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

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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

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

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

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

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