A Few Updates, Bonus Content

Bookish Goals for 2021

If you’re reading this, we have officially made it through the wackiness of 2020 – woohoo! Obviously last year was one for the books (yes, pun totally intended!), and I am hopeful that 2021 will be slightly less eventful and much more fun than 2020. I couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the new year than with a post all about some of the bookish goals I have for myself this year. My track record for “new year’s resolutions” has not been great – anytime I’ve made them and called them that, I’ve epically failed at achieving them, ughh. But, I do love having a list of things to strive for in life, so I thought it would be fun to carry that over into my bookish life, too! Without further ado, here are some of my book/reading-related goals for 2021:

Reading Goals

I always assign myself a certain amount of books I’d like to read in a year’s time. In 2020, that goal was 35 books (I cut myself a break and included fun books and those I had to read for school), which actually ended up being a lot to accomplish given by work and course loads. For 2021, I have yet again decided to push myself and set my goal at 42 books for the year. I only have three classes this last semester of college, and while they won’t be cake walks, I do think that not having four to five classes this go round will give me a little extra time to do some reading!

While I enjoy reading super long series, I would love for some of my 42 books to be standalone novels. Specifically, I am talking about standalones that are not contemporaries, as I think there is a lot to be said for authors who manage to do such magnificent worldbuilding and who can create developed and dynamic characters in only one book’s time. Don’t worry, though: I can assure you that I will definitely be hittin’ the contemporary sauce this year – still one of my favorite genres ever!!!

My last reading goal is to do some re-reading so that I can finish off series I started and loved, but just haven’t completed yet. This list isn’t super extensive, but there are a couple of series that I started years ago sitting on my shelves that would have started collecting dust if I didn’t dust my bookshelves frequently. Since it typically takes around a year for the next book in a series to be published, I just haven’t made the time to give the first couple of books in some series a re-read and complete the tales. Rest assured that I will be sharing a list of these “started but not finished” series with you very soon in another post, so stay tuned for that – some of my answers may flabbergast you!

Blog Goals

Given that I am still relatively new to blogging, I have found that I do have quite a few goals I’d like to start working towards in 2021 in this department. The first is that I want to find a balance of taking the time to create quality content and setting a realistic posting schedule for said content. Overall, my plan as of now is to post twice a week. One post will be a review of either a book or a book series (Mondays), and the other will be some type of bonus content post (Fridays). As far as creating content goes, I thought it would be pretty cool if I could devote 20-30 minutes each day to doing a little blog post writing. That way, content continues to be created, slow and steady, which allows me to have a little bank of things to post for you all on designated days!

I have a lot of plans circulating right now regarding introducing some new content that I haven’t had on the blog before. Some of these include giveaways, inviting some fellow bloggers to guest blog, creating some of my own original book tags, and so much more! I think these types of things will allow me to get to know more of you in the bookish community, and I could not be more excited about sharing these with you in the near future!

The final goal I have for the blog is something I have already (mostly!) completed if you are here, reading this post today. This goal was to revamp my blog’s design, some of the set-up, and overall, just make it a little more user friendly for everyone. I hope you all have been enjoying these new changes so far, and I look forward to continuing to work on the site as time goes on to make your experience here even more pleasurable!

Bookstagram Goals

My main goal for my bookstagram is to become more consistent with posting. I have set goals in the past, but for one reason or another, they have fallen apart. This year, I am going to try to create a posting schedule that I feel is realistic for me and what I feel I can feasibly do given all the other factors I have to contend with (everything always has to come back to “adulting,” doesn’t it? Blahh). A more detailed idea of this schedule will be shared with you when I figure it out myself lol!

I really like the content I have put out in the past, so I don’t think too much will change in that regard. However, I would like to create more interactive posts so I can communicate with more of you!

………….

Dang… I think I have some lofty goals, but you know what the great thing about goals is? You just have to try to meet them and use them as motivation to help you be more productive – you don’t have to necessarily complete them all! I can’t wait to see what I manage to accomplish this year! Do you have any life/bookish goals you’d like to share? Leave me a comment below and we can totally chat about them. I love seeing what everyone else is motivated to work on in this new year!

I am so excited to see what 2021 has to offer each and every one of you. Wishing you all a year full of love, laughter, prosperity, and of course all of the fantastic reads you can get your hands on!

–Sarah

Fantasy, Young Adult

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Pages: 344

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Genre(s): Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Goodreads Synopsis

“Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?”

What Did I Think?

For the past four months, I have been trying and epically failing to find a young adult novel that would keep my attention – until I found To Kill a Kingdom. I picked this beauty up because its overall concept isn’t something I traditionally find myself reading. The novel follows the story of Lira, a royal siren known as the Prince’s Bane, who gets turned into a human by her mother in an attempt to get rid of the humanity left in her so she can become the ruthless leader her people “need” her to be. Prince Elian, the prince/pirate/world-renowned siren killer, is her target. Though I’m not one for the enemies-to-lovers trope, I thought it worked very well here and fit the dynamic between Lira and Elian to a tea. This being said, though, the romance didn’t steal the show, which I found so refreshing! I also really enjoyed that the reader is taken into this fantastical world where there are various folktale-esque rumors spreading about traits only the royal lines of each kingdom possess (i.e. like Elian bleeds gold instead of red). This novel is written from dual perspectives, which I though was a really good call, as it helped me to see that while Lira and Elian may be different species, their lives are much more alike than either of them really wants to believe. As a whole, I found the overall concept of the novel both intriguing and compelling, just like a siren’s song to a sailor (ha… I knew you’d get the joke!).

If I had to pick one phrase to describe Lira, it would be “a force to be reckoned with.” At first, I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about Lira’s iciness towards basically everyone, but quickly realized that she was simply a product of the environment in which she was living – the next pawn in the perpetual cycle of ruthless Sea Queens. I absolutely loved watching her perspective shift as she learned more about what it was like to be human and starts to see the flaws in her own upbringing. I feel like this is something we all experience as we live more of life, and to see this represented so well in Lira’s character was lovely. Other than her fiery temper and sass for days, the only constant in her character was her love for her cousin, Khalia. I think the relationship these two had with one another was what helped me to get over Lira’s lack of empathy at the beginning of the novel. Overall, I found Lira’s character very dynamic, the overall lessons from her journey as a human relatable, and, for the most part, generally likeable!

Onto our princely pirate, Elian. From the very first chapter told from his perspective, I knew I was going to love him. He’s got sass, he’s got class, and he’s always ready to kick some… err… you can fill in the blank for where I was going with that one. While his risk-taking often stressed me out to high heaven, his purpose behind brokering such extreme deals made my heart so happy. Though a prince, Elian is the first to think of the betterment of humanity as a whole rather than his own personal and/or princely interests. In addition to enjoying his very dark but super funny interactions with Lira, the relationship Elian has with his crew was so much fun to read about. Any time he was around them after attending to his royal duties, I could totally visualize Elian letting go of the deep breath he’d been holding in and just letting loose with his most loyal friends. While I am sure Elian is not hard on the eyes (I mean, come on. Even Lira was intrigued and she’s COLD sometimes!), I mostly enjoyed the fact that Elian, deep down, had a good heart and a willingness to risk everything for those he cares about.

Christo’s writing style is what made reading To Kill a Kingdom such a treat. I found myself reading along, completely absorbed in the plot, and then BAM! She would hit me with a line that cut deep and encourages the reader to stop and reflect on its meaning in our own lives. There were also moments that were so beautifully worded that I had no choice but to stop in my tracks and take it all in. Though I thought some lines were a little bit clunky to read through at times, that in no way overshadows how magnificently written the vast majority of novel is.

I could not have asked for a better book to help me move past my (very lengthy) reading slump. To Kill a Kingdom was full of both loveable and complex characters that were constantly keeping me on my toes. I thought the plotline flowed nicely, and though the world had to be established rather quickly, it was executed very well. The only major critique I can think of is that the ending felt very abrupt, given that the few chapters before novel’s end were very detailed – overly so, for my liking. While To Kill a Kingdom is a standalone novel, I could totally see it having spin-off stories in the future with an ending like that, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be reading them all should they surface!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you are a fan of YA novels that are ultimate examples of a well-constructed enemies-to-lovers trope, pirate-y adventures, and (on the outside) coldhearted characters who aren’t afraid to throw down to get what they want, To Kill a Kingdom is totally for you!

I would also wholeheartedly recommend this book to those of you who thoroughly enjoyed the overall theme and plotline of Tricia Levenseller’s Daughter of the Pirate King duology. And, if you loved the wickedly loveable characters of Holly Black’s Folk of Air trilogy and Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreakers series, you’re sure to enjoy the characters Christo has created for To Kill a Kingdom.

A Few Updates, Bonus Content

I’m Coming Back, I Swear: Blogging Hiatus Update

Hi bookish friends! It’s been awhile, huh? Though I wish I could say that this is my “return” to the blog, I have some more things I need/want to take care of before I make my true comeback – a few of which I am thrilled to be sharing with you today!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my update on my personal/bookish life where I shared that between my three jobs, school, and just the craziness of life these days, I just haven’t had time to create content that I’m proud of. I’m all about quality over quantity, and I want you all to be able to see that in my posts each week, which I knew would not be the case if I kept my current blogging pace in the midst of what I literally had to get done each day.

Though I am not one who often experiences reading slumps, I found myself getting so bogged down with reading and homework for school that I just haven’t wanted to pick up a single “fun read” in MONTHS. Since I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to lately (or at all, really), I’ve lost a lot of my inspiration for my posts. As you can probably surmise, the struggle to write quality reviews is REAL when you’ve basically shunned all reading that wasn’t required for school for a solid four months.

Now that you’ve read my little soap box that I am sure so many of you can relate to, let me get to the fun stuff: what’s to come in the next few months! The biggest news I have to share is that I am currently taking this long break from college to overhaul my website (new design, creating a fabulous new logo, and much more!) to make it both more user friendly and more warm and welcoming for you guys. I have also been brainstorming and writing brand new content that I am so looking forward to sharing in the new year. Not sure if any of you are into giveaways, but if you are, keep your eyes open 🙂

Lastly, I wanted to thank those of you who have been following this blog since day one and those that have recently discovered this “passion project” of mine. I absolutely adore being a part of this wonderfully bookish community, and I hope that you all will be willing to stick around for this next adventure.

May the rest of your year be filled with some fabulous reads that make the end of such a wild year merry and bright! See you soon, friends!

–Sarah

Bonus Content, Book Tags

The Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt Tag!

Happy Friday, bookish friends! After seeing this awesome idea over on Words About Words’ blog, I decided I’d give it a go myself using the books I have on my bookshelf… err, shelves because I’m kind of a book hoarder (sorry not sorry ’bout it, y’all). Let’s dive right in, shall we?

1) Find an author name or title with a Z in it

2) Find a classic

3) Find a book with a key on it

4) Find something on your bookshelf that is not a book

5) Find the oldest book on your shelf

6) Find a book with a woman on it

7) Find a book that has an animal on it

8) Find a book with a male protagonist

9) Find a book with only words on the cover

10) Find a book with illustrations in it

11) Find a book with gold lettering

12) Find a diary, true or fictional

13) Find a book written by an author with a common surname (like Smith)

14) Find a favorite childhood book

15) Find a book on your shelf that takes place in the earliest time period

16) Find a hardback book without a jacket

17) Find a teal/turquoise-colored book

18) Find a book with stars on it

19) Find a non-YA book

20) Find a book with a beautiful cover

I was shocked at how challenging it was to find some of these on my shelf, but somehow I managed to find a book that fit each category, thank goodness! Have you guys given this tag a try? If not, I nominate YOU to give it shot — it may be harder than you think, but so much fun! 😉

Until next week, bookish buddies! I hope your weekend is full of exciting reads 🙂

Bonus Content, Book Tags

The Liebster Award

Hello, fellow readers! Welcome back to another Bonus Content Friday! I’m so excited to share that this week’s post is a book tag I was nominated to do by a fellow blogger, Riddhi Bhargava over at Whispering Stories. Thank you so much for the nomination, Riddhi! Please go give her blog some love when you get finished over here — she has some fabulous content up on her site!

The Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you
  • Nominate 11 other bloggers
  • Ask your nominees 11 questions

Riddhi’s Questions for Me:

1) What is your favorite book series?

This question is such a hard one because there are so many series that are near and dear to my heart. If I had to pick just one, it would have to be the Dark Elements series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. The characters are just so lovable (and some hateable lol!), the plot is perfectly paced and action-packed, and the plot twists blow my mind every time I read it. It was also one of the first series that got me into reading!

2) What is your favorite song?

Hamilton - Broadway | Tickets | Broadway | Broadway.com

My favorite song changes almost weekly (so many good tunes out there now, y’all!), but this week’s would have to be Blow Us All Away from the musical, Hamilton. I don’t know what it is about this song that’s so addictive (the whistling because I can’t for the life of me whistle, maybe?), but I swear I could listen to it for an hour straight and not get bored of it!

3) Favorite movie?

Divergent (Includes Digital Copy) (dvd_video) : Target

I’m not a big movie-watcher, but I guess I would have to pick Divergent for this one since I always feel so kick butt after watching it (even though I sure as heck would not have been a Dauntless!). And, it just so happens to be a book-to-movie adaptation, so perfect choice to put on my book blog, I think!

4) What are your hobbies?

I made this cake for my stepsister’s wedding this past year, along with matching cupcakes! Both tiers are white, but the lighting makes the bottom tier look cream, for some reason.

When I’m not reading or blogging, I absolutely love to cook and bake! I also have the most precious two-year-old sheltie pup named Rowan (yes, named after the fictional character from Throne of Glass!) that I have so much fun hanging out with in my free time.

5) Dogs or cats?

I know I’m supposed to just pick one but I literally cannot for this one — BOTH!!! Huge animal lover here if you can’t tell!

6) Favorite genre?

My favorite genre definitely fluctuates from time to time, but I think with the current goings on of the world, I have been reading a lot more contemporary romances than I used to and LOVING them because they never fail to bring a smile to my face!

7) One genre you have never read?

Horror fiction — and I don’t plan to read it ever, if I can help it! I’m not a huge fan of doing/reading things that intentionally scare me, though I do know a lot of people who enjoy this genre of reading!

8) Favorite month of the year?

Love decorating the tree for Christmas!

You’re killing me with these tough questions, Riddhi (LOL!). Though I don’t love the cold weather, my favorite month would have to be December because I love the family time I get to soak up around the holidays. The long break from school is also a huge plus since I have so much extra time to dedicate to other, more exciting things (like blogging and reading!).

9) One thing that people love about you?

8,000+ Free Creativity & Creative Illustrations - Pixabay

Other than my endless book recommendations (HA!), I think people appreciate the fact that I’m willing to help them brainstorm and implement creative solutions to relatively common problems they are having to contend with. This especially comes in handy and has appeared to be helpful to others when we have had to work together on college group projects.

10) One character you would die for?

Oh, man. Hmmm…. This one has to be the toughest question on the list because most of the characters I would want to save are perfectly capable of saving their own lives even in the most extreme of circumstances. I guess I would have to go with Percy and Monty from A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue because they’re kind of hot messes and could use all the help they could get if put in a life or death situation!

11) Which habit of yours do you want to change?

Free Nail Biter Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart  Library

So I actually just recently just started working on this, but I am a habitual fingernail-chewer when I get stressed out. Luckily this habit is almost broken now, but I’d totally be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of falling back into this bad habit!

My Nominees:

  1. Em @ The Geeky Jock
  2. bookswithnatasa
  3. jeana84
  4. bookgeeking
  5. elizabethreviews
  6. Lila @ Hardcover Haven
  7. Tree and Bree
  8. Soph
  9. A Little Book Love
  10. Lily Lovebrook
  11. Jacquie (Rattle the Stars)

Questions for My Nominees:

  1. Least favorite genre you’ve read?
  2. Favorite animal?
  3. What’s something many people don’t know about you?
  4. Favorite book you’ve read this month?
  5. Who is your favorite author?
  6. How many books do you own (physical, ebooks, and audiobooks included)?
  7. Favorite midnight snack?
  8. What post on your blog are you most proud of and why?
  9. Paperbacks or hardcovers?
  10. Favorite season?
  11. Fruits or vegetables?

Even if I didn’t tag you, I still highly encourage all of you to do this tag. Not only was it a ton of fun, but it will also help your readers find some fabulous new book blogs to check out — what a great way to support others in the bookish community, right? 🙂

Until next week, bookish friends! May your weekend be filled with all the books 🙂

New Adult/Adult, Paranormal

Haze by Rebecca Crunden

Pages: 265

Publisher: Independent

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Genre(s): Contemporary with Paranormal Elements

Format: PDF Copy from Author

*** I received a copy of Haze from the author in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts/opinions in the review below are all my own and have not been influenced by this exchange in any way.***

Goodreads Synopsis

“When Eliza Owens gets a phone call in the middle of the night from a girl she’s never met, she doesn’t know what to think. The girl introduces herself as Paige, and says she used to date Erik Stern, Eliza’s fiancé. What’s more, she has something important to discuss.

The only problem? Paige has been dead for years.

Believing it to be a sick prank, Eliza tries to force it from her mind until Sam, Eliza’s older sister, tells her she met Paige only a few weeks before. And, according to Sam, Paige has nothing nice to say about Erik.

The fight which follows shatters the lives of everyone involved, and Erik disappears without a trace.

Five years later, Erik returns to town after his father’s death. Old wounds quickly resurface, and with them several burning questions. None the least of which is: Who spoke to Eliza and Sam if it wasn’t Paige? And why?” 

What Did I Think?

To describe this book in a few words …. dark, mysterious, and downright spooky!

The overall concept of Haze fascinated me from the get-go. The vibe is probably split 50/50 between contemporary and paranormal, which I found really intriguing, given that I haven’t encountered other books with such an even mix of both before. Though the narration isn’t truly alternating between our main protagonists, I found myself really enjoying learning about what Erik and Eliza were doing separately just as much as I liked the moments when the story was being told with them in the same location. I’m a total sucker for anything in books that breaks from the normal text, so seeing those journal entries pieced into Haze was so cool to see. Though the main plotline of the book is pretty intense and serious, I think the humor in the dialogue between characters kept me engaged and from getting too sad about the events that sparked our characters’ adventures. While Haze isn’t something I likely would have picked up on my own due to it being on the darker side of things, I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and exploring a novel with an overall concept so different from anything I’ve read before.

Though I’ve never experienced half of what Eliza, our main protagonist, has gone through in her life, I found myself so sympathetic to her cause, even when she turned to not-so-great habits to cope with these hardships. After the death of someone very close to her and another just up and leaving, it seemed perfectly reasonable for Eliza to crack and sink to her lowest point. I appreciated the realness we got to see from her character during this time even though it totally did break my heart to read about. However, Eliza’s fiery personality we see at the very beginning of the book is never fully smothered. I lived for the moments when she would put her foot down and stand her ground, even when I thought she was totally crazy for doing whatever it was she insisted on — it’s the effort and drive that counts, right? My favorite moments from Eliza were those where she used her inner strength to help pull others out from under the control of their own personal demons (though it was a little hypocritical in some instances). It didn’t happen often, but I couldn’t help but appreciate this compassionate yet insistent side to Eliza that I also think helped her move past her anger and bitterness for life. As a whole, I liked Eliza’s character okay, though I did find it difficult to connect with her in any real way outside of just being sympathetic to the struggles she has been going through since tragedy struck.

I found that I had a stronger connection with our second main protagonist, Erik. While I couldn’t connect with the tragedy he’s had to face and the people of Riverside’s general wariness of him due to his father’s past sins, I think his reserved yet sincere personality is similar to mine, making it easier for me to understand his motives (even if I didn’t always agree with how he approached things). I appreciated the fact that while Erik has made some pretty terrible choices in life, he does his absolute best to atone for his actions and make it up to the people he’s hurt. I also loved the fact that he didn’t hide what he was feeling or mince words — he’s always quick to tell Eliza how he feels about things, even though she did her best to avoid any emotional topics (to her own detriment, I think!). Overall, Erik’s charismatic nature was kind of hard to resist, and I couldn’t help but respect him all the more for how hard he tries to make up for time lost in Riverside with those he cares about.

I’ll be the first to admit that if there had been no Miles in this book, there’s a good chance it would have been way too dark for my psyche to handle. This dude brought all the humor, laughter, and a good time to all the situations he was put through and did so with a great attitude. I loved the banter he carries on with both Eliza and Erik, as well as how he wasn’t afraid to give them a piece of his mind when they needed it. I think everyone needs a friend like Miles in their life — funny, loyal, and ready to face whatever comes his people’s way right along side them!

While I very much enjoyed Haze, there were some things I wasn’t super keen on. One of the main issues I had dealt with the lack of development from the main characters. I thought there were so many times where a moment would help one of our protagonist start to change course but never did. While not all characters have to have a huge amount of development, it just seemed like all of them stayed relatively stagnant throughout the course of the novel — I just expected so much more from them, in the end. I also had some issues with pacing. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced plots, but this one almost moved TOO fast, leaving some plot holes and the storyline feeling rather incomplete in the end. I think slowing down the action and spending some additional time on transitions (i.e. making it clear when a character left one place to go to another, as one example) would have made the plot a little more clear and easier to follow. The only other component of Haze I just wasn’t sold on was the ending bit. No spoilers, but it just went too far into the paranormal. Did I enjoy it? Totally, but it didn’t work for me in terms of consistency with the rest of the book.

Haze is a quick read sure to satisfy any reader’s paranormal contemporary romance craving! It was spooky, funny, and a whole barrel of mystery I had a blast uncovering alongside our crew of characters. If you’re looking for a dark, ghostly read to get you in the mood for the fall season/Halloween, Haze would be the perfect choice!

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

***NOTE: While nothing is necessarily explicit, there are certainly mature themes mentioned on more than one occasion (drug usage, some components of romance, and violence) that you should be aware of before giving Haze a read!***

If you are a fan of the New Adult/Adult paranormal/paranormal romance genres and don’t mind a substantially dark read, Haze is the perfect choice for you!

I’d also recommend Haze to fans of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Don’t Look Back and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series.

Bonus Content, Favorites Lists

My Top 10 Favorite Classics

Hiya, fellow book-lovers! Welcome back to another Bonus Content Friday! This week, I’ve decided to share my favorite classic novels I’ve read over the years that I really enjoyed. One of the things I love most about this list is that I’ve included some picks from all over the world and/or those that have the ability to educate the reader about other cultures and ways of life. Some may ring a bell since they’re pretty popular, but others are lesser-known picks that I hope you will consider reading because they are fabulous! I don’t want to keep you in suspense any longer, so let’s jump right into this thing, shall we?

The Arabian Nights (New Deluxe Edition): Mahdi, Muhsin, Haddawy, Husain:  9780393331660: Amazon.com: Books

This past week I actually did a re-read of the first half of The Arabian Nights and I remembered once again why I loved these stories so much! While the frame stories are capable of making the best of scholars’ heads spin, I greatly appreciate the complexity of this text’s structure, and there really is a little something for everyone in here: glimpses of Islamic religion, magic found at every turn, and some shocking happenings you aren’t expecting! In addition to these stories just being a barrel of monkeys to read, The Arabian Nights is loaded with insight about ancient Middle Eastern culture.

Amazon.com: The Importance of Being Earnest (9780486264783): Oscar Wilde:  Books

While I definitely wouldn’t call myself a mega fan of Oscar Wilde, I can’t help but smile anytime someone mentions The Importance of Being Earnest. I’ve read this play on more than one occasion and also seen the fabulous filmed version with Reese Witherspoon in it and each time, my love for this masterpiece grows stronger. If you’re looking for just a sliver of a play full of humor, witty banter, and a whole lot of English social satire, you’ll love The Importance of Being Earnest!

A Tale of Two Cities (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) by Charles Dickens |  NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®

A Tale of Two Cities is the only work by Charles Dickens I’ve read, but I hope to read more by him at some point in the future. I read this novel in high school, and given that I’m not really one for history, I don’t think I quite realized how important of a work this really is at the time (though my English teacher did attempt to beat me over the head with how exquisite this work of literature is more times than I can count!). However, as I got older, I found myself having little flashbacks of the novel’s focus on the idea of personal and societal transformation. While the French Revolution aspect of A Tale of Two Cities is very topical, the smaller underlying themes of challenging the status quo, taking responsibility for one’s personal actions, and finding it within yourself to change who you are for the better are very much universal ideas that modern readers can still connect with today.

The Bluest Eye (Vintage International): Morrison, Toni: 9780307278449:  Amazon.com: Books

If there was ever a book out there that is so relevant to today’s social movements, it’s The Bluest Eye. The focus of this novel centers on what it means to be beautiful according to Western society’s standards and how this depiction tends to marginalize individuals who don’t conform to these requirements. In a time in America that is filled with discussions of race, diversity, and learning to accept individuals who aren’t exactly like ourselves, I couldn’t recommend reading this heartbreaking, breathtaking, and inspiring masterpiece by Toni Morrison.

Amazon.com: Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes: Revised  and Complete Edition (9781559363846): Kushner, Tony: Books

Angels in America was one of those reads that will forever stick with me because it taught me so much about topics I didn’t really understand at the time in which I read it. This relatively contemporary play was written as an education piece about the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States. I don’t want to say too much because it truly is a reading experience you need to have yourself to grasp its message, but if you’re looking for an emotional, riveting, educational, and diversity-filled read, I highly recommend you give this play a chance — you won’t be sorry you did!

Brave New World: Aldous Huxley: 9780060850524: Amazon.com: Books

You didn’t think I was going to make it through this whole list without adding at least one dystopian pick, did you? Written in 1933, Huxley pretty much hit the nail on the head when it comes to society becoming significantly more reliant on technology as time goes on in Brave New World. I had so many emotions while reading this book, including but not limited to disgust, fascination, shock, alarm, and frustration. Many of these emotions stemmed from the fact that many of the aspects of society Huxley was satirizing in his novel are still present today, and I began to see some of the issues that are starting to come from our strong reliance on technology, particularly in the medical field. Brave New World is perfect for readers seeking an exhilarating dystopian novel that you can apply to the happenings of today.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

While this novel is really more of a contemporary classic, I have no doubt that everyday readers and scholars will continue reading this novel for years to come. I’ll be the first to admit that The Kite Runner was an extremely difficult book to read due to its very mature themes and content, but it’s a story that no doubt needs to be told and heard by those willing to listen. Taking place in Afghanistan as the monarchy crumbles, two young boys from different social classes form a very unlikely friendship. Highlighting the issues surrounding power, identity, and social construct in Afghan culture, Hosseini’s The Kite Runner is a gripping, heart-wrenching, and inspirational tale you are sure to never forget.

Orlando is one of those books that while you’re reading, you’ll find yourself deeply confused as you struggle through each page, but in the end, after some thoughtful reflection, its purpose and meaning finally click. Over the course of 300 years, the reader has the opportunity to see Orlando experience life in society from the perspective of both genders — Orlando sporadically switches biologically between the female and male sexes as time passes. Some would say that this novel is one of the first to take on the topic of “gender fluidity,” but I would argue that it serves an even larger purpose: to make the point that gender should not dictate how one should experience life in any society.

Book cover for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Ahhh. Let us discuss our dear ol’ Holden, shall we? Young adult novels weren’t necessarily a thing during the time in which The Catcher in the Rye was written, but I can’t think of a book that manages to capture all the angst, stumbling blocks, life lessons, and new experiences of your teen years than this one. Though the lives of teens these days don’t necessarily align perfectly with what Holden experiences, many of the overarching experiences he goes through are similar to the “growing pains” many young adult readers experience in their lives today. As if this doesn’t intrigue you enough, the ending will leave you SHOOK and there have been lots of attempts to ban this novel due to profanity and mature themes. If you’re looking for a book that’s through and through a coming-of-age story sure to make people talk, give The Catcher in the Rye a read!

Snow Falling on Cedars: Guterson, David: 8601400186572: Amazon.com: Books

I had to round out this list with one of my all time favorite novels: Snow Falling on Cedars! While the overarching plot of this book surrounds a fictional murder case being unraveled on a fictional island outside Washington, Snow Falling on Cedars leaves the reader reeling from so much more than just the murder mystery. Given that this murder trial takes place following World War II, there is a lot of prejudice against people of Japanese heritage — an element that plays a huge role in the movement of this novel’s plot. Snow Falling on Cedars is a tale of struggling to be treated fairly in a society not ready to move forward from past conflict, pushing aside stereotypes to stand up for what’s right, and fighting against the odds for those you love.

While I don’t typically pick up classics to read in my free time, I sure have read quite a few over the years that have made a lasting impact! Do you have a favorite that didn’t make my list? Let’s chat about them below!

Congrats, everyone — we have at last reached another weekend! Take care, and I’ll see you back here next week for some more bookish fun! 🙂

Contemporary Romance, Young Adult

It Started with Goodbye by Christina June

Pages: 269

Publisher: Blink

Release Date: May 9, 2017

Genre(s): Contemporary Romance

Format: Paperback

Goodreads Synopsis

“Winner of the 2018 Young Adult Virginia Book of the Year

Sixteen-year-old Tatum Elsea is bracing for the worst summer of her life. After being falsely accused of a crime, she’s stuck under stepmother-imposed house arrest and her BFF’s gone ghost. Tatum fills her newfound free time with community service by day and working at her covert graphic design business at night (which includes trading emails with a cute cello-playing client). When Tatum discovers she’s not the only one in the house keeping secrets, she finds she has the chance to make amends with her family and friends. Equipped with a new perspective, and assisted by her feisty step-abuela-slash-fairy-godmother, Tatum is ready to start fresh and maybe even get her happy ending along the way.”

What Did I Think?

While the overall concept of It Started with Goodbye appears to be like other fluffy and sweet contemporaries, this book was so much more than that! The other loose fairytale retellings I’ve read have been in the fantasy genre, and I loved that June was able to create such a fabulous retelling of “Cinderella” through a modern, contemporary lens set in today’s world. The emphasis on Tatum and the relationships she has with the other members of her blended family remained at the forefront, setting the tone for the wonderful coming-of-age story that this book transforms into.

For someone as young as our protagonist, Tatum, she sure does handle all the new changes in her life like a trooper. Unfortunately, Tate was the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when some shizzz went down and has basically been forced into seclusion by her father and overly-controlling stepmother… well, except when she is out on the town doing community service. I greatly appreciated the fact that while Tate wasn’t thrilled with how her summer unfolded, she managed to find some good in what was thrown her way and took the extra time she had to focus on things that she saw value in, like honing her graphic design skills. A part of me got really upset that it took Tate so long to stand up to her stepmother in a constructive way, but given her reserved, quirky personality and her parents’ refusal to listen to her previously, I began to understand why she was so hesitant to handle conflict head-on until she really hit her breaking point. Overall, I found Tatum’s character relatable and the development we see from her very realistic for the age and stage she’s in.

I can’t help but take a moment to comment of how intriguing Tatum’s family is. She is a part of a big blended family (something so many readers can relate to!) and the personalities of each member are vastly different from that of other members. I loved how Tatum’s abuela was so free-spirited and always willing to use logic to help sort out conflict within the family. I also appreciated the fact that she wasn’t afraid to step in on behalf of Tatum when her stepmother and father were way out of line. Tilly sure had a massive attitude on her, I found it interesting to see how she and Tatum got along as sisters, as their personalities were kind of born to clash. I think it would be a hoot to see this family spending time together all at one time — I’ll bring the popcorn!

While the vast majority of the story follows Tatum and her family, there is also a very charming and endearing virtual Prince Charming we totally need to discuss. While under house arrest, Tatum works on a website for her “virtual pen pal” of sorts and they strum up a solid friendship. I enjoyed the fact that like Tatum, Secret Pen Pal was kind of quirky and certainly not what one would consider a mainstream teen. I loved the fact that both Tatum and Mystery Man were able to help and support one another from a distance and seemed to be what the other needed just in the nick of time.

It Started with Goodbye was a very sweet, wholesome, and beautiful read that highlighted the importance of forgiving those who have wronged you and mending relationships that have never quite been whole. It has the perfect blend of humor and hardship, friendship and family, and misunderstanding and learning to understand. The characters were flawed but relatable, the family dynamic was complex but so intriguing, and June’s writing was just stunning to read and totally fit the fairytale whimsicality that frames Tatum’s story. The lessons presented in this book are timeless, and I truly believe that readers of all ages can take at least a tiny morsel of wisdom with them by the end of their reading of It Started with Goodbye.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

If you’re in the mood to read a contemporary with hilarious dialogue between characters, a strong emphasis on family, and a coming-of-age tale through and through, I highly suggest giving It Started with Goodbye a read!

I’d also recommend this book to fans of Jennifer E. Smith, Miranda Kenneally, and Morgan Matson.

Bonus Content, Let's Talk Books!

Let’s Talk Books: Hardcovers vs. Paperbacks

Hello, bookish friends! Welcome back to the blog. This week, I thought I’d throw another discussion post your way. As avid readers, you’ve probably had the “hardcover vs. paperback” battle in your mind (and maybe in person!) a time or two in your life. Someone earlier this week asked me my thoughts on the topic, and since it got me pondering my own opinions, I thought “Why not share this on the blog since it is the ultimate question posed to bookish people?” So alas, here I am, bringing you this very topic in pro/con list format! Ready to dive in? Leggo:

Hardcovers

The Pros:

  • Hardcovers don’t get nearly as beat-up as paperbacks do when you put them in a bag and take them on the go. As someone who is all about having pristine copies of the books I own, this is a huge plus for me!
  • If it’s a book that has a whole lotta pages, you don’t have to worry about cracking the spine.
  • Hardcovers have a better chance at surviving if you get caught in the rain, splashed at the pool, or accidentally getting dropped in the bathtub.
  • The covers of hardback books are STUNNING and make beautiful statement pieces on your bookshelves!

The Cons:

  • Not that you need me to tell you this, fellow readers, but hardcover books are often times much more expensive than paperbacks.
  • The dust jackets on the outside of most hardcovers drive me a little crazy sometimes. For example, when I’m reading outside and the dust jacket AND pages start blowing around , I start flailing to get things back in order and it’s just a hot mess.
  • Hardcovers often take up a lot more space on my shelves than paperbacks. As someone who has a lot of books and little space to store them (because my shelves are now officially filled to the brim), this is definitely a drawback for me.
  • Most of these suckers are HEAVY.

Paperbacks

The Pros:

  • Paperback books are much more affordable. There are times in my life where I’ve been able to buy two paperbacks for the price of one hardcover!
  • There are so many different “feels” of paperbacks. There are some that are soft/smooth and others that have sort of a grainy feel, and for some strange reason, these different textures make the reading experience that much more pleasurable!
  • You can pack a crap ton more paperbacks onto your bookshelves since they are much more compact than hardcovers. I have a few paperbacks that are over 600 pages long, and they take up much less space than a hardcover with the same page count would.
  • Overall, I find that paperbacks are more comfortable to read. Paperbacks just tend to naturally fit in my hand better and don’t leave me with pesky hand cramps like hardcovers do.

The Cons:

  • It’s super easy to damage a paperback. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve thrown in my bookbag to read during class…. err… I mean, after class, and when I pulled them out, the covers were bent. Le sigh.
  • I have found it harder to keep the pages open when reading paperbacks since the spines are bound very tightly.
  • You typically have to wait longer to get a paperback copy of a book since most are released in hardcover format first.
  • The bane of my existence: Accidentally cracking the spine of a paperback. My heart breaks a little more every time I do this because then the title is left with a bunch of permanent wrinkles in it, starting back at me on my shelf for the rest of its bookish life.

My Personal Preference

Okay… the moment you have all been waiting for: my personal preference! It honestly depends on what I’m wanting to use the book for (i,e, reading, decoration, travel, etc.), but since the overall reason for having books is to read them, then I have to admit that I prefer paperbacks over hardcovers. Haters gonna hate, but I chose this format because paperbacks are just so much easier to handle and are way more comfortable for me to hold onto while reading. If we were talking decoration, though, hardcovers would 100% take the cake!

Now you all know my personal thoughts on this uber controversial bookish topic! Hopefully my paperback preference didn’t disappoint any of you too much! What are your thoughts on these two formats? Let me know below and any reasons ‘why’ that didn’t make my list!

Happy Weekend, lovelies, and I’ll see you next week for some more bookish fun! 🙂

Monthly Reading Recaps

Monthly Reading Recap: August 2020

Hi, bookish friends! I’m back at it again with another Reading Recap for you guys, and I decided to try something new. Since my college classes just started back and I am doing a lot of reading of traditional texts, I thought I’d include these in my reading recaps each month. So, you’ll get to see what I’m reading for fun and those I’m reading in my LITS seminar class — cool, huh? Let’s get going on this thing then, what do ya say?

What I Read This Month

Let’s Break It Down

New Books Read: 3

New Novellas Read: 0

Book Re-Reads: 1

Novella Re-Reads: 0

Monthly Total: 4

Average Rating of this Month’s Reading: 3.66 stars

Favorite Read of the Month: From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Most Surprising Impressive Read of the Month: The Odyssey (Emily Wilson Translation)

Least Favorite Read of the Month: The Mahabharata

Ratings

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)

If you read last month’s recap, you know that I was super upset to have had to list one of JLA’s books as the most disappointing read of the month. Well this month, my JLander heart overfloweth with joy because From Blood and Ash was FANTASTIC!!!! This is Jennifer L. Armentrout’s first adult high fantasy book, and it had just about everything I could have ever wanted in a book in this genre: a kick butt female protagonist, a very mysterious love interest, a truckload of romance, plot twists at every turn, stunning world building, and an ending that shocked the living crap out of me! My full thoughts on this bad boy will be share in a review in the very near future, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!

The Odyssey

I’ve read numerous versions of The Odyssey, but Emily Wilson’s translation by far takes the cake as my favorite! While this text is LONG, it just reads so smoothly and so much like an adventurous bedtime story that I found myself unable to put it down. I’m also a sucker for Greek mythology, so anytime the gods and their shenanigans were mentioned, I was all for it! Overall, big fan, and if you’ve never read this version, you totally should!

The Mahabharata

While I loved the fact that I learned so much about early Indian culture, I had a lot of trouble following the storyline of The Mahabharata. A lot of this was because a great many of the names of the characters were very similar to each other, which made it hard for me to distinguish between who belonged to which of the warring families. I have actually read the Ramayana (another ancient text from India) and prefer it to The Mahabharata, but I did find the emphasis on religion and morality fascinating in this book. Overall, not a huge fan at all, but enjoyed learning about the culture in which it was written.

The Recognition of Sakuntala

I was completely shocked by how much I enjoyed reading this play. It is based on a section from the Mahabharata, so going into it I just hoped I liked it more than I did that text … and I totally did! This play was super funny, but also gives the reader some great insight into early Indian culture. This was my last read of the month (literally finished it this morning!), and I have to say: it was a great one!

Another monthly reading recap in the books (pun intended, as always!). Though I again didn’t have much time for recreational reading, I always enjoy reading texts I wouldn’t have picked up ordinarily in my college classes. What do you guys think of me including my thoughts on these texts on the blog in addition to my “fun reads?” Let me know below, along with all the book you had the opportunity to devour this month.

May your September be filled with lots of fun reading — I sure hope mine is! 🙂