A blogger has gotta plan

When it comes to being organized, I go old school and have a paper planner. There is just something about writing stuff down that helps me remember better. It’s like a mental unloading. Without my planner, this blog would be more unorganized than it is.

Anyway, this past year I kept one planner for blogging, life and work. However, with my new job, I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work, what with all the legislative meetings I have to attend, press conferences I have to organize and all the other work that may fall on my lap at any given moment. When I started the job in October, I began using my ARC planner again and it quickly filled up.

So about two weeks ago, while Christmas shopping, I was passing through Barnes and Noble and decided to stop at the 2019 planners display set up near the entrance to the mall. I was trying to get ideas for a planner that would be ideal for organizing my blogging schedule in the new year. Lo and behold I found this beauty.

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Yep, that’s right. It’s a 12-month planner for book lovers. I think I may have oohed when I saw this. I was so happy. I quickly flipped through it and knew that I had to have it. Of course, I browsed the shelves in search for another bookish planner that I may choose from but alas this was the only one. It was fate.

So what else does this planner include?

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Well on the cover, it had a pile of books, many of which fall into my favorite category, but it doesn’t end there. On each of the monthly pages is another pile of books. It’s almost like a TBR list throughout the planner. I want to go through each of the piles and see which ones I read. Also adjacent to the month, is a “Books to Read” and “Books Read” section, which is great to help me plan my Monthly Reading List and Monthly Wrap-up posts at the beginning and end of the month.

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It also has a bunch of bookish facts and graphics about authors and/or books. For example, April 4 is Maya Angelou’s birthday. The graphics are sometimes quotes from books or even foods that are talked about. Every page has something different.

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As you can see, I couldn’t wait until the new year to begin using it. There was a December monthly calendar to start things off  so I quickly filled it in. Though there aren’t weekly pages for December, I had no problems getting organized for the month.

I can’t wait for the new year so I can really start planning. I have so many new things I want to do on this blog and for my reading next year but those will be coming in other posts.

Stay tuned.

 

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Tackling my personal TBR shelves in 2019

So earlier this year I posted a list of books that were on my personal shelves that I have yet to touch. At that time, I had about 50 books on the list, which I thought wasn’t too bad. Until I hit the spring library book sales at my local libraries and added to my shelves significantly. I think at the end, I added 40 new books.

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Since the spring, I have made a dent in reading the books that I added as well as some that have been waiting awhile. However, I never updated the list.

With the end of the year quickly approaching, I am revisiting that list I originally posted and seeing what I read and what I added but have yet to read still.

Strikethrough – I read

Blue – I added

Italics – I started but didn’t finish

Red – I took off my shelf/donated

The Classics

I love reading classics, but alas, I have so many on my shelf I never read. Many of them are from college or I picked up during a library book sale.

  1. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquezimg_0220
  2. Brave New World, Alduous Huxley
  3. A Room with a View, E.M. Forster
  4. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
  5. Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence
  6. Nightwood, Djuna Barnes
  7. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  8. Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  9. My Antonia, Willa Cather
  10. White Fang, Jack Limg_0219ondon
  11. The Call of the Wild, Jack London
  12. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  13. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  14. The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, James Weldon
  15. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  16. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  17. Lord of the Flies, William Golding
  18. An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser
  19. The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas
  20. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  21. The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  22. The Modern Mephistopheles, Louisa May Alcott
  23. Under the Lilacs, Louisa May Alcott
  24. Sherlock Holmes Vol. 1 & 2, Arthur Conan Doyle
  25. The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
  26. A Light in August, William Faulkner
  27. The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
  28. Watership Down, Richard Adams
  29. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  30. Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
  31. The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
  32. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
  33. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  34. Rose in Bloom, Louisa May Alcott
  35. The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  36. The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann David Wyss

Charles Dickens

I thought this one should have its own subject because .. well … it’s Dickens.

  1. Nicholas Nickleby
  2. David Copperfield
  3. A Tale of Two Cities
  4. Great Expectations

Nonfiction

Half of these have to do with journalism and I picked up in college to learn about some of the older writers. Many of the books I had started but never finished. Now that I understand the industry more, I might have a better appreciation for these.

  1. The Choice, Bob Woodwardimg_0221
  2. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt
  3. Teacher Man, Frank McCourt
  4. My Paper Chase, Harold Evans
  5. The Gang that Wouldn’t Write Straight: Wolf , Thompson, Didion, Capote and the New Journalism Revolution, Marc Weingarten
  6. The New, New Journalism: Conversations with America’s Best Nonfiction Writers on their Craft, Robert S. Boynton
  7. It’s Not News, It’s Fark: How Mass Media Tries to Pass Off Crap as News,  Drew Curtis
  8. Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War, Anthony Shadid
  9. Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, Erik Larson
  10. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavars, Mary Roach
  11. Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand
  12. The Night Trilogy, Elie Wiesel (I only read the first one)
  13. Reading in Tehran, Azar Nefisi
  14. The Choice, Bob Woodward

Poetry

I don’t read a lot of poetry but I found one on my shelf.

  1. T.S. Eliot Selected Poems

Fiction

I am surprised that my fiction list isn’t longer but I think because I have stopped buying books and mainly go to the library. Also there were one or two of these that may belong on the classics list but wasn’t sure.

  1. Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon
  2. Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
  3. Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolverimg_0224
  4. The Lost Sisterhood, Anne Fortier
  5. Holes, Louis Sachar
  6. Shindler’s List, Thomas Keneally
  7. What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
  8. After You, JoJo Moyes
  9. Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
  10. House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus III
  11. Farewell My Lovely, Raymond Chandler
  12. Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
  13. The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
  14. Chronicles of the Insurrection, Julie Dickerson
  15. Release, Patrick Ness
  16. The Jungle Books, Rudyard Kipling
  17. Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Gailbraith
  18. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  19. East of the Mountains, David Gusterson
  20. A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean
  21. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
  22. The Reader, Bernhard Schlink
  23. Son of a Witch, Gregory Maguire
  24. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire

Looking at the original list I read 4 and donated 1. However, I added 29 new books still to be read. Thus, my new total of books I have to read on my personal TBR is 75, up by 25. I seriously have some work to do. As in, reading what I have and not buying any more until I do (Yeah right!)

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

When one of the book clubs I follow posted they were going to be reading Stardust for December, I immediately put it on my monthly reading list. I don’t normally go out of my way to read sci-fi or fantasy novels but ever since I first read Neverwhere and loved it I am determined to read as many as Gaiman’s other novels as I can. Besides, you can’t participate in the discussion if you haven’t read the book. Though I will be in getting back from Vermont the day they are meeting. *Sigh*

I absolutely loved this book and would say that it falls as a close second behind Neverwhere. The magic and mystery in this book was exactly what I expected.

img_0751From Goodreads: Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining.

Gaiman is quickly becoming one of those authors who I would love to sit down with and pick his brain. His ability to weave a world – specifically Fairie – that exists in parallel to the human world and make it feel as though it is a real place is beyond my admiration. Every detail has been thought of from the variety of creatures that roam said world to even the plants and trees and food that you can find. Of course, unicorns are not abnormal. Who knew that they had a purpose to protect another creature.

What I think I loved about this book is that even with all the intricate details, Gaiman’s writing is simple and to the point, which makes it more vivid for the reader’s imagination. The reader doesn’t have to do work, they merely have to jump on the wagon and enjoy the journey.

I also loved the layout of the plot and the way Gaiman weaves the past into the present and how all the characters are connected by a single thread that, in some instances, is not clearly visible at first.

If there was any criticism I had regarding this book is that what could have been the climactic scene between good and evil was a little anticlimactic. However, Gaiman saves it with a different twist that the reader doesn’t expect, nor would have even thought of. Thus making this a great book all around.

Now I want to watch the movie to compare how different it is from the book. If the reviews are any indication, I won’t be disappointed.


Have you read Stardust? What did you think? What other Gaiman books have you read? Let’s discuss!

Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

I don’t know how I did this but I totally didn’t realize that Nicholas Sparks came out with a new  book in October. But you better believe that as soon as I found out I went to the store to get myself a copy.

img_0744I spent all of a lazy Sunday reading this book because I am that devoted fan who has to devour his books in a day. Though it’s not that difficult to do so because he is an amazing storyteller. I had bought the book and proceeded to read it without even knowing what it was about but as always it was a page turner.

The book begins in Africa where Tru Walls lives and works as a safari guide, when he receives a letter from his biological father, who he has never met, to come to North Carolina to meet and talk.

At the same time, Hope Anderson decides to spend the weekend at her parent’s cottage in Sunset Beach to think about her life and where it is heading. She feels that she is stuck in life, with a boyfriend of six years who has yet to pop the question and a father who has recently been diagnosed with ALS.

Inevitably, Hope and Tru’s paths cross and the two find they have an instant connection but as Sparks always does, the relationship is by far not as predictable or as easy as it seems.

I love Nicholas Sparks because not only does he know how to tell a great love story, but he always manages to find a way to make them different, with a surprise twist thrown in along the way that always breaks your heart and makes you realize how precious love is. That once you find it, you can never let it go.

Every Breath reminded me of some of Sparks’ earlier works that made me fall in love with him as a writer. Though his books are always good, I have felt that some of his moreimg_0745 recent books have been lacking to some degree. It felt like some of the storylines were not as well thought out and he was just writing to write. Not so with this one.

This book is centered around a true story, which is what makes it more endearing for me. Sparks describes in the introduction his inspiration for the book came from a letter he read in the Kindred Spirit Mailbox on Sunset Beach (A place where people can share their personal stories). To think that Hope and Tru’s (not their real names) story is real makes you believe that true love can live through any obstacles that is thrown at it. It almost has that Message in Bottle feel to it.

And in case you forgot that the story was based on true events, Sparks adds a conclusion about the real couple after the book was finished. You know, in case, you weren’t crying already.


Have you read this book yet? What did you think? Let’s discuss!

TTT: Books I loved but didn’t review

Top 10 Tuesday, is a weekly meme posted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week was a freebie so I had to do some digging to figure out what to do for this week. I came across one that I thought was perfect: Books I loved that I didn’t review.

When I started this blog in 2017, I had started with only doing one review a month. Well, looking back there were several great reads that I should have reviewed but didn’t. My goal this year was to review every book that I read but there were a few that I didn’t get to, either because I just couldn’t put it into words or because I didn’t get around to it and then it was too late.

So here are some of the books that I read between the last 2 years and absolutely loved but didn’t review. (All book photos are linked to Goodreads).

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close We read this in book club and for me, it was a reread. I kept meaning to review it but I never got around to it and now it’s too late. All those emotions I felt upon finishing it have ebbed and I don’t think I would do it justice. Let’s just say that this book is deep.

Atlas ShruggedI was so glad I finally got around to reading this book for the Classics Club Book Spin #18 because I absolutely loved it. And yet, I failed to write a review, this time, purely because I was a little scared to. Ayn Rand is one of those controversial writers that I feel like more people hate than like. I inadvertently started a debate in book club prior to discussing that month’s book club, simply because I said had been reading this book. I guess I was a little nervous to share that I loved the book. I will simply say that I thought Rand brought up some interesting points.

The Magus

If it wasn’t for my Modern Library Classics Book Club, I would never had read this book. It was an interesting read to say this and definitely played with your head. The whole book was a psychological mind f*ck for the main character and for the reader. I can see why it’s on the list for the Top 100 Modern Classics. I didn’t review it because I simply couldn’t put it into words. You will just have to read it for yourselves.

Americanah

I seriously have to reread this book simply so I can review it. To this day, I regret not reviewing it last year when I first read it. It is similar to Behold the Dreamers which I did review but maybe better. It’s a great story about the immigration experience and how America perceives immigrants as well as changes them. I still think about this book.

As I Lay DyingI love Faulkner, well I loved him back in high school. While my reasons for liking him have faded over the years, they were renewed earlier in the year when we had to read this in the Modern Classics Book Club. I don’t know why I didn’t review this book because I had such strong feelings about it. I had the opportunity to reread it in my Capital District Book Club and never got around to it. What I remember is that Faulkner had a unique way of telling the story from every character’s POV.

All the Light We Cannot SeeI loved this book that was set during WWII. It is such a unique story that I instantly fell in love with, especially the dual narratives and how they eventually weave together.

Snow falling on cedarsOK so I never reviewed this one simply because I was on vacation in Florida when I read this. I anticipated reading it over the length of my five-day stay there but it only took me two days. The title obviously is a metaphor and I didn’t read the plot on the back of the book so when I started this on the plane on the way down, I was enthralled. I had read three quarters of the books by the time we landed 3 hours later. I finished the rest of it while I had some down time. It is a great story about America’s lingering bias against Japanese Americans after World War II.

NeverwhereMy first Neil Gaiman book. I read it because it was a book club read and fell in love. I just loved the mystery of it all. I loved how Gaiman described this other world that existed right below London. Who knew? It tickled my imagination and made me wonder “What if?” I also loved the characters and how he weaved the conflicts of good and evil.

img_0763Another Capital District Book Club read that I would never have read but so glad that I did. I remember that this got some mixed reviews in our discussion but I loved it. It’s another untold story about how women survive in the Middle East.

img_0764I was on the fence about reading this book but was so glad when I finally took the plunge. For a new author, this book was seriously done well and definitely grabbed my heart. I loved everything in this book but from the magic that created the night circus to the two main characters who fate is wrapped around the circus. I kept turning the pages wanting to know more. Even when I was done, I wish there was still more.

Many of these books I read in 2017 when I first started this blog and had a one review a month limit. But as you can see from this list, there are just too many good books that deserve a review, which is why I attempted to review, if not all, the majority of the books that I read in 2018. Stay tuned for my wrap up of 2018 later this month.

 

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis

I am so glad that I finally got a chance to read the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, even if I am twenty years too late. Honestly, I have to thank my book club for choosing this read for December and forcing me to pluck it off my bookshelf.

img_0750Some may say that reading it as an adult isn’t the same, that it may have lost some of it’s magic, but not for me. Perhaps because I never read it before, but I suspect I would have felt the same way reading it as a child as I do now. I think part of this also has to do with my persistence on reading a book I think the way the author wanted it to be read. It’s obviously a children’s book so I try not to over think about it like an adult.

From Goodreads: NARNIA…the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy…the place where the adventure begins. Lucy is the first to find the secret of the wardrobe in the professor’s mysterious old house. At first, no one believes her when she tells of her adventures in the land of Narnia. But soon Edmund and then Peter and Susan discover the Magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. In the blink of an eye, their lives are changed forever.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe reminds me of stories straight from a child’s imagination. I can just picture being a kid and playing make believe and coming up with a whole world beyond. In fact, I once wrote a short story of brothers and sisters going on a camping trip, exploring a cave and coming out into a different world on the other side. The child’s imagination can be vast if the kindling is stirred so why not a world of witches and lion kings and talking animals?

This is evident in the story itself as Lucy, the youngest is the one to find Narnia and of course, her older siblings don’t believe her. They just think she is making up stories. Out of the siblings, Lucy was my favorite because she is so innocent, though I think she is much braver than I would have been having found a whole new world. She considers all possibilities, even if they sound ridiculous and she tries to see the best in people.

I also liked Peter because even as the oldest, he defends his siblings, from protecting Lucy when Edmund teases her, to later in the book when he plays a larger role in defending Narnia. That being said, Edmund was my least favorite. He was such a bully to Lucy and thinks he is always right. Coming from a very large family, I being the youngest, I always fought with the ones that were like Edmund. I wish there was a little more characterizations of Susan as I couldn’t get a real feel for her, but maybe she plays a larger role in the later books.

As an adult, the book was a quick read that I flipped through in a few hours but I think it is a simple read for a child as well. It is not bogged down with too many details and is straight and to the point, with simplistic writing that any child can follow. It is full of adventure and magic and possibilities that nurture a child’s imagination.

I can totally understand why this book has become a classic and continues to be a favorite children’s book for many. If I have time this month, I may even continue to read the other books in the series.

 

Audio Review: Wishful Drinking and The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fischer

While I listened to these two at separate times, I am taking these two books together because they are both by Carrie Fisher and frankly because they were more alike than I realized.

Wishful DrinkingIt’s actually my one criticism of the two. There was so much information provided that was the same that I wondered why she did two books. It kind of irked me, especially because since I was listened to them on audio back to back, it was like having a repeat conversation. You kind of want to throw your hand up and make the motion for her to wrap it up.

I will say that I liked Wishful Drinking better than the Carrie Diarist but again I think that is because I listened to that one first. Princess Diarist was interesting because she shares details about her affair with Harrison Ford. (I wonder if Harrison Ford has read it and what he has to say.)

The Princess DiaristWith that being said, I liked listening about Carrie’s life in both of these and her upbringing to two famous people. I always wonder about the lives of children of stars and how they are raised, though Carrie’s was not exactly surprising. I was more surprised by her depiction of her mother Debbie Reynolds and her craziness. I guess we sometimes forget that celebrities are people just like the rest of us.

If you want to know about Carrie, the person and her life, I would recommend Wishful Drinking. If you want to know all about her time as Princess Leia and how it impacted her life, then read Princess Diarist.

 

 

December TBR

Hey all,

Things have finally slowed down at my new job long enough for me to do something other than work. Then again, it’s the end of the year and as my boss said to me yesterday, “We are entering the dark period.” But hey I am not complaining. I am taking full advantage of this time to get my blog back on track. It feels like forever since I have been on here talking with all of you even though it has only been about two months.

Honestly, even if I did try to keep up with the blog I wouldn’t have had much to write about because I didn’t get much reading done. I was lucky if I was able to finish one or two books. In fact, this past weekend was the first time in a while that I was able to finish a book in a day. It’s during these times that I realize how much reading helps to preserve my sanity. It is so relaxing and refreshing to shut off the real world and escape fantasy.

So with this new burst of creative energy, I am looking forward to my reading list for December even if most of them, if not all are for book club.

Book Club picks

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Chronicles of Narnia has been on my TBR list since childhood but for some reason I just never got around to it. This past summer I bought the entire series at a library book sale in the hopes of motivating myself to get to it. Luckily, a book club that I haven’t been to in a while that I was hoping to get back into (like I don’t have enough) is reading this for the month of December. Perfect timing.

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I have read two of Neil Gaiman’s novels, the first being “Neverwhere” which I loved and “American Gods” which I liked but didn’t fall in love with. My Adventure Book Club is reading “Stardust” this month. I won’t be able to make the discussion this month because I will be away in Vermont but I am still going to read it.

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The Bridge to San Luis Rey is actually the January read for my Modern Library Classics Book Club but since they meet at the beginning of the month, I need to get a head. Luckily, this is a short one.

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I am so glad that I am finally getting around to this book. I feel like it has been following me around everywhere. I couldn’t read it for my one book club earlier this year but now it is the January read for my Capital District Book Club. It’s a long one too so I am trying to get an early start. I have a feeling January is going to be busy.

Personal picks

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Christy is my personal read that I am actually carrying over from November. I read Marshall’s book “Julie” when I was in high school and I loved it so much that the librarian let me keep it. I bought “Christy” at a library book sale this past spring. So far it is what I thought it would be but I am still at the beginning and the main story has not really started yet. Can’t wait to finish it.

I saw that that the Classics Club is also having a spin for this month but I have decided not to participate this time around even though my book for the spin would have been “An American Tragedy” by Theodore Dreiser.

Instead I am going to try to use any remaining down time to try to catch up on my reviews before the end of the year so I can go into 2019 with a clean slate. I am also in the planning stages of what I am going to do with this blog and my reading calendar. I have a lot of plans for the new year. I just have to iron out the details.

Until next time,

Book Admirer

 

 

TTT: Wintry Reads

It has been a while since I did a Top 10 Tuesday, a weekly meme posted by That Artsy Reader Girl but when I saw this week’s post was about wintry reads, I figured now was as good a time as any. Especially since winter seems to have come early in upstate NY with snow becoming the norm around here.

These are the books that I have either curled up with on a cold wintry day or have always just associated with winter.

Little Women

Little Women has always been my “go-to” on a cold day in winter. The cover alone, at least the movie version cover, makes you think of winter. Plus the opening of the book falls on the March sisters discussing Christmas. Throughout the book, winter seems to be the season where everything seems to happen, from when Amy has her “accident” to when father comes home. The only thing I am missing when I am reading this book is a crackling fire.

The Snow Child

I only read this book in the last year and I absolutely loved it. It’s full of mystery and magic that makes you wonder what is real and what is fairy tale. You can read my review here.

Beartown

Whenever I think of Backman’s book, I think of winter, I guess because I know most of his books take place in Sweden. But if I had to choose one, I would have to say Beartown. The book is centered around an ice hockey team and as most of us know hockey season takes place around the winter. Of course, this book is a lot more than just hockey but that is for a different post.

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The Kept is a fascinating story that takes place in upstate NY during the winter in late 1800’s. I first read this book in January and will now always associate it as a wintry read. This was also a book I would never have read had it not been for book club and I am so glad that I did. The opening and closing lines continue to haunt me. You can read more about this book in my review.

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This is one of the few Scholastic books that I have left from my childhood that I think will always remain on my book shelf. This book gives you all the holiday feels, right out of a Hallmark movie. It has Santa and snow and carols and miracles. I still remember crying over this book as a young kid and once in a while I will pick it up to re-familiarize myself with it.

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This is the first and only book by David Sedaris I have read and it was for book club during December 2016. This collection of holiday stories by Sedaris are very amusing, if not outright ludicrous. Some of them you will seriously wonder if they are true or not. It was a fun read during the holidays.

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I don’t know why but I always always associated Gaiman with winter. Maybe because his books are a bit darker and full of magic and mystery. I really couldn’t tell you. I just know that when I picture myself reading his book its during the winter. Coincidently I am planning on reading his book, Stardust, later this month for book club. Huh.

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Everything about this book screams winter, from the cover showing a Polar Bear to the plot where the main character rushes to the north where it is cold. I mean that just barely brushes what this book is about but it includes witch clans and gobblers and armored bears. Hmm. I am feeling a reoccurring theme popping up here.

Jane Eyre

Winter is usually when I read most of my classics. Maybe its the fact that time feels slower during the season and classics are a slower read? I don’t know, but I do know is every time I pick up Jane Eyre its on a cold day. The book is dark and gloomy and if you have seen any of the movies, it always looks cold.

Game of Thrones

I haven’t yet read the books but I have seen every episode and all I have to say is “Winter is Coming!”