Interview with Author: Sonia Faruqi

Hey Readers,

Today is a post that is part of the book club that I co-host on Instagram, @monstersandstrangerworlds. Our December book pick was THE OYSTER THIEF by Sonia Faruqi, and we were lucky enough to be able to interview the author.

– THE INTERVIEW –

MASW: I noticed as I was reading that the merpeople’s society was very similar to ours, down to having detectives, police forces, government systems with a registry of people, and even misogyny. I found it interesting that they would have come up with the same concepts of society as the humans on land. Why did you choose to have the merpeople’s government and society so similar to ours? 

SF: The underwater world bears some similarities to our world but it is also different. For instance, Coralline is an apothecary but her medical work is quite different than medicine on land, based more on natural remedies and, of course, based wholly on algae. It is worth noting that different human cultures also have things in common with one another, especially the basics – police and government – so it is not surprising to have these in the water. Misogyny is not a value of merpeople; just as some humans are misogynistic and others are not, it is the same in the water. There is a diversity of perspectives.

MASW: After reading the behind the scenes look that is provided in The Oyster Thief, it sounds like you spent a lot of time researching for this novel, how long did you spend researching to be able to write this book? And as you did your research did you have to change any of your big ideas for the story like you had to change skin tone plans due to the lack of light in the ocean?

SF: The research was continuous and woven in before and during the writing. I didn’t have to change the big ideas much but was able to add more depth to the existing ideas. For instance, all the animals and algae you’ll see mentioned in The Oyster Thief are true-to-life. Even the names of all the characters are scientifically grounded, drawn from the sea and the stars. The Oyster Thief is also current in its themes. For instance, the book contains a premise of underwater diamond mining that was fictional when I started the book but has recently become fact.

MASW: There is a sexual assault that happens in the book just as Izar and Coraline are starting their journey. For me, I felt like all it did was allow Izar to be the hero when he saved her, its very reminiscent of rape culture that we have now. Why did you feel it was important to have this scene in the book?

Coralline has never left home before, and there are real consequences of going to dangerous places swarming with shady people, such as Hog’s Bristle. In addition, sexual assault is a real issue human society is contending with. With regard to the story, Hog’s Bristle is a growth experience for Coralline – she overcomes her fear of wielding daggers and becomes more self-reliant. It is true that Izar saves her in that scene but, shortly after, she has the confidence to save him. The Oyster Thief is not a “damsel in distress” story; she saves him at least as often as he saves her!

MASW: There are quite a few female characters in this novel, Coraline, Rhodomela, Abalone, and Rosette, and yet none of them are healthy relationships. There is a lot of women on women hating in this book, especially between Rhodomela and Abalone, and Coraline and Rosette, constantly competing for the male in questions attention. Why did you have the female characters interact like this and what kind of message do you think that sends to the reader?

SF: A lot of behavior stems from fear and love. Abalone’s criticisms of her daughter Coralline stem from her love of Coralline combined with her fear that Coralline will have a difficult life if she chooses to be different. Rosette’s behavior stems from her love of Ecklon and her fear that he will choose Coralline over her. Fear and love are emotions that fuel us all, for better or for worse.

MASW: At the end of the book, Izar is still keeping secrets from Coraline, even though they are in love and happy together, are you setting us up for a sequel?

SF: It is possible there will be a sequel, yes!

MASW: What inspired the story?

I love the water and the idea of an underwater civilization of merpeople.

MASW: Have you written previous works before The Oyster Thief?

SF: Yes, Project Animal Farm (2015), a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the global food system. The book was selected as a finalist for three literary awards and was endorsed by Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee, Temple Grandin, and CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey.

One night, I arrived at the doorstep of a dairy farm looking for a rural volunteer vacation. I had no idea then that the visit would mark the beginning of a journey that would ultimately wind all the way around the world. Concerned by issues of animal welfare and the environment, I decided to search the planet for solutions. My journey took me from egg warehouses in Canada to dairy feedlots in the United States, from farm offices in Mexico to lush green fields in Belize, from villages in Indonesia to bustling cities in Malaysia.

Over the course of living with farmers, hitchhiking with strangers, and risking my life, I developed surprising insights and solutions—both about the food industry and myself. You can find the prologue and first chapter here.

– AUTHOR BIO – 

Sonia Faruqi pushes the boundaries of imagination in her debut novel, The Oyster Thief, an underwater fantasy novel for adults and young adults with themes of ocean conservation. The Globe and Mail has chosen it as a “best book of the year.” The full first chapter can be found here. Sonia will be providing exclusive content about The Oyster Thief through her website and monthly newsletter at www.soniafaruqi.com. She is also the author of Project Animal Farm, a work of critically acclaimed investigative journalism about the world’s food system.

Thank you again for those of you who are participating in our monthly book club, and for Sonia Faruqi who kindly answered these questions.

– Hannah (@thewellreadfox), Hannah (@booknerdnative), Alisa (@worldswithinpages), and Lorna (@fictionalflowerday)

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December Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

It is the end of December and almost the end of the holiday season. With the holiday season came a lot of family events, cleaning, and the end of my school term… this resulted in having less time to read and to blog but I was able to finish up my year with some great reads. And while I wasn’t able to blog as much as last month, I was able to get a little bit of blogging done this month as well.

Here are some of those posts that you should check out if you missed them:

A review I posted about a book Atria Books was kind enough to send me, a historical fiction/thriller novel that was an ode to storytelling.

A review of a beautiful magical realism story of a boy raised by wolves, full of hope and whimsy.

A list of what I was lucky enough to receive for Christmas!

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Now for an overview of the books I read this month:

FullSizeRender 3.jpg Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

This was an atmospheric fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. This was my first Diane Setterfield novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had as many twists and turns as the river at the heart of the novel.

IMG_4223.JPG The Oyster Thief by Sonia Faruqi

This was Monsters and Stranger World’s second book pick. It is almost a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but with our male lead character turning into a mermaid instead. With the themes of ocean conservation, the first fantasy novel set fully under water was an enjoyable read but not my favorite.

IMG_5279.jpg Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang

This was my favorite book of the ones I read this month. This tale of a boy raised by wolves filled my heart with hope and love. The writing is gorgeous and the story filled with whimsy. I immediately handed my copy to my mother to read the minute I was finished.

*bonus book I’m currently reading*

IMG_5272.JPG Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

I am about half way through Elantris, Brandon Sanderson’s debut fantasy novel. While I am enjoying it, it is obvious it is a debut novel. It is harder to get through and has an overwhelmingly political plot. For someone who enjoys politics this is a great story but if one is looking for more fantasy this may not be the pick for you.

 

What books did you round out the year with? Stay tuned for a 2018 wrap up post where I’ll talk about all of the things I did this year and all of the books I read!

– Hannah

 

 

Huge Christmas Book Haul

Hey Readers!

Happy holidays and a Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate! I got spoiled this year with books for Christmas and I wanted to share with you a list of all of the books that I got this year!

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  • The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Two)
  • Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines, Book Three)
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle, Book One)
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book One)
  • The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Two)
  • The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E Pearson (The Remnant Chronicles, Book Three)
  • Scythe by Neal Schusterman (Arc of a Scythe, Book One)
  • Unwind by Neal Schusterman (Unwind Dystology, Book One)
  • The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson
  • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book One)
  • Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Two)
  • Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners, Book Three)
  • The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson (Wax and Wayne Series, Book One)
  • Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Skyward, Book One)
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
  • The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang (The Poppy War, Book One)

 

If you’re interested in a short description of each of these I have some exciting news! I started my very own Booktube channel and my first ever video is showcasing my book haul! I’ve linked it here, so go check it out!

What books did you get for Christmas?

– Hannah

Review: Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Hey Readers,

I went into Ruth Emmie Lang’s Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance not knowing very much about it and I have to say I’m kind of happy I went into it that way. I knew that it was about a boy who was raised by wolves who seems to have some magical abilities and that it was a mix of fantasy and magical realism and with that, I was sold.

“Don’t leave anything you can’t come back to.”

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance is the story of Weylyn Grey told through the perspectives of some of the people in his life who love him. Each chapter rotates between different perspectives however the novel is also split into books, and each of those books only focuses on two of the characters. I feel like that’s a convoluted way of saying what I’m trying to say, but I felt that while there were a lot of different perspectives in the novel, the fact that we were only focusing on two at a time helped keep it from getting overwhelming, and helped the story flow.

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This novel has a classic “once upon a time” feel to it. It reads like it is a modern day fairy tale with the different relationships that Weylyn Grey has, not only with humans but the animals that become his family, like Merlin the magical pig.  Lang writes Weylyn’s story full of vivid and beautiful descriptions and brimming with hope. It made me cry all of the happy tears.

“Actually, it’s kind of a love story.”

I will say that the only reason I didn’t give this book a full 5 stars was that I wish that we had gotten some more depth when it came to the magic that Weylyn had.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: Once Upon A River

ONCE UPON A RIVER
BY DIANE SETTERFIELD
http://onceuponariverbook.com/
Atria Books Hardcover | 480 pages | ISBN: 9780743298070| December 4, 2018 | $28.00
eBook: 480 pages | ISBN: 9781501190230| $13.99

 

Hey Readers,

I was lucky to receive an advanced reader copy of Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield this month from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

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Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield is fantasy, mythology, folklore, and an homage to storytelling all wrapped up in one novel. It is the story of three missing children, and when one is returned under mysterious circumstances, three families are left wanting to claim her as their own. I had never read any of Setterfield’s works before, I had no idea what I was getting into but with words like atmospheric, magical, and fairy tales, being used to describe it I knew that I had to read it.

There are a lot of characters in this book, and they all are interwoven in some ways. Some are there for you to dislike, others like Robert Armstrong and Rita whom you can’t help but love. I also loved how the river felt like it was in itself its own character. Not only did the river guide the story along but it almost seems to react to what is happening in the story, ebbing and flowing with the changes and twist and turns of the story.

One of my favorite aspects of the story was its quiet discussion about grief. Without going too much into it for fear of spoiling anything, all of a sudden we are talking about grief, and the hard ways in which we do and don’t process grief, and I was shocked that I had not noticed it until that point.

At first, I thought this was a book that I was going to fly through, and I think I made an error for the first half of the book in not slowing down as I was reading it. As I started getting towards the middle of the book, I slowed down significantly, I took my time with the prose and the language and let the words wash over me. This book has a river at its center, and just like a river, the turns and courses that it might take and the changing currents, I never knew where this book was taking me. This is a slow burning novel, more character than plot driven, it’s a novel that is worth slowing down and letting the story guide you.

Overall, I wish I had gone into the novel with the awareness that it was a slow burn and not a book that one should devour and binge. Skimming will be your worst enemy when it comes to Once Upon A River, you may realize that you’ve missed something important tucked away in those beautiful descriptions. This is a novel that I would recommend if you’re in the mood for allowing yourself to be swept away in the magic of the river that is and is not the river Thames and if you love rich and traditional storytelling.

And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world that you came from. This river which is and is not the river Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

  

Grab your copy of ONCE UPON A RIVER:
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Osmegh
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2NLDxDy
Books-a-Million: https://bit.ly/2pVMjFI
iBooks: https://apple.co/2P3BQpX
Indiebound: https://bit.ly/2PCzriX
Kobo: https://bit.ly/2P3QFIV
Google: https://goo.gl/iQtXgG
Nook: https://bit.ly/2CkjJp3

November Monthly Wrap Up

Hey Readers!

I can’t believe that it is already time for another monthly wrap up. This month/this year seems like it has FLOWN by. I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. I had an amazing reading month and a pretty good blogging month too. Despite being crazy busy, spending about a week sick, being halfway through my second to last class for my bachelor’s degree, and with the holidays, I read eight books and wrote four (five if you count this one) blog posts!

Here are some posts that you may have missed that I suggest you check out:

A review on a dark thriller read I read in October.

My dream cast for an upcoming Amazon TV show for a fantasy series that I am currently reading.

A (spoiler-free) review on my favorite fantasy series… ever.

A review of another book I read in October which also happens to be one of the most depressing and beautiful novels I have ever read.

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Now, for some brief thoughts of the books I read this month:

IMG_3527 Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

I read this as the first pick for my book club, @monstersandstrangerworlds, which is run on Instagram with some of my favorite book friends (@worldswithinpages, @booknerdnative, and @fictionalflowerday – check them out!). I will have a full review once we’ve had our discussion on our Instagram page but this was an enjoyable read. I read it in about two sittings.

IMG_3946 The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

I spent about a week sick this month and I read this cute and sexy romance in one day. It was the perfect light reading that I needed. I didn’t love it as much as I loved The Wedding Date, Guillory’s first novel, but I really enjoyed it.

IMG_3967 The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

This was the second book I read in a day when I was sick. It is a quick thriller that is good enough to keep you turning the pages, however, I didn’t connect with the main character and a lot of what she did bothered me.  I also didn’t *love* the ending.

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The Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

I really enjoyed this trilogy, I flew right through the series in about a week. It was by no means my favorite fantasy series, there are some problematic tropes in the novels but I had fun reading them. Also, at what point do you become old enough not to fall for the bad boy? Because I’m here for the Darkling, not gonna lie.

IMG_3768 Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

So in truth, I snuck this one in right under the radar because I just finished up this collection of short stories today. This is Adjei-Brenyah’s first book and I really hope that it isn’t the last because these stories were something else. The stories are razor sharp, deep, dark and captivating. These stories look at racism and capitalism and with Adjei-Brenyah’s unique voice they should be considered mandatory reading.

IMG_3700 The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan 

This is my one re-read of the year, and I can not tell you how much I had forgotten about this book. SO much happens in this first book, and I am completely in love all over. As I’m reading it I just keep remembering details I had completely forgotten about and I’m sitting here just waiting for Nynaeve and Lan cause I ship them HARD.

 

What books did you read in November? Let me know in the comments!

– Hannah

Review: A Little Life

Hey Readers,

A Little Life is a modern day classic that everyone should read. It is an immersive and dark novel set in the present day about four friends who meet at college and have now moved to New York to find success. Throughout the reading of this novel, as I hurtled towards the devastating ending of A Little Life I texted a friend saying that I was in shock and that I honestly didn’t know how I was supposed to read something else after that.

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While A Little Life was harrowing and traumatic, it is one of my favorite books I have ever read. To be timely, if I was going to sing “thank u, next” about anything it would be A Little Life. It taught me patience, it taught me love, and boy did it ever teach me pain. We follow four friends: Jude, Willem, JB, and Malcolm as they find success in New York. We focus on Jude and the unspoken trauma that has caused him to have difficulty walking, to self-harm, and live a life full of secrets. These friendships, while they are tested as each of them struggles with betrayal, addiction, and pride, are held together by Willem, JB, and Malcolm’s complete dedication to Jude.

The true, lifelong friendships that were in this novel were the love story that I needed but never knew I wanted. I’ve read a lot of love stories about a lot of different kinds of relationships, family relationships, romantic relationships, I have never read a story about friendships as deep as the friendships Willem, Malcolm, JB, and Jude share.

“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified. Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was a feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”

With A Little Life, there is the need to set aside your disbelief when it comes to some of the fantastical elements of the story. For example, each character finds extreme success, JB in the art world, Malcolm as an architect, Willem as an actor, and Jude as a lawyer. The idea of all four of the friends finding success in the ways that these characters do is unlikely in reality. There is also no mention of any significant world events taking place which helps keep this novel in the present day for eternity with nothing to separate it from any other time. The lack of world events like 9/11 or the War on Terrorism, is poignant since all of the themes that are present in this novel are present in real life, in the past, and will be in the future. There is also not a steady movement of time, months come and go without being mentioned, we read about things that happen only in a few days, and then we read about years as they fly by. It reads like life does, time flying by us without us being able to stop it.

A Little Life contains scenes of extreme violence and trauma. I am one who doesn’t like trigger warnings generally, I think that in our day to day life we don’t get trigger warnings and so I tend not to use them in my reading life. I do this because I don’t want to stay away from a book because of its trigger warnings. I think A Little Life is one of those books that I would have stayed away from if I had read all of the trigger warnings. And while I can understand to some extent the want and need to stay away from topics that can be difficult, to stay away from A Little Life is taking away an experience from yourself that is worth having. It is gut-wrenching, emotional, and hard to read, Jude suffers from unspeakable traumas that he will never recover from, however, the story of his life, and the people who are a part of it, is a beautiful one.

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I’ll be honest, I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara in October and I needed this past month to really reflect and think about the novel. A Little Life is the most difficult book I have ever read. It is “too much” in all aspects of that term. Everything in this novel is exaggerated, love, pain, success, trauma, etc – however, because everything is exaggerated the story itself doesn’t feel exaggerated. I cried for hours after finishing this book. It left me feeling raw and empty, but I am truly grateful for having read it. A Little Life will be a novel that will stick with me for a very, very long time.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: The Stormlight Archive

Hey Readers,

So here’s the deal, I say that this is going to be a review, and I’m going to try and make it one, but I can’t promise it won’t also be a little fan-girlish okay? Okay, now that we have that out of the way, lets dig in!

The Stormlight Archive

I started this series in late July and I could not put it down until I finished in October, and I loved it from the minute that I started it. The Stormlight Archive was my first series from Brandon Sanderson and I promise you it won’t be the last. This is an amazing epic adult fantasy series that has its own magic system, intense and developed political dynamics, complete worlds, and characters that grow throughout each book. On top of all that, it’s told from multiple points of view. I know, it’s overwhelming, But that’s what I’m here for, let’s talk about each of those things.

The Magical System: I don’t want to go too much into detail about the magic system in The Stormlight Archive, because I feel like the discovery of exactly how the magic system works is done as a plot device, and is one of the exciting things about reading the books. But I will say that the magic system is something completely different than I have read in a fantasy novel, and I have a bit of experience with those. (It’s my favorite genre.) It is an elemental based magic system, but not just in the traditional sense of water, air, earth, and fire. It goes deeper then that and it is genius. Also – when you start The Way of Kings and you start reading about spren and you’re like “what is he talking about? Spren?” don’t give up, I promise – it’s worth it.

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The Political System: For all of you Game of Thrones fans out there – while you’re waiting for the next book to come out… come to the light side and read The Way of Kings and I promise you it will be better (I said what I said). The Stormlight Archive series doesn’t have the gritty, gruesome to be gruesome, feel that Game of Thrones has, however, what it does have is death, blood, war, and vengeance done in a way that isn’t overwhelming and without what feels sometimes like gratuitous violence that will bog you down. Throughout the three current novels in The Stormlight Archives we learn more and more about the political intrigue, and because it’s told through multiple viewpoints, we get to learn how each of our characters play a part in the political sphere, and how their choices affect the world around them. I know some people don’t love the nitty gritty details of a worlds political system, but with these novels, the politics never feel overwhelming or that they are taking over the narrative. Instead, it blends in and is helpful to the telling of the story and overall feel of how it unfolds.

The World Building: I know I said I have only read one series by Brandon Sanderson but Sanderson is a master at world-building. I mean, he spent ten years researching and developing the world of Roshar for this series, and it paid off. I honestly don’t know of a series where I felt like I got so much beautiful information about the world. We are set in the world of Roshar and Sanderson gives us the most intricate descriptions of everything in this world. Everything from how the weather works, the creatures, history, mythology, religion, magic, the races, the different cultures, and more. Pretty much anything you can think of, Sanderson describes it. Because of this attention to detail, you really believe in this world.

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The Character Development: I have so much to say about all of the characters we learned about in The Stormlight Archive and I can’t say anything without getting a little spoiler-y so I won’t, (you’re welcome) but honestly these characters were EVERYTHING. In each of the books, our focus is on one particular character’s backstory, which we learn about through flashbacks that give us more depth into each character. However, don’t let that fool you, we see multiple characters perspectives in each of the books. The book’s parts, interludes, and chapters are broken up and let you know which character’s perspective you’re viewing the story through at any given moment and that is helpful. Sanderson writes the best characters, characters that drive you crazy, that make you laugh, make you cry for, basically, you’re going to be feeling all the feelings. I can’t tell you how many times I scream-ranted or literally yelled at the books, or the people around me about what was happening in the story at that moment (I’m a very passionate reader). Sanderson will capture your heart with these characters and then rip it out, and it will be worth every minute.

Audiobook Version: I also jumped between reading Oathbringer and listening to the audiobook on Audible. The narrators were Michael Kramer and Kate Reading and they were amazing. Definitely worth the listen if you have long commutes or you want to read the book but carrying around 1000+ pages is difficult!

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Overall Thoughts: 

These books have been my favorite reads of the year, and honestly most likely my favorite fantasy series I have ever read. I want and need everyone to read them. I have heard that some people found it slow going in the beginning when first learning about the different things that happen, but for me, I was hooked right from the Prologue. So if you find that you were finding it slow, give it about 100 pages (in a 1000 page book it’s not that much, trust me), and I’m sure it will pick up from there.

My favorite part of these books was the way that Sanderson built up the tension throughout them, between the politics, war, and emotions of the characters and watching all of their stories converge. Not just from The Way of Kings into Words of Radiance into Oathbringer, because throughout the three books the build-up was intense and the outcome was AMAZING, but also just in the individual books themselves. I always felt like there was so much tension and that we didn’t have enough book left to wrap everything up and then Sanderson did it, every time, with a BANG. Each ending left me desperate to get my hands on the next book, and the wait for the fourth one might just kill me (you may think this is me being dramatic, I disagree).

This series is for anyone who loves fantasy, or anyone who is willing and ready to give an epic fantasy a try, The Stormlight Archives is the perfect series full of everything you could ever want in a fantasy novel, it will grab your attention and run away with it. Read it, and then come find me here or on Instagram and tell me all your thoughts. I can’t wait to hear them.

Life before death.

Strength before weakness.

Journey before Destination.

My Ratings:

The Way of Kings: 5/5 Stars

Words of Radiance: 5/5 Stars

Oathbringer: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Dream Cast: The Eye of the World

Hey Readers!

I am working on a re-read of The Wheel of Time series with my friend Hannah (check her out on instagram: @booknerdnative) and we are wicked excited for the series that is going to be coming out on Amazon based on the first book: The Eye of the World. The last few day’s we have been discussing our dream cast for the show and I thought it would be fun to post mine here (minus spoilers of course)!

The Eye of the World is the start of this story that is set in an epic world where magic exists but only women can use it safely. We follow five of our main characters, Rand al’Thor, Perrin Aybara, Matrim Cauthon, Egwene al’Vere, and Nynaeve al’Meara who are on a dangerous journey led by Moiraine Sedai and Lan Mandragoran her warder. These five are thought to be important because Moiraine believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, who prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it.

I am about half way through in my re-read of The Eye of the World, so I’m going to focus on the characters that I have been introduced to so far:

images.jpeg  Rand al’Thor – Richard Madden

My casting for our lead role, Rand al’Thor is Richard Madden, you know him from Game of Thrones (Robb Stark) and the prince in Disney’s live action Cinderella. Rand al’Thor is a red headed farm boy from the Two Rivers who ultimately becomes the heart and soul of this story.

jZS8nz1V_400x400.jpg  Perrin Aybara – Noah Centineo 

So Perrin Aybara is one of my favorite characters in this whole story, he’s quiet, soft spoken, thoughtful, and I imagine him to have the ability to give the most adorable puppy dog eyes at you. So with that in mind, there is no one who could play Perrin better than Noah Centineo. You know Noah as Peter “whoa whoa whoa” Kavinsky from Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Jamey from Sierra Burgess is a Loser.

rami_malek_a_p.jpg  Matrim Cauthon – Rami Malek 

Matrim Cauthon is the last of our Two Rivers boys and the more rambunctious, trouble maker of our three leading male characters. Rami Malek has that boyish charm and the look that I imagine Mat to have. Rami Malek has starred in Mr. Robot but I think his ability to show the passion, sensitivity, and vulnerability as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody is what speaks to me in his ability to play Matrim.

chloe-grace-moretz-vanity-fair-sundance-2018-film-festival-0.jpg  Egwene al’Vere – Chloe Grace Moretz 

For our fourth lead character (and first female lead) I think Chloe Grace Moretz has the chops to play Egwene al’Vere. A young woman from the Two Rivers who grew up with our other four leads, she is strong and yet innocent and a little naive when she starts out on their journey. I think the combination of Moretz’s look of innocence and her steely resolve (think Hit Girl in Kick-Ass) that makes her the perfect Egwene.

zendaya-Glamours-2017-Women-of-The-Year-Awards-billboard-1548.jpg Nynaeve al’Meara – Zendaya

Nynaeve is my favorite, bad ass, take no shit (especially from men), female character in this story. She is what I think of when I think of strength and the power of women in this world. She is a young woman who knows what she believes in and is willing to fight for it, and those that she loves. Zendaya, Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Greatest Showman, has that fiery spirit that would bring Nynaeve to life.

2017-08-02_121657_janet_montgomery_gallery_5.jpg  Moiraine Sedai – Jennifer Montgomery

So British actress Jennifer Montgomery not only looks perfect to play one of our mysterious, brave, strong female leads – Moiraine Sedai – but she has the acting skills to do it as well. She was on the tv shows Merlin and the movie Black Swan, and she’s currently in the show Salem playing Mary Sibly – a powerful witch. I honestly think we don’t need to look further than Montgomery to cast the perfect Moiraine.

Unknown-3.jpeg  al’Lan Mandragoran – Daniel Henney

Okay – so here I need you to take some liberties with me. Lan is never *described* as being of asian decent BUT my brain has always pictured him either being Asian or Native American. Henney currently stars in Criminal Minds as Matt Simmons, an FBI agent, and he was the voice of kind and smart Tadashi in Big Hero 6. Henney has that build that I think would be perfect for Lan, as well as that soft side that only a few of our characters will get to see. Also, he’s a snack.

44-1-1080x675.png  Min Farshaw – Lana Candor

With her casting of Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before we know that Lana can play the sweet innocent girl next door, but what I’m intrigued by is her casting as the katana-wielding bad-ass Saya in Syfy’s new show Deadly Class based on Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s comic book series.

These next two – I don’t think I need to explain myself. It’s just … obviously.

Unknown-1.jpeg  Elyas Machera – Jeff Bridges

Unknown.jpeg  Thom Merrilin – Sam Elliot

With all of that said, I think our five lead actors and actresses should be unknown teenage actors/actresses who can jump start their careers by doing a show based on a book series with 14 books that they can grow with. They can grow as the characters and as actors with Amazon and The Wheel of Time series.

Who would you love to see as actors on The Wheel of Time series from Amazon?

– Hannah

Review: The Butterfly Garden

Hey Readers,

When I first saw The Butterfly Garden as I was scrolling through my instagram feed, I had heard absolutely nothing about it. After I did a little digging and read the plot summary I was instantly intrigued. When I first started the book, I was hooked by the first page and just could not put it down. I ended up reading the entire book in one session.

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The Butterfly Garden is about a man who has kidnapped young women, tattooed intricate butterflies upon their backs, and then holds them hostage in this garden that is attached to his secluded mansion. The Gardner, as the girls call him, is obsessed with capturing and preserving what he sees as his beautiful specimens. The book starts with the girls having just been rescued, with one of them Maya being interviewed by the detectives. As she is interviewed, we learn what happened to her and the other girls in the Garden and we’re left wondering what else she could be hiding.

This book is dark, twisted and graphic and definitely not for everyone. I mean, it’s about a man who kidnaps women and then turns them into butterflies, if you didn’t expect a book like that to be at least a little dark and twisted, I’m not really sure what to tell you. However you do need to suspend disbelief for this story, because most of these characters are over the top. You keep waiting for someone to do something and nobody does, and while that ends up helping you turn the pages and feel like your on the edge of your seat, it seems unrealistic just how many people do absolutely nothing about the circumstances. Granted, who knows what I would do if all of a sudden I was trapped in a garden having a butterfly tattooed on my back. But that isn’t just about what the victims don’t do, because honestly they don’t *have* to do anything. It’s the other supporting characters who keep being faced with choices that I feel continue to make choices that aren’t very realistic.

“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.” Dot Hutchison; The Butterfly Garden

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this book was that it wasn’t like all of the other serial killer books out there. Instead of watching the detective try and find the serial killer to save the victims, the detectives have already saved them, they’ve already found the killer and now they need to piece together all of the evidence to figure out what exactly had happened and why. This structure, and the way it flashed back from Maya’s time in the garden to present day when she is being interviewed by the FBI was one of the best parts of the book.

Dot Hutchison’s writing was visceral. The way that she described the harrowing events that these girls had gone through, and of Maya’s struggles prior to being kidnapped was gripping. There is a lot going on in this novel that is hard to get through, awful scenes of abuse and torture, and reveals that you weren’t prepared for. She describes all of these things without the shock value associated with a classic “slasher” thriller. Hutchison stays away from these kind of scares instead using her writing to genuinely upset the reader as they move towards the conclusion of the story.

The one element that really didn’t work for me however was the conclusion. I felt that the twist at the end of the book, and the wrap up of the story in general, felt rushed and overly dramatic. For a book that relied on the drama to keep readers enthralled with the story and to keep them so engrossed, the rushed drama of the end just felt messy and not completely thought through.

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Overall, I really enjoyed The Butterfly Garden and I plan on reading the next two books in The Collector series: The Roses of May and The Summer Children soon.

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

– Hannah

October Monthly Wrap Up

Hey Readers,

It’s been awhile since I posted a wrap up of my monthly reading. This month wasn’t the best month for me in terms of amount of books read but I was really happy with the books that I did read. This month I read one huge book, I finished half of second even larger book, a book that was on my most anticipated release list for this year, and a spooky read (since you know – it’s Halloween).

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I’m behind on my reviews (am I ever going to catch up?) but here are some quick thoughts about each of the books I read this month while I work on getting full length reviews up!

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Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) – Brandon Sanderson

I loved this book and this series. It took me two months to finish this behemoth of a book and every single minute I spent reading this book was 100% worth it. The character development for all of our main characters, and for Dalinar’s character especially, had me feeling my feelings. I don’t know how many times I have texted friends who have read it already in all capitals yelling about said feelings. Journey before destination.

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The Butterfly Garden (The Collector #1) – Dot Hutchison

In a bout of insomnia I read this book in one night, from the first few pages I was hooked and it didn’t feel like I was awake all night (although I definitely felt it the next day). It is a dark and twisted story of a man called The Gardener who has kidnapped young women and tattooed butterflies on their backs. While I did really enjoy the story I do think that a reader does need to suspend their disbelief when reading it to get fully into the story.

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A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

I just finished this book last night and I honestly don’t think I’ve read a more depressingly beautiful book in my entire life. I don’t know what else to say about it right now other than that this book will stick with me for a very long time.

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Vengeful (Villains #2) – V.E. Schwab

I waited anxiously by the door for my copy of Vengeful to be delivered when it was released and I was not disappointed. V.E. Schwab could write an instruction manual and I would probably read it as if it was the most wonderful piece of writing, sure, but she did it again with Vengeful. I love all of these characters, and Mitch needs to be protected at all costs.

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*BONUS* The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time #1) – Robert Jordan

I started a reread this month of The Eye of the World with one of my friends this month and though I didn’t finish it (I got sucked into A Little Life) I got about 200 pages in. I forgot how much stuff happens right off the bat in this book! I’m looking forward to rereading the first seven of these books so that I can finally finish this series.

 

– Hannah

Review: VOX

*This review does contain a spoiler towards the end, so please keep that in mind when reading!*

One thing we have to thank this administration for is the endless ideas for feminist dystopian novels. I’ve read and loved a few of them this year already; The Power by Naomi Alderman and Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. And we can not forget Margaret Atwood’s classic, The Handmaids Tale, which has been a terrifying dystopia since it was published in 1985 and when it was turned into a TV show on Hulu in 2017. Christina Dalcher doesn’t hold back in her world in which women have only 100 words to speak a day in her novel, Vox.

We follow Jean, a thriving cognitive linguist who was on the brink of discovering a cure for individuals who were left without the ability to speak after a stroke, who has now been regulated to being a stay at home wife and mother. After the election of a totalitarian leader to the presidency, and the Pure Movement sweeps the nation, there are new laws which prevent women from holding jobs, reading, writing, and speaking. Also, don’t think about non-verbal communication, there are camera’s everywhere to make sure you don’t do that either.

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The exposition of Vox is where Christina Dalcher thrived. We start the novel when the president is already in charge, laws have already been made and women have already had their speech limited. Woman from babies six months and up have been fitted with bracelets that prevent them from speaking more than 100 words a day, to be electrocuted if they go over their limit. Yet, through Jean’s reflection we see how the country got to the state that it was in. We see so many groups of people: the feminists who rallied and fought, the white women like our narrator, who sat by and did nothing, the LGBTQ+ community who have been either “converted” or imprisoned, and the men who and those who don’t agree with the politics yet are still thriving. The exposition is full of reflection of the world and how America got to where it is. Not just in the novel, but also where we are as a country today. For example; while Donald Trump wasn’t written by name, the allusion between the president in the novel and himself is very clear.

However, once we get to the action it loses track of all of the ideas and speculation that was set up by the exposition and becomes a fast paced thriller. While it does grip the reader and leaves one on the edge of their seat, the real grit of the novel fails to hold up under all of the pressure of the action. When Dalcher has set up such a intense novel with her political and social climate it is a shame the novel doesn’t keep that commentary up and instead sinks into a action movie where the plausibility doesn’t hold up with convenient, lucky and unbelievable resolutions that leave a less than feminist taste in ones mouth.

I was disappointed by this novel. I had a lot of high hopes and after hearing it compared to The Handmaid’s Tale I knew that I had to have it. I wanted more of and was expecting more of the social and political commentary and less of the face paced thriller in which our feminist novel has all of the really hard work completed by men and in which the saving of the world is done by men. In a novel that is supposed to be talking about feminism and empowerment for women, I think it really lost is message when *spoiler alert* a man is the one who ultimately saves the day and rescues our damsel in distress.

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With that said, would I recommend this book? Absolutely. I think even with the fast paced thriller and unrealistic resolutions this book has a lot of things to unpack that really should be discussed. One of those things is the idea of the white women in America who do not do anything, who sit by and let things happen and don’t get angry until we are losing our rights. Jean is the perfect example of this, at one point when her roommate Jacko, a lesbian feminist, is upset about the currently climate, Jean says “You’re getting hysterical about it.” to which Jacko responds, “Well, someone needs to be hysterical around here.” While I think there was so much that could have been done with this novel, the message is clear and is important. We need to do more, especially those of us who have privileges that others don’t, before we don’t have the ability to anymore. We need to all be speaking up so that our feminist dystopian novels can stay novels, and not continue to be our reality.

 

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

Hey readers,

I was lucky to receive a copy of Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens last month from Penguin Random House and Putnam Books in exchange for an honest review, and I can honestly say that this book is definitely on the short list for my top 10 books of the year. It’s that good.

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Delia Owens has written a beautiful first novel that is a murder mystery, coming of age story and a study of nature all in one. She tells the story of Kya Clark, a young woman raised by nature and Chase Andrews, a local man who is found murdered. Kya, known to the locals as “Marsh Girl” is immediately a suspect in the murder. Jumping back in time to 1952 when at age six, Kya’s beloved mother walks down the lane and disappears without looking back, we journey through alternating chapters between Kya’s past and present to learn how she got to where she is now.

“The sun, warm as a blanket, wrapped Kya’s shoulders, coaxing her deeper into the marsh. Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land that caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seemed away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.”

Delia Owen’s writing is lush and descriptive as she tells you the story of an abandoned six year old growing up in the marsh lands of North Carolina. She tells a magical tale as she reflects back through Kya’s own fascination with birds, insects, shifting tides and the light of the swamp. Through Kya’s eyes as she experiences the swamp and all it has to offer her, the swamp itself becomes a vivid character all on its own. Her thoughtful, poetic prose evokes emotion and tells a story that will make the North Carolina swamp lands and Kya Clark stick with readers for a long time after finishing the book.

I have a soft spot in my heart for strong female heroines and Delia Clark doesn’t let me down with Kya Clark. After her mother abandons her at age six, and then each of her four siblings leave her in turn, she is left to be with her drunk and abusive father all alone. She learns to dart between sunbeams and shadows to survive her fathers moods, and though for awhile they share a couple weeks of bliss for our young Kya, at age ten he slips back into alcoholism and abandons her as well. Her heart-breaking formative years, forces her to learn to survive on her own and miraculously after all this abandonment and time alone she allows herself to open up to people, not just the two young men who find themselves drawn to her, but to a couple who take her under their wing and treat Kya as much like a daughter as she will allow. Her resiliency, strength, and determination has definitely found her a spot among the list of my favorite female characters.

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Overall this novel had everything I want in a novel: hope and redemption, love and loss, loneliness and belonging, and strength and determination. I hope that everyone will read it and find themselves where the crawdads sing.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: The Seas

Okay – So I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t pick up this book originally because of its cover. But if we’re being honest, and if this is a safe space (which obviously it is because it’s mine), how could you blame me? The cover screams fairy tale and I’m nothing if I’m not a sucker for a fairy tale.

Samantha Hunt’s debut novel, which was rereleased by Tin House in July of 2018, is about an unnamed narrator, a 19 year old outcast living in a small fishing town, holding vigil for her father who walked into the ocean and never returned and in love, although unrequited, with an Iraq war vet thirteen years her senior. She also happens to believe that she is a mermaid.

Hunt tells a haunting, beautiful novel of a young woman. Her obsession with two of the significant men her life, her father and her first love. Her belief that she is a mermaid. And her inability to escape the world that she lives in. The story is one that flows from fantasy to reality in a way that makes it hard for the reader to determine what is real and what isn’t, just like how our narrator suffers from the same thing.

I wouldn’t say that it is done seamlessly however. The choppy way that it bounces back and forth, from one reality to the next, reminds me of the very thing the book is named after; the sea. The sea which is never calm and easy but choppy and constantly flowing and moving, forcing you to be able to stay a float and be sucked underneath and swept away with it. This book will sweep you away with it and it is worth every minute of it.

“If there was no rain, we would see how our poor town sits in a pit of sadness like a black hole or a wallowing cavity or an old woman.”

Her wonderfully detailed prose is poetic. Similes and metaphors are used constantly through out the book really set up the imagery and painted a picture of this little town and the key players involved in our narrators life. The metaphors are heavy handed at times, they are impossible to miss, almost beating the reader down with how many of them their are but it really serves to the sweeping and volatile nature of the story and our narrator.

 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: City of Ghosts

Hey Hi Hello my friends, I know its been a long time between posts and I’m really hoping life calms down soon but if we’re going to be honest I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I’m coming to you today to talk to you about Victoria Schwab’s latest: City of Ghosts. Friends, Schwab did it again, proved exactly why she’s at the top of my list for favorite authors, and why I buy multiple versions of the same book because I can’t imagine not having ALL of the Victoria/V.E. Schwab books.

City of Ghosts is Schwab’s newest middle grade novel about a girl who almost drowned, the ghost boy who saved her, and her exciting jaunt through Edinburgh, Scotland and its many ghosts. I don’t read a lot of middle grade novels, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened its pages, and those thoughts were swept away as I devoured this book from the first page to it’s last in one day.

“In the end, I guess mom was right.

I have one foot in winter and one in spring,

One foot with the living, and one with the dead.”

Schwab’s storytelling is what kept me rapt as I read this middle grade novel as a 28 year old woman. It maintains some of the darker elements of her other YA or Adult Fantasy novels, while also maintaining a whimsicality that worked well to keep it perfect for a young reader to follow along with 12 year old Cassidy Blake. The book was also so perfectly atmospheric, it made me feel like I was in Edinburgh with Cassidy experiencing the sights and sounds with her. It definitely would be the perfect spooky fall read if you’re looking for something “Stranger Things mixed with Ghost Hunters”-esque.

While I did really enjoy the book, I did have a couple of quibbles. The first is I thought characters could have been more fleshed out. I enjoyed Cassidy Blake, however I wish I had gotten to know a little bit more about Jacob (maybe thats to come in book 2?) or even Lara Jayne Chowdhury. I am looking forward to where she brings these characters in book 2 and will definitely be picking it up once released.

The second is that the plot seemed fairly simplistic and pretty straight forward. There weren’t many twists and turns that kept me guessing as to how the story was going to end. However, this may be a situation of not having read enough middle grade, and having too high expectations.

Over all, City of Ghosts was a delightfully spooky story with easy to devour writing, a friendship I’m a little bit jealous of (who doesn’t want to be best friends with a ghost), and lots of dead things. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a fun, quick fall read.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review – Next Year in Havana

I picked up Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton after Reese Witherspoon announced in as her July book pick for the Reese’s Book Club. Not only was this the first book I read for Reese’s Book Club but it was also my first read by Chanel Cleeton and I was not disappointed by either.

We follow two women, Elisa Perez living in Havana before the rebellion until her family’s exile in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol, visiting Cuba for the first time in 2017. And through Elisa and Marisol we get to experience Cuba. Cleeton’s writing is so atmospheric that if I closed my eyes, I could picture Cuba, the sights, the sounds and smells. Through these characters and their experiences we also learn about the people of Cuba as a whole – those who left Cuba with their belongings on their backs, passing along memories to their descendants and those who stayed behind with hopes of change that would not happen.

One of the things that I loved about this novel, was the way that Cleeton addressed Marisol’s view of herself as a Cuban-American. How she was concerned that she wouldn’t be welcome in Cuba, that she wasn’t “Cuban” enough. It was particularly clear in the way that Cleeton described Marisol feeling both at home while still feeling like an outsider in a country that meant so much to her and to her family.

“You speak as though politics is its own separate entity,’ he says. ‘As though it isn’t in the air around us, as though ever single part of us isn’t political. How can you dismiss something that is so fundamental to the integrity of who we are as a people, as a country? How can you dismiss something that directly affects the lives of so many?”

I didn’t know very much about Cuba before I read this book. I knew some basic information but the depth of Cuba: the politics, the way Cuban’s live, the history, etc – was all new to me. The politics of Cuba come up a lot in this book as the undercurrent of the story, it pushes it forward.  Not just the politics of the government, but also the politics of the social classes. How each social class viewed the rebellion, who agreed and who disagreed, and the the politics of why. And not just that, but how those who stayed in Cuba viewed those who left and vice versa.

One of my favorite things about the genre of historical fiction is that you can learn about history in a way that is almost hands on. With characters like those of Chanel Cleeton’s in Next Year in Havana, they help the reader view the situation through their own eyes in a way that a history book doesn’t. It allows you to experience it instead of just getting the facts. Chanel Cleeton describes this book as a “book of my heart”, stating that her family also escaped Cuba and that she credits their stories with some of the bases for this book. The fact that her family lived through these experiences only adds to that feeling.

Ultimately I loved this book, and I am really looking forward to more of Chanel Cleeton’s writing, especially to hear Beatriz’s story in When We Left Cuba in 2019.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: A Place For Us

Recently Sarah Jessica Parker released the first book published by her imprint, SJP for Hogarth, of Penguin Random House and if the first book she chose says anything about future releases, you better believe that I will be buying everything that she publishes.

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Fatima Farheen Mirza’s debut novel A Place for Us tells the emotionally evocative story of a Indian-American family and each family member’s struggles in their own ways with their sense of identity and belonging. The story is set in Northern California, and we start the story at Hadia’s wedding, where we find out the whole family is there, struggling with what will happen that day as the prodigal son, Amar, has returned after being absent for three years. And while Mirza will come back to the wedding multiple times throughout the novel, it is through her flashbacks that we learn about the family, their triumphs, failures, betrayals and secrets.

Through the characters memories we travel back in time, to before the parents, Layla and Rafiq, arranged marriage, throughout the building of their family, the children going through adolescence, Amar falling in love for the first time, the tragedy of 9/11 and Hadia going off to medical school and making her own love match. Mirza doesn’t focus on telling us the story chronologically, hopping back and forth between timelines and characters flawlessly, allowing us to view each individual incident from multiple points of view, each one changing the meaning of simple actions like a spelling test.

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Fatima Farheen Mirza’s writing is in a word: breathtaking. It is mature, elegant and beautiful in a way that when you realize that she was 26 when this book, her debut, was published, becomes mind-blowing. Her capability of switching perspectives gracefully is just one of the things that make Mirza’s writing stunning, we sense each of the character’s feelings strongly. The loss of love, the panic of parents who are watching a son making decisions they do not understand, the struggle of an immigrant family trying to find balance between their culture, tradition and religion in America today.

I was fully invested in this story, staying up until 1 in the morning when I had work the next day, when I realized that I wasn’t going to finish the novel without crying. A Place for Us was heart-wrenching in all of the right ways. I am emotional going back to think about all the ways that I loved this book. My heartbreak for each of the characters feeling fresh in my mind and my heart. My heart is heavy as I go back to talk about this book and the characters in the most satisfying way.

“When I watch the old tapes, and look through the old photographs, it’s as if I wasn’t there at all. But they are mine, I remind myself, they are my memories, they are exactly how I stood and saw them.”

When I say that I have no doubt that A Place for Us will go down as my all time favorite book of 2018 I do not say that lightly. I know that no other book I have read this year (and in a very long time) has affected me the way that this book has. Fatima Farheen Mirza has proven herself to be a wonderful and strong new voice in the literary world.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah

 

Bookstore Adventures

Hello everyone!

I want to start by saying that I know that it’s been awhile, and I am so sorry! Things got crazy busy the last couple months, but I promise not to let that happen again!

So to get back into the swing of things I thought I would tell you about the new independent bookstore that I went to yesterday, The Bookery Manchester, in Manchester, NH.

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The Details:

The Bookery Manchester

848 Elm St Manchester NH 03101

Hours: 11am-9pm Sunday-Saturday (yeah, everyday. Mind. Blown.)

The Bookery Manchester is a new independent bookstore that opened up about 20 min away from my house this spring, and I have been dying to get over there to check it out and it was finally the perfect day to do it (after the week from hell when it was over 90 degrees everyday – I don’t go anywhere when it is that hot out).

When you first walk in, the entrance has these adorable shelving units on both sides of the door that look like the honeycomb of a bee displaying books, and you are met with a table filled with books. I have read a couple of books on both of these displays this year, On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan, The Wedding Date – Jasmine Guillory, Beartown – Fredrik Backman and The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin. A couple of them are also on my TBR list, Us Against You – Fredrik Backman and Noir – Christopher Moore. .

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If you keep moving forward, there are about two rows of these shelving units that had the normal categories: fiction, classics, poetry, science, biography, non-fiction etc. One thing that I noticed throughout the store is that they don’t have lot of books, and not many duplicate copies (although I did hear a bookseller tell another customer that they were more than happy to order books that weren’t on their shelves.) Although with it being a smaller store, with a smaller selection, I think I pulled out and looked at more books that weren’t my normal go to’s than I would have had I been at a bigger store, like Barnes and Nobles or BAM. But don’t worry, they also had another room full of YA, Sci Fi, Mystery, and Fantasy.

Off to the right, when you walk in the door, they had a table full of summer reading, and another table of books that are currently being featured on PBS’s The Great American Read programming right now! As some one who wants to get through the list eventually I’ve been loving these types of displays.

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How is the kids section you might ask? Well, it was a hit for my daughter once we got over the heartbreak that is being told you can’t buy the one millionth stuffed animal that you just *have* to have. They had the kids section split up into its own sections like, non-fiction, picture books, baby books, and middle grade books. Not to mention little puzzles and games that were scattered throughout the area for kids (or adults) to play with at little tables, and a table with drawing pages and colored pencils. A (age 7) ended up picking out a copy of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which she proudly read to me on our way home.

What about snacks? Drinks? Don’t fear, there is a cafe in the back of the store! A bookstore with food, drinks, and outlets? Basically what I’m saying is there’s enough here to keep you content for hours. My fiancé grabbed a coffee (which I snuck sips from) and A chose a cake pop (which I happily helped her finish). Both were very delicious.

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There were also plenty of other places to sit if the cafe isn’t your speed. There were a couple sets of fancy chairs and then there were some normal tables inside and right outside. Not to mention, a section which had some bookish goodies including: cards, socks, enamel pins, totes and some art supplies. And if you’re into bullet journaling, which I can’t seem to get the hang of, they have multiple different sizes of the popular Leuchterm notebooks.

Ultimately I was really impressed with The Bookery Manchester. I love the hours, 11am-9pm everyday except holidays? That is amazing. I imagine they might being doing that to compete with the Barnes and Noble that is about 10 min away, but regardless, I know that I will be coming to look for things at The Bookery Manchester before heading to Barnes and Noble. I really enjoyed spending the time that we spent there, and thanks to the smaller selection, poking around and looking at books I wouldn’t have normally picked up, I’ve added quite a few books to my TBR.

And before you ask, of course I bought something, how could I not? I ended up choosing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun. I have been meaning to read something by her all year so I figured this was the perfect place to pick this up!

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One of my favorite things to do is explore bookstores, so let me know in the comments if you liked this and I’ll do posts like this more often!

– Hannah

Review: The Great Alone

The Great Alone was the first novel by Kristin Hannah that I have read, and I absolutely loved it. I read this book in about two sittings, mostly spending one Saturday curled up on the couch where I didn’t stop reading until I was sobbing and turning the last page. This then prompted my daughter to ask “Mommy, why do you always read books that make you cry?” That may need to be a post for another day, but I was so engrossed in Hannah’s characters and the story of a teenage girl trapped in her parents toxic relationship that tears were bound to happen. The Great Alone left me heartbroken and at peace all at the same time, and honestly books that manage to do that are always my favorite books.

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The Great Alone tells the story of Ernt Allbright, a Vietnam vet and POW, who finds out that he has inherited a piece of land in Alaska from one of his friends from his time in the military. This comes at the perfect time for Ernt because, unable to keep a job and unable to quit drinking, he is running out of options. Cora, his wife, unfailingly devoted to her husband agrees to move to America’s last frontier with him. Leni, their 13 year old daughter hopes that in Alaska she will finally find a place where she belongs.

At first, Alaska is everything they have dreamed of. They find a close knit community of strong men and even stronger women who are willing to help them learn how to navigate the wilderness around them, and Ernt finally seems to be doing better. Unfortunately, Alaska’s wilderness isn’t the only thing that is volatile, as winter approaches and the days get shorter and darkness falls upon Alaska, darkness also starts to fall on Cora and Leni, as Ernt’s mental state deteriorates.

“In the silence, Leni wondered if one person could ever really save another, or if it was the kind of thing you had to do for yourself.”

The thing I loved most about this novel was the characters. Each character was so different to the rest, but they were all fully fleshed out. There was Large Marge, a former D.C lawyer, intense and strong, willing to do what she needed to do to protect her unprepared neighbors. There is Matthew, who brings romance to Leni. The two of them turn into Alaska’s Romeo and Juliet once Ernt starts to have a problem with Matthew’s father. There is even a family of survivalists, the family of the friend who gives Ernt his property, whose patriarch doesn’t help Ernt’s state of mind with their ranting and raving of the collapse of their great country. Each character brings something to this community of Kaneq that helps propel this story along.

Leni and Cora Allbright were the strength of this story however. Leni finds herself in Alaska, she learns to take care of herself, she becomes strong, willing to do what she needs to do in order to survive. She starts to see the cracks in her own parents relationship but doesn’t let that stop her from finding love of her own. Cora, at first glance, is a battered woman. She follows Ernt blindly, willing to do whatever it takes to make him happy, even though she knows that it’s only a matter of time before he explodes. Cora finds her strength in Alaska too, although it’s not Alaska where she finds her happiness. Hannah does her leading ladies justice, they find peace and happiness in their own way.

The Great Alone is a tour de force of drama, emotion, and tragedy. Hannah writes a novel that forces us to look at the way that wilderness lives within us, and the way that sometimes in order to survive what we need to do is look inside ourself for the strength that lies within us.

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Kristin Hannah is an author I now need to go out, buy, and read, everything that she has ever written. For those of you who have read her other novels, let me know which one I should read next in the comments!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

– Hannah

Review: The Woman in the Window

“Watching is like nature photography: You don’t interfere with the wildlife.”

In his debut novel A. J. Finn tells the story of a troubled heroine that will have you unable to put it down until you have finished it. This book is film noir in novel form. The plot is fantastic, the twists are surprising, and The Woman in the Window is going to be the novel new upcoming psychological thrillers will have to beat.

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Anna Fox is a 38 year old, agoraphobic, who hasn’t left her home in uptown Manhattan in over a year. She spends some time logged on to a website counseling other agoraphobes, watching old film noir movies, and spending time with her cat, but, mostly she drinks wine and spies on her neighbors.

Among her neighbors is a family who she has particularly become invested in. The Russells are a troubled family. After Ethan, the Russell’s 16 year old son, hints to Anna that his father is violent towards both him and his mother, Anna starts watching them more intently. After she witnesses something violent happen in their home, and the police tell her to let it go, Anna becomes obsessed with what happened, while everyone else believe that her excessive wine drinking and her prescription drugs have impaired her judgement.

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Before I go spoiling the rest of the book I want to talk about some of the things that I absolutely loved about this novel. Finn writes a believable woman. I think there can be disconnects when men write female characters, making them do or say things that are maybe a little too cliché or that just aren’t believable characters but Finn’s Anna Fox is completely believable as a woman. And not just a woman, but a woman suffering from mental illness and trauma, and she’s struggling to preserve her sanity. One of the reasons that I think Finn triumphed in this feat is because he himself has struggled with depression, and he used his experience to develop his “tortured heroine”.

And, if we want to talk about unreliable narrators, all other unreliable narrators can sit down because Anna Fox takes the cake. There were so many times in the novel that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to believe the things that Anna was seeing or saying or not. While Finn does do a great job in making Anna unreliable, mainly with the help of her alcoholism and the mixing of her alcohol with her prescription drugs, one thing that is a little tiring is the woman who are alcoholics trope. I wish the thriller/mystery novel would find a different way to make female characters unreliable.

Overall this novel was thrilling, Hitchcockian, suspenseful, and most of all beautifully written. I am anxiously waiting for A.J. Finn’s next novel.

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Have you read The Woman in the Window yet? Tell me what you thought of it down in the comments!

– Hannah

March Wrap Up

March was a very good month for me. Probably the best month of the year. 2018 is just getting better and better… but I better knock on wood before it decides to fall apart.

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So I honestly don’t know if I’m going to keep doing these wrap up posts. Ultimately I kind of just use them to see how I’ve done with my goals for that month.. but then I come to write them and I feel like a lot of the time I’m saying the same thing as I did last month.. what do you guys think? Maybe I’ll just do one when I’ve had a super spectacular or interesting month. Who knows. I’ll figure it out….

ANYWAY

The Unread Shelf Project

I managed to knockout eight more books on my unread shelf this month…but per usual I went a little overboard on buying books. I had two significant hauls and this is what they looked like:

and now I am back on a book buying ban… but it is just a short one. I am putting myself on a book buying ban just until June when I go to NYC to go to BookCon! Which is only two months away. That’s nothing. I can make it two months. Psh. Easy Peasy. *hyperventilates into a paper bag*.

My Blog

I listed two goals last month when talking about my blog and they were as follows:

  1. Post one review a week, hopefully going up on Sundays.
  2. Try and get a post up that isn’t a review but still having to do with books at least twice.

I got three reviews up, and one extra post up (that wasn’t my February review). So I did about the same as February, and I’m going to try and be better about actually doing my reviews right when I finish the book. Instead of catching up with reviews from the month before. I have a few more books I wanted to review from March so hopefully I can get those up soon!

Books I Read

Like I said earlier, I had a really successful month when it came to my actual reading goals. I had seven books on my TBR list and I managed to read eight. And I enjoyed all of them for the most part. I only had one 3 star read and nothing less than that.

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  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Lady Killers: Deadly Woman Throughout History by Tori Telfer – 4 ⭐️’s
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny – 3 ⭐️’s
  • The Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas Fils – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – 5 ⭐️’s

I am wanting to review so many of these but because I’m behind already I’ll never catch up if I do, so let me know in the comments which of these you’d want to read a review of!

Next Month

I am very excited for the TBR I have planned for April. I have another lift of eight books. A couple of them that I’m very excited for are Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus (because the movie was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen since my daughter was born) and The Hearts Invisible Furies by John Boyne because I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. I hope it lives up to the hype. Norse Mythology is also my IRL book clubs April pick this month!

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What do all of you have on your TBR lists for April. Did you read any of the books that I read in March? What did you think of them?

– Hannah

Review: An American Marriage

Tayari Jones’s fourth novel and Oprah’s 2018 Book Club pick, An American Marriage, is an emotional, powerful and gripping novel about love, family, and the criminal justice system and its injustices. It is an intimate portrait of love and how tragic events can cause that love to falter. How sometimes, love, just isn’t enough.

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Synopsis from Goodreads: “Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.”

An American Marriage was my Book of the Month pick for February and I am so happy that I ended up choosing it. The writing was spectacular, the characters were rich, and the story was moving. Jones does not pull any punches, her writing hits you in the gut with emotion from all sides. I read this book in two days, and on the first day I started crying on page 35 and didn’t stop until I put the book down on page 138.

Told in part by letters between Roy and Celestial, and then told from the perspectives of the three main characters, this isn’t the story of courtroom drama, like one might expect when you find out one of the characters is wrongly committed of a crime, but one of the devastation of a family. Both Roy and Celestial are doing all of the right things, they are hard working, in love, and young, they still suffer the fate of having their lives dashed. An innocent man, confined to a prison cell for 12 years, the action of someone else derailing Roy’s life, leaving him powerless to stop what is going to happen – it is this that makes the slow burn of the book all the more powerful.

“Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”

While this story is very much about the personal story of Celestial and Roy, you can not dismiss the racial context of the story. Roy is a black man, convicted wrongly of rape, and he loses his freedom for it. However, throughout the story, the characters mainly remain thankful that he is even alive, Celestial says at one point that there is “no appealing a cop’s bullet.” While even though Roy has done everything right, he has a good job, he is a good man, he makes good choices, even his family have lived good middle class lives, he recognizes that what happened to him could have happened to anyone, and when he says this, his friend, Andre responds with, “You think I don’t know that? I been black all my life.” Now released, he is set to become someone that society all too frequently casts aside and dismisses: the ex-convict. Although Jones makes it clear that this doesn’t have to be Roy’s future. That there is still hope.

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This book moved me, and it stuck with me for the next couple days after I finished it. It still sticks with me now as I think about it. My conflicts with the characters and the decisions that were made, my heartbreak for them, and the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that I felt with Roy for most of the book. All I wanted was for these characters to find happiness, and I think Jones gives it to them, and for that I am grateful.

– Hannah

p.s. After I finished reading I immediately cast my perfect movie adaptation and it goes as follows:

Roy: Michael B Jordan

Celestial: Lupita Nyong’o

Andre: Daniel Kaluuya

It would be perfect. You’re welcome to the future production company that chooses to make this book into a film. I’ve done all your hard work for you.

 

 

Celebrating Women’s History Month: Favorite Female Authors

Happy Women’s History Month everyone! As a woman, I wanted to take the time to celebrate women in literature this month, today I want to talk about some of my favorite female authors and how they have impacted and inspired me and my love of reading.

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I think in a world that has always been very dominated by men, especially since it was a lot less “acceptable” for women to be successful authors in our history, it is important to reflect on the great work that women have done in the literary world.

9780553213300.jpeg   1. Kate Chopin

Born in 1850, Chopin is now considered to be one of the best female authors of her time. Some of her most influential short stories are “Desiree’s Baby”, “The Story of an Hour” and “The Storm”, and her novel The Awakening is one of the first pieces of work that addresses womens issues without condescension. The Awakening and “The Story of an Hour” are both stories that have stuck with me since I read them. The Awakening tells the story of Edna Pontellier, who starts to figure out who she is as her own person; learning she has her own wants, needs and desires, separate from her life as a wife and mother. “The Story of an Hour” is the tale of Mrs. Mallard and the hour in her life after learning that her husband has passed away, and the drastic changes to a person’s sense of self that can happen in an hour. Both of these pieces of literature I read in college and I have continued to pick them up and reread them throughout the years. Both of them deal with the idea of freedom and femininity, and how learning who you are as a woman, as a whole person, can bring you freedom.

“but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.” – Kate Chopin, The Awakening.

Unknown.jpeg 2. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Gilman who was born in 1860, has been a role model for many feminists going forward due to the lifestyle that she lived and the views that she held. Her most famous piece of work “The Yellow Wallpaper” is one that is semi autobiographical – after having been given the “rest cure” (being confined to bed in order to treat an illness, usually in the case of “hysteria” in women) after developing severe postpartum psychosis after her daughter was born. The Yellow Wallpaper discusses how the lack of women’s autonomy is detrimental to them, mentally, emotionally and physically. This is another short story that I read while I was in college, and one of the things that struck me is how women’s mental health has been treated throughout history. Women were told that they are mentally ill by the very people who are preventing them from becoming well and happy, by forcing them into reclusiveness and forcing them to renounce their own personhood to become strictly a wife and mother.

“There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper.

Unknown-1.jpeg 3. Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was a feminist icon, becoming heavily involved with anti-war, civil rights and feminist activism in the 1960s. She was an essayist and poet and her poetry is some of the most beautiful prose I have ever read. She writes in a way that even a person who doesn’t love poetry would enjoy it. My favorite book of her poetry is The Dream of a Common Language. Published after she came out as a lesbian in 1976, she splits the book into three sections: The Power, Twenty-One Love Poems, and Not Somewhere Else, But Here. “The Power” is a section of poetry talking about individual women and their accomplishments while she relates these accomplishments to women in general at the same time. “Twenty-One Love Poems” is a section in which she discusses the love that women have for each other and the way that our culture denies the existence of that kind of love. The section, “Not Somewhere Else, But Here” talks about the relationship between women and nature. All of these poems are some of the most moving poems I have read.

“No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone. / The accidents happen, we’re not heroines, / they happen in our lives like car crashes, / books that change us, neighborhoods / we move into and come to love.” – Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language. 

59716.jpg 4. Virginia Woolf

One of the things that I love most about Virginia Woolf’s prose is that she so often uses almost a stream of consciousness way of writing her novels. Most of her novels you get most of the depth from them when you are looking introspectively into the characters as they are thinking about and reacting to the things that are happening around them. In To The Lighthouse there is no specific narrator, instead it relies on the shifting perspectives of the characters to tell the story. As with many women of the time, Virginia Woolf also struggled with mental illness and the lack of compassion and understanding that went along with it.

“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees
and changing leaves.” – Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse.

Unknown.jpeg 5. Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre is a novel that has stuck with me ever since I read it. Jane Erye is a classic for a reason, and it’s the way that Bronte wrote it, and how she wrote her character that makes it stick around. Bronte has been called “the first historian of the private consciousness” for the way that she writes about the inferior life that women were being forced into leading and the way she exposed a woman’s thoughts and feelings throughout the novel.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre.

Unknown-1.jpeg 6. Edith Wharton 

Edith Wharton was a writer, designer, and the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize when she won it in 1921 for The Age of Innocence. Her novels focus on the lives of those who lived during the nineteenth century when wealth was declining. The craftsmanship, and the subtle ironies and hypocrisies that are woven throughout all of Wharton’s novels should be admired as she consistently discusses the class system and money, while still exploring the individual characters themselves. In reading the The Age of Innocence in todays world, Ellen Olenska becomes a feminist character struggling with her identity as a woman and what it means to live her own life. At the same time, May Welland is now seen as manipulative when she was only using what means she had at her disposal to save what was important to her – her marriage. Wharton’s prose when it comes to her descriptions are what really give you depth to what is going on around these characters, the attention to detail is immaculate.

“And you’ll sit beside me, and we’ll look, not at visions, but at realities.” – Edith Wharton, The Age of Innocence.

Unknown-2.jpeg 7. Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton and the next author on my list, are two of my very favorite poets. Sexton is often grouped in with other poets who write Confessional Poetry, poetry that often focuses on their individual experiences. Often her poems are considered autobiographical, which caused her to become known for writing poems about topics that were often not discussed, like her long battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, but also her personal relationships. Sexton struggled with depression her whole life, spending time in and out of hospitals, which ultimately caused her to take her own life. Her ability to turn her pain into beautiful prose that sings is something that inspires me in my efforts to write.

“I am stuffing your mouth with your
promises and watching
you vomit them out upon my face.” – Anne Sexton, “Killing the Love”.

Unknown-3.jpeg 8. Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was also grouped together with poets who wrote confessional poetry, although she is given a lot of the credit for advancing it. Plath was a poet, a novelist and a short story writer who suffered from depression. Throughout her writing, she discusses her struggles with mental illness quite thoroughly. The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel she stated was about describing the loneliness that one feels while suffering a breakdown. Plath spent time in mental hospitals and was even treated for her depression with Electroshock Therapy. Like Sexton, Plath famously committed suicide shortly after The Bell Jar was published. Her journals have always been something that has spoken to me, everything she talks about regarding her relationships and her struggle with mental illness is amazing to read. How much of themselves that Plath and Sexton put into their writing is overwhelming to read sometimes.

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” – Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar.

Unknown.jpeg 9. Jane Austen

Jane Austen is a staple for many people who have a love of books, and her novel Pride and Prejudice is one of the most popular examples of English literature. In a lot of Austens work, the major theme is the importance of the upbringing and the environment in which her young characters grow up, and the idea that a good marriage is one of the most important things a woman can accomplish as that is one of the only ways to bring her into a place of good standing and class. In Pride and Prejudice Austin looks at marriage and what a good marriage is vs. what a bad marriage is. Is a good marriage one that is for love, or is it for money, or maybe is it a combination of both? Throughout the novel, as the characters interact and come closer to the end it is obvious that Elizabeth and Darcy love each other, but Elizabeth does still come out on top with an higher place in society and more money then she had prior to her marriage.

“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice.

Unknown.jpeg 10. Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a novelist, poet, activist and many other things and the way that she writes is incredibly moving and upsetting all at the same time. While Atwood has never actively put the label of feminist on her writing, it is pretty hard to ignore the politics of most of her novels, like The Handmaid’s Tale, or The Heart Goes Last, as feminist. Her novels are often focused on the issues of female sexuality, relationships, and the brutality of men in a patriarchal society and the way that women suffer at the hands of men. Her novels never seem to be something that won’t ever happen, too often in fact they seem to be very possible if only a few key changes were to happen in our modern day world, and I think that is one of the things that intrigues and terrifies me most about Atwood’s writing.

“The past is so much safer, because whatever’s in it has already happened. It can’t be changed; so, in a way, there’s nothing to dread.” – Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last.

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Most of the authors that I identify with do share a lot of the same qualities, often they are writing about things like feminism, female sexuality, and mental illness. And more often than not, a lot of them suffer from their own mental illnesses. It is inspiring to me to see women putting their own personal struggles into their writing so that they can do something bigger with it. Allowing other people to find peace from their own demons through reading about theirs.

Did I miss any of your favorite female authors? Whose writing has inspired or impacted you?

– Hannah

Review: The Wedding Date

Alexa and Drew are strangers and after finding themselves stuck in an elevator together, and hitting it off, Drew convinces Alexa to accompany him as his plus one to his ex-girlfriends wedding. It’s the stuff of a rom-com dream. As what was supposed to be fake relationship turns into a one night stand turns to weekend trips to see each other, Alexa and Drew have to decide what exactly they mean to each other.

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This romance novel was a breath of fresh air when it comes to romances. The characters are equally relatable, both are charming and both have their flaws which keeps the story moving. They have their own inside joke about sandwiches which pops up multiple times during the story which makes their relationship seem all the more realistic and relatable. And there are even some quirky friends that add even more flavor to the story.

There is a lot of sex in the book, but it is not off putting at all. It doesn’t seem over done and it isn’t raunchy or distasteful. It flows well with the story, especially since Drew and Alexa’s relationship started being based solely on physical attraction.

Now what did I really love about the book? Well Jasmine Guillory wrote a female character that I find is uncharacteristic towards the normal rom-com heroine. She is a larger African-American woman, who is consistently unapologetically herself. She is down to earth, she knows her worth, she is strong and confident in who she is and in her own skin, and she LOVES to eat. There was so much talk of food and eating in this book it was amazing. I don’t know how many times in a romance or rom-com I’ve heard the leading lady talking about how she forgot to eat that day, or that all she had was a salad. It was nice to be seeing something different embracing that body positive and food positive lifestyle.

Guillory also looks at and highlights interracial relationships and what race can mean when it comes to dating. Alexa is much more aware of situations that can be difficult for her due to her experiences and as she communicates about those situations to Drew, he learns more about his own privilege, and another reason why I love this book – he doesn’t question her experience. There was a scene when she told him that she had experienced racism at the hands of someone he knew, he didn’t question her experience at all, took her side immediately and then did what he needed to do to make sure she didn’t experience that again. Basically, he reacted exactly the way any white person should react when a person of color is explaining the racism that they face on a day-to-day basis.

I gave this book 4 stars. I really enjoyed this book, it was the perfect read when I was in the mood for something quick, fast paced, relatively light, and delicious. If that is what you are looking for – look no further. The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory is just what you need.

– Hannah

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Review: The Girl in the Tower

Now – before I get into this review, which I am SO EXCITED to do – this is the second book in a series, so this review may have some spoilers for the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale.

“Think of me sometimes… When the snowdrops have bloomed and the snow has melted.”

Synopsis from Goodreads: “The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingale continues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.”

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.”

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If you loved the first book in The Winternight Trilogy: The Bear in the Nightingale, you will love it’s sequel. This book, actually this series, is some of the best historical fiction I have ever read. The combination of the history and folklore of Russia is absolute perfection. And the way that Katherine Arden flawlessly combines history, folklore and the fantastical makes this novel a magical and compelling read. If you ignored my previous warning of spoilers, and you haven’t started these books, I need you to stop what you’re doing right now and go read them. Okay? Go. Now.

Before I go into my more detailed review – this book shouldn’t be read as a stand alone. You should definitely start with The Bear and the Nightingale (it’s worth it). Arden doesn’t start the book with a lot of refresher information, she jumps right into the action and that is one of the things I love most about it. There were definitely details that related back to the first book, but I never felt like we were rehashing plot points that had already been discussed and wrapped up. It was like I had just turned the page of the first book into the second and it really helped the pace of the book (which was excellent throughout).

This book was also fantastically feminist. Vasilisa (Vasya) is a fiercely independent woman who has no desire to comply to 14th century Russian culture and rules. She risks her life, and her family’s lives, in order to try and find herself and her purpose, without being forced to spend her life locked away as some man’s wife or in a nunnery. She fights for what she believes is right, without fail, no matter what the consequences might be. She is smart. She listens to her heart. And above all, she knows that being a woman does not make her any less of a person than if she was a man. She is a woman who I ardently admire.

“Do you think that is all I want, in all my life—a royal dowry, and a man to force his children into me?”

Side note: Hi my name is Hannah and I am hopelessly in love with a frost demon named Morozko.

The relationship between Morozko and Vasya was an absolute treat to read.  Morozko’s desire to keep Vasya safe, and Vasya’s refusal to be treated as anything less than she is, is a combination that I am 100% here for. And while Morozko does try and protect her at all costs, with spring coming fast, the Winter King can only do so much. As Morosko and Vasya struggle with their feelings for one another their relationship goes to new depths that will make you fall in love and Katherine Arden doesn’t hold back any punches either.

“You are immortal, and perhaps I seem small to you… But my life is not your game.”

This book is atmospheric, magical, beautiful and heartbreaking. I am always nervous when moving on to the second book in a series when I loved the first book so much because I am nervous of the second book not living up to my expectations. This book lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It was a page turner and there were many times that I had a hard time setting it down. Arden’s characters have been added to my short list of characters that I would absolutely die for. The last book in the trilogy, The Winter of the Witch, set to be released in August 2018 is one of my most anticipated of 2018. I can not wait to see where Arden has Vasya going next in her journey. I have very high hopes.

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– Hannah

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February Wrap Up

So I know I’m late with this February Wrap Up as we are already 4 days into March BUT better late than never right? …Right?

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(Thank you Walter.)

February was a short month and I didn’t get as much reading done as I had wanted to. I had wanted to read quite a bit of fantasy, thanks to the Fantasy in February challenge that I was participating in. All, except for one of my books, were fantasy books and I really enjoyed them for the most part but I really fell in love with the first trilogy I read so I ended up deciding to take my time with it so I could really enjoy it. This however, did have an impact on the amount of books I was able to get through, but I wouldn’t go back and read them faster if I had the option to, so I’m okay with it.

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(This was my February TBR list.)

The Unread Shelf Project

So I’m doing a really good job about reading only books on my Unread Shelf list. I have not reread any books and I’m doing a really good job sticking to my TBR lists. In February I ended up being able to get through seven more books from my Unread Shelf.

Y’all… I CAN’T STOP BUYING BOOKS.

I know. I know. January I was on a complete book buying ban and that went TERRIBLY. So February I was like, I can make it through one month without buying a book. That can’t be too hard. I mean, get yourself together and have a little self control.

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(Justin literally can’t even with me right now.)

I’m not even going to lie to myself anymore about being on a book buying ban. Is it worth it to deprive myself of all the books that are practically begging to be on my shelves? I don’t think so. And it certainly isn’t worth buying the books and then feeling guilty for having so utterly failed in my book buying ban. SO I’M GIVING UP. I mean, if buying books is my vice, it could be so much worse. I could have worse vices and we all need one so…

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(My friend Gwen sent me this, and if it’s not accurate to my life, I don’t know what is.)

My Blog

February was a really good month for me and my blog. I got up three reviews and I made a post about my favorite literary bad boys for Valentines Day. So I am really pleased with how February went. But since nothing is perfect, I know I could improve for March, so my goals for March are to:

  1. Post one review a week, hopefully going up on Sundays.
  2. Try and get a post up that isn’t a review but still having to do with books at least twice.

I’m feeling confident March will be a good month to succeed with those goals. I have a pretty awesome TBR which I’m super excited to get through.

Books I Read

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Out of the nine books on my February TBR I got through six of them, which for a short month I am pretty pleased with. I also read my IRL BookClubs pick of Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which if you read my review (found here) you’ll know I wasn’t super impressed by it which I was disappointed about. Other than that book though I really enjoyed the books that I read in February and it was awesome being able to get back into reading fantasy, a genre I always love but sometimes forget to read since their is always so many classics and contemporary fiction that I want to get to as well.

  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – 5 ⭐️’s
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert – 3 ⭐️’s
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – 3 ⭐️’s
  • The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden – 4 ⭐️’s
  • Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – 2 ⭐️’s

Next Month

In March I don’t have any specific challenge that I am participating in but I do have a pretty awesome TBR planned. A couple of the books on my list are The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. My book club’s pick this month is The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn. So I know March is going to be a good month and I can’t wait.

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How was your February? Did you participate in Fantasy in February as well? I want to hear all about your month so let me know in the comments below!

– Hannah

Review: Sleeping Beauties

Synopsis from Goodreads: “In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place… The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously absorbing father/son collaboration between Stephen King and Owen King.”

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This was my IRL book clubs first book pick. It did not go over so well. Out of the six of us only two, myself included, actually finished the book. Nobody else was able to get into it and part of this I blame on the deadly pacing at the beginning of the book.  The beginning of the book drags as we get introduced to the characters, and while the book seems to pick up steam once the Aurora virus gets started, it doesn’t keep the pace for the rest of the novel. There were plenty of times that I felt like I needed the pick up of caffeine in order to stay awake for this just like the woman of Dooling WV.

The book starts not in the middle of the Aurora Virus, which this mysterious sleeping disease starts to be called, but right before it. That is one of my favorite parts of the book, I liked the dissent from the normal world as we know it and the swift dissent into chaos as the women slowly start to fall asleep. Now, don’t feel too bad if you start to forget who the characters are, there are over 70 characters and the book starts off with a character list. And for all of these characters I think the one who got the least credit was the fox, the last character listed. A talking fox who had more emotion than our female protagonist, Evie Black.

While I was very intrigued by the idea I wasn’t quite happy with the outcome. I don’t know if that’s just me, I don’t always like Stephen King’s endings to his novels, they always seem to let me down, I always imagine the book ending differently than it did. I spent most of the book asking if what had been happening in the previous pages were actually important to the rest of the book, and I’m still not sure that half of it did, and if any of it actually meant anything.

Am I the only one who doesn’t love Stephen Kings endings? Am I the crazy one?

– Hannah

 

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Review: My Absolute Darling

This debut novel by Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling, is an excellent but unsettling novel of extreme child abuse. It is heart breaking and devastating to read but it captivates you and makes it hard to stop, even when you feel like you can’t take anymore. The novel has a pretty even pace as you move through it, but as you get closer to the end, the pace quickens, making it almost impossible to put down.

Turtle, whose real name is Julia, although only her teacher and principal call her that, lives with her father Martin, a sociopath who believes that the world is due for an ecological disaster any day. In the house she shares with him she suffers severe and traumatic emotional, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of her father. The way that Tallent details the abuse is difficult to read, in the very first scene of the book Martin is calling her a “little bitch”, and it only gets worse from there.

As the novel progresses, Turtle starts to realize that she needs to escape. This urge to escape is only heightened when she meets two high school boys, and develops a crush on one of them, Jacob. The boys instantly take a liking to Turtle, and the way that they talk makes her dizzy.  The boys also bring some light hearted scenes to the novel which helps break up the otherwise disturbing content of the novel.

The language that Tallent uses to convey these violent scenes of horrific abuse that Turtle undergoes at the hand of her father is uncomfortable to say the least. He explores Turtle’s case of Stockholm syndrome in a way that makes you feel for Turtle, but never have pity on her. She is a 14 year old who faced with the violence that she is subjected to is strong and brave, and even finds herself able to provide moments of tenderness when it is needed. He is really able to convey why a victim of abuse sometimes chooses to stay with their abuser, even if they know on some level that it’s wrong.

I gave this novel five stars. The writing is beautiful and lush, all of the characters are full and well rounded, and the story is dark and captivating. There are going to be people who don’t like the way that Tallent described Turtle and her relationship to her father, almost as one who likes her abuse, “In the waiting she by turns wants and does not want it. His touch brings her skin to life, and she holds it all within the private theatre of her mind, where anything is permitted, their two shadows cast across the sheet and knit together.” Tallent makes it clear that it is abuse, but also wants it known that the characters love each other, although not neccesarily a love that should be celebrated. Martin’s love for Turtle is a possessive love, denying Turtle her individuality. Turtle’s a complex mix of a daughter’s love for her father and a 14 year old girl suffering from Stockholm syndrome.

I had a hard time walking away from this novel, as I turned the page I was hoping for more but at the same time, I don’t think I could have taken anymore. I am very excited to see what Gabriel Tallent does next.

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– Hannah

 

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My Favorite Literary Bad Boys

So it is Valentine’s Day. The hallmark holiday to celebrate love. I am a hopeless romantic, thanks to years and years of reading and a secret love of rom-coms (the more unrealistic and tear-jerking the better, thank you very much).

However – I think the idea that I have of love; this kind of “can’t eat, can’t sleep, reach for the stars, over-the-fence, worlds series kind of stuff” (Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movie style), is unrealistic and unattainable in the real world, especially if we look at some of the men that I have had literary crushes on. So today I want to talk about those men – why do I love them, and for some; why I shouldn’t.

6. Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams; Honestly, I’d be lying if I said a lot of the reason why I love Stanley wasn’t because in the film (one of my favorites actually) he’s played by Marlon Brando in his prime, and can you blame me for that? Look at him:

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(I mean, really)

Stanley Kowalski is a man’s man. There is nothing about Stanley that doesn’t scream masculinity. He is almost a caricature of it. He is brutish when you are first introduced to him, he’s literally swinging a package of meat around, I mean lets read into that for a minute. He is violent to both of the leading ladies in the play, Stella, his wife (who also is pregnant with his child) and Blanche, Stella’s sister who comes for an indefinite stay with them. His violence towards women is appalling from hitting his wife to even raping Blanche.

I honestly struggle to come up with any reason to like Stanley, and then I picture the scene where he is screaming for Stella at the bottom of the stairs, distraught and begging for her to come home and I have to admit my heart melts a little bit.

5. Erik, Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux; The Phantom is probably the worst on my list. He is obsessed with the innocent Christine Daae, stopping at nothing, even killing, in order to try and be with her. This screams unhealthy yes? I LOVE HIM. I’ve got no good explanation for you. I don’t have any excuses. But I absolutely adore him. I first was introduced to The Phantom of the Opera when I listened to the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. I then read the book, and the movie version with Emmy Rossem and Gerard Butler is one of my favorites. It never fails to have me sobbing at the end. There is something about a brooding man that sets my heart a flutter – I’m sure you’ll pick up the pattern as I move forward in my list. Plus, check out Gerard’s skill with that cape:

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(yaaaasssss)

4. Jay Gatsby, The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald; What’s not to love about Jay Gatsby? He’s handsome, rich, throws great parties and he is madly in love with Daisy. The problem with Jay Gatsby? He has built his whole life around reclaiming the past. He is self centered enough to believe that Daisy will abandon everything about her life to be with him, because he did all of this for her. When you look at it on the surface it seems so hopelessly romantic, a man willing to do anything to win back the woman that he loves. When looking closely, you realize that Gatsby is chasing an unattainable dream, he is fatally idealistic. He believes he is doing what is right, however he fails to realize that Daisy ultimately does not want to be with him. The worst part is, the woman that he’s done all of this for is not the woman that Daisy is, it is the woman he believes Daisy to be.

3. Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte; Okay. So thinking about it, I don’t have any good reasons why I love Heathcliff or this book. Both he and Catherine Earnshaw are awful people. Neither of them have any good qualities really, and the only redeeming thing about them was their love for each other. I mean, Catherine’s ghost haunts him after she dies, pretty intense stuff. And I’m a sucker for a happy ending, or as happy a ending as you can get with a book as dark as Wuthering Heights.

2. Mr. Rochester, Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte; Something about these Bronte sisters and their ability to write a wonderfully brooding man. If I had to chose though, Mr. Rochester is my favorite leading Bronte man. Mr. Rochester, while not described as particularly attractive, offers Jane her first sense of love and a real home. He is a complex character, wounded and brooding because of a mistake and he’s able to melt any woman’s heart the way that he talks. And then we find out he’s hiding a wife by keeping her locked in a tower. Why Mr Rochester??

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you—especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.” Mr Rochester

1. Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind – Margarett Mitchell; My favorite bad boy of the bunch. I don’t know if I love any one more than I love Rhett Butler, at least any literary characters. He’s dashing, bold, charismatic, and doesn’t give a damn about the rules or what people think of him. He is unapologetically himself at every turn. He can be brutish and a rascal, but underneath that rough exterior he has a heart that is warm and full. He loves Scarlet for who she is and wants her to be the best her possible. Not the best version of her which society will like, but her true self, and he loves her the most when she is being her most authentic self, which I adore him for.

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(swoons)

So tell me, who are the literary characters that you fell in love with? Are any of them bad boys that I missed?

– Hannah

Review: The Immortalists

I’ll be honest with you, the thing that first drew me to this book is the cover. I mean look at it, it’s stunning. I kept seeing it on my Instagram feed and I wanted it. I marked the date it was going to be released on my calendar and I picked up that day. What I was expecting was a book of fantasy, filled with magical realism, but thats not exactly what I got.

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Synopsis; from Goodreads:

“If you were told the date of your death, how would it shape your present?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

Their prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11, hoping to control fate; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.”

Chloe Benjamin sets her novel up in four acts. One for each sibling, from the sibling who dies first to the sibling who dies last, each their own period piece as well. Simon, embraces his identity and sets out to find love in San Fransisco’s queer community in the 80’s. Klara, a traveling magician in the 90’s. Daniel, a man who seeks the security of domesticity, in the wake of 9/11 America. And Varya, a female scientist in 2018, who ultimately denies herself any sense of a fulfilled life.

I was fully invested in both Simon and Klara’s stories, finding myself crying as I finished each of their sections. My fiancé, who witnessed one of these moments proceeded to look at me like I was crazy as I wept over my book. However, I was less than interested in Daniel’s story and I was disappointed with Varya. I expected more from Varya. Set to live a long life, she refused to live one at all. It felt unfair to Simon and Klara especially. Both of them robbed of long lives, Simon dying at 20 and Klara dying at 32, both of them tried to live as much as they could while they had the chance.

I gave this book 4 stars. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. Like I said, I was hoping for magical realism, more of a fantasy read, it was not that at all though. It was much darker than I was expecting. I don’t mind dark novels, they are actually some of my favorite, I just wasn’t expecting that from this book. The way Benjamin stays above giving a direct answer is what I enjoyed the most. Were the Gold’s always set to die on those specific dates? Did the fortune teller tell the truth about their deaths, or did the Gold’s, believing the date to be unchangeable, hurtle themselves towards their own deaths, each decision they made pushing them towards what would eventually lead to their deaths?

– Hannah

January Wrap Up

I am so thankful January is over. January was the month from hell, and I’m pretty sure it was actually 458,603,837 days long. Every time I thought January was close to ending there were still like 10 more days until the actual end of the month. Let’s just say I am SO ready to start fresh in February.

I wanted to use today to reflect on how my January went in terms of my goals. How did I do in accomplishing them? Do I want to change any of them? Do I have any new goals? Basically, what worked and what didn’t. So without further ado…

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(Nothing motivates me more than this song.)

The Unread Shelf Project

I did a pretty good job with some of my goals this month for January, but for some of them I fell off the wagon. And by “I fell off the wagon,” I mean I threw myself off the wagon and let it leave without me. I may or may not be referring to my book buying ban and how well it didn’t go. (I am 100% talking about how badly I did with my book buying ban.)

All of the books that I read this month were books on my unread shelf. So I did a really good job being able to cross those off my list. I read seven books this month, six physical books and one book on my kindle. So in the sense of working through my unread books that were already on my shelf, I did AWESOME. The key word unfortunately is already.

Confession time: I bought a lot of books this month. I bought books when I went to Maine to visit a friend from college, I bought more books from my local bookstore, I went to Barnes and Noble twice leaving with books and I ordered some off of Amazon. So yeah, I threw myself off that wagon pretty hard. I know I don’t want to keep adding to the books on my Unread Shelf because then I won’t be able to accomplish my large goal for that, which is to get to 100 or less unread books on my shelf. I also know, I LOVE to buy books. There is no where I love being more than at the bookstore (except maybe Disney World), and there is nothing I hate more than leaving the bookstore without buying any books. So, how do I fix this going forward?

I think I am going to try and get back on the book buying ban, but keep it to smaller time frames. I thought I was a moderator, someone who can only do something in moderation, but apparently I’m an abstainer. I need to completely abstain from something otherwise it becomes an extremely slippery slope. So for February, I’m going to try and not buy any books, and reevaluate how that goes at the end of February. Wish me luck.

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(Thanks Lando)

My Blog

For my first month of blogging ever I’m feeling pretty good. I know there are things that I’m looking to improve for next month, like making sure I get my review’s up. I read seven books in January and I was terrible about getting my reviews up. I need to start setting time aside after I finish a book to write my review. So that is my plan for next month. I mean look at all these good books I read this month!

 

Books I Read

I am very proud of the amount of books I read this month. I read seven books in total this month and I don’t remember the last time I read so many books in one month. And as a bonus, there was only one that I didn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to enjoy it. So it was a great month not only for amount of books read but quality of the books I read too. I even had a couple 5 star reads which was exciting!

  • The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein -⭐️⭐️
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (and so far definitely number one on my list for 2018 favorites)
  • Strange Weather by Joe Hill -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Red Clocks by Leni Zumas -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Immortalists -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • My Absolute Darling -⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I do have some reviews that I’m working on for The Immortalists, and My Absolute Darling which will hopefully be coming in the next week so keep a look out!

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Next Month!

I am SO excited for February. I’m participating in a fun challenge started by Alisa over at @worldswithinpages (on Instagram) and here is her blog, called Fantasy in February. Where the goal is to read strictly fantasy. I am really excited for this because I love fantasy but I always get sucked up into classics and contemporary fiction. I’ve gotten some really good recommendations and I can’t wait to get started. Join us or follow along with the hashtag #fantasyinfebruary on Instagram!

I also started an IRL book club with some of my friends at work and our first book is Sleeping Beauties by Steven King and Owen King which I am the most excited to read.

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What books did you read in January? Was your January like mine or did you have a great January! Tell me about your month in the comments below!

– Hannah

Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

2018 is shaping up to be the year that Hannah reads A TON of feminist novels. Fifth book of the year, the second review I’ve written, and second feminist novel of the year. And I am not complaining. I’m here for it. Bring me all of the feminist novels in 2018. And I mean ALL. OF. THEM.

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(You and me both Jess)

Just like the last book I reviewed, The Power by Naomi Alderman, this book is being likened to Margaret Atwood’s, The Handmaid’s Tale. Set in a small fishing town in Oregon the story follows, four woman (technically five but we’ll get there) as they deal with the repercussions of new legislature that changes each of their lives as they deal with freedom and what that means for each of them.

Ro, a high school teacher struggles with her fertility.

Susan, a frustrated mother of two trapped in a failing marriage.

Mattie, an adopted teenager who finds herself experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

Gin, an herbalist who is arrested and put at the center of a modern-day witch hunt.

Eivor, a female polar explorer. (I said technically five woman because Ro is writing a biography about Eivor and even though through Ro’s writing about her you learn more about Ro, I’m not sure if I would consider Eivor a main character – but maybe I’m missing something?)

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This book is set in the not so distant future in Oregon after Roe vs. Wade is over turned and new legislature is passed. The Personhood Amendment. This amendment gave the constitutional right to life, liberty and property to a fertilized egg at the moment of conception. This effectively makes abortion a murder charge (there is even a “pink wall” at the Canadian border that prevents woman seeking abortions from leaving the country) and it causes in-vitro fertilization to be banned, due to the fact that embryos “can’t give their consent to be moved.” All of the woman in this story are effected in some way or other by this new law, and the story focuses on what it means to each of their lives, freedom, and identities.

One of my favorite things about this novel is that Leni Zumas used real life legislature put forth by many men in Congress and our government when it comes to Women’s Rights and the right to choose what happens to our own body’s as woman. This book gave a very vivid picture of what this world could be like if Roe Vs. Wade is overturned and some of the men in government roles get what they want in regards to women’s bodies.

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And while this book is definitely a feminist novel, a novel that makes it clear that a world in which Roe vs. Wade being over turned, and abortion and in-vitro fertilization being illegal is not a great one, I don’t think someone who believes in pro-life arguments would feel like they were being attacked, or offended. Although I say that and everyone is offended by something. I think where this book succeeds is it really sticks to just the experience of the women in the story and lets you see what they are having to go through once these laws are passed.

I was really looking forward to reading this book the minute I read a synopsis, I even signed up for Book of the Month Club just so I could get it before it actually came out. While I wasn’t disappointed and while I did really enjoy it, I think I may have overhyped it to myself. I was really expecting to be blown away and I just wasn’t. I wanted to be able to give it 5 stars but I just couldn’t do it. So for me it gets 4. With that said though – I would HIGHLY recommend this book to everyone.

Let me know what you thought of Red Clocks or give me some recommendations of your favorite feminist books!

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(and don’t let the bastards grind you down)

– Hannah

 

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10 Tips and Tricks to Read More

The first thing that I hear when I talk about my reading goals is “I don’t have the time to read” and a fairy dies every time. Okay… I’m being a little bit dramatic. Maybe. But, it’s true. A lot of people, myself included, are living such busy lives. For some, every minute is carefully planned out. For myself, and I’m sure there are others like me, every day is spent desperately trying to plan my day and constantly being stressed out about how much I need to do in any given day and yet still I only have 24 hours in a day. 24 hours generally never seems like enough time.

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(Seriously, 24 hours in a day isn’t enough time.)

I find that reading is one of the best ways for myself to find some peace, and to relax during the day – so finding time to read is imperative for me. Because it is so important to me, I’ve been able to find ways to find more time during the day to read and I wanted to share my list of tips and tricks with you:

  1. Always carry a book with you – I always have my current read with me, generally a physical copy in my purse. Not only that though, I also carry with me my Kindle, just in case I finish my current read or if I’m not particularly feeling up to reading my current read, for whatever reason.
  2. Read multiple books at a time – This one is *almost* the same as number 1. I find that if I’m reading multiple books at a time, I don’t get so discouraged when I’m not in the mood for something. It gives me more options to choose from depending on how I’m feeling that day.
  3. Put your phone down – Seriously, it seems hard, but once you get in the habit of not having your phone on you, you’ll realize how much time you actually spend on your phone. At the end of the year I was reflecting about how much time I spend on my phone staring at my Facebook feed like a zombie. I ended up deactivating my Facebook and deleted the app from my phone (deactivating Facebook did not deactivate my messenger, which was nice as I do use that as a means to communicate with some of my friends) and I realized one weekend that I had set my phone down when I got home at 6pm and didn’t pick it up again until I set my alarm when I went to bed at 10. It. Was. Amazing.
  4. Give up books that you don’t enjoy – This is a interesting idea. People feel very strongly about whether you should finish a book whether you like it or not. I used to fall under that camp, but then after forcing myself to read some really awful books that I hated I was so discouraged I had a hard time picking up a new book. Now that I only read books that I’m really enjoying, I am reading so much more.
  5. Set a goal – Try setting a goal to keep you motivated to read more. Make sure though, that you keep your goal reasonable. If you only read one or two books last year, don’t set a goal to read 100 books this year, you’ll only get discouraged if you read 10 (even though that would have felt like an accomplishment if thats what you had set your goal too).
  6. Join a book club – Find a book club to join. Your local bookstores, libraries, the Oprah Bookclub, Reese Witherspoon’s book club, (to name a few ideas), or even start your own with some of your friends. Reading books with friends or other people can be one of the most enjoyable ways to read a book, it gives you the option to rant or rave about which ever book you are currently reading to people who will understand and/or commiserate.
  7. Find a reading challenge – Try to participate in a reading challenge. There are tons of really fun ones out there that can get you reading something you wouldn’t have picked out on your own. My favorites are the challenges that don’t tell you what book to read but give you a prompt and you can pick the book you want to read that will fit that prompt.
  8. Share what you’ve read – Get a Goodreads account, start a blog, or a bookstagram. Posting about what you’re reading or what you’ve read can help you find other people to talk about that book with, get recommendations, and possibly make new friends in the process.
  9. Take notes – I’m a big supporter in writing in your books (I’m actually working on a more detailed post in regards to that). Keeping notes, or keeping track of favorite passages, will help you understand the authors message more clearly.
  10. Read – Simply, read. You will never read more if you don’t just start reading. Once you get into the habit of finding time to read, you will find yourself reading more.

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(Has anyone seen this episode of The Twilight Zone? Heartbreaking.)

Do you have any tips or tricks to finding more time to read? Did I miss anything? Let me know!

– Hannah

Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

I’m here tonight to talk about The Power by Naomi Alderman. This was one of the books I received as a gift for Christmas (I actually got it because my fiancé got it for my sister and when he was telling me about it, I got so interested in it I pouted a little bit because he didn’t get one for me… well surprise!) and it was the one I was most excited to read. The minute I finished my book that I carried over from 2017, I immediately moved on to The Power, and let me tell you, I can see why Barack Obama put this novel as number one of his favorite books of 2017 list.

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(Seriously)

The Power is getting a lot of notice for being this generation’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 feminist work. And the hype is deserved. It is a piece of feminist literature that makes one feel all of the emotions, from empowered, to terrified, to enlightened. The novel, just like it’s female characters, are a force to be reckoned with.

 

Alderman’s novel follows four central characters as teenage girls suddenly discover that they have the power to shoot electricity from their fingers – enough to cause terrible pain, and even death. There is Roxy, the daughter of a crime boss in London. Tunde, a Nigerian young man who documents the revolutions happening across the world. Margot, an ambitious U.S politician who struggles to control her powers. And Allie, an abused young woman finds the call to be the Goddesses voice here on Earth.

Throughout the novel, we watch as the world learns what it can be like when women become the superior gender. We find that it does not become a utopia where women and men learn to live together as equals, instead we find a dystopian future where violence and cruelty reign as one gender learns what power can do and as the other struggles to cope with the loss of their long standing dominance.

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.” – The Power, Naomi Alderman.

The thought that was left in my mind for days after finishing this novel was that, we know that with great power comes great responsibility, (thank you Uncle Ben) but is the world the way that it is because of who is in power, or is it power itself that causes the world to become the way that it is?

– Hannah

 

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The Unread Shelf Project 2018

There is a new project spreading like wildfire through the bookstagram community: #theunreadshelfproject2018. It is a project that puts the books that are sitting unread on your shelves at the focus of your reading goals this year. I have a lot of unread books, not only on my shelves in physical form but also sitting on my kindle. So I decided to dive right in to this challenge.

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In order to conquer this project, I made myself a little plan to get started. This is just an outline, I don’t know how well this will work for me so we’re going to make changes as we need to as the year goes on.

  1. Make a list: The first thing I did was I went through all of my books, both physical and e-books and counted how many I had that were unread. The grand total? 154. I know. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the ground, almost like Genie in Aladdin. No wonder people have told me I don’t need to buy anymore books. The break down of my total is, 109 physical books, and 45 on my kindle.tenor(literally me) 
  2. Set some goals: This year I have my normal reading goals, which is to get through 52 books, and to complete my reading challenge that I wrote about here, but I thought getting specific with some goals when it comes to this project would help keep me focused and motivated to get through the books that have been just sitting on my shelf. My first goal, to try and get it down to less than or as close to 100 unread books on my shelves as possible. Since that is a pretty lofty goal I also set some mini ones like, at least one classic and one newer fiction book a month. And at least 3 total books per month.
  3. Limit my spending: I am notorious for spending money on books. I love nothing more than to go into my local bookstore, (shout out to Gibson’s Bookstore) and browse their shelves and buy as many books as my bank account will allow -although if I’m being truthful, my bank account probably doesn’t like the spending as much as my heart loves having the books. Now because of that, I know that telling myself that I can’t spend ANY money on books is bound to result in failure. So I decided to sign up for Book of the Month. It will allow me to get one new book a month and hopefully that will quench my thirst while I limit myself from splurging on books this year. (I make no promises though)tenor-1

I also added some pages to my bullet journal to help me keep track of my progress as I work through this project. Here is what they look like:

I’m excited to push myself more to get through these books that are just sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. I have so many classics that I buy because I want to read them and then things come up and they get pushed aside and I forget that I have them. I’m sure that I have some new favorites just sitting on my shelves waiting for me to discover them and I can’t wait.

Let me know if you’ve heard of this project and/or if you are participating. I’d love to hear any ideas that you might have.

– Hannah

Best of 2017

Today is the last day of 2017 and I don’t know about you guys, but this has probably been one of the worst years in my life. I am more than ready to close the door on 2017 and walk into 2018. I’ve already dubbed 2018 the year in which Hannah makes her mental illness her priority, so things can only go up from here. So, in honor of probably one of the worst years of my life, I’m going to share the top five books that I read this year (in no particular order).

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Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. Constance Chatterly unhappy and married to an invalid, finds refuge in the arms of their game keeper, Mellors. Together they learn how to find peace and fulfillment in their lives. – I’m not sure if you can tell, but this book is well read and well loved. This is one of my favorites of all time, I read it over and over and constantly fall in love with this story.

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” – D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterly’s Lover

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Le Cirque des Rêves arrives without word or warning, a beautiful circus only open at night. Within its tents, there is a fierce competition between two talented magicians Marco and Celia. Unbeknownst to the two magicians, the competition is a duel that ends only with the other participants death. As the two fall in love, the fate of each of them, the circus, and all of their friends hang in the balance. – I got swept away in this story, and when it was over I was upset there wasn’t more of it. I felt like I was a part of the magic of the circus while I was reading it, I fell in love with every one of the characters, my heart breaking and rejoicing with them.

“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.” – Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood. In the midst of an economic collapse, Stan and Charmaine believe that the gated community of Consilience may be the answer to their prayers. As troubling events start to occur, a darker side of this community starts to emerge. – I love everything I’ve ever read by Margaret Atwood, and while this novel isn’t as dark as either The Handmaid’s Tale or the MaddAddam trilogy it does have a lot to say about the human heart and what it is to be free.

“The past is so much safer, because whatever’s in it has already happened. It can’t be changed; so, in a way, there’s nothing to dread.” – Margaret Atwood, The Heart Goes Last

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. The life of Jesus was written out in the Bible but you might not have heard the whole story. Here is where Biff comes in, Jesus’s childhood best friend. He is here to tell us the true story of Jesus that we haven’t yet heard. – This book was by far the most humorous one I read this year. I was laughing out loud at work, causing multiple coworkers to ask inquisitively what exactly I was reading. I had to stop and reread passages over again purely because I had been laughing so hard when I read it the first time I didn’t want to miss anything. In a year like 2017 this was definitely my favorite read by far.

“It’s wildly irritating to have invented something as revolutionary as sarcasm, only to have it abused by amateurs.” – Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan. The Devil has just been offered a hell of a deal, reentry back into Heaven if he can live a well behaved life in a human body on earth. In almost stream of conscious-like prose, instead of teaching us what it is like to be the Devil, he ends up learning a bit of what its like to be us. – This book was recommended to me by one of my best friends and I ended up loving it just as much as he thought I would. The way the novel is written takes a while to get used to, it doesn’t have much structure to it, most of it is just stream of conscious thinking, but once you get used to it, I, Lucifer was quite the enjoyable ride.

“(I invented rock and roll. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve invented. Anal sex, obviously. Smoking. Astrology. Money … Let’s save time: Everything in the world that distracts you from thinking about God. Which … pretty much … is everything in the world, isn’t it? Gosh.)” – Glen Duncan, I, Lucifer

So there you have it, my top five favorite reads of 2017. What was in your list? What are you looking forward to reading most in 2018?

– Hannah

Christmas Book Haul

Good Morning!

I know its a few days after Christmas but I hope that you all had a very merry Christmas, or a happy Hanukah or whatever holiday you may have celebrated! I wanted to share with you the books that I was gifted this year. Books are not only my favorite thing to give as presents, but they are my favorite things to receive as presents as well. I love seeing what book someone else loves or what book they think I might enjoy.

And this year it looks like I was given some pretty good picks.

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  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve – In this post apocalyptic world, London is now on wheels, turned into this giant machine that travels the country side looking for other city’s to take over and use for resources. As London is chasing a smaller town across the wasteland, Tom Natsworthy is thrown from the city into the barren wasteland. From there he and Hester Shaw must get back to London before London does something that could put the future of the world at stake.

Set in a steam punk version of London, my fiancee described this book to me as if the cars in Mad Max: Fury Road were larger and had towns on them. Now, this is one of the reasons he is my fiancee, because he knows anything Mad Max: Fury Road-esque is bound to be a hit for me.

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(I mean look at these colors.)

  • The Power by Naomi Alerman – At first, the world is recognizable, everything being as it should and then a new force takes root and now women and teenage girls all have the ability to inflict terrible pain and even cause death. This leads women to become the dominate gender.

Billed as being similar to Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale it seems to be an interesting take on dystopian futures and how women are treated in them. How instead of being the gender that seems to suffer and be oppressed, woman are given a power that for once men do not get to have.

*A bonus: both of these two books are being given a film adaptation, a movie being directed by Christian Rivers set to be released in December 2018 for Mortal Engines and a tv series by Sister Pictures.

  • Super You: Release Your Inner Superhero by Emily V. Gordon – Producer, former therapist and pop culture guru Emily V Gordon takes us on a mission to learn how to be the superheroes of our own lives and find our capes.

As I said in my introduction, I struggle with depression and anxiety, on one of my best days my mental illness is a partly cloudy day, it’s cloudy but the sun pokes through and it’s still pretty nice, but on my bad days it’s like a hurricane, tornado, and earthquake all happening at once. It’s overwhelming and a constant struggle to determine how best to manage and survive. I’m optimistic looking at this book, and I’m hoping that I’m able to find the courage inside myself to don my own superhero cape.

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(#goals)

  • F*cked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self Confident in a World That’s Screwed by Corinne Fisher & Krystyna Hutchinson – Written by the hosts of Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast, F*cked is a book for anyone who has ever felt like they can not be their true authentic selves when it comes to being a sexual being.

As someone who is a human with a sexual appetite I know I have experienced my own issues with how I view myself based on how society looks at me and my own personal views of love and sex (as a queer, non-practicing, non-monogamous person stigma abounds). Finding this podcast and listening to the way that Corinne and Krystyna talk about love and sex as well as how they talk to the men whom they fucked is done respectfully and non-judgmentally, was refreshing. I can’t wait to read this book addressing these things even further.

Did you get any books for gifts this holiday season? Did you get any of the same books? I’d love to hear about them!

Happy Holidays!

– Hannah

2018 Reading Challenge

Good Morning!

If reading more in 2018 is one of your New Years resolutions than this is the post for you!

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(tenor.com)

In 2017 I set myself a goal of 52 books, and while I didn’t get anywhere close I did manage to read 27 books (8 more than 2016). So I decided to make my own reading challenge, 24 different prompts, 2 books a month, to keep myself motivated and able to reach my goal.

I am most excited for the “true crime” and “book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist” because I a) have an obsession with true crime, SSDGM y’all and b) in doing some research while picking prompts I found some really interesting books that I’m really intrigued by. I also am excited for the prompt “a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place”, as a people watcher I’m maybe a little nosier than I should be and I’m constantly trying to see what people around me are reading.

In order to keep track of my goal and the books that I’m reading, I use the Goodreads app. I like being able to track and rate the books that I’m reading. It also will give suggestions once you’ve rated enough books, just in case you ever don’t know what to read. If you wanted you can also follow me here!

And without further ado here is The Well Read Fox’s 2018 Reading Challenge!

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So grab your books and anything you need to get cozy and let’s get to reading.

-Hannah

Introduction

Hello Everyone!

My name is Hannah, a bibliophile who keeps being told she doesn’t need any more books. Those words however, don’t make much sense to me when strung together in a sentence like that. Sacrilege I tell you.

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I figured that I would put those book buying and book worm tendencies to good use and start this blog where I can document what I’m reading and share my love and enthusiasm for all things literature related.

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Sarah Scribbles by Sarah Anderson

I also suffer from some severe depression and anxiety. Reading has always been a really great way for me to practice self care. It allows me a way to escape from the particularly nasty feelings I have for awhile, to be able to vanish into any character that I feel like and be able to view the world from a different perspective. In doing so, I’m able to remember that depression and anxiety are not something that has to control me, and that every little small step and small accomplishment is something to be proud of.

“Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Neil Gaiman, Coraline.

Every year I try and follow Popsugar’s Reading Challenge, and as much as I try I always struggle to complete them. This year I thought I would set up my own challenge and document what I’m reading in this blog! In my next post I’ll give some more information about that!

I hope you join me!

– Hannah

Best Books of 2018

Hey Readers!

I’m here to talk to you about some of my favorite books of 2018! I read 80 books this year so narrowing it down to my top 10 was HARD. However, I was able to do it. Two books fought it out for the top spot but other than that, organizing them from ten to 2 was too difficult so other than my number one I don’t have them listed in any particular order! Anyway… on to the books!

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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer – Michelle McNamara

I loved this true crime mixed with memoir novel about Michelle McNamara’s hunt for the Golden State Killer. I was finishing this book the day that it was announced that they had made an arrest finally after all of these years and that just made the reading experience so much better. This is one of the best true crime novels a “murderino” like me has ever read. If you like true crime this one is for you.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark,” you threatened a victim once.

Open the door. Show us your face.

Walk into the light.”

Call Me By Your Name – Andre Aciman

This book was such a beautiful coming of age story of Elio and his relationship with Oliver. Call Me By Your Name was an intoxicating read, filled with romance, intimacy and was an absolutely stunning, perfect experience even when I was ugly sobbing and miserable at the end of the story. This is not the story for you if you’re looking for a love story that will fit all of your cliches, complete with a happy ending, but if you’re looking for two characters to fall in love with and then have your heart broken, Call Me By Your Name will satiate those desires.

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!”

An American Marriage – Tayari Jones

An American Marriage was the heartbreaking story of Roy and Celestial, a young African-American couple whose lives are forever changed when Roy is arrested and convicted of a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. This was a heartbreaking story of love, loss of love, and the search for freedom and happiness. You can read my review of this book here!

“Sometimes it’s exhausting for me to simply walk into the house. I try and calm myself, remember that I’ve lived alone before. Sleeping by myself didn’t kill me then and will not kill me now. But this what loss has taught me of love. Our house isn’t simply empty, our home has been emptied. Love makes a place in your life, it makes a place for itself in your bed. Invisibly, it makes a place in your body, rerouting all your blood vessels, throbbing right alongside your heart. When it’s gone, nothing is whole again.”

Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier 

This is a romance that has never gone out of print in over 80 years of print. This book took me by surprise, I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. The mystery of Rebecca and what the new Mrs. de Winter is learning swept me away and I could not put the book down. I’m already looking forward to rereading this.

“I believe there is a theory that men and women emerge finer and stronger after suffering, and that to advance in this or any world we must endure ordeal by fire.”

A Darker Shade of Magic – V.E. Schwab

This whole series blew me away. I loved all of the characters, my favorite Slytherin, Lila Bard, peculiar coat wearing Gryffindor Kell, and cinnamon roll Rhy. And honestly, most of all – my sweet baby Holland. This series only gets better as you move through the trilogy so when you start it, make sure you have the next two on hand ready to go. Trust me.

“For the ones who dream of stranger worlds.”

A Little Life – Hanya Yanigahara

This book absolutely destroyed me. I fell in love with all of these characters so hard. This was full of really difficult emotions and while I think this is on my list of all time favorite books I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again. It was hard to get through but it was so worth it. The destruction of my heart was just so worth it. You can read my full review for this book here!

“Friendship, companionship: it so often defied logic, so often eluded the deserving, so often settled itself on the odd, the bad, the peculiar, the damaged.”

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

This book is the stunning story of Kya, a girl growing up in the swamplands of North Carolina. This book was a debut novel and I honestly don’t understand how it is that because this book was AMAZING. It was full of lush and beautiful descriptions of the swamp that my favorite heroine of the year loved so much. If you want to know more of my thoughts, check out the review here.

“Autumn leaves don’t fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.”

The Hearts Invisible Furies – John Boyne

This book was so hyped when I first started my bookstagram and my book blog, and let me tell you it did not disappoint. This was the story of Cyril Avery, starting in the 1940s and going all the way through to the present day and once I started reading it I was sucked into the story and was invested right away. I laughed, loved, and cried with him as he lived his life. All of the triumphs and stumbles that he went through felt real as I was reading them and it blew me away.

“Maybe there were no villains in my mother’s story at all. Just men and women, trying to do their best by each other. And failing.”

A Place for Us – Fatima Farheen Mirza

This book was the book that contended with The Way of Kings to be my all time favorite book of the year, and honestly, it didn’t lose by much. This was the beautiful story of an Indian-American Muslim family on the day of their oldest daughters wedding. Told through a series of flashbacks and present day, it told the heartbreakingly beautiful story of each of these characters, and as I read it I fell in love with each and every one of the characters. Because of this book, I will insta buy any book written by this author in the future. For more of my thoughts, click here for the full review!

“But Imam Ali said two things: first, that we must imagine for one another seventy excuses before landing on a single judgment, and also, on that night, he told his companions to refrain from condemning a man, even as he staggered by showing proof of his sin, because they could not know if he would repent when alone, or fathom what existed in his heart.”

The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson 

This was my favorite book of the year, and honestly my favorite series. This book also solidified Brandon Sanderson as my all time favorite author. I loved everything about this book and this story, I loved it so much I wrote a full review of the whole Stormlight Archives series that you can read here.

“Words aren’t meant to be kept inside, you see. They are free creatures, and if locked away will unsettle the stomach.”

So those were my top 10 best books of 2018. What were some of your favorites?

– Hannah