Disney Princess Sidekicks Book Tag

Nothing brings a smile to my face quite like a good Disney movie. Fortunately, this Disney Princess Sidekicks Book Tag blends together everything great about Disney AND books. Thanks so much to Eva @ Brilliantly Bookish for tagging me!!

Mushu from Mulan 

{The Comic Relief – Name your favorite hilarious character or your favorite comedy/funny book}

Anything by Roald Dahl is hilariously witty, but a recent favorite of mine is George’s Marvelous Medicine. The grandma is such a riot!

The Seven Dwarfs from Snow White

{Favorite Group/Ensemble}

Definitely Blue and her friends from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Not only do they have amazing adventures together, but their personalities also balance each other out incredibly well. They certainly have their ups and downs, but that makes it all the more realistic.

Pascal from Tangled

{The loyal cheerleader chameleon – Name a book that started out one way but changed for you}

Dracula by Bram Stoker. The beginning in Count Dracula’s castle was great, but then the action and excitement suddenly stopped. I wish Dracula played a larger role in the novel!

Meeko from Pocahontas

{Pocahontas’s sly and sneaky raccoon friend – Name a plot twist that you did not see coming}

Many people say that they predicted the ending of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, but I never saw it coming!

Flounder from The Little Mermaid

{Gentle with their princess but protective with everyone else – Name your favorite best friend in a novel}

Raffy from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Taylor is so lucky to have her as a best friend!

Louis from The Princess and the Frog

{The Musical Bunch – Name a novel where music played a big part or made you want to sing its praises}

The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I love the way Willa Cather incorporates so much about music and performance in general in this lyrical novel.

Maximus from Tangled

{The obstacle in Flynn Rider’s way – Name a character that faces a lot of obstacles}

Mark from The Martian by Andy Weir. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to survive on Mars… major props to him for doing so well!

Hamish, Hubert, & Harris from Brave

{Favorite family dynamics in a novel}

Fairies from Sleeping Beauty

{The Advice Givers – Book that most impacted your life}

This is so hard!! I’m going to go with Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien because I have such a nostalgic attachment to it.

Hei Hei from Moana

{Name a character that steals the show}

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. No other character in that novel can beat Heathcliff’s strangeness!

Gus & Jaq from Cinderella

{Opposites Attract – Name your favorite or worst opposite attracts pairing}

Since I’ve already mentioned Jellicoe Road once in this tag, I’m going to go with Westley and Princess Buttercup from The Princess Bride by William Goldman.

Okay, I’m curious: What’s your favorite Disney movie?? What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy | Review

It has always been a goal of mine to read Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel War and Peace at some point in my life. Prior to this past summer, I didn’t know much about this book besides that a) it’s HUGE, b) it’s written by a Russian author, and c) it takes place in the early nineteenth century. Little did I know that I would spontaneously embark on a long endeavor to read War and Peace this past summer (on top of all of my actual required reading…). I was motivated to do so when I learned about the War and Peace Newbie Read-A-Long hosted by Laura @ Reading in Bed. It’s so much easier to read such a tome when you know that plenty of bookworms are right beside you.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book. I knew that it would be fascinating at times and that the writing would be brilliant; however, I didn’t think I would find it particularly entertaining or engaging.

I stand corrected, friends.

I never thought I’d be saying this, but War and Peace is a page-turner. Coupled with a large cast of characters, the wide web of interconnected plot lines makes for a suspenseful and gripping read. The length was intimidating at first– my edition is 1156 pages long!– but the way it’s divided into sections helps keep you motivated as you read. I found myself thinking about the characters and what would happen next even when I wasn’t reading– the sure sign of a great book!

My favorite character to follow is Pierre because he has such interesting thoughts about what it means to live a happy, fulfilling life. From his sudden wealth and travels to his initiation into the Freemasons and eventual imprisonment, Pierre experiences enough in this novel to make one’s head spin. In many ways he is the heart and soul of the story.

Tolstoy’s fascinating discussions about history and how it should be told were pleasant surprises. He argues that historians are foolish for focusing primarily on figures who are considered “great heroes” because often they actually had little to do with causing and shaping events. I hadn’t expected these digressions in a work of fiction, though their incorporation makes sense due to the novel’s reliance on historical events.

“If everyone fought for their own convictions there would be no war.”

Reading War and Peace has made me think about history from a different perspective. What role does history play in literature? What role does literature play in history? Are writers historians? If so, are they historians inherently or must they actively choose to be? I love books that make me ask these kinds of questions!

Overall, I was taken aback by how much I enjoyed War and Peace. If you’re at all intimidated by its length or afraid that it is too dull to sit through, I urge you to set those thoughts aside and give it a try! My only regret is not reading Tolstoy’s writing sooner.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes!

What are your thoughts on War and Peace? Have any recommendations for other pieces of Russian literature that I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: ON THE ROAD and THE ROAD

At a first glance, it might seem as though the only thing that Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road have in common is their similar titles. Though the contexts and genres of these books are very different—the 1940s in the United States vs. a frightening dystopian future—the stories themselves share many themes and ideas.

The road || I’m sure this seems incredibly obvious, but I’m not just talking about the physical road they travel on; rather, I mean the road as a sign of movement in the future and struggle and what lies ahead.

Sense of lawlessness || In On the Road, the “lawlessness” mostly exists because the protagonists want it to; in other words, they simply ignores the rules and norms to which the rest of society adheres. On the other hand, the situation in The Road is a very different story. Without government, authority, and civilization in general there really are no laws to follow anymore. The man and his son must navigate a world where anything could happen.

“Home” is ever-changing || The characters in these books have an understanding that the idea of a “home” can be impermanent and dynamic if you let it be. In other words, home is less of a location and more of a feeling. This mindset is taken on by choice in On the Road and by dire necessity in The Road.

Narration || These novels are written in a sort of stream of consciousness style, as though the existence of paragraph and chapter breaks is almost irrelevant and unnecessary. I had a difficult time putting these novels down because they have such great momentum. It took a little while to get used to the lack of quotation marks and dialogue breaks (especially in The Road) but I think it adds so much to the story overall.

What are your thoughts on On the Road and The Road? Do they remind you of any other books? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comment section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Fictional Crushes

Happy Tuesday!! I hope you’ve all been having a lovely week. Today I’m here to do another Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is a fun one: fictional crushes! We all have those characters that we secretly wish were real, right? Time to share!

Harry from Harry Potter and the Sorcerors’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Ah, the original book crush. Reading this series in second grade was probably the first time I had a fictional crush. (But it wouldn’t be the last!)

Jesse Tuck from Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

I feel like this one sort of goes without explaining if you’ve read the book. So sweet! So kind! So enthusiastic!

Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

A thousand times yes. Is it a stereotypical tough-guy-is-actually-sweet trope? Yes. Does it matter? Absolutely not.

Gabriel Oak from Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Oh, Bathesheba. Though you couldn’t appreciate the thoughtful, loyal, hard-working guy right in front of you, the rest of us certainly could!

Westley from The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The movie might help a little bit with this one… but there’s no denying Westley’s bravery, wit, and devotion. Princess Buttercup is a lucky girl!

Turns out this list was more difficult to make than I expected… I guess the books I’ve been reading lately have been lacking in the crush department?

What are some fictional crushes that you’ve had? What do you think about the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

SEPTEMBER 2017 | Wrap-Up

September was a blur. I nearly had to do a double take when I looked at a calendar the other day and realized that it was nearly October. Between preparing for Oxford, moving to Oxford, and living at Oxford, it feels as though this entire month has been one transition right after another. It’s a relief to finally be settled in and feel more comfortable in this amazing place. Here’s what I was up to in September:

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In September I read a total of 5 books:

  1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  2. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
  3. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  4. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner
  5. Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley

As I Lay Dying is my favorite book that I read in September. This was my second time reading it and even though I first read it last summer I was still taken aback by the striking ending. What a brilliantly crafted novel!

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It’s official: I’M AT OXFORD. September was a whirlwind of transitions: not only to a new country and culture, but also to new friends, assignments, and routines. Though living in England has certainly taken some getting used to, I’m happily settled in now and can’t wait for my tutorials to finally begin. I’ve experienced so many new things in the past few weeks that I hardly have time to discuss them all.

A major goal that I’ve recently crossed off of my bucket list is going to LONDON. What a city! It felt like a blend of Boston and New York City, with some areas being more open and calm and other being more crowded and bustling. I was lucky enough to be able to many sites in one day: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the London Eye, the Tate Modern art gallery, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Though I had a blast visiting, I think it’s safe to say that I definitely prefer living in Oxford!

St. Paul’s Cathedral… almost too big to fit in one photo!

It’s absolutely incredible being able to live and study in a city that is as rich in history as Oxford. It still feels surreal when I walk into the Radcliffe Camera to casually study while everyone takes photos of it from behind the gate. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that extraordinary feeling!

I’ve been really fortunate to have made some great friends here already and I can’t wait for all the other students to get here so I can meet even more people. It’s strange to think that the term hasn’t even officially started even though I’ve already done so much!

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Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to blog since moving to Oxford. Though I’ve scheduled plenty of posts in advance for the next few months, less free time means less time to spend reading other posts, commenting on other blogs, and being active in the blogging community in general. Hopefully I’ll be able to work it into my schedule once I settle into a more regular routine.

Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month (there are so many!!):

How was your month of September? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Desert Island Discs Tag

Today I answer the age-old question: What would you bring if you were trapped on an island alone? This Desert Island Discs Tag was created by Zuky @ BookBum. Thanks so much to Marta @ The Book Mermaid for tagging me!!

You are cast away onto a remote island:

  • You can bring 5 albums, what are they?
  • You can bring ONE book (not including The Bible (or other appropriate religious texts) or The Complete Works of Shakespeare, as they are already provided and NO SERIES), what ONE book is it?
  • You can have one luxury item (it has to be inanimate and can’t help you escape the island), what is it?

Walk the Moon by Walk the Moon

I’ve loved Walk the Moon since the release of their debut album when I was in high school. I distinctly remember hearing “Anna Sun” play on the radio while driving home from work one day and thinking: I need to look this band up! Favorite songs of mine are “Anna Sun,” “Tightrope,” and “Jenny.”

Gone Now by Bleachers

This album is a recent favorite of mine. I started listened to Bleachers early this past summer and was immediately captivated by their catchy melodies, brilliant lyrics, and contagious energy. Favorite songs of mine are “Don’t Take the Money,” “Let’s Get Married,” and “Dream of Mickey Mantle.”

The Dance by Fleetwood Mac

I’m adding this album to my list mostly for the nostalgia factor. My parents (especially my mom) used to play Stevie Nicks all the time when I was younger, so listening to this album always makes me think of my childhood. Favorite songs of mine include “Dreams,” “Landslide,” and “Everywhere.”

Illuminations by Josh Groban

Josh Groban has been one of my favorite singers since I was in middle school, so it’s a given he’s included in this list. His music would be perfect for when I need to forget about the stress of being stuck on a deserted island! Favorites of mine from this beautiful album are “If I Walk Away,” “Love Only Knows,” and “Você Existe Em Mim.”

x Infinity by Watsky

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve probably notice that I talk about Watsky a lot. He’s an amazing artist (both in regard to music and writing) and I listened to this album on loop during my commute countless times this past summer. Favorite songs of mine are “Tiny Glowing Screens, Pt. 3,” “Little Slice,” and “Don’t Be Nice.”

This might sound strange, but the first book that immediately popped into my mind when I thought of this question was The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien. Usually I’m not a huge fan of middle books in trilogies; however, The Two Towers is definitely an exception. For some reason this has always been my favorite book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I think the Ents have something to do with it!). I also have huge nostalgic attachment towards this book because it reminds me when I was younger. (Is most of this list based on nostalgia? YES.)

For my bonus luxury item, I would choose to bring a photo album. I love looking at old photos of friends, family, and happy memories. Having a photo album on a deserted island would be such a comfort!

What would you bring on a deserted island? What do you think of my choices? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

FLIPPED by Wendelin Van Draanen | Review

People change. We’re all constantly changing whether we’re conscious of it or not, yet sometimes this fact is ignored in books. In fiction, it’s common for love interests to last forever and for desires to seem set in stone once they appear; however, nothing is permanent in Flipped. In this middle grade novel, Wendelin Van Draanen tells the story of two kids whose opinions of each other change over the course of several years. The more they learn about each other the more topsy-turvy the story becomes as their attitudes flip in different directions. When one of my best friends realized I had never read Flipped as a kid she immediately urged me to read it. I’m so glad I took her recommendation!

Let me just start by saying that Van Draanen is a master at channeling her inner middle school voice. It’s so realistic that I felt as though I was reading something that could have been written by twelve-year-old me! It was really interesting to read about the same event from the different perspectives of Juli and Bryce and to see how their views of the world change over time. Flipped is yet another reminder of why I love character-driven stories.

Though Juli and Bryce are the protagonists of the novel, Van Draanen also focuses a lot on family dynamics in general. The story sets up a sort of compare-and-contrast situation between the Loski and Baker families, allowing the reader to notice telling similarities and differences. I love that there aren’t only middle schoolers and their parents in this book; rather, we get to know teenagers and grandparents as well. The relationship between the Juli’s dad and his brother is also really thought-provoking and eye-opening, though I don’t want to say too much and spoil an important detail of the story.  All in all, I think Van Draanen does a great job of showing how complicated, imperfect, and dynamic families are in real life. No family is perfect, not even in literature.

This book reflects many aspects of real life in a way that feels incredibly relatable. The story exposes a lot of things about human nature and daily life in general that we don’t always like to admit. For instance, the Loki and Baker families have lived across the street from each other for years yet they hardly know anything about one another. This disconnection leads to a striking question: How much do we really know about the people we interact with every day? How often do we take time to really get to know people rather than just gliding by with little more than surface level knowledge? Why don’t we communicate each other more genuinely about things that really matter rather than surviving on meaningless small talk? These questions are relevant to anyone at any point in their life, which is one of the many reasons I would argue that Flipped deserves to be read by people of all ages. The themes Van Draanen emphasizes touch on elements of our lives that we rarely stop and think about, making it even more important that we take the time to do so now.

Overall, I wish I had read Flipped when I was younger because I have a feeling that I would have absolutely loved it. How have I been missing out on this wonderful book all these years? If you haven’t read this book yet, please don’t make my same mistake: read it now!

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

What are your thoughts on Flipped? Have you seen the movie adaptation? Have any recommendations for other middle grade books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: The Woman in White and Gone Girl

What could a classic novel that was initially serialized in the nineteenth century and a recent bestseller that became a successful movie on the big screen possibly have in common? A lot, actually. Though Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl were published over a century apart, they are nevertheless linked in numerous ways.

Genre || The first similarity is probably the most obvious one; however, I think it’s still worth mentioning because it shows the great influence that The Woman in White has had on literature over time. These thrilling, suspenseful mystery novels have been popular with audiences for centuries, especially with their sensationalism and emphasis on domestic scandals.

Narration || Both of these books have multiple narrators, many of which are unreliable. Though most of the narrators of The Woman in White go out of their way to establish their credibility at the beginning of their accounts, we cannot rule out the fact that they may still be biased in their storytelling. As we read Gone Girl we learn to be on guard when Amy is narrating (her charming diary isn’t quite what it seems). Speaking of Amy’s diary, both of these novels incorporate written records as forms of narration. Not only does this add intrigue to the story and depth to the characters, but it also makes for a more interesting reading experience as different writing styles and voices are used for each narrator.

Duality || I love when books focus on dualities because the possibilities are endless. I don’t want to give away any important details of either book; however, I will say that both authors play with the idea of dual personalities, personas, identities, morals, and meanings. We see the struggle between the perceived and the actual; in other words, what others believe in contrast to what we truly are in actuality. Watching these duos unfold is always fascinating!

Explanations || Plots of mystery novels—especially great ones—can quickly become complicated and difficult to follow. Fortunately, both of these books clearly explain to the reader what has happened and how all of the details are interconnected in a cleverly crafted web. By the end of the novel you know exactly what occurred and why, which I always appreciate. Being left hanging at the end of a standalone can be incredibly frustrating!

Considering parallels like these between books can breathe new life into what we read. Though I didn’t love Gone Girl when I first read it, finding elements that it shares with The Woman in White has allowed me to appreciate it a bit more.

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Non-human Characters

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic highlights characters that share specific qualities. This could be literally anything under the sun: gender, race, location, beliefs, names, magical powers, etc. In no particular order, here are ten great books with non-human characters: 

What are your favorite books with non-human characters? What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

My First Week in Oxford | Holly Goes Abroad

Hello from across the pond! I can’t believe I’ve already been here for almost a week– it simultaneously feels like a month and just a single day. This past week has been spent settling into my room here, exploring Oxford, and learning the ropes of living in a new culture. From vocabulary and customs to navigating city streets, there’s so much to learn!

I’m not going to lie: the transition was rough at first. Everything is just different enough from the United States to make it frustrating and nerve-racking when you get off the bus in the middle of a foreign city. I live in a fairly rural town back home, which means that simply living in a city was an adjustment. And don’t even get me started on the time change– it still boggles my mind! It’s strange to wake up at seven o’clock here and realize that it’s only two in the morning back home. All of a sudden around 2 p.m. my phone starts buzzing because people are finally awake in the States. I can’t imagine what a time difference of more than five hours would feel like!

The food is also different here, which makes eating out with my nut allergy quite interesting. It’s essentially the same process as eating out back home, with the disadvantage that I’m not familiar with food brands and restaurants here. I’ve noticed that most restaurants have a broad statement on the bottom of the menus saying that they cannot guarantee that their food is not cross-contaminated with nuts; however, when I’ve spoken to servers they have assured me that I would be fine eating there. I’m not sure if they make that statement simply to cover them legally or if there is actually truth to it, but I haven’t had any problems so far! (Knock on wood!) Fortunately, my college here at Oxford has been extremely accommodating as far as dining is concerned

I was lucky enough to have my dad with me for the week to help me settle in, so we were able to do some major sightseeing around Oxford. This city is absolutely stunning. The architecture is incredible and the history behind every nook and cranny here is endlessly fascinating. The more I learn about the significance of my surroundings the more grateful I feel to have the opportunity to be here in the first place. To think that Oxford could become like a second home to me after living here for a year is surreal!

I love, love, love the academic vibe this city exudes. From the expansive Bodleian Library and Radcliffe Camera to the sprawling Blackwell’s Bookshop, everything here is a bookworm’s dream! I can’t wait to spend the next year exploring these bookish sights. I’m looking forward to exploring now that I know the area pretty well and can get around without a map.

What would this update be without mentioning the beautiful Mansfield College? It still hasn’t quite hit me that I’ll be studying here for the next year. The campus is gorgeous, the dining hall is like something straight out of the Harry Potter films, and the library is literally the library of my dreams. It’s only about a fifteen minute walk from my dorm, which is enough to make me feel like I’m getting out and doing something but not so much that it’s frustrating to walk back and forth all the time. I can’t wait for my tutorials to actually start!

I hope you’re all having a lovely day and that you’ve enjoyed this little study abroad update. I’m planning on doing one of these each week, so stay tuned for more! If you’d likely more timely updates on what I’m doing, check out my bookstagram @nutfreenerd.

Let me know in the comments section below what aspects of my study abroad adventures you’d be most interested in hearing about!

Yours,

HOLLY