Top Ten Tuesday: Books By My Favorite Authors That I Still Haven’t Read

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share books by some of our favorite authors that we haven’t read (yet). Because I’ve had very little time to read lately and much of my reading is dictated by class reading lists, this particular list of mine could go on for miles. In the interest of time, here are just ten:

What books by your favorite authors have you yet to read? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Happy Hobbit Day!

Happy Hobbit Day! What is this day, you ask? September 22nd is the fictional birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the hobbit protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, respectively. The holiday was first established in 1978 by the American Tolkien Society.

If you’ve followed this blog for a fair amount of time, you’re likely well aware that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are arguably my favorite books ever. (I know. A bold statement to make.) I started reading them when I was in fifth grade and have reread them all countless times since then. I adore their charming wit, their captivating sense of adventure, and the familiar nostalgia they fill me with whenever I flip through their pages again.

In honor of Hobbit Day, I’d like to share some Tolkien-y book photos!

Hope you have a great Hobbit Day! What’s your favorite Tolkien character, book, setting, etc.? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE by Laura Esquivel | Review

“The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, “Like Water For Chocolate” is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes.

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her. For the next twenty-two years, Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.” {Goodreads}

I had never heard of Like Water for Chocolate until my boss recently recommended it to me after I told her the vague plan for my honors thesis. “There’s a film,” she explained to me, “but knowing you, you’re probably more interested in the book.” As per usual, she was correct.

At first I was taken aback by the outrageous drama of this novel. There are points in the plot when the events are so ridiculously unbelievable and the relationships between characters (especially romantic ones!) are so intense that I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at times. This unrealistic sense is exacerbated by the fact that there are some supernatural elements threaded throughout the story: for instance, Tita can unconsciously make people feel her emotions through what she cooks or bakes, such as when she cries into a dish and everyone who eats it feels deep sorrow. In this way, Like Water for Chocolate almost reads like a fairy tale.

However, these rather unbelievable moments are intertwined amongst a careful balance of realistic, understandable, relatable human emotions. The reader can empathize with Tita’s feeling of betrayal by Pedro, the injustice of Mama Elena’s enforced tradition, the freedom Gertrude embraces as she flees the home, the overwhelming emotions following childbirth, etc. These human emotions are what ground the novel in an innate foundation of truth, the pulse that keeps the reader glued to every page. While a reader may not be able to relate to the wild events of the plot, they can certainly see themselves in at least one of the emotions that fill Tita’s heart over the course of the book.

One of the most fun things about this novel is how it revolves around food. From the structure of the book itself with monthly recipes to the emphasis on cooking and baking in Tita’s life, Like Water for Chocolate is overflowing with references and imagery to work (and play!) in the kitchen. Not only does this emphasis give the reader a sense of the culture of the family, but it also helps conjure a distinct image of the setting in the reader’s mind. One can easily picture a bustling, crowded kitchen that exudes the most tantalizing smells right before dinner is served. These are the kinds of scenes that made me understand why this novel has the potential to be turned into an excellent film.

Overall, I enjoyed Like Water for Chocolate for the wild, unpredictable, tumultuous rollercoaster on which it brings its reader. This is a beautiful, moving, heart-wrenching novel that won’t easily be forgotten.

What are your thoughts on Like Water for Chocolate? Have you seen the film? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2018 TBR

Happy Tuesday!! As per usual, it’s time for the seasonal TBR topic! Since the fall semester is now in full swing and I have to divide my reading between what I’m assigned for class and what is on my bookshelf from home, I’m going to do the same with this list. Here are the books I have to read and am hoping to read this fall. 

What books are you hoping to read this fall? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The Cramm Award

Today I bring to you something I had never heard of until recently: the Cramm Award. Thanks so much to Zoie @ Whisked Away By Words for nominating me! Let’s get straight to it, shall we?

  • Include a tidbit about who created this award (theCramm)
  • Mention the person who nominated you
  • Share three things that motivate you to blog
  • Share three people who inspire you to blog
  • Share one thing you hope to do that will improve the world
  • Answer your challenge question
  • Nominate 10+ bloggers and give them a fun challenge question

+ Keeping a record of my bookish thoughts. This was my original reason for starting a blog years ago–I wanted to keep a record of what I thought about specific books so I could go back and compare later on. Although I post more than solely book reviews nowadays, this is still an important motivation for me.

Writing practice. Writing is something that I love to do, meaning that I’m always looking to improve. Blogging helps me keep my typing fingers at the ready, especially during the summer months when I wouldn’t ordinarily be writing much without classes.

+ The blogging community. By far the most important motivation for me nowadays is the blogging community. I love discussing things in the comments section with you all as well as keeping up to date with what’s going on in your bookish lives.

+ Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books. Marie has always been one of my greatest blogging inspirations. Not only does she always post such thought-provoking discussions, but she’s also incredibly active in the comments sections of other blogs. I aspire to be as kind, thoughtful, and active in the blogging community as Marie!

+ Bridget @ Bridget & Books. This blog is definitely my aesthetic inspiration. I absolutely adore the design of Bridget’s blog, from her beautiful photos to the insightful structure of her book reviews.

+ Shanti & Shar @ Virtually Read. These lovely bookworms are some of my oldest blogging pals and I aspire to be as wonderful as they are. Their comments always brighten my day, as do their creative, thoughtful posts. 

One thing I hope to do that will improve the world? That’s a tall order! I suppose I’d just like to be as supportive of people as I can. A teacher once told me that brightening our own corner of the world in turn brightens the entire world–I’d like to believe that this is at least a bit true!

If your life’s story was magically kept in a detailed journal, would you rather 1) be able to read about your past at any time to reflect on your life, or 2) have the ability to write in the blank pages of your future to control what will happen? You can only choose one option!

I would definitely choose the first option–the mere thought of being able to control my future stresses me out already!

  • YOU!

Thanks again to Zoie for nominating me! What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: The Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower

When I realized recently that I have never made a Classic Couple pairing of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999), I vowed to remedy that situation immediately. This classic/contemporary duo always reminds me of the start of the school year, which makes this the perfect time to write about them here. I’m sure this pairing has been done many times before, but I still think there are some interesting parallels worth discussing.

+ Lost souls. Both novels are narrated by protagonists who are unsure of their place or role in life. In the earlier book, the infamous Holden Caulfield who attends Pencey Preparatory Academy before deciding to roam around New York City for a while. Likewise, Charlie, a fifteen-year-old freshman, uncertainly navigates through his first year of high school as he simultaneously deals with a tumultuous home life. Both boys feel lost in a sea of people and just desperately want someone to understand what they’re going through.

+ Narration. Both novels are told through first person narration of their protagonists: Holden is telling his story from a mental institution, while Charlie writes his letters to an unknown audience. This particular similarity is what most closely connects these texts in my mind. The voices of the narrators are so distinct and clear that they feel as though they could certainly have been taken directly from a teenager’s mouth. Few readers may remember the specific events of these texts after reading them, but they surely will remember Holden’s incessant complaining and Charlie’s uncertain worrying.

+ School settings. This list would be incomplete without at least mentioning the school settings that make me associate these novels with this time of year. Holden begins his story at Pencey Preparatory Academy, a private boarding school, whereas Charlies begins his as a freshman at a public high school. Despite the differences between these two schools in terms of education styles and structures, they nevertheless evoke similar feelings of nostalgia and bittersweet fondness for those kinds of coming-of-age experiences.

This Classic Couple may seem a bit obvious or overdone, but I think that’s what makes it so interesting to discuss. Was Chbosky inspired, either consciously or subconsciously, by Salinger’s novel? I think it’s a testament to the enduring quality of The Catcher in the Rye that we still discuss it alongside popular books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower today. After all, isn’t that part of what makes a classic a classic?

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with The Catcher in the Rye? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems of Classic Literature

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share hidden gems–in other words, books that we believe aren’t discussed or read often enough. As per usual, I’m going to focus on classics that I believe deserve to be read more, discussed more, and highlighted more, both within and beyond the classroom setting.

What classics do you wish were discussed more often? What do you thinks of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

On Writing: Interview with Nadette Rae Rodgers

Today I bring you a very special interview with Nadette Rae Rodgers, author of the Illusion Trilogy. With the release of the final book in this trilogy just around the corner, Nadette has been kind enough to answer some of my questions about her writing process and experience writing these novels.

Do you remember where you were/what you were doing when you first thought of the idea for this trilogy?

Yes! It was a rainy summer day, so I had just been reading all afternoon. I had put down the book I was reading and was just looking at the rain outside. There was something that day that had happened that I swear I had dreamt before. It was that deja vu feeling. Then I just started writing down what was in my head.

Do you have a specific writing routine?

My writing routine really depends on the type of scene I’m writing. But typically, I turn on the twinkly lights in my room, pick a playlist that fits what I’ll be writing about then, listen to a song or two while I jot down quick notes and ideas I have, and then I just start writing. I also love to have hot chocolate or coffee in my Eiffel Tower mug too!

Who is your biggest writing inspiration?

My biggest inspiration for writing is one hundred percent the aspiring writers I meet! The BEST moments are when I’m talking to a local literature class and an eighth grader tells me that they want to be a writer or they have been working on a book but were too scared to share it with anyone. I love getting the opportunity to talk to these young writers because the summer after eighth grade is when I wrote Illusion. I love being able to talk with them and encourage them to follow their dreams now. It’s funny, sometimes I’ll be in a bit of a writing slump and then I’ll get an email from a student whose class I talked to weeks before telling me they decided to finish their writing project or let their friends read it. Those moments are what inspire me to keep writing!

What is the most difficult part of the writing process?

Honestly, I do all the formatting myself and that takes a lot of time! It is definitely a more technical process than a creative one like writing the actually book is. It’s more of a challenge for me and I would say, is the most difficult part of the process.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I really enjoyed Stephen King’s memoir “On Writing” and it is always the first thing I recommend to anyone who tells me they want to write a book. The book is full of amazing advice for writers! One thing he says is, “Read a lot. Write a lot.”

Sometimes when I’m in the middle of writing a book, I think I have to devote all my time to writing and I forget to just read a book. My love of reading is why I started writing in the first place! So after reading that, I began setting aside time while writing my novels to read a book I love or try a new author. I do agree with King that you get a lot of the tools you need from writing by reading! So, while a lot of peoples’ advice is “write write write,” I love the tip to schedule some reading time for yourself amidst all the writing.

Thanks so much to Nadette for answering these questions! Click here to pre-order her new book, Sweet Dreams. Be sure to keep up to date with Nadette via Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Hope you’ve enjoyed this interview!

Yours,

HOLLY

Feminist Fridays: Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

They say that timing is everything, and reading is no exception. Sometimes you read a book and acknowledge that you probably would have enjoyed it more if you had read it when you were older or younger, in a different mood, or at a different time of year. However, sometimes you read a book at the precise moment you need its advice most. This ideal timing recently happened to me when I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s tiny book Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. I finished reading it in one sitting before going to bed one night and immediately wanted to start reading it all over again. It’s safe to say that this is the best feminist text I’ve read in a while.

Dear Ijeawele is a modified version of a letter Adichie sent to a friend after this new mother asked Adichie how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. What a question! It’s one that many people likely ask themselves but few endeavor to answer directly and comprehensively, especially through writing. How do you raise a feminist in a culture that is often at odds with gender equality, intersectionality, and acceptance? I do not have kids nor have I ever raised one; however, I would venture to say that Adichie does a pretty good job of answering this question.

What I love about Adichie’s writing is that it is direct, to the point, and unabashedly honest. Nothing is sugar-coated or brushed over. For instance, she blatantly describes the difference between how men often act after they get a divorce and how women often act after they get a divorce. She describes how women will support each other by saying things along the lines of “You’re going to be okay,” while men will say things like “You could do better than her anyways.” Notice the difference? The former focuses on individual progress and development, whereas the latter denounces the ex-wife as inferior or not good enough. This is a bold statement to make on Adichie’s part—it doesn’t exactly portray men in a favorable light—but she doesn’t shy away from incorporating it into her argument.

This book doesn’t just advise the reader on how to raise a feminist; rather, Adichie’s text also reminds the reader how to be a feminist. In a sea of books, films, and songs emphasizing romantic love as a heightened ideal, it’s nice to be reminded that marriage doesn’t have to be one’s first and foremost priority all the time. It’s also nice to be reminded that marriage isn’t the only path for women to walk on, despite what the media might otherwise proclaim. Adichie lauds women who are passionate about their careers and underscores the importance of normalizing women holding leadership positions and being successful in the workplace. I read this at a time when such a reminder was incredibly helpful and comforting, particularly as my final year of college begins.

If you’re searching for a powerful, quick, witty feminist read, then look no further than Dear Ijeawele. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone, regardless of whether you’re raising a feminist or just hoping to be one.

Click here to check out other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on Dear Ijeawele? Have any other feminist texts you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Podcasts Worth Listening To

Happy Tuesday!! Technically this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is supposed to be about binge-worthy TV shows and movies; however, this summer I watched a grand total of one movie and zero TV shows, which helps demonstrate how little I watch TV. Instead, I thought I would focus this list on binge-worthy podcasts. Lately I’ve been getting into listening to podcasts more often, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Here are some of the ones I’ve been enjoying recently:

The Daily from The New York Times

“This is how the news should sound. Twenty minutes a day, five days a week, hosted by Michael Barbaro and powered by New York Times journalism.” {Source}

Slow Burn by Slate

“On Slow Burn, Leon Neyfakh excavates the strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history—and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season 1 captured what it was like to live through Watergate; Season 2 does the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.” {Source} 

Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell

“Welcome to Revisionist History, a podcast from Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply. Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.” {Source}

More Perfect by Radiolab

“Supreme Court decisions shape everything from marriage and money to public safety and sex. We know these are very important decisions we should all pay attention to – but they often feel untouchable and even unknowable. Radiolab’s first ever spin-off series, More Perfect, connects you to the decisions made inside the court’s hallowed halls, and explains what those rulings mean for “we the people” who exist far from the bench. More Perfect bypasses the wonkiness and tells stories behind some of the court’s biggest rulings.” {Source} 

Dear Hank and John by Hank and John Green

“Hank and John Green (YouTubers and etc.) answer questions, give questionable advice, and talk about Mars (the planet) and AFC Wimbledon (the 3rd tier English football club).” {Source} 

10 Minute Writer’s Workshop by New Hampshire Public Radio

“A peek into how great writers conjure and craft their work. From creative rituals to guilty distractions…what it takes to get pen to paper. Hosted by Virginia Prescott.” {Source} 

S-Town by Brian Reed

“John despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, sparking a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.” {Source}

What are your favorite podcasts? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY