Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: The Forgotten Room

{on Goodreads}

If you're a frequent reader of the blog, you know that historical fiction has recently become my favorite genre. I've always been drawn to it, but I go through periods where I prefer fantasy. Lately, though, I can't get enough of historical fiction. I've been drawn to historical fiction of all kinds -- including my current favorite mystery series and many of the books on my top ten of 2015 list. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to receive and review an advanced copy of The Forgotten Room. Though I hadn't yet read anything by Karen White or Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig is the author of a series which I've been slowly working my way through in the past year.

The Forgotten Room is the story of three generations of women and their parallel experiences of love, longing, and heartbreak. The thread begins in 1945, with Dr. Kate Schyler receives a wounded soldier in the overcrowded mansion-turned-hospital where she works. Kate is instantly drawn to this man, and in coming to terms with her longing for him she unravels the story of two women before her and their connection to the very room in which her newest and most mysterious patient lies. I don't want to say too much more, because I loved the experience of slowly putting the pieces together as I read, but I did come out of it with a broken heart and a lot of thoughts about the concept of true love. I'd compare this story to those written by Kate Morton (another great historical fiction writer) and recommend it for those who enjoy WWII-era fiction. The book was just released on the 19th, so it may be popular at your local library but should be easy to come across in your local bookstore!

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Forgotten Room
Author(s): Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
Publisher: NAL, January 2016
Price: $17.44 on Amazon
ISBN: 0451474627
Format: E-book
Source: Net Galley

Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Series Spotlight: Charles Lenox Mysteries


A quick update on what's been happening behind the scenes (aka in real life). I started my second (and last) semester of graduate school, have moved full time into student teaching at an awesome elementary school under the best possible mentor a preservice teacher could ask for, and I've been so busy that my brain has essentially stopped functioning. So, apologies once again as the blog has taken a back seat. I do hope to keep it going throughout this semester, but the frequency of posts will be determined solely on my ability to work through other priorities first. That being said, I do promise a new review next week!

I've been getting into bed super early these days and I thought that I'd mention one of the series that I keep returning to when I head out for my weekly library run. 

The series centers on Charles Lenox, a victorian gentleman and amateur detective. Despite his hobby being inappropriate to his social class, he's an excellent detective and a favorite among those at Scotland Yard when a case turns out to be exceptionally puzzling. I'm a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, and this series is a play on that same type of cozy intellectual mystery with lots of musing by firesides and just a little action thrown into the mix. 

I read the first in the series last year (after putting it on a Currently Coveting list) and then picked up the second one over the summer. I just finished the fourth last night and will definitely be looking for the next in the series when I head to the library this weekend. I'd recommend this for fans of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. You can find all the books in the series here on Amazon.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Books to Read in 2015

There are many people who only buy a new book when they've read all that they have, but I am not one of those people. I can't deny it, I love the look of full bookshelves and I love having a selection of unread books that I can choose from at home when I'm in need of a new read.

Of course, when I buy a book I have every intention of reading it. But I'll admit that sometimes months (and even years) go by before I remember to pull it off my shelf. I'm trying to read more of the books on my own shelves this year, so I perused them for a bit and came up with a list of ones to read in 2016. 

Below you'll find the books I'm determined to get to this year:

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer // Despite my love for fairytales, I was reluctant to buy into this series because of the science fiction elements. However, I've seen so many readers fall in love with the story so I picked up a copy at a booksale and have been eyeing it on my shelf ever since. (Plus, the covers for the entire series are the most gorgeous things ever.)

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo // I'm starting this book today. Since I'm approaching another transitional season of life, I think it's a great idea to declutter before I start the next chapter, and I'm hoping this book will provide some guidance as it's done for so many others.

Persuasion by Jane Austen // After my failed foray into Emma over the summer, I am looking to dive back in to another Austen novel. This time, I think I'll go with Persuasion, based on recommendations from many Austenites. 

The Diviners (The Diviners #1) by Libba Bray // Another series that I'm looking forward to diving into this year! I've heard that the villain is one that can't be forgotten.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke // This is a rather large book but also one that's constantly raved about by those who have read it so I picked it up at a booksale and am looking forward to reading it this year.


What are you looking forward to reading this year?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Review: Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase

Clearly I have a thing for characters who are fellow bibliophiles. In the case of Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase, that character is Roberta, and maybe it's a shared love of books, or maybe it was just Louise Walter's outstanding writing, but I found her to be entirely endearing. I think Roberta can best be described as "bookish." She works in a bookshop, lives a quiet life, and is generally unassuming. She loves collecting the letters and notes that she finds in used books, and she uses them to daydream about the lives of the people who leave their books behind. 

One day, her father gifts her an antique suitcase that once belonged to her grandmother. In it, she finds a letter from her late grandfather. There's something strange about it though, as the letter was dated after her grandfather had died in the war. Roberta is baffled, and the mystery leads us into the second narrative in this story, that of Dorothea, Roberta's grandmother. Dorothea is unhappily married to a brutish man and forced to support herself during the war, which leads her to a fateful meeting with a charming soldier named Jan. Told through the past/present narrative frame (a style that I'm partial to), this book drew me in and kept me guessing as to the characters' secrets and keeping my fingers crossed for their happy endings. I loved the characters, I loved how easily the narrative flowed between Dorothea and Roberta, and I especially loved that the story was peppered with some of the notes and letters that Roberta stumbled across during her time in the bookshop. At times the story was heartbroken, but after finishing I felt a sense of peace. Recommended for fans of Kate Morton and Katherine Reay, and certainly a great pick for a women's book club!

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

Title: Mrs. Sinclair's Suitcase
Author: Louise Walter
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2014
Price: $13 from B&N
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top Ten of Twenty Fifteen

Hello Twenty-Sixteen!
I am so looking forward to this year and though I'm hoping that some things go exactly as planned (such as finishing grad school), I can't wait to see what surprises are in store.

This year I read a total of sixty-six books and 20, 552 pages. If you remember, I was focusing on quality over quantity, and though I actually ended up reading more books than I did in the past two years, many of my favorite reads from this year were children's books. Though my average rating for books is around 4 stars (hey, I know how to pick 'em!), I'm highlighting these ones in particular because they stood out above the rest. I'm not going to set any resolutions again this year (no resolutions worked out well for me in 2015), so I'm looking forward to picking up whatever strikes my fancy. Although, I would like to make some progress in reading the A Song of Ice and Fire Series, and as always, reading more classic literature is still on my to-do list.

Below you'll find my top ten picks from 2015:

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin // It's Game of Thrones. Need I say more? If you're a fan of the HBO series and are debating reading the books, go for it! I'm still in the middle of the second (taking my time), but I think having seen the show helps me to keep the characters straight in my head.

The Heretic Queen: Heiress of Misfortune, Pharaoh's Beloved by Michelle Moran // All of the heart eyes for the love story between Nefertari and Ramesses II. Review for this on the blog next week!

The Witch's Daughter (The Witch's Daughter #1) by Paula Brackston // I didn't realize that this was the start to a series until I went to prepare this post! I will certainly be reading the second installment (due in 2016), as this was the perfect mix of fantasy and historical fiction. Highly recommended for your October reading list. You can read my review here.

The Postmortal by Drew Magary // I plucked this from my boyfriend's shelves one day when I had nothing to read and couldn't put it down until I turned the last page. I don't normally delve into post-apocalyptic lit but this was worth taking the chance. 

The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Catherine #1) by Eva Stachniak // The second in this series is on my to-read list for January. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre (though I love fantasy too) and this was unique in it's setting and captivating. You can read my review here.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig // I just finished this earlier this week and had to make room on my list for it because oh my goodness the heartbreak was real. Review to come!

The Martian by Andy Weir // You might recognize this as the hit movie starring Matt Damon. I didn't expect to love this book but it's probably my top recommendation from this year because I think it appeals to all kinds of readers. The humor is what pulled me in but it was incredibly suspenseful as well.

The Glass Sentence (The Mapmaker's Trilogy #1) by S.E. Grove // I actually read and loved the first and second books in this series, which I stumbled across just by chance. It's become one of my all-time favorite fantasy series. Recommended for fans of Harry Potter. 

The Master Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy #3) by Charlie N. Holmberg // I was sad to see the end of this trilogy but I do plan to re-read it at some point. I love the whimsy of it and I find the world that Holmberg created comforting. I wish that I could be friends with Ceony Twill!

The Sisters of Versailles (The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #1) by Sally Christie // I loved this book. As in, I read in early for a publisher and still pre-ordered my own copy (the copies publishers send me are often not final drafts). I cannot wait for the second installment, due out in April! You can read my review of this book here.

Bonus! Top Three Children's Picks

Since just about half of the books that I read this year were children's novels, I thought I'd share my top three children's literature picks from this year as well!

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo // If you have not yet read this book, do yourself a favor and read it this year. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and uplifting and everything that you'd ever want from a book. I'll be re-reading it at least once this year.

The Mister Max Trilogy by Cynthia Voigt // If you have a middle grade reader in your life, this series would make a great gift! I thought that it was entirely unique from the typical formula for novels of this genre and fell in love with its quirky characters. You can read my review of the trilogy here.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate // Beautiful. Captivating. Incredible. I could go on and on about this book. Tears were shed (bewarned) and it's the one book that my students can't stop talking about this year.


Next week on the blog: a review of The Heretic Queen and the books I'm looking forward to reading in 2016!

Want more of my favorites? See my Top Ten of 2013 here and 2014 here.