reading goals, to be read

September TBR

Summer is at a close…which means that the time period in which I am able to get most of my reading done is also at a close. The month of September brings new beginnings for me…I’m starting not just one but two (TWO!) internships and I am delving back into the life of a full-time student. So understandably, this TBR is not going to be that ambitious.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

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I definitely want to get through this book before school starts, because it is tremendously long and I honestly don’t think I can commit to such a dense read during the school year. I am currently about halfway through and am really ejoying this one.

  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

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I’ve heard so many good things about this book and I am so psyched to read it cause it seems like a cute, fun read and also I adore Jane Austen. I’ve only read three out of her six novels so far, but those three are among my all-time favorite books.

  • If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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I’m trying to read more diversely and I have yet to read a book with a transgender main character in it. I honestly think YA is a great genre to try and introduce more diverse characters to the larger world of literature in. I am excited to see what Meredith Russo has done, especially as this is an own-voices novel. (BTW: the model on the cover is a transgender model. Well done, publishers!)

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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This is a novel with Lithuanian characters set in the Soviet Union, cause this girl is all about the historically accurate fiction. This book is about a family that gets deported to Siberia by Soviet police and the struggles they face there while the father of the family is sent to a labor camp. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read it!

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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My friend has been begging me to read this, and as I am a sucker for historical fiction novels, I caved. I also made this particular friend read All The Light We Cannot See with me, so I guess fair is fair right? But her begging aside, I am always down for a well written book set in WW2.

  • Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green

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Yet another YA book on this list, and a diverse, mental-health focused book at that! This is supposed to be a graphic novel concerning issues like eating disorders and abuse. I received this book from NetGalley and it comes out October 3rd, but I’ve already heard so many good things so I’m sure this is going to be a fantastic read.

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book review, memoirs/biographies, nonfiction

Review: Sounds Like Me

Things evolve into other things. Emotions do the same. Forever. Your best ally in all of these shifting seas is your faith in the fact that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) In Song, Sara Bareilles

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In which I have checked off another book from my insanely long TBR list. It’s slowly but surely getting smaller…

AUTHOR: Sara Bareilles

GENRE: Memoir, Nonfiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / audiobook

RATING: 4/5 stars

BACKGROUND: Sara Bareilles, the songstress/mastermind behind pop classics like “Brave” and “Love Song”, has poured her heart out on the page in eight beautiful and poignant essays. These essays mostly touch on certain periods or instances that occurred in her life, but they are really about different lessons she has learned growing up, stepping into the music industry, and having several new experiences. Bareilles gives readers and fans a exclusive look into her private life in a way that most celebrity memoirs tend not to.

THOUGHTS: Okay first of all, I must recommend the audiobook of this book over the physical copy simply because each of Sara’s essays is based off one of the songs she has written, and she sings each song a capella at the beginning of each chapter AND ITS REALLY BEAUTIFUL OKAY.

I have only read two other memoirs by famous people, (those two people being Tina Fey and Amy Poehler) and I was ready for Sara’s memoir to be spunky, funny, and a look into the unseen glamour of the scenes of pop-star life. I was ready to learn some more interesting factoids about a woman who I consider to be one of the cooler alumni from my own alma mater. I was not prepared for a frankly honest look at several events in her life, in which she dealt with fright, trauma, heartbreak and the like. However, if anything, that just makes the book that much more endearing to me.

Sara talks about a lot of things that have nothing to do with her life as a pop star, as well as several things that has to do with her life as a pop star. She discusses mental health issues, crying in front of strangers, how fake and twisted the music industry can be, how the right band members can make all the difference, how writing a musical was easier for her to do than writing a book (any other fellow Waitress the Musical fans out there?), how a first heartbreak can really be a metaphor for all heartbreaks, how she navigated her parents’ divorce, and so much more. There was no unifying theme of the book, just the feeling that Sara felt that readers could actually take something a little more real and more substantial than entertainment from the stories that she chose to tell.

Sara had something she wanted to say with her book and she made that clear from the start. However, it wasn’t forced or fake; it was genuine. Sara talks a lot about struggling with her self-image, with her weight, with her appearance, and with her overall image as an artist and a celebrity. But more importantly, she talks about how she navigated through some of those tough areas and has progressed in building up her confidence and convincing herself that she is beautiful no matter what the world might say. Additionally, she desperately wants her fans to know that they are beautiful too, and so loved. And I could honestly hear how much she meant it as she read the words aloud, it was so honest and real.

Sara is not a “writer” so I am not going to comment on the prose or most of the mechanics of her writing. But I will comment on the voice of her novel (the actual voice of her words, not the one I heard on the audiobook). It is unique, and it is all her. It was refreshing to hear a celebrity ready to be so vulnerable and down-to-earth with her audience, with the knowledge that it will not benefit her professionally but rather she is writing with the purpose of gracing her fans with her love and her personality. And that, to me, was the best thing about Sara’s memoir: that it was all her, and that she gave it all.

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to be read

Books I’m Taking with Me to College (FALL 2017)


The inspiration for this blog post came from Katherine Reads on Booktube. Because I live in a dorm room that is meant for two people but that will actually be occupied by three means that I do not have the luxury of taking more than six books to my dorm room. The rest of the room on my bookshelf will be dominated by the books I actually need for class!

I hope to rely on the extensive University of California library resources, as well as audiobooks and ebooks to supplement the few physical books I am bringing with me to college. Also, as soon as the quarter ends (in December) I can bring these back and bring back six more unread books!

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin: I’ve been meaning to read this book for forever (I have read some of Chopin’s short stories and I am obsessed) and it’s small enough that I’ll be able to store it easily in my backpack and in my purse for my commute for my internship.

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: I had mentioned to a friend that I recently read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and enjoyed it, so she immediately supplied me with Eleanor and Park which she claims is much better than Fangirl. I can’t wait!

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Life of Pi by Yann Martel: I solely picked up this book because of the hype surrounding the movie but apparently the novel is just as good as the movie supposedly was. I picked this one out of my TBR jar when picking out books for college and I am excited to read it.

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The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan: I wanted to include a nonfiction book as well, and I love personal essays so I chose this book. I had bought this book earlier this summer and have only heard good things about it. I know that Emma Watson also recommended this book, so of course I am going to listen to Emma Watson, cause, duh.

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The Price by Arthur Miller: I wanted to bring a play in addition to the novels that I am bringing. I adored Death of a Salesman by Miller, so I’m excited to see what that’s about.

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The Sonnets of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare: Sometimes, after reading hundreds of pages of textbook reading, I don’t really want to read long chunks of text. Poems, and short ones like sonnets, are the perfect solution to this.

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book review, young adult

Review: Fangirl

To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

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I have checked off one book from my insanely long TBR list! 126 more to go…

AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / ebook

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Cath is one of the biggest Simon Snow fans in the world, and a popular fanfiction writer in that fandom. She is about to start her freshman year of college with her twin sister and best friend Wren, but things go amiss when Wren declares she’d rather not room with Cath. Cath, who deals with crippling social anxiety, struggles to thrive in the social atmosphere of college without her socialite sister to guide her, and also struggles to reconcile the real world that she lives in and the fictional world that she would rather inhabit.

THOUGHTS: Okay so the worst thing about being a book blogger/reviewer is that as you read a book, you start to determine what its rating will be from the very outset. I began hating this book and evolved to like it. I enjoyed Fangirl, although I probably liked it a lot less than those who read Young Adult exclusively. A lot of YA reviewers gave it a 5/5 but honestly I didn’t love the book like that, nor did I not like it.

I found Cath to be kind of immature, even though I know this is an aspect of Young Adult fiction, it sometimes got on my nerves. Cath isn’t that young- she is a freshman in university. I am going into my second year of university, so Cath isn’t that much younger than me, and there are a lot of aspects about Cath that I could appreciate and relate to: her preference for books over parties, her reluctance to partake in overwhelming social activities, and her love for fictional worlds and characters. However, the way that Cath just shrugged off some of her school work or even her important relationships in order to tend to her literary commitments seemed ridiculous and acts that belonged to an angsty sixteen-year-old rather than an eighteen-year-old. Other characters comment on Cath’s pettiness and immaturity throughout the book, so Rainbow Rowell had made a deliberate choice there, but honestly? I wasn’t the girl’s biggest fan (see what I did there?)

Other than that, the rest of the book was enjoyable for me. I liked the family drama it encompassed, Cath’s journey to breaking a little more out of her shell, and her experiences with the harsh realties of real life breaking her out of her fantasy-induced stupor. All in all, the characterization was done quite well- none of the characters were too tropey, not even the introverted, fangirling nerd that was Cath. The relationships between characters, and how they broke, mended, and strengthened is what really gave this novel its life.

Also, I was LIVING for the frank portrayal of mental illnesses, self-medication, and family drama. This could have easily been a super fluffy, cute book, but instead, it also incorporates some serious subjects that fiction exists to take us away from sometimes. If anything, this book speaks to the self-medicating powers that fiction writing and fiction reading can have- for a few short moments, it can give us a place to hide from ourselves and our own issues.

If you like YA in general, I’d recommend this to you.

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book review, reading recommendations, short story sunday

Short Story Sunday: A Good Man is Hard to Find

For those of you who find it hard to set time aside to read, but still love the pull of a good novel, I introduce to you Short Story Sundays! Basically, I will review a short story or even an essay that I loved each Sunday (most of them will be recommendations) instead of a full length novel or play that you can easily pick up, read, and digest in the span of an hour.

This week’s story comes from the brilliant writer who is a masterful commentator on American life: Flannery O’Connor.

SUMMARY: The narrator of this story comes in the form of a Southern grandmother who would rather vacation in Tennessee, rather than in Florida, where her daughter and her grandson are dragging her along to. This is the kind of woman who is stuck in the past, and stuck in the idea that she was part of a Southern aristocracy, and stuck in an idealized American past that no longer exists in a modern world. She points out an article concerning “The Misfit”, or a serial killer who is out on the road. She finds herself at odds with her family, and she has antiquated values, but this story is still a thriller and the plot twist at the end may have revealed that this grandmother was right about something that she may or may not live to regret.

REVIEW: I was introduced to this chilling story in school, and I am eternally grateful for this introduction because it prompted me to pick up Flannery O’Connor’s collection Everything that Rises Must Converge which I absolutely adored.

O’Connor is great at capturing the feelings of those who are stuck in a different kind of American South, where the wealthy, white plantation owners reigned supreme and in which all of society catered to them. This story proves no exception, and O’Connor manages to concurrently validate those stuck-in-the-past feelings as well as satirizing them.

I also loved the plot and the twist it has at the end, and how it was treated. Yes, it is not the happiest of endings, but that’s O’Connor for you- her stories will leave you somewhat terrified and somewhat in awe. The characterization in this story is particularly some of O’Connor’s best as well; even though you do not know a lot about these characters, they are easily identifiable to any reader. Even the one character in the restaurant that is only briefly mentioned is fleshed out enough for the reader to have an idea of who he is. Additionally, the diction and symbolism is simply enthralling.

If you like a story with excitement, suspension, and an ending that will leave you feeling queasy, (as well with some colorful insights into American generation gaps and American psyches), this story is for you.

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

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book review, historical fiction, reading recommendations, young adult

Review: The Book Thief

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

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Click on the image to purchase on Amazon.

I don’t know what took me so long to pick up this book but I am so glad I did. 

AUTHOR: Markus Zusak

GENRE: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK/ WHAT FORMAT: local library / ebook

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: The Book Thief tells the story of a German girl named Liesel who has just watched her brother die and has been given away to foster parents by her mother. She grows up in Nazi Germany, and her story is narrated by the personification of Death. Even though she initially struggles to adjust to life on Himmel Street, it is made slightly easier because she has befriended her neighbor Rudy and because her Papa is a man with a heart as deep as well and is skilled at playing a soothing accordion. One of the only ways that she and her friend Rudy can deal with the horrors of life in Nazi Germany is to steal; Liesel especially liked to steal books for her own consumption, since she was too poor to buy them for herself. The rest of the story describes how Liesel’s relationship with words evolves and warps because of the beautiful escape they can provide her and because of the horrors that Hitler’s words inflicted upon his people and upon those Liesel hold dearest to herself.

THOUGHTS: I absolutely adored this book, where to even begin? Zusak took a major risk by letting Death narrate this story, but it worked even better than letting Liesel narrate her own story. Death was able to capture the different and more encompassing perspective of the general events of World War 2, in a way that Liesel never would have been able to. Additionally, this gave the story a more mature perspective, and Liesel’s narration would have undoubtedly been more immature because she is only a young teenager. The way that Zusak outlined each part of his book, the way that he named his chapters, and the “notes” that Death left in the middle of blocks of text all added to the eccentricity and genius of the story.

This cast of characters is so lovable, and each of these Germans, even though they were part of the Nazi Party and were complicit in, if not directly responsible for, the pain that Germany inflicted during the Holocaust and the damage waged against the Allied forces. However, each character was humanized; there were so many beautiful paradoxes, such as the boy that was most sought out by Hitler Youth scouts was also the boy that risked his life to leave pieces of bread out for the Jews marching towards concentration camps.

I would have ugly-cried through many parts of this book if I had not been in public during those times. I was so in love with the world created here and the characters that populated it that I could barely stop reading. This book puts the best and the worst of humanity on display, but does so in a way that keeps you on your toes throughout the entire journey. In other words, I am saying that this book is a must read.

 

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book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Leaving Time

Just because you leave someone doesn’t mean you let them go.

Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult

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Click on the image above to purchase the book on Amazon.

This was my introduction to Jodi Picoult, who many acclaim, and I must say that it was far from a disappointment.

AUTHOR: Jodi Picoult

GENRE: Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: local library

RATING: 4/5 stars

SUMMARY: Jenna Metcalf is a thirteen-year-old girl whose every waking moment is consumed by missing and searching for her mother who has been missing for over a decade, Alice Metcalf. Her father, a patient in a psychiatric ward, proves unhelpful. The missing persons case for Alice Metcalf was never reported either. Jenna enlists the help of a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and the detective that was originally assigned to her mother’s case, Virgil, in the search for her mother. As these three form the pseudo-family that Jenna never really had, details about the case reveal themselves and raises more confusion. However, Jenna is not about to give up, not after ten years of missing her mom.

THOUGHTS: I adored this story- it has everything an avid reader could want: paranormal beings, a psychic who is faking it, an angsty, witty teenage girl, an alcoholic detective, a missing person, and elephants. I am the kind that loves to read nonfiction and especially about animal emotions and the depth to which they feel it- so I really enjoyed the elephants aspect of this story. There is a lot of research about elephants in this book, so if that is not the kind of thing that will pique your interest, then this book may not be for you.

I like the characterization overall in this novel- the main characters, Jenna and Alice, are beautifully written. They are both complicated, and Jenna’s teenage voice is clear and realistic and relatable. Alice is just as complex, and she is not romanticized at all by Picoult- she has some angry moments, some bossy moments, and some mean moments. But she is still a sympathetic character, and one that you root for- it just she comes closer to real women in real life- she’s dark, she’s complex, and she’s emotional, unapologetically. Additionally, Serenity and Vergil, though most of us would classify them as losers or outsiders, are not entirely lovable, but just relatable enough so that you can relate to the issues that they are facing and the questions they have to answer. Also, the relationships that they develop with Jenna are nicely arced and anything but linear, which I feel is important for parent-child like relationships.

The plot twist at the end was something that I bought and enjoyed, even though many of the book reviews that I read on Goodreads did not. The main criticism I drew from reading those reviews is that it is a far cry from what Jodi Picoult usually does, but this was my introduction to the author, so I am able to speak on the plot twist without being influenced by Picoult’s other works. I thought it was a well-timed twist, believable, and made the story that much more enriching and challenging to my own world view.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with plenty of drama, suspense, and some of the paranormal, then this is a book for you!

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