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What I Read October 2014

BOY, SNOW, BIRD

About- A retelling of Snow White that explores the themes of race, beauty, and identity.

Why I picked it- I heard that this one was interesting and I’ll admit that the cover also captured my attention.

Grade B This book was kind of strange, but I kind of liked it. I liked the writing style, which was somewhat conversational. I felt a bit like I was sitting down with a friend and they decided to tell me this wild and crazy version of their life story. There were a few twists in the plot that I didn’t anticipate and I thought the narrator was an interesting character. This book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re looking for a bit of an experimental read, then this might hit the spot.

THE BELL JAR

About- A young woman struggling with depression; a realistic portrayal of someone dealing with a mental illness.

Why I picked it- I’ve been meaning to read this for over a year now. It’s a classic and I’m glad I finally got to it.

Grade A Our main character, Esther, battles depression and the entire time I was reading this, I really felt for her. At the beginning of the book, she’s living the dream and doing a summer internship in NYC. After the internship ends though, her plans for the rest of the summer don’t quite work out and the depression starts to take a hold of her. Esther feels so alone and although she seems fine on the outside, she’s really hurting on the inside. Plath’s writing is beautiful and I thought this book was really good for anyone who wants to understand mental illness better. This is one of those books that I think will stick with me for a long time (if you want to hear more of my thoughts on this book, check out the video that I made).

HALF BAD

About- A young witch who is Half-White (good witch) and Half-Black (bad witch).

Why I picked it- I’m pretty sure Eva Chen instagrammed a picture of this book a few months before it came out, so I mentally added it to my list.

Grade B- The good: interesting premise, fast pacing, interesting details in this world of witches. The not-so-good: underdeveloped characters, the romance was not really believable, and the ending felt a bit rushed. Overall, I thought this book was entertaining, although I had some problems with it. It’s the first book in trilogy and I’ll be checking out the next book to find out what happens and see if it addresses any of the issues I had with the first one.

REBECCA

About- A young woman gets married to a widower, but feels that she is constantly in the shadow of his first wife.

Why I picked it- This is another book that was on my list of top 10 classics I want to read or reread.

Grade A This book was excellent. I almost want to tell you nothing about this book except for, go read it. I didn’t know too much going into this book and I think that’s the best way to approach it. I wanted to read some spooky/creepy books this month in keeping with the theme of Halloween and this one fit the bill. The characters are fascinating and the plot is a slow burn, which I thought worked perfectly in this case. That’s all I’m saying about this one- let me know if any of you have read it!

If you want to hear more of my book talk, I have a YouTube channel where I upload book-related videos weekly!

Tell me: Have you read any of these books? What are you reading at the moment?

(as always, click the titles for links!)

What I Read September 2014

The Silkworm

About- A famous author disappears and detective Cormoran Strike is hired to investigate his disappearance.

Why I picked it- It’s the second novel in this series.

Grade B+ I enjoyed this book. I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling and I was looking forward to further character development in this novel. In particular, I wanted to learn more about Robin, Cormoran’s assistant, and I felt that that did happen in this second novel. This mystery involves certain aspects of the publishing industry and since publishing is my day job, I had an extra connection with those bits.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

About- Harry’s 5th year at school and his continuous battle to defeat Lord Voldemort.

Why I picked it- I’m reading the series from start to finish.

Grade B It took a little while for me to get into this one, which hasn’t happened for any of the other books in the series. I thought that the first half or so was a bit slow and Harry is just so whiny for most of this book. However, it definitely picks up and the action in the last chunk of the book did not disappoint. I’m glad I decided to slow down on my pace of reading through the series, but now I’ve only got two books left!

Go Ask Alice

About- The “diary” of a teenage girl who becomes a drug addict.

Why I picked it- I was working on a video project for Banned Books Week.

Grade D The main word I’d use to describe this book is bizarre. It claims to be the diary of a young girl, but it later came to light that it was a completely fictionalized account written by a woman named Beatrice Sparks. It appears that it was written to scare kids off drugs, but I can’t imagine that it was very effective. The whole time I was reading it I felt that something was off, and as soon as I finished it, I had to look up some background information. I did not think it was well-written (which I may have been able to excuse if it was actually a diary).

A Paris Apartment

About- An apartment full of antique furniture is discovered in Paris and a Sotheby’s auctioneer named April is sent to evaluate their worth.

Why I picked it- The cover definitely had something to do with it. Plus, after Go Ask Alice I really wanted something light and more straightforward.

Grade C+ The narrative in this book is split between April in the present day and a character named Marthe who lived in Paris during the Belle Epoque. Marthe is the woman who owned the apartment and all of the furniture in it and April discovers Marthe’s journals as she’s sorting through the antiques. I enjoyed Marthe’s story, but I didn’t find April to be a very compelling character. I almost wish the entire book had been about Marthe. Overall, I thought this book was ok, but the fact that it’s set in Paris is definitely a plus.

And Then There Were None

About- Ten people are invited to vacation on an island and then they all start dying one by one…

Why I picked it- This book is on my list of top 10 classics I want to read or reread.

Grade A I read this book back in junior high and it started me on a huge Agatha Christie kick. I wanted to reread it because I couldn’t quite remember the story, but I do remember that I loved it. I thought maybe it would come back to me as I was reading it and that I’d remember who the murderer is, but nope- it felt like a totally new reading experience. This was a quick read and it was fun to try to figure out the mystery. I think I’ll be reading more Agatha Christie next month because mysteries are very Halloween-appropriate.

Tell me: What’s the best book that you’ve read recently?

(as always, click the titles for links!)

What I Read August 2014

When I was trying to decide what to write today, I realized that it’s pretty much the end of August, which means that it’s time for my monthly reading wrap-up. Then I went to check what I’d read this month and I realized that I’d only started and finished one book! I guess that’s what happens after doing so much reading in July. This month, the only book I finished was Outlander, which I really enjoyed. I know I’ve mentioned this book here on the blog a lot this month, so I’m not going to babble on further; I’ll just point you in the direction of the post I wrote on Claire’s style and this video where I shared my thoughts on the book and TV series (you can also watch it below).

If you want even more Outlander, Roxane Gay (author of An Untamed State) has been writing hilarious recaps for Vulture and my friend Casee Marie has also written very eloquent reviews of each episode so far. Did I mention that I’m obsessed?

After that, I had a hard time deciding what to read next. I had several good options, including The Silkworm, And Then There Were None, and Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix, but I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for. All of that indecision means that I didn’t read anything for over a week, until I decided to go with Harry Potter #5. So far, it’s been going a bit slower than I expected, but the goal is finish it over this long weekend.

Up until Wednesday, it was looking like I was going to have a pretty uneventful weekend (which was fine by me). Then I found out that a high school friend is going to be in the city this weekend- yay! I was also invited to a birthday picnic in the park, which sounds like fun. Other than that, I’ll be taking it easy. I hope you all have a relaxing/restful weekend and I’ll see you back here next Wednesday!

Tell me: Got any big plans for Labor Day weekend?

Claire Outlander Navy Blue Coat shoulders

You guys, advertising is no joke. One week ago, I’d never heard of Outlander and although it’s way too early to make this call, I’d say I’m hooked on the show. And I just bought the book too!

In case you haven’t heard of it, Outlander is a new TV series based on a series of books by Diana Gabaldon. The main character, Claire, is a nurse during World War II, and after the war ends, she and her husband take a trip to Scotland in order to reconnect. One afternoon when she is exploring some old ruins, she accidentally transports herself back in time and ends up in the middle of a battle between the Scots and the Brits. Of course she’s terrified and right now she’s trying to figure out what the hell just happened. She’s already met a handsome Scottish man named Jamie and saved his life… What can I say? I love historical fiction/period pieces, and I’m a sucker for some romance as well.

Claire Outlander white dress Claire Outlander Hat and Scarf Claire Outlander Gray Suit Claire Outlander Trench Coat Claire Outlander navy blue coat

As I’ve mentioned, I just found out about this series and so far all I know is what I’ve seen in the first episode (which you can stream for free on Starz right now). Right away, I fell in love with Claire’s 1940s style. Costumes are one of the best parts about period pieces, right? I thought it would be fun to take some of clothes she’s worn so far and give them a modern twist. If Claire was walking around right now in the year 2014, what would she wear (WWSW)? From what I’ve seen, she likes classically feminine pieces in neutral colors. However, she’s also not afraid to throw in some masculine elements as well, such as trousers, coats with strong shoulders, and oxfords.

Claire from Outlander

Tell me: Have you guys seen the show or read the book(s)?

(All screenshots via Starz | dress, blazer, trench coat, white shirt, oxfords, scarf)