Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life. Show all posts

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-reads: Part 3

The Vile Village Cover
The books are starting to get longer as I get further into the series, and they're taking me a little longer than the beginning! This week, I finished books 7 through 9 (The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, and The Carnivorous Carnival). I think I'll still be able to finish all of the books by next weekend, though. At least, that's my goal! To finish all of the books by labor day.

I'm finding as I get further into the series that I've forgotten a lot of what's happened in the later books. That could partially be attributed to the Netflix series, because the books that they covered were fresh in my memory, which definitely helped. I had forgotten how much Snicket factors into the story line, especially after the Baudelaires discover one page of the Snicket file in The Hostile Hospital. But, I can't remember where it leads after this. Some of the events I remember once I start the book, but most of it I've forgotten since I read the books about 10 years ago.

While reading, I've also forgotten how much I like Lemony Snicket's (or should I say Daniel Handler's?) writing style. When I read the books the first time, I liked that he defined long words that I might not have understood and other terms that I may not have been familiar with. One of my favorites is when he defines deja vu. In order to explain the term, he repeats a page in The Hostile Hospital. It amused me when I was younger, and it still amuses me now. It's a clever way to help children learn different words and literary terms while they're reading an entertaining (yet unfortunate) story.

I remember that these last books have taken a turn from the beginning, especially since the Baudelaires are pretty much acting on their own, since Mr. Poe hasn't been seen in at least the last two books. The Baudelaries have been accused of murder, and they've had to figure out most things on their own. We've left them in the clutches of Count Olaf, with little hope of being able to escape.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-Reads: Part 2

The Miserable Mill
I am absolutely flying through these books! While this isn't particularly surprising, as I'm a fast reader and these books aren't super long, I'll probably slow down a bit as the books get longer towards the end (like most children's series). My goal is to hopefully finish my complete re-read of the series by the end of the month.

The Austere AcademyThis week, I finished books 4-6, The Miserable Mill, The Austere Academy, and The Ersatz Elevator. I think these definitely mark a turn in the series, as this is when the V.F.D is introduced, as well as the Quagmire triplets, which are both important elements later in the series. Not to mention that the Quagmire triplets are the first children that we get to see the Baudelaire orphans interact with (besides Mr. Poe's children). Most of the time, we just see how they interact with the horrible adults in their lives, and their friendship with the Quagmires is a moment of happiness and hope that is well deserved. It doesn't last long--we are repeatedly warned that the Baudelaires' story is not a happy one--but the moment of happiness allows the Baudelaires to grow as characters.

Throughout this re-read, I'm also picking up on things that I didn't notice the first time them, as one does when re-reading books from childhood. For instance, I'm noticing more connections between Lemony Snicket and the Baudelaires, especially in the book I just finished,The Ersatz Elevator. Esme, the Baudelaires most recent horrible guardian who ends up being in cahoots with Count Olaf, mentions something about Beatrice, Snicket's tragic love interest. If I recall correctly, I think this gets made more prominent as we go on, and I think I'll be able to make more connections as I go forward. Plus, I think this gray area is what they played with in the Netflix series, as we get glimpses of what happens to the Baudelaire parents. I'm excited for the next season, especially since the series will now be fresh in my mind! Plus, my re-read has shown that they follow the books almost to a tee, which is an even better plus!

I'll be taking a brief pause from these books as I read something I was assigned for Booklist, but I'll be back to it shortly! And I hope to have another 3 books finished by next weekend.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Re-reads: Part 1


Imagine this: 9-year-old Amanda, going to the library in 4th grade and picking out books. Stumbling upon the Series of Unfortunate Events and becoming curious--what kind of book openly deters you from reading it? Tells you to avoid its unfortunate misery? Cracking open the book. Following the series until the last book is published, and finishing it in her 6th grade English class. That was my introduction to Lemony Snicket's positively entertaining book series. And now, I'm revisiting the books for the first time since finishing the series in 6th grade.

After watching the Netflix show this past winter, I felt the desire to re-read these books that I loved so much in elementary school to see how they line up with the show, and if they stand the test of time. So, I headed on over to the library to check out this thirteen book series, thus embarking on an unfortunate re-reading adventure!

First thoughts, after finishing the first three books: I'm a much faster reader than I was before (to no surprise. I've read a lot more books since then). I picked up the first book on my way downtown one day, and basically finished it on the bus ride back (for perspective, the bus ride takes about 20-25 minutes). I still enjoy Lemony Snicket's writing as much as I did back when I first read the books. It's refreshing and amusing, and I found myself smiling at much of his writing.

Another factor that I noted while reading is that the Netflix show basically follows the books almost to a tee. The extra story line about the Baudelaire's parents is just an added bonus, in my opinion. It rounds out the Baudelaire's story, and I'm excited to see where they take it.

Re-reading the books, I can see why some people might be turned off by Snicket's writing style. The entire series is him breaking the fourth wall, which bothers some people, and sometimes becomes a bit repetitive in warning readers against the unfortunate events that befall the Baudelaires. I, however, find it an excellent device to keep readers going. If the events of this book were so terrible, how could their lives possibly get any worse? And there lies the plot device to get you to keep reading--and keep reading I shall!

Friday, August 4, 2017

My Anticipated YA August Releases

It seems like 2017 has been killing it so far in the young adult department, with releases like The Hate U Give, History is All You Left Me, and Goodbye Days, and by the looks of it, it's just going to keep getting better. Not only do we have a new John Green novel coming this October (woo!), we'll also get new books by Kristin Cashore and Adam Silvera.

While there's a lot to look forward to this fall, there are also a lot of books coming out this August that should definitely be on your TBR list before school starts back up in September. Here are 5 of my most anticipated books for the month of August.

1. A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor

Sisters Emma and Henri had always been best friends--until an accident strands them on a desert island, with a companion (Alex) who has just as many secrets as they do. As Emma and Alex spark a relationship, Henri and Emma's relationship falls apart. 

I remember getting this book while cataloging books at Booklist, and I'm super excited to get to read it!



2. This Is Not the End by Chandler Baker

Lake Devereaux lost the two people she loved most in a car crash--her best friend and her boyfriend. However, new technology has granted people one resurrection to be used or given up by their 18th birthday. Lake has to make an impossible choice, one complicated by the fact that she already promised her resurrection to someone who isn't even dead yet.

This book also came in while I was interning at Booklist, and the premise sounds so intriguing.


3. Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Olive and her best friend Rose suddenly begin to lose things one night. It begins with small items, but it quickly becomes apparent that Rose has lost something bigger, something she doesn't want to talk about. After discovering an ancient spellbook that will help to bring back lost things, they think that this can set things right. But it might also bring out secrets that would have been best left alone.

Moira Fowley-Doyle also wrote The Accident Season, which I absolutely loved. This one sounds just as creepy and magic infused.

4. All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

In the future, once you turn 15, you must pay for everything you say. Even every gesture, every scream, costs money. And falling into debt has dire consequences. Instead of adding to her family's debt, Speth decides to take an oath of silence at her 15th birthday; one that sends the world into a frenzy. 

If you know me, you know I'm all about dystopias, and this one sounds different and awesome. I hope it lives up to its unique premise!

5. The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

After a car crash, Olivia wakes up in a hospital bed thinking she just lost her memory of the past few weeks. But as she begins to recover, she quickly realizes she's lost years of memories, making it difficult to navigate as her friends and family try to fill in the gaps. The only person that seems to help is Walker--but as she grows closer to him, tensions grow between her friends and her family.

Memory loss tends to be a popular topic in young adult lit, but this one sounds promising! 

I hope to get my hands on these sometime in August, but at least sometime in the future. What August releases are you looking forward to?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I'm Back!

It's been a while since I made a post, simply because I was travelling everywhere in June and life has gotten pretty busy in July. But--now that things are starting to calm down a bit, I've decided to pick back up again. I've got quite a few books I haven't reviewed, so I'll get caught up on that, and hopefully some new playlists and other posts. Stay tuned! More content is coming. :)

Friday, May 12, 2017

'The Handmaid's Tale': Too Close for Comfort

*Minor spoilers ahead*

I eagerly anticipated the released of The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu for months; it is probably one of my favorite books, it provided a basis for my thesis on dystopia, and the trailers that were being released were spin-chilling. So far, it hasn't disappointed (except for the fact that it's not being released all at one. Thanks, Hulu), especially in the ways that it reflects current events in society. The Handmaid's Tale shows that despite what we may think, gender equality isn't where is should be. And the oppression of women depicted in The Handmaid's Tale hits a little too close to home.

Political Relevancy

It's no secret that in the United States, since the presidential election, women and minorities fear for the way their lives and rights will be impacted by a leader severely unqualified for the job. One of the best examples of this is the bill that was passed in the House of Representatives last week: repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and drastically raising premiums for pretty much everyone. For example, under the new plan, people with cancer would pay 35 times more for health insurance, and raise insurance costs for pregnancy by 425%. Though the change doesn't only target women, a lot of it directly affects women in their coverage of health insurance. It's unclear how health insurance works in Gilead (it most likely doesn't exist for handmaids), but the discrimination against the vulnerable reflects what happens in The Handmaid's Tale.

Women are also directly disadvantaged in the workforce. John Green debunks the myth that the pay gap doesn't exist in this video, showing that women work in careers with generally lower salaries and are less likely to be hired if they have children. Additionally, when men are in traditionally female dominated careers, like libraries or nursing, they are more likely to be promoted than women. These disparities in the work force and salaries for women are directly reflected in The Handmaid's Tale when all bank accounts for women are frozen and they are forced to leave their jobs. Though this is a more drastic version of the inequality in the work force, it's not far off to imagine that this could happen in the near future.

Sexual Assault

A lot of what happens in The Handmaid's Tale is nightmarish and harrowing, but perhaps none more than the way that rape and sexual assault is normalized in Gilead. We see this in the first episode, when Offred is in the facility being trained as a handmaid. All of the handmaids are sitting in a circle, with one in the middle, being verbally abused for confessing she was raped in the past. The entire group is forced to point and chant "her fault," an incredibly chilling image given the way that sexual assault and rape is dealt with in the media.

Victim blaming has long been a problem with the way sexual assault is dealt with, and why only 310 assaults are reported to police out of every 1,000 rape cases, and of those reported only 6 will actually be incarcerated, according to RAINN. The Brock Turner case from last summer also exhibits this, as he was given a shorter jail time because the longer jail time (he was originally on trial for 14 years) would have a "severe impact" on him and his ability to one day make it to the Olympics.

This is all made scarily real in a world where rape is a regulated ceremony that happens each week, as the handmaids are forced into sexual slavery. In the most recent episode, Offred is forced to have sex with Nick by Serena Joy, in the hopes to conceive a baby. Women have absolutely no freedom, and are blamed for the sins of the past. It is permissible to degrade women in Gilead, and sometimes it feels the same in today's society (we elected a president who constantly degrades women, for goodness sake).

The Takeaway

Nightmarish and difficult to watch at times, I think that's the purpose of The Handmaid's Tale. It's about opening your eyes and seeing what's going on around you--and acting before it's too late. As Offred says at the beginning of the series: "I was asleep before. That's how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists, we suspended the constitution. We didn't wake up then either. Now, I'm awake."

We need to wake up.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

50 Best YA Books

As some (or most) of you may know, I am interning at Booklist in Chicago until the the end of May. In trying not to think about what's going to happen when that internship is over, I've been back at the blogging, trying to up my content on other social media sites and create more posts on here that aren't just book reviews. At Booklist currently, we are creating things that celebrate 50 years of young adult literature, as it has been 50 years since The Outsiders was published.

Booklist has created their own list of the 50 Best YA Books of All Time, including one on their Twitter everyday (you can follow them @BooklistYA). While I didn't help create the list, I've been doing little tasks throughout the course of my internship in order to help with the publication of the list. In doing so, I couldn't help but think that there were books that I would have included on the list that weren't there--so, I'm creating my own list! It, perhaps, will be skewed more to my own tastes as a reader, but many of these are books that I could read again and again. 

Here are, what I think, are 50 of the best young adult books to have been published, in no particular order. Because, let's face it, it's difficult to rank what books are your absolute favorite.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)*
2. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999)
4. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)*
5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2005)
6. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)
7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967)
9. The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)
10. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951)*
11. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954)*
12. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974)
13. Feed by M.T. Anderson (2002)
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1999)
15. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)
16. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan (2005)
17. Every Day by David Levithan (2012)
18. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2011)
19. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2009)
20. Blankets by Craig Thompson (2003)
21. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (2006)
22. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (2016)
23. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)
24. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (2007)*
25. Deadline by Chris Crutcher (2007)
26. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
27. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008)
28. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin (1968)
29. Forever by Judy Blume (1975)
30. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2006)
31. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (2002)
32. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)
33. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (2012)
34. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)
35. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (2016)
36. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (2010)
37. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2016)
38. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (2016)
39. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2012)
40. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
41. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014)
42. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven (2015)
43. Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King (2011)
44. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)*
45. Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers (1999)
46. Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger (2007)
47. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (2011)
48. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (2008)*
49. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
50. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)

*These are not traditionally classified as YA, but are often read by young adults. 

There's a pretty decent mix of older and newer books in here, but there's definitely been a surge of really good YA books published recently. We are in the second golden age of young adult literature, after all. What would you include in your top 50 YA books?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The 2017 Reading Challenge

While perusing Pinterest today, trying to figure out ways to promote my latest review, I came across the POPSUGAR 2017 Reading Challenge. Yes, I realize we are already a quarter of the way through 2017. But some of the books I've read check off some of the things on this list, and I thought it would be fun to try to read some things outside of what I usually read. They even have a Goodreads group for the challenge, which you can join here.

Some of the books I've read so far in 2017 fit into categories on the list, so I'll mention them here! I will continue to periodically update every few books I finish that fit into categories on the list, and then do a big post once I completely finish.

A book by a person of color: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I just reviewed this one yesterday, make sure to check it out!

A book that's published in 2017: Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
I actually wrote a review for this for Booklist, more when the review is officially published!

A book with career advice: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
I just finished this book the other day, review coming soon.

The first book in a series you haven't read before: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
It still counts if the series isn't completely published yet, right?

It may seem that I'm not very far on the list (I'm not), but I still have plenty of time in 2017! What are your reading goals for this year?



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

5 Dystopias to Read During Trump's Presidency

Dystopian Book covers
Lately, it's definitely felt like we've been living in a dystopian world; Trump's lack of experience in the field of politics has created a wave of chaos in the first month of him being president. In fact, many of the news stories that pop up nowadays almost don't feel or seem like they're real--as long as it's not one of the many fake news stories that have been circulating the internet. From Trump silencing the EPA and other scientists to the blatant lies that his press is circulating, it's more important now than ever to stay well-read and informed.

This is where dystopian novels come in. Yes, they are fictionalized accounts of the future, however many of them have an eerie similarity to what the world has become. Reading these fictionalized accounts of dangerously oppressive governments can help us to try to stay one step ahead of the chaos that is unfolding around us. Literature can provide us with the knowledge and hope necessary to make it through the dystopic conditions we have found ourselves in.

Here are five books that you should put on your to-read list to stay ahead of the Trump administration:

1. 1984 by George Orwell

I actually wrote a post about the similarities between 1984 and Trump's presidency for the Radical Notion. The similarities are...terrifying. But they can make use more aware of the way Trump is using language to make the population more compliant.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Published before 1984, Brave New World depicts a different kind of society where people desire conformity and stability more than emotion or individual freedom. Brave New World depicts a society that has crumbled because of ignorance,  dominant technology, and an abundance of entertainment and material goods. Sound familiar?

3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Though Trump hasn't quite gotten to burning books (yet) he has engaged in censoring acts; he's silenced the National Parks, made multiple webpages disappear from the White House website (like the LGBTQ page, climate change, civil rights, etc.), and silenced anyone who speaks out against him. Perhaps he isn't burning books--but he's getting rid of knowledge just the same.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's book depicts a society where women are mere vessels for reproduction, only wanted or needed for their bodies. Though Trump's presidency is not quite as severe as the one depicted in Gilead, many of Trump's comments show his inherent misogyny and reflect the misogyny shown in The Handmaid's Tale.  

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Okay, this one might be a little bit of a stretch; after all, Trump hasn't made a spectacle of children killing each other like President Snow does in Panem. In fact, Trump's administration announced a victory tour after his election win, because he loves nothing more than his thousands of adoring fans. Much like citizens of the Capitol in Panem.

While these books might depict a bleak future under Trump, reading them also show a core of resistance in humanity. By staying up to date and making our voices heard, we can be the resistance to Trump's dystopian tendencies. 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Life: Changes

Chicago skyline at night
Since I've been absent on the blogging front the last couple of weeks, I thought I'd update on some pretty big changes that have been happening in my life. I accepted an internship with Booklist magazine, which I began last week. So, I've moved to Chicago with my cat, in a tiny studio apartment a little north of downtown. It's taken some getting used to, but I'm learning the ropes.

The internship has been excellent so far, though! I've only learned a couple of things and opened the mail, but I should get to start some other fun projects this week. But, the plus of working at the American Library Association, which is where Booklist is located--so many galleys. On Thursday, we cleaned out the old 2016 books that were reviewed, and basically they're free for the taking. How cool is that? I'll have to see if I can snag some good ones when I go back on Tuesday.

Hopefully now that I've transitioned smoothly, I'll be able to get reading again, making playlists, etc. I'm starting to settle into a schedule, so I'll be able to schedule posts more regularly, and update when cool things are happening. I'm hoping to be able to finish The Great American Whatever this week, which has been fantastic so far! I'll give a more full review in the next week or so.

Until then, I'm going to keep being immersed in all of the fantastic children's and young adult books that can be found at Booklist.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

A Series of Unfortunate Events: First Thoughts

A Series of Unfortunate Events Covers


A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket was one of my absolute favorite series in early middle school. I remember first picking them up in fourth or fifth grade and quickly devouring them, eagerly awaiting the release of the next book. I discovered these before I discovered Harry Potter and I was hooked until the very end.

Series of Unfortunate Events MovieThen, a movie! Despite fears and trepidation, there's always a bit of excitement when one of your favorite books is being made into a movie. It's your favorite story! On the big screen! Yay! Until you get there and it's nothing like your beloved book (ahem, Eragon, anyone?). That was A Series of Unfortunate Events for me. Though the movie has a star-studded cast, it was disappointing.

When I heard about the Netflix series, I was so excited. After watching the trailer when it was released, I knew that this series was going to be everything I wanted the movie to be. A TV series means there's much more time to develop the story and characters.


I watched the first two episodes on Friday when it was released (Friday the 13th, nonetheless), and it was everything it needed to be. Perfect casting; eerie, washed out colors; warnings to not continue watching; and an ever present, omniscient narrator, elements that fit the tone of the stories absolutely perfectly.

The plot details from the books may be slightly fuzzy, as it's been a while since I read the books, but after watching the first three episodes of the series, I know this adaptation is miles ahead of the movie adaptation. Miles ahead. So far, it is definitely exceeding my expectations. And I definitely cannot wait to finish it.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Debate of Happy Endings

Everyone loves a happy ending, right? Not only does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling when lovable characters end up happy, but we all strive for happy endings in our own lives too. According to this article, 41% of people prefer happy endings in books. Stories with happy endings are the stories that we seek out when times are tough because they offer hope, they allow us to believe that things will get better. Happy endings allow us to escape, allow us to transport ourselves to another reality where everything will work out.

However, many praised works of literature don't necessarily end up that way. The Great Gatsby ends with a lot of death. In Wuthering Heights, everyone is miserable, crazy, or dead. Winston Smith is tortured and defeated at the end of 1984. Despite our love and desire for happy endings, many of the books that are praised do not end on a happy note.

To me, this contrast is interesting. As a society, we're conditioned to desire the happy ending, so you think that would be reflected in the things that we are reading. In fact, though many popular and beloved classics don't end happily, their movies end happily. The BBC wrote an article a few years ago that points out the changes in the movie adaptations to make them more happy, coining it the "Hollywood Happy Ending." And many big blockbuster Hollywood movies do end up this way; as one of my friends say, you'll know it's an indie movie if it doesn't have a happy ending.

All in all, I personally enjoy books (and movies!) that might have more of a tragic or open ending. I believe that these are fodder for discussion afterwards. If a book ends in a way that makes you keep thinking, that makes you want to come back and read it again, then that's the mark of success for me. Like Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Or Every Day by David Levithan. They insight discussion, and make you want to come back again.

When reading, do you prefer to have happy endings?

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016: A Review in Books

2016 Review in Books
I did a lot of reading in 2016, both for school and for fun; I hit a total of 58 books! I usually make it a goal to read about 50 books a year, which has varied depending on what school work I had and what was going on in life. Not having to stick to a schedule has been super awesome, and I'm excited to see what great books 2017 has to bring!

I like the way my friend Alyssa did her post of books for 2016, so I'm going to copy a similar format. You can check out her list of books here! I'll follow my list with the top five books I read this year, and a brief explanation as to why they were my favorite (or a link to my review if I reviewed it!).

Books Read
1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (thriller)
2. Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis (graphic novel)
3. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (YA, fantasy)
4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Victorian Lit)
5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens (Victorian Lit)
6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Victorian Lit)
7. Jane by April Lindner (YA)
8. Dark Companion by Marta Acosta (YA)
9. The Heights by Brian James (YA)
10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (YA, graphic novel)
11. Black Spring by Alison Croggon (YA)
12. This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (fiction)
13. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley (YA)
14. Noggin by John Corey Whaley (YA)
15. How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (YA)
16. The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (fiction)
17. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (YA, dystopia)
18. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (memoir)
19. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (YA, fantasy)
20. Audacity by Melanie Crowder (YA, historical fiction)
21. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (YA)
22. The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle (YA)
23. Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe (YA, historical fiction)
24. Dime by E.R. Frank (YA)
25. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (YA, fantasy)
26. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (YA, fantasy)
27. I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (YA)
28. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (YA)
29. Infinite in Between by Carolyn Mackler (YA)
30. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (YA)
31. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (YA)
32. The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (YA)
33. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (YA)
34. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (horror)
35. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin (YA)
36. Mosquitoland by David Arnold (YA)
37. The Tightrope Walkers by David Almond (YA)
38. Every Exquisite Thing by Matthew Quick (YA)
39. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (children's)
40. Before We Go Extinct by Karen Rivers (YA)
41. Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff (children's, fantasy)
42. Junior Hero Blues by J.K. Pendragon (YA, fantasy)
43. If I Fix You by Abigail Johnson (YA, romance)
44. Blankets by Craig Johnson (graphic novel)
45. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (YA)
46. The Glass Republic by Tom Pollock (YA, fantasy)
47. Brooklyn Burning by Steve Brezenoff (YA)
48. Between You & Me by Marisa Calin (YA, screenplay)
49. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (thriller)
50. Lizard Radio by Pat Schmatz (YA)
51. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio (YA)
52. Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar (YA)
53. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (YA)
54. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (YA)
55. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold (YA)
56. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (YA)
57. A World Without You by Beth Revis (YA)
58. Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer (YA)

As I'm writing this, I'm realizing that this list doesn't include any of the picture books that I read for my picture book class last spring, and there were a lot of those! The most notable was I Yam A Donkey by Cece Bell, which everyone should read at some point. I read a lot of YA, so maybe a goal for 2017 should be to branch out of that particular genre a little more!

Out of the 58 books I read, here are my top five from the year, in no particular order:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
If you haven't read this book, do it now. Not only is the story gut-wrenchingly beautiful, but the illustrations by Jim Kay will absolutely blow you away. Fun fact: Jim Kay also does the illustrated versions of Harry Potter!

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
I rave about this book to everyone; here's my review if you missed it!

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
I have yet to read a Rainbow Rowell book that I haven't loved, and Carry On was no exception.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
This book was beautifully written, and my review almost doesn't do it justice.

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
This one almost didn't make it into the 2016 list, but it was a fun read, one I'll post a review for soon!

In 2017, I'll get to be exposed to a lot of new stuff in the children's and YA realm, as I'll be working for Booklist, so I'm super excited to see what this year will hold! Here's to branching out and reading something new in the new year!

Monday, December 5, 2016

To-Be-Read: 5 Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading

Working at a bookstore has my TBR pile constantly growing as I get recommendations from fellow employees and from customers alike. I also have a habit of picking up a couple of new YA books when I'm at the library, meaning I'm never lacking something to read.

These five books are ones that I've had my eye on for a while, and I'm excited to finally getting around to reading them. Maybe they're on your TBR list too!

The Serpent King cover
1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

My friend Alyssa recommended this particular book to me earlier in the summer, saying it was one of the best books dealing with mental health that she had read in a while. I finally was able to get it from the library, so I'm super excited to dig in!




This Savage Song cover
2. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

I received this book in an Uppercase box this summer (which my friend Alex subscribed me to, and it was super cool!), and I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. It sounds super eerie and creepy, which would definitely be different than the stuff I've been reading lately.






Spontaneous cover
3. Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

I think it was John Green who posted about this book on Facebook, but it's about high school seniors who start spontaneously combusting at a high school in New Jersey. Ever since I read the description, I knew I had to read it; it seems like an adventure waiting to happen!






A World Without You cover

4. A World Without You by Beth Revis

I actually haven't heard much about this book, but I kept seeing it every time I went to the library. It's gotten decent reviews on Goodreads, and definitely sounds like it pulls on your heartstrings, which fits along my reading pattern as of late.





Blood Red Snow White cover
5. Blood Read Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick always receives high praise for his books, and he won the Michael L. Printz award for his book Midwinterblood in 2014. This particular book is historical fiction, which I don't read a lot of, but I enjoy his writing style, so this one definitely got added to my TBR list!







By all means, this does not encompass all of the books that are on my TBR pile, but it gives you a glimpse into what I'll be reading and reviewing in the coming books. What books are in your TBR pile?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ten Books That Have Most Influenced Me

As an English literature student and all around book lover, there is a plethora of books that have influenced my life. Books have the ability to let you think about the world in a different light, to open your eyes to something that you might not experience in your every day life. Books let people tell their stories to others that might not have heard them otherwise. If I look at my life, I can see all the ways that books have influenced me, from the friends that I have made to the major that I chose to the things that I write about and am passionate about. Books and reading have shaped who I am, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Without further ado, the ten books that have greatly influenced the person that I am (in no particular order):

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
When I first read this book back in middle school, I was hooked from the very first line. If you look at my wardrobe or even my tattoo, it's clear that I'm a Harry Potter fan through and through. But Harry Potter did more for me than just becoming a passion; Harry Potter enabled me to break out of my shell when I first moved away to college, and some of the friends I made through the series I know are going to be friends for life. Plus, it kind of inspired me to choose the major that I did. If I could study books like this for the rest of my life, I would be a happy camper.

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
This book showed me that even the most quiet and introverted people can find friends. As a person who has always struggled with putting myself out there, Charlie's story showed me that you can always find people that will stick by you no matter what, people that can help to bring you out of your shell and experience life in all its glory.

3. Every Day by David Levithan
David Levithan writes some of the most poetic lines, which can be seen if you follow him on Twitter (which I highly recommend). This book in particular is amazing because of what Levithan does with the story: he created a main character that has no specified gender, sexuality, race, etc. A changes identity every day, yet A is still able to find love, to create a relationship, and it is beautiful. This was one of those books that I stayed up all night finishing, and I recommend it to everyone that I can.

4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Not only have John Green's books high influenced my life, but the community he has created on the internet is one that should be praised for its inclusion. The Nerdfighter community is one that welcomes everyone, and is a safe place for anyone that joins it. Plus, I can read this particular book over and over again, which I could probably say about any book on this list.

5.  The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I remember when I first read this book, in a book club I was a part of in high school. Our librarians, as a part of various book committees and book blogs, would receive galleys ahead of time, put them in the library collection, and we would read them and discuss them about once a week. The Hunger Games was one of those books that everyone was talking about, and what inspired me to study dystopian fiction for my thesis. There's so much in this book, and in the entire series, that it could be discussed for ages. Plus, who can deny the feminist undertones throughout the entire series (which is kind of what my thesis is about, maybe I'll make a post about that in the future).

6. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This is a much more recent addition to the list as I only read it in the past year, but the illustrations alone in this book are stunning (fun fact: Jim Kay also does the illustrated editions of Harry Potter). Combine these illustrations with Ness's prose and you have a winning combination; one that has inspired me in my own writing and illustrating endeavors.

7. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I have yet to read a book by Rainbow Rowell that I haven't liked, and this book is what started it all. Rowell has a knack for creating characters that you can't forget. Rowell's writing has also inspired me own, though my stories don't come anywhere near the ones that she creates in her novels. But perhaps some day.

8. The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Another very recent addition to the list, but an important addition nonetheless. I reviewed this book about a month ago (the post can be found here). Though I don't identify as genderfluid like the main character, a lot of the things that Riley struggles with I could identify with, both when I was in high school and even now. This book is also important in the constant struggle of inclusion within YA literature, and I'm so glad it was published. It was much needed.

9. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
This was another book that influenced my thesis, as it falls in the vein of feminist dystopian literature. This book was an important one due to the issues within our society that it brings to light. Margaret Atwood has a knack for creating stories that have deep meaning in relation to many different societal issues. She always comes highly recommended.

10. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Last but certainly not least, this is probably the less popular of Markus Zusak's books, but it's still just as beautifully written. I would argue that it's written for a slightly older audience than The Book Thief, but it deals with a lot things like perceptions of beauty, perceptions of right and wrong, and just life in general, to name a few. Plus, Zusak has a knack for writing lines that you want to read over and over again.

These books probably also influenced me to start this blog and share my passion for reading with others. I hope you check some of these books out, they're definitely worth the read!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On Abandoning Books

We've all been there. You start reading a book that looks really promising, but for whatever reason, it's just not clicking. The plot isn't moving fast enough. The characters are ungodly irritating. The prose is seriously off-putting. But you owe it to the author to finish it, right? That's what I always thought, at least. It was my own personal policy that I had to finish every single book that I started, because you never know if it will get better by the end; it could have some redeeming quality that made you pick it up in the first place.

Recently, I've come to the realization that life is too short to continue reading books that you're not interested in. For example, I had been hearing a lot about The Magicians by Lev Grossman recently, and everyone said that any Harry Potter fan would fall in love with it, that it was a new Harry Potter for an older generation. So I started it. I kept an open mind, wanting to love it, but having a really hard time getting into the story.

But I couldn't do it. I couldn't get into it. So much so that I kind of felt like this while reading it:

Book falling asleep gif

At first, I felt guilty. Someone wrote this, and I should try my best to read it all the way through, because they put a lot of effort into creating it. But it was to the point where I was picking up other books to read instead.

Since finishing school, I've finally had the time to read the books that I want to read, and the list has grown so exponentially that I don't have the time to read books that don't keep my interest. Life is too short to read things you don't like. So abandon them! You deserve to read books that you enjoy.