Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles DickensTitle: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: December 19, 1843
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Goodreads | Amazon


Goodreads Summary

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see?

My Thoughts

I read this for the first time in high school, and then after reading it again last year, I decided to start a personal holiday tradition and read it every holiday season.

Even when considering the length of this short book, the characters never seemed shallow or flat to me, and the development of Scrooge’s character is perfect. Dickens’s writing is beautiful and full of unexpectedly dry humor.

There is such a poignant moral message at the end of the story that really does evoke a positive and joyful outlook from the reader without seeming cliche or cheesy at all.

In Conclusion

This is such a classic Christmas story that never gets old and never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit (pun intended).

What is your favorite Christmas story?

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

AgathaChristie#2Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: November 6, 1939
Genres: Mystery, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

First, there were ten — a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal — and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My Thoughts

I first read this book in 2007, and I remember that I really loved it but couldn’t quite remember any details. Therefore, I’ve been meaning to reread it for a while now but just never got around to it. Finally, after reading Murder on the Orient Express (you can read my review here), I decided to stick with reading Christie’s books and pick up And Then There Were None. I loved this story just as much as I did the first time I read it ten years ago. It was full of suspense, a unique cast of characters, and plenty of plot twists.

One of the most unique things about the book to me was that all of the characters were all pretty terrible people. There was no hero or detective that the reader could root for or trust — it’s all told from the various points of view of the ten people in the house (except for a small bit at the end). This created a really unique narration because all of the narrators were extremely unreliable.

There were a few elements of the story that were really a bit too convenient and were clearly there just to tie everything together perfectly, but it didn’t really bother me too much because that’s kind of what you pay for with this type of classic murder mystery.

In Conclusion

Overall, I found this to be a quick, enjoyable read that was full of good old fashioned murder, intrigue, and quite a bit of humor, and I highly recommend it (I’m still trying to get my husband to quit playing video games and read it). Honestly, I have really enjoyed both of Agatha Christie’s mysteries that I’ve read so far and I’m excited to read more.

Which Agatha Christie novel should I pick up next? 

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

MurderTitle: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Publication Date: 1934
Genre: Mystery, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

“The murderer is with us – on the train now…”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…

 My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this classic Agatha Christie mystery! This was my second Christie novel (I read And Then There Were None years and years ago, but plan on rereading it soon), but was my first Hercule Poirot mystery.  My reason for finally getting around to it now was because of the new movie that came out about a week ago — which I really need to go see ASAP!

In true mystery novel form, there wasn’t much character development or background stories — except for what was needed to move the plot along. This was okay with me because character development is not the main focus of most mysteries. I haven’t read a classic “whoddunit” mystery in quite some time, and I found it refreshing!

I enjoyed the way that the book was structured: most chapters were dedicated to the evidence of the passengers, in which Poirot would interview the suspect. This moved the story along in my opinion, but I could see how some readers might find it a bit repetitive.

I felt that Poirot made some miraculous leaps and guesses when solving the mystery and, even though he ended up being right in the end, it was highly unlikely that a detective would have made the assumptions that he did. I suppose it’s possible, just not very probable.

In Conclusion

Overall, I found this to be a quick, enjoyable read that was full of good old fashioned murder, intrigue, and quite a bit of humor, and I highly recommend it!

Have you read this or any other Hercule Poirot mysteries? Do you have any suggestions for me? Have you seen the movie yet?

Five Apps for Productivity

Five Apps for Productivity1. Spark Email by Readdle (MacOS/iOS | Free)
I discovered this email app after finally getting fed-up with Apple’s stock email app, on both my MacBook and my iPhone. I did some research and found this awesome app, which is unfortunately only available for those with Apple devices. It works with any email server so, if you’re like me and have a million email addresses, you can check them all in one place. So what makes it different than Apple’s stock email app? Basically, it comes down to the fact that it’s a bit more oriented towards organization: each email address is color-coded and so when checking your entire inbox, you can see which email came from which address, simply by identifying its color. Spark also has a Smart Inbox, which automatically categorizes your emails to make sorting through your messages quicker. I definitely recommend checking out Spark!

2. Cash by Square (iOS/Android/Website | Free)
I’m sure by now everyone’s heard of Venmo, the app where you can electronically transfer money to and from other users’ bank accounts. However, there is a lesser-known mobile payment service called Cash. I was introduced to this one before I’d heard of Venmo, but I now use them both. However, I find Cash to be much more user-friendly: it’s very simple to use and understand, and doesn’t have the extra social stuff that Venmo does. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re not into Venmo, and it also doesn’t hurt to have two options.

3. Grammarly Keyboard (iOS/Android | Free)
I’ll admit it — I’m a Grammar Nazi. I have been a fan of Grammarly for a while now, and have the grammar checker installed on my computer and so when I found out about Grammarly’s new smartphone keyboard, I was unashamedly excited.  I downloaded it and gave it a try. This is such an awesome app for people who struggle with correct grammar usage, especially when writing an important email or text message. This just kind of amps up your smartphone’s autocorrect by not only offering word suggestions, but also by offering grammar corrections as well. I only wish this could be permanently integrated into every phone’s autocorrect system.

4. Percentage Calculator (iOS/Android | Free; option to remove ads)
If you’re like me, you can’t calculate a percentage to save your life. However, if you’re also like me, you hate paying full price for things, and are constantly on the hunt for good deals, which means you need to calculate percentage discounts (especially at Hobby Lobby, amirite?). There are a few percentage apps on the market, but I like this one best out of the few that I’ve tried. It not only calculates simple percentages, but it also does tips, discounts, price/quantity, percentage increase/decrease, and converts fractions to percentages (yaaas), along with several “business calculator” options. If the math part of your brain is basically useless like mine is, this app is a necessity!

5. PDF Converter Ultimate (iOS/Android | Free; optional in-app purchases)
DISCLAIMER: I was contacted by Cometdocs, and asked to try out their app and to write an honest review.
Converting files to PDF form can be very useful, especially if you have a document that you would prefer to have in image form to share more easily. This PDF converter has a very sleek and user-friendly design, while allowing you to do a whole lot with it. You can easily convert files from Gmail, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You simply tap the icon from which you’d like to get your file, tap the file that you’d like to convert, choose “convert to PDF,” and the app converts it for you in about a minute or less. Then it shows up in the “converted files” section of the app. I found it very easy to use and this is an extremely useful tool to have, especially if you share files a lot.

Are you interested in giving any of these apps a try?
Let me know what you think if you do!

Book Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow RowellTitle: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Romance
My Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon


Goodreads Summary

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble; it has been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts…

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My Thoughts

“Nobody’s lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It’s something you make happen – because you love each other.”

Ehh, this book was okay. It was a quick read, and I wasn’t bored, but at the same time, I didn’t love it.

The single reason for my low rating was Neal. In my opinion, he was a pretty horrible person, yet we were supposed to like him. He ignored Georgie before they start dating, he pouted when he’s not happy with a situation, and he had no problem telling her that her dreams are stupid. He is described as short and pudgy, and he purposely never smiles or laughs. He is self-righteous and, in my opinion, emotionally abuses Georgie.

The writing was fine, but the character development left something to be desired. Georgie changed a bit for the better, but I don’t think Neal did any changing or growing up, which was disappointing. I don’t really understand what Rowell wanted her audience to get from this book, but what I got was that we should put everything aside for our relationships (which I agree with), even when the person we are in a relationship wouldn’t do the same for us (which I don’t agree with).

In Conclusion

This is the first Rainbow Rowell book that I’ve read, but from a negative review of her book, Attachments, I am wondering if this is a theme that she has in a lot of her books. I just didn’t like the way she portrayed Georgie’s and Neal’s relationship, and I’m not sure I’d feel any different with any of her other books.

“It’s more like you meet someone, and you fall in love, and you hope that that person is the one—and then at some point, you have to put down your chips. You just have to make a commitment and hope that you’re right.” 

Have you read Landline? What did you think of it?
Let me know!

How I Listen to Audiobooks

Audiobooks (1).png

Ahh, audiobooks. I know that talking about them can be a bit of a controversial topic because people either love them more than life or hate them with a burning passion. Some people think that it’s cheating to listen to an audiobook because you haven’t technically “read it.” Merphy Napier says it best on her BookTube channel in this video. You only have to watch the first minute and a half to hear her logic behind how listening to audiobooks is “real reading.” Definitely check that out because she says it better than I could have.

That being said, I love audiobooks, and I know I’m not the only one. There are three ways that I listen to my audiobooks without spending a ton of money! Not everyone knows all of the great audiobook resources out there, so I figured I’d share my favorite audiobook platforms that I use.

Audible (iOS/Android | $14.95/month)

Audible is probably the most well known audiobook website because they’ve been around the longest and have the widest variety of titles. You pay a monthly fee of $14.95, and that gets you one audiobook credit. After downloading a title, it is yours to keep forever, even if you cancel your account with Audible.

They also offer a free 30 day trial with a free audiobook when you sign up. Just for being a member, you get 30% off any additional audiobooks that you want to get after using your credit; however, the audiobooks are pretty pricey (around $30 per book).

Tip: If you sign up for the Audible Daily Deal, they will send you links to discounted Audible audiobooks that are usually only a few dollars.

Scribd (iOS/Android | $8.99/month)
This is an awesome app audiobook addicts, as well as people who like reading on their phone or tablet. For $8.99 a month, you can access thousands of books, audiobooks, newspapers & magazines, and even sheet music.

I use it exclusively for audiobooks because I personally don’t really enjoy reading on my electronic devices. Scribd has a vast variety of audiobooks that you download for one credit. You accumulate three reading credits and one audiobook credit per month and they can accumulate. Also, audiobooks are only around $8 to purchase if you’ve used up all your credits, which is a super great price.

Libby by OverDrive (iOS/Android | Free; requires library card)

This is a new find for me. It’s made by OverDrive (the more popular library digital distribution app), and so I decided to give it a try. It is much more user-friendly and atheistically pleasing than OverDrive is, in my opinion, but it’s essentially the same thing.

To use Libby, you have to have at least one library card (but you can add more than one), and that grants you access to your library’s selection of digital audiobooks and books to read on your phone or tablet.  If the book is available, you can start listening/reading right away, and you have 14 days until you have to return it. If it’s waitlisted, you can put your name on the list, but the wait can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, which is honestly the only downside to Libby to me. It’s very satisfying when you find a book that’s available because you can listen to it right then and there for free!

Are any of these apps new to you? What are some apps that you use to listen to your audiobooks? I’d love to find more options!

Book Tag: Books I’ll (Probably) Never Read

A really hyped book you’re not interested in reading?

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. I have seen this book recommended so much on BookTube and Bookstagram recently, but it just really doesn’t sound like something that I’d enjoy.

A series you won’t start/won’t be finishing?

The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. First of all, more often than not, I enjoy middle-grade reads. A lot of times, they are very well written and pack a pretty big punch. I really did enjoy the first book in the Land of Stories series (The Wishing Spell) and had every intent to continue with the series, but after further thought, I just realized that I felt like the writing and characters were a bit too immature for my taste, and that I didn’t want to continue on after all. However, I definitely recommend this series to a younger audience!

A classic that you’re just not interested in?

Anything by Jane Austen. I know she’s a classic author and as an English major, I’m supposed to like her, but I just can’t get over how thickly she lays on the descriptions and her storylines just never interest me.

Any genres you never read?

Historical fiction. There are a few genres that I don’t enjoy reading, but will still do so from time to time. But historical fiction is one that I honestly never read. I don’t know why but it just doesn’t interest me.

A book on your shelves you’ll probably never actually read?

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I know this answer might upset some people because I’ve heard it recommended sooo much, but I have owned it for literally years and years and have never actually wanted to pick it up. It might be time to pass it on.

Source: Merphy Napier’s BookTube channel

What are some books that you don’t plan on reading and why? I really enjoyed completing this tag, and I challenge anyone who is interested to do it, too!