Saturday, November 28, 2015

Giving Thanks for Books

First of all, I apologize for my long absence. It has been a while! It's been a pretty busy fall--school, college apps, plus a lot of extra drama going on this year...I am so ready for the end of this semester.

This Thanksgiving (weekend), I'm thankful for a lot of things. The traditional things, like family, friends, etc. And, as usual, I'm thankful for books. Here are a few books I'm thankful I read this year:


Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
If you've read any of my other posts, you know I'm a huge fan of this series. I've gotten really into it and got very emotional during the most recent book, Queen of Shadows. In fact, I'm so invested in this series that it's hard to believe I only read the first one in March. I'm thankful for this one because it started my newfound interest in (and possibly love of, although I don't know that I'd go that far yet) high fantasy novels.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Ok, ok. Full disclosure: I'm not sure how I feel about this series. I've only read the first two so far (but that's about 1,400 pages, so it counts for more than two books, right?), and I'm pretty sure I'll continue with it, but I just don't know. Does the objectification become okay if it's aimed at both genders? Are the violent scenes (and I'm not talking about battles, although it has its fair share of those) justified in a historical context? I still haven't made up my mind about that. But I'm still glad I read this book. It's an interesting story, and I'm thankful I read it--at the very least--so that I can understand what all the hype is about.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Series Recommendation: Throne of Glass

Last week, there were several days when I almost got to bed early. And if you know me, you know I love sleep. But I didn't go to bed early. Why? Because I had a 650-page book to read! As I was heading for my bed, this book was just sitting there, like, "Read me. Reeeead meeee..." So I did. And it was fantastic. What is this magical book that took priority over sleep? Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas.

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series (The other books are: Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight, and Heir of Fire. There's also a prequel: The Assassin's Blade). Because this book is so far along in the series, I don't want to say too much about major plot points. BUT I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the books in the series, so I'm going to tell you why you should read the series.

*I will try to keep spoilers out of this. But as I start talking about the second, third, and fourth book in the series, there may be spoiler-y moments. You've been warned.*

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Speeds and Skimming

Last year, I was in a book club during a weekly read period at my school (We read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, in case you're interested). I sat with one of my good friends, and when we had some time to read during the club, she was shocked at how fast I was reading. "She's read thirty pages in the same time it took me to read ten!" Or something of that sort. In a forty-five minute read period, I usually read about seventy pages. That's about 1.5 pages a minute (if I'm doing the math right!).

I don't know that this classifies me as a speed reader exactly, but I do know that I tend to read more quickly than some people I know. Here's the secret: I do read very fast, but I also tend to skim passages. Not a lot, and not enough that I miss essential details, but sometimes I have to go back to remember a character's name--"Okay, who's talking now?" Maybe when things go so fast, it's easier for things to slip through my grasp.

My question is, does this count? If I skim, did I read it? I think I get the main ideas, and I certainly enjoy the books. However, I have been noticing lately that as I rate a book on Goodreads, I'll mark it, then look at some of the reviews, and take away one of the stars I gave it. It seems skimming makes it easier for me to overlook flaws in the narrative or characterization. Or maybe that's the speed (or at least quick) reading--If you go really fast, you don't have to dwell on mistakes, do you?

(Note: That last sentence really only works in the context of reading. Don't try that while driving.)

I like to read fast, because I get to read more. I think it does count as reading, since I've found some of my favorite books this way. And maybe if I overlook some problems, that's a good thing. It gives things a kind of rosy glow. While I try to avoid this, it sure does make things look nice.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Vacation Reads

This summer (which, sadly, comes to an end on Tuesday) I went to the beach on vacation, and can you guess what I'm most proud of? Not my nonexistent tan--although I was a lovely shade of crimson for a few days. The pile of books I was able to read. I read twelve books in ten days, and they were--for the most part--wonderful. Here's a quick overview.


The Princess Bride by William Goldman--This is my sister's favorite book. She's been telling me to read it for years, and I've been wanting to read it for years. However, I was always intimidated by the triple threat of small-type-small-pages-thick-spine. I thought it would take me forever to get through it. Instead, I flew through it, loving every word. 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray--I read this every year at the beach. It's about beauty pageant contestants who get stranded on a desert island, but really it's about feminism (the way it should be: meaning that everyone gets equal respect) and the fact that you don't have to reject femininity to be a strong woman. Plus, it's got pirates, a secret government operation, and commercial breaks. What could be better?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Blogging Update

You may have noticed that I haven't exactly been blogging regularly. I've been really busy with summer assignments for school and a job at a library (pinch me!), plus a vacation without wi-fi. This isn't likely to get better as school starts--ridiculously early, as I have just about two weeks of summer left. But I definitely want to keep blogging. So. I thought I'd give you a quick update on how I'd like things to go. Fingers crossed.

I'm going to try to update this blog at least two times a month. I was doing that pretty regularly back in the spring, but things got busy really fast. My plan, though, is to get back to that! The problem is, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to read, what with AP classes and other fun and exciting school things. So I might not have much to say--it could just be a "hey, here are some books I want to read" kind of thing. Be prepared for that.  In the meantime, I do have a few ideas now, so I'll see what I can do in these two weeks here.

Happy reading!


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summer Reading (So Far)

I always read a lot of books right at the beginning of the summer. Since I've been busy with school for a long time, it's the first few weeks of June where I really go on reading binges. And since I've read so many so far (14 since June 2), I thought I'd do some mini-reviews.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Synopsis: After a typo sends Ellie's e-mail to a stranger, she and Graham (the stranger) begin exchanging e-mails. Graham turns out to be a movie star who is shooting a movie in her New England town.
Thoughts: I read this for the first time a few years ago, and it just felt like summer to me. So I figured my first day of summer vacation would be well-spent with this book. Aside from the suspension of disbelief and the stranger danger, it was just as cute and summer-y as I remembered.

Off The Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
Synopsis: This is a companion novel to Between the Lines. Oliver is a fairytale prince who has just escaped the pages of his book to be with Delilah. But things can't stay perfect forever--welcome to the real world.
Thoughts: I had some trouble remembering the characters from Between the Lines, but I was told it wasn't necessary to have read that first, so I figured I would be fine. (Since I had read it, I would still end up ahead, right?) However, this made it kind of hard to care about the characters, since I didn't always know who they were. If you're reading this with Between the Lines fresh in your memory, I'm sure some of these problems get cleared up. But the way I read was a little disappointing.

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
Synopsis: Alex has schizophrenia. She has to navigate her new school and figure out what's true and what's not.
Thoughts: Up until the end, I was thinking this was more of a "meh" book. It was good, but not excellent. But the end made up for that--I can't go into too much detail due to the plot twistiness of it all, but the unreliable narrator made for interesting developments.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jobs in YA Fiction

Happy almost summer! As June approaches, many people I know have started to talk about getting summer jobs. Naturally, I started to think about some of my favorite characters from YA fiction and what jobs they'd be doing as they finished school. So, here are a few jobs that just might inspire you.

 Lizzie Summers (The Daughters, Johanna Philbin) models for fashion magazines. Hey, you might not think you're cut out for it, but neither did Lizzie... at first.


 Leigh (Six Feet Over It, Jennifer Longo) works with her family at the local cemetery. Not the most uplifting of places, but you do meet some interesting people.


Mia Thermopolis (The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot) gets paid--well, technically, she gets donations made to Greenpeace in her name--to learn to be a princess. Definitely one of the more glamorous options, though admittedly, it isn't an option for everyone.


Francesca Schnell (The Summer of Letting Go, Gae Polisner) babysits a little boy named Frankie Sky, who may or may not be her brother reincarnated. If you're looking for something less serious for your summer job, my advice would be to stay away from possible reincarnations.


Emi (Everything Leads to You, Nina LaCour) works as a set designer in Hollywood. Seems like those thrift store/flea market finds go pretty far.

 
Happy summer job hunting, everyone.



Sunday, May 3, 2015

Updated TBR for 2015

Okay, I had a Most Anticipated Books of 2015 blog at the beginning of the year, but I've had to add to it. How did I miss these books?
So, in addition to the books in that post (some of which I've already gotten to read), I'm also anticipating...

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
(May 12, 2015)
This book is inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, and it's set in a land where the Caliph of Khorasan chooses a bride every night and executes a bride every morning. When Shahrzad volunteers to marry him, though, she has revenge on her mind. This book sounds incredible and I cannot wait to read it.

Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier
(April 14, 2015)
That's right, this one's already out. I actually have a copy on my shelf, from the library. I just don't know when I'll have time to read it--but I'm really looking forward to it. When I wrote the first anticipated reads post, I hadn't yet read the Ruby Red trilogy, also by Kerstin Gier, so that explains why this wasn't on my list. I loved Ruby Red, and I love Kerstin Gier's writing style, so I hope I can get to this soon.

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything In Between by Jennifer E. Smith
(September 1, 2015)
Clare and Aidan are leaving for college and trying to figure out whether or not they should stay together. I absolutely love Jennifer E. Smith. I think waiting until September might be too much for me! Smith's other books are adorable and I hope this one is just as good.

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
(September 1, 2015)
I can't tell you too much about this plot, because I don't know. I'm only halfway through Heir of Fire, the third book in the Throne of Glass series, so I'm not letting myself look at the synopsis for this one, in case of spoilers. But I love Throne of Glass and I love Celaena, and I'm very, very excited.

I'm sure there are more books coming out this year that I'll love, but I can't find out about them all right now--it just makes the waiting harder. Surprises are better.
Happy reading.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Reading Marathon

Last week was my Spring Break, aka The Week of Not Getting Up Early or Doing Anything Other Than Reading. You know how some people have Netflix binges? Well, I have book binges. There are times when I have reading slumps, but when I have a ton of free time on my hands and a ton of books on my shelves, I race through them (Get it? Race? Like a marathon?).

So, let's see how it went.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Smart Girls in YA Fiction

If you're into young adult books at all, you've probably read at least one story about a girl who has been on the path to college forever--she's got the grades, the extra-curriculars, the after-school job... But, since a story needs a conflict, a couple things might happen. She could go through something that takes all that away from her (her parents lost their jobs, she got in an accident and can never play soccer again, her family moves across the country).

OR she gradually, throughout the novel, realizes that she's more than grades or a college, and she begins to be more spontaneous, less of a perfectionist. This is the case in Melissa Kantor's Better Than Perfect, which I read last week and loved. I was completely engaged the whole time, and I found myself wanting to be friends with almost all of the characters.

However, there was a little nagging thought in the back of my mind the whole time I was reading. While being obsessed with grades/college to the point that you're pushing away friends and family isn't something I'd advocate, I'm usually a little disappointed in the main character by the end of the book. I mean, all too often, the girl gives up some of what she's worked for--whether it's because she wanted to join a band or just wanted to spend some time hanging out with friends.

Now. Again, there is no problem with taking breaks and doing something enjoyable with your time, and if school is stressing you out, I understand the want to do something else. BUT I'm having a lot of trouble finding books about a smart girl character where the girl keeps working towards college or whatever her original goal was.

Maybe that's the point--maybe YA fiction is telling me that it isn't enough to be smart; you have to go out and experience things. But shouldn't we have some examples of smart girls who retain their hardworking ways by the end?

Of course, I'm not ignoring Hermione Granger or Annabeth Chase characters, but their stories weren't based around them being smart girls. Hermione had to help Harry fight Voldemort, and Annabeth went on quests with Percy, to save the world. Both exceptional things--but not exactly a story written about the smart girl trope.

All I want is a story about a straight-A student who wants to get into college, has some conflict, and remains on the track she started on. It seems like reading too many stories where a smart girl gives up her hardworking ways could send the wrong message to the smart girls reading them.

(By the way: I really, really liked Better Than Perfect. And I've generally enjoyed other books like it. I wasn't so much arguing against those books--because I do think they have a valid point--as much as arguing for more variety in the "smart girl" character.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

When Books Disappoint

I don't usually start a book and not finish it. No matter how many times people tell me that it's okay to put a book down if I'm not loving it, I just have to. And I think part of it might be the need to find out how it ends, even if I really, really, really dislike some main characters. But mostly, it's because I have hope for the books.

I'm so optimistic about so many books. See, even if I'm reading a book that I complain about way too much, I'll finish it, because what if it picks up? And then, I'll casually mention that I read it, and somebody else will say, "Well, that book wasn't really for me." I'll say, "It wasn't for me, either! I just thought it might turn out to be for me."

So, books disappoint me sometimes. But I always feel this need to give them another chance, like maybe in the next chapter a character will make up for whatever choices were made in the last chapter.

However, it's not just my optimism. It's that I've been spoiled by too many fantastic books. For example, the books I read right after I read I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson were such a letdown, but not because they weren't good books--just because I'll Give You the Sun was a great book. (Even The Sky Is Everywhere, Jandy Nelson's first book, was kind of disappointing simply on the principle that it wasn't I'll Give You the Sun.)

So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that even when books disappoint me, it's (mostly) because I've had great experiences with books in the past. If those books can be great, why can't they all? I've been spoiled by books, and that's given me hope for all books to be as good as the others I've read. And, really, isn't that a great problem to have?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Recent (and Not-So Recent) Favorites

Okay, so there are a couple books that just make me smile when I see them. Whether it's because A Wrinkle in Time reminds me of my childhood, or because I'll Give You the Sun made me almost cry because it was so beautiful, these books just remind me why I love reading.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I did not want this book to end. It was so sweet and sad and such a good story! Aristotle and Dante meet and become friends over the course of a few summers. And I wish I could tell you more about it, but then I'd have to tell you everything about it, because how would I choose which plot points to talk about?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
I read this one every year. I fall in love with this book every year. One of my favorite things to do is imagining how Libba Bray pitched this book idea: "Okay, so there's this plane full of beauty queens, right? But it crashes on a desert island, so they've gotta find shelter and take care of themselves, and everything. But this island is also full of secret agents who are trying to carry out a secret mission, and they're trying to keep anyone from discovering the mission, so they have to keep everyone from finding out the beauty queens survived. And it's going to be really funny" (Of course, Libba Bray would use prettier wording).

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy and Roger are barely acquainted, but they're going cross country. On the way, they get to know each other. I just love road trip books, okay? And I also really love books that have songs at the beginning of chapters or whatnot. And this book has both! I love Morgan Matson, and this might be my favorite of her books.

Those are just a few of my favorites--of course, the list goes on, but those are the ones that came to mind immediately. Happy reading!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Re-Reads!

I re-read books. And yes, I know there are so many books out there that I could read a new one every day of my life and still not read them all, so why am I not even trying to read as many new books as I can? But I do re-read, for whatever reason.

Yesterday, I finished my last book from the library and was looking for a new book to read. Until I began to feel guilty about all the books I own but have never read, I was thinking of a couple books to re-read: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (last week's post got me thinking about it!), The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (a middle school favorite that makes me cry every time), and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (which I've been wanting to re-read since this summer).

Aside from the fact that apparently all my re-reads' authors have to have initials as their first names, I think I can at least figure out the reason I want to re-read these books. These are all childhood favorites. Even though Harry, Anne, and Ponyboy had to go through a lot of trouble in their respective books, these books are safe. I feel like I'm greeting old friends as I crack the spines again. I slip back into these already established and familiarized worlds as easily as I walk from the kitchen to the living room.

Whereas with a new book, there's always the potential for shock or sadness or even just a disappointing plot, with a re-read, you've got a guarantee that you'll love it. So when I'm stressed out (as I often am this time of year), I go back to books I know I love. And what's wrong with that?

Although I often feel like this:


I think reading all the books in the world is not only not possible, but also not necessary. I still read new books a lot, so it's not like I've completely cut myself off from new opportunities. Reading is one of my favorite things to do, and finding a new book to love is wonderful. The books that I've already read are just the cherries on top.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Favorite Book Couples

Since it is Valentine's Day, I thought I'd celebrate with some of my favorite couples from my favorite books. There are some that I've known about for a while, and some I just met (6 days ago, for example). Either way, I think these couples are definitely worth some flowers and chocolate.

ALSO: Semi-spoilery warning. I mean, most of these couples are pretty obviously, you know, couples, but there are a few that don't get together until towards the end of their books. So. Proceed with caution.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Obligatory Valentine's Day (Week) Post

Last week on YALSA's teen blog, The Hub, there was a poll titled "Romance for Non-Romance Readers." The idea was for readers to pick which young adult romance they would recommend to someone who doesn't read romance. While they had some great options (Anna and the French Kiss, The Geography of You and Me), I thought I'd expand on that idea and share some of my own recommendations.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Libraries and Why I Love Them

Here's a pretty accurate account of my thoughts during a semi-weekly trip to my local library:

Look at all the pretty new books! So many choices...
 Ooh, new books from Gayle Forman, Ally Carter, Holly Black [the list can go on for a while]! I should get them all. 
I probably won't have time to read them all.
I'm getting them all.
There are so many books I want to read! Maybe I could start a new series this week. I've heard this one's pretty good...
Okay, the plot sounds interesting. Add it to the pile.
Recently returned shelf! I haven't seen this book on the shelves for ages! I'd better grab it before it gets checked out again.
All right, I'm running out of room in my arms for all these books. I should just go check out.
Hold shelf! Aaand four books I had put on hold last week. Well. I mean, they literally have my name on them. I have to check them out, right?

And then I go home with way too many books.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The "On My Shelf" Tag

I love book tags, so when I saw this one over on Ariel Bissett's YouTube channel, I knew I wanted to do it (her video is here)! Here's how the "On My Shelf" Tag works. You choose a random number that will correspond to a shelf on your bookcase. Then you choose another number, to correspond with a book on that shelf. Then you write about that book for a little bit.

1. Shelf 1, Book 12
 Legend by Marie Lu
I think I've talked about this one quite enough, but just in case you missed it the first three hundred times, I loved this book. I read it during a time when I thought I was completely over dystopian YA, but it was so wonderful, I just couldn't dislike it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Goodreads To-Read Shelf

My first post on this blog was about my huge TBR pile. It has not shrunk since then. In fact, I've probably found even more books to add to this list. So I took a look at my "To-Read" shelf on Goodreads, all in the name of science (Not really. But it was interesting).

My "To-Read" shelf can be broken up into a few categories. First up...

Classics
Okay, this is a huge part of my shelf. I think I've put off reading some of these because I'm intimidated (Anna Karenina mocks me). I'm never going to be able to read all the books that are considered classics, just because it's such a large category. But hopefully I can get to a few of these.
Examples:




Young Adult
Some of these haven't been published yet (yay, an excuse!), but some have. I have a few that I haven't read because my library doesn't have a copy, and I'm not sure if I'll like it enough to buy it, but the overwhelming reason I have so many young adult books on my TBR list is because young adult books just keep coming out and catching my eye. Then the ones that I've been meaning to read for a while get pushed back on the list. Of course, volunteering at a library weekly doesn't help (I get to see all the new releases all the time).
Examples:




Adult/Misc./Books That Seem Sophisticated and Full of Culture
I am so interested in so many of these. But for some reason, I just haven't gotten there. Possibly, I'm intimidated by reading something that already has such strong fans (The Princess Bride, The Lord of the Rings). Whatever it is, I can't wait to find out the reasons for the love surrounding these books.
Examples:



And what have we learned from this? Well, from going over the books I want to read, I've been reminded of some books I'd forgotten about. And, seeing as how I'm so excited to read so many of these books, I'm not really that intimidated anymore. I just want to read! There are so many excuses for not reading, but if reading's what you love to do, then do it.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Books to Cuddle With on a Snow Day

Who needs ice-skating and sledding when you've got books?

After a December with minimal snow (at least where I live), January seems very aggressive. So when I got a few snow days last week, I sought comfort in books. Essentials for staying warm: sweaters, blankets, hot chocolate, and books.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Required Reading

Even the most book-obsessed person I know has had at least one bad experience with required reading. There can be so many variables that can either make or break your school reading experience--teachers, other members of the class, your own personal situation at the time, etc.

I'm kind of opposed to having someone else tell you what to read--I think most people are more likely to read something they picked out on their own than they are likely to read something someone else told them to read. I get that class curriculum means that everyone has to read the same thing, and not everyone will like it. So that's definitely a point against required reading. One of my good friends told me once that she doesn't like to read classics because school has made them all seem like required reading.

This, to me, is terrifying. I love classics! The first Jane Austen book I read was given to me by my sixth grade teacher (not technically "required," but pretty close). And I doubt I would have picked up any intimidating, small-page-smaller-print book in the paperback classics section if I hadn't already been introduced to some of them through school. So I don't like the fact that required reading seems to turn some people away from these sort of books.

However, like I said, reading books for school can be kind of a gateway drug into more classics--reading Catcher in the Rye last school year led to reading Franny and Zooey over the summer, and I loved them both.

Plus, there's the obvious fact that required reading is kind of unavoidable. The whole class should be reading the same thing, in order for discussion and learning and to occur. It helps, in fact, when someone doesn't like the book. If twenty people are all agreeing on everything about the book, there's not going to be a great discussion.

What do you think about required reading? Are you for it, or do you think the students should be allowed to choose the books?

Happy New Year and happy back to school.