Book Review: Unlocking Worlds by Sally Allen

Unlocking Worlds

Genre: Non Fiction
Published: 2015
Country: USA
Format: PDF
About the Book: iRead Book Tours | Goodreads

I think that we can all unanimously agree that reading is no longer only a solitary past time for stereotypical ‘book worms’ as it used to be labelled years ago. It has become a community activity thanks to literary websites and book blogs. Not only do books enrich us and become a part of our lives but book readers all over the world are able to connect with each other and develop a meaningful relationship based on shared literary experiences. That is the real power of literature – to bring people together and add rainbow colours to our lives through a series of words written in black on white.

Unlocking Worlds is a book about books – written by a book-lover, for a book-lover. I am always looking for good book recommendations and this one really gave me some very interesting ones.

The author has written a whole chapter in the beginning on how to let a book change you. In it, she explains that it is not imperative that a reader necessarily has to connect with a good book but it is totally okay to be able to relate to a book that is usually not considered such a literary masterpiece. Reading is very personal and subjective. The books she personally considers good in this manuscript have been classified more or less on the basis of five qualities – a compelling narrative, purposeful shaping of words, purposeful ambiguity, emotional truth and wholeness. I found it interesting because I usually tend to read a book in its entirety using only the basic elements of plot, characters, setting, conflict and resolution without delving much into nitty-gritty details and this has caused me to think more carefully about reading and reviewing.

The rest of the book is divided into several chapters that follow themes and genres – of family, time travel, war, tragedy, children’s fiction, memoirs and epistolary novels and many others. It is a well structured book where each chapter begins with a personal anecdote, usually from Allen’s childhood, and contains 10 book recommendations that not only give a brief description but also the author’s personal insight into why she was personally able to connect with them. Here, Allen’s writing, English literature and communication background has helped her to delve deeper into the meaning of each story and find the reasons why these books have moved her. She has beautifully been able to extract the essence of each book and her words have made me want to explore many books that I might not even have considered before.

I found the watercolor painted cover, the most attractive feature of this book. I honestly loved the simplicity as well as the colors used that brought out an old world charm that is sometimes missing in even the most brilliantly graphically designed books today. The little illustrations with the quotes at the beginning of each chapter were cute too.

I was able to connect with Sally Allen’s book-related experiences in many ways that a reader is able to relate to another. Books were always such a huge part of my childhood and like Allen, I often read (and re-read!) deep into the night by flashlight under the blanket after everyone had gone to bed. As the author relates in one of the latter chapters which is aptly titled ‘Books for Book Lovers’, books have sometimes played the role of ice breakers and for developing an instant connection between two individuals who might have never met before. This has personally happened to me twice on the metro as well where I was reading two different books on separate occasions and a couple of fellow commuters asked me about them. In those moments, I was completely able to relate to a stranger even if I shared only a couple of sentences with them. I have certainly not found this connection possible with any other material possession.

I think Allen has really hit the nail on the head in one of the last few chapters where she has expressed how difficult and overwhelming it can get for a reader nowadays to keep up with all the books that come out by the hundreds and thousands. I can completely relate to that feeling. It’s like a rat race that I feel I must keep up, only to realise that really reading is ultimately for my pleasure and enrichment and not for any other reason. So it’s best to really choose the books that you can personally connect to or learn from.

I would consider Unlocking Worlds to be the perfect holiday gift for a book lover who loves reading a variety of genres and you aren’t sure what book to gift them. It’s also the perfect compilation of recommendations to keep on one’s bookshelf for the next time you’re just not sure what to read next.

Book Rating : 4.5 stars out of 5

Note: I received a copy of this book through iRead Book Tours. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely my own. If you would like to read more author interviews, guest posts and book reviews of Unlocking Worlds, please have a look at the book tour schedule here.


Sally Allen

Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:  Website  | Twitter


Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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Author Interview : Unlocking Worlds by Sally Allen

Unlocking Worlds


Award-winning writer and teacher Sally Allen knows that good books don’t just draw us in; they talk to us, shape us, and transport us to times, places, and minds different from our own.

In Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers, Allen deftly weaves personal stories with fifteen thematized, annotated, and illustrated reading lists for what to read next. By sharing some of the treasures in her library and the secret lives they reveal, she gives us permission to embrace the shameless book lover inside each of us. Unlocking Worlds is a testament to how reading passionately—and compassionately—can unlock the world beyond our back yard. Celebrating books and those who read them, Allen shows how the solitary act of reading can be a powerful thread that creates community and connection. Thought-provoking and eloquent, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers is a must-have for anyone who can’t leave the house without a book in hand.


Here’s a quick Q&A session with the author Sally Allen:

What genre do you write and why?

I write nonfiction about books. When I was younger, I enjoyed writing fiction. During and after college, I’ve written essays and done reporting and other journalistic writing. In recent years, I find my favorite subject to write about revolves around my favorite pastime, which is reading. Books give me so much to think about, and writing helps me work out what I’ve learned and valued from my reading experience.

Where do you write?

I do a lot of my writing in my walk-in closet, which doubles as my home office. I live in an old home, and my closet, which probably wasn’t a closet when the house was built, has a large, lovely window. I put a small desk under it, and it’s a surprisingly cozy spot where I can sneak away when I want to write without being interrupted.

As a mom writer, how do you balance your time?

The biggest thing I had to learn is how to write productively in small bursts. Before I became a mom, I assumed I needed long, uninterrupted stretches of time to write. After I became a mom, I realized this was no longer possible. So I had to retrain myself to take whatever time I could carve out, even if it was just fifteen minutes, and make those minutes count.

What is a book that inspired you to be a writer?

One of my favorite books growing up was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. Claudia and her brother, Jamie, run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a place I’d spent a lot of time in growing up in New York. Reading that book inspired me to write my own Claudia-and-Jamie-style adventure, though mine was set in Williamsburg, Virginia, where my family had recently gone on vacation. Though I don’t write fiction anymore, that is definitely the first book that inspired me to write.

Name a quirky thing you like to do.

My absolute favorite place to read is on airplanes, especially on evening flights. Anytime I’m booking a flight, I’ll opt for an evening one if at all possible. Something about being 30,000 feet above the earth’s surface in the dark facilitates getting lost in another world. My secret fantasy is to be given an airplane ticket around the world so I can finally make a serious dent in my massive to-be-read list.

If you would like to read more author interviews, guest posts and book reviews of Unlocking Worlds, please have a look at the book tour schedule here.


Sally Allen

Award winning writer and teacher Sally Allen holds a Ph.D. from New York University in English Education, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and a M.A. in English Language and Literature. She teaches writing, literature, and communications, leads book group discussions, and is the founder and editor of Books, Ink at HamletHub.

Connect with the author:  Website  | Twitter


Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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For the Love of Vintage Books – My Dream Literary Collection

I’m a nostalgic girl. Some of my best bookish memories have been in my early years where I would do nothing but read and wander off into an imaginary world filled with adventures and mysteries. My books even accompanied me even on the lunch and dinner table! A couple of my classmates and I used to exchange reading material but that soon stopped when I realized my books would come back to me with unexplained food stains on their pages. Ugh!

If I ever had unlimited resources, a huge house and a personal home library, I would collect all my favourite childhood books for nostalgia’s sake, preferably in their first editions or the ones with the best vintage illustrations. Here’s a list of authors who would go in my ‘Nostalgia’ section:

  1. Enid Blyton – Those of you who have been reading my bookish chatter here on the blog, might know how much I loved Enid Blyton growing up. I don’t recall how I got started with her books – probably by reading my sister’s old collection. I still remember checking out so many Enid Blyton books from my school library and bringing them home to devour within the next 3 hours. One particular memory is of a 3-in-1 edition of The Naughtiest Girl in School which was a tattered, torn and well-read hardback with a pink cover. I could go on and on about why I loved these books so much but that’s for another post. Since I have not been fortunate to read all the 762 books she wrote from the 1920’s – 1960’s, I would love to own her entire collection! My favourite part used to be the beautiful, vintage illustrations in most of her books!

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  2. Agatha Christie – Hail the Queen of Crime! Dame Agatha is definitely one of my other favourite literary ladies and it was only natural that I transitioned from one famous British lady to another as I grew up. In fact, I hope she and Enid Blyton are having a cup of tea while chatting books or plotting a village mystery together up there! I would definitely want her books to be on my shelves, all 80 of them! My favourite part of her books were the shocking endings!

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  3. Carolyn Keene – Yes, I am most definitely talking about Nancy Drew. I have read so many Nancy Drews growing up but haven’t read all versions written by 28 different ghost writers under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. For my literary collection however, I would love to go  back to the original 23 ones when the character first appeared in 1930 as a spunky amateur sleuth of 18 years. These vintage collectibles were written by Mildred Wirt Benson and I would like to gift them to my sister because she very much wants to read the very first ones.

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  4. Betty Neels – My sister LOVES Neels’ simplistic romance novels published by Mills and Boon and when our neighbourhood library closed down, my sister salvaged as many of her books as she could find. The theme in all her books is always the same – a young English nurse falls in love with a famous Dutch doctor and thinks she is resigned to a lifetime of unrequited love. I would definitely want to add all 134 books to my collection and gift to my sister.

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  5. J.K Rowling – While I was a huge fan of Harry Potter in my mid teenage years, I have never owned the books. I know the series is still quite popular but many decades later, it will be a rare collectible item so I would like to own the first editions for sure.
  6. Classics – My favourite classics growing up were Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Heidi by Johanna Spyri, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, What Katy Did series by Susan Coolidge and Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster. I recently realised that these books that I personally own are abridged versions! I would love to own all these rare vintage books with beautiful illustrations and read them all over again in their original format!

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A great website for rare collectibles is Invaluable where you can find antique items such as art, jewelry, toys, wines, books and other items up for auction. According to Invaluable, their most popular item at a recent auction held in May for Hollywood Books, Art and Ephemera was the Pulitzer Prize Winner The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, an author-signed first edition published in 1939. Have a look at their entire books section to see if you can find something you would like to own!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the images above. All credit goes to their owners.

What are some rare vintage books that you own or would like to add to your dream literary collection? I would love to know in the comments below.


Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie

TOP TEN TUESDAY

Top Ten Tuesday is a regular weekly feature hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s topic is 10 Wishes I’d Ask The Book Genie To Grant Me (a new book from a certain author,  a reading superpower, a library that is your absolutely #librarygoals, a character to come to life, to met a certain author etc. etc.) YOU DREAM IT AND THE BOOKISH GENIE CAN DO IT.

Dear Book Genie,

Firstly, I’m so happy and grateful that you’re here and I’d like to thank you for granting me my wishes! I don’t want to sound too greedy or exceed my given quota but it would be great if you could manifest them all for me. I’m sure you have many other wishes to fulfill as well and I don’t want to waste your time so here goes:

  1. Please grant me the wish to go on a few literary walking tours. Some time ago, I had come across an article about 10 famous literary walking tours for a book lover to add to their bucket list which included places like Bath where Jane Austen lived for a few years. I would love to do a couple of walking tours including an Enid Blyton tour that includes visiting the places where she spent her time writing and some of the locations she mentioned in her books, notably Corfe Castle in Dorset.
  2. Please grant me the wish of my very own cozy reading nook or better yet, a home library/reading room! There are so many cute ones here with window seats overlooking luscious gardens, benches hidden in nooks and crannies and armchairs in the corners with bookshelves running from top to bottom! I could go on and on! There are just too many amazing photographs on Pinterest to make me drool!
  3. Please grant me the wish to visit the Jaipur Literature Festival. I had the privilege of volunteering with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature two years ago right here in Dubai and it was an extraordinary experience! I was delighted to meet and be in the same room as some of the world’s biggest authors and celebrities including Jeffrey Archer, Shobhaa De, Shashi Tharoor, celebrity chef Rachel Allen, Ian Rankin and many others. I would really like to visit the Jaipur Literature Festival which is the world’s largest free literary event in the notoriously famous pink city Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. It’s a wonderful way to spread literacy and encourage people to read!
  4. Please grant me the wish to see Rainbow Rowell’s books adapted on screen. I’ve only read Attachments so far but it was such a cute, heartwarming tale of two people who work in the same office but have never met that I would love to see it adapted as a romantic comedy/drama on screen!
  5. Please grant me the wish to shadow a famous author. I would love to know what the secrets to their success is, how they overcome writer’s block, what they do to tap into their inner creativity and how ideas flow and how they keep their morale up. Nothing beats the experience of seeing your characters come to life on paper and I feel like I would have a similar creative experience like Emma from Alex & Emma did- brainstorming, giving suggestions, helping the author form a character and a plot and be on a journey filled with adventure and excitement!

    Let’s take a breather here Book Genie, are you tired yet? Hope not, it just gets better and better! 😀
    aladdin-genie

  6. Please grant me the wish to start and successfully run a neighbourhood library for passionate readers. I can never forget July 2008 when I heard the saddest news that our 11 year old tiny, little neighbourhood library was shutting its doors because hardly anyone was reading anymore! I felt a huge part of me was dying literally (not joking!). I would love to start a library someday with hidden rooms behind bookcases that open when you pull out a particular book and other such fun things. My library would have regular reading clubs, read-aloud sessions, creative story-telling and other activities for both children and adults. I know it sounds very wishful (pun intended) but it would be a dream come true!
  7. Please grant me the wish to have a stronger decisive power and a determined focus while reading. Book Genie, you know how I get distracted so easily while reading – my phone is constantly beckoning, I have to watch that video, or look at Instagram or Pinterest. Sometimes I feel like I have the memory of a goldfish and the attention span of a fruit fly. Please help me. I need to be more focused while reading so I don’t lose interest quickly and actually get through 4 pages without getting distracted.
  8. Please grant me the wish that I may be able to let go of reading books on my phone and read more physical books. This is sort of an expansion of Point #7, dear book genie. I feel like that personal touch has gone out of the reading experience ever since I started reading e-books and I am not able to enjoy reading a physical book anymore. Please help me, I need to get back to actual books even though e-books are really convenient.
  9. Please grant me the wish that I may own the entire collection of my all-time favourite authors Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie. Love, love, love these ladies of the 30’s and 40’s and I would love to own everything by them!
  10. Please grant me the wish that my book blog only continues to grow. I have enjoyed writing about my bookish (and non-bookish) experiences here on Thistles and Whistles and I only wish that my blog and the blogs of my blogger friends continues to grow in infinite proportions!

Thank you so much Book Genie, I know my wishes are not too much to ask and that it’s a cinch for you to fulfill them so I am thanking you from the bottom of my heart for making them come true!

Lots of love, hugs and kisses.
Tx

What are your top ten wishes that you would like the bookish genie to grant for you? Let me know below in the comments because I love to hear from you! 🙂


Thank you for taking the time to visit this blog, I always value your encouragement and support! If you liked this blog post, I’d be very grateful if you’d help spread it by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Thank you!

If you’d like to contact me for enquiries or just to say hello, you can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com or even connect with me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #22 – The Secret of Terror Castle

Book #22 – A book from your childhood – The Secret of Terror Castle by Robert Arthur (Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators #1)
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery/Suspense/Adventure
Published: 1964
Country: USA

The Secret of Terror Castle

Confession: Until a couple of years ago, I used to think that The Three Investigators’ series was actually written by Mr. Alfred Hitchcock himself. My mistake was justified since the couple of books that I possess from this series have the name Alfred Hitchcock on the cover (they don’t even say Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators as it is named), and all the books of course have introductions by him as well. However, I just found out from Wikipedia that the actual author Robert Arthur used the famous director’s name as one of the main supporting characters in the series’ to draw attention to his books. I was also under the impression that the protagonists were at least 16 or 17 years old when in fact they were about 13 or 14. So many revelations!

The Secret of Terror Castle is the very first book in the original series of 43 books which was published from 1964 – 1987. In this exciting debut of the three investigators, we are introduced to three young teenage boys who live in Rocky Beach, a few kilometers away from Hollywood. Jupiter “Jupe” Jones who is the ‘stocky’ (read: chubby) main brains of the group, Peter “Pete” Crenshaw who is the most athletic and Robert “Bob” Andrews, is the nerdy, studious one in charge of records and research. Their business cards say that they “investigate anything”.

TTI - Business CardUsing initiative, ingenuity and his superbly crafted grey cells, Jupiter secures their very first case as investigators from Mr. Hitchcock himself. The three are employed or rather ‘reluctantly permitted’ to find an authentic haunted house for Mr. Hitchcock’s next film. In return, Jupiter asks Mr. Hitchcock to introduce their very first case should they be successful in solving it (aah, that cleared up my earlier misunderstanding). Mr. Hitchcock is not happy dealing with the three boys but agrees to do it to get them out of his….errrr…hair, whatever little he has of it.

Alfred Hitchcock

“I’ll introduce whatever you write about your case.”

Even though Pete and Bob are not keen to mingle around with ghosts, they are duty-bound by Jupiter whose curiosity and the thrill of a challenge gets the better of him. And so the three set out to investigate a haunted castle which Jupiter has found, aptly known as Terror Castle. The castle, which was owned by a silent movie actor Stephen Terrill, now deceased has been abandoned for several decades and whoever has tried to inhabit it since then, has been driven away in sheer terror by various freaky paranormal incidents. It is up to the three to find out if it is in fact a real haunted castle or not.

Now, I have loved The Three Investigators since my early teenage years so I was quite eager to revisit this series because somehow I had never read the first book which started it all. There’s a right mix of excitement, suspense, thrill, fear, adventure and Jupiter’s cheekiness and intelligence to make it a good young adult mystery of the 60’s. The main supporting characters are all well etched – Mr. and Mrs. Titus Jones, Jupiter’s aunt and uncle who are owners of a salvage yard, Worthington, who is the proper, polite British chauffeur of a Rolls Royce that Jupiter has won the use of and of course Mr. Hitchcock who needs no introductions.

As a lover of secret hidey-holes like sheds, tree-houses, islands and caves as mentioned in The Famous Five, The Secret Seven and The Five Find-Outers, I have obviously loved the Headquarters of The Three Investigators as well. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have an office made up of a rusty old trailer fully equipped with a printing press, a telephone, speaker system, microphone and accessible via more than one secret entrance which no normal person can find? It was always a childish fantasy of mine to have a little private cubbyhole or nook where I could hold my own meetings and plan adventures.

The Three Investigators HQ

The Three Investigators’ Headquarters

Why should you read this book? Because it’s short, it’s snappy, there’s lots of thrill and excitement to keep you satisfied and it’s reminiscent of a much simpler time devoid of mobile phones, laptops and other modern technology. If your childhood memories were filled with Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, you’ll definitely love this one. If not, you should still give it a go.

Book Rating: 4 stars out of 5

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
You can also follow me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #20 – Kiss Kiss

Book #20 – A book of short stories – Kiss Kiss by Roald Dahl
Genre: Short Stories
Published: 1960
Country: USA

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I love short stories. The characterizations, the setting, the descriptions – everything is almost exact and precise like measurements for baking a cake. Words are not wasted and the story puts you in the middle of the action almost right away with no time to lose. That is why I strongly feel short stories bring out the very best (or worst!) of an author’s talent.

I was pleasantly surprised to read famous children’s author Road Dahl’s collection of short stories for adults. 11 stories which had first been published in different places, have been compiled into Kiss Kiss.

‘Expect the Unexpected’ – that was what was written on the cover image and that is exactly what I got. I really had no idea what to expect when I started reading but I was shocked and other times horrified because most of the stories are quite spine-chilling. They don’t exactly fall into the horror genre as there are no ghosts or spirits but cold-blooded murder and human nature play a very pivotal role in a very eerie psychopathic way. Some of the stories are just plain grotesque and will leave you with your hair raised on one end. Then there are a couple which are quite hilarious while some leave you feeling a bit of pity for the characters. The endings of most of them are implied, not revealing exactly what transpired but giving the reader the chance to speculate.

The stories are a varied bunch, set in either Britain or America with all sorts of characters – an obsessed beekeeper, a motherly landlady, a cheating wife, a couple of meek wives, a reincarnation of a cat, a woman-fearing Reverend (yes, he was more fearful of women than of God!), a vegetarian chef, an antique-dealer and many others. What I really found fascinating were the bits and pieces of real information that was imparted in these stories – from biology to history and also some know-how into the animal kingdom. It was very intriguing to see how Dahl had used all this knowledge and played around with it to create such unique plots with unexpected twists and turns and unpredictable characters.

The book is definitely a page-turner. The writing is very typically British charming with mentions of countrysides and farmhouses coupled with matronly women and one of the stories also signifies the increasing rate of divorce in 1950’s America. The vivid descriptions of people, places and things are very striking and you are able to clearly imagine the setting and characters in your mind’s eye.

She was a wonderful woman, my mother. She used to wear huge bracelets on her wrists, five or six of them at a time, with all sorts of things hanging from them and tinkling against each other as she moved. It didn’t matter where she was, you could always find her by listening for the noise of those bracelets. It was better than a cowbell. And in the evenings, she used to sit on the sofa in her black trousers with her feet tucked up underneath her, smoking endless cigarettes from a long black holder. And I’d be crouching on the floor, watching her.

I enjoyed this book immensely and if you’re into stories with elements of surprise and unpredictability, then you should definitely not give this a miss.

Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com
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The TBR Book Tag!

The TBR Book Tag
I’ve been meaning to write a post about my ever growing TBR pile since a few days. But before I could start drafting it, I was tagged by the lovely Emily of The Diary of a Bibliophile to do this tag which basically consists of almost all the questions I had been meaning to answer! Thanks Emily! 🙂

1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
I’m so glad you asked! For the longest time, I’ve had the biggest problem of downloading e-books and never reading them. I tried organizing them on Goodreads however, I don’t find the site to be the best organizer (at least for me!). I wanted something more detailed where I could add my own private notes, so I made my own little spreadsheet filled with all the books that are currently in my smart phone (I haven’t even begun to add any e-books downloaded onto my laptop!) This is the way I am currently organizing my TBR pile:

How I use Google Sheets to organize my TBR pile

2. Is your TBR mostly print or e-book?
Mostly E-books. I keep downloading and downloading and it just gets so out of control ! I do have a lot of print books that I still haven’t read but since I don’t buy physical books that much anymore, it’s mostly e-books.

3. How do you determine which book from your TBR to read next?
This depends upon my mood. However, I have a wee bit of a problem known as the Shiny Object Syndrome, where I’ll start one book and then get dazzled by another and before I know it, there’s a whole pile of books half-read. When I started organizing my TBR pile on Google Sheets, I made a little pact with myself that the only way I’ll choose the next book to read is to use an online random number generator that will help decide for me.

4. A book that has been on your TBR list the longest?
Srimad Bhagavad Gita. I keep meaning and meaning to read it and I never do! It’s really unfortunate that I haven’t read my own Holy Scripture yet!

5. A book you recently added to your TBR?
Start Your Own Business by The Staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc

6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
Although I love covers, I mostly read books because of their content.

7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
50 Shades of Grey. My friends recommended it to me and I even put it up on my 2015 Reading Challenge but I recently removed it because I knew I would never read it.

8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
None as yet. I think I’ll try to finish the 800+ books already on my TBR pile before I fall for another shiny object again.

9. A book on your TBR that everyone has read but you?
Probably 50 Shades of Grey.

10. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

11. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
Coincidentally, a lot of people have been recently recommending Jhumpa Lahiri’s books to me.

12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR shelf?
Currently 95.

I tag:

Holly at Nut-Free Nerd
Sarah at Books Are True Magic
Bookish Dubai
Amanda of Big City Bibliophile
The ladies over at Brewing Up Books

If you haven’t been tagged and still want to do The TBR Book Tag, no problem! Please go ahead and do it anyway! It’s a fun way to spread some blogger love all around!

You can email me at thistlesandwhistles@hotmail.com and also follow me on Facebook , Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and BlogLovin’

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #18 – The Secret of Happy Ever After

Book #18 – A book with more than 500 pages – The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon
Genre: Chick Lit / Romance
Published: 2011
Country: UK

The Secret of Happy Ever After

Two women, Michelle and Anna are best friends in their early thirties and live in Longhampton, an idyllic town by the canal. While Michelle runs a successful home lifestyle store and is a self-confessed control-freak, Anna is more laid-back and wears her heart on her sleeve. She is also stepmom to three girls and an energetic dog.  When Michelle decides to take over the adjoining bookshop from the retired owner, she hires Anna as the manager because of Anna’s love and extensive knowledge of all things literary. Although everything seems fine for Michelle and Anna professionally, their individual personal lives are a huge mess. Michelle has been separated from her emotionally abusive husband since three years and Anna’s stepdaughters still won’t accept her completely even after four years. Moreover, Anna is desperate for a baby of her own which doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Will these two women ever find their happy ever afters?

A shrewd businesswoman, Michelle loved making to-do lists, accomplishing goals and looking for ways to expand her shops. She had a lot of baggage she was carrying around which made her understandably cautious but her decision to keep everyone at arm’s length was coming across as too vain and self-centered. Anna was regrettably a doormat and her husband Phil, was too soft with the girls. Stuck in a dysfunctional family dynamic through no fault of hers, she didn’t know how to untangle the mess that sometimes comes with a ready made family. She was trying so hard (a bit too hard in my opinion!) but couldn’t connect with her stepdaughters on any level. It didn’t help one bit that her mother in-law was a cantankerous old woman who hated everyone. Out of the three stepdaughters, Chloe, the fifteen year old middle child was the most superficial and selfish brat that you felt quite annoyed at. Lily, who was eight had a wild imagination and was quite insightful for her age whereas Becca, the studious eldest eighteen year old was very sensible, understanding and the most likeable character in the whole book. The two dogs Pongo and Travis sadly couldn’t add any humour and character to the plot.

The only bits I really loved were the bookshop conversations and book reviews where Anna would throw book references freely with her customers with nostalgic excitement and love. Her childhood favourites have been my childhood favourites and I was very happy to come across mentions of The Malory Towers, Famous Five, Miss Marple, Sweet Valley and Harry Potter among several others. It was only Anna’s own sunny nature and her love for books that kept her going. I also loved Michelle’s keen sense of business and how she and Anna played around with the bookshop and made it a homely, comforting place to entice serious bibliophiles.

Or Miss Marple? That would be nice if the weather was good. In the garden, with a plate of hot cross buns and a pot of tea, working her way round St Mary Mead’s homicidal vicars and parlourmaids. Miss Marple talking like Joan Hickson. Everyone being terribly English. Bliss.

Other than that huge positive, there was a serious lack of chemistry between the leads and I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Michelle’s squabbles with Rory, the handsome but messy solicitor failed to hit the ‘Oh-they’re-so-falling-for-each-other‘ note because there seemed to be no brewing attraction between them at all! In fact, I personally felt a much deeper connection between Rory and Anna because of their endless bookish conversations. Phil was mighty pissing off because he failed to see how selfish he was being by taking Anna for granted and seemed to have no backbone as far as anything was concerned. Becca’s shy, sweet nature against Owen’s Peter Pan syndrome was borderline cute but it was quite unbelievable how things went on so smoothly and normally for them even after a whopping life-changing news.

The plot seemed to tie up too quickly at the end with all differences, quarrels and relationships smoothened out a little too neatly after lots of rifts had driven everyone apart. I felt this was the sort of book that needed an epilogue because the ending was too abrupt but there was no such luck there.

To be honest, I didn’t have any feelings for this book. Not in the beginning, middle or even the end. Nada. Zilch. The story had no peaks and troughs and the characters were just too one-dimensional and predictable to appeal to any deeper emotion. I felt more sorry for Anna than Michelle but even then I couldn’t connect with either of them.

The plot went on for too long, dragging and stretching so much till I was groaning and screaming at the characters to move on with their lives and let something else happen.There was more mention of blankets, beds, linens, pillows and unfortunately also books than of anything substantial that could push the story forward. There just wasn’t enough material to keep the plot going for 500+ pages and the book should have stopped at 250 where it would have met a great end. Unfortunately, this chick lit had none of those feel-good zingers that could have made it a memorable one.

 Book Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #15 – The Man With Two Left Feet and other stories

Book #15 – A funny book – The Man With Two Left Feet and other stories by P.G.Wodehouse
Genre: Short Stories/Humour
Published: 1917
Country: UK

The-Man-with-Two-Left-Feet-and-Other-Stories-by-P-G-Wodehouse
Better known as the man behind the comic antics of duo Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves, British author P.G.Wodehouse also had several of his short stories published in periodicals that were compiled together to produce this priceless classic.

Combining hilarity with wit and charm, these short stories contain a lot of cute and heartfelt moments. While the stories are a miscellaneous bunch, the majority of them focus on a sweet kind of romance, one that is simple, relatable yet a little extraordinary. From a husband who takes dancing lessons secretly after work to impress his wife to a vacationer who falls in love with a lady at the seaside resort that he is staying at, all the romances have special quirky elements. There are even tales written from the first perspective of a woman as well as that of a dog.

I owe the fullness and variety of my life to this restlessness of mine, for I have repeatedly left comfortable homes in order to follow some perfect stranger who looked as if he were on his way to somewhere interesting. Sometimes I think I must have cat blood in me.

Wodehouse has weaved a beautiful web of timelessness and painted a handsome picture of an Edwardian era that was fashionable and concerned with the performing arts. The women in these stories are career girls, many with dreams of being on the stage dancing and touring the country with theatre groups. They are strong, independent and secure in their own identities yet have a certain air of homeliness about them. The men have some interesting professions too – an undercover private investigator, a policeman and an athlete among others – all strong and manly career choices but when it comes to the matters of their hearts, these heroes become awkwardly vulnerable and insecure, unsure whether their lady loves will reciprocate their feelings or trample their hearts.

She made you think of fresh milk and new-laid eggs and birds singing. To see her was like getting away to the country in August. It’s funny about people who live in the city. They chuck out their chests, and talk about old New York being good enough for them, and there’s a street in heaven they call Broadway, and all the rest of it; but it seems to me that what they really live for is that three weeks in the summer when they get away into the country. I knew exactly why they were cheering so hard for Mrs. Charlie. She made them think of their holidays which were coming along, when they would go and board at the farm and drink out of the old oaken bucket, and call the cows by their first names.

These little gems are like a favourite candy treat that you let yourself have from time to time. You take a bite out and savour it slowly, letting the smooth taste calm your senses and leave you with a happy feeling. The first bite has appeased your senses thoroughly so you save the rest of the candy for another time. That’s how I finished this book. One bite at a time.

For Jeeves’ lovers, there’s even a short story on Wooster and Jeeves on a trip to America. I will definitely be enjoying more of these little bites of Wodehouse’s infamous brand of humour in the future.

Book Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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2015 Reading Challenge – Book #13 – Too Perfect

Book #13 – A trilogy – Too Perfect by Julie Ortolon (Perfect Trilogy #3)
Preceded by: Almost Perfect and Just Perfect
Genre: Romance/Chick Lit
Published: 2005
Country: USA

Too Perfect - Julie Ortolon
I was more interested in reading this last installment of the trilogy than the previous two. In fact, the first one was nothing great at all and I completely skipped the second book. Luckily, these can be read as stand alone books too so this was not a problem.

The premise of this trilogy is as such: Three best friends – Maddy, Christine and Amy – in their early thirties, get very miffed when they find out that their very successful old college flat mate has used them as examples in her best-selling book How to Have a Perfect Life of people who did not face their fears and settled for less. The three make a pact amongst themselves that they would prove their friend wrong by doing the very things that scare them and complete them in a year’s time.

This third installment tells the story of sensible and cautious Amy who has a fear of travelling and getting lost due to her complete lack of sense of direction. To overcome her fear, she takes a job as a travelling nanny on a cruise for two weeks, only she gets fired from her job and stranded on the island of St.Barts with practically no money and no spare clothes. Desperation drives her to take up a job as a housekeeper in an old fort on a hill for four weeks – two extra weeks than her original intended duration.

At the fort, she meets a drop-dead handsome, charming and flamboyant Frenchman Lance Beaufort, who introduces himself as the personal assistant of the recent owner of the fort Guy Gaspar. Lance tells Amy that Gaspar is a recluse who prefers not to mingle with anybody and is known as La Bête or The Beast by locals. The only rule that Amy has to follow is to stay away from Gaspar’s quarters on top of the tower.

While Lance’s sunny personality provides Amy with friendship and companionship, it is Gaspar’s mysterious presence, only in the form of a voice that piques Amy’s interest. She strikes up a friendship with Gaspar via email and an intercom system set up in Lance’s office where they discuss everything from movies to books to self-esteem issues. Amy finds in Gaspar a kindred spirit who she believes is hiding from the world due to his disfigured or less than perfect face.

However, unbeknownst to Amy and everyone else in the world, Lance and Gaspar are the alter egos of the same man – Hollywood billionaire Byron Parks who is hiding from his artificial life under a suitable disguise as Lance in order to step away from the limelight and figure out who he is and what he really stands for.

A modern retelling of The Beauty and the Beast, I found this book to be quite charming and well-written. The characterizations of both Byron and Amy were nicely sketched. Amy, who has grown up believing that she is a fat, frumpy woman, hides behind loose garments that don’t do her beauty any justice and Byron who has grown up in the superficial world of Hollywood his whole life, has been left emotionless because of his public image. Byron (or Gaspar) helps Amy with feeling good about her body image while Amy’s shy, sweet nature helps him feel something again. As much as Amy tries to convince Gaspar to reveal the face behind the voice, Byron fears he can never show himself to her without hurting her with his deception.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was different conceptually from the usual clichéd romance novels and I liked the author’s spin on the classic fairytale. It was fun to imagine three different characterizations of the same person and the role each character played in Amy’s life. Lance who was fun-loving and charismatic, Gaspar who was generous and kind, and Byron who couldn’t figure out which one of the two he really was or if he was someone completely different.

I did have a few “Seriously, are you kidding me?” moments in the book though. The part where Amy and Gaspar decide to act on their physical attraction for one another in complete darkness (at Gaspar’s request) apparently carries on for two or three weeks straight! Although she tries hard to get him to come out of his shell and reveal himself to her, I found this little scenario a very strange situation indeed. How was she not able to feel even the slightest bit suspicious the whole time?

Despite a couple of these oddities, it was all in all an enjoyable read. I will definitely give it a thumbs-up.

Book Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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