Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Waited A Long Time to Read

Happy Tuesday!! Technically today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to share the longest books we’ve ever read; however, I already made a list of a similar topic at the beginning of this year (which you can read by clicking here). Instead, I’m going to share books I waited a long time to read (AKA children’s books that I read for the first time within the past few years). If only I had read these gems sooner!

What are some books that you waited a long time 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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Jurassic Park Book Tag

It’s no secret that I adore Jurassic Park. Not only is it my favorite movie, but it’s also one of my favorite books. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that such a thing exists as a Jurassic Park Book Tag. I wasn’t tagged in this at all, but Camillea Reads showed me this post from the Literary Phoenix and I knew I had to do it, too!

“Spared no expense.”  ~John Hammond || A series that seems to go on forever. 

The longest series I’ve read recently is A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It takes some dedication to wade through all thirteen books! Fortunately they’re quick and easy to get through, so they don’t take that long to read.

“Life finds a way.”  ~Ian Malcolm || A book with amazingly intricate world-building. 

I’m only halfway through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, but it’s already clear that the world-building here is incredible. I love the way the novel is formatted as stories told within this larger story. It’s easy to forget that all of this happens in such a short span of time.

“Hold on to your butts.”  ~Arnold || What’s the fastest you’ve read a book, and what book was it?

I read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith in one sitting in Heathrow Airport as I waited for my flight from London to Boston over winter break, which was pretty fast. I was stressed about traveling and definitely grateful for the distraction!

“Mr Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.”  ~Alan Grant || A book you refuse to read (or finish).

There are few books that I would flat-out refuse to ever read, so I can’t say that one even comes to mind.

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  ~Ian Malcolm || A book that left you going ‘Why?’

I love this question–so many books can apply! I’m going to go with How to be Both by Ali Smith, which I had to read for a tutorial last term. This book is so bizarre that you can’t help but wonder why she makes the writing decisions that she does.

“We need more teeth!”  ~Gray Mitchell || A book with no human MCs. 

Animal Farm by George Orwell. I’ve only ever read the Spanish translation of this book, but I love it all the same. It’s one of those books that haunts you long after you finish the final page. I’d love to read the original English sometime.

“The kids? This will give the parents nightmares.”  ~Simon Masrani || A book that terrified you.

Definitely The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve read this book twice now and both times it has made me think twice about the direction in which our society is currently heading. I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I can only imagine that it’s just as terrifying!

“Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”   ~Henry Wu || A book that changed your perceptions on an issue/culture, etc.

I’ve talked about this book a lot on this blog, but I adored reading Girl Up by Laura Bates. It’s such a hilarious, fun, empowering read!

What are your answers to these prompts? What do you think of mine? Do you like Jurassic Park, either the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names {For Plants}

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is supposed to be Best Character Names; however, as per usual I’ve decided to put my own spin on it. A few years ago I made a Top Ten Tuesday list of Characters I’d Name My Plants After, which was a blast. Today I’d like to do a similar list along those lines, so I’ll be sharing ten character names for plants. {Shout out to my plants back at home in the States– hope you’re still alive on my window sill!}

What are some of your favorite character names (for plants or otherwise)? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

13 Reasons to Read A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket

Since today is Friday the 13th, I’d thought I would interrupt our usual Feminist Fridays feature to talk about something a little more…. unlucky. Over the past few months I’ve been reading (via audio book) the entirety of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket for the very first time. When a friend learned that for some reason I never read this series when I was a kid, she immediately told me that I must read it ASAP. Fortunately, there’s nothing unfortunate about this series! In case you’re turned off by the rather strange title, here are 13 reasons why you should read A Series of Unfortunate Events: 

1. The writing is witty, clever, and funny. I’m a sucker for puns and cleverness in general, so Lemony Snicket’s hilarious yet smart writing style immediately made me adore this series.

2. There are SO MANY BOOKS. There’s nothing better than being captivated by a series that seems to go on forever. With thirteen books, it’s easy to feel as though this series will never end, yet it’s so fast-paced that it never felt like the plot was dragging or carrying on too long.

3. Each book is pretty short. I think the fact that each book is fairly short (usually between four to six hours of audio book, or 200-300 pages) helps keep the series from feeling slow, allowing it to be so long overall. You always feel like you’re making fast progress as you read, which is always a good feeling.

4. You never know what will happen next. The plots of these books are wild. Even when you think you’ve figured out how each book will end, Lemony Snicket throws a wrench in all of your carefully crafted predictions.

5. The audio books are fantastic. I’ve listened to every single one of these books on audio book and I loved every single second of it. Not only is the narrator (Tim Curry) incredible, but the extra sounds and music also make it feel as though you are right there alongside the Baudelaire children, desperately trying to outrun Count Olaf. This was the perfect way for me to read this series while abroad because I could listen while walking around Oxford to college and lecture, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning, etc. I would highly, highly recommend the audio books if you’re looking to read (or reread) this series!

6. It’s as entertaining for adults as for children. Lemony Snicket has managed to write a series that is aptly suited for both kids and adults without it feeling too simple or too mature for any age. While he does clearly state “messages” or “lessons” that he wishes children to take away, he does so in a way that is clever and also a great reminder for adults (sometimes adults need the reminder more than kids!).

7. So many funny repeated phrases. Quite a few phrases and ideas are repeated time and time again throughout this series, simultaneously forming a common thread between the books and creating what feel like little inside jokes between the reader and writer. I couldn’t help but smile to myself when any of these phrases reappeared.

8. Very, very bookish. Lemony Snicket clearly knows his intended audience (bookworms) well because there are so many aspects of this series that appeal to bibliophiles: Klaus’ love of reading, constant references to literature like T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” countless trips to libraries… the list goes on and on!

9. Each book is unique. Sometimes books in series tend to blur together because they seem so similar. Luckily, that’s not the case here! Each book is very distinct from the others thanks to creative plots, unusual settings, and a constant flood of new characters.

10. Character development. As engrossing as the plot of this series is, I think the star of the show is really the remarkable character development that occurs as the Violet, Klaus, and Sunny make their way through obstacle after obstacle.

11. Count Olaf. That’s right: I’m actually listing a villain here. I think Count Olaf is one of the most hilarious, creative, clever, sinister villains I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. He’s definitely a bad guy that you can’t help but love to hate!

12. Nostalgia. If you read this series as a kid, then you get the added benefit of lovely nostalgia. Nevertheless, I still loved the way this series reminded me of how I used to get lost in endless series of books as a kid, wandering the aisles of spacious libraries just like Violent, Klaus, and Sunny. Get ready for a (rather odd) trip down memory lane!

13. It gives you an binge-watch the fantastic Netflix series. I can’t recommend this Netflix series enough! The acting is incredible, the music is excellent, and the dreary world of the Baudelaire children is captured perfectly. Definitely check it out!

Hopefully I’ve convinced you to read this series if you haven’t already! Happy Friday the 13th!

What are your thoughts on A Series of Unfortunate Events? Do you have a specific favorite book out of the entire series? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring 2018 TBR

Happy Tuesday!! It’s that time of year again: bring out the spring 2018 TBR lists! Every season I set a TBR list and then completely forget about it by the time I have to create another one for the next season… when will this vicious cycle end? (Not anytime soon!) Since I now have my reading lists for next term to start working on I have quite a bit of reading to do over the next few weeks. Based on a mix of assigned reading and random books I’ve meaning to read for ages, here are ten books I’m hoping to read this spring: 

What books do you want to read this spring? What do you think about the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

FEBRUARY 2018 | Wrap-Up

Happy March! It’s that time once again to look back on the last month’s books, favorites, adventures, and highlights. I’m just going to ignore the fact that it’s March already and spring has basically already arrived in England which means we’re getting closer to summer… but enough looking ahead! Here’s what I was up to in February!

In February I read a total of 9 books:

  1. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
  2. The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
  3. The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
  4. Poetics by Aristotle
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  6. On Beauty by Zadie Smith
  7. From the Darkness Cometh the Light, or, Struggles for Freedom by Lucey Delaney
  8. Howards End by E.M. Forster
  9. The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket

I’m going to cheat and choose two favorites this month: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and On Beauty by Zadie Smith. I really enjoyed rereading The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time since high school, especially in a more academic context. Knowing the startling ending from the very beginning reframes the rest of the novel and makes so many more details stand out that  I hadn’t noticed when I read it the first time. At the same time, I was thrilled to have been assigned yet another Zadie Smith novel to read, this time one with an interesting connection to Howard’s End, an early twentieth century classic by E.M. Forster. Now I just want to read everything Zadie Smith has ever written…

+ MOVIE: Definitely Lady Bird (2017), which has been nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture. My friends and I decided to go to a movie theater here in Oxford recently for the first time and we saw this incredible film. It. Was. Brilliant. This movie is hilarious and sad and heart-breaking and heart-warming and thought-provoking all at the same time. I’m a sucker when it comes to movies about families (especially about mother-daughter relationships) so I was literally sobbing by the time the credits began to roll on the screen at the end. If you like coming-of-age stories, California, teen angst, great music, or feeling nostalgic, then this is the movie for you!

+ MUSIC: I’m the kind of person who listens to one song/album/playlist over and over and over again for about a week or two and then moves on to the next cycle of repetitive listening with a different song/album playlist. Over the summer I listened to Bleachers’ album Gone Now (2017) countless times as I commuted to work every day, and then when autumn rolled around I moved on to something different. However, recently I started listening to Bleachers again and realized how much I’ve missed it. If you’ve never listened to this album before, definitely give it a go!

+ FOOD: This month my friends and I have discovered something extraordinary: the art of the mug cake. Not only are mug cakes ridiculously easy and convenient to make, but they are also DELICIOUS. They’re perfect for when you want some dessert but don’t want to commit to actually making a full cake. There are so many recipes online for different kinds of mug cakes that the possibilities are endless!

+ PLACE: This past month I’ve really enjoyed spending time at the Oxford Union watching debates and speakers, as I discussed in a recent post. Recently my friend and I saw an interview with Michael Wolff, author of the recent bestseller Fire and Fury about his observations and insights of the Trump administration. It definitely made me want to read the book now!

February was definitely a month of plenty of ups and downs. From being sick with a small bout of the flu to celebrating the halfway point in my year at Oxford, this past month was filled with unexpected highs and lows. It’s a common Oxford belief that Hilary term is the least exciting term, which I would definitely agree with. There’s a sense of getting caught up in the daily grind of reading, researching, outlining, writing, attending lectures, defending arguments in tutorials… and then doing the exact same thing again and again for eight weeks. Fortunately, my friends and I found ways of breaking through the monotony by playing football games, going to the local movie theatre, attending formal dinners, having movie nights, and even taking a spontaneous trip to London.

February was also a month of a lot of planning: spring break trips, having friends over to visit, honors thesis ideas, classes for next semester, my flight home in June, etc. It’s strange trying to balance my life here with my life back home in the States, especially when trying to coordinate times to talk with people and taking the time difference into account. Part of me thinks I’ll never get completely used to this time difference!

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

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of February? 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

Monthly Wrap-Up

JANUARY 2018 | Wrap-Up

The first month of 2018 is officially complete! Resolutions have been made (and inevitably some have been dropped…), classes have resumed, and the busy bustling of everyday life is back in full swing once again. January through March or April tends to be my least favorite time of year because I don’t have any fun holidays to look forward to, but this year feels a bit different thanks to studying abroad. Here’s what I’ve been up to thus far in 2018:

In January I read a total of 18 books (!!!):

  1. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  2. Girl Up by Laura Bates
  3. The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis
  4. The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket
  5. The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
  6. Frederick Douglass by William S. McFeely
  7. What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
  8. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
  9. Lit Up by David Denby
  10. Not So Quiet by Helen Zenna Smith
  11. Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick
  12. Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
  13. The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
  14. The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
  15. Night by Elie Wiesel
  16. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  17. On Writing by Stephen King
  18. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

HOW DID I READ THIS MANY BOOKS?! I definitely expected to read nothing at all this month because I moved back to England to continue the rest of my year at Oxford. The constant stream of essays I write each week means that I hardly have time to read for fun… EXCEPT by listening to audio books. Audiobooks are the secret key to reading way more than I ever expected I’d be able to. I listen to them while walking to lecture and college, cooking, getting ready in the morning, doing laundry, etc. It’s the perfect way to read and be productive at the same time!

I read a lot of excellent books this month, but my favorite is the first book I read so far this year: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I read this novel for my English Literature 1910-Present tutorial and have immensely enjoyed studying it in terms of gender, its treatment of veterans in postwar British society, and its modernist writing style. It as also her 136th birthday this month!

This year I’m adding a new section to my monthly wrap-ups: favorites!

+ MOVIE: Definitely Les Misérables (2012). I had never seen the play or a movie adaptation before this month, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Let me just say that I was wrecked. I literally cried throughout a solid 70 percent of this film.

+ MUSIC: Is anyone surprised that I’ve been listening to the Les Mis soundtrack on repeat for the past two weeks? (Answer: You shouldn’t be.) My favorite songs include “ABC Cafe / Red & Black,” “On My Own,” “One Day More,” and “Paris / Look Down.” There are so many amazing songs to choose from!

+ FOOD: FALAFEL. Falafel is definitely more popular here in England than where I live back home, so I’ve enjoyed making falafel wraps for lunch and dinner. It’s so good with carrots and cucumbers and sweet potato…

+ PLACE: It’s been hard not to fall even more in love with Mansfield College, where I’m currently studying abroad in Oxford. It’s such a beautiful place and the people I’ve met here are lovely ❤

I did it! I made it back to Oxford all by myself! It was the first time I had made the trip from home to England alone, and it actually went surprisingly smoothly. Every new step I take as far as travel goes makes me a bit more confident about traveling even more in the future. The transition back to Oxford life was seamless and in many ways it feels as though I never even left. Work has picked back up again, reading has commenced, and my typing fingers have already written more essays than I would have written in an entire semester back at Wheaton.

Of course, there’s been plenty of time for fun as well. My friends and I have booked a trip to Spain for our spring break, visited several pubs, played a plethora of board games, and even attended a bop and other college events. I love Oxford because there’s a pervasive sense of routine here despite the seemingly unstructured tutorial system. Apart from tutorials and lectures, there is also a sort of structure to social events: bops in 0th and 8th week, champagne and chocolates on 2nd and 6th week, formal hall Wednesdays and Fridays, etc. It’s nice to be able to plan ahead for fun nights like those!

All in all, I’m really looking forward to what this term has in store!

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

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of January? 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

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Winter 2017 TBR

Happy Tuesday!! I think it’s now safe to say that winter is pretty much here, meaning that it’s time to start thinking about winter TBR lists. I’m awful at sticking to TBRs– especially since I have so much to read for course work already– but I would really love to read at least a few of the titles on my list while I’m home for winter break. I know for a fact that I definitely won’t be able to read all of these! Nevertheless, here are ten books that I would love to read this winter: 

What books are you hoping to read this winter? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY