MARCH 2017 | Wrap-Up

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Ah, March: the green month of transition from winter to spring in which we all experience a sort of underlying current of excited anticipation… no? Just me? March has always seemed like one of those “in-between” months to me, standing alongside May and November as the chaotic calm before the storm of the months to come (if chaos can even be considered placid?). Regardless of how you feel about March, it’s time to once again say goodbye with another monthly wrap-up.

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In March I read a total of 5 books:

  1. How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky
  2. As You Wish by Cary Elwes
  3. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North & Erica Henderson
  4. Bayou Folk and A Night in Acadie by Kate Chopin
  5. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I read some fantastic books this month, but heads above them all was How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky. This collection of personal essays was incredibly engaging, hilarious, and thought-provoking. One of the reasons I loved it so much is that it made me think about some of the quirky, unexpected experiences in my own life. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that there isn’t just one right path that everyone follows– for some, life can involve smuggling narwhal tusks across the border and getting in trouble for aggressively rapping at a teacher (true story– read the book!). Whether or not you’re a fan of Watsky’s music (which you should be), I highly recommend reading How to Ruin Everything. 

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Good old spring break– could you hear the relieved sighs of thousands of college students in mid-March? I spent my spring break reading, blogging, and reading sonnets for my Renaissance Poetry class (SO. MANY. SONNETS.). It was great to spend some time at home with family and friends, especially after enduring midterms the week before. Transitioning back to campus was a little difficult, but we’re all finally back in the swing of things now.

The highlight of this month was definitely when I went to New York City with some of my friends. We spent the day roaming around the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met), which I had never been to before this trip.

I’m not going to lied, I was fairly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of art that is in this museum, as well as the size of the museum itself. We spent hours meticulously combing through each exhibit, but even then I felt as though there was so much I was missing because there simply wasn’t enough time to look at everything. I loved seeing the painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware (which is also HUGE) as well as one of the paintings they have by Claude Monet (probably my favorite painter). We also had a great time posing next to a bunch of the statues on display, as you can probably tell from the picture to the left.

I love going to museums and definitely wish that I had the opportunity to visit them more frequently. Fortunately, I’ve been lucky enough this semester to be able to visit two museums, which is more than I typically get around to visiting in a single year. If you ever get the chance to visit the Met, I highly recommend going– it’s amazing!

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

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month (there were SO MANY!!):

How was your month of March? 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

“THE STORY OF AN HOUR” by Kate Chopin | Review

Published in Vogue in 1894, Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” tells of Louise Mallard’s entrance into and exit from sudden independence. After being told that her husband has passed away, Louise is overwhelmed by a rush of freedom that she has never felt before. Unfortunately, this liberty is wrested from her grasp when she discovers that her husband is alive after all. In an unexpected turn of events, Louise is the one who no longer has the will to go on and immediately dies as her husband walks through the door.

Recently I read this story in one of my English literature classes as part of an exploration of feminist criticism. The brilliance of “The Story of an Hour” lies in its simplicity, conciseness, and ability to surprise the reader in a quick turn of events at the very end. One can’t help but feel for Louise and her surprising plight: she’s been subservient for so long that she doesn’t know how to handle   such an abrupt eruption of independence. How quickly her thoughts change as she realizes what she has been suppressing all this time: the desire to live.

“She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.”

Then, just when she begins to come to terms with her new position in life, that very same independence is wrested from her grasp with the return of a looming patriarchal figure. Despite the fact that this story was written at the end of the nineteenth century, it nevertheless remains undeniably relevant today. Personally, I know that I have definitely felt the tension between my own determination to be a strong, independent woman and society’s clashing expectations of how I should act and behave. It’s frustrating and insulting and  confusing, but works like “The Story of an Hour” remind us why it’s so important to keep talking about and fighting for gender equality.

Just some deckled edges among the trees 🌲🌲

A post shared by HOLLY 📓 20 (@nutfreenerd) on

While I was heartbroken to witness Louise’s death on the page, part of me can’t help but believe that it had to occur. After all, what would Louise done had she lived? There was no place for single women in society during this time period– at least, no position that could compare in value or comfort to that of a married white woman. Though the death of Louise’s husband granted her emotional and domestic freedom, it simultaneously condemned her to societal captivity. Only in death could she truly become an autonomous woman.

Kate Chopin wrote dozens of stories, but this one is high on my list of favorites. It succinctly captures the stifling feeling that can sometimes accompany being a woman, not to mention demonstrates the frustration of constantly being at odds with one’s position in society. This story is an important text that should be further emphasized both within and beyond discussions of feminist criticism.

Have you ever read this story before? What are your thoughts on other works by Kate Chopin? Any recommendations for stories or books that I should read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Writers I Would Love to Meet

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is one that I could talk about forever. After all, who doesn’t want to meet all of their favorite authors? As per usual, I’ve done the difficult job of narrowing it down to just ten writers. In no particular order, they are:

What writers would you love to meet? What authors have you met? What do you think of the authors on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

How fast do I read? | Discussion

Usually when people realize how many books I read in an average week/month/year, their immediate response is to exclaim: “WOW. You must read really fast.” This remark has always struck me as rather odd because I don’t picture myself as a very fast reader; rather, I’ve always though that the reason I read so much is that I simply spend a lot of time reading. However, recently I watched a video by Ariel Bissett called “Can You Read Faster?” that made me ask myself: How fast do I actually read?

In this video, Ariel embarks on a mini challenge of sorts to increase how many words per minute (wpm) she reads, aided by assorted video tutorials giving tips on how to speed read. Though the prospect of speed reading sounds pretty enticing at times, I’ve always been a bit wary of its impact on how much someone comprehends while reading. Apparently there are ways of improving comprehension levels alongside increasing one’s wpm, which I’m sure involve a great deal of forcing yourself to focus solely on the words on the page rather than thinking of that delicious piece of cake waiting for you at the end of your reading assignment.

(Focus, Holly.)

Anyways, after watching Ariel’s video I decided to try a little experiment of my own. A quick Google search brought me to dozens of websites dedicated to calculating one’s reading speed. I tried the first three that popped up and ended up with 472513, and 507 wpm, which averages out to a solid 497 wpm.  This is obviously just a rough estimate, but considering that the average adult reads around 300 wpm and the average college student reads about 450 wpm, I would say this is a fairly accurate result. A little faster than the average college student, but nothing extraordinary.

So, am I a speed reader like people generally seem to assume that I am? My verdict: nope. Again, I think the reason I’m able to read so many books is that I simply spend more time reading on a regular basis than the average person normally would.

Perhaps I’ll try learning how to speed read in the future (summer break?) but for now I’m happy with my current reading speed. I feel like I strike a good balance between reading briskly enough to make quick progress and reading slowly enough to comprehend the maximum amount of information that I can. Still, there’s no denying that speed reading would be an incredibly valuable skill to have, especially as a college English major.

Do you consider yourself a slow, average, or fast reader? Have you ever tried speed reading before? How many wpm do you read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

School Book Tag

Today I’m here with the School Book Tag! (It might be Friday, but you can bet that I’ll be doing homework all weekend.) I’ve always been one of those students who loves school, despite the fact that I often complain about homework and actually didn’t like my high school very much. I loved school because I love learning, even though the system of doing so isn’t always effectively designed or executed.

Anyways, you can imagine how excited I was when I realized this book tag exists. Thanks so much to Jamie @ Book Pandamonium for tagging me!!

1. Math- Which book left your head spinning in circles?

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. Not only is this book complicated and a bit confusing, but the plot itself is cyclical in the way it loops back and around through history and the main character’s past. There are so many alternative story lines that it can be rather difficult to keep a tight hold on the actual truth– if an actual truth even exists in this novel. Nevertheless, I highly recommend it!

2. English- Which book do you think has beautiful written expression?

Because I’m a sucker for beautiful writing, there are countless books that I could highlight here. Recently I read George Watsky’s How to Ruin Everything and was taken aback by the writing style. Sometimes lyrical, sometimes punchy, this collection of essays carries the undeniable mark of an articulate spoken word artist and rapper.

3. Physics- Who is your favorite scientifically minded character?

Definitely mathematician Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. He’s smart, he’s funny, and his refreshing common sense is the only ray of light amidst many of the impulsive, money-hungry characters. (Besides, he’s played by Jeff Goldblum in the film– he gets instant bonus points for that!).

4. Chemistry- Who is your favorite literary couple?

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Taylor and Jonah from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta are my favorite literary couple ever. I feel like I mention this book in nearly every book tag I post, but I’m not apologizing! (It’s a sign that you should probably read it ASAP!)

5. Biology- Who is your favorite book character?

My favorite book character… ever?!?! I don’t know if I can pick a definitive single favorite character, but the first one that comes to mind is Jane from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Her independence, solitude, and determination are qualities that really resonate with me (I’m also quite jealous of her sense of humor and ability to come up with snappy comebacks on the spot).

6. French- What is your favorite foreign book?

Over the summer I read the English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez and unexpectedly fell in love with the ethereal writing, the sprawling narrative arc, and the endlessly cyclical nature of the plot.

7. Art- Have you ever judged a book by its cover, even if you weren’t meant to?!

Absolutely. For instance, I love the cover design of The Girls by Emma Cline, but the story itself really disappointed me. I think it had a lot of potential to be suspenseful, exciting, and eye-opening, but it simply fell flat and failed to dig below the surface of anything substantial.

8. History- What was the last historical book you read?

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins. This was actually a graduation gift from my high school AP United States History teacher and I finally got around to reading it over winter break. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for an engaging, comprehensive, and well-written account of the history of modern American women from a refreshing perspective.

9. Geography- Which literary destination would you really like to visit? 

Stepping away from the rather obvious answers (Hogwarts! The Shire!), I’m going to say Cabeswater from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. This enchanting and mysterious setting has never failed to set my imagination into overdrive.

10. Drama- What’s a book that you think has a lot of over-dramatic hype?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Though I did enjoy this book, I don’t quite feel as though it warranted the explosion of praise that surrounded it at the peak of its popularity. It’s suspenseful and has some surprising twists, but I don’t think it’s anything extraordinary. #sorrynotsorry

Thanks again to Jamie for tagging me!

What do you think of the books that I’ve mentioned? What are your answers to these questions? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur | Review

In the style of Rupi Kaur herself, I’ll do my best to make my review of Milk and Honey simple, short, and direct. Here are five reasons why this poetry collection is remarkable:

  • PERSONAL, YET RELATABLE. It’s clear that many of these poems contain specific details from past relationships and personal experiences; however, she discusses topics and feelings that nearly everyone can connect to on some level. I was taken aback by how much I could relate with some poems because she discusses feelings and thoughts that we don’t often share with others, let alone put down on paper to be read by unfamiliar eyes.
  • RELEVANCE. The themes explored in this collection are incredibly important for everyone to be learning more about and discussing in their everyday lives. From self-worth and identity to race and feminism, these topics are ones that deserve ample time in the limelight.
  • SIMPLICITY. Many of the poems in this collection are only a handful of lines long, yet the language used is so carefully chosen that it carries a strikingly powerful weight. I made note of numerous poems that resonated with me as I read this collection for the first time, but the one poem I keep going back to contains only two lines:

    “i am a museum full of art
    but you had your eyes shut”

  • RAW EMOTION. You can feel the emotion seeping off of the pages into your hands as you read Rupi’s words. There is no question that this poetry is transcribed directly from the heart.
  • DESIGN. I’d be amiss if I didn’t at least briefly mention the gorgeous design of this book. I love everything about it: the black and white coloring, sketches sprinkled throughout the pages, and the way it seems to embrace empty space around text.

I bought a copy of Milk and Honey on a whim because I had heard a lot of great things about it. What I didn’t realize was that Rupi’s words would resonate so deeply with me and linger on in my mind long after I had read them. These poems are for anyone and everyone, regardless of whether or not you’ve read or enjoyed poetry in the past. Rupi Kaur has written poetry for human nature.

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

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

Have you read Milk and Honey? What are your thoughts on it? Have any poetry recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors of Short Stories

Happy Tuesday!! Since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme is one that I’ve already done recently, I decided to go with a bit of different twist. Today I’ll be sharing ten of my favorite authors who have written excellent short stories. I don’t read short stories very often– mostly just when I’m assigned to read them for courses– but some short stories and collections in particular have really stuck out to me over time. In no particular order, here are ten authors whose short stories are definitely worth reading:

What authors are your favorite short story writers? What are some of your favorite short stories? What do you think of the authors on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Do we prioritize “shareable” reading? | Discussion

As you can probably tell from some of my previous discussion posts, I get a lot of my inspiration from Rosianna Halse Rojas, one of my favorite Youtubers. Early in March she posted a video called “The Currency of Sharing” in which she discusses our frequent desire to share everything we do online. Even more interestingly, she talks about how sometimes we may or may not do things based on whether or not they can be shared. The example she uses is going for a walk. Normally she would use it as an excuse to take a selfie outside, showcasing that she was doing something more adventurous than her average day job; however, on this particular day she decides to take a walk simply for the sake of being outside and getting some exercise.

Her video made me think about our desire to share what we read. This desire is incredibly evident when looking at things like Goodreads and #bookstagram (and even blogs like the one you’re reading right now). Us bibliophiles are constantly sharing what we read with others through quick Twitter updates, Goodreads statuses, longer reviews, etc. I’ve been blogging and using these sites for so long that it’s hard to remember what it was like to not keep others in the loop with what I’m reading.

Sharing what we read certainly has many benefits: it helps build book-loving communities, spreads awareness of great books, and can connect people with new friends, ideas, and perspectives. However, one can’t help but wonder if it also influences and sets limitations on what we read. For example, I’ve found that it’s surprisingly difficult to share the fact that I’ve read certain short stories and poems. There’s no Goodreads entry for individual Shakespeare sonnets or short stories by Kate Chopin.

Does this stop me from reading works that aren’t novels? Do I prioritize “shareable” reading? The unfortunate answer is: yes, occasionally.

Sometimes I feel trapped by the need to write weekly book reviews for my blog, convinced that I can only write reviews of full length novels instead of particular poems and stories. Of course, there’s nothing actually stopping me from reviewing or discussing these shorter works, but something about it just feels strange. Nontraditional. Different. It’s a mindset I hope to change in the near future, starting with a greater variety of reviews and bookish discussions.

What are your thoughts on the way we share what we read? Do you prioritize “shareable” reading? Do you review shorter works like poems and stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so please let me know what you think in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

St. Patrick’s Day {the bookish way}

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! I’m not Irish in the slightest, but I’m a firm believer that holidays are meant to be celebrated by anyone and everyone. When I was younger I always looked forward to going to school dressed in green from head to toe and seeing what the “leprechaun” would leave me in my shoes during the night.

In honor of this special occasion, I thought it would be fun to share some pretty pictures of books with green covers. Finding a decent number of green books on my bookshelves was actually more difficult than I initially expected it to be (apparently I own many more blue books than green!) but in the end I managed to round up a fair amount.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling is probably my favorite book of the entire series. I love how dark and mysterious it is as well as how much information we learn about Tom Riddle, Dumbledore, and the inner workings of Voldemort lore in general. For me, it was when the driving plot behind the series really clicked into place.

To be honest, I don’t even know why I’ve kept my copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne for this long because I really wasn’t impressed by the story in the slightest. I read it years ago but distinctly remember thinking that the story was ridiculously illogical at times. I hated the awkward, shifting pacing of the plot and the ending was disappointingly lackluster. But just look at the gorgeous green cover!

Nothing screams “SUMMER!” to me quite like The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg, which I excitedly bought at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was in third grade. I’ve reread it countless times since then, taking something new away from the story with each revisit. Back when I was ten years old it was simply a summer camp story to me; now that I’m twice that age, I tend to notice the way the narrative arcs through time in subtle patterns. And there’s no denying that Konigsburg’s witty sense of humor gets better and better with each reread.

Growth and Structure of the English Language by Otto Jespersen was the textbook I used for the Evolution of English class I took last semester. It was a tad drier than I would have liked, but you’d be hard pressed to find a more informative, concise volume. (Besides, it has such a strikingly simple design.)

I read the English translation of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez over the summer and unexpectedly fell in love with it. The colorful green design of this edition perfectly suits the narrative’s basis on nature, passion, and the cyclical aspect of life.

Last but not least, O Pioneers! is the second novel I’ve read by Willa Cather. I decided to read it after I felt the void of having finished Cather’s brilliant book My Ántonia. Another one of her novels is currently eyeing me from my bookshelf as I write this and I can’t wait to finally get around to reading it soon.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into my meager collection of green books. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

What are your favorite books that are green? Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline | Review

26893819According to my own diagnosis, The Girls by Emma Cline has suffered from a serious hype monster attack.

Coupled with an eye-catching cover that immediately draws you in, the plethora of reviews praising this novel led me to believe that it would not disappoint. The lauding BLANKS on the back cover from BLANK, BLANK, and BLANK assured me that the story within these pages would both entertain and astonish. Eager for a great reading experience, I excitedly buckled myself in for a page-turning ride.

My thoughts about The Girls can basically be summed up in three words: Slow. Anticlimactic. Underwhelming.

The first disappointment I encountered while reading this book was the slow pace of the plot. It took about one hundred pages for Evie, the fourteen-year-old protagonist, to even begin to associate with Suzanne, Russell, and the ranch. Sometimes this lengthy world-building is beneficial to the story because it can add depth to the characters; however, in this case I felt as though I still hardly knew Evie by the time a hundred pages had gone by. Sure, I knew about her mom’s dating life and her father’s girlfriend and Evie’s infatuation with her best friend Connie’s older brother. Yet it was difficult to really discern anything about Evie herself after wading through a sea of complaints, ridiculous beauty tips, and her efforts to try to appear older and more mature in front of everyone she came across. Perhaps the mind-boggling shallowness of Evie’s character was deliberate, a way to show her naivety as a young teenager. If that is the case, then I think she should have undergone more character development throughout the novel instead of remaining disappointingly the same. By the end of the novel it appeared as though Evie had hardly changed after the events at the ranch, apart from the obvious physical and sexual abuse she experiences.

One of the most frustrating parts of the novel was the ending due to the fact that Evie wasn’t even involved with any of the climactic events. The ending felt incredibly unattached and distant from the rest of the story, almost as though it was the topic of an entirely separate novel. This is where the second part of my three-word description comes into play: the ending was simply anticlimactic, failing to make me gasp in surprise or stare at the page in shocked bewilderment. The final events could mostly be predicted early on in the novel, leaving me feeling like I was missing an additional layer to the story. I couldn’t help thinking that there should have been more, that there had to have been more because this wasn’t the exciting and page-turning book that I had been promised.

This leads me to the third word I would use to describe this novel: underwhelming. The combination of an anticlimactic ending, an underdeveloped protagonist, and a painfully slow pace is undoubtedly a recipe for a disappointing story. Though I likely would have still felt disappointed had I not possessed such high expectations beforehand, the immense amount of hype surrounding The Girls certainly did not do the novel any favors.

For me, perhaps the only redeeming aspect of The Girls is Emma Cline’s ability to get into the heads of both the perpetrator and the victims of the abuse. Leaving one’s normal life behind to follow a dangerous, toxic man like Russell around is not a logical decision; however, Cline effectively shows the reader how Russell deliberately manipulates these girls into staying with him on the ranch. He takes advantage of their insecurities and doubts and reassures them that his way of life is the solution to their problems. He makes them feel wanted in a way that Evie certainly doesn’t feel with her mom or dad, making living at the ranch look like an improvement from regular life back home. This twisted way of thinking helps the reader understand why Evie returns to the ranch time and time again as though drawn to it by a sort of emotional magnetic force.

Despite my rather scathing remarks about The Girls, I really do believe that it had the potential to be a great novel if only it had been executed better. The remedy seems twofold: adding more depth and a faster pace, thereby creating a story that is both exciting and thought-provoking at the same time. Unfortunately, Emma Cline has missed the mark with this novel.

My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Probably not, unless they were looking for a book about this specific topic.

Have you ever read this book before? What are your thoughts on it? Did you find it disappointing or did you agree with the positive buzz surrounding it? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY