Harper Lee Reading Inspirations

Reading Inspiration #1

Instead of doing a typical TBR list, I wanted to try something different. The idea came to me shortly after the news that sadly, author Harper Lee passed away on February 19th, 2016. Knowing her as most of us do, for her works “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the 2015 release of her follow up novel “Go Set a Watchman”, I instantly thought of my first time reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” back in high school. As a book lover, I’m a bit ashamed to say I haven’t reread Lee’s work many times, but I still remember the deep appreciation I had for her work. Knowing my memories of her words, the scenes, her message were faded from years of other distractions, I decided that I would finally make time to reread Lee’s works.

This inspired me to think of my future reading lists as something organic, not something that I’m assigning myself. If there’s a new release coming up and I’m a book behind in the series, then I might be more motivated to include the unread book in my to-read list for the month so that I can dive right into the newest release, but I don’t want my future reading lists to become predictable.

I want my reading choices to reflect how I’m feeling. I want to let what’s happening in my life draw me to the books that may hold answers (or just distractions) from the more stressful times, and affirmations during the times when I need that quiet reassurance.

A few days ago, I started reading “Before I Go To Sleep” which I mentioned in my January ’16 TBR list. The last couple of months have been slow reading wise, but so far, Watson’s got me hooked.

(Bonus–I’ll have a review of Holly Black’s Tithe up soon!)

Whether you make strict to-read lists or pick your books at random, what motivates you the most to pick up a fresh book? Do you reread your favorites often?

 

January 2016 Book Haul

The first book haul of the year! I don’t plan to do a haul each month, but I’m not going to say that it isn’t possible that new books may sneak their way onto my shelves each month. This month I have a good mix of both print and ebooks (yay Kindle!) to share with you. While I noticed that many of them have a similar theme (suspense, family, mothers), I am happy to say that each of these books were purchased because I was simply browsing and couldn’t leave without them. Two books on this list I’d planned to buy, but I still lingered over them for a while before clicking that ever so tempting “1-click” button. Lets dive into what’s on the list for this haul.

Tithe

tithe cover

As I mentioned in my TBR list for this month, I grabbed this book because of two things: it’s been highly recommended and the cover is awesome. Bonus – Fae. Who doesn’t love a good YA fantasy novel? I am really hoping this will be one of those books that just sucks me in and lets me get lost inside the story for a couple of days. It usually doesn’t take me long to read books of this nature when they’re as well written as everyone says this is.

Before I Go to Sleep

beforeigotosleep.jpg

This was another book that I mentioned in my TBR list as being something I have been looking forward to reading for quite some time. While the initial idea of the story has always intrigued me (a woman who has amnesia and while journalling in an attempt to regain her memory, discovers she told her future self  to not trust her husband), I always just let this one sit on the back burner when I’d go into a store or look around on Amazon. This too I expect to be a quick read.

What Was Mine

whatwasminecover

 

The cover and the title were what drew me to the print copy of this book when I was out shopping. While I’ve noticed that psychological thrillers from female authors are even more in demand than ever (thanks Flynn, Hawkins and others!), this one demanded attention. The story involves a woman named Lucy who takes a stranger’s baby while at a grocery store and raises the baby on her own without anyone knowing it wasn’t really her baby for twenty years. This story sounds like a great mix of suspense and literary fiction, something that’s almost too hard to imagine, yet keeps you reading despite your reservations. I am really curious to see what my feelings are about Lucy from beginning to end.

Reconstructing Amelia

ReconstructingAmelia

This book has been on my radar since I discovered McCreight’s second novel Where They Found Her. While this will be my first read from McCreight, I expect it to be intense. Reconstructing Amelia follows the story of a mother named Kate who is a lawyer with a daughter who attends a prestigious boarding school. When Kate finds out that her daughter is having behavior problems at school, she intervenes only to find out that her daughter is dead. As a Law and Order junkie, I can’t help but think Kate is going to be leaning hard on her legal system knowledge while simultaneously being engulfed in the grief hat only a parent who has lost a child can know.

The Night Sister

TheNightSisterCover

In Jennifer McMahorn’s The Night Sister, we are introduced to the eerie, mystery laden Tower Motel, located in London Vermont (hurray New England!). The abandoned tower caused a deep drift between three friends. When Amy, Margot and Piper were at the abandoned motel and found something that would change all of their lives, and their relationships with one another. While the story itself confirmed my decision to buy this book, it was the eerily haunting cover that lured me in. Something about it has that perfectly haunted, intimidating yet alluring quality that’s so hard to resist (and rarely disappointing). I don’t get around to reading horror novels as often as I’d like, so this should be a real throwback to my younger reading days when the genre dominated my bookshelves.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

FantasticBeasts

Two awesome things about this purchase: it was on sale for really cheap, and it gets me back into the Harry Potter world. I somehow didn’t realize I didn’t already own this book until I picked up this copy and was browsing through it. I didn’t start reading the Harry Potter series until I was in college (thanks to my amazing first roommate who had a non-HP intervention on me). Incase you aren’t aware, this book catalogues all the Fantastic Beasts and gives all the info you could want. With so much of an awesome focus on personal development in the HP series, I just couldn’t pass this one up.
That’s all for this book haul. Did you pick up any books this month? Did you get any awesome bookish gifts over the holiday season? If you have any opinions about these books, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

January 2016 TBR

It’s a new year, time for new reading goals and habits! While I haven’t done a TBR in quite a while, I want to get back in the habit of reading consistently. I never stopped reading, it just wasn’t getting as much attention as I’d have liked in 2015.

 

My goals for this month are modest as I want to make sure my goal is something realistic. Here we go:

Jan 16 TBR 1

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale/Modern Faerie Tales #1

 

Author: Holly Black

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Genre: YA

Pages: 336

I first heard about this book on YouTube thanks to John Book Giving Guide video on the Vlogbrothers channel (though he references the second novel, Valiant). Since then, it appears that everyone else has read this (supposedly fantastic) novel so I had to buy it. Plus, I’m a sucker for amazing covers like this one.

Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel

 

Author: S.J. Watson

Publisher:  Harper Paperbacks

Genre: Mystery/Thriller/Suspense

Published: 2012

Pages: 368

I first heard about this from a vlogger in the BookTube realm a couple of years ago. From what I recall, she wasn’t an enormous fan of the genre, but was gifted the book and fell in love with the story. I know there’s a film adaptation from 2014 with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, so I may just watch the movie after reading the book and do a comparison post. I’m expecting to love this. Nothing gets me like a good suspense/mystery novel.

Beyond the Painting

Author: Masood Vahdani

Publisher: Partridge Press (Penguin Random House)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Pages: 125

This is a YA novel that Vahdani kindly sent me to review over  on WOTN that I haven’t got to yet. Shame on me. Beyond the Painting is a dark YA fantasy story surrounding vampires and relationships. From the promising reviews and description Vahdani gave me, this story deals with vampires though thankfully, they aren’t the overly exhausted whimsical kind. While I enjoyed Twilight when it was happening (remember, Faulkner said to read everything), I get where everyone is “over” the vampire thing. Still, I’m intrigued by the idea of this story. YA fantasy done right is always a win for me. I’m curious to see if this lives up to my expectations.

While not technically part of my January TBR as I just finished it (and started in December), here’s a bonus read:

And Again

Author: Jessica Chiarella

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Literary Fiction

Pages: 320

This isn’t technically part of my January TBR because I finished it at the beginning of the month, but it’s worth your attention. I was lucky enough to be sent this as an advanced reading copy (ARC) late last year to review the piece for Word of the Nerd (if you aren’t aware, I write and edit there).  It comes out today and and was published by Simon and Shuster. You can read my review here if you want to hear my two cents. Quick opinion: this book will haunt you in all the best ways.

What are your reading goals for this month? Do you find TBR piles helpful?

Tell me what January releases have you running to the bookstore.

2015 Rewind and 2016 Goals

I would love to start this post by saying I read over 40 books in 2015, but that isn’t going to happen. Initially, I was a bit disappointed that I only managed to read 13 books this year (including graphic novels), but I’m not counting it as a loss. This year, my work life got pretty busy, which is great, but it also meant I put a lot of my passion projects on the back burner.

Of everything I read this year, a few titles really stood out for me. Here are my top three and why I loved them:

Twisted Dark Vol. 1-4 (5) by Neil Gibson

These graphic novels were amazing and jarring in ways few books are these days. What a testament to the genre and what it can accomplish. My review for Volume 5 will be out soon on Word of the Nerd.

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling #1) by Ericka Johansen

While this book isn’t without it’s flaws, The Queen of the Tearling demanded my attention. I felt like I could not accomplish anything else unit I finished the book. It’s whimsical, dark, full of fantasy and is a great introduction to the genre. Amanda Hocking fans would love this book. I’m pumped to read book 2 (and 3!).

Fortune 69 by David Heath

Ever since I discovered transgressive fiction in college, I’ve been hooked on it. While I do love Chuck Palahniuk and other popular transgressive authors, I thrive on finding the lesser known transgressive works and seeing how they shine. Fortune 69 provides everything I want in a transgressive fiction novel — gritty and uncomfortable characters and scenarios with just enough realism to make everything seem realistic. Heath pulls you in from page one and when you’re done, it’s like getting off a roller coaster, you’re still able to feel the experience long after it’s ended. While my faith in reading never truly wavered, this book got me out of an awful reading funk.

While I didn’t finish as many books this year as I would have liked to, I learned an important lesson: it’s okay to be choosy about what I read. Life isn’t going to slow down, and I’m not going to stop reading books, so I need to be willing to say no to a book sometimes when I am just not feeling it. I often feel like I have to finish a book if I start it or have invested a lot of time into it, but these days, if something isn’t holding my attention, I’ll put it down for a while (or forever).

2016 Goals

Looking ahead, I’m really excited for 2016. I am hoping to at least double what I read in 2015, but I also want to play around with having strict months with set TBR piles and others where I play a little bookshelf roulette. A friend turned me onto this 12 book challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy that I defiantly want to incorporate into my reading goals for the new year (plus, what could be a cuter book blog title than Modern Mrs. Darcy?).

In addition to reading more books and expanding what I read, I also really need to work on chopping down my kindle TBR pile. I’ve had a kindle since 2009 and have acquired countless books thanks to sales, freebies and those late night “must buy now” impulses, and I’m ready to start reading them. There’s a healthy mix of YA, Horror/Suspense, Literary Fiction and SciFi in my Kindle library, so things should stay interesting. I also NEED to catch up on the Lunar Chronicles. I have all the currently released books, and want to catch up before Stars Above comes out in early February.

I’d love to hear about how your reading challenge went this year. Did you reach your goal? Quit? Something in the middle? What was your favorite (and least favorite) book you read this year? Tell me all the things!

 

Why Everyone Deserves to Be a Nerd

Everyone should be a nerd in their own right. Not to fit in with the latest trend or to please someone else, but to allow them the pure bliss that comes with immersing yourself in something you truly love. While nerd culture continues to expand and flood the mainstream market through films, television shows, video games, and all other aspects of the entertainment world, at times I worry that people are missing the point of what these experiences have to offer. If you’re only seeing Batman through a corporate money making lens or you only enjoy a video game for it’s graphics and popularity, you’re only exposing yourself to the tip of the iceberg. I’ve noticed that people (myself included) get stuck in this limbo land of really enjoying something and wanting to delve more into the topic, but feeling that they can’t because of what others will think about them as a result. While it’s natural to be concerned with how we are perceived by others, we’re so sensitive to how we are perceived by the outside world that we restrict ourselves in how enthusiastic we can be about our interests.

It frustrates me endlessly to see people tiptoeing around their potential passions to avoid criticism.

If someone is not willing to proclaim being a complete nerd, they’ve got to be careful that they’re not too invested in any storyline, film, video game, TCG or any other aspect of entertainment that might be deemed “too nerdy” and thus make them some sort of outcast. This is where nerds just don’t care, we take pride in the things we enjoy and we aren’t afraid to say it. Perhaps, this unwavering commitment to ourselves is why we’re so often labeled as antisocial, awkward or ___________. As John Green said in a Vlogbrothers video from 2009:

“Nerds like us are able to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff.”

John goes on to explain that unlike non-nerds who all too often have to temper their excitement or risk being questioned for how passionate they are about any given interest, nerds celebrate their interests with deep, unyielding excitement. This is something everyone should be able to do without question or fear of judgement. While this level of excitement can also exist in interests that aren’t particularly nerdy, like sports, if an interest doesn’t meet up to society’s preconceived notions of what makes someone attractive/strong/interesting, it’s a mark against you on the social scale which is unfortunate to say the least. Some of the most creative, thoughtful and brilliant people I have ever met are nerds who greet the world with an open mind.

In the past few years, I’ve really worked to distance myself from what everyone expects me to be and just focus on who I am, which happens to be pretty nerdy. While it’s great to shed that bullshit baggage of irrelevant societal norms, it still causes me to consider my actions and interests regularly. Thankfully, my writing and reading habits have always allowed me to stay tapped into the worlds and themes I love. Through this portal of awesomeness that has continued to grow since I was a child, I’ve come to realize how important the realms of fantasy and horror are in making me a more empathetic and compassionate human being (though I’m totally open to adapting the ability to shape-shift, just sayin’).

While there are certainly examples of people who dive a little too deep into nerd culture (or ANY culture) and lose touch with other important parts of the world, those issues are more rooted in the individual and not the culture itself (though some games do lend themselves to unhealthy habits, see Internet Gaming Addiction in the DSM V for more on that topic). I just don’t understand why these extreme experiences are still considered the norm? Nerds come in every shape, size, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Everyone deserves to be nerdy about whatever it is they love without fear of judgement.

Are nerds perfect? No. Are nerds better than non-nerds? Nope. But we’re people. We have interests that we are endlessly passionate about because they not only give us a break from the ups and downs of the most mundane parts of our lives, but because they help us to realize the collective current that connects all of us. An author can write a story that is both entertaining and significant to readers 100 years later, even if that story exists in a realm that only exists in our minds. If you don’t think that “nerdy things” like Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, comic books, or video games don’t hold any value to the lives of their fans, I challenge you to find the biggest nerd you know and ask them what it is they love about their favorite franchise/nerdy thing. You may just be surprised at what you learn.

For my fellow the nerds out there, do you ever feel like you have to scale down your excitement about something just to avoid criticism from people around you who don’t understand your excitement? Or do you feel that people are more accepting of your interests because you’re so passionate about it?

Image Credit: Yashodhan Talwar on Flickr

Why Fantasy isn’t an Escape, it’s Reality

I am a firm believer that the worlds we explore through the fantasy genre help make us better people in our “real lives”. Contrary to the idea that fantasy only promotes being detached from the real world, my experience has been that fantasy helps me to evolve in all aspects of my life. While I’ve always enjoy the standard fantasy worlds presented in childhood stories, movies, and video games, it wasn’t until I was in the fourth grade that I really fell hard for the fantasy genre. In that school year, I was fortunate enough to have a teacher who read us the entire Chronicles of Narnia series throughout the year. He would do voices and was animated throughout each chapter. Not only did these books cause me to really think about the dilemmas and triumphs of these characters, but it got me excited about how the fantasy genre shifts our way of thinking about the “real” world.

Fantasy allows us to not only see the problems of our world through an alternate lens, it allows us to experience our own problems through a more detached and convenient host. Through seeing these characters struggle and prevail, finally arriving at what Tolkien called the “good catastrophe”, we realize that we too can overcome our own trials.

Whether we feel connected to a character or are utterly repulsed by them, the world of fantasy allows us to walk in the shoes of another person, to see their flaws and take every ounce of their being to heart. While all (good) fiction accomplishes this empathetic world view, it is through fantasy that we are able to truly push beyond the realm of what is comfortable. In the fantasy world, we can experience and imagine circumstances, strengths, and weaknesses that strip away the constant veils we layer ourselves with. When we encounter characters that find a new world or are exposed to powers they didn’t know they possessed, we subconsciously examine ourselves in new ways. We find new ways to see the world and learn that our abilities are often far more diverse than we had perviously imagined.

Fantasy realms allow us to explore the wide spectrum of emotions that we go through in life without restriction. The laws, customs, relationships, and environments are familiar enough to be relatable, yet they are foreign enough that they (gently) force us to view this new realm of existence with the open minded nature of a child. We are eager to be proven wrong when we dislike a character or their actions, we want to see our heroes complete their quest or uncover a mystery so that we too can find new ways to overcome our challenges. These are just a few of the reasons why I am so thankful to the fantasy genre for constantly inspiring me to not only be a more creative and imaginative person, but to be a more empathetic and open minded person as well.

What is your favorite fantasy story? What do you love about the genre? If you’re not a fan, what turns you off from it?

Image Credit: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero on Flickr

Seven Last Minute Finds of 2014

Like me, I’m sure you’ve seen all the top lists of 2014 floating around the inter webs in celebration of the last week of 2014. I’m a big fan of lists, so I thought it would be fun to make a list of the top seven last minute book finds I’ve added to my TBR list thanks to these end of the year lists (and other book recommendations I haven’t mentioned yet this year). I know fourteen books would be a more fitting number of books to list, but we don’t have time for that. Much of the inspiration for this list are thanks to these Top Lists from Buzzfeed: The 22 Most Exciting Literary Debuts of 2014, and 24 Best Fiction Books of 2014, so thanks for filling my list-loving needs, Buzzfeed! More information on each book can be found by clicking the novel’s title.

7. A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl Is A Half Formed Thing Cover

Via Goodreads

Brutal honesty, existentialism and a story of triumph over one’s own demons? This one instantly reminded me of my college philosophy buff years, so I had to put it on the list.

6. All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows Cover

via Goodreads

Sisters. Depression. Despration and hope are what tie sisters Elf and Yoli together in this novel. Thoughtful, well plotted stories examining mental illness are always intriguing to me, as there are so many misconceptions on the subject. I’m interested to see how this novel pulls off the issue of (hopefully) trumping over mental illness without being cheesy.

5. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell 

Bone Clocks Cover

via Goodreads

I found out about this one from Book Riot and the plot instantly intrigued me. A girl with a blossoming psychic ability, who hears what she calls “the radio people”, and a boy who has a prestigious education and reports on the war of the Middle East come together in this highly acclaimed story.

4. I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

via Goodreads

via Goodreads

This title I found through Booktube hype. While I tend to be wary of books that have a lot of hype, this emotionally charged book seems worth the read. The story discusses the lives of twin siblings Noah and Jude. Life pulls them in unexpected directions, where the truth can only be seen when they can see the other sibling’s side of the story.

3. The Magicians by Lev Grossman

The Magician's Cover

via Goodreads

I discovered this trilogy through Booktube and Goodreads earlier this year. A fantasy trilogy about an epic journey that coasts along with the help of magic, this book is high on my to-read list. The third and final installment to the trilogy, titled The Magician’s Land was released late this year and has promising reviews thus far.

2. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling Cover

via Goodreads

I’ll admit that as much as I love a good YA read, I’ve been shying away from the genre a bit. That being said, this book easily made my To-read list because really, who can resist a kick-ass princess who’s willing to take charge of her life? I won’t lie, the promise of a film adaptation with a lead role filled by Emma Watson sold me on this one.

1. Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

Ugly Girls Cover

via Goodreads

A debut novel about friendship between young women dealing with the perils of living a less than luxurious suburban life with alcoholic parents and internet troubles, this book’s synopsis brought to mind an updated version of The Virgin Suicides. A brooding, dark and honest novel is always up my alley.

That’s it for my Top 6 TBR finds in late 2014. Have you read any of these books? If so, tell me what you thought of it in the comments. What books have you recently discovered that you want to read in 2015? I wish you all a very happy (and safe) New Years Eve!