Travel Back in Time: 2 Favorite Childhood Reads

For my first discussion for the 2019 Book Blog Discussion Challenge, I’d like to talk about those books that I’ll never be able to read for the first time again. You know what I’m talking about – those books that you stayed up all night to read even when you were supposed to be sleeping, reading by flashlight under the covers. The sad truth of the matter is that you don’t get the wonder a second time – once you’ve read a book, you know what happens. That doesn’t mean that you don’t still enjoy a book, you just… aren’t reading it for the first time.

That whole thing made more sense in my head.

Anyway, here’s a look at some of my favorite reads I wish I could travel back in time to read for the first time again, books that shaped my childhood and ultimately my reading habits for the rest of my life.

The Bellmaker by Brian Jacques

This was the first in the Redwall series that I read by Brian Jacques, and, to quote my favorite podcast, I fell in love instantly. (Bonus points if you can tell me what podcast). From then on, Redwall was my life and blood, it was everything I wanted, a fantasy world that I could escape into. When I played outside, I would be transported to that world – I would carve sticks into staves, try to climb trees, whatever I could do to turn my playacting into reality. And through it all, I read the books, as many as I could get my hands on.

And then, one day, I set the Redwall series down, and never picked it back up again. They say that you can’t go home, and to me, this book series represents that – with Brian Jacques having passed away the year I graduated, 2011, there are no more books in this series to read for me.

Some days, though, when the summer breeze blows, I get a glimpse of that feeling again.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I know, I know – you’re totally surprised to see Harry Potter listed. However, this is a series I desperately wish I could read for the first time just one more time. As it is, I can’t go back – the spine of this book is worn out and threadbare, proof that I’ve tried. But of all the Harry Potter books, Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite, remains the symbol of my childhood because of a story I’ll tell you guys.

So, my mom is a teacher and has been my entire school career. I was in first grade at Thayer Elementary in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, when my mom taught down the hall from me. It’s important to note that I had an insanely high reading level, so it was hard to keep me in books because the librarian thought I should be reading, like, War and Peace, and really I just wanted to read The Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew and things that were “too low for my level.” To be fair, that may have not come into play until I moved to an Accelerated Reader district. Anyway, the Harry Potter series was one that I devoured – I picked it up after the first two books came out, and the third was a hardback I got as a gift.

It’s also important to note that I never got in trouble at school – I was never a kid who went home with a yellow instead of a green way back in first grade, or even, god forbid, a red. I was a model student, but that didn’t mean I didn’t try to get away with things here and there. I just usually got so anxious about it I got caught.

So one day, I bring Prisoner of Azkaban to school with me to read during reading time. And I just… couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t put it down. I got to the chapter “The Shrieking Shack” and I had to know what was going to happen, so I propped up the book inside my social studies textbook and kept reading while the teacher taught, just like I’d seen on tv.

I got caught, of course. Later, my teacher, Mrs. Lemstra, would tell my mother that she knew it wasn’t really my social studies book because “social studies isn’t that interesting.” Mrs. Lemstra, if you’re reading… thanks for letting me finish the chapter before you got on to me!

Here’s a visual for me in second grade.

So yes, this is a short list, but I really just wanted an excuse to chat about two books I was thinking about, and a discussion post seemed a good way to do that. Plus I got to laugh about that picture of me with my mother, as well as ask her the fine details of that story of me reading in second grade.

So. What are your childhood favs you wish you could take a trip back to?

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Review: The Storyteller’s Secret

When I picked up this book, it was because I was interested in learning more about another culture, and someone had described it as “Amy Tan-esque”. I secretly love Amy Tan, so I thought, “Hey, this book is on Kindle Unlimited, I’ll give it a try.”

“With every step away from the terminal gate and deeper into the heart of India, I search the faces around me. I recognize no one, and yet I know that, in this place I have never visited, I am a reflection of each one. “

I won’t go so far as to say that I wish I hadn’t picked it up, because the fact of the matter is that The Storyteller’s Secret by Sejal Bedani tries to be a good book. In some ways it succeeds – I have a ton of quotes and highlights on my Kindle that just clicked with me. Honestly, what I think was lacking was the story. Everything is very “tell” not “show” and that bothers me as a writer.

Is it a good book? I mean, it kind of reads like cardboard, in that it’s a little flat, it’s definitely not tasty, but you can eat it if you want to. For me, it’s not a good book, I didn’t particularly enjoy it, it didn’t sing to me. However, I’ll give it three stars because the writing is very good, even if the story is lacking.

So, do I recommend it? No, there are better books out there. Would I read it again? Probably not, no. Did I tell my mother to take it off of her TBR pile because it’s the kind of book she’d hate? Yes, I did.

This entry is short because there really wasn’t a lot to talk about with this one.

The Best Book I Read in December Was…

I want to start doing this too. I feel like taking a look back at every month and pointing out a great read can be beneficial for my death spiral of anxiety that appears at the end of the month when money is tight and everything is stressful.

I got the idea from A Cocoon of Books – which, if you’re not reading that blog, you should be, it’s awesome. I read even before I started my own blog, I just have never commented because I’m more of a lurker at heart.

So, drumroll please. Out of the, like, four books I’ve read since starting this blog a week and a half ago, the best of the bunch is…

Winner winner chicken dinner!

Listen, this book blew me away – I’m still talking about it and recommending it. I almost chose Depth of Winter out of loyalty to Walt Longmire, but the truth of the matter is that The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a better book. I have to say, though, that At the Water’s Edge cut a pretty close second. The main reason this book won out from Water’s Edge is because I actually am going to read more Gaiman now. Sara Gruen, I’ve read a couple of her books, but Water’s Edge wasn’t quite enough to make me read Ape House (I’ve already read Water for Elephants and loved it).

So anyway, if you’re looking to pick up a short, quick read that will practically punch you in the face with how good it is, that will leave you longing for childhood, that will make you want your grand adventure… Then The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is for you.

New Year’s Eve: Reading Resolutions

Let’s talk about good intentions.

I personally have signed up for three challenges: Beat the Backlist, AtoZ Reading Challenge, and the 2019 Discussion Challenge. I have pretty arbitrary goals for all three, but mostly I’ll be shooting for doing the best that I can.

This year, my New Year’s Resolution for reading and life is to live unapologetically. I refuse to feel guilty any longer for things I don’t have to feel guilty about, like existing, setting boundaries, and enjoying the things that I enjoy.

For those who don’t know me personally and are just reading for the book mentions I’ll be throwing in, I am diagnosed Bipolar 1, along with an anxiety disorder, PTSD, and a mysterious chronic physical illness. I live my life with guilt as my dark passenger – when I have to turn down plans, I feel guilty. When I can’t do the dishes, I feel guilty. When I have to take medication, I feel guilty.

I’m done with it. No more. Guilt is no longer going to rule my life and make my decisions for me.

That’s part of why I started this blog. I need something for me, something that I love to do, something that I make time for, that works as an outlet for my passion for writing without being a commitment that I can’t handle. The Witch Reads is all about starting over, picking myself up from rock bottom (because I hit rock bottom a couple of months ago) and rebranding myself and my life, shaping it into the healthy thing that I want it to be.

Let’s talk my resolutions and goals for 2019, now that I’ve told you why.

  • Break out of my reading comfort zone. I don’t mean just genre, I mean subjects that make me uncomfortable or anxious, I mean writing styles I wouldn’t normally read, I mean books that I’m almost sure I won’t like but I’m going to try anyway.
  • 35 Discussion posts on the blog for the 2019 Discussion Challenge. I want to talk about books. I want to talk about subjects. I want to throw my opinion out into the void and see it be heard, even if it’s not a common opinion.
  • 25 Books of my TBR pile for Beat the Backlist. In case you haven’t heard, my TBR pile is huge and it’s constantly growing. It’s time to make a dent.
  • 26 Books for the AtoZ Challenge. This one may be a lofty goal for me. I think the others are easily doable, but to attempt all 26 letters may be a bit much. We’ll see how far we get. In addition, my mom is doing the challenge with me – she doesn’t have a blog, so she’s participating in spirit. I’ll post her thoughts up as they come!
  • Honestly, just enjoy reading again. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a healthy hobby that I could just enjoy, that I do purely for the enjoyment of it, that exists solely to keep me from stressing out.

These may seem like really easy resolutions, but they’re the ones that are going to work for me this year. I’m excited to get started, and I’m excited you, readers, are taking this journey with me.

2019 Beat the Backlist Challenge

So my TBR pile is huge. Massive. Large.

Let’s beat it!

Beat the Backlist 2019 Challenge

My To Be Read pile has been carefully cultivated over the years, and I pared it down just so it wasn’t like 500 books… just 75. I knocked off a lot of classics that I know I should read but really don’t want to, as well as some books that I just didn’t have any interest in anymore.

So here it is: my masterlist of To-Be-Read.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Going Widdershins by Sherrye Cohn

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

What If It’s Us by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson

Useless Magic: Lyrics and Poetry by Florence Welch

In Pieces by Sally Field

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Moriarty  by Anthony Horowitz

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

Where the Crawdads Sing by Della Owens

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My So-Called Bolllywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Leviathan by Scott Westerfield

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

The Lost Years by T.A. Barron

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Dune by Frank Herbert

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

A Stephen King Novel, but I’m not sure which one

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Scourged by Kevin Hearne

Beseiged by Kevin Hearne

Ink by Amanda Sun

Rules for Virgins by Amy Tan

Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

After by Anna Todd

My goal is 25!

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This may shock a few people, but I actually haven’t read a Neil Gaiman book before this one. And I’ll tell you, after reading this one, I can’t wait to remedy this situation – I have American Gods on my TBR pile (somewhere near the bottom, it’s been there awhile) and I’m tempted to start it now, at one o’clock in the morning. The Ocean at the End of the Lane was just that good!

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled.”

This book made me homesick. Listen, I live at home, but it made me wish for being 8 years old again, running through the grass and pretending that I was a squirrel from Redwall. I admit I was reluctant to read this book at first – I picked it up to serve as a quick read for the end of the year to reach my Goodreads goal of 12 books read in 2018 (I just made the goal last week, this will be my 5th book – I don’t think I’m going to make it).

Gaiman writes in such a lyrical way to draw you in, that I’m a little worried that I was bewitched to read The Ocean. It’s just on the right side of descriptive – not so long that I get bored, but long enough that I know what it is I’m supposed to be in the middle of. The farmhouses, the moon, the creatures, all of it described in such a way that I feel as though I’m right there, but it’s not stressful. Honestly, the whole book, story and all, is a little reminiscent to A Wrinkle In Time – it’s almost like a love song to one of my favorite books of all time.

I did click instantly with The Ocean which is not what I was expecting. I was rather expecting to have to put the book down, or finish it out of duty, but I didn’t have to do that at all. The supernatural element was refreshing and I was pleasantly surprised to discover it.

The whole book is about a childhood adventure, and about outgrowing those adventures and the memories that accompany them. It gave me a sense of longing for adventures that I don’t remember – things that got remembered differently, things that I don’t remember at all. It also jogged my memory, of building forts in the woods, of friends I haven’t spoken to in years, of my own “oceans.”

Do I recommend this book? Yes, I do. Am I immediately going to abandon my other books to pick up another Neil Gaiman? Yep, I probably am.

Did I just remember that Good Omens exists and also involves Terry Pratchett (who is on my list of top 5 authors – oh wait, I haven’t written that post yet)? Oh heck yes.

AtoZ Reading Challenge Sign Up

Challenge can be found here.

So the idea behind this challenge is to read one book for every letter of the alphabet. I like it though, because you can participate with any one letter or with all twenty-six.

That said, I’m shooting for 26 books read. I wanted to read them in order from a to z but honestly I think that will be a little too hard and I do want to still enjoy this!

So this is it, my sign up – here I come 2019!