Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wrap-Up: What I Read in June

June was the first month of summer vacation and I wholeheartedly jumped in to the summer reading spirit! Even more, every book I read this month except for Black and Blue will be counted towards the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Here are the books I read this month:

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This is one of those books that it seems like everyone has read but because it was never required in school, I never got to it. I finally read it, and it really surprised me. It is exactly what it says it is: the inner thoughts of a 13-year-old girl, one who can be a brat like the rest of us. I didn't love this book, but I love it for the fact that it exists. It gives an invaluable inside perspective into life at this terrible time in history, and it is inevitable heartbreaking for the fact that it ends. 3 stars.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, up until about the last fifty pages. I think it probably actually started to go down hill during the last 100 pages. I was fully engrossed in the story, and Desai's writing is beautiful. But the last 100 pages or so felt distinctly different from the first half of the book; I felt somehow not prepared for it, as if the first part were misleading. I found the ending unsatisfying. However, overall I still really enjoyed the book, and for the fact that it had me so immersed, and that it is a story that I know will stick with me, I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

Constructed of Magic by Louis Alan Swartz

Here is the review I posted on Goodreads for this short poetry collection:

"I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
This collection contains some poems that I really enjoyed, but as a whole it just didn't speak to me. I was also confused as to who was the intended audience. The collection gave definitions for words constantly, and not only did I find it distracting, but it also felt like the collection was making assumptions about the reader's intelligence. However, the book does have beautiful illustrations, and as I said I did find some poems that I really liked."
2 stars.

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin

This is the first science fiction novel that I have ever read by choice. LeGuin is a very intelligent author, and I was glad to find that I was not alienated (sci-fi, aliens, ha) by the science-fiction elements. The story deals with dreams and the main character's ability to change the world with his dreams. The novel felt very grounded in reality, and the characters very human. Sci-fi enthusiasts may say "Well, duh!" when reading such remarks, but for someone outside of the genre, I was pleasantly surprised by these facts. The villain was perfectly reprehensible, the conflict was unbelievably frustrating, but LeGuin handled it all very well, and in the end I really enjoyed the book. 4 stars.

Re Jane by Patricia Park

I was really excited to read this new release, but it didn't quite live up to my expectations. It had a nice ending, and I overall enjoyed my time reading it, but I didn't ever really get in to it. And as a purposeful retelling of Jane Eyre, it just doesn't hold a candle to the original. However, it was a fun read and I would give it 3 and 1/2 stars.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Finally I have read this book! As a lover of family sagas and a person who took Spanish classes for four years, this book has been on my radar and TBR for ages, and finally I can say that I read it. I really liked this novel, particularly towards the end when the characters are amidst political uproar in their country. As in any other family saga, we get to meet and observe many different characters within one family as they grow and change and continue the family legacy. Getting snippets of Estaban Truebas perspective interlocked with the omniscient narrator was a brilliant way for Allende to demonstrate character. It did take me a while to read, and at times I found it slow, so the novel is not one of my new favorites, but it is a novel that will stick with me and I'm so glad I finally read it. 4 stars.

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

This book made me incredibly uncomfortable. And I think that was the intention. However, I just can't say I enjoyed this book. I can't think of many, if any, characters that I have liked less than the main character of this novel, David Lurie. And while I think that Coetzee is a talented and beautiful writer, as I said I didn't enjoy reading this book. It was just too unsettling. And I enjoy reading about difficult topics, and I enjoy unhappy books, but I think there was just nothing for me to relate to and grasp on to in this novel, and I was just too put off by the narrative voice. But this is also one of those books that has that looming presence and you know it's important, and so you can't not give it credit. And isn't the fact that it made you uncomfortable show that is is effective. I'm not sure, but these were the circular arguments going on in my head as I tried to rate it on Goodreads. For now I've settled on 3 stars.

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

This is a book, as you can probably guess by the title, about a woman who escapes her abusive husband with her 10-year-old son. It's a slow, quiet, read, but sometimes that's exactly what I want. And I liked that despite the fact that this book was written almost 20 years ago, I didn't find it predictable. Though it did hit the abuse story cornerstones, they usually happened not at the time I was expecting them to or in a way that I found original. Overall a good read. 3.75 stars.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Update

I thought I'd do an update of how I'm progressing through Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge, since we're already in the 5th month of the year. I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far, and I'm looking forward to checking more off my list!

Categories Completed (8):
- A book published by an Indie Press: Icon edited by Amy Scholder
- A book by a person whose gender is different from your own: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
- A microhistory: Marriage: A History by Stephanie Coontz
- A YA novel: True Believer by Virginia Euwer Woolf
- A Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker, or NBA winner from the last decade: Just Kids by Patti Smith
- A graphic novel: March, Book 2 by John Robert Lewis
- A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
- A book published before 1850: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

Currently Working on (1):
- A book that someone else has recommended to you: The Condition by Jennifer Haigh

Categories to Complete (15):
- A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
- A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
- A collection of short stories
- A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQA
- A book that takes place in Asia
- A book by an author from Africa
- A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture
- A Sci-Fi novel
- A Romance novel
- A book that is a retelling of a classic tale
- An audiobook
- A collection of poetry
- A book that was originally published in another language
- A book published this year
- A self-improvement book

Saturday, April 18, 2015

On Keeping a Quote Journal

Keeping a quote journal was an idea I got, of all places, from Oprah. On one of her life class shows she brought out her own quote journal, in which she wrote down quotes from her various conversations with people.
And I thought: I love journals. I love quotes. Why have I not done this?
So I picked a notebook from my collection (is it a rule that bookworms are attracted to beautiful notebooks and journals) and decided to start a journal for quotes from the books I read.

 This is the journal I chose

And here is what it looks like inside

I started this journal last summer, so almost a year ago, but during the school year I used it less and less. I'm reading Just Kids by Patti Smith right now, though, and in the dedication I found a quote that I desperately wanted to write down, and this made me remember my quote journal. I would really like to get back into transcribing quotes in it on a regular basis, because it's nice to have a collection of the words that speak to you. It also is a good way to remind you of the books you've read and your experience reading those books. 
I know some people use Goodreads to keep track of quotes, but I've never used that feature. No matter what system you use, however, I think that writing down or keeping track of quotes you love is a valuable experience for any reader. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Growing out of a Genre Doesn't Make you a Snob

As a 21-year old English major, I'm not only in a weird spot in my life in general, but also in my reading life.
As a teen I was a dedicated YA reader. It was age-appropriate and I gobbled up the books in my library's YA section, rereading my favorites over and over again. And while I think I will always love those favorites, I've found myself increasingly dissatisfied with YA, and not because it's getting worse, but because I am just plain-old growing out of it.
It's not you, YA, it's me.
This is not to say that adults can't read and love YA. Clearly there is a huge community of YA lovers of all ages, and I'm all for that. But they just don't do it for me anymore, and this has been hard to come to terms with.
I do not want to be and English major snob. And not liking YA anymore made me feel like that. It made me feel like I had been tainted by self-importance.
But I've come to realize, after a few years of this awkward transition, that just like anything else, it is ok to grow out of books. It was ok to grow out of Junie B. Jones after elementary school, and it is ok for me to grow out of Sarah Dessen now (Don't worry - two of her books still hold prime spots on my Goodreads "Favorites" shelf). Because what matters is that I am still enjoying books. I still love to read, so much so that I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about it, and I get an enormous amount of pleasure out of it.
I've come to accept that my reading preferences are going to change as I change, and that is ok, and it doesn't make me a snob. It makes me a human.
There is just no sense in reading books that you don't like. I'm not shutting YA out completely. If there's a book that sounds amazing and is YA, heck yeah I'm going to read it. But I can't make myself feel guilty for "abandoning" a genre. I like what I like, and if that means I'm going to read the next big Literary Fiction book over the new YA romance that everyone is loving, that is ok, and it doesn't mean I'm a snob.What matters is that all of us are reading the books we love to read.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

10 Books I've Recently Added to My TBR

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for Top Ten Tuesday, the lovely meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic is 10 books that you've recently added to your TBR list, so I'm going to go the traditional route and tell you the last ten books that have been added to my goodreads TBR.

1. 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories compiled by Lorrie Moore and Heidi Pitlor
100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

This book isn't released yet, but I'm trying to get into short stories and I figured this would be a great compilation for the novice to have. I have a couple editions of the Best American Short Stories I've picked up from library sales that I'll start with, but I'd really love to have this book when it comes out.

2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

I don't remember how I found out about this book, but what probably intrigued me is that it's set in Wisconsin, which is a state I'm familiar with. It tells the story of the deaf son of a farming family who also breed a special type of dog. At some point it turns into a survival story, which I'm generally not a fan of, but I'd like to see how I like this one.

3. Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on their Decision not to Have Kids edited by Meghan Daum
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids

Either one of the writers at Book Riot or Book Riot in general was spouting praises for this book, and as a feminist who loves a good essay collection, I can't pass this one up.

4. This I Believe edited by Jay Allison
This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women

Goodreads recommended this book to me after I read Listening is an Act of Love, and it looks like one of those feel-good, essay sort of things that I have a soft spot for. I'm not sure what that category is called, but I eat it up, and I think this will be an inspiring read.

5. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life

This book is blowing up the bookternet and I am all about it. I love broken, tragic characters and family/friendship sagas, so from what I've heard this book will be right up my alley.

6. The Shore by Sara Taylor
The Shore

I think this is another one that hasn't been released yet, but one of the Book Riot contributors listed it as the best book they read one month. I think it's another family saga rife with long-harbored resentment coming to a head, and as I've established, I'm all about that.

7. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

This is a YA book about a school shooting. It's one of the few sensitive topics that really gets to me, but I've heard that it's very powerful, so I'd like to read it. And since it's for younger audiences, I don't think it will be too graphic.

8. Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden
Sugar (Sugar Lacey, #1)

I don't remember how I found out about this book, but I do remember hearing that it's supposed to be amazing. I think it's a slice-of-life story set in the South, and sometimes that's exactly what I'm in the mood for.

9. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Fourth of July Creek

This book has also been appearing around the bookternet quite a bit. I think it's thriller, focusing on the story of a social worker who finds a boy starving in the woods and what happens after he finds the boy's family. This isn't my typical kind of read, but I've heard really good things about it so I'd like to give it a shot.

10. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

I heard about this short story collection on the Book Riot podcast (can you tell I love me some Book Riot?) and they way they described what the author accomplished in this collection made me really want to read it, especially since I'm trying to explore the short story genre.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

What I Read in January

The first month of the year is already gone! I managed to read four books this month, so here they are!

1. True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
True Believer (Make Lemonade, #2)
 
This is the second book in a series, but I didn't read the first one and it didn't inhibit my reading experience at all. My friend was giving this book away and said that I would like it, and I really did! It's written in verse, which I am generally a fan of, and it was a really powerful story. If you tend to find that YA often doesn't seem genuine, this book would be good for you because it doesn't have that feeling to it at all. I'm counting this one as my YA book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

2. Marriage, a History by Stephanie Coontz
Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

This is a microhistory about how love became a factor in marriage. It was a bit slow at times, and it didn't always hold my interest, so it's not the best nonfiction book I've ever read. I did learn some things, though, and if you're a more seasoned nonfiction reader you might like this. I'm counting this as my Microhistory for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.

3. The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike
The Witches of Eastwick 

I had to read this for a class I'm taking on American Magical Realism. I don't quite know how I feel about this book, but I will warn you that it is not for the faint at heart. As one of my classmates said, "it's basically a softcore porn," but not in a sexy way. I admire Updike's writing in this book, but it was just too wrong to love.
*Note: I'm going to try not to count any of my school books towards my Book Riot challenge. I will if I need to by the end of the year, but for now I'm not going to.

4. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman #2)

This book was quite a disappointment. I LOVED The Rosie Project, but this book did not live up to its predecessor at all. It was boring, and the lovable characters turned annoying and unlikable. I understand that that is realistic and that in real life that happens, but the first book was a fun, light read that was really well done, and I just can't say the same for this book.

So that was my reading month! I hope January brought you some great books. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Reading in 2015

It's a new dawn, it's a new day, and it's a whole new year for reading! And I am ready to make 2015 my best reading year yet. Here's what I'm planning to implement into my reading life to make this year great:

Goodreads Challenge

I've participated in the Goodreads reading challenge for the last two years, and both years I've succeeded in reaching my 50 books goal. This year I'm adding to my challenge and hoping to read 55 books in 2015. I understand people's aversion to the challenge; having a goal can put pressure on reading, make it a chore, and dissuade you from reading long books. For me, however, I've decided that at this point in my life a goal like the Goodreads challenge is necessary for me to keep reading an important part of my life. While in college, it would be really easy for me to forget about reading for fun entirely because I read so much for school. While I do count my school books towards my total, it still helps motivate me to read for fun, so I'm sticking with the challenge.

The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

The folks at Book Riot have created the Read Harder Challenge for this year, and I want to participate. It includes 24 tasks that are meant to expand your reading, and I think it's a great idea. I'm going to try to do all 24 without combining categories, which means I will read a total of 24 books for this challenge. I'm really excited to get started!

TBR Jar

I've jumped on the bandwagon and made a TBR Jar! Actually, it's a vase, because my TBR is so long. I'm hoping to read one book from the jar a month, but I reserve the right to instead use it at will when I can't decide what to read next. I'm going to start with trying to read one a month, though. And I may have to cheat a bit, because if I pick a book that I own, but it is currently at home instead of my college house and I don't have access to it I will pick another book. I think it will be a lot of fun though, and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

So there we go. The ultimate goal is to read 55 books this year, and I think I can do it. I wish everyone an exciting and fulfilling reading year!

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