An Evening with Terry Brooks

Many books ago, I was introduced to fantasy writer Terry Brooks. My best friend had been a loyal devotee since childhood. He loaned me his copy of The Sword of Shannara, and I stayed up most of the night devouring it. I completely fell in love with Shea Ohmsford and his quest to defeat the evil Warlock Lord. The book was such an epic masterpiece filled with some of the most incredible characters in a work of fantasy. Some time later, I started reading Brooks’s Magic Kingdom of Landover series and fell in love all over again. Imagine my excitement when my bestie informed me that Terry Brooks would be doing a speaking engagement and book signing near us! It was such a great evening and well worth it!

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Terry Brooks on the right! I tried to keep my gushing to a minimum!

I found Terry Brooks to be a fun and engaging speaker. He was kind of like the funny old uncle you see at family gatherings. It was great hearing him talk about his upcoming works. I’m most excited about the release of Street Freaks, his upcoming sci-fi thriller. Terry also read an excerpt from a new novella in his Word & Void series. He’s been a published author for over forty years, so he knows a thing or two about the craft. He was incredibly patient and took the time to answer several questions from the fans. I was most excited to hear that a new Landover book will be written in the next couple of years! Listening to Brooks discuss his career made me realize that I am so behind on the Shannara books. More for the TBR pile! I also really want to read his guide to writing, Sometimes the Magic Works. 

In order to participate in the book signing, you had to buy a copy of his newest release The Skaar Invasion, the next chapter in The Fall of Shannara series. We were told we could each bring one other book (although several people brought way more), so I chose my volume that holds the first three Landover books. Fortunately, the environment was quite pleasant. The event took place in a large bookstore, and I had fun looking at different books while my friend held my place in line. Unfortunately, budget issues kept my temptations in check.

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Despite the long wait, it was so worth it. Terry Brooks was a warm and caring individual who made it a point to talk to each fan for a few moments. I also loved that he wrote a different inspiring message for each of my books. After the event, my friend and I went to a place called Pops, a local landmark that sells (you guessed it) all brands of unique sodas. I made my friend buy a ranch-flavored soda. I tried a sip, and it was quite nasty. All in all, the whole adventure was a lot of fun. I can now say I’ve met and attended signings by two famous authors (the first was Kazuo Ishiguro). I’m motivated now to get caught up with the Shannara books and actually plan to reread the Landover novels in the near future.

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Have you read anything by Terry Brooks that you would recommend? Have you ever attended a book signing? Let me know with a comment down below!

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The Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge

In addition to my annual goal of reading and reviewing at least 50 books, I also signed up for three reading challenges this year. Feel free to see my progress by clicking here. I ask you though, can one have too many challenges? The answer is yes, but I don’t let that stop me! I am pleased to announce another special event just for the month of June! It is time for the 2018 Louisa May Alcott reading challenge hosted by In the BookcaseI had the pleasure of participating last year, and Tarissa kindly informed me last night that the Alcott challenge has returned!

Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge

I like this challenge because you set your own parameters. You can choose as many (or as few books) as you would like. These can be her novels, short stories, biographies about Alcott and her family, or even fictionalized accounts of Alcott’s life. Click on the link above for all the details. Did I mention that there are prizes? I’m so excited! Can you feel my enthusiasm people?

Since I read two books for last year’s challenge (under the post The Many Genres of Louisa May Alcott), I decided to step it up to three for this year.

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Since this year marks the 150th anniversary of Alcott’s classic Little Women, I thought it was fitting. Sadly, I’ve never read this book (but I saw the film version years ago). I look forward to finally crossing this one off of my list.

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Before she became a household name thanks to the March family, Alcott was a writer of Gothic thrillers! I thought this would serve as a nice contrast to the warmer and cozier Little Women. 

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I got this little known book as a free download and know next to nothing about it. My only knowledge is that was spawned from (you guessed it) the classic nursery rhyme.

In addition to reviewing all three of these books, I will be writing additional posts all about……wait for it……Louisa May Alcott. I’ve been toying with the idea of devoting each month to a special theme. such as a specific author, a particular genre, or even some other bookish topic. June will mostly be devoted to Alcott. However, I will continue to post regular book reviews as I always have. My apologies for a slow past couple of weeks, but getting sick will do that to you.

In the meantime, I hope to see some of you take part in this challenge.

What books by Louisa May Alcott have you read or want to read? Sound off with a comment down below!

 

Book Challenges 2018

Since I love to challenge myself, for this year I’m going to participate in more book challenges! There are loads of fun ones, so I’ve selected three that I want to try. I figure these will keep me motivated to keep my book count high in 2018! Here are my 2018 challenges:

Challenge #1

This is the one I participated in last year, and it’s a great way to read more classic books. The idea is to read at least 6 of the 12 categories; books must be published by 1968. Hosted by Karen at Books & Chocolate.

Here are my tentative selections for this year (you are allowed to change your choices from your original sign-up):

1.  A 19th century classic: I have several works by Dickens that are untouched, so probably one of those. I’m thinking The Old Curiosity Shop since that’s one in particular that tends to divide fans.

2.  A 20th century classic: I’ve been wanting to read Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece Invisible Man for quite some time.

3.  A classic by a woman author: How do you choose between so many great female authors? Here are some of my options: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, or Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Tough choice this one.

4.  A classic in translation: It’s been awhile since I read Kafka so going with The Trial for this category.

5. A children’s classic: This is a fun category, and you can’t go wrong with Roald Dahl so probably either James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction: I really loved Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd so selecting Murder on the Orient Express. I just saw the new movie version and loved it!

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction: I’ve been wanting to revisit Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels. I did a paper back in college on it and have been wanting to do a reread.

8. A classic with a single-word title: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It’s on my TBR list for 2018.

9. A classic with a color in the title: My fellow blogger Joelendil’s Kingdom of Books recommended The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been on a roll with his stuff lately, and this one sounds light and fun.

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you: Undecided for this one!

11. A classic that scares you: Is there a classic you’ve been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now’s the time to read it, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised! It’s time I conquered my fear of Moby Dick. It will be read this year!

12. Re-read a favorite classic: Too many choices here, but I’m thinking of reading more Bradbury this year, so let’s go with his classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. 

Challenge #2

I posted about this challenge in an earlier blog. The object is to read books that have been on the shelves too long. Hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

  1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  6. Carrie by Stephen King
  7. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  10. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  11. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  12. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (didn’t get to it in 2017, determined to tackle it)

Alternate Selections:

  1. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 

 

Challenge #3

This is another new challenge for me this year, hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. The idea is to “tour” Europe by reading a book set in a different country with a different author. The person with the highest number of qualifying reviews receives a gift card prize! There are different levels, so I’m signing up for the top level:

FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

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In addition to the above challenges, I will continue to work on books that are on the 1001 Books list and participate once again in Austen in August. I’ve created a page to track my progress on all three challenges here.

What are your reading goals for 2018? Are you participating in any book-related challenges? Comment below!

Book Awards 2017

My second year as a book blogger is now complete, and I’ve managed to go over my target of fifty books again. Without further ado, it’s time to hand out my awards for the best (and worst) books I read this year.

Best Translated Book

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Winner: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

This little novel is everything you have come to expect from Murakami-dark, surreal, and very disturbing.

Honorable Mention: Candide by Voltaire

 

Best Short Story Collection

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Winner: What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler

I was familiar with Fowler having read her novel The Jane Austen Book Club some time ago. However, I wasn’t prepared with her extraordinary ability to write great short stories.  When I read a short story collection, there are typically one or two stories that truly stand out for me.  This is the first time where I would rank nearly all of the stories as favorites. The opening story, “The Pelican Bar,” ranks as one of my favorites.

Honorable Mention: The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami

 

Best Non-fiction Book

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Winner: Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

I read lots of great non-fiction this past year, but the tale of the blind wonder cat moved me the most. Homer is an inspiration to everyone out there that anything is possible.

Honorable Mention: Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig

 

Most Disturbing Read

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Winner: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Isserley spends her days driving through the Scottish Highlands picking up male hitchhikers. What happens to them and why is so shocking that this one easily tops the list at most disturbing novel of the year.

Honorable Mention: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

 

Best Series

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Winner: The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman

My best friend introduced me to this series last year, and I finished the final book at the beginning of this year. I loved these books! Think of this story as a more adult version of Harry Potter and the whole chosen one plot.

 

Best Illustrated Book

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Winner: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I can’t praise this story enough, as I can literally find no fault with it. Everything about A Monster Calls is superb. Ness uses one of my favorite writing styles, able to convey great emotion with simple sentences. Ultimately, this is a great book about learning to deal with grief. Jim Kay’s illustrations bring this dark tale to life.

Honorable Mentions: The House That Groaned by Karrie Fransman and The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

 

Best Book Cover

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Winner: The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

I thought the design was beautifully done and the perfect cover for this blend of myth and reality.

 

Best Online Event

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I loved participating in Austen in August for the first time! I read five books for that month, either written by Austen or inspired by her. It was so exciting to win my first Folio book, a beautifully illustrated edition of Persuasion. 

 

Best Newcomer

For the best writer whose work I’ve read for the first time this year

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Winner: Patrick Ness

I read two books by Ness this year, A Monster Calls and The Crane Wife. Since both books received glowing reviews, I have to give him the award this year. His writing style is fun but emotional. Ness manages that same blend of both fantasy and reality that I have come to expect from writers like Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint.

Honorable Mention: Michel Faber

Lifetime Achievement Award

For the best writer whose work I have read before this year, and who continues to be excellent.

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Winner: Haruki Murakami

This one was the hardest category for me, but if I’m going to be brutally honest I would have to give the award to Murakami simply for the fact that I return to his work time and again.

Honorable Mention: Charles de Lint

 

Worst Book

For the book that almost sent me on a homicidal rampage.

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Winner: Armada by Ernest Cline

I know I might get a lot of hate for this one, but Cline is not a writer that does it for me. You would think all of the 80’s pop culture references would be awesome, but the story itself was utter bollocks.

 Best Book of 2017

For the most amazing book I’ve read all year.

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Winner: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

This book is so gripping and so well written that I read almost all of it in one sitting, and it is hundreds of pages long. I just can’t fault it. Trust me, it is so much better if you go in with no knowledge of this book. I went from intrigued to shock and finally deep thought into the larger themes this book explores.

“Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty.”

Congrats to all the winners! Here’s to more great reads in 2018!

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Have you read any of my winning books? I’d love to know your thoughts!

 

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 Wrap-Up

I am pleased to report my first Back to the Classics Challenge was a complete success! With less than one week to go, I managed to finish reviews in all twelve categories and earn three entries into the prize drawing. Here are my completed reviews with links to each one:

1.  A 19th century classic: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I really enjoyed this rollicking adventure during one of my “beach” reads. As a matter of fact, I loved it so much that I will be reviewing Andrew Motion’s sequel Silver quite soon!

2.  A 20th century classic: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. This novel along with the film version of Murder on the Orient Express made me a huge fan of the cunning Belgium detective Hercule Poirot. I will definitely be reading more from Agatha Christie in the future.

3.  A classic by a woman author: Emma by Jane Austen. The completion of this one means I have now read each of Austen’s six major novels at least once. Out of all her heroines, I did find Emma Woodhouse the most compelling.

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4.  A classic in translation: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. After reading the Italian original, you will never look at the character the same way again!

5.  A classic originally published before 1800: Candide by Voltaire. Published in 1759 as a satire on certain religious and philosophical theories, I can’t remember the last time a classic made me laugh but also contemplate my role in human existence. I also found that the work is still relevant in today’s tragicomic world.

6.  A romance classic: I read two works by Louisa May Alcott for this category, A Long Fatal Love Chase and The Inheritance. These two works by the author of Little Women could not be vastly different, with one being a dark tale of a twisted love and the other belonging to the category of sentimental romance. Both are definitely worth reading to better understand the range of Alcott’s writing.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I really enjoy Stevenson’s writing and look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

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Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote some wonderful tales of adventure and wonder. He was taken from this world way too soon.


8.  A classic with a number in the title: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. One of my all-time favorite authors and one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. Nobody can spin a yarn like Bradbury.

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. One of the best things about this challenge is discovering lesser known works from classic authors. This little quartet of stories about a young boy and his parents set on a ranch is beautifully written in a way only Steinbeck could manage.

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. This is one of my favorite Austen novels, set in the beautiful English city of Bath. I hear there are some wonderful bookstores there that I hope to see someday.

11. An award-winning classic: Dune by Frank Herbert. I rediscovered my love of science fiction this year, and you can’t go wrong with this epic space opera set on the mysterious desert planet Arrakis. My plan is to read more of this series soon.

12. A Russian classic: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. My final classic read of the year may not be the happiest book ever, but it is superbly written. This one should be required history reading in high school.

I would like to give a big thank you to Karen over at Books and Chocolate for hosting this challenge and creating a fun way to discover or reread classics. I’m compiling my list for next year! There is definitely not a shortage of classic literature on my bookshelves. I hope everyone enjoys my reviews. See you next year!

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What classics did you read this year? Did you participate in any book challenges this year? Please comment below!