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20 Questions Book Tag | 2

Who doesn’t love a good game of Twenty Questions? Fortunately, the 20 Questions Book Tag is a lot more interesting than just “yes” or “no” answers. Thanks so much to Ash and Lo @ Windowsill Books for tagging me!

1. HOW MANY BOOKS IS TOO MANY BOOKS IN A BOOK SERIES?

It definitely depends on the series itself, but I think around four books is generally a good rule of thumb. For instance, I think the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater works really well as four books, but more than that would make the series feel like it was dragging on forever. When I was younger I used to love reading really long series, but lately I’ve been appreciating the closure of a good standalone.

2. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CLIFFHANGERS?

I love cliffhangers in the middle of series or at the end of chapters when you know that your questions will soon be answered; however, I dislike them at the end of series or books when there are countless important questions left unsolved.

3. HARDBACK OR PAPERBACK?

100 percent paperback! I hate how expensive, heavy, and awkward to read hardcover books can be. When given the choice, I will always choose paperback.

4. FAVORITE BOOK?

Ah yes, the most impossible question. Usually my answer to this horrid inquiry is The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien because it holds such a nostalgic place in my heart. It’s one that I never get tired of rereading!

5. LEAST FAVORITE BOOK?

Another really difficult question! It takes a lot for me to really hate a book, but I think I’m going to have to go with Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. I started reading it several years ago and disliked it so much that I couldn’t even finish it!

6. LOVE TRIANGLES, YES OR NO?

NO. NO. NO.

7. THE MOST RECENT BOOK YOU JUST COULDN’T FINISH?

Last term I tried listening to the audio book of Bloodlines by Richelle Mead because one of my friends read this series when she was younger and said she was obsessed with it back then. The protagonist was so annoying that I literally could not bring myself to listen to the last few hours of it.

8. A BOOK YOU’RE CURRENTLY READING?

Grimm Tales: For Young and Old by Philip Pullman. I started reading this while traveling during my spring break and haven’t found the time to finish it now that term has started up again in Oxford. Maybe I’ll finally finish it on my eight-hour flight home? So far I’m really enjoying it!

9. LAST BOOK YOU RECOMMENDED TO SOMEONE?

Lately I’ve been telling so many people to read anything and everything by Zadie Smith and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I feel like these two writers are on a lot of TBR lists out there, but are not often prioritized. They’re such brilliant writers!

10. OLDEST BOOK YOU’VE READ? *PUBLICATION DATE*

According to Goodreads, the oldest book I’ve read is the Epic of Gilgamesh.

11. NEWEST BOOK YOU’VE READ? *PUBLICATION DATE*

It’s hard to tell on Goodreads what the most recently published book I’ve read is, so I’m just going to throw Turtles All the Way Down by John Green out there since it was just published on October 10, 2017.

12. FAVORITE AUTHOR?

Since I have many favorite authors and I tend to be quite indecisive in general, here are a bunch of authors that I love: John Green, J.R.R. Tolkien, Roald Dahl, William Faulkner, Willa Cather, E.L. Konigsburg, Frederick Douglass….the list goes on and on!

13. BUYING BOOKS OR BORROWING BOOKS?

I try to borrow books from libraries and fellow bookworms as much as possible because it’s less wasteful and definitely cheaper; however, there’s nothing quite like a great bookshop haul!

14. A BOOK YOU DISLIKE THAT EVERYONE ELSE SEEMS TO LOVE?

I was so excited to read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir because so many people highly recommended it; however, I think the hype monster made my expectations a bit too high and I ended up being rather disappointed with it.

15. BOOKMARKS OR DOG-EARS?

Definitely bookmarks! Not only are they fun to collect, but they’re so much more easy to use than constantly having to fold down pages.

16. A BOOK YOU CAN ALWAYS REREAD?

Any Lord of the Rings book, Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg… I just LOVE rereading books in general!!

17. CAN YOU READ WHILE HEARING MUSIC?

Yes! The only thing that really distracts me from reading is when I can distinctly hear a single conversation nearby.

18. ONE POV OR MULTIPLE POV’S?

It really depends on the novel, but generally I think books with multiple perspectives or story lines are really interesting.

19. DO YOU READ A BOOK IN ONE SITTING OR OVER MULTIPLE DAYS?

Once again, it depends on the book. Usually I end up reading books for fun over the course of multiple days and books for school in one sitting (so much required reading, so little time!).

20. A BOOK YOU’VE READ BECAUSE OF THE COVER?

SO. MANY. I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but some recent cover-buys for me were a few of the Penguin Modern editions that recently came out. They’re just so pretty!

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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How I Choose My Books Tag

When I’m not buried under mountains of required reading for coursework, I often ask myself an important question: How do I choose my books? Fortunately, that’s the very same question that this tag attempts to answer! I had never heard to this tag before I was tagged in it, so I’m really excited to take a look at these questions. Thanks so much to Krisha @ Bookathon for tagging me!!

Find a book on your shelves or e-reader with a blue cover. What made you want to pick up this book?

Since I’m currently studying abroad and don’t have access to my actual bookshelves at home, the closest I could come to a blue book is the turquoise Penguin Modern edition of Wendell Berry’s “Why I Am Not Going to Buy A Computer.” I chose this book not only because the design is brilliant but also because Ariel Bissett (one of my favorite booktubers) HIGHLY recommended it.

Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy, but did. Why did you read it in the first place? 

This situation happened to me when I tackled War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy last summer. It’s a novel that was always on my list of books that “I Should Probably Read At Some Point Because They’re Really Well Known and Are Referenced In A Lot of Other Things.” However, I finally decided to read it last summer because Laura @ Reading in Bed was hosting a read-a-long and I couldn’t resist.

Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?

Once again using my limited shelves, I picked up Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I first discovered this book from major blogging hype and purchased a copy so long ago. However, I just got around to read it recently because it’s on my required reading list for Postcolonial Literature this term. Everything comes full circle eventually!

Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

Whenever I think about books people have recommended me over the years, the first one that usually comes to mind is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The librarian at my high school recommended this to me when I was a senior and I LOVED it. Now I’m the one always recommending this brilliant novel to people! I’m so glad I decided to follow her suggestion!

Pick a book that you discovered through Youtube/book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

I could list so many books in this answer, but I think I’m going to go with An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. For a while this book was everywhere in the blogosphere, so I decided to give it a try; however, it definitely didn’t live up to my expectations. If you want to read more about why I was disappointed with it, you can check out my book review here. 

Find a book on your shelves or e-reader with a one word title. What drew you to this book?

Since I’ve already used Americanah, I’m going to have to go with Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf because it’s the closest I can get to one word with the books I currently have on my limited shelf. While I was required to read this for two tutorials, I was also drawn to it because the entire novel takes place in a single day. I was so intrigued!

What book did you discover through a film/ TV adaptation?

Years ago I watched The Help movie with my family one night and immediately went to the library to check out the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett. Both forms of telling this story are amazing and I would highly recommend them in either order. I think this is definitely a case where the book and the movie are equally as well done.

Think of your all-time favourite book/s. When did you read these and why did you pick them in the first place?

For this question I have to go with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien I first read this series going into sixth grade (for a book project!), a time in my life when I was a very awkward kid and needed a respite from middle school awkwardness. These books will always hold a special place in my heart. ❤

  • YOU!!!

 

These questions were surprisingly difficult to answer! Thanks again to Krisha for tagging me ❤

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

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Liked Characters in Disliked Books?

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is one that I’ve had to think about quite a bit. After scrolling through my Goodreads shelves and pondering all of the books I’ve read recently, I realized that I just couldn’t make a list of ten books I disliked with characters that I did like. I love reading books that are character-driven rather than plot-driven, which means that the reason I usually dislike a book is because I dislike the characters it contains. Because of this connection between liking a book and liking its characters, I thought I’d put a little twist on this week’s topic. Instead, I’ll be sharing ten books I disliked because of the characters. 

What are some characters you’ve liked in books that you otherwise could do without? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Tags

What Cats Do | Book Tag

Cats are great. If I wasn’t allergic to cats you can bet that I would be getting one as soon as I lived somewhere without dogs that would torment it. Cats are independent, their purrs are adorable, and they have the prettiest eyes. Knowing my affection for cats, you can imagine how excited I was when I discovered the existence of the What Cats Do Book Tag. This tag was created by Kate @meltingpotsandothercalamitiesThanks so much to Zuky @ Book Bum for tagging me!!

Purr: As cats do this when they’re happy or relaxed, what is the book that makes you happiest or relaxed?

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I reread this book almost every summer because it’s such a beautifully told story. I feel like I mention it in nearly every tag I do, but it honestly deserves all the recognition it can get!

Sleep: What is a book that put you to sleep or was just boring?

Last semester I took a course on Renaissance poetry and I’m looking forward to (hopefully) never having to do that again. Not only am I not really interested in that time period, but I just couldn’t take how sexist and repetitive the majority of those sonnets are.

Twitch while dreaming: Have you ever dreamt of a book you read?

YES. I vividly remember dreaming of Hogwarts and adventures with Harry and his friends when I first started reading and watching Harry Potter. I think it had something to do with getting Hedwig back after Draco Malfoy had stolen her…

Seems to play nice…until the claws are out!:  Which book had the biggest plot twist(s)?

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The end of this book literally made my jaw drop. I’ve been saying this for EONS, but I can’t wait to continue on with this series!

Cuddles: Which book character would you give a hug to?

Stanley Yelnats from Holes by Louis Sachar. I just feel like this kiddo could use a hug after everything he’s been through. Plus, he has one of the best names ever and I’m so jealous.

Catnip: What’s a book that made you have warm and fuzzy feels?

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling. I love Mindy’s books because they’re honest, hilarious, and always leave me with a new perspective. (Also, shout out to the adorable chapter about her friendship with B.J. Novak!)

Cat breeds: Your favorite book(s)?

One of my favorite books is My Ántonia by Willa Cather (whose grave site I recently visited!). Cather’s writing is beautiful and this story dives into some really interesting ideas about travel, nostalgia, and how we develop our own identities.

Getting the cat: How did you find your favorite book(s)?

In the case of My Ántonia, I was assigned to read it for a Cultural Diversity in American Literature class I took during my second semester of my freshman year of college. I LOVED that class, both because of the professor and the subject matter.

Being in places they shouldn’t: Least favorite cliché?

I think one of the most cliche tropes in books is the love triangle. I can’t even explain how much I dislike love triangles in any form, especially when they’re either the entire basis for the plot or completely unnecessary aspects of the plot. (Unfortunately, An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a great example of this latter point.)

The good old cardboard box: Most underrated book series?

I LOVED the Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch when I was younger, but I only know a few other people who have read it. This series is incredibly clever, creative, and suspenseful!!

Thanks again to Zuky for tagging me! This was such a fun tag! It makes me want to get a cat so badly….

What are your answers to these questions? Do you have a cat? Are you more of a cat person or a dog person (or both!)? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir | Review

Months ago I won a copy of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir in an online giveaway. After enduring its impatient glare from my bookshelf for as long as I could, I finally picked it up and gave it the attention that all of the buzz surrounding it suggests it deserves. Unfortunately, this fast-paced fantasy novel left me with more conflicted feelings than I had initially anticipated. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t live up to the great expectations that had built up around it– a classic case of a hype monster attack.

What Worked for Me:

+ Significance of the title. All this time I’ve been curious as to what the significance of the title is; fortunately, this becomes obviously clear as the story unfolds and the title is mentioned word for word several times in the novel. (If you’re curious like I was, it refers to the fact that both Elias and Laia are like burning embers in cool ashes, meaning that they have the power to stir things up around them). As a sucker for clever metaphors and double meanings like this, I really enjoyed coming across the literal mentions of the title as applied to both of the main characters.

+ Two narrators. I was pleasantly surprised to find that An Ember in the Ashes is written with chapters alternating between the first person perspectives of Elias and Laia, the two main characters. Using alternating narrators can sometimes be risky, depending on how well they’re executed by the author. Fortunately, Tahir manages to carefully balance the two perspectives in a way that makes the novel more suspenseful and adds depth to Elias and Laia’s “worlds.”

+ Fast-paced, suspenseful plot. Despite my lukewarm feelings about the novel as a whole, I nevertheless managed to fly through it in a single weekend.  Coupled with Tahir’s writing style– short, choppy sentences that are easy to read and move quickly– the action-packed plot made this a captivating page-turner. Usually I only fly threw books that I really love, so reading this one so quickly was a strange experience. All I cared about was knowing how it was going to end. (To be honest, part of me also probably just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.)

What Didn’t Work for Me:

– Dual love triangles. One love triangle is usually bad enough– but two? Not only were they completely unnecessary, but they take away from the seriousness of the overall plot. It was jarring to read a passage about Elias struggling with his inner conflict about being a trained killer right next to a passage about his sudden infatuation with Laia. The biggest problem I have with these love triangles is that at some point they almost began to supersede the overarching plot of the novel; in other words, the romance became the driving motivation behind the plot. I was so disappointed when I noticed this was happening because the initial main plot had great potential to be really interesting if it wasn’t being overshadowed and shoved aside in favor of forced romance.

– Insta-love between Elias and Laia. Speaking of forced romance, the insta-love between Elias and Laia is one of the worst I’ve ever read. Their relationship is basically solely founded on his physical attraction to her. The feeling that this relationship is “forced” is further exacerbated by the presence of the two love triangles because the pairings of Elias/Helene and Laia/Keenan make much more sense (especially Elias/Helene because they have such good chemistry, are best friends, have known each other for years, they actually KNOW each other on a personal level, etc.).

– Problematic objectification of female characters. Physical attractiveness seems the most important quality of women in this novel, particularly regarding Laia’s relationship with Elias. Moreover, rape is offhandedly mentioned several times in this novel and it almost seems as though the threat of sexual assault is used as a device to forward the plot. Was Tahir planning on addressing how problematic that is?

Overall, what promised to be a fantastic fantasy story left me with conflicted feelings and the sour taste of disappointment. Though An Ember in the Ashes is certainly a gripping read, its fast pace could not make up for the many problems that plague this text.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: To be honest, probably not. There are so many fantastic books out there that I would not want someone to waste their time on something that is only meh.

What are your thoughts on this novel? Have you read the sequel? How do you deal with conflicted feelings and disappointment about hyped books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

MAY 2017 | Wrap-Up

What a whirlwind May has been! From final exams and moving back home at the end of the semester to starting work again, it feels as though things have been in a constant state of change. Now that May is over and done I feel like everything is finally settling down into a regular routine again, which is such a relief.

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In May I read a total of 8 books:

  1. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 4 by Ryan North & Erica Henderson
  2. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  3. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  4. The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather
  5. Sartoris by William Faulkner
  6. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  7. Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  8. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak

Whoa… May is the best reading month I’ve had in a long time. (The end of the semester works wonders for extra free time!) Because I read so many fantastic books actually going to pick two favorite books of the month: The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather and Sartoris by William Faulkner. I love them both for different reasons, but they both gave me a similar feeling of OH MY GOODNESS I MUST TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK RIGHT NOW. (Sorry, mom, for rambling about the brilliance of Cather and Faulkner for far too long.)

It feels so great to be back reading and reviewing again!

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May was a huge transition month for me. Not only did I move off of my college campus to go back home for the summer, but I also started working and realized that I’m now halfway through college. (Eeek!) It feels strange to know that I have nearly four months of summer break ahead of me before school starts again in September. Such a long expanse of time seems like it will stretch on forever right now, but I have a feeling that it will fly by in no time.

Now that I’m back home I’ve been taking advantage of my newfound free time to read and blog as much as possible. I’ve also had more time to take #bookstagram photos with my new camera, which is really exciting.

On a different note, lately I’ve been watching the original Twin Peaks TV show and I’m obsessed. I only have around ten episodes left until I finish the series, which I’m hoping to do in the next week or so. You have no idea how hard I’ve tried to avoid spoilers online– I hate having endings ruined accidentally!

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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:

How was your month of May? 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