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Many Kinds of Magic

                    When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find                   their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of          Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative.            There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be            different, and it will affect them in ways they could never predict. From the                mundane to the profound….
              There are many kinds of magic, after all. -Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus)

Hi! Thanks for joining me for my literary rants. Let me tell you a bit about myself.

First of all, I’m a nerd. A huge nerd. Like, a Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering,  quote-Firefly-and-proudly-call-myself-a-Browncoat nerd. I’m also a voracious reader, a homeschool mom, and an introvert. I’m more than a little awkward, and I express myself better in writing.

I’ll read pretty much anything, with the exception of romance novels. Sadly, I’m bereft of any sense of romanticism. I tend to gravitate towards fantasy, YA, and sci-fi, but I’ve been branching out more into nonfiction lately.

Because I homeschool two book loving little goobers, I’m also pretty up-to-date on children’s books, so I’ll discuss those here from time to time as well.  Honestly, I’d read picture books anyway, but having kids is a good way to browse the children’s section at the bookstore without too many weird looks.

I absolutely LOVE hearing bookish opinions and reading suggestions from other people. If you read a review and think it’s total bunk, tell me so. Tell me why. If you agree, props are good too. More than anything, I want to connect with other readers. Join me in discussion and let’s have some literary fun!

* On Twitter @WS_BOOKCLUB
*Browsery app: Witty and Sarcastic BookclubMany Kinds of Magic

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Non-boring Nonfiction

I’m not a nonfiction fan. At least, I haven’t read much nonfiction. I’m trying to branch out into more genres, and I’ve discovered something interesting: I like nonfiction. Not all of it, but I’ve read enough to say that, maybe, the genre deserves more of a chance. With that in mind, here are a few that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed:

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

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The Professor and the Madman, masterfully researched and eloquently written, is an extraordinary tale of madness, genius, and the incredible obsessions of two remarkable men that led to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary — and literary history. The compilation of the OED, begun in 1857, was one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken. As definitions were collected, the overseeing committee, led by Professor James Murray, discovered that one man, Dr. W. C. Minor, had submitted more than ten thousand. When the committee insisted on honoring him, a shocking truth came to light: Dr. Minor, an American Civil War veteran, was also an inmate at an asylum for the criminally insane. (taken from Amazon)

This was absolutely engrossing. Prior to reading it, I had no idea how weird the genesis of the Oxford English Dictionary was.

A Gathering of Saints: A True Story of Money, Murder, and Deceit by Robert Lindsey

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The yellowed manuscripts threatened the foundations of the Mormon Church, and the elders were willing to pay millions of dollars to suppress them. But the documents were fakes, and their brilliant forger committed double murder to hide his crime. The sensational case of the 1985 Salt Lake City bombings exposed a master plot to topple the powerful Mormon empire. (taken from Amazon)

Having grown up in Salt Lake City, I naturally found this engrossing, although the events in the book happened when I was too young to remember. I devoured this book.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

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The bestselling author of Postcards from the Edge comes clean (well, sort of) in her first-ever memoir, adapted from her one-woman Broadway hit show. Fisher reveals what it was really like to grow up a product of “Hollywood in-breeding,” come of age on the set of a little movie called Star Wars, and become a cultural icon and bestselling action figure at the age of nineteen. (taken from Amazon)

This book is brilliant. Equally hilarious and inspiring, this meant even more to me because I was diagnosed with bipolar when I was in high school. She handled her mental illness with grace and more than a bit of humor.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman’s struggle to recapture her identity.

When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen. “A fascinating look at the disease that . . . could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life” (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

I found this utterly engrossing. Due to her symptoms, at times the author relied on others to tell what happened simply because she didn’t remember. It was a very interesting read.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Nineteen-year-old Greg Sestero met Tommy Wiseau at an acting school in San Francisco. Wiseau’s scenes were rivetingly wrong, yet Sestero, hypnotized by such uninhibited acting, thought, “I have to do a scene with this guy.” That impulse changed both of their lives. Wiseau seemed never to have read the rule book on interpersonal relationships (or the instruc­tions on a bottle of black hair dye), yet he generously offered to put the aspiring actor up in his LA apart­ment. Sestero’s nascent acting career first sizzled, then fizzled, resulting in Wiseau’s last-second offer to Sestero of costarring with him in The Room, a movie Wiseau wrote and planned to finance, produce, and direct—in the parking lot of a Hollywood equipment-rental shop.

Wiseau spent $6 million of his own money on his film, but despite the efforts of the disbelieving (and frequently fired) crew and embarrassed (and fre­quently fired) actors, the movie made no sense. Nevertheless Wiseau rented a Hollywood billboard featuring his alarming headshot and staged a red carpet premiere. The Room made $1800 at the box office and closed after two weeks. One reviewer said that watching The Room was like “getting stabbed in the head.”

The Disaster Artist is Greg Sestero’s laugh-out-loud funny account of how Tommy Wiseau defied every law of artistry, business, and friendship to make “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” (Entertainment Weekly), which is now an international phenomenon, with Wiseau himself beloved as an oddball celebrity. Written with award-winning journalist Tom Bissell, The Disaster Artist is an inspiring tour de force that reads like a page-turning novel, an open-hearted portrait of an enigmatic man who will improbably capture your heart. (taken from Amazon)

Tommy Wiseau is the most fascinating, mysterious person I’ve ever had the extreme pleasure to read about. This book is fantastic! After you read the book, look him up on YouTube and watch some clips of him acting. Just…Oh, man.

There you have it. If, like me, you don’t read much nonfiction, I suggest you give it a go!

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

A viking-inspired world? Epic, well-written battle scenes? Characters that break from any mold? Yes, please!

I loved this book! It follows Eelyn, a hardcore warrior. Her clan, the Aska, have a long-standing feud with the Riki clan. The first chapter of the book opens on a heated battle, which I loved. The author assumed the reader is smart enough to pick up on details and information as the story progresses, instead of throwing a long-winded explanation in at the very beginning.

During the battle, Eelyn learns that not only is her brother- whom everyone thought died five years ago- alive, but he’s fighting for the enemy. Reeling from the betrayal, Eelyn ends up being captured by the Riki in the next battle. As she is among them, she begins to question her assumptions. Eventually, she has to decide whether to work with the Riki to help defeat a more powerful enemy, or face the destruction of both clans.

While the battle scenes are incredible, the characters are what really stood out to me. They all develop naturally, and are written with such emotion that the book kept me riveted. I also liked that in Eelyn’s culture, women are seen as equals. She didn’t have to sneak out in disguise, or argue for an opportunity to fight with the warriors; it was just assumed that she would.

Another plus was the lack of overtly saccharine romance. While there is a relationship, it develops over time, and is much more natural feeling. I ended up really enjoying this book. It’s one of the best fantasy books I’ve read in quite a while.

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Book Blogger Confessons/Book Tag

This is my first attempt at a book tag, so hopefully I do it right. Thanks for tagging me, fictionnochaser. Check out her awesome blog here: www. https://fictionnochaser.com/2019/01/11/book-blogger-confessions-book-tag/

Rules:

  1. Answer these questions truthfully.
  2. Once you’re done, tag 5 other book bloggers to answer these questions next.

    WHICH BOOK, MOST RECENTLY, DID YOU NOT FINISH?

    Mariah Mundi #1: the Midas Box by G.P Taylor

    I tried, I really did. But, man this book was boring! I honestly had a hard time remembering the character’s names, the plot was all over the place, so I ended up shelving it to try again at a later time. Maybe. It’s too bad: I love the cover!

    WHICH BOOK IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

    The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. I’ll be the first to say that the writing isn’t on par with, say, Patrick Rothfuss, and the “maybe it’s incest, but I can’t help it” thing is pretty disturbing if you think about it. I love these books, though! I think the big draw for me is the Shadowhunter world. It’s pretty stinking cool.

    WHICH BOOK DO YOU LOVE TO HATE?

    Um…probably the Twilight series. I found out, after reading the trilogy, that it’s actually four books long and I skipped an entire book without even realizing it. Obviously, that means the books weren’t for me. I think it was the third book I missed, but it might have been the second. I still haven’t felt the urge to remedy that.

    WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU THROW INTO THE SEA?

    The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. This was the worst book I’ve read in a very long time. I tried to find something positive about it…nothing. Trust me: skip this one.

    WHICH BOOK HAVE YOU READ THE MOST?

    The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. I pretty much have the entire trilogy memorized. I reread them at least twice a year. They’re phenomenal!

    WHICH BOOK WOULD YOU HATE TO RECEIVE AS A PRESENT?

    Um, I don’t think I’d hate to receive any book as a gift, because it means the giver knows me well enough to know how much I love to read. I reserve the right to not read any book I’m given, though. I don’t read romance novels, so that would be a pretty useless gift.

    WHICH BOOK COULD YOU NOT LIVE WITHOUT?

    I’d be pretty bummed if I lost my copy of A Diversity of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey, Richard Woods, and John Howe. I’ve had it forever, and it’s a hard one to find.

    WHICH BOOK MADE YOU THE ANGRIEST?

    The book that made me the angriest recently is Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare. I hated it so much that it ruined my enjoyment of the previous two books. I’m pretty sure my opinion isn’t shared by too many people, though, so don’t avoid it based on what I thought of it.

    WHICH BOOK MADE YOU CRY THE MOST?

    The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobsky. This is another book I’ve read multiple times and I cry every single time. It’s heart wrenching and beautiful in its honesty. I love it so much. My favorite literary quote comes from that book:

    “So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

    WHICH BOOK COVER DO YOU HATE THE MOST?

    I loathe any cover that’s a movie poster. If the book came first, I want a book cover!

    Okie dokie! I’m tagging

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

I absolutely loved this book! Ostensibly about an unsolved murder and disappearance that happened in 1862, this beautifully told book is really a commentary on time, and how events and people connect, despite seeming unrelated.

The book starts with an archivist, Elodie, finding a satchel with both a photograph of a beautiful woman and an artist’s rendition of a two-gabled house. The house sparks something in Elodie’s memory; something about a fairy tale she was told as a child. She’s drawn to the mystery of the house and the woman in the photograph.

Honestly, Elodie bothered me. She was incredibly naive and seemed to be fond of martyrdom. Thankfully, while the book begins with her, she’s not the main character and is actually in it very little. The main storyline is told from the point of view of Birdie, a clockmaker’s daughter. I can’t say much about her without giving anything away. Suffice it to say, she is an enthralling narrator.

The book follows several different characters living in Birchwood Manor over many years: there’s the widow with three young children; the girl from India; an artist with his muse, and several others. Despite not seeming to have anything in common, their narratives flow together like tributaries in a river, blending into one skillful tale.

The setting is as important as the events that unfold there and is used very skillfully. I was engrossed in this book, even though it’s not a genre I normally get excited over. I will be on the lookout for Kate Morton’s other books. She’s a wonderful weaver of narratives.

If you are able to get your hands on this book, you won’t be disappointed.

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

My husband found this for me at the library. I almost didn’t read it, once I realized that it was written by an athlete: that would have been a mistake. It was an enjoyable book, one that flies by because it’s so much fun.

This book is, as the title suggests, about Mycroft, Sherlock’s older brother. In fact, Sherlock appears in this book for less than five pages. I really liked that. Mycroft was written as a slightly less analytical, but more emotional genius and wasn’t overshadowed by the more well-known Sherlock.

In this book, Mycroft stumbles across a series of murders that seem to involve his fiance in some way. He travels to Trinidad with his best friend, Douglas, in an attempt to track her down and get to the bottom of things.

I loved Douglas. He was wise and long-suffering, without in any way being a Watson rip-off. In fact, this whole book walked the fine line between being an homage and being a copy with ease. It was a wholly original book.

My biggest complaint about it is that it rapidly switched from being a mystery to being an adventure novel. If I had gone into it knowing that it wasn’t going to be a mystery, I would have liked it more. Now that I have a better idea what to expect, I’m happily planning on reading the sequel, Mycroft and Sherlock.

The historical aspects of the book were well researched, the descriptions of the various places were vivid, and the story was fun. It was a fun addition to the Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

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Grave Expectations by Sherri Browning Erwin

Do you remember having to read Great Expectations in school? How you muddled through it, having already decided that you wouldn’t like it? Or maybe that was just me. Either way, I wish this book had existed then; to read it after reading Great Expectations would have made me appreciate the original more (I suggest going into Great Expectations with an open mind, unlike me. When I reread it later in life, I ended up really liking it).

This is a supernatural parody of Great Expectations, written around the same time as Pride and Prejudice And Zombies. One clever thing about this book is that, while there are werewolves, zombies, and vampires aplenty, you can plainly see the spirit of Great Expectations underneath. Sherri Browning Erwin somehow managed a fun twist on a classic that keeps the story fresh and acts almost as a guide through some of the slower-moving parts of the original book.

I actually enjoyed this much more than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, possibly because I like Great Expectations, while not being a fan of Pride and Prejudice. I think that reading Great Expectations for the first time, followed by Grave Expectations would make for a cool compare and contrast. In fact, I might have my oldest- whom I homeschool- do that next year.

It’s not the most amazing reworking of a classic that I’ve ever read, but it is a solid, fun book. It’s also a quick read, one that’s perfect when you only have time to read in bits and spurts.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

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Surprise!

Right before Christmas, I was walking through the bookstore, when I noticed something that completely threw me:  a beautiful copy of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, written by Alexander Dumas! I had no idea that the author of The Three Musketeers wrote the version of The Nutcracker that the famous ballet is based on.

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Since seeing it, I’ve been thinking about well known authors, and their less than famous works. I haven’t read Dumas’  Nutcracker yet, but here are some other books that have surprised me over the years:

*Louisa May Alcott: Not only the author of Little Women, there are also two sequels: Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. Of the three, my favorite is actually Jo’s Boys. I find Little Women to be a bit heavy-handed on the life lessons.

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*A.A. Milne: He’s famous for his Winnie the Pooh stories, and most people know about his poetry (Now We Are Six was included in my Pooh stories boxed set). In 2018, I read an adult mystery written by A.A. Milne. I didn’t know before then that he’d written for adults! I read The Red House Mystery, which was entertaining, though not fantastic.

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* Richard Adams: He’s most well known for Watership Down, but I learned a while ago that there’s also Tales From Watership Down, a collection of short stories written about El-ahrairah, the hero of the folk tales in Watership Down. It’s a very weird book. However, if you think about it, Watership Down is weird too. Good, but weird.

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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: He’s the author of the amazing Sherlock Holmes stories, which I love, love, love. He also wrote several other books, including some horror. I read The Parasite, a book about a nefarious woman who uses hypnotism to attract men, since she can’t seem to do it on her own. It was a truly terrible book.  I was very disappointed.

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*Anne McCaffrey: she’s most famous for Dragonriders of Pern (which I highly recommend, by the way), but I absolutely love A Diversity of Dragons. Co-authored by Richard Woods, this is a book about dragons in different cultures throughout history, as well as the evolution of the dragon in literature. With art by John Howe, this book is incredible. I’ve had a copy for years, and if I have my way, I always will have one.

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Have you read any of these? Maybe they’re more well known than I thought, and I just miss a lot. What are some other books whose authors might surprise me?