Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Summer Reads

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

I’m so excited by this week’s topic because it really takes me back to my childhood. Back in those blissful days before adult responsibility, summer was a time for me to lounge about the house or by the pool with my nose buried in a book. For weeks on end, pretty much all I did was read one book after another. Unfortunately, thanks to working and writing, I’m not able to do that this summer, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Here are five books that either take place in summer or make me have that dreamy summer feeling, that I think you will enjoy.

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen

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This is Auden’s last real summer, the summer before her senior year, and she chooses to spend it with her father and his new family, the one he started building after he left her mother. There’s Heidi, Auden’s new young-enough-to-be-her-sister stepmother, and Thisbe, the screaming colicky half-sister Auden doesn’t quite remember asking for. And her father, always absent, even when he’s home.

Auden roams the streets of Colby when her insomnia strikes, and through this connects with Eli, another loner who just can’t sleep at night. Together they whittle away at the long list of things Auden hasn’t done, helping her enjoy the freedom and spontaneity of being a teenager while she still can.

This book really resonated with me because I don’t feel like I really experienced a typical teenaged existence. My anxiety, undiagnosed at the time, often kept me withdrawn from people my age, so I spent a lot of my time alone. It was nice to live vicariously through Auden as she learned how to have a good time, and the romance is just entirely too sweet. That, and the fact that it takes place in a town by the ocean, makes this book the perfect read for summer!

My Review

Knotted
Quenby Olson

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Seventeen-year-old Olivia Davies leaves her home in the US to spend the summer with her father in London after learning he will soon be remarrying. She’s shocked to find out that Emmy Balfour, her sweet bubbly stepmother-to-be, is only a few years older than she is. To make matters even more complicated, Emmy’s disapproving brother Ian seems to be judging every move Olivia’s father makes. We follow Olivia through every twist and turn the summer brings her, including wedding planners, the aristocracy, and the cruelty of bridesmaid’s dresses, all while she tries to come to terms with how much her life is changing.

This book is great for the summer. It’s whimsical, it’s fun, and it takes place in London, not to mention the glorious hat tips to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. If you’re looking for a quick, funny, romantic escape from reality this summer, Knotted is a great choice.

My Review

In Another Life
Julie Christine Johnson

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After the unexpected death of her husband, historian Lia Carrer relocates to southern France, determined to rebuild her life and restore her soul. Instead, she finds herself thrown in the middle of a centuries-old web of betrayal and deceit, and strangely falling in love with Raoul, a man who shouldn’t even exist. Could the Cathars, a group of medieval heretics Lia has spent so much time studying, have been right about reincarnation?

This is a great summer read, even though most of it takes place in the dead of winter. Time travel (kind of), age-old murders, love that travels across the space of time–this book is perfect for an escape, and is guaranteed to give you that warm, pleasant, summer reading feel.

My Review

The Truth About Forever
Sarah Dessen

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When her boyfriend Jason leaves for Brain Camp, Macy knows her summer is going to be long, hot, and uneventful. In his absence, she’s inherited his boring job at the library, where she spends her days flanked by snobby know-it-all girls who wonder–sometimes aloud–what exactly Jason sees in her. She spends her nights studying for the SATs, going to an early yoga class, and avoiding discussion of her father’s death at all costs. But then, she stumbles into a job with Wish, a catering crew made up of unapologetically broken, chaotic people. And then her sister Caroline decides to renovate the family’s neglected beach house, which has lain unused and unvisited since their father passed away. And then, there’s Wes. Quiet, hot, truth-telling Wes.

For much the same reasons I recommend Along for the RideThe Truth About Forever is an excellent summer read. Not only does it take place during the summer, which is an added bonus, it really takes me back to my own sheltered, anxiety-riddled teenage years and helps me imagine what things could have been like. This is a quick read you won’t want to put down.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.

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Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Characters I Am Most Like

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

This week’s topic has me a little nervous, because it’s a bit like walking a tightrope between healthy self-awareness and wishful thinking. I usually manage to identify somewhat to nearly every character I read, which I’ll chalk up more to good writing than to a versatile personality, but let’s see what we can do!

Anne Shirley
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As a young girl, I could be found either with my nose buried firmly in a book or in alone in my room, meticulously acting out scenes I’d digested from the printed word. As I grew, a third option was added, at the helm of the family’s chugging desktop computer or hunched over a scribbled-in composition notebook, feverishly working out stories of my own creation.

Not much has changed on that front, really–I’ve just managed to work these odd habits into the somewhat impressive titles of “book reviewer” and “author,” respectively. Even though age and profession forces me to descend from the clouds of well-penned literature into reality now and again, and my emotions do not dictate my actions near as much as they used, I can’t help but identify with Anne Shirley, especially in the first installment.

That girl who uttered things like

“My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”

and

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

and

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”

?

That girl who saw the power of imagination and language and emotion above all else?

Yep, she’s still alive and well here in me.

Hermione Granger
The Harry Potter Series

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There are a lot of ways I’d like to be like Hermione. She tunes into current events much younger than I did, and she’s a natural problem solver, while logical puzzles are something I’ve been able to conquer only through strong training. She’s also quite brave in the face of danger, which unfortunately I can’t say about myself. I often quake in my boots at the mere thought of hypothetical peril.

There are four aspects of my personality that line up precisely with Hermione’s, though:

1) I am an insufferable know-it-all (despite my husband’s insistence that he suffers me quite well).

2) I am a stickler when it comes to FOLLOWING THE RULES.

3) I judge the willfully ignorant with no mercy.

3) I worry about grades when I absolutely, positively should not.

“Are you sure that’s a real spell?” said the girl. “Well, it’s not very good, is it? I’ve tried a few simple spells just for practice and it’s all worked for me. I’ve learned all our course books by heart, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard – I’ve learnt all our set books off by heart, of course, I just hope it will be enough – I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?’

She said all this very fast.

Harry looked at Ron, and was relieved to see by his stunned face that he hadn’t learned all the course books by heart either.

‘I’m Ron Weasley,’ Ron muttered.

‘Harry Potter,’ said Harry.

‘Are you really?’ said Hermione. ‘I know all about you, of course – I got a few extra books for background reading, and you’re in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.

‘Am I?’ said Harry, feeling dazed.

‘Goodness, didn’t you know, I’d have found out everything I could if it was me,’ said Hermione.”

I’m that student who talks too much in class, the one who answers to many questions, the one who vocally worries and stresses about the final only to walk away with a 93% in the class. I get bent out of shape when people don’t FOLLOW THE RULES. I’m not proud of it, really; I’ve just grown to accept it. It’s who I am. Anxious judgmental nerdy rule-following power to you, my witch-sister. We are who we are.

Lucy Pevensie
The Chronicles of Narnia

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This one’s a stretch because honestly, I never really identified with Lucy. I just really, really wanted to. I spent hours sitting in my closet with my eyes closed, praying for God to take me to Narnia just once, just so I could see it for myself. Each time, I would open my eyes, disappointed to see the peeling beige paint of my closet walls instead of scratchy branches covered in snow.

But still, there’s some kinship I feel with her, even though I shouldn’t. Out of all the Pevensies I suppose I should really identify with Peter or Susan, but I’d just…rather not.

But there are a few qualities of hers I possess. Like she is in the beginning, I am too trusting.

“Meanwhile,’ said Mr Tumnus, ‘it is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long, and we shall both catch cold if we stand here talking in the snow. Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”

Even though everything turned out all right for her in the end–Queen Lucy the Valiant, hello–I read her sojourn with Mr. Tumnus into the dark, snowy wood with a white-knuckled grip.  Don’t go! I want to shout. He’s misleading you. But like the trusting gals we are, Lucy follows him with a smile and a skip. Thankfully, all is well when we turn the last page.

The March Sisters
Little Women

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I’m cheating and letting this one count for two items, since there are four girls involved here. When reading (and watching!) Little Women, I always find myself torn between which sister I identify with. There is the quiet romance of Meg, the creative writerliness of Jo, the dramatic emotionality of Amy, and the musical shyness and solitude of Beth, all pulling me in opposite directions. I finally realized that these sisters are all parts of, I imagine, most women’s personalities. They only feel right when united. That’s why I’m sticking to my indecisive story and refusing to choose just one.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.

 

 

 

Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Authors I’d Want To Meet at BookCon

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

BookCon is coming up soon, in less than two weeks! Unfortunately, I won’t be attending this year–silly jobs and responsibilities–but this week’s T5W topic gives me the opportunity to think about who I’d try to meet if I were going. The list of participating authors can be found here.

Ann M. Martin

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As a child and preteen, I tore through all the BSC books our local library had to offer. I loved all of the characters, but thanks to my chronic shyness and my toxic love affair with junk food, I connected with Mary Anne and Claudia the most. My favorite books were the super specials like Baby-Sitters on Board!, Baby-Sitters’ Summer Vacation, Baby-Sitters’ Island Adventure, and New York, New York! I loved these because, unlike the regular series, these books featured chapters from several different points of view. If I were going to BookCon this year, I would try my hardest to meet Ms. Martin and thank her for writing the BSC books. They helped shape my formative years, and I’m crossing my fingers for at least one daughter so I can relive the wonder of reading them through her!

Marissa Meyer

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I’m a fairly new fan of Marissa Meyer’s work, having only read her fantastic series The Lunar Chronicles this past winter. I still need to read Fairest and Stars Above, both of which are painfully waiting for me to finish up my schoolwork for this semester so I can dive right in. I went through a dry spell in reading last year after I finished writing and publishing my second book in two years–nothing could hold my attention or give me the enjoyable escape I craved. Cinder and her friends, along with a few other books, were what brought me back to the light side. I would love to meet Ms. Meyer and thank her for bringing me out of the reading desert!

Tig Notaro

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I’ve never actually read any of Tig Notaro’s writing, but I’ve heard her speak on a few episodes of This American Life, and I really enjoyed In A World…, a movie in which she played a supporting role. Her “comedy” routine in which she discusses a death in her family, a break up, and a then-recent cancer diagnosis, was poignant and heartbreaking, and her Taylor Dayne bit is pretty hilarious! I’d love to get a chance to meet her.

Veronica Roth

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I’m not a fan of the Divergent series–sorry, just not part of the intended demographic!–but if I were lucky enough to be attending the 2016 BookCon, you bet I’d be trying my hardest to meet this amazing lady. She’s only two years older than me, and already she’s a New York Times Bestseller? That’s pretty inspiring.

Cassandra Clare

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Likewise, I haven’t made my way to City of Bones and the other books in The Mortal Instruments series, but I’d love to meet Cassandra Clare. She’s on her way to becoming a household name.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.

 

Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Mothers & Maternal Figures

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

I’m psyched about this week’s topic! There are some great literary mothers and maternal figures out there. I’m excited to share my favorites, and to hear what your favorites are in return.

Marilla Cuthbert
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Marilla Cuthbert definitely wins the prize for biggest transformation. When I first met her as a child through the wonderful film adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, I loathed her. Who wouldn’t? She doesn’t want to keep Anne, a perfectly lovely and delightful girl so desperately in need of a home, because she isn’t a boy? But as time goes on, Marilla softens enough to allow room in her heart for this unexpected daughter.

Ingrid Magnussen
White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Ingrid Magnussen wins the prize for being most memorable. She is not a good mother, by any stretch of the imagination. She’s beautiful, psychotic poet in prison for the murder of her boyfriend, who cheated on her with younger women. It’s been a while since I read White Oleander and a lot of the details escape me, but Ingrid’s craziness looms large in my mind. Her self-centered attitude affects almost every aspect of her young daughter Astrid’s life, including her relationships with a long string of terrible foster mothers.

Aibileen Clark
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Aibileen Clark wins the prize for selfless love. Although her own son has passed away when The Help begins, Aibileen serves as a surrogate mother for Mae Mobley Leefolt, the toddler daughter of the family she works for. While Elizabeth, Mae Mobley’s mother, is a housewife, she imposes distance between herself and her daughter, often only speaking to her when she is frustrated or angry with her. Despite her ill treatment at the hand of the Leefolts due to her race, Aibileen loves Mae Mobley as if she were her own child.

Marmee
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Marmee wins the prize for excellence in parenting. Every time you turn a page in Little Women, it seems like Marmee is either encouraging, instructing, or gently reprimanding one of her four daughters. She is equal parts soothing and terrifying, depending on what the situation calls for, but above all, she loves her girls and everyone else. In a time when women were not expected to be down-to-earth, hardworking, and intelligent, the March girls were raised to high standards.

Molly Weasley
The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Molly wins the prize for being the BEST LITERARY MOTHER EVER. She devotes herself wholeheartedly to all of her children, even when they disappoint her (Percy, cough, Percy). Even when the family doesn’t have money for Christmas, she finds a way to not only send gifts to her own seven children, but also Harry and Hermione. She cares for Harry as if he were her own son, celebrating his successes and defending him the way his own mother cannot. And she might be kind, sweet, and homey, but don’t you dare go after one of her children. She’ll turn into a warrior goddess in no time flat. No other fictional moms can top her. Sorry not sorry.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.

 

Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I’m Intimidated By

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

This week’s topic is tough for me. Not to sound cocky, but there isn’t much that intimidates me when it comes to reading. That hasn’t always been the case, but since I conquered Tolstoy’s War & Peace a couple of years ago, there just isn’t much that fazes me anymore. Nevertheless, there at least five books on my shelf right now that have remained unread or unfinished due to intimidation. I’ll share those with you now!

The Simarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien

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I’m not quite sure why I find The Silmarillion as intimidating as I do. I’ve read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings multiple times. Tolkien’s writing speaks to me on so many levels, especially now that I’m studying Anglo-Saxon and Medieval literature and understand their influence on him. He was inarguably a literary genius.

Perhaps I’m not really intimidated. Perhaps I’m just afraid of losing the last bit of unexplored territory in the Middle-Earth of my heart. Whatever the case, I’m working myself up to reading it.

The Histories, Herodotus

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Seeing as I have a degree in history, it’s a bit odd that this book intimidates me as much as it does. The size is a bit scary, I guess, but I’ve read volumes much larger than this without batting an eye. Maybe it’s that whole “the Father of History” thing. I’m not sure. In any case, I will be reading this soon. Someday. At some point.

Dune, Frank Herbert

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I don’t have a fancy reason for why this one intimidates me. It just does. I’ve been meaning to read it for years now, since I plan on writing science fiction in the future and it’s one of the biggest titles in that genre, but I just keep looking at it and chickening out.

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas

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I’ve tried to read the full, unabridged version of this book several times to no avail. The story, which I’m familiar with thanks to abridgements and (poorly done, from what I’m told) films, I love. It’s the language I’ve had issues with. Perhaps I need to try another translation, or maybe I just need to try it again! It took me about eight tries with Anna Karenina before I made it through.

Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes

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Like The Count of Monte Cristo, I’m familiar with this story and absolutely love it. (Thanks, Wishbone!) I’m just terrified by the three pound brick of a paperback the story comes packaged in. Perhaps I should give it a go, this summer–surely if I can make it through War and Peace, I can conquer this?

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.

Posted in Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Books with Hard Topics

It’s rare that I post more than book reviews and promo posts here, but I’m looking to change that! Recently, I’ve gotten into watching BookTube videos (particularly my friend Katie’s channel), and going forward, I’ll be participating in things like Monthly Recommendations and Top 5 Wednesdays!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Lainey. You get a new topic every Wednesday, and you list your Top 5 books related to that topic. If you’d like to take part, join the Goodreads group, and add your name to the list of bloggers & booktubers!

This week, I’ll be talking about books with hard topics. I never set out to read books with heavy subject matter, but they seem to find me anyway. In fact, I’ve read so many that picking only five seems a bit challenging to me at the moment. Let’s see how this goes!

1. Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

25876099Firsts is a YA novel which deals with a lot of hard topics–divorce and parental abandonment, sexual abuse, and psychological damage. On the face of it, our protagonist, Mercedes Ayres, is not a good person at all. She sleeps with virgin boys who already have girlfriends, justifying this by saying she wants to make sure no girl has to suffer through a horrible first time…the way she did. This sounds crazy and horrible, and it is, but not for the reasons you expect. The more you learn about Mercedes’ past, the more you realize how damaged she is.

Books like this are important because it makes you think long and hard about people who are, on the surface, making horrible decisions. There was a time in my life that, had I come across a girl like Mercedes, I probably would have just judged her and that would be that. Instead,  through Firsts, I entered into the mind of someone who was clearly doing something so incredibly wrong…and found the heart of someone who was hurting and in desperate need of love. We all need to remember that everyone has a story, and everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. This book is a fantastic reminder.

 

2. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

15753740The Storyteller is an adult novel by Jodi Picoult. I don’t mention a genre because it’s one of those books that seems to defy classification. Part women’s fiction, part historical fiction, part psychological thriller, it follows two different storylines which intersect with Sage Singer, a young woman struggling to find her place after the death of her mother in the wreck that disfigured her. She befriends Josef Weber, an aged German man from her grief group. Just as she gets comfortable with his companionship, he shares with her a horrifying secret and asks of her a horrifying favor. He was a Nazi during World War II. Since Sage is the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, he wants her to hear his confession, give him pardon, and then take his life.

Per her usual, Ms. Picoult tackles an unfathomable amount of difficult topics here, including brainwashing, mental conditioning, the Holocaust, euthanasia, and other ethical dilemmas. If you’ve read any of her books before, you won’t be disappointed by her signature calculated plot twist at the end–its execution is flawless. This is a hard book to read, due to the graphic nature of both Josef’s and Sage’s grandmother’s account of the war and the Holocaust, but it’s important to knuckle down and read even fictional accounts of these monstrosities. We need to remember what mankind is capable of, so our mistakes will not be repeated.

 

 

3. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra

The Tsar of Love and TechnoThis is actually a collection of connected short stories, rather than a novel, but it definitely deserves a slot on this list. Set alternately in St. Petersburg, war torn Chechnya, and a small Arctic nickel mining town in Siberia, these stories explore oppression, censorship, family, death, and hardship during the reign of the Soviet Union and after its fall in the nineties.

I think this collection is important for the same reason I gave for the last two items on the list. Dystopian fiction might be all the rage these days, and I think overall that’s a good thing, but we need to remember that stories like these aren’t just made up as entertaining what-ifs. These things have actually happened, and they deserve to be remembered.

 

 

4. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

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Lock and Key is not my favorite Sarah Dessen novel, but there are definitely some hard topics in this YA novel that are dealt with grace and composure. 17 year old Ruby Cooper is used to taking care of herself and her mother, a chronically unemployed drug addict and alcoholic. When her mother finally abandons her for good, child protective services places her with her older sister, Cora, whom Ruby has always assumed willingly abandoned her when she went off to college.

This book deals with homelessness, addiction, abuse, psychological trauma, and reconciliation. It’s not easy or pleasant to read, which is probably why it isn’t my favorite Dessen, but it’s definitely a book that will stick with you. As someone who was blessed with an imperfect but above all loving and caring family, it was eye-opening to see how often that is not the case.

 

I hope you enjoyed this week’s T5W! I’ll see you next time.