In the Bookcase


Top 10* favorite reads of 2014!

Maybe you'll find a new book to add to your TBR pile... Here's a peek at my absolute favorite reads from this past year, including my reviews.

What are your 2014 favorites?

Tarissa's bookshelf: 2014-top-favorite

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I
5 of 5 stars
Sherlock Holmes is my FAVORITE literary character of all time. And I've only read half the stories. I never dreamed I would fall in love with the mastery of one fictional man's capabilities of mind. I now use Holmes' methods of deducing...
Death in the Baltic: The World War II Sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff
5 of 5 stars
"World War II not only wiped away whole villages and populations. It also wiped away pieces of history." (Page 175, Death in the Baltic) Cathryn Prince tells a harrowing story, one of a mass murdering. Many think of the Titanic as a tra...
The Sinking of the MV Le JOOLA: Africa's Titanic
5 of 5 stars
Imagine this scenario: A shipwreck with as many victims as the Titanic -- no, more victims in fact -- took place in 2002. And the world didn't hear about it. Isn't that just chilling? MV Le Joola is the name of this ship of the past. ...
The Blue Castle
5 of 5 stars
Valancy Stirling has lived a rather quiet life for almost 29 years. She has no exceptionally wonderful childhood memories, as others might. Her adult life didn't carry much happiness for her either. Just the day-in and day-out motions of...
The Far Side of the Loch
5 of 5 stars
The Far Side of the Loch is the second in a series about Martha Morse, great-grandmother to Laura Ingalls Wilder. This series tells Martha's childhood story, in much the same way that Laura's childhood is vividly chronicled in the popula...
5 of 5 stars
"Shadow" is one of my favorite reads of the entire year! A young Afghan boy tells the harrowing tale of his and his mother's escape from their war-torn home country. The Taliban are relentless in their attacks across Afghanistan, leavin...
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict
5 of 5 stars
"The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict" makes an excellent example of creativity and ingenuity in an author's writing style. This book is actually the prequel to the "Mysterious Benedict Society" trilogy. You really must rea...
A Different Kind of Courage
5 of 5 stars
A man holding mysteries and secrets. Political battles shattering lifelong friends and neighbors in Boston. A new nation collapsing to gain independence. British tea tossed into the harbor. A royal government stifling the cries of its ch...
Touch the Sky
5 of 5 stars
The end of one of the BEST series of juvenile fiction. Robert Elmer wove such great stories into the Young Underground series. I'm sad that it had to stop with book #8, but... as they say, all good things must come to an end. I especia...
The Time Pirate
5 of 5 stars
The Time Pirate is an exceptional sequel to Nick of Time. So much adventure! So much intrigue! As a note to parents: The story sometimes gets pretty violent, especially considering that a 12-year-old boy is shooting down Nazis from his...
A Wreath of Snow: A Victorian Christmas Novella
5 of 5 stars
What does Christmas represent? Love for one another. Cheer. Birth of new things. Reconciliation with the old things. Brilliance. Joy and festivities. Our Savior. A Wreath of Snow embodies all these thoughts as one, wraps the whole in a ...

* By creating this list, I intended to tell you about my top 10 favorite reads... but I had to mix one extra on there, because I loved it so much. "Touch the Sky" is book #8 in the Young Underground series by Robert Elmer -- it's actually the last book in a wonderful series written for kids/teens, and I truly recommend the entire set! You should start with #1, "A Way Through the Sea".


2015 reading plans are a-stirrin' already...

As the year draws to a close, I've gleefully discovered many 2015 reading challenges popping up on all the book blogs. I already have a few personal reading goals in mind for myself in 2015, and am signing up for challenges that match these goals.

Here's what I'm planning for myself...

(1) Finish a few series that I've been reading "for years".

(2) Dig into my hoard of free ebooks that I've collected.

(3) Catch up on any books I've received for review.

Do you have reading goals for 2015 too?

Now, for the challenges...

I'm putting together a list of the challenges I'm taking on with other bloggers. You might like to join some of these too!

Winter 2014-2015 COYER Sign Ups
This challenge fits me exactly! It lasts until March, and will rouse me to get caught up on some of those free ebooks that are just sitting on my Kindle. (Sounds like there will be fun prizes involved!)

I'll be tackling Mt. Ararat in 2015! Not climbing it though. This lingo just specifies that I'm aiming to read at least 48 books from my TBR piles. (Yes. The plural noun "piles" means exactly what it says.)

In 2014, I had taken on Peggy Ann's Scottish reading challenge, and enjoyed it so much that I'll be joining her again this next year! The goal is to read books written by a Scottish author, or about or set in Scotland. Again, I'm taking on the The Highlander level, aiming for 8 books that fit these categories.

Now for the "fun" challenges! "Where Are You Reading" interests me greatly because of its unique idea: Keep track of everywhere you travel in 2015... via the books you read. Oh, yes! Why have I never done this before?

LASTLY, this list couldn't be complete with a library challenge. I use a variety of resources from my local library, and every month I'm either reading books, ebooks or audiobooks from my library. For this challenge, I'm going to tackle the highest level, 28+ checkouts from my library (aka, Going Pro).

So that's what I'm reading in 2015. Can't wait.


The science behind the smell of good books!

I found this infographic online, and thought it worthy of sharing...

...And usually, I find that the old books are the best books.


Favorite Finds #49 {2 Giveaways + DIY Intrigue}

Here's a week's worth of interesting and genius things I've found online...

Be sure to check out my holiday giveaway prizes!!

Giveaway: Christmas Cupcake Ornament Trio

{Pixel Berry Pie Designs}

On my Etsy blog, you can win your choice of 3 cupcake ornaments from Pretty Witty Cupcakes! Open to US & Canadian residents. // PIN IT //

Giveaway: Handcrafted Turquoise Zuni Earrings

{Pixel Berry Pie Designs}

I'm also offering (for your chance to win!) this enchanting pair of earrings from the CarolesArt shop. Open to US residents. // PIN IT //

Travel Memory Boxes

{Iowa Girl Eats}

Yes. Aren't these boxes gorgeous? // PIN IT //

Upcycling Old Boat Into Bookshelf

{Upcycle Us}

A rowboat turned bookcase. Mind blown. Need this. NOW. // PIN IT //

Recipe: Holiday Chalkboard Sugar Cookies

{A Turtle's Life for Me}

What a unique cookie idea! // PIN IT //


Book Review: A Wreath of Snow

A Wreath of Snow A Wreath of Snow
A Victorian Christmas Novella

written by Liz Curtis Higgs

224 pages, adult fiction
published in 2011

5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating 5 Star Rating

My Review...

What does Christmas represent? Love for one another. Cheer. Birth of new things. Reconciliation with the old things. Brilliance. Joy and festivities. Our Savior.

A Wreath of Snow embodies all these thoughts as one, wraps the whole in a swatch of elegant paper wrapping, and ties it up with a bow of twine.

Allow yourself the privilege to read the first paragraph and see if you are drawn into the story as much as I immediately delighted in the author's way with words.

"In all her twenty-six years, Meg Campbell had never been this cold. Shivering inside her green woolen coat, she passed the crowded shops of Murray Place as the snow fell thick and fast. She could only guess when the next train would depart for Edinburgh. Why had she not consulted her father's railway schedule posted by the kitchen door? Because she left Albert Place in tears. Because she left without even saying good-bye."

Doesn't it draw you in?

Displaying a capture of a moment in time, A Wreath of Snow includes only a couple of fateful days in 1894 for Meg Campbell and her family. My!--what an interesting story that can take place in such a small span of time. In Stirling, Scotland, the Campbells at Albert Place intended to enjoy a wonderful Christmas together; events go awry when Meg's brother, Alan, expresses his discontentment from years of suppressed bitterness. When a frosty outpouring from the skies leaves the train tracks blocked, Meg can't escape her brother's sharp words and family's disgruntlement. While running from the strong feelings, she runs right into a stranger who carries secrets and remorse under his winter coat, instead of holiday surprises. Only a provincial meeting could start the healing that all are needing to feel the Christmas spirit.

I felt riveted through the duration of the entire book. Liz Curtis Higgs has a way with words -- she brings them to life, right on the page before your eyes. In fact, during a certain passage in the book, she summarizes the character of a newspaper reporter in the same way I'd like to describe her, if you will. When Higgs writes, she possesses "the hands of an artist whose medium [is] words." (In the book, this phrase stood out to me so well, that I just had to return it as a compliment back to the one who penned the words.) The dialogue is very realistic, and the Scottish inflections are so natural. I also enjoy how the author tastefully weaves scriptures and tidbits of Christian faith directly into the story, so that it strengthens the main plot.

"For he saith to the snow, Be thou on the earth." The stationmaster splayed his hands. "It would seem the Almighty wanted snow on Christmas Eve." No one could take umbrage with that statement. Not even Alan.

As you read, you'll find it is thoroughly Victorian on every page, in each breath the characters disclose. By this statement, I mean that the gentlemen are true gentlemen, the ladies and true ladies, everything is absolutely prim, proper, and "just so". Traditions and morals are of the utmost importance, and woe upon any who dares to disregard the elegant way of doing something. Yes, the story is perfectly, marvelously Victorian.

Definitely one of my favorite books I've read all year long.

A sequel should be in order, one would hope.

"It was winter; the night was very dark; the air extraordinary clear and cold, and sweet with the purity of forests.... For the making of a story here were fine conditions." (Robert Louis Stevenson)

See this review on Goodreads and Amazon.