It's All Things Bookish....
Because Life is short and there is so much to read, read fast!
Sometimes it so happens, you read a book and your life is changed for good. It doesn't happen often, to some it may never happen, but o those lucky readers who have experienced it know just how exhilarating such experiences are. These books have a power to stay with the readers forever.
I've been reading since I was a kid. I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't a reader. For me reading is not only the best way to pass time, but also it's my passion. All my life can be defined by the books I read. As I child I loved Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. As a teenager my favorite books were Sweet Valley High Series and Fear Street Series.Those books used to keep me up all night. In my late teens I started reading classics and simply fell more in love with book. Jane Austen introduced me to the world of romance, while Agatha Christie's murder mysteries kept me hooked for a long, long time.
It is very difficult to say what makes a book exceptional. I think that every reader's experience is unique. No one ever reads the same book, or so the saying goes. Readers' personal experiences matter a lot. For example, the books that have stayed with me through the years include;
1. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (I also never wanted to grow up so Peter's character was very close to my heart).
2. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (because she was lost and I could relate to her).
3. Matilda by Roald Dahl (because in my opinion that book was written about me).
4. Endless Night by Agatha Christie (it shows how misguided in our emotions we can be and how sometimes you do things you regret a lot, but still cannot do anything about it. Losing people through our own actions is a curse that we face from time to time in our lives, it may not be to the extend this story shows, however, it can be a painful experience and you even forgo the right to mourn your loss).
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (its simplicity is its beauty).
6. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I think this book is the perfect example of disappointments in life, how things are and how we perceive them are not always one and the same, and we must learn to live with everything life through at us).
There are a number of other stories which I can name here. but let's keep it short. From what I can see, one thing that these books have in common are very strong, well-developed, and relatable characters. Not every book has power to hold our attention for a long time. Most of the time we just read to pass time and then forget about the story afterwards. I'm not saying that those books are bad books, they have their purpose, but the best ones will never leave you, and so far I've only seen that quality in classics. I guess that's exactly what make them classics in the first place.
Life can be quite uncertain at times, but I feel that this uncertainty is the real beauty of life. Imagine if you always knew what's going to happen next then how would you feel? There won't be any surprises, good or bad, how boring things would get. So, unpredictability of our lives is what keeps things interesting. However, this is not the way most people fee, especially those who suffer from anxiety disorder or worry too much. On the surface, they feel that the unknown is haunting them. That's just a feeling, it's not true. Life would loose all it's charm, even for them, if they knew with certainty exactly what's going to happen.
I think that we should all just take deep breaths, step back, and enjoy little surprises that life throws at us. Although, many times things will end up messy, but remember... time will pass, good or bad, either way it will pass. Nothing in life is ever permanent. We may achieve what we want and we may lose what we already got. It is okay, it is also okay to feel anxious from time to time, as long as you don't stay focused on your anxieties and forget to enjoy life. Take charge, assess, change what you can, and accept what you cannot change. This is life and it's the only one you've got.
“I was lost for a long time. I guess that’s how most of us feel in this world of chaos and constant disruptions, we search for a purpose. Sometimes we simply accept our existence on this planet and everything that it entails as it is. Some of us live well while others struggle every minute of every day, some seek higher meaning of life wanting to be more and to do more, while others just drift through the stream of life without direction. I was among the later. I did not believe in seeking the purpose of life, in fact, I believed that no one can ever really know what that purpose is, so why bother? I lived one day at a time. There was not much I wanted from life, except a peaceful death. I wanted to go to bed one day and to never wake up again. At least, that was what I thought until the day my life came unhinged,” he was recollected his past.
The day started like any other day, there was nothing special about it. Hansel woke up like he always did and went to work. Just so you know, he worked at a local pharmacy. He was a pharmacist who lived a mundane life. He lacked ambition and was content with everything he had. He had nothing to prove to anyone, least of all himself. He was an average person living an average life, doing what most people do. That day, however, was a turning point for him. After work he decided to visit his sister. That was something out of the norm for him because he was not very close to her. Also, living in different cities made it difficult to run into each other that often.
Sarah was his only living family, the only person he loved and resented at the same time. She was his opposite, everything he was not she was. She used to nag him about everything from his career to his lack of love life. That was probably the reason why he avoided seeing her often. She was a doctor come actress. She pursued field of medicine and then decided that was not what she wanted. Good for her, not so much for the patients who were relying on her. Everything she did, she did well. She was a brilliant doctor and now her acting skills were unmatched. If Hansel was truthful to himself he would admit how much he admired his sister. But he was not that honest.
That day Sarah was very happy, which wasn’t unusual for her. She didn’t tell Hansel why, just said that he’d know when the time’s right. He hated it when she did that. She could be so dramatic at times and she loved creating suspense. He was sure it was nothing special so he didn’t press the point. Even a new dress or a pair of shoes that she liked had the ability to make her happy
“You finally got the time to visit your sister,” she said in a way of greeting.
“I’ve been busy,” he replied.
“Yeah, as if,” she smiled teasing him, “I’m you sister remember? I know you well and I also know how busy you are not.”
“I can’t argue with that,” he thought it better not to argue with her, “I missed you and wanted to spend some time with you. How have you been?”
“As you can see, never been better,” she gave him her best smile. She was the kind of person who had the ability to brighten up even the darkest corners. “You don’t seem well,” she was also very perceptive even though not many would guess that about her.
“I am fine,” he had no idea how to explain it to her, “I just…”
“You need someone to make you happy,” once again she reminded him that his reclusive lifestyle was no way to live, “you’re not happy and I’m not living in the same city to be able to visit you often. I worry for you. I want you to be happy. You’ve mourned for long enough, don’t you think?”
“That has nothing to do with it, I’m just never happy, but I am not sad either,” he replied, “I’m content with my life, there is nothing wrong with that. You know, I’m not an emotional person. I don’t think that I can ever feel truly happy anyway.” Sometimes he wondered if there was something wrong with him. He would never voice his fears in front of anyone, least of all his sister. His lack of emotions could be very annoying to some people, probably why he didn’t get attached to others. Now to think of it, he didn’t even have any close friends. Most people he knew kept their distance from him. That was wise though. People only complicate things and he needed a simply drama free life.
“Still, I think you need to start living a little,” she persisted.
“People die so why get attached to someone only to mourn their absence later.” So, that is how he felt.
“You don’t love because you fear loss?” She sounded shocked. It was probably the most revealing conversation she had had with him. He himself didn’t know why he said that. It wasn’t unusual for her to criticize his life. He had never tried to explain it to her before. She wouldn’t understand and he wasn’t the type to give explanations. He admired his sister’s strength, she dealt with loss so well. She knew how precious life was and she also knew how fragile it was. She had somehow found her balance. While he was still lost, more now than ever.
“That’s when it happened. On my way back home, my car was hit by a truck. They say I lost consciousness on the impact. I don’t remember feeling any pain. One minute I was thinking about my sister’s blissful life and the next minute it was all dark and silent. I remember the silence. That’s all I remember. It was profound,” he continued with his story, “don’t worry I didn’t die that day as you can see. I just went to hell. At least, I was not lost any more, I finally knew where I was, but I still didn’t know why I ended up there.”
Hansel woke up deaf. he couldn’t hear a single sound, not that there was any sound there. At least none that he could hear. The silence reined supreme. All was quiet, he couldn’t even hear his own voice. It was a very strange place. As far as he could see there were poppy fields, nothing else. He didn’t see any roads or trails so he walked around, without direction, without purpose. He had no idea how long he wandered in those endless fields. It could be an hour, one day, or one month. He wasn’t tired though nor was he hungry or thirsty, however, he was frustrated and so very lonely. He wanted to go home. He wanted to talk to his sister some more, maybe even move somewhere closer to her so that he would see her more often. Most of all, he wanted to hear a sound. HE wanted to listen to some music. Any sound. In that moment he realized how scared he was, and how absolutely terrifying the silence was. No wind blew, no birds chirped, sun didn’t set, and that one day stretched to infinity, never ending. That’s how he knew he was in hell, because where else could it be but hell? In the silent poppy fields he was all alone and there was nothing for him to do except think.
“Ultimately, I accepted my fate. I sat down and I contemplated. I thought about my life. I thought about all the things I never got to do. I never fell in love. I didn’t travel to anywhere exciting. I never dreamed any dreams. Mostly, I never really lived, I merely existed. I never did anything for anyone, never went out of my way to help another soul. It’s true that I also never intentionally harmed anyone, but that’s not the point. The point is that I was self-engrossed, no one else mattered, nothing else mattered. That was my life. Was it a good one? I think it was better than many, but it’s also true that it could’ve been so much more. Then I remembered…..,” now he was pensive.
There was a time when things were different. Before their parents died in a senseless shooting incident, Hansel and Sarah were quite close, as close as any two siblings could ever be. They shared everything, they talked too much, they laughed too hard. They were a perfect picture of happy family. Their parents had made sure that two teenagers knew nothing of life’s worries. In those days Hansel also had dreams. He wanted to see the world. He wanted to find a cure for cancer. He wanted to do so many things. He was as enthusiastic about life as his sister. He loved life. He loved all the people around him. He had no idea how he forgot that time of his life, when the sun shone just a little bit brighter, when the stars glared with a little bit more dazzle, when the wind blew more strongly, and when he smiled more happily. he was happy. He was! He had no idea it was even a possibility for him. But in that moment, he remembered his smile, his eyes so full of merriment. “So, there was more to life after all,” he thought to himself. Among the poppies and the silence, he finally heard his heart’s cries. He realized all that he was missing. His hell became his heaven. As deafening as the silence was, it made him listen to what his sister had been trying to say for a very long time now. Finally, he decided that he wanted more. He wanted to be happy once again.
“Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. I was in hell and there was no way out of it. That’s the last thing I thought about before I woke up from death. This time in a hospital bed. My sister was asleep in a chair beside my bed. Seeing her face made me genuinely happy this time. I was back in the world of the living. I got a second chance at life and I promised to do better this time. I promised myself that this time around I’ll live for others,” now he had smile on his face.
“Oh well, I almost forgot the most important part,” he said looking at the curious faces of his audience.
“What’s that?” Someone asked.
“That’s also how I met the love of my life,” he continued, “that woman stole my heart, it was love at first sight.”
“I want to hear more about her,” someone else said.
“So, there is more to the story?” Another voice quipped.
“Oh yes, and that’s the most important part of the story my dear,” Hansel chuckled, “even though I almost died, which changed the course of my life, but sometimes I wonder how much of it was because of my near-death experience and how much was because of her love. You see, my Torri was a great woman, who had devoted her entire life to serve humanity. She was a doctor that truly cared about her patients. She brought me back to life both literally and figuratively.”
“Where is she now?” he could see how curious his audience was.
“That’s a story for another day,” he smiled sadly. It was amazing how many emotions he could feel at the same time. He was happy that he met Torri, he was sad that he lost her so soon afterwards, and he was hopeful that life had more instore for him.
“How you live your life will determines where you end up after you die. I just hope no one ends up in a silent poppy field, and if they do they are lucky enough to find their way back the way I did. I was in a limbo for a long time and then suddenly I was in hell. I did end up getting another chance at life. This life, for me, this is heaven and now I’ve no regrets. Also this time around I won’t end up anywhere bad, I know that in my heart that Torri awaits me on the other side, not those dreadful poppies nor that deafening silence.”
© 2018, Fizza Younis. All Rights Reserved
“I’ve begun to realize that you can listen to silence and learn from it. It has a quality and a dimension all its own.”
― Chaim Potok, The Chosen
It was one of those lazy days that could transport you to your past. Lately, I had been spending increasingly more time thinking about that one past encounter. There were certain things weighing on my mind, some answers I had received, but some I was still looking for.
It was a Sunday morning and I had no where to be, no one to see, and nothing to do. So, I decided to go out, visit my favorite café, and read for a while. That was when it all happened. In one moment my perception of life changed drastically. Suddenly I felt the need to be more than who I was. More than a person living a very conventional and mundane life. I hated change, I feared it even. I feared leaving my comfort zone, cocooned in my neatly organized principled life, I was not ready to admit that basically I was a coward. Reading was my escape, it was something that made me feel brave, between the pages of a book I could almost pretend to be adventurous. It felt right somehow. There was no need for me to be a risk taker, why would I when I could simply keep on living a peaceful, albeit a boring life? That day everything changed when I received a note from a stranger.
I am uncertain why I responded to that one question the way I did. I was not that person. I was never the kind of person who listened to her heart, my brain had always been the dominant organ, until that one fine day. Perhaps it was someone else who took over my consciousness, at least that was the only plausible explanation I could find. But then words have power we all know this, us who read as we breathe.
Back to that day, so, there I was minding my own business and reading one of my all-time favorite books when someone passed me a note. I opened it, “Are you happy?” That was all it said. No names, nothing else, just a simple question someone who cared for you would ask. Was I happy? I thought I were until that very moment. Suddenly I was not so sure. What was happiness anyway? Do we even know that? I was living a quite life, I had a job, a house, and something to read at any given time. I always thought that was enough. But was it really?
I looked around searching for the author of that cryptic note. It was not a question you would ask a stranger so I wondered who wrote it and why would they be interested in my happiness. That was when our eyes met. It was the first time I noticed how mesmerizingly warm brown color could be. Little did I know that those eyes would haunt me for the rest of my life, literally.
The woman stood up and walked towards me, “may I sit here?” She whispered or maybe she just had one of those husky voices that sound like a whisper.
“Yes, sure. Do I know you?” I replied
“I doubt it, but I know you. I’ve know you for as long as I’ve know myself.” That sounded bizarre but I stayed quiet. I waited for her to elaborate and was not disappointed when she continued, “this may come as a surprise but we are soul twins.”
“Okay?” I was not sure how to respond to that statement. What was soul twinsanyway? Honestly, at that point in time I was starting to fear that I had made a big mistake in talking to a stranger. She was starting to look creepy stalker-ish. I was never a big conversationalist. It was not a norm for me to talk to strangers. I sometimes wonder why I welcomed the woman’s company, but I still do not have an answer to that question. All I can say is that something about her felt … right. I did not know her but at the same time I believed it when she said that she knew me. She most definitely did.
“I can see your skepticism. I assure you I am no looney. I know what I am talking about. We were meant to meet like this. I have waited a long time for this very moment. There is so much I need to tell you and so much you need to understand before we start our journey together.” She was looking at me as if I were the most precious thing in the world. It should have been weird and yet it was not. I was listening to her as if my very existence depended on it. Still, I was not someone to throw caution away.
“Look lady, I have no idea who you are and what you are talking about. Either explain yourself in a way I can comprehend or kindly leave me to my reading.” Annoyance was evident from my tone. The woman was undeterred though.
“All in good time, Sarah.” She smiled and she called me by my name. I was now sure that she was a stalker. Maybe she frequented the same café like me. It was not like I notice people or my surroundings much.
“You do know me.” I stated, “how? What do you want from me?”
“Nothing more than your time.” She said calmly. “First, answer my question. Are you happy?”
“Yes and no. I am not sure. I am content, I think.”
“No, that’s not what I meant dear or rather that’s not what I want to hear from you. You cannot live life like this. It is not living, you just exist, nothing more. You need to be happy. I wish to see you laugh out loud. I wish you to feel exhilarated by something you are passionate about. What are you passionate about?”
This conversation was spiraling out of control for me. Who was she and how did she know about my life so much. True that I had never thought or my life as boring, but she had a point. She was right I was living half-heartedly. It sounded depressing coming from someone else’s mouth. I was at peace, wasn’t I? I did not need passion or laughter. I preferred my quiet existence. Once again, I was lost for words. My confusion was palpable. That woman had the wheels of my thoughts churning. But first thing was first.
“I am not sure why you are asking me this. Why are you interested in my life? Who are you anyway?”
“Did I not tell you that I am your soul twin. Of course, I am interested in your life, in you.” She replied in her calm manner, which I was beginning to associate with her. She had an air of tranquility which was hard to decipher, however, it was very soothing. I wanted her to keep talking. “If you are happy then I will keep on living the way I always have. Your unhappiness will lead to turbulence in my life.” Now she sounded sad.
I laughed at that, you might not understand the importance of it but I laughed! I never laughed, I smiled, but full on laughter? That was so unlike me. I could not help it though. I was beginning to think that she was indeed a looney, also wondered at the same time why I were listening to her aptly. She had me intrigued I would give her that. I was curious to know more, but was there more?
“So, let me get this straight. You think that our souls are twins and that my happiness is related to yours. Is that right?” I asked.
“Yes, that is correct except I do not think it I happen to know if for a fact.” She smiled.
“That is absurd. Besides I have told you that I am quite content with my life. Thank you!” I was getting impatient as the conversation was now in unchartered territory and that was making me uncomfortable. Who talks about souls and happiness? Those things do not mean anything in this paper world. She was making me think about things that I would rather not think about.
“Please, listen to me! You cannot live like this forever. You must find your passion and pursue it. You need to be happy, it is of utmost importance.” She said earnestly.
“Okay, tell me more.” I said it even though I did not want to listen to her any more, but I also wanted to see where she was going with her unusual demands.
“Every soul is created in twos, like ours. Two souls come into existence together, one is destined to be born into this world while the other remains unbound and free to roam the universe. It just exists without really existing. When its twin dies both souls return to their origin and that is when they become one. Our souls have existed for over a hundred years and then you were born as Sarah, while I remained unbound. It was a happy existence for me until you started to wither away. I cannot stand by and watch you waste this life. You must take full advantage of what has been given to you so that when we return to our origin as one there are no regrets, no unfulfilled dreams, and no desire to get another chance because this is it, we will not get another chance ever again.” She tried to explain things in a way she though I would understand. She was wrong though because nothing she had said made any sense to me. It was all so farfetched that it sounded like a plot of science fiction novel.
“You are here, right in front of me and you want me to believe that you are just a soul without body? Are you serious?” I pointed out the most obvious flaw in her theory.
“I can explain that.” She kept smiling and now her smile was starting to creep me out, but her eyes remained the same; warm and inviting. “I am not here, nor are we having this conversation. At least, not in a way that humans do. It is just our souls conversing with each other.”
“That is ridiculous! I am here, in my favorite café, reading what I love the most. You wrote me a note, a note! That is as human as you can get.” I think I was a little more forceful with my statements than I needed to be, but it was the last straw. Now she wanted me to believe that I was hallucinating. Had my life become so pointless that I was having conversations with my soul twin? It was a very disturbing thought indeed. Immediately I started to think about the last time I had a real conversation with someone who was not a character from one of my favorite books. I was indeed turning into a pitiful creature, no wonder my so-called soul twin was worried about my very existence. Huh, I was starting to believe her, my very logical and rational mind was telling me to trust her beautiful brown eyes. They say eyes do not lie, hers seemed honest for sure. But how could I believe in things like soul twins? No, I could not, no matter how honest her eyes were, her words were just fiction. Or so I thought until someone was shaking me awake.
Apparently, I had fallen asleep while reading and when I woke up there was no woman with warm brown eyes anywhere in the café. There was no note inquiring about my happiness. It was just me and my book as usual, just us. But I was left with a nagging feeling in my gut, those hauntingly pretty eyes in my mind, and that soothing husky voice in my ears… urging me to be happy… to be passionate… to live my life to the fullest… because this is the only one I have got. I knew then that it was no mere dream. I had finally found the courage to seek my adventure and that altered the course of my life forever, all thanks to my soul twin.
Where ever she is right now I am quite sure she is still smiling at me.
© 2018, Fizza Younis. All Rights Reserved
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If you'd like to have all the titles on your bookshelf go to the Royal Wedding Books Reading List and click Add all books to your shelf.