Reading Recap: July 2018

July has passed us by and it’s time for another reading recap!  This month, I wrapped up my summer grad school classes and dove into several of the titles that have been burning on my to-read list for months.  Overall, it was a really solid month of books!  I thoroughly enjoyed almost everything I read.

During June, I made a physical pile of books in my room I wanted to cover this summer.  I’d stare at them longingly before I went to sleep each night, waiting for classes to be done so I could read them.  When the time came, I was surprised that the first title I grabbed from the pile was The Great Gatsby.  It ended up being the perfect palate-cleanser as I transitioned into summer break.  The next title I picked up was Tomi Adeyemi’s debut, Children of Blood and Bone, one of my most highly-anticipated books of the year.  For my morning Christian nonfiction, I had the delight of reading Rachel Held Evans’ new book on the Bible.

After such a solid month of reading, I’ve been waffling a bit on what I should pick up next.  I’ve started three books in the past week and none have hooked me.  What books have you read recently?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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Poetry Talk: Sublimity by McKenna Hight

When a dear friend tells you they’ve encased their soul in paper, it is best to tread carefully.  Poetry is an intimate form of literature.  To translate your inner trials, triumphs, and longings into language and is a brave thing to do.  I deeply admire McKenna Hight’s courage in sharing her debut poetry collection, Sublimity, with the world.  It’s an act of hospitality I’m honored to receive.

Before proceeding, I’d like to say a few things about my relationship with the author.  Sometimes in life, you meet people and find instant kinship.  You may only be around each other for a few days, but that’s enough to form what will likely be a lifelong friendship.  McKenna, I think, is one of those people.  We met four months ago during my brief Spring Break stay at Rochester L’Abri.  She’s a writer from Atlanta and we bonded instantly over our mutual love for YA fantasy and Sarah J. Maas.  During our short time together, we had some really intense discussions about faith, struggles, and how we are to live.  Meeting McKenna was no accident and I value her friendship immensely.

As a blogger, bookstagrammer, librarian, and amateur book critic, it made complete sense to do a review of Sublimity.  I use the word “review” lightly.  This post is pretty long, as I get into some close reading, but that’s part of the fun.  While it’s definitely possible to critique a work of poetry by its structure and adherence to literary form, poetry is hard to pin down. So much of a poetic work is subjective.  Poetry is a conversation.  It’s about immersing yourself in the figurative language and gleaning whatever you can.  I don’t pretend to understand all of Hight’s poems.  I don’t think understanding is the point. There is no concrete meaning to poetry and there is space for a thousand interpretations.  Poetry is about the journey, so let’s journey together.

If you’re interested in picking up your own copy of Sublimity, you can do so at this link.  Follow the author on Instagram @yawnsters.

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Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’m frugal with my five-star ratings, but any book that can make me cry deserves all the stars.

When I first read The Book Thief at sixteen, I didn’t see what the fuss was all about.  It was good, but not great.  I liked the writing, the story, and enjoyed the characters well enough, but it didn’t make an impression.

This time around, the book absolutely wrecked me.

I picked it up for one of my summer grad school classes and it was love from page one.  I opted for the audiobook and soaked in every minute of my daily commute.  Zusak’s writing is incredible.  The characters are well-formed, with realistic development and motivations. The book’s themes about the power of words and the inconsistency of humanity are so well-implemented, I can’t get them out of my head.  It’s taken me a month to sit and write out this review because there’s just so much to think about.

Reading The Book Thief as an adult was also a very personal experience.  I’ve recently experienced several deaths and this book helped me grieve.  I finished the same day I learned one of my favorite library patrons had died and the last fifteen minutes of the audiobook had me sobbing uncontrollably on my way home from work.  I was a total traffic hazard.  For someone who doesn’t cry often, this kind reaction is noteworthy.  I haven’t connected with a story on this visceral a level like this in a long time.

Overall, this is the kind of book that you can’t look away from.  It’s the kind of story that haunts you for years after reading and keeps bringing you back for more.  It’s the kind of story that worms its way into your being.  It sounds strange, but I feel a more complete person after reading this book.

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Reading Recap: May 2018

Yay, another reading recap!

My main goal this month was to get through all the required books in the syllabus for my Young Adult lit class before term starts.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded with three days to spare!  Required novels dominated my pleasure reading this month.  Eight of the following books were for class.  There were some really great titles and I’m really looking forward to discussing Maus, Brown Girl Dreaming, and the book on the Romanovs with my classmates.

As for the books I picked up purely for fun… I was unimpressed with the newest Court of Thorns and Roses installment, but enjoyed being back in that world.  Naturally, rereading Cinder for my class launched another reread of the entire Lunar Chronicles series, which has been delightful.  For my morning cup-of-tea Christian nonfiction, both titles I finished this month were excellent.

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Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 11
  • Number of pages read: 2,949
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Highest ratings:
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4.75 stars)
    • Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

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Poetry Talk: Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello

A couple of months ago, my friend Tinu approached me about helping review and publicize her debut poetry collection.  I hadn’t heard from her since college and, while I was swamped with grad school work at the time, couldn’t say no.  What’s the point of having being involved in the online bookish community if you can’t use your platform to support the creative endeavors of your friends?

It’s been a long time coming, but a short break between grad school semesters has given me the chance to sit down with the collection and pull together some thoughts.  This is by no means a comprehensive review, but I hope you get a sense for what the poems are about.  I had so much fun digging into them.

I hope you enjoy my scattered thoughts!

You can buy your own copy of Twirling in Flames by Tinu Bello on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Be sure to add it to your reading list on Goodreads.

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What I’m Reading: YA Fall Releases

It’s Thursday night and I’ve managed to talk myself down from the “I should be studying” ledge.  So, since I’ve decided that grad school is no excuse to not read for fun, why not talk about all the books I’ve been cramming in my spare time?  Thanks to my library, I’ve been on the top of the list for many of this fall’s hottest YA releases.

My mini reviews are spoiler-free, so no worries if you haven’t read them.

Here’s my lineup:

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In Appreciation of Tamora Pierce’s Alanna Books

As a lifelong reader, there are many books I read when I was young that have shaped me into the person I am today.  Harry Potter, Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables (which I didn’t actually read until high school… but it still shaped me), the list could go on.  I remember loving Julie Andrews’ The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles and tearing through every Boxcar Children book I could get my hands on.

Now that I’m an adult, I’ve returned to several of these books and have found them disappointing.  Whatever spark they ignited in me no longer connects with the person I am today.  They lose their savor and I can no longer remember why I returned to it again and again.

But that’s not always the case.  There are some books that, when I enter in with my grownup perspective, only get better–books that I can go years without and, upon opening the first page, feel the magic rise up in me once more.

Tamora Pierce is one of those writers for me.

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Review: Monsters of Verity Duology by Victoria Schwab

Book Talk on Keep Your Feet

Format: eAudiobook from Overdrive / physical book

My Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars for both books


Over the past few months, I’ve read quite a bit of Schwab’s writing.  Recently, I finished her Shades of Magic series, which I adored.  Several of my friends on Goodreads were reading her YA Monsters of Verity duology, so I jumped on the bandwagon.  In this post, I discuss both books in a relatively spoiler-free fashion.

On the whole I was… underwhelmed by these books.  While there were aspects I really enjoyed, there was quite a bit that just didn’t capture my imagination.  I’m realizing more and more that dark dystopia might not be my thing.

A bit about the books: the series takes place in a dystopian America in which the states are split into territories named after virtues.  The main action takes place in the city of Verity, where monsters roam at night keeping everyone in terror.  Verity is a city split in two, held together by a tenuous agreement that is quickly fraying.  The north is lead by Callum Harker, who reigns through fear and uses the monsters to his advantage.  The south is held by Henry Flynn, an ex-surgeon who heads the military-like organization, FTF.

The series centers around Kate Harker and August Flynn, the children of these two leaders.  Kate is reckless, impulsive, and on a mission to prove her worth to her father.  August, quiet and sensitive, just wants to be human.  Pushed together by circumstances, they forge a deep friendship.

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Firebrand by Kristen Britain

30688516Firebrand by Kristen Britain

Format: Kindle ebook

My Rating: 3.75 / 5 stars

Amazon / Goodreads

My Summary: The sixth installment of Britain’s Green Rider series, the book takes place where the previous one left off.  After her journey through the mysterious Blackveil Forest and adventures in the future, Karigan has returned home to the castle.  While resuming her duties as a messenger to the king, she struggles to find peace and healing after her long journey.  Eager to establish a sense of normalcy, she is sent on a mission to establish allies among a mythical moose-people in the North, near the territory of the Second Empire, who is trying to overthrow the crown.  Meanwhile, the castle is attacked by an ice elemental, who kidnaps and impersonates King Zachary.  This sets off a sequence of events that puts the future of the kingdom in jeopardy.

Karigan, as a protagonist, wears on me at times–she’s a fantastic Green Rider, an honorary Weapon and sword master, the avatar of the death god, has a magical mirror eye, is blessed by the elven race, loved by the king… and on and on and on.  How special can one person be?!!!

My favorite thing about this book is that we got a large amount of Zachary’s point of view, which was a breath of fresh air.

I’ve been reading this series on and off for years.  Britain writes so slowly that, by the time another book comes out, I’ve forgotten everything that has happened.  Thankfully, she sprinkles reminders of past events and plot details into her narrative–which helped me get my bearings.  While this is helpful, it simultaneously comes across as sloppy.  Actually, most of the book feels sloppy and gratuitous… but in an endearing way.  Britain tries to write epic fantasy, but the result is more campy than anything.  The writing may not be great, but when I read Britain’s work, I’m wholly engrossed and having fun.  I spent six days on this 700 page long read and enjoyed every minute.

For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

Check out my regular reading update posts

What I’m Reading 8/21/17

When preparing this post, I realized that I had written way too much content.  Since I’ve begun writing reactions/reviews/summaries in a notebook immediately after finishing a book, I’ve noticed that my comments have gotten a longer.  So I decided to do some shifting around, giving some of the books where I had more thoughts posts of their own.

Here, you can find my thoughts about several of my recent reads.  Keep an eye out over the next week for others–I’ve got a writeup for a fantasy novel primed and ready to go and, as soon as I finish Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, I’ll give the Monsters of Verity duology their own post.

Here’s what I’m discussing this week:

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