Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Bucket List

toptentuesday

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is a freebie! So I thought I’d use this opportunity to finalize my bucket list for the year :)

I tried doing a bucket list two years ago to celebrate by 25th birthday, but I didn’t quite get around to crossing off all those items (although looking at it now, I’ve been able to do several more of those goals since I turned 25!).

So here are the Top Ten Things on My 2017 Bucket List:

  1. Eat at 10 local restaurants – Wilmington has so many locally owned restaurants and I have been dying to try more of them out. We don’t eat out often because it’s cheaper to eat at home, but I’d like to try out ten different local restaurants here in town this year.
  2. Go berry picking – I’ve had berry picking on my bucket list for two years now, and this year I’m finally going to do it. The berry picking farm always closes way earlier than I think it will, so last year I missed out because we didn’t go early enough. The summer before, I was pregnant, and the last thing I felt like doing was walking around in the heat. I’m gonna make it happen this year, though!
  3. Read at least 10 classics from my Classics Club list – I’m supposed to have finished 50 classics off my Classics Club list by the end of next year, and I’m just a little over halfway there. I have some real chunky classics I need to read (or finish reading *coughWarandPeacecough*), so I hope to get through at least 10 this year!
  4. Gardening – Our front yard is pretty bare and I’d love to put in some low maintenance foliage to make it look more inviting. I am NOT a green thumb, though, so I’m going to have to do some research about which plants will do well before going through all the trouble of planting them.
  5. Write a novel! – My biggest goal for 2017. It’s been forever since I’ve written anything, and I’ve never written anything longer than 30 pages, but I’m taking a few online writing classes so hopefully that helps. I’m still in the outlining phase but I’m really excited to see what I end up with :)
  6. Take a week off– Vague, I know. My husband and I really want and need to take a week-long vacation this year. We haven’t decided a destination, yet, but if I had my way it would be to PEI, Canada so I could really feel like Anne Shirley.
  7. See Hamilton! – Hamilton is coming to Charlotte in November and I am desperate to get my hands on some tickets when they go on sale. But only if they aren’t as expensive as Broadway tickets, because then I might as well just go up to NYC (and cross off #6 and #7 at the same time).
  8. Finish decorating my library – I love my library/guest room. It’s my favorite room in the house. But I still have some decorating to do :)
  9. Finish reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix with Matt – My husband has never read the HP books, so two years ago we started reading them aloud with each other. We’ve gotten stuck on Goblet of Fire (because it is significantly longer than Prisoner of Azkaban), but I’d love to finish it and Order of the Phoenix this year.
  10. Volunteer more – Another vague one. I already volunteer at the library on Saturdays, but I’d love to volunteer at other places, too, especially in areas that challenge me.

There you have it! Check back at the end of the year to see how well I did at accomplishing these wishes for 2017 :)

Armada by Ernest Cline

armada

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Armada by Ernest Cline
Published July 14, 2015 by Crown Publishing
Format: Audiobook narrated by Will Wheaton; 11 hr. 49 min.
Science Fiction/Young Adult
Also By This Author: Ready Player One
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts

I love when I find books for my husband to read and he ends up enjoying them as much or even a little bit more than I do. We’ve been waiting for what has felt like months for Ready Player One to become available at the library, but I saw that Armada wasn’t checked out so I grabbed it and both my husband and I had a hard time putting it down.

If you aren’t familiar with Ernest Cline, let me preface this review by saying his books read like the ultimate geeky daydream. Zach’s adventure is Tron meets Ender’s Game meets Star Wars. If you’re a fan of any of those classic sci-fi stories, you are bound to love Armada. In fact, Armada is what I wish Ender’s Game had been (there were parts of Ender’s Game that I loved, and other parts that I equally despised, so the book as a whole was only “meh” for me).

But the most enjoyable part of Armada, to me, wasn’t the endless amounts of geeky pop-culture references that audiobook narrator Will Wheaton did such as good job at imitating. Instead, I found myself getting choked up at the deep familial relationships that honestly took me by surprise. Ernest Cline didn’t hesitate to include beautiful themes of reconciliation and reunion in between his allusions to Captain Pickard and Luke Skywalker.

There are some unpredictable twists and turns, and an ending that will leave you hanging on until the very last page. I’m all the more excited to read Ready Player One now that I’ve read Ernest Cline’s sophomore novel.

“If there was a bright center to the universe, I was on the planet it was farthest from. Please pass the blue milk, Aunt Beru.”

Read This Book If…

…you’re a geek. If you aren’t, you will not get most of the references or allusions and will therefore most likely not enjoy Armada very much.
…you’re an adult who enjoys Young Adult books.
…you’re not tired of dystopian, Armageddon doomsday (with aliens) settings.
…you want a book that will make you laugh and then unexpectedly tear up in the same paragraph.

Final Musings

This book has solidified my fairly recent love and appreciation for audiobooks. Will Wheaton does a phenomenal performance that will really make you feel like you’re watching a movie or, more appropriately, playing an immersive video game. I’d recommend checking out the audiobook from your library instead of reading Armada the old-fashioned way :)

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

With nine stories—five of which have never before been published—Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 2, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Format: Hardcover; 369 pages
Science-Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult Romance
Also By This Author: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Winter, and Heartless
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thoughts

Stars Above was the book I really wanted to read last year but was unfortunately unable to do so; therefore, it was my first priority in 2017! I think it ended up being a great way to start off the year, and sci-fi/fantasy novels always seem to me to be appropriate winter reading. I enjoyed reading all of the short stories, but here are the four that made the biggest impression on me:

The Queen’s Army was probably my favorite short story in the book. It was definitely the creepiest, because it showed graphic insight into Wolf’s transformation and training to become one of Levana’s biologically altered soldiers. Wolf is one of the most mysterious and interesting characters in the Lunar Chronicles series, so I really enjoyed reading his “origin story” and understanding more about where he came from.

Continuing the same themes of creepy yet intriguing, Winter’s prequel story, The Princess and the Guard also helped me respect and appreciate Winter more than I already had. This short story is similar to Queen Levana’s prequel, Fairest, only The Princess and the Guard was much more enjoyable to me than Fairest was. It was easier to sympathize with Winter and I really enjoyed learning more about her friendship with Jacin.

Something Old, Something New was a really fun story, and technically it’s the epilogue of the entire series. All of the other stories take place before the start of Cinder, but Something Old, Something New is set a year after the end of Winter. It’s a warm and light-hearted story and the best part is that we get to see all eight of our characters together to celebrate a wedding (whose wedding? You’ll have to read it and see–no spoilers here!). I loved the way it ends the series on a heartfelt note.

My other favorite story in this book was The Little Android, which is only slightly connected to the rest of the series in the fact that it takes place in The Lunar Chronicles universe and we get a glimpse of one of the characters from the main books. Other than that it is a completely new retelling of the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, and it’s my favorite type of story: tragic and bittersweet! (Yes, I’m a masochist).

“I will accept any amount of monsters my mind wants to give me, but I will not become a monster myself.”

Read This Book If…

…you love The Lunar Chronicles series.
…you enjoy short stories.
…you’re a fan of prequels and epilogues.
…you have a hard time letting go of your favorite characters.

“Politeness, it turned out, was almost as effective when you wanted someone to do something for you. And kindness went further toward lasting admiration than any amount of mind control.”

Final Musings

If you’ve already read all or part of The Lunar Chronicles series, Stars Above is a great book to add to your list, as well. You can even read the individual stories in between Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter. Here’s the breakdown of where all the novels take place on The Lunar Chronicles timeline:

Cinder (#1)
Glitches (#0.5)
The Little Android (#0.6)
The Mechanic (#0.7)
Scarlet (#2)
The Queen’s Army (#2.5)
The Keeper (#2.6)
Cress (#3)
Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky (#3.1)
After Sunshine Passes By (#3.2)
Fairest (#3.5)
Winter (#4)
The Princess and The Guard (#4.1)
Something Old, Something New (#4.5)

Just make sure you save Something Old, Something New for last!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol.jpg

To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Published December 19, 1843 by Chapman & Hall
Format: Kindle e-book; 73 pages
Classics
Also By This Author: Great ExpectationsLittle DorritA Tale of Two Cities
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts

This is me attempting to catch up on book reviews from last year…

Last month I finally, for the first time ever, read A Christmas Carol. I amazed even myself by waiting that long to read it. Of course I knew the story; I’ve seen enough movie versions and even that one Boy Meets World episode that re-imagines Mr. Feeny as the Ghost of Christmas Future. But I had never read it! I had it in my mind that I could only read A Christmas Carol when it was actually Christmastime, and each December I would be so overwhelmed with holiday preparations or finishing reading challenges that I’d keep putting the Charles Dickens story aside for another year.

Well, 2016 was finally that year and I’m not at all surprised to say that I truly enjoyed A Christmas Carol and I can see why it will forever be a holiday classic and one of Charles Dickens’s most beloved works.

As expected, the Ghost of Christmas Present creeped me out, the idea of Tiny Tim passing away made me cry, and the renewed and re-inspired Ebenezer Scrooge buying the prize turkey and sending it in a cab to Bob Crachit’s house, all the while chuckling and probably confounding the poor messenger boy, made me chuckle as well.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”

Read This Book If…

…you wish it were Christmas all year long.
…you enjoy shorter, novella-length books.
…you want to rediscover a classic.
…you’ve never read Dickens before and are looking to ease your way into his works.

Final Musings

I’ve heard that there are some wonderfully done audiobook versions of  A Christmas Carol, including one by Neil Gaiman. Maybe this December I’ll listen to one of those narrations while wrapping Christmas presents :)

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer

no-other-will-do

Men are optional. That’s the credo Emma Chandler’s suffragette aunts preached and why she started a successful women’s colony in Harper’s Station, Texas. But when an unknown assailant tries repeatedly to drive them out, Emma admits they might need a man after all. A man who can fight–and she knows just the one.

Malachi Shaw finally earned the respect he craved by becoming an explosives expert for the railroad. Yet when Emma’s plea arrives, he bolts to Harper’s Station to repay the girl who once saved his life. Only she’s not a girl any longer. She’s a woman with a mind of her own and a smile that makes a man imagine a future he doesn’t deserve.

As the danger intensifies, old feelings grow and deepen, but Emma and Mal will need more than love to survive.

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer
Published June 7, 2016 by Bethany House
Format: Netgalley e-book; 384 pages
Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction
Also By This Author: Short-Straw BrideTo Win Her Heart
Goodreads | Amazon | Author’s Website
My Rating: ♥♥♥

Thoughts

Once again, Karen Witemeyer has created wholesome and endearing characters that inspire readers. Emma Chandler is an 19th century female banker with a heart for broken women who need a second chance at life. When someone starts threatening the lives of the women in her care, Emma turns to one of her oldest friends, Malachi Shaw, a timid dynamite expert with a protective streak, to help protect her women’s colony.

One of my favorite parts about No Other Will Do is Malachi’s career in 19th century explosives. I know in the grand scheme of the novel, this character description is only slightly relevant to the plot line, but I still thought it was remarkably interesting. I also appreciated how Malachi’s career choice contrasted with his quieter and hesitantly expressive personality.

Emma, on the other hand, is inspiring in her own sense. She’s brave, strong-minded, and incredibly compassionate. When the odds are stacked against her, she still manages to overcome every challenge, even when she’s struggling with her own doubts and failures.

Although I’d categorize No Other Will Do as an inspirational novel, it also features some darker scenes and depictions. Harper’s Station is a refuge for battered and abused women, but Karen Witemeyer is able to blend the harsher depictions of domestic abuse with compassionate characters who impart healing and hope.

Read This Book If…

…you enjoy historical fiction set in the American west.
…you’re looking for an uplifting novel to start the year off with.
…you appreciate themes of feminism and redemption.
…you’re interested in well-researched 19th century life (including insight into the life of a dynamite expert).

Final Musings

I can’t believe that Karen Witemeyer has been one of my favorite authors for four years now and I haven’t written a single review for her on my blog yet! I know I’ve recommended and gushed about her books plenty of times, but I’m happy I finally got around to putting together a formal review. If you think you’d be interested in Karen Witemeyer’s other novels, I’d strongly recommend Short-Straw Bride and To Win Her Heart.

2017 Reading Challenge

Happy New Year! It’s the time for reflections and resolutions. I’m already excited about 2017 because this year I plan to write a book! I hope to eventually post it on my blog (as like a modern serial) after it’s written and revised, but let me stop from getting ahead of myself! This post is about my reading goals for 2017.

Modern Mrs. Darcy is one of my favorite bookish blogs to follow. She is also one of the rare blogs I follow by email because she sends out a list of the daily kindle e-book deals. Since I’ve been wanting to branch out of my reading comfort zone, I’m so happy she’s created this 2017 “Reading for Growth” reading challenge for 2017.

reading-challenge

I haven’t picked out all the books I want to read yet, but I am excited about these categories! Some of the books I do know I want to read are Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (ok, not really outside of my preferred genres, but I’ll probably read some other plays or poetry, too), The View From Saturday (Newbery Award winner) and All the Light We Cannot See (Pulitzer Prize winner).

Any recommendations for me? Please share!

  • A Newberry Award Winner or Honor Book
  • A book in translation – The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • A book that’s more than 600 pages – Middlemarch by George Eliot or War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection – The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare (finished 2/15/17)
  • A book of any genre that addresses current events
  • An immigrant story
  • A book published before you were born – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (finished 1/14/17)
  • Three books by the same author – Emily of New Moon series by L. M. Montgomery
  • A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (finished 5/3/17)
  • A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending
  • A book nominated for an award in 2017
  • A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer or The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

2016 Reading Superlatives

  1. Number Of Books You Read: 54 (58 if you count individual short stories)
  2. Number of Re-Reads: 4 (The Cask of Amontillado, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and The Choice)
  3. Genre You Read The Most From: I read 13 Classic novels/short stories this year and 21 Young Adult books (divided into contemporary, sci-fi, and fantasy categories)

best-YA-books-2014

  1. Best Book You Read In 2016?: THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE! If I have to pick just one, excluding rereads, it would have to be Time’s Edge, because I kept thinking about that book for weeks afterwards.
  2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?: Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. I didn’t even finish it…
  3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?: The Husband Secret by Liane Moriarty. I was totally expecting some dark mystery novel and it was really a romance novel with some suspense. I read it with my book club and I think we were all disappointed. Some of us didn’t even finish it.
  4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?: I got at least 2 friends to read Timeline by Michael Crichton :)
  5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?: The Chronos Files series by Rysa Walker has become a new favorite of mine! I devoured all three books (plus most of the novellas). Winter by Marissa Meyer was a fantastic series ender, as well.
  6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?: Probably Rysa Walker.
  7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?: I read a lot of high fantasy this year, which was sort of new for me. Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake were intriguing.
  8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?: I guess I’d have to say And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. I read the whole book in a day because I had to know “whodunnit?”.
  9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?: It’s a toss up between Timebound by Rysa Walker and Winter by Marissa Meyer. Although Pride and Prejudice is a book I could reread every year.
  10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake. Look at it!
    three-dark-crowns
  11. Most memorable character of 2016?: Demelza Poldark! New role model for me :)
  12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. It will pull on your heartstrings. (Honorable mention: Graceling by Kristin Cashore has a very beautifully written love scene, despite the fact that I thought the majority of the book was written very bluntly).
  13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?: I read some very good books this year, but none that I would define as “life-changing”; however, the Poldark books introduced me to two amazing female characters (Demelza and Verity) who I would now consider as fictional role models.
  14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read?: Timebound! Ugh, why didn’t I read it when I bought it back in 2014??
  15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?: I’ve been so bad at writing down favorite quotes! Here’s one of my favorites from The Secret Garden that really spoke to the Anne Shirley side of me:

    “I’ve seen the spring now and I’m going to see the summer. I’m going to see everything grow here. I’m going to grow here myself.”

  16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?: Shortest: 2092 by Rysa Walker (48 pages), although The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allan Poe is only a few pages long, but I read it as part of a collection of his work. Longest: Winter by Marissa Meyer (832 pages).
  17. Book That Shocked You The Most: The ending to Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake really surprised me (in a good way). It’s probably the only reason I’ll read the sequel.
  18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!): I was a huge Kate/Kiernan shipper while reading The Chronos Files series.
  19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year: Cinder and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles Series.
  20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously: Timeline by Michael Crichton. I read that book and then read two others by him because his writing is fantastic.
  21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure: There were several, but Graceling is probably the one I enjoyed the most.
  22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?: Kiernan Dunne from The Chronos Files. He’s Irish and from the early 1900s so double win.
  23. Best 2016 debut you read?: I didn’t read any 2016 debuts (I don’t usually)!
  24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?: I hate repeating myself so many times, but I loved all the time travel in The Chronos Files. So well researched.
  25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?: Happy Again by Jennifer E. Smith was a fun novella! I love her writing.
  26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?: Speaking of Jennifer E. Smith, her book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight had me crying at one point. There’s a sweet moment between the main character and her father that was really touching.
  27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?: Civil War: The Amazing Spider-Man. One of two 5-star rated reads I haven’t mentioned yet! (The other is also a graphic novel: Out of the Past (Once Upon a Time #3). I love Spider-Man, and I really liked Captain America: Civil War, so I shouldn’t have been surprised at how great this comic book was. It was just a collection of the Spider-Man Civil War editions, but it’s by far the best comic book/graphic novel I’ve read since I started reading comics and graphic novels a few years ago. I couldn’t put it down and my mouth was literally hanging open after the cliff hanger at the end. SO good.
  28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?: The Light Between Oceans, as expected. I wonder if I would have felt the same way had I read this book before I became a parent.
  29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?: The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, not because I enjoyed it a lot, but because it was one of the first (if not THE first) detective stories ever written.
  30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?: Hmm…it didn’t make me extremely mad, but Forbidden by Ted Dekker had a really stupid death it that I haven’t entirely gotten over. Maybe that’s why I haven’t finished the series, yet.

looking-ahead-books-2015

  1. One Book You Didn’t Get to In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2017?: Stars Above by Marissa Meyer! I’ve already started it :)
  2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2017 (non-debut): I really want to read the Time Trial graphic novel (part of The Chronos Files universe).
  3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2017?: Write a book! I’ve had a couple of stories rolling around in my mind, and I think 2017 is the year I’m finally going to stop being afraid of not getting them right and just write one of them already. I’m also taking a few online writing classes which I’m excited about. In my reading life, I plan on branching out of my comfort zone by reading more non-fiction and literary books. Last year I read a lot of YA, so I think I’d like to read more books directed towards adult readers.