Checking In With My Bookshelves

Last night, I dreamed that my house was on fire, and I had to evacuate.

It was very stressful.

Because I am me and this was a dream, I grabbed my computer first, so that I had all of my books, then headed for my bookshelf and tried to decide which ones I was going to save and which I was going to let burn and have to replace.

This is not, under any circumstances, a decision I ever want to have to make in real life.

Neither was it proper fire procedure. I am aware that you are supposed to get out of a burning house without scanning your bookshelf and bundling half of them out the door with you.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t totally do that, but I at least know that one is not supposed to do it.

Thankfully, I woke up this morning and my house is still standing and my books have not been burned. They are all lined up neatly on my bookshelf, arranged in order of awesomeness and with a complete disregard to any other system except a certain amount of respect to their authors.

You can imagine my relief.

As much as I love my bookshelves, I must admit that they’ve been a little neglected in my house since the year began. I’ve had so much less time for reading than I hoped, and a good deal of my reading list has been made up of audiobooks borrowed from my local library.

Since that isn’t likely to change in the near future, I will have to get used to the change and just be a little more intentional about having time for a physical book.

Still! Audiobooks are books too, and I have had the best time blazing through Agatha Christie’s collection of murder mysteries this year. Hercule Poirot is continually my favorite of her characters, and I’ve had several dozen of his books reserved online since I discovered that I can download audiobooks onto my phone with the right app and a bit of patience.

That was a good day.

With the advantages of a library card, I have read—and listened to—a total of 39 books this year, most of them new to me and a good chunk of them written by the Queen of Crime herself. Several other new reads have been Paradise Lost, Micro, and Girl, Wash Your Face, which I enjoyed hugely and would recommend to any woman needing a boost in her personal life.

So! There is my reading list for this year. Thankfully it did not burn up in last night’s dream fire, and I still have the rest of my books to continue reading. I think Little Women will be the next physical book I pick up, and, of course, I’m just in the middle of a Miss Marple I borrowed from the library.

I promise not to spoil the ending for you.

What have you been reading lately? Any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Christmas Books

pexels-photo-688017.jpeg

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year.

It’s time for Christmas lights, peppermint-flavored everything, Christmas carols, fudge, peanut brittle, and mistletoe. This season can be a hectic one, and my favorite way to counter that craziness is to keep my evenings to myself.

It’s so easy to commit to caroling, numberless Christmas parties at work, and shopping trips with friends, but I prefer wiggle out if I can manage it. Instead, I keep my evenings for quiet moments. Wrapping presents (or making them), baking cookies, or—best of all—reading.

My favorite nights are the ones when I light candles and spend the evening curled up with a cup of peppermint hot chocolate, a fire in my wood stove, and a good book. My kitty will come read with me too, and is there anything better on a cold winter night than a cat purring in your lap?

Choosing books that fit perfectly with a night like this one isn’t easy, but some of my favorites to pair with a roaring fire and a cup of good cocoa are:

A Christmas Carol

This charming classic has been adapted into plays, a million different movies, and episodes of every cartoon you can think of, but have you ever read the original story by Charles Dickens? I hadn’t—at least, not until a few years ago. Then, I was utterly blown away by a story for the ages—and one that fully deserves the notary that it has obtained over the years.

Little House in the Big Woods

Family and Christmas go hand in hand, and I can’t think of a better story than Little House in the Big Woods for both. This sweet book encompasses an entire year of Laura Ingalls life as a very young girl—including Christmas in the big woods. Her descriptions of life in the 1800s and of their Christmas together as a family are vivid and beautiful, a definite addition to any Christmas evening.

Little Women

Comfort books are a must for me during the craziness of the Christmas season, and Little Women is high on that list. The book spans a large number of years in the lives of the March sisters, and their Christmas seasons are simple, heartfelt, and filled with a richness that illustrates the depth of their regard for each other and the community around them.

The Tailor of Gloucester

Beatrix Potter weaves magic with her illustrated stories, and The Tailor of Gloucester is—in my opinion—one of her finest books. This Christmas tale has charm, compassion, a naughty cat, and a lovely, inspiring ending. Her pictures are vivid and heartwarming, and it’s a book I will be reading aloud and to myself for many years to come.

Christmas is a season for wonder and thankfulness, for pausing to reflect, and for appreciating the quiet moments. These books carry a thousand memories of years past, and I will continue to enjoy them for many years to come.

Ranger’s Apprentice

Do you want to know the strangest thing?

I have the hardest time reviewing my most absolute favorite books.

Is that weird? They should be the ones I rave about right? The ones I yell about in the mall and the library and shove in people’s mailboxes so that they’ll read them.

Right?

But, with my favorite books, I have a hard time talking about them.

Strange, right? In some ways, I’m afraid that I won’t do them justice. They’ve meant so much to me over the years that it seems impossible to tell people just how important they are. They’re a part of my childhood, my teen years, and even now I continue to treasure them, and it’s hard to come up with a way to explain to you or anyone else how much these stories have meant to me.

Ranger’s Apprentice, The Ruins Of Gorlan, is one of those books for me.

I started reading this series when I was thirteen or fourteen, and I wasn’t the only one. At least five of my siblings became obsessed with the books at the same time I did. If you’ve never lived in the same home with multiple readers, you will never understand the struggle of taking turns with a book that just arrived in the mail.

It was rough.

But, at the same time, it was also wonderful. Having people to share the magic of an ongoing book series with is a very special thing, and helps to conquer some of the impatience of waiting for the next book to be released.

And, with The Ranger’s Apprentice, that couldn’t happen fast enough for us.

The Ruins Of Gorlan, Flanagan’s first book in his dynamic series, introduces us to Will, an orphan under the guardianship of Baron Arald. But, at fifteen, he’s now too old to be a ward any longer, and he is set to be apprenticed to one of the fief’s Craftmasters.

That is, if any of them are willing to take him.

When Will is placed with Halt, a member of the elusive Ranger Corps, he isn’t sure what to expect. Rangers are renowned as black magicians and sorcerers, men who guard the kingdom and keep law and order within the fiefs, but not people to cross or mingle with.

As Halt’s apprentice, Will finds a very different reality than he expected. Soon he is embroiled in a world that fascinates and entrances him, a world where he finds himself far more accepted than he ever was as a ward in the Baron’s castle. But war is brewing in the kingdom, and as an apprentice Ranger, Will has a far greater role in the impending conflict than he ever would have expected.

“People will think what they want to,” he said quietly. “Never take too much notice of it.”

Frankenstein

My sister moved in with me this month.

We’d been planning this for a while. I’ve been living alone in my little cottage for about a year now, and she was ready for a place to live with a real kitchen and a bedroom that didn’t have to be vacated in favor of guests every month or so.

It was time.

So now, my very tiny bedroom has a very tiny bunkbed in it instead of a single mattress, and she’s reading on the couch when I get home. I cook, and she washes the dishes. I chop wood, and she cleans out the fireplace. We drink tea in the evenings, light the candles and our wood-burning stove, read books and pursue our various crafts (she’s an artist, I’m an author), and generally spend a lot of time in very companionable silence. And, when things go bump in the night, I feel better knowing it’s probably her being clumsy instead of a bear trying to eat me.

Since I live in the middle of nowhere, and there have been bears around our property in the past, this is a very comforting thought.

One of my favorite parts about having my sister move in has been watching her read all the books on my shelves. She has a very large, still growing collection of books herself, but we have yet to figure out how to cram them all into my little house. So for now, she is reading my books, and I get to enjoy watching her enjoy all the books I love.

It’s great.

One of the first books she picked up when she moved in was Frankenstein. I read Mary Shelley’s classic some time ago, loved it, and—unfortunately—forgot about it. This happens when your piles and piles of books threaten to bury your house and your TBR pile is taller than your living room ceiling. Books get read, loved, and then set aside in favor of new stories.

Then, my sister picked it up. And she loved it. In a very horrified sort of way. Every so often, while she was reading it, I would hear a scream of frustration from wherever she happened to be in the house, mostly aimed at the narrator of the story and his refusal to take any responsibility for his actions.

Victor Frankenstein, a student of the old sciences and a scorner of the new, is sent away to college following the death of a dearly loved family member. Death, life, and the disproven theories of the men he has spent his life from descend from a passion into an obsession. He forgets classes, his family, the woman he loves, and the rest of the outside world in favor of an experiment that will set him apart from the rest of mankind as a creator, god-like to the being he intends to bring to life.

Life he does create, but the horror it casts over himself and the shadow that falls over his family because of it is far beyond what he could have imagined. The monster he creates is, in many ways, child-like, without the understanding or morality of an adult human. Yet, Victor Frankenstein, for all his horror and remorse at his impetuous deed, shows as little or less judgment and virtue than the ‘monster’ he created, allowing an innocent girl to be accused of his crimes and casting off all responsibility for the atrocities he himself committed. (Thus my sister’s frustrated screaming.)

Frankenstein is a classic for the ages. Mary Shelley’s book is a lasting, brilliant story that continues to send chills down the spines of its readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.