rational. She can be more quiet and introverted. She isn't given to wild displays of emotion. She becomes the rock for her family, taking care of them in ways no one can see. I love that despite her calm demeanor, she doesn't lack for feeling. She has just as much in her heart as all the other heroines I love and admire.

Five of your favorite historical novels?
I'm cheating because I just can't narrow it down to five:
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • BONUS: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Out of those five books, who is your favorite main character and why?
Elizabeth Bennett. From her fine eyes to her sharp tongue, she is one of the most delightful characters that was ever created. She's my favorite because she is the character that I would most want to be friends with in real life. I already mentioned all the things I love about her in a previous question (so hopefully you actually read that answer!). She's also my favorite because I want to be more like her. She's witty and isn't afraid to speak her mind... but she also isn't afraid to admit when she's wrong. I LOVE that she can recognize and admit her faults.

Out of those five books, who is your favorite secondary character and why?
Levin. I've got to be honest, it's been a while since I read Anna Karenina, but as soon as I read this question, Levin's name popped into my mind. I remember loving Tolstoy's behemoth of a book because of this secondary character. But I can't remember why I loved him! Guess I'll have to re-read this soon...

My other choice would probably be Diana Barry because every young girl needs her own bosom buddy. I love her friendship with Anne and how they're always there for each other. She's the best kind of friend - she'll join in Anne's hijinks but try to steer her clear of too much trouble.

If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to - and what would you plan to do there?
These questions are so hard to answer! I love to travel, and I can't imagine having to narrow it down to my one "dream vacation." I'd probably choose England (even though I've been there before) because there is still so much I haven't explored. I absolutely love all things British, so my dream vacation would be to spend weeks on end in England. What would I do there? Well, I'd explore every nook and cranny, of course!

Other desired destinations: Ireland, Italy, France, Morocco, South Africa, Switzerland, St. Lucia... the list could go on and on.

What is your favorite time period and culture to read about?
I really love Regency and Victorian England! I'm sure no one is surprised by this answer if they've read anything else in this post. I also love reading about different war times - including the Civil War, World War I and II. I have also started to read a lot more contemporary fiction, but it isn't my "favorite" time period to read about.

You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation - what is your act comprised of?
I'm a horrible singer. I'm not very good at being funny on purpose... unless I'm being sarcastic. So I guess recitation? But probably not that either. Honestly, I'd be the person organizing the concert, not performing in it. I'd totally have everything under control and be running the show.

If you were to attend a party was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent?
I'm going to go with Catherine Morland from Northanger Abbey. Just trying to mix things up here...

What are your sentiments on the subject of chocolate?
Let me see... this should sum it up perfectly:

Favorite author(s)?
At the top of my list are Jane Austen, L.M. Montgomery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. In terms of the classics, I'd like to include Leo Tolstoy, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Charles Dickens, too, but I've only read one book by each so I don't think I can claim them as favorites just yet.

Besides essentials, what would you take on a visiting voyage to a foreign land?
I'd totally be taking my Kindle (because I can never pack as many books as I want to read when traveling and the Kindle has finally solved that dilemma). I'd also bring a journal so that I could record my thoughts while I was traveling. I wouldn't want to forget a thing! Although this is probably considered an essential, I'd also make sure I bought enough money to buy anything there that caught my fancy. 

In which century were most of the books you read written?
I can't really answer this because I tend to jump around with my reading. Lately, I've been reading mostly recent books - 21st century and some 20th. But I also love the classics and turn to books in the 18th and 19th century pretty frequently! So does the fact that my answer includes four centuries tell you anything about how my random reading habits?

In your opinion, the ultimate hero in literature is...

Please meet my dream man. His name? Gilbert Blythe. Even as I write it, my heart does a little leap for joy. We are old friends - Gilbert and I. He’s the first boy I fell in love with. 

If you have never met him, he lives in a world crafted by L.M. Montgomery. When I discovered him in Anne of Green Gables, I realized he was different. Then, as I watched the movies, I knew it was meant to be.

He was handsome, of course, but that wasn’t what I first noticed. It was his love for Anne. Calm, steady, faithful… This wasn’t just any boy. My friends met him, and they fell in love, too. I couldn’t blame them - it would have been hard to resist his charm. 
Of course, it was only pretend. A relationship with a character in a book could never last. But the standard had been set. The bar had been raised. I decided that I was looking for a “Gilbert.” I loved his love for Anne. He chose her from among all the other girls, waited for her to come around, and loved her because she was different. He wasn't afraid to tell her she was wrong when she needed to hear it - but it was always for her own good. And he teased her when she took herself too seriously.
So, for me, Gilbert Blythe is and always will be the ultimate hero in literature.
Describe your ideal dwelling place.
The answer to this question probably depends on the day you ask it. Today, I'm dreaming of a big white farmhouse surrounded by acres of land. I'd have a huge front porch with a swing that is perfect for curling up with a good book. The house would be filled with lots of light, love and laughter. The hardwoods would be well loved and the furniture would feel lived in. It would be a place where everyone felt welcome to come and no one wanted to leave. And there'd be a library. With a reading book. But that's a given.

Just because I'm dreaming big today, I'd also have a lovely cabin by the lake. It'd be small and cozy, just steps away from a dip in the cool water. I'm also thinking the lake would be in the mountains so then I get a great view. What? It's my dream world... anything is possible!

Sum up your fashion style in five words.
I don't think I can even come up with five words for my current fashion style. Here are two: classic and comfortable. Working in a corporate environment, I tend to stick to the basics. Dress pants and some nice tops are my go-to routine wear. I just pick whatever takes the least amount of work.

In my ideal *cough**Pinterest*cough* world, I'd be way more hip. Like so:

(All these pictures are of the same stylish lady over at Atlantic-Pacific. She's way more daring than I'd ever be. But I'd like to be this cool.)

Have you ever wanted to change a character's name?
Nope. The author created them and named them - I'm just happy to be introduced to them.

In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is...
I don't think I've read enough literature with really dastardly villains! I need to get on that. With that being said, I think Shakespeare had some rather dastardly villains - Richard III is the first that comes to mind. That was a rather wicked guy!

Three favorite non-fiction books?
Besides the Bible, here are my top three as of today:
  • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers - The best devotional evs. No question.
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand - A book I finished a few weeks ago and can't stop thinking about.
  • Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling - The book that kept making me LOL.
Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon?
This is an easy one: outside with my nose in a book!

Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat - in such a way as will best portray your true character.
I'd happily throw on one of these wide-brimmed beauties for a day in the sun. I love a big floppy hat that offers just the right amount of shade - all the better for reading, my dear. Something simple (made out of straw) but with a touch of added beauty - whether it be flowers or a ribbon. I'm a pretty simple girl at heart, and I love that this kind of hat is both functional and visually appealing.

Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year.
I graduated from college, married a handsome fella, and started my first job in the real world. It's been a busy year to say the least. I am so very grateful for all the changes the last year has brought. My cup in certainly running over - and I am so thankful!

Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently.
"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
      you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
      indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
      in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
      because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken."
                 - Psalm 16:5-8

A Literary Challenge: Dickens' Bleak House

Feb 26, 2012

I've only recently joined the book blogging world, and I still feel like I'm just getting my feet wet. I've started to join in on a few weekly features, including Top Ten Tuesday and TGIF. While I've looked at a few challenges and read-a-longs, I haven't actually decided to participate in one. Until now.

A Tale of Two Cities has always been one of my favorite books, but I haven't been able to call Charles Dickens a favorite author because I've never read anything else by him. Sometimes I'm just so intimidated by the length of his novels! And, let's face it, certain books are better when you can discuss them with others. That's why I'm so excited to participate in the Bleak House Read-a-long that is being hosted by Unputdownables.

I am kind of nervous about joining in (it's a pretty big time commitment) but also really excited! Many thanks to A Room of One's Own for posting about the read-a-long because I wouldn't have known about it otherwise!

Some Facts About the Read-a-Long:
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to join/
  • We will be reading the book in March, April, & May (13 weeks), with the first discussion happening on Friday, March 2nd / the book is 817 pages (paperback, Barnes and Noble classics edition) so that's roughly 9 pages a day.
  • Don't be intimidated. We will be going at a slow pace and discussing the book throughout our reading. The discussions are quite fun, and make the reading process very enjoyable!
Reading Schedule

Week # / Dates :: Place in which to STOP

Week One / February 24 - March 1 :: Chapter 6
Week Two / March 2-8 :: Chapter 10
Week Three / March 9-15 :: Chapter 15
Week Four / March 16-22 :: Chapter 20
Week Five / March 23-29 :: Chapter 24
Week Six / March 30 - April 5 :: Chapter 30
Week Seven / April 6-12 :: Chapter 34
Week Eight / April 13-19 :: Chapter 45
Week Nine / April 20-26 :: Chapter 49
Week Ten / April 27 - May 3 :: Chapter 51
Week Eleven / May 4-10 :: Chapter 56
Week Twelve / May 11-17 :: Chapter 61
Week Thirteen / May 18-24 :: The End

I'm still undecided if I'll be posting about it here, but I'm leaning towards just writing about it on Unputdownables so that I can stick to the group discussion. But we'll see! I'll definitely write a final review here to share my thoughts on the novel as a whole.

So Quotable: Emily Giffin

“Maybe that's what it all comes down to. Love, not as a surge of passion, but as a choice to commit to something, someone, no matter what obstacles or temptations stand in the way. And maybe making that choice, again and again, day in and day out, year after year, says more about love than never having a choice to make at all.” 
         ― Ellen in Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

Feb 25, 2012

Release Date: October 2008
Publisher: Penguin | Speak
Pages: 305 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night - dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge - he follows her. Margo's always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she's always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q... until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they're for Q.

Thoughts on Paper Towns
The was my first John Green book. The first third follows Q and Margo on a night of revenge, and I absolutely loved this section. It was interesting to see how far Q would go to impress Margo, and the dialogue was enjoyable. Margo isn't an easy person to figure out, and she seems to revel in being a mystery to others. I'm the farthest thing from rebellious, but their antics made me want to take off on a midnight adventure.

Then, Margo disappears. And the book went a little downhill for me. The search for Margo was okay, but I wasn't as fascinated with her as Q was so I felt like he was wasting his time. I liked the mystery aspect, but I also wanted them to just find Margo already and slap some sense into her.

The characters were interesting, but I found a few of them a little annoying. I just didn't like Margo. In the beginning, I could see why Q was enamored with her. On their little revenge trip, I could see why she was someone you'd want to be around. And then she disappeared, and I was so frustrated with how incredibly selfish she was. She got on my last nerve. By the end of the book, I was completely over Margo. And I was kind of frustrated with Q for being so infatuated still.

Green's writing was really enjoyable. It's sharp and witty, and it's the kind of writing that people like to quote. He also fills his pages with deep thoughts and big ideas - capturing, in my opinion, the melodrama of the teenage mind. However, I don't think teenagers really talk like this. It was so over-the-top, let's talk about the complexity of life... and I just wanted them to get to the point.

I did, however, love one of the points that Green makes - we can imagine someone from afar, but that doesn't mean that's who they really are. And that making a person more than a person does a disservice to you and them.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this, but I wouldn't read it again. I know a lot of people absolutely love John Green, and I can see the appeal, but I don't know that I'll be reading any more of his novels unless I find them at the library. Most people won't agree with me, but I don't mind being in the minority on this one.

So Quotable
"What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person."

"That was perfect, I thought: you listen to people so that you can imagine them, and you hear all the terrible and wonderful things people do to themselves and to one another, but in the end the listening exposes you even more than it exposes the people you're trying to listen to."

TGIF: Required Reading {3}

Feb 24, 2012

TGIF is a weekly feature created and hosted by GReads! that re-caps the week's posts and has a different question each week.

This week's question - Required Reading: Which book from your school days do you remember reading & enjoying? Is there a book published now that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?
I'm not feeling very wordy today, but here are the books I am SO glad that I read in school:
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie - This was my first introduction to Agatha Christie, and it made me really want to read more. I loved the mystery - and remember being so happy that a summer reading book turned out to so exciting.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - I read it twice. And loved it twice. Still love it today.
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - One of my teachers recommended this to me for a project where we got to choose our own book, and I'm so thankful she did. This book is one of my favorites!
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Dickens may be difficult to read sometimes, but the payoff is totally worth it. This book is amazing! Now I just need to read some more by him so I can compare.
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I would probably never have picked this up if it wasn't assigned, but thank heavens it was. This is FABULOUS. I'm due for a re-read soon.
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - So frustrating but so worth it. Love me some Hester Prynne.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - If this isn't on everyone's list, I don't know what's wrong with the word.
I don't know what recent book that I'd want included in today's curriculum. If you can't tell from my list, I obviously fancy the classics so I'm more partial to all the stuff kids hated in high school. I'd take a classic any day over most of the stuff that's popular for teens today. But that's just me.

Review: Stay by Allie Larkin

Feb 23, 2012

Stay by Allie Larkin

Release Date: June 2010
Publisher: Penguin | Dutton Adult
Pages: 308 pages
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Savannah "Van" Leone has been in love with Peter Clarke ever since she literally fell head over heels in front of him on the first day of college. Now, six years later, instead of standing across from him at the altar, Van's standing beside her best friend Janie as maid of honor, trying to mask her heartache and guilt as Janie marries the only man Van's ever loved.

After the wedding, Van drowns her sorrows in Kool-Aid-vodka cocktails and reruns of Rin Tin Tin, and does what any heartbroken woman in her situation would do: She impulsively buys a German Shepherd over the Internet. The pocket-size puppy Van is expecting turns out to be a clumsy, hundred-pound beast who only responds to commands in Slovak, and Van is at the end of her rope... until she realizes that this quirky giant may be the only living being who will always be loyal to her, no matter what.

Thoughts on Stay
I'm not going to lie, the cover totally made me pick up this book. I'm not even a huge dog lover, but I can't resist a German Shepherd puppy. The puppy, Joe, turned out to be such a lovable character that I was browsing the Internet for puppies as soon as I finished this book.

I really loved Stay. It's so much more than just chick lit or just a dog book. This is Larkin's debut, and I was so impressed. Her descriptions were spot-on and her characters were realistic. My favorite part? The humor! It was sarcastic and witty and made me laugh out loud.

I was barely into this book before I realized that I wasn't going to be able to go to bed without finishing it. I had to keep reading. I loved Savannah - she was real. I loved her strength in some moments and wanted to scream at her mistakes in others. She's still grappling with her mother's death, and she doesn't quite know how to handle her loneliness.

There were a few characters I wanted to slap, but that only made me love the book more. When you're reading a book, you've got to have a few people to hate. But there were also some people I really loved.  I won't say who - you'll have to read it to find out.

Stay examines friendship, family, loneliness and how to stand up for yourself and get the life you want. If you like books about messy relationships, hilarious dogs, or chick-lit that packs a punch, this is the book for you. I'm just hoping Larkin's next book is as fun as her first!

So Quotable
"I couldn't just decide I wanted a dog and order one off the Internet. It was crazy. Crazy! I tried to go back to watching Rin Tin Tin, but I couldn't stop staring at the picture of the puppy [...] I clicked on the link. The order form said that the cost for the dog was one hundred and forty thousand koruny, which, seven drinks in, I figured was like pesos or lira or something like that, where a thousand of them equaled a dollar. I thought about looking it up, but my vision was starting to blur, and I wanted a dog. Now. I didn't want to wait any longer than I had to. What if someone else was sitting around in their pajamas watching the Rin Tin Tin marathon, realizing they needed a dog too? What if, in the time I took to look up the conversion rate, someone else bought my puppy?"

Wednesday Wish: Brookish Coffee Mug

Feb 22, 2012

This Wednesday Wish is a combination of several of my favorite things: Pride and Prejudice, quotes, and cute coffee mugs. I love browsing Etsy for new finds, and this week was no disappointment. While searching for a coffee mug to take to work, I stumbled upon a fabulous shop: Brookish, a Jane Austen inspired shop. While I love several things in her shop, this mug made the top of my list.

If you've read Pride and Prejudice, you'll recognize that this quote from Mrs. Bennet. In terms of comedy, nobody can make me laugh quite like the crazy Mrs. Bennet.

I can't imagine anything more delightful than sipping a hot cup of tea, or maybe some sugary coffee, in a mug that states: "I was sure you could not be so beautiful for nothing!"

I know, I know... you're so obsessed with it, too, aren't you?

Top Ten Books I'd Save If My House Was On Fire

Feb 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly featured hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm already so obsessed with lists so I'm excited to participate! This week's feature actually said "Top Ten Books I'd Save If My Was Abducted by Aliens (or any other natural disaster)" - so I made mine as if my house was on fire.

When I first made this list, I wrote down my ten favorite books. The ones that have meant the most to me. And then I realized that I needed to start over because my ten favorite books aren't the same as the ten books I'd save if my house was on fire. So here are the ten books that I'd save and what they taught me about reading.

1. A Day with Josephine and Her Friends by Pamela Prince -  I used to love reading with my grandmother, who I call Grammy, and this book was one of my favorites in her collection. In fact, years ago, I actually asked her if I could keep it. I still love to look through it and admire the incredible illustrations. This book reminds me of the huge influence someone can have on your love of books.

2. Mad About Madeline: The Complete Tales by Ludwig Bemelmans - Madeline was my favorite book as a very little girl, and I had the entire thing memorized. A few years ago, I bought this collection that contains all of the Madeline stories. It is, without a doubt, my favorite book from my childhood. Seeing it on my shelf reminds me of the wonder of learning to read and all the places you can visit in a book.

3. Hannah and the Best Father on Route 9W by Mindy Warsaw Skolsky - Grammy gave me this book two months after I was born. How do I know? She dated and wrote a note in every book she gave me. I absolutely loved this book because the heroine's name is Hannah, which is also my name, and I thought I must be extra special to have a character in a book with the same name as me. It reminds of that wonderful feeling when you identify with a character in a book.

4. Annabel's House by Norman Messenger - This is a book with no words. It's a picture book, a house for paper dolls, and an Edwardian stage set. Now you're intrigued. Every spread is a different room in this elegant British home. The paper doll family included a father, mother, daughter, son, cook, maid and nanny that were stored in a back pocket. I spent hours playing with this book, coming up with my own stories and adventures for every member of the house. This book reminds that the best stories can often come from your own imagination. 

5. The Annotated Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - Anne Shirley was one of the many reasons I fell in love with reading. While I'd like to save everything I own by L.M. Montgomery, this book is my favorite. It's Anne of Green Gables that reminds me of the thrill that comes with finding a heroine that you want to call a friend and a world that you want to call your own.

6. Pride and Prejudice: The Annotated Edition by Jane Austen - I have a small collection of copies of Pride and Prejudice that I'm slowly adding to as I find more. I had a hard time deciding which copy I loved the most, but ultimately settled on this gorgeous edition. This book reminds me of the joy of finding a book you want to read again and again.

7. Savannah from Savannah by Denise Hildreth - When I first read this book, I fell in love with Savannah. I'm not always good at sharing books that I really love because I'm always scared that I won't get them back. I went out on a limb and loaned this to several of my friends. It took a while to come back to me, but it made it back all the same. The book is practically falling apart, and my friends wrote all over the margins. Looking at it reminds me that the joy of finding a book you love is in sharing it with the people you love.

8. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - I'd definitely save my copy Anna Karenina, which I read in my AP Lit class my senior year of high school. I love flipping back through it and seeing all the passages that I marked. I can still remember my sense of pride when I turned the last page and realized I had read the entire book. I'd save this book because I love being reminded of that sense of accomplishment when you finish a book that intimidated you.

9. The Life Application Study Bible - Grammy gave me this Bible when I graduated high school. I took this Bible to college with me, and it's been with me ever since. Without a doubt, I'd definitely toss this in my "save these books" bag. It reminds me that the Bible is meant to be shared, not kept to ourselves, and that the best gift of all is its daily guidance.

10. My Kindle - You might think I'm cheating with this one, but one of the many reasons I love owning a Kindle is that my entire library can be stored on this one device. Anddddd.... if my house did burn down, I wouldn't have to replace all my books. My Kindle reminds me that whether it's on paper or on a screen, a book's magic is the story itself and isn't limited by its format.

Review: The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Feb 20, 2012

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

Release Date: April 2011
Publisher: Penguin | Plume
Pages: 304 pages
Source & Format: Christmas gift; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life.

Thoughts on The Violets of March
The Violets of March has a little bit of everything. A little mystery, a little romance, a little historical fiction. I would see this slim little novel almost every time I went to the bookstore. I felt like it kept popping up, but I was never really drawn to it. Then, Amazon started putting it on almost every "Amazon Recommends" list, and I figured it was time to give it a shot. I downloaded a sample for my Kindle, was hooked, and immediately added it to my Christmas list.

Once I started reading it, there was no going back. I started it on a Saturday and spent the rest of the day devouring the sweet story. Emily travels to Bainbridge Island in the wake of her divorce hoping for some time to heal. Little does she know, she's walking right into a mystery. She discovers a diary in her room, dated 1943, and becomes entranced with the story on its pages.

The story contained within the diary leads Emily to discover a long-hidden family secret. The descriptions of the island were charming and vivid. The characters are memorable. The mystery kept me turning the pages, even though I figured a few things out before the heroine did. I won't say anymore so I don't spoil it.

My only complaint: Emily's new romance, while enjoyable, felt a little too "instant." I'm never a fan of relationships that don't seem to be based on anything other than mutual attraction

I really enjoyed The Violets of March. I think it would be the perfect novel to slip into your beach bag and soak up with the sound of the ocean in the background. And if you can't escape to the beach, a rainy day and a hot cup of tea would also suit it nicely. I didn't want to put it down, and I'd definitely recommend it.

So Quotable
"I've thought a lot about whether to write you, and my conclusion is this: Life is too short to worry about the consequences when you love someone as I love you. So I write you this letter as a soldier would, without fear, without question, and without knowing if it might be my last."

So Quotable: Mindy Kaling

Feb 19, 2012

"I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world."
           ― Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

TGIF: Book Blogger Pride {2}

Feb 17, 2012

TGIF is a weekly feature created and hosted by GReads! that re-caps the week's posts and has a different question each week.

This week's question - Book Blogger Pride: What do you take pride in when it comes to blogging?
Before I started this book blog, I was on Tumblr. And, while I loved it, it was a short-lived romance. I started a Tumblr just because I loved to write, but I didn't have anything I wanted to write about. I realized pretty quickly that I rarely posting my own thoughts - I was just re-blogging everyone else. While I loved the format of Tumblr, I wasn't updating it regularly and didn't care about what I was posting.

In the short time since I've started this book blog, I have realized how much fun it is to write about something that you actually care about and enjoy. Not only that, but I'm really proud of the fact that I'm consistently posting new content. Honestly, I'm just proud of having a space to call my own and share one of my passions (reading!) with the rest of the world. I'm just getting started, but I'm so excited to see what the future holds and meet other bloggers!

Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Feb 16, 2012

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Release Date: November 2010
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 473 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

Thoughts on Unbroken
I LOVED THIS BOOK. Yes, I think that I needed to use all caps to adequately express my love for Unbroken. Where do I even begin with this book?

I don't want to spend too much time talking about the plot because it's so much better if you experience everything for yourself. While the book summary does give you a rough idea of what happens, any more information might spoil things. I had very little idea what to expect when I started this, and I am so glad I didn't know more.

I cannot say enough good things about Unbroken. The story? Incredible. I could not put it down. I devoured this almost 500-page book in almost three days. Three work days. I was pulling this book out every time I had a few extra minutes. It read like an action movie, but it was more compelling in the fact  that it was true.

The writing was phenomenal. Laura Hillenbrand knows how to make history come alive. I haven't read her first book, Seabiscuit, but I'll be diving into it soon. She is a wonderful storyteller, which is something I really appreciate when I'm reading a biography. I hate when a biography reads like a textbook. I couldn't finish Cleopatra last month for that very reason. Unbroken is the farthest thing from dry or boring. The time period literally comes alive on the page through Hillenbrand's words.

Hillenbrand's research was inspiring. I was so impressed with her attention to detail. This book was grounded by its thorough research into the time period. I love books about WWII, but I learned far more from this book than almost any other I've read about the time. From the background on the Army Air Forces to the research into the way Japanese culture played into their behavior in POW camps, Hillenbrand makes sure to back everything up with thorough and thoughtful research.

The characters. Louis Zamperini was an inspiring subject. I absolutely loved how the beginning of the book focused on what Louis was like growing up and then on his passion for running. His actions after the plane crash and beyond made for a fabulous read.

If you can't tell from all my gushing, I absolutely loved this book. I have since told several people that they MUST READ it, and I will tell you the same. Even if you don't love it, you'll be a better person for having read it. What are you waiting for? Go pick up this book!

So Quotable
"Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which they body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet."

Wednesday Wish: Ideal Bookshelf

Feb 15, 2012

Have you heard of Ideal Bookshelf? If you haven't, I'm about to introduce you. It's the creation of artist Jane Mount. She paints people's ideal bookshelves - their favorite books, the books that changed their lives and books that defined them.

She writes on her website, "I think of this project as an intimate form of portraiture; a way to illustrate who the subject is on the inside instead of out. I love that a book is something created very personally and then mass-produced in order to affect many other people very personally. I paint them to turn them back into something very personal and intimate."

I have been in love with these prints since I first stumbled upon her shop. The only problem for me? It's not cheap to have a custom bookshelf painted. However, Jane sells 8x10 prints of bookshelves that she painted for someone else for only $26. Music to my ears.

She doesn't have every single print available (although you can email her to ask about a print seen on her website but not in her shop). While I've always wanted one, I've never been able to find a bookshelf that I've really connected with. I'll love one or two of the books on someone else's custom bookshelf but never read (or never heard of) another.
While browsing her site to gather a few images for this blog post, I had to catch my breath. My heart started racing. A huge smile broke out on my face. Do you see where this is headed?

Two prints, TWO, were calling to me. I had to have them! The handsome one noticed my grin and asked what was up. He's known about my love for Ideal Bookshelf for a while so he knew this was a huge deal. Well, guess what that sweet boy did? Ordered me both prints for Valentine's Day. I'm still swooning.

See the two bookshelves featured in this post? Well, they're currently headed my way. The first print (no. 410) features Jane Austen's six novels: Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park and Emma. The second print (no. 104) includes Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (only fitting that it appears in both since I collect copies of it), J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, E.B. White's Charlotte's Web, Lousia May Alcott's Little Women and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

I'll show them off as soon as they're framed. This is one Wednesday Wish that's already come true!
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