Monday, September 29, 2014

Review: The Paper Magician

This is one new fantasy series that I am so excited to follow -- if you like stories about witches, then The Paper Magician is a perfect novel to add to your reading stack. Ceony Twill is a recent graduate of the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, but she feels that her year of hard work there is wasted when she's assigned to be apprenticed as a paper magician. Ceony had dreamt of being a smelter (a metal magician) but with the paper magicians' population dwindling, she has no choice but to live with and learn from the eccentric Magician Emery Thane. As her apprenticeship progresses, Ceony realizes that there is an elegance to the paper craft. She learns to animate paper creatures and to bring the words in a storybook to life, but her lessons are interrupted when Magician Thane is attacked by an Excisioner- a practitioner of the darkest art, flesh magic. Thane's heart is (literally) stolen, and Ceony takes it upon herself to bring it back. Setting out to save Thane's life means an adventure that Ceony would never have dreamt of, and though she puts herself in terrible danger, she learns that paper magic is far more powerful than she thought.

I'm not even sure how I stumbled across this book on my Kindle last week, but before I knew it I was halfway through and raving about it to anyone that would listen. If I were to sum up this book in one word it would be: quirky. I loved it. What drew me in is the classic character of a girl freshly graduated from prepatory school, with big ideas about the world, intelligence, and spunk. In The Paper Magician, Ceony resigns herself to becoming a Folder, but soon she realizes that you get out what you put into it, and her eagerness to learn had me hooked. I also loved that she has depth to her character: she loves to cook, has an enviable work ethic, and there's something tragic being alluded to in her past (albeit that something isn't revealed until the end). I also thought the whole concept of the book was creative; there are a lot of books written about magic and this one is unique for sure, especially with its different divisions of magical occupations. Though this book only came out on the first of September, the second installment in the trilogy is set to be published in November. You know I can't resist a good series, so I may have pre-ordered the second on my Kindle. Oh, and did I mention that this is Holmberg's debut? Bravo.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Paper Magician
Author: Charlie L. Holmberg
Publisher: 47North, 2014
Price: $4.99 (in the Amazon Kindle store)
ISBN: 1477823832
Format: E-book
Source: Kindle
Book #39 of 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014


There is no doubt in my mind that I am addicted to reading. Given the opportunity, I would take up reading as a profession and spend my career happy as can be. Whenever I have to fill out a questionnaire that asks to list my hobbies, reading is always the first thing that comes to mind, but I always hesitate to write it down because describing my love of reading as a "hobby" almost doesn't do it justice-- it's an ingrained part of my identity. I stumbled across this article while skimming some magazines on a plane earlier this year, and when it popped up in my inbox in the Oprah's Book Club newsletter, I took it as a sign that I should share it here. For me, reading the article, titled "What It Means to be Addicted to Reading," is like looking in a mirror. I am guilty of packing at least one book just about every place I go and can be found reading at every opportunity, even if it's just standing in the hallway before my next class . If you're a reader, take a peek at the article-- maybe you'll find a reflection of yourself.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

{on Goodreads}
Barbara Kingsolver, author of the renowned The Poisonwood Bible, takes a break from her beloved novels to write a personal account in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. Living in Arizona with her husband and two daughters, Kingsolver revels in the perpetual summers but grows more and more concerned by the destructive nature of her family's food. With produce that either travels thousands of miles or is forced to grow in the dry Arizona soil and water that's "safe" for drinking but not safe for her household fish's aquarium, Kingsolver finds that her choices are significantly narrowed in trying to make healthy, sustainable meals for her family. So the Kingsolvers pack up their life in Arizona and move to Virginia, where they pledge to grow, raise, or gather their own food for one whole year. In learning how to have a relationship with their food from start to finish, the Kingsolvers essentially travel back to a time when neighbors bartered for produce, came together for harvests, and when the only grocery store was a farmer's market. Their lives revolve around the food they eat, and they come to appreciate and experience the year of seasonal food in a way that most people never do.

I learned so much from this book, and it certainly changed my perspective of the food that I eat. There is plenty of literature out there concerning our food choices and exposing where our food actually comes from, but in my experience I often read those books with a feeling of hopelessness and guilt for the food choices that I make on a daily basis. In this, Kingsolver drew me into daily life on her family's farm. They make their own bread, cheese, and pasta, preserve and freeze their own produce for the long winter months, and endeavor to raise their own turkeys and chickens. Though I do feel that the farm was romanticized, Kingsolver made a conscious effort to describe the careful planning and grueling labor of her every day during that year, which only served to make me appreciate small farms that much more. While I didn't always appreciate the outright preaching of political views in the book, the most important lesson that I took away from it is that while dropping everything to follow in their footsteps is not a realistic dream for most people, I can make simple choices (like buying from farmer's markets and shopping the local produce in larger grocery stores) that have a very small impact on the environment and a significant impact in my own health. In reading this book, I enjoyed celebrating the small victories (like the first asparagus of the year) and came to see farming (and on a smaller scale, gardening) as something that's important to teach children, so that future generations are not so disconnected with the origins of their own food. Recommended for foodies and aspiring gardeners!

Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5

Title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2007
Price: I paid $3.98 from this website
ISBN: 0060852550
Format: Paperback
Source: Better World Books
Book #36 of 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reader Recommendation

Today I have another set of reader recommendations to share with you! The best part about these recommendations (in my opinion) is that they give me the opportunity to share books with you that I may never have recommended myself, either because I had a different opinion or because I haven't yet had the chance to read them. This blog is a bit of a one-person show, so being able to bring in other people's opinions is important to me. Today this list comes from Mrs. Linskey, who is a well-known figure at my favorite golf course. Mrs. Linskey is an avid reader (aka kindred spirit), and is one of those people that, when she starts to gush about her latest read, makes me want to run to the nearest bookstore and buy it. When I asked her for some recommendations to share on Top Shelf Text, she went above and beyond and gave me a list of five books to share (plus one that she was raving about a few weeks later, so I took the liberty of putting it on her list). Below you'll find her picks...and can I just say that all of these are at the top of my list now?! (So many books, so little time!)

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This one has been on my list since I first started seeing the publisher's advertisements. It looks like a tearjerker for sure...and of course I can't go without mentioning how much I love that cover.
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
This book was everywhere this summer, but the first place that I heard about it was at the golf course in a conversation with Mrs. Linskey. She was certainly ahead of all the hype, but completely agrees with the majority of readers, who say that this was the book to read this summer.
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
This one is supposed to be a great love story and has received rave reviews. It sounds to me like it's the perfect rainy day read!
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
I read this book years ago and absolutely loved it. It's outside of my comfort zone but now holds a special place on my shelves. Definitely worth picking up if you haven't read it yet!
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Now, I know this book has been revered since the moment it came out, but I have yet to get past the first fifty or so pages. It's just one of those books that hasn't grabbed me (yet), but I recently read another book by this author and absolutely adored it. Bottom line: Kingsolver is a really well-loved author, so any of her books are worth a shot.

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
This is one that I'll definitely be picking up the next time I go to the library. It's really intriguing and super dark, but I hear that the story is too good to miss out on.

A big thank you to Mrs. Linskey for sharing these picks with all of us!
{If you would like to share your own reader recommendations on Top Shelf Text, send me an e-mail at!}

Monday, September 8, 2014

Your Attention, Please

Today I don't have a post for you, but I'd like to point out that there has been a small change here on Top Shelf Text. If you look to the tabs above, you'll notice that there is a new page for "Picture Books." In making and re-making lists of my favorite children's books, I realized that there needed to be a more streamlined format for readers to access recommendations for the different levels of children's literature. Today I'm debuting just the picture books list, but in the future there will be additional pages where you can find chapter books and books for readers in the 9-12 age range (my personal favorite). Take a moment to scroll through the books, and come back often! My goal is to add a few books to the list each week (or when the fancy strikes), so that it can continue to grow. 

Have any suggestions? Want to let me know what you think? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at I'm always open to reader opinions and am so grateful for any and all feedback!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Currently Coveting {September}

I don't want to brag, but I have some really good picks for you guys today. From science fiction that's eerily realistic to a new novel from the master of fractured fairytales himself, September is going to be a good month for new reads. Many of the books that I'm listing here just came out in August, so while they may be hot commodities at your local library, the good news is that you'll probably be able to spot them as soon as you step into your favorite bookstore. Though I'm still catching up on all of the books that I purchased this summer, you can bet I'll be in the holds queue for a few of these books before the month is up.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
In colonial Malaya (a former British colony that included Singapore), a young Chinese girl is given a proposal: to escape her family's poverty, she is offered the life of a ghost bride for a prominent family's recently deceased heir. In practicing this long-time tradition, the family believes she will placate the restless spirit of her dead husband. This story promises to be full of secrets, and although I've never really been interested in historical Chinese novels, this one looks too good to resist.

Lock In: A Novel by John Scalzi
Fifteen years from today, there's a new virus ravaging the human population. A small percent of its victims are left "locked in," meaning that they are essentially trapped in their own, immovable bodies but are fully conscious. American scientists respond to the call, and with their new medical and scientific advances comes the opportunity to use their discoveries as weapons. I'm not a science fiction fan in general, but I feel like this is going to be one book that transcends the traditional genre boundaries.

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
The story of a seemingly random group of characters and the invisible connections that exist between them, Van Booy supposedly brings to life the realization that small, selfless acts can make a difference in a big way. I've read reviews of this book that deem it "sheer poetry," and it seems like the type to give you chills as you read. When readers are so enamored that they can't resist calling the writing beautiful, that's what makes me really want to pick up a book. 

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire is known for taking a classic fairytale and giving it a twist that sheds a whole new light on the story. You may not know him by name, but he's responsible for the internationally-loved Wicked (which I've heard is the best Broadway musical ever). In this fairytale, meant for readers age 12 and up, Maguire drops the classic tale of the prince and the pauper in Tsarist Russia, and integrates beloved folklore characters such as Baba Yaga. Fairytales are one of my favorite genres, and I'll definitely be looking for this one at the library this fall.

Monday, September 1, 2014

All Souls Trilogy

Today marks the first day in September and the official start of everything fall! (And yes, I realize fall doesn't actually start until the 23rd, but September is just not the name for a summer month, if you ask me.) Fall is my favorite season for a number a reasons, the first (and most important) being that it's my birthday season. Aside from that, I love fall because it's the time for hot lattes, cool, crisp air, that back-to-school feeling, and of course, everything pumpkin-flavored. To me, fall always feels like a new beginning. With all the excitement concerning fall activities like apple picking and going to the pumpkin patch comes the building anticipation of one of my favorite holidays: Halloween. My little town was established in the early 17th century, and with its history comes lots of ghost stories, old cemeteries, and local lore. (Not to mention that we are right next door to Salem, which has so much history concerning witchcraft.)  I love reading spooky stories, so when fall arrives each year I often gravitate towards books that have a little bit of that Halloween-feel to them. That brings me to my latest series obsession: the All Souls Trilogy.

I first stumbled upon this series last fall and read the first two, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, in quick succession. I definitely preferred the second book to the first, I think because the second book allowed the characters to develop further, but the first book laid the foundation for such a captivating story, and looking back I appreciate it more because I know how complex the plot was meant to be in the next two books. I was counting down the days until the final installment was released this summer, and let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I got so caught up in The Book of Life, I couldn't pick up another book for days after finishing it. It's one of those series that I wish could go on forever (ahem, Harry Potter) but I plan on rereading it again soon so that I can fall in love with it all over again. You can bet that it will make the cut for my list of the best books of 2014 (the first two already made honorable mention on last year's list) and I will definitely be recommending it to friends who share my love of fantasy. I almost want to go so far to say that it's a good pick for grown-ups who love Harry Potter or Lev Grossman's The Magicians series (of which I've only read the first but plan on picking up the next two soon). If you're looking for a story that has magic, daemons, vampires, history, and an epic love story, read the All Souls Trilogy!