Friday, October 31, 2014

Update: Books I've Read {September & October}

I've come to really enjoy this round up series, as it gives me the chance to look back every couple of months and see how my reading tastes have fluctuated over the course of this year. I've been lucky to pick up some really great reads since the start of September, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of these books. This week marks the completion of my classics challenge and I'll be chatting more about that next week, but I'll add that I am super proud of myself for even finishing it. I honestly would be hard pressed to pick a favorite from these past two months, as I was pretty close to adding all of them to my best books of the year list, but The Ghost Bride, The Paper Magician, and Pride and Prejudice all really stood out to me. This list brings my grand total to 45 books for the year so far, and 75% finished with my yearlong goal. I'm going to be hard pressed to fit 15 books in the next two months, but I can't wait to see what my list looks like at the end of the year!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
4 Stars
Read my review here.
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cossé
5 Stars
The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew #1) by Carolyn Keene
4 Stars

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
5 Stars
Read my review here.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5 Stars
Curse of the Dream Witch by Allan Stratton
3 Stars
The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
5 Stars
Read my review here.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
5 Stars
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
4 Stars
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5 Stars

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: The Ghost Bride

{on Goodreads}
Yangsze Choo's The Ghost Bride is a captivating story, set in colonial Malaya, where new British traditions clash with old Chinese customs and where Li Lan's family is experiencing a steady decline into poverty. Unfortunately for Li Lan, her family's bankruptcy and father's addiction to Opium have left her little opportunities to socialize; she approaching marriageable age without any prospects, until she receives an unusual proposition from the town's wealthiest family. The prestigious Lim family's heir, a pompous and unpleasant boy, died of a fever before his time. In accordance with old superstitions, the Lim matriarch wishes for a bride to placate her son's restless spirit. Li Lan is taken by their opulent lifestyle, and must weigh the comfort that wealth brings with the consequences of marriage to a spirit if she were to accept the proposal. Soon she finds her dreams haunted by her spirit suitor, and at the same time feels drawn to his very real cousin, the newly crowned heir. It comes to light that her suitor's death may not have been due to illness, and as Li Lan investigates she comes to find out secrets about the Lim family- as well as her own- that hold consequences for all involved.

This book was an unusual pick for me, as I normally gravitate towards historical fiction that falls into the subcategories of Victorian mysteries or WWII adventures, but it just goes to show that you shouldn't always stick with the same type of book because this book was amazing. It has a twist that elevates it to a whole different setting, and it was one of those books where the descriptions made everything come to life so vividly in my head that I had no trouble getting lost in it. I especially loved learning about the old Chinese traditions and the ways in which British influence were creeping into the stubborn Chinese culture in Malaya. I want to say more, but the twist is too good and I wouldn't forgive myself if I spoiled that moment of surprise for another reader. This is Choo's debut, and I'll definitely be looking out for more of her work and similar work in future trips to the library. 

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Publisher: William Morrow, 2013
Price: Only $1.99 on Kindle!
ISBN: 9780062227324
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Book #42 of 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quieting the Storm

It's been quiet around here lately, and I promise things will pick up again soon. We're in the thrall of midterms, and as I write this I am staring at a stack of research articles approximately three hundred pages deep and wondering how I will manage to turn it into an essay...that's due on Friday. Who knew senior year could be so much fun??

When things get stressful during the semester, I always make sure to turn to a few matters of routine to create order within the chaos. Besides cooking healthy meals and making sure I make it to the gym (even if watching Bones while I'm on the elliptical is my biggest motivator), I always make sure to keep the same bedtime, and most importantly, to spend at least a half hour with a good book before I fall asleep. Reading is a source of comfort to me, especially during the weeks when simply looking at my planner can induce a stress headache. Free time is a rare commodity during this period in the semester, and as in real life, what you choose to do with the pockets of freedom can have a big impact on the way you face the challenges ahead. Reading helps me to refocus, reset, recharge even, and puts me right again. The task is to choose a story that you can get lost in - one that has you gasping, laughing, and feeling like you are in another world entirely. This week, it's Pride and Prejudice that I have finally fallen in love with, and every night as I go to bed I'm grateful for writers like Jane Austen who put captivating stories out into the world.

Until the storm of midterm blows over, I'll leave you with this fun little quiz that popped up in my inbox this morning. I took the quiz while waiting in line for a coffee and got "The Lionizer," and let me tell you that result was spot on. The profile was a perfect description of me and made me laugh when it predicted my love of children's lit. Take the quiz and tell me which "reading personality" you got in the comments section below!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Recommended by The Little Prince Project

I wish I could claim that I'm a history buff. The truth is, history is a tough genre for me because often I find my attention wandering while reading. As a part of my Reading Resolutions for 2014, I challenged myself to find a history book that could peak and keep my interest. I haven't delved into any so far, mostly because the two I had picked out are best described as tomes (a.k.a. large, heavy, scholarly books that are not suited for carrying around campus) and I've felt intimidated just looking at them. However, part of being a good reader is knowing when to branch out, and thankfully I've got a bestie who is smitten with American history and inspires me daily to put a little more effort in being an informed citizen, not just with current events but with our country's history as well. Enter my Reading Resolution solution:

The Intimate Lives of the Founding Fathers by Thomas Fleming

You can read all about this book on Allie's blog, The Little Prince Project, and see for yourself why I went straight to my favorite online bookseller and promptly added it to my ever-expanding shopping cart. It's about time that I got a little more educated about our history, and I can't wait for midterms to be over so I can dive headfirst into a stack of new reads. In the meantime, if you're a lover of history and have any good recommendations for books related to American history, Allie and I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

10 Great October Reads

I think we can all agree that October is one of the best months of the year. It's that time when the leaves have changed and are starting to fall but the sun still shines and the air is just the perfect temperature. As I write this, it's raining outside and all I want is to curl up with a good book and a warm drink (but first, homework...). I'm one to embrace gloomy days, and I can't help but feel that October is the perfect time to really appreciate life in New England. I think by now I've mentioned once or twice (okay, three times) how much I love Halloween, but really what I love about this time of year is that it inspires me to write. A good book can give you goosebumps, have you gasping in surprise, and even make you wonder if there really are monsters under the bed, and this is the perfect time of year to find one of those books. Now, I know that not everyone appreciates a scary story, so I've rounded up a list of books that, scary or not, have that perfect October vibe.


The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo // You may recognize this from last month's currently coveting. I picked it up at the library recently and let me good. Keep an eye out for a review soon, but for now, just know that it gave me the creepy-crawlies and had me totally intrigued from start to finish.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield // I cannot recommend this enough. It's on my list to re-read this month, and has Setterfield is just brilliant.

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness // I love this trilogy. You can read more about my obsession with it here.

The Quick by Lauren Owen // This was one of my summer reads this year, but it's certainly more suited for an October to-read list, considering it's a Victorian England novel with a rather macabre twist. You can read my review of it here.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova // One year in high school we had a choice of books for a summer reading assignment and I picked this one, along with maybe seven other students. It certainly wasn't the most popular book that year (I have a feeling it's because of its 700 pages) but it's one that I would highly recommend for your to-read list this month. 

Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield // Another one by Diane Setterfield because, why not? Read my review of this book here.

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg // I love a good book about magic at anytime during the year, and I know I recently raved about this one in a review but I just can't stop. Love, love, loved it. And for those who aren't into scary stories, this is the one for you. 

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields // This is a relatively new series that I started reading last year. It follows a detective in the late 1800s as he investigates a gruesome murder, the mystery behind which is wrapped up in magic rituals and the Salem Witch Trials. Definitely has that Halloween feel to it. 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // This book was a big deal when it came out in 2011, and when I read it last year I absolutely loved it. And, I mean, look at that cover art. Swoon.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn // Perfect timing to read this, especially with the movie coming out this month. But please, don't go see the movie before you've read it! I'm not usually such a stickler for the book-before-movie rule, but this has to be one that you read first. Also, it will make you question your own sanity and the sanity of everyone around you. So there's that. 


Do you have a favorite thriller, mystery, or fantasy book?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Chapter Books! (& A Note To Parents)

Hi there! I know things have been a tad slow around here lately, and although I'd like to blame it on schoolwork and being the busiest bee on the planet, it's probably just because the fall TV shows have started and I am addicted to watching all of them, until I settle on about three or four that I am in love with and will follow for the rest of the season. That being said, there's lots of work going on behind the scenes here on Top Shelf Text, and today I'm unveiling the 6-8 Year Old Chapter Book selection, which you can peruse at your leisure by clicking the tab at the top of the page.

Two quick things I want to emphasize here:

I recognize that the majority of books on this list are aimed at mostly girl audiences. I am working on that, I promise. Many of these books come recommended by my favorite littles, and it just so happens that most of them are girls. I am seeking out more gender-neutral content and will have it up there whenever I come across it!

More importantly, these are books that I've labeled for the 6-8 year age range, but one very important aspect of raising a good reader is knowing that those labels are often misleading. Sometimes, children read at, above, or below their given "age range," and that's one hundred percent okay! Reading is super important and necessary in developing so many life skills, but it's also supposed to be fun! The level of each book helps teachers and parents gauge which ones are developmentally appropriate for their children, but I would never recommend against giving a child a book that's above or below their level. Case in point, I am an almost-twenty-two year old who enjoys reading chapter books for 9-12 year olds. Weird? I think not. (Okay, maybe a teensy bit weird. But I'm a lover of upper-elementary curriculum, and that's where you find the best books, in my opinion!) So don't be afraid to pick a book that you think your child will enjoy, regardless of it's level. If it turns out to be difficult, shared reading is always an option for scaffolding emerging readers and is another great way to bond with your child over literature!

Last but not least, if you have any books that your child loves and you think should be on this list, or you want a specific recommendation for your child, email me at!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Currently Coveting {October}

October already? So strange how time seems to both speed up and slow down during the fall. Though the hours in lectures are on the slower side, the weeks fly by and I am so looking forward to diving headfirst into one of my favorite months of the year. The leaves have changed this past week and I am reveling in the colorful scenes outside my window. And can I just say, walking to class with crunching leaves underfoot is one of my favorite feelings.

So before the cold and snow come and we get holed up inside until April, let's make time to lay out in the grass and savor that golden autumn light. What better way to soak up these moments than with a book in hand? Here are a few picks that I've put on my wish list this month:

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty // I've been seeing this title everywhere, and it's received fantastic ratings on Goodreads since it was published in mid-September. It's a memoir, full of humor and character, and also apparently has a great perspective on death and our culture.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio // My roommate recently read this for a class and flew through it in under two days. It was that good, and she says that despite its 320 pages, its compelling enough to be a quick read. It's actually a young adult novel, but it's been really well received by older audiences since it came out in 2012. She added that it features the best and worst of humanity-- a recommendation like that had me begging to borrow it. 

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen by Charlie Lovett // Surprisingly enough, I didn't have a running list of books in mind for this month's currently coveting feature. I actually thought that I might have to just stick with the two listed above, until I received my October Goodreads letter, which features new works by authors I've already read (I highly suggest signing up for it if you have a Goodreads account) and saw this book on the list. It won't be released until October 16th, but I practically fell out of my chair in my rush to pre-order it from the library. I read the author's first book, The Bookman's Tale, last year and it made it onto my top ten of 2013 list. It was one of those books that I had just happened upon while browsing in the library, and by the time I finished I had a small bout of post-book depression because it was over. So looking forward to this one and hoping it lives up to my expectations!

What are you looking forward to reading this month?