Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Exceeded My Expectations

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Happy Tuesday! Today I’m here to share an incredibly positive bookish list with you all that will hopefully brighten your day with some recommendations. Usually I try to begin reading a book with an open mind, but it’s inevitable that there will be some initial expectations floating around. Fortunately, I’ve read countless books that I’ve ended up loving so much more than I first thought I would. Without further ado, here are ten books that have exceeded my expectations: 

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What are some books that have exceeded your expectations? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Do You Think About Linguistics When You Read? | Discussion

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This past semester I took my first ever linguistics class in college and it opened my eyes to this exciting and interesting field of study. Previously I had always made the distinction between linguistics and the study of literature, mostly because I had never explored linguistics in a classroom setting before. However, there is actually a close and valuable connection between these two different branches.

[ling-gwis-tiks] 
noun, ( used with a singular verb
1. the science of language, including phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics, and historical linguistics.

The suggestion that we can use linguistics to help us better understand literature (such as why Holden Caulfield evokes certain emotions in us) made me realize that this specific focus on words has always been something that has interested me. Whenever I’m asked to analyze a text, be it a novel, poem, or other work, I tend to first gravitate towards the language itself. For example, the first English paper I ever wrote in college was about Daniel Defoe’s use of language in Robinson Crusoe to denote the conflict between savagery and civilization on the island. In order to present an image of sophistication to the reader– and perhaps even to stay sane while attempting to survive on the island– Crusoe seems to make a conscious effort to portray himself as a civilized man, as though he were still living in what he considers to be human society. Crusoe constantly describes physical aspects of himself using language with European connotations, thus reproducing himself as more sophisticated and civilized.

Though I didn’t delve into the specific etymology of Crusoe’s vocabulary, I now realize that this paper was edging towards a more linguistic approach to analyzing literature. It is all too easy to become tangled in grand symbolic meanings, representations, and implications while interpreting literature that the actual language of the text is often forgotten. It’s safe to say that writers do not meticulously comb through their lexicons looking for the most etymologically correct or appropriate word to use every single time they write, but that does not mean that language is meaningless beyond what it conveys when it is read as a complete text. To ignore the particular descriptive words and meaning behind names of characters and places would be to discount much of what the writer might have wanted to convey.

After having taken this class, I find myself being much more aware of the specific language being used in texts. Do you think about linguistics when you read? Have you ever taken a linguistics class or learned about the subject in general? Do you think it’s useful or valuable? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Totally Should’ve Book Tag

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Hello, hello! I hope you’re all having a wonderful day. Today I come to you with the fun little Totally Should’ve Book Tag. Thanks so much to Azia @ The Uncharted World for tagging me!

When We CollidedTotally Should’ve Gotten A Sequel

Does anyone else ever wonder what happened to Jonah and Vivi years after When We Collided by Emery Lord ended? Or Jonah’s family in general? Or the restaurant or the pottery place or any of the people living in Verona Cove? I would love to read even a novella about where these characters are at years later.

Jurassic Park by Michael CrichtonTotally Should’ve Gotten A Spin-Off Series

I’m not really a fan of spin-off series in general, but I guess I’ll have to go with Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Who doesn’t want more dinosaur fun? I’d love to read about the park from an outsider’s perspective living in another county or even the process of how they developed the idea for the theme park in general.

the night circus coverAn Author Who Should Write More Books

After reading and loving The Night Circus a few years ago, I’ve been eagerly waiting for Erin Morgenstern to write another novel. I would read anything that she writes in a heartbeat! A bookworm can always dream, I guess… fingers crossed!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsA Character Who Totally Should’ve Ended Up With Someone Else

Is it weird that I’ve always felt that Katniss should have ended up with Gale in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games? Few people seem to ever agree with me on this, but it’s a gut feeling that I’ve had ever since first reading the book years ago.

ready player one coverTotally Should’ve Had A Movie Franchise

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline would make such a fun movie! I once heard rumors that there was a movie adaption in the works for this novel, but I’m not sure how true that is. Hopefully a movie adaptation will be made someday!

A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall coverTotally Should’ve Had Only One Point of View

I’m generally a fan of books with multiple points of view, providing that they actually add meaningful depth and intrigue to the story. However, I was really disappointed when I read A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall because the numerous different perspectives instead made the characters feel distant from the reader.

16156303Totally Should’ve Kept the Original Covers

My answer to this is basically any book with a movie poster as the cover design. *cringes* A recent example of this that I’ve come across is Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. There are so many better cover designs!

the maze runner coverTotally Should’ve Stopped At Book One

I absolutely LOVED The Maze Runner by James Dashner when I read it in middle school, but the rest of the series? Not so much. The other books don’t even feel like they’re a continuation of the same story. The series has so much potential stemming off from the first book, but unfortunately it all goes downhill from there.

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What are your answers to these prompts? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

HOW TO BE A WOMAN by Caitlin Moran | Review

10600242How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran had been floating around in my peripheral vision for some time before a noteworthy recommendation from Ariel Bissett put it fully on my reading radar. Because I trust Ariel’s opinions and have never been led astray by her recommendations in the past, I decided to download the audio book version that she had listened to and endeavored to give it a go myself.

It saddens me to report that I have very mixed feelings about this memoir/nonfiction hybrid. The first few chapters had me cheering with delight– finally! A writer who isn’t afraid to talk about menstruation!– but my enthusiasm waned the more I listened. Some parts were truly hilarious and had me literally chuckling to myself in my bed as I listened to it, knitting needles and tangled yarn falling from my lap. Other parts had me shaking my head in confusion, wondering why she was emphasizing the discomfort of certain bras when the clear solution to the problem would be to simply buy a more comfortable one. Though I appreciated the fact that she wanted to discuss the smaller but still influential and important obstacles that women encounter throughout their lives, many of these issues sounded frivolous and exaggerated by her over-the-top narration and tendency to take problems to the next level. (Honestly, are weddings really the torturous, unbearable occasions that Moran makes them out to be?)

Again, I really wanted to like this book because Moran is coming from an important and unique perspective when it comes to modern feminism. At times it feels as though feminism is discussed primarily by those in academia or politics, when in reality it should be a common topic of conversation among everyone. Gender inequality impacts people regardless of their level of education, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation and therefore everyone should be able to have a say in the matter. I wholeheartedly agree with Moran on this point and wish that this message would have been executed and delivered in a different manner.

It’s difficult to explain, but while listening I felt like the book could have been toned down several notches overall. She almost seemed to be attacking certain women for liking things that may be considered stereotypically feminine. Is it so terrible if I actually like my designer purse or enjoy shopping for clothes or wearing bras? Her constantly pessimistic view towards numerous aspects of many women’s lives was quite off-putting and made me scratch my head more than a few times. Was she really arguing for gender equality if she was denouncing many of the ways by which some women feel more feminine or allow them to identify as women?

Though I began this book with an opened, eager, and excited mind, unfortunately I cannot shake my mixed feelings towards How to Be a Woman. I do appreciate the presentation of this memoir/nonfiction book, especially the engaging, hilarious, witty narration of the audio book as well as the message that it attempts to deliver. Its intentions may be in the right place; however, in my eyes it missed the mark and went a bit beyond the line of a coherent, realistic message and an effective delivery. While I most likely won’t be returning to this book in the near future, I have certainly gained a new appreciation for the way that Caitlin Moran loudly and unashamedly voices her bold, brutally honest opinions.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, but I would probably warn them ahead of time about Moran’s rather in-your-face delivery of her message. Also, they would have not mind an abundance of cursing, discussions that could be considered “too much information” by some people, and a lot of strong opinions.

Have you read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Would you recommend any of Caitlin Moran’s other writing? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: The Traveling Romantic

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Happy Valentine’s Day!! I hope you’re all having a lovely day regardless of how you feel about this rather polarizing holiday. In keeping with a romantic theme, today’s Top Ten Tuesday list revolves around beloved or dreaded romantic tropes. I’ve decided to stay in a positive direction and share ten fun, lighthearted romance novels that involve traveling. Grab your passport and let’s get started!

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What do you think of the books on my list? Any recommendations? How do you feel about Valentine’s Day in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

More Than “Just” Love Stories | Discussion

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It often seems as though the romance genre has gotten a bad reputation as being merely “fluff” and lacking substance. Many romance novels are considered pure entertainment reading only; in other words, there is nothing between the book’s covers that could possibly educate, enlighten, or challenge the reader in any way. Don’t get me wrong– there are romance novels out there that probably fit this description, but isn’t that also true of any genre? Why is it that people automatically assume that romance novels are insubstantial? Why do people think that love stories must be fluffy?

This question popped into my mind while reading Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far From the Madding Crowd, which is generally regarded as a stereotypical romance in the public eye. Such a reputation was exacerbated by the recent movie adaptation starring Carey Mulligan. Because details from the book had to be left out in order to keep the movie at a reasonable length, it primarily focuses on the tumultuous “love square” between Bathsheba, Gabriel Oak, Mr. Boldwood, and Sergeant Troy.

Though the romance is a large part of the novel– one could argue that it is the main point of the story altogether– it is more of a vehicle for promoting further discussion rather than the final destination. Whether or not it was originally intended by Hardy, the romance in this novel makes way for fascinating social commentary on the time period. We see the ways in which socioeconomic status and gender impact each other as well as how these factors impact relationships, marriage, and social life in general. The plight of Bathsheba also reveals the frustrating expectations that people held of women in both the workplace and the home.

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The specific relationships that Bathsheba forms with these men each provide an important and interesting look into society during this time period. Socioeconomic status is an obvious complication in the relationship between Bathsheba and Oak. Because Bathsheba is of a higher status than the poorer farmer, he is not a priority for her when it comes to entering a serious relationship. Later on she has the opposite problem with Mr. Boldwood, who is regarded as a worthy gentleman and praised by all who meet him. Many people encourage her to marry him because it would be a suitable match based on social status; however, a problem arises when she falls in love with Sergeant Troy instead. Here we clearly see the expectations of women in marriage, for Bathsheba is soon limited in her role as head of the farm when her relationship with Troy becomes more serious. It is expected that the man of house will control all aspects of the business despite the fact that in this case Bathsheba is actually much more skilled and knowledgeable than her male companion.

Far from the Madding Crowd is just one example of how the romance genre surpasses the limited boundaries set by the deceiving stereotype often associated with such books. This classic novel made me realize that not all love stories must be fluffy in order to be captivating, entertaining, and enjoyable to read.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you feel about the romance genre? Have you read any love stories that defy the stereotype of the “fluffy” romance novel? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

2016/2017 Tag

book-courtship-11Even though the start of the New Year has long since come and gone, it’s never too late for a book tag! Thank so much to Kyleigh @ Coffeehouse Chatter for tagging me in the 2016/2017 tag!

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1. Mention the creator of the TAG (David @ #theguywhosaidalwaysno)

2. Use the image that you find in this article.

3. Mention the blogger who has chosen you.

4. Answer the questions.

5. Mention 3 bloggers/friends and let them know through a comment on their blog.

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Describe your 2016 in 3 words!

An uphill climb.

Write the names of 2 people who characterized your 2016!

There were so many that it’s hard to name just two! I owe so much to my friends and family, as well as the amazing professors at my college who have helped me better define my goals for the future.

Write the most beautiful place you’ve visited in 2016 and why you liked it so much!

Probably Mount Cardigan, which my dad and I hike every New Year’s Day. My friends and I also hiked it over the summer, which is always a blast. I’ve probably hiked it around ten times over the years and I never get tired of visiting again and again.

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Write the most delicious food you’ve tasted in 2016.

My mom’s homemade cheesecake, hands down. SO GOOD.

Write the event which has marked you the most in 2016 (even global event).

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific event, but I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the realization I had in the spring of 2016 regarding what I’d potentially like to do after graduation college. Up until that point I had been dead set on going to law school, but talking with my English major advisor made me realize that pursuing my dream job would be possible: earning a doctorate and becoming an English professor at a university. This realization drastically changed my outlook on what I’d like to take away from my undergraduate experience as well as on my future in general.

Write the finest purchase you’ve made in 2016, and if you want link a photo.

I’m not sure what this tag’s definition of “finest” is, but one purchase I made in 2016 that sticks out in my mind is this amazing bookcase. How cool is that? It’s currently in my bedroom at home and I sorely miss it now that I’m living back on campus in my dorm.

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Write 3 good intentions for 2017.

Reach out more, be positive, and be kind.

Write 1 place you want to visit in 2017.

I would LOVE to study abroad in Oxford this upcoming fall semester… fingers crossed!!

Write 1 plate/food you want to eat in 2017.

Honestly, as much breakfast food as possible. I ❤ breakfast.

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How has 2017 been treating you so far? What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD by Thomas Hardy | Review

14800528-2To be honest, my initial expectations weren’t very high for Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far from the Madding Crowd. All I knew about it before opening the first page was that it’s often hailed as an “epic” love story. My track record with love stories has been hit or miss at best (anyone else feel lukewarm about Romeo and Juliet?), so it was no surprise that I felt a bit hesitant about this story. My wishy-washy attitude towards it probably explains why it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for months, untouched.

Oh, Holly of the past, why do you do this?

Far from the Madding Crowd far surpassed every initial expectation I possessed, leaving my doubts in the dust wondering why on Earth I didn’t pick up this book sooner. This novel has numerous strengths, but for the sake of time I’ll limit my discussion to only a handful: complex characters, the story’s depth beyond that of “just” a love story, Hardy’s writing style, and the novel’s ability to be so emotionally gripping.

First, let me frankly say that I didn’t really care for the character of Bathsheba Everdene. While I admire her independence, work ethic, and determination, it’s clear that she dug herself into many holes due to her stubbornness, impulsiveness, and a foolhardy desire to maintain an unprecedented level of pride. Her inability to step back and view the bigger picture time and time again frustrated my inner realist to no end. But here’s the strange thing: I didn’t really mind. Usually when I dislike a main character it tends to taint the rest of the book for me; however, I felt as though it was partly intended for the reader to have mixed feelings toward Bathsheba. In this way, I’m reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Daisy and Tom and even Gatsby are not necessarily the most moral or thoughtful people (actually, they’re quite easy to dislike), yet I think that’s the point. For me, the most redeeming character in Far from the Madding Crowd is Gabriel Oak, the poor farmer who is the first man we see fall in love with the headstrong Bathsheba. Oak was like a breath of fresh air in a hot, stuffy room. His common sense, strong morals, and kind heart were sorely needed in the midst of everyone else’s ridiculousness. Without Oak’s grounding good nature, it’s safe to say that my opinion of this novel would not have been so positive.

Another important strength of this novel is its ability to transcend the simple and largely stereotyped love story drama. Though the main plot is focused on the love “square” between Bathsheba, Gabriel Oak, William Boldwood, and Sergeant Troy, the novel as a whole is about so much more. One can certainly choose to read this story as solely one of romance and drama; alternatively, it can also be interpreted as social commentary on marriage, gender roles, and the hierarchy of socioeconomic classes. Bathsheba cannot solely consider her own emotions when choosing a husband because doing so might put her social status or wealthy in jeopardy. This complicated web of nuanced details that goes into these relationships is the real brilliance of the novel, in my opinion. Despite the dramatic tone of the story, Hardy nevertheless presents a more realistic view of everything involved in forming a marriage during this time period.

Then we come to the topic of Hardy’s writing style, which surprised me from the very first page. Not only is his writing beautiful, but it’s also accessible in a way that a lot of flowery writing is not. The best way to explain this is undoubtedly to show a quote from the novel, so here is one that I love:

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.” 

Flowery without being over the top. Simple yet powerful. Perfect.

Though the ending was fairly predictable, this novel hardly left my grasp until I had completely finished it. Why? Because Far from the Madding Crowd is incredibly emotionally gripping. I became especially attached to the goodness of Gabriel Oak and his determined loyalty to Bathsheba, even though she often showed him little kindness in return. Despite my frustrations with her, I eventually found myself becoming attached to Bathsheba herself. After all that she went through, I couldn’t help but want the very best for her in the end. I think that much of this attachment and emotional suspense comes from excellent character development and the way Hardy makes all of these characters decidedly human and flawed. There’s a degree of familiarity here that is somehow reminiscent of one’s own relationships and experiences.

Overall, Thomas Hardy has converted me into an eager fan of his work with Far from the Madding Crowd. Whether you’re looking to read a love story or simply an expertly woven tale, I highly recommend reading this account of Bathsheba’s struggles.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) :0) 5 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Absolutely!!

Have you ever read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Have any recommendations of other works by Thomas Hardy that I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Had A Faster Pace

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Happy Tuesday!! Have you ever wished that a story would pick up the speed just a little bit? (Or maybe a lot?) If so, you’re not alone! In this week’s installment of Top Ten Tuesday I’m sharing ten books that I wish had a faster pace. While I do love slow-burning novels driven by character development, it can never hurt to have an exciting plot to keep readers on their toes!

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Do you ever wish that certain books were more fast-paced? What do you think of the books on my list? Any recommendations for fast-paced books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Book Sacrifice Tag

book-courtship-8Hello, everyone! I hope you’re having a lovely day. Today I’m here to share the Book Sacrifice Tag with you– it sounds a little scary, but I’m sure we’ll make it through. Thanks so much to Shar @ Virtually Read for tagging me! This tag is short and sweet, so let’s get started.

the summer i turned pretty coverAn Over-Hyped Book
Situation: You are in a bookstore when the zombies attack. Over the loudspeaker, you hear the military informing you that over-hyped books are the zombies’ only weakness. What over-hyped book will you chuck at the zombies?
The first one that comes to mind is The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han. For years I looked on as people praised this book for being the quintessential contemporary book to read in the summertime. A few summers ago I finally decided to see what all of the buzz was about… and I was really disappointed. The main character was annoying and I didn’t think that the story was really anything extraordinary… It was simply over-hyped, in my opinion.
6148028A Sequel
Situation: You are caught in a torrential downpour and you’re probably the type who melts when you get wet. What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?
Ah, the controversial sequel. Sometimes they’re pulled off really well, but often they’re very poorly executed. One sequel that kind of let me down was Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. While it was still an entertaining story, I think that it didn’t really add much to the trilogy. Personally, I think she could have just cut directly to the third book.
12996A Classic
Situation: You’re in English class and your professor won’t stop going on about a classic that “revolutionized literature.” Personally, you think that classic is garbage and you decide to express your opposing opinion by hurling the book at his head. What classic is that?
Hmmm….. I might be in the minority here, but I actually really enjoyed the majority of the classics that I’ve read in school! However, I must admit that I really didn’t like Shakespeare’s Othello (or most of Shakespeare’s works in general, to be honest…).
fourth of july creek coverA Least Favorite Book
Situation: You’re hanging out at a bookstore (where else would you be?) when global warming somehow manages to turn the whole world into a frozen wasteland. Naturally, your only hope of survival is to burn a book. Which book would you not regret tossing onto the fire?
 Normally I really enjoy the books that I read because I pick ones that I think I’ll like. However, once I picked up Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson at the library and hated it. I hardly remember any details about the story now, which probably says something about how much I disliked it.
 I’m not going to lie: venting about these books was pretty cathartic! I’m not going to tag anyone specifically, but feel free to join in if you’re in the mood for a good rant.
What are your answers to these questions? What’s your least favorite book? Let me know in the comments section below!
Yours,
HOLLY