Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February: Best and Strangest

This was a productive reading month, but a dull one. I enjoyed reading, but it was really difficult for me to pick out one book that was fantastic because they were all just decent, but not life-changing or anything.
In better news, I began participating in Avalinah's Books' State of the ARC meme and that's been wonderful motivation to begin working through overdue ARC's - and it worked really well! When I posted, I only mentioned two, but in the few days since then, I've read another past-due ARC and I also realized I'd forgotten to mention on of the ARC's I finished this month. A lot of progress was made and I'm excited to keep working through ARC's after such a long break!
Anyway, here's what I read this month:

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1)

  • Jade City by Jane Fonda - This is one of the more unique fantasy stories I've read in awhile. Set around the Kaul family and the clan they lead, this story has family drama, politics, action, unique "magic" systems, and even the start of a bizarre drug trade. The story is told from multiple points of view, which helps the reader see what the characters cannot and this makes the story such a rewarding read. It's a truly unique book and an excellent choice for #ownvoices reads - the culture is fictional, but built around Chinese tradition.

The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2; Rincewind #2)
  • The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett - I've just begun to delve into Discworld and I'm already reeling from how wonderfully bizarre it is. With sentient Luggage, escaped spells, elderly heroes on legend, and cult druids, this book has a little of everything and a lot of strangeness. I'm excited to get into the rest of the series.

What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4)

The Fire Next Time

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Stranger No More: A Muslim Refugee’s Story of Harrowing Escape, Miraculous Rescue, and the Quiet Call of Jesus

Smoke Eaters

Things Fall Apart (The African Trilogy, #1)

daugthers in my kingdom

Queen of the Struggle (The Memory Thief #2)

Wolves of the Calla (The Dark Tower, #5)

No Country for Old Men

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance

Crooked House

This month's most popular post was The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #1 where I highlighted Wizard and Glass by Stephen King. 

What books did you read this month? What was the best book you read this month? Which was the strangest? Have you read anything that I read this month?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

On lonely books

It's simply beautiful how each book can invoke different emotions within readers. One that I feel is more difficult to capture (and pass on to readers) is loneliness - it's a complicated emotions and everyone experiences is slightly differently. However, here are some books that capture it really well.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)
  • The Gunslinger by Stephen King - This book is full of Roland's first adventures and his solo journey towards the Dark Tower. He meets few people and these interactions never go well for him. It's a sad and long (and lonely) journey.

The Road
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy - Two people traveling down the road - that's basically the plot of this book. It's slow, it's sad, and it's a very quiet and lonely story.

  • Persuasion by Jane Austen - So much of Anne Elliott's life is being pushed into the background and forgotten about. This book follows a very lonely and sad protagonist who finds happiness - it's the perfect book for a sad beginning and a satisfying happy ending.

My Side of the Mountain (Mountain, #1)
  • My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George - An old children's classic, this book follows a boy who runs away to the wilderness and the adventures he has living on his own.

What other books capture loneliness well? Have you read and enjoyed anything from this list?

Monday, February 26, 2018

Music Monday #2 and State of the ARC #1

Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE

Gah, it's hard to explain how much I love Paramore's new album - it's so full of 80's pop and yet it remains true to Paramore's sound.

I've also been in love with Odette's first single "Watch Me Read You." It was one of my top tracks of 2017 and I'm still blown away by how beautiful it is.


Today, we're also starting State of the ARC - where I talk about how behind I am on my ARCs and make excuse for why I'm not through them yet. State of the ARC is run by Avalinah's Books. Read the official rules HERE.

I'll be honest - I haven't been great about keeping up with old ARCs, so this is my commitment to start catching up (I also have a challenge from The Herd Presents to finish 8 backlisted books this year, so I'm hoping I can combine these challenges and knock out some books). So here is where I was at in the beginning of the month.

This month, I read two books that weren't due yet to get ahead of the game so I can spend next month focusing on overdue books. Here are the two books linked to my reviews:

Smoke Eaters    Queen of the Struggle (The Memory Thief #2)

I also had to forego reading two books that I was no longer able to download. So since doing my initial count, I moved 4 books off my to-read shelf. I also was approved for one new book that isn't due for a few months. Today, my chart looks a bit more like this:

Hopefully next month I can start tackling those overdue books! Thanks to Avalinah's Books again for running this meme and helping motivate me to get working on my ARCs!

What have you been listening to lately? How many ARCs do you have to catch up on? And how do you motivate yourself to finish backlisted books?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

On getting through a reading slump

Confession: I have reading slumps fairly often. Sometimes they’re shorter (like a few days) and sometimes they’re longer (like a few months). At one point, there was even a full year of reading slumps. As someone who has gone through plenty of them, I feel well-qualified to tell you how to get out of a reading slump.

  • Get excited about reading - If you’re having trouble getting enthused about reading, it may be time to remind yourself why it’s important to you. There are lots of ways to do this.
    • Look back at old books you loved.
    • Tell someone you know why reading is something that matters to you.
    • Read a book blog that you like (like this one!)
    • Look into the most recent book awards in a genre you like (or the Goodreads Choice Awards if all else fails).
    • Write down all the benefits of reading.
    • Start writing a book/story - and start appreciating what authors go through.
  • Find a good book to read - Most of my reading slumps happen because I’m not reading something I’m interested in. If you’re working your way through a tough or dense book that you still want to finish, take a break to read something that you enjoy more. Or get a good book recommendation.
  • Give yourself a break - It’s okay to take a break from any hobby and reading is one thing that you can stop doing for a bit. Fill your time with something else that’s important - a different hobby, family time, catching up on homework, sleeping, nature - and once you’ve had your fill of that (for now), start easing reading back into your life.
  • Power through - Sometimes, you can’t afford to have a reading slump. In those cases, it’s important to keep going. In cases like this, I force myself to read during certain times of day - twenty minutes before bed, over my lunch break, waiting for my car’s oil to get changed, etc. Reading might not be fun during a reading slump, but if you must read something, might as well get through it as quickly as possible.

How do you get through a reading slump? What books help you get back into reading?

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

On women and mental illness

This post was taken from the Goodreads List “Women and Mental Illness."

I love books about feminism. I’m also really interested in books about mental illness. So this list caught my eye. I was kind of pleased with myself (though I still have some work to do…) because I’ve read 13 out the top 100 books - one of the higher percentages I’ve had on any Goodreads list. Still, this list gave me a lot more to read. Below are five of the books I’ve read from this list.

The Bell Jar

  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (#1) - (Synopsis taken from Goodreads) Sylvia Plath's shocking, realistic, and intensely emotional novel about a woman falling into the grip of insanity. Esther Greenwood is brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under—maybe for the last time. In her acclaimed and enduring masterwork, Sylvia Plath brilliantly draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that her insanity becomes palpably real, even rational—as accessible an experience as going to the movies. A deep penetration into the darkest and most harrowing corners of the human psyche, The Bell Jar is an extraordinary accomplishment and a haunting American classic.
    Oh, Sylvia Plath. I read this book at an age that it made an impression on me - specifically regarding casual sex, virginity, and suicide. This book was fascinating and dark and a really interesting and unique read. I highly recommend this and I can see why it tops this list.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness

  • An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (#6) -The personal memoir of a manic depressive and an authority on the subject describes the onset of the illness during her teenage years and her determined journey through the realm of available treatments.
    I read this book fairly recently for a class on human development and social issues. This was a really interesting read - especially to see how bipolar treatment has changed throughout the years. 


  • Macbeth by William Shakespeare (#13)-  Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror - killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. A story of war, witchcraft and bloodshed, Macbeth also depicts the relationship between husbands and wives, and the risks they are prepared to take to achieve their desires.
    I was initially surprised to see this so far up this list. But on reflection, Lady Macbeth is a (murderous) feminist, so she belongs here. I may need to reread to fully understand the mental health aspects of Macbeth.

Go Ask Alice

  • Go Ask Alice by Beatrice Sparks (#17) - A teen plunges into a downward spiral of addiction in this classic cautionary tale. January 24thAfter you've had it, there isn't even life without drugs.... It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life.Read her diary.Enter her world.You will never forget her. For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.
    I read this book multiple times as a teen, partly at my mum’s suggestion (maybe she was trying to steer me away from drugs?). It’s an interesting and unique read. I don’t know that I’d want to read this again now.


  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare (#19) -One of the greatest plays of all time, the compelling tragedy of the tormented young prince of Denmark continues to capture the imaginations of modern audiences worldwide. Confronted with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, and with his mother’s infidelity, Hamlet must find a means of reconciling his longing for oblivion with his duty as avenger. The ghost, Hamlet’s feigned madness, Ophelia’s death and burial, the play within a play, the “closet scene” in which Hamlet accuses his mother of complicity in murder, and breathtaking swordplay are just some of the elements that make Hamlet an enduring masterpiece of the theater.

    Again, I’m surprised to see Shakespeare on here. And then I think of Ophelia and her problems and her eventual suicide and it makes so much sense. A great addition to this list.

What books on this list have you read? What books on this list are you interested in? What are your thoughts on this list? What Goodreads lists have you loved?

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Friday 56 and Book Beginnings #2

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.

Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings
This week's book is Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings by Joanna Brooks.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
This groundbreaking collection gathers together for the first time the essential writings of the contemporary Mormon feminist movement--from its historic beginnings in the 1970s to its vibrant present, offering the best Mormon feminist thought and writing.

No issue in Mormonism has made more headlines than the faith's distinctive approach to sex and gender. From its polygamous nineteenth-century past to its twentieth-century stand against the Equal Rights Amendment and its twenty-first-century fight against same-sex marriage, the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has consistently positioned itself on the frontlines of battles over gender-related identities, roles, and rights. But even as the church has maintained a conservative position in public debates over sex and gender, Mormon women have developed their own brand of feminism by recovering the lost histories of female leadership and exploring the empowering potential of Mormon theology. The selections in this book-many gathered from out-of-print anthologies, magazines, and other ephemera--walk the reader through the history of Mormon feminism, from the second-wave feminism of the 1970s to contemporary debates over the ordination of women.

Collecting essays, speeches, poems, and prose, Mormon Feminism presents the diverse voices of Mormon women as they challenge assumptions and stereotypes, push for progress and change in the contemporary LDS Church, and band together with other feminists of faith hoping to build a better world.

Beginning: This book offers an introduction to the Mormon feminist movement through the words of the women who have lived and built it.

Friday 56: In 1871, a large groups of sisters had turned out to greet Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony on their first trip west. She seized the opportunity to speak to a large assembly, of Mormon women on "polyandry, polygamy, monogamy, and prostitution."

What have you been reading this week?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

On talking animals

I've realized that I tend to focus a lot of my character lists on strong, independent women. While that's important, I want to get away from that a bit by listing books with chatty animals today. Talking animals are a staple in fantasy literature. So today, we've had to narrow it down to a few that really stand out to me - or that used talking animals in a unique way.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)
  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - While Manchee (the main dog) can't exactly talk, his owner, Tom, can hear his thoughts, so they can still communicate. Manchee can really only think very simple thoughts and they don't always make complete sense to Todd. I listened to the audiobook and that was especially hilarious - the author had a special voice for Manchee and seemed to bark out all the dog's thoughts. It fit perfectly.

Sabriel (Abhorsen,  #1)
  • Sabriel by Garth Nix - This entire series is made infinitely better with Mogget, the talking cat who is actually a trapped free magic being. Throughout the series, Mogget can be snarky, sneaky, and rude, but he's also an adorable cat, often wanting a scratch behind his ears or help catching fish. He's a hilarious and extremely memorable character.

Gregor the Overlander (Underland Chronicles, #1)
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins - The animals in this series are used so well! There is a civilization below New York City, full of humans, but also giant bats, rats, and bugs. All these animals can talk - and Collins does a fantastic job portraying the different cultures, alliances, and values each species has. Each species also has a distinct way of talking and this really helps bring the tale to life.

The Builders
  • The Builders by Daniel Polansky - While this book doesn't feature any humans for the animals to talk with, it's still a brilliant way to use talking animals - the animals all have distinct features, personalities, and cultures that they come from. This book is Redwall meets classic heist and it's absolutely brilliant.

What talking animals have you most loved? Why do you think talking animals are so common in fantasy stories? What other books would you add to this list?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Series Review: The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Image result for song of the lioness

Synopsis for Alanna: The First Adventure taken from Goodreads:

From now on I'm Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I'll be a knight.

And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page.
But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies.

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins - one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.

This series was my first introduction to Tamora Pierce and I was immediately hooked. It's full of action, self-discovery, romance, politics, and a confident young heroine that I adored from the start. This series is fun and fantastic, but like every series, it has a couple problems:


  • STRONG CHARACTERS - The characters in this series are fantastic. You have tough, strong Alanna, who you get to watch grow up and figure out who she is. You have Prince Jonathan, who is compassionate and kind and really wonderful. And you have George, who is so difficult to explain, yet such a lovable person in spite of (and maybe sometimes because of) his thievery. The characters are all well-built and extremely distinct - and you can connect with them easily.
  • ROMANCE ISN'T AT THE FOREFRONT - While there is some romance in this series, it takes a backseat to the action. For some people, this isn't ideal, but for me, it was a plus. Alanna got to learn about herself and have adventures without losing herself to a young and far-too-passionate romance. That being said, there is romance in this book. And it's adorable and sweet and keeps you guessing. Even when Alanna grows up, the romance feels realistic and there's even some very matter-of-fact sex positivity in this series - Alanna can enjoy sex without it being all consuming AND without being regarded as a slut. It's wonderful.
  • INCREASINGLY COMPLEX PLOT - The first book is mostly about Alanna learning to be a knight and to pretend to be a boy. As she grows up, the plot thickens and the books get more complicated and intriguing as Alanna learns more. What starts as a coming-of-age story gradually raises the stakes until Alanna's work is far more important than just learning to fence.

  • WRITTEN FOR YOUNGER AUDIENCES - I read this series as an adult and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I was definitely not the target audience. For younger readers, a simple and clear voice will be a plus. For me, it was sometimes hard to take myself as seriously since this book is very obviously not written for adults. Start your young fantasy readers on it now or read it together - they'll love it.

Have you read this series? What pros and cons would you add? What similar series have you read?

Monday, February 12, 2018

Music Monday #1

Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE

The past few weeks, I've remembered how much I adore Janelle Monae (I mean, how great did she look at the Black Panther premiere?!), so I've been jamming to her again.

I've also been enjoying a Chicago rapper called Noname lately. She's kind of quiet and very sweet sounding, but she isn't afraid to call things like they are. You can download her mixtape on Bandcamp.

What have you been listening to lately?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

On books to read next if you like "Paper Towns" or really anything John Green

If you're a huge John Green fan who has already devoured Turtles All the Way Down ten times, this is the list for you. Before you go to reread Looking for Alaska or Paper Towns again, check out these somewhat similar books.

I Am the Messenger
  • I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak - Ed is a taxi driver without ambition or a future....until he begins getting playing cards with mysterious messages on them. This book is perfect for people who want to read about characters who are a little older and slightly (only slightly) more serious than John Green's characters. It's got the quirks and the odd (but memorable) people, but with an older feel to it.

Love and Other Alien Experiences
  • Love and Other Alien Experiences by Kerry Winfrey - Mallory hasn't left the house since her dad moved out. But she's still connected to the outside world via the alien encounter forum she frequents....and that might be enough to start changing her life. This book reads a lot like a John Green book, but without the over quirkiness. These characters seem a little more believable than John Green's - but still so much fun and so adorable and wonderful. Plus, it's all about a girl overcoming her anxiety and getting outside her comfort zone.

Notes from the Midnight Driver
  • Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick - When Alex is forced to do community service at a local senior center, he never expects that his time there will change his life for the better. I love this book - it's so relateable and so heart-warming. It's also the perfect book for young musicians.

The Haters
  • The Haters by Jesse Andrews - Three teens blow off Jazz Camp to go on a road trip. The road trip element makes it pretty similar to Paper Towns - and makes it another fantastic book for musicians.

What other books would you recommend to John Green fans? What other YA authors have caught your attention recently?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

On bookish yarn projects #10

“She had put despair and fear aside, as if they were garments she did not choose to wear.” 
 - George R.R. Martin

This Game of Thrones inspired crochet doll is the perfect toy for any young fantasy reader or the perfect start to a fantasy scene for display. With many other similarly-styled dolls to begin work on next, you'll have crocheting during endless seasons of Game of Thrones. 

If crocheted literary figures are your passions and these aren't nearly enough for you, check out GeekyHooker's blog and new book Literary Yarns.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

January: Best and Strangest

Ah! This year is already flying by and leaving me to wonder if there will ever be enough time to do all the reading I want to do (obviously, the answer is no - I won't ever be able to read as much as I want to). This month, I managed to read 14 books and published 9 blog posts. All in all, not a bad start to the year. Below are this month's best and strangest:


Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest
  • Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci - This was a surprising favorite for me. I really enjoyed this book and was excited to read it, but I didn't realize how much I'd use the knowledge I gained from this book - it's benefited so many conversations, a lot of my classwork, and just helped give me a better understanding of the dangers and benefits of social media. I highly highly recommend this book for everyone.


Howl's Moving Castle (Howl's Moving Castle, #1)
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - This is the first month that I've read a Dark Tower book and haven't nominated that as strangest. It was close, but Howl's Moving Castle ended up sitting in my head a lot more than The Waste Lands did, so it won out this month! Full of moving castles, scarecrow stalkers, green slime, and fashion magic, this book was delightful and hilarious and certainly kept me on my toes. It's bizarre and adorable and totally worth the time.


Kushiel's Dart (Phèdre's Trilogy, #1)

Traitor's Blade (Greatcoats, #1)

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True

Theft: A History of Music

Wake of Vultures (The Shadow, #1)


The Shadow of What Was Lost (The Licanius Trilogy, #1)


The Language of Spells

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village

My most popular blog post this month was On books to read if you want to learn more about music, which kind of surprised me! My music posts aren't typically viewed as often as other posts, so I was glad this one got a lot of attention.

What books did you read this month? What were the best and strangest books you've read recently? What blog posts really caught your eye?