Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Books Released in the Last 10 Years

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday theme (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our favorite books released in the last 10 years. As someone who tends to read older books and isn’t great at staying on top of new releases, I’m pretty intrigued to see how this list will go. I decided to make this list based on which books came out in which year, not on the year that I read them.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Throwback to those first years of me being a Nerdfighter! I’ve always marveled at how these two authors were able to seamlessly write this novel of intertwining stories chapter by chapter. This book is hilarious and heart-wrenching and thought-provoking all at the same time, in Green and Levithan’s usual way. Different from many YA books that I’ve read!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I remember reading this book around Christmastime one year and thinking: Wow, what perfect timing! This book is mysterious and magical and will leave you wanting more of the fantastical world Morgenstern has created. If you’re looking for romance, adventure, suspense, and beautiful writing, then this is definitely the book for you!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

How could this not have been my favorite book of 2012? I was so excited for it to be released that I pre-ordered a signed first edition copy–and I rarely pre-order anything! I loved how John Green balanced tough topics with heartfelt, thought-provoking discussions of important life questions and funny, memorable scenes that I still think about from time to time.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This little book is eerie, suspenseful, and told like a twisted fairy tale. Definitely a great read for a spooky fall day. I love Neil Gaiman’s lyrical writing in general, but this novel in particular has really stood out to me even all these years later. Whether or not you’re a Gaiman fan already, you will be after reading this!

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This beautiful, heart-wrenching, emotional historical fiction novel blew me away when I read it as a senior in high school–so much so that I went out and bought a copy just to have it on my shelf, even though I had borrowed it from the library. If that’s not a testament to how much I enjoyed this book, then I don’t know what is!

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I remember this book being everywhere in the online book community for the longest time. It took me forever to finally get around to reading it, but when I did I could totally see what all the hype was about. The idea of so many different Londons is really interesting!

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

This series is just unlike any other that I have read! I really liked how it was 4 books instead of the usual three or longer–I feel like you rarely see quartets around. The entire premise is so creative and unique, and I couldn’t get enough of the idea of magical ley lines and forests snaking their way through a rural town.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Again, I have never read a book like this one. Written entirely in quotes that blend fact and fiction, Lincoln in the Bardo is a true masterpiece. Not only did this novel win the Man Booker Prize, but it is also Saunders’ first full length novel–wild! Definitely makes me want to read some of his short stories.

When the Curtain Falls by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I’ve been a fan of Carrie for years (both her videos on Youtube and her books), and I can confidently say that this is her best novel yet. I feel like Carrie really found her groove in writing this book because the setting, characters, and story all worked together so wonderfully. As with nearly all of Carrie’s books, I read this one in one sitting!

Unfortunately I haven’t read any books released in 2019 yet. Between finishing up the semester, writing my honors thesis, graduating from college, and dealing with some personal stuff that’s been happening lately, I just haven’t had any time to delve into any new releases. I’m really looking forward to finally having time to visit the library again and check out some new books. With that being said, let me know what 2019 releases you recommend!

What are your favorite releases of the past decade? What do you think of the books I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Books

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater | Review

The Raven King by Maggie StiefvaterThe time has finally come for me to say goodbye to Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. What a wild, magical, dark, emotional, and wonderful journey it has been! Since first reading The Raven Boys years ago I have eagerly devoured The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blueand now The Raven King, the finally installment in this quartet. Though I had certainly enjoyed some of Stiefvater’s work prior to reading the Raven Cycle, this series showed me that sh is a truly talented writer and storyteller. While I’m sad to be leaving the fantastic world of Cabeswater, 300 Fox Way, and Henrietta, I know it won’t be the last time my eyes flit across a page written by Stiefvater.

*** This review contains spoilers. Continue reading at the “Overall” and “Rating” sections!***

For me, the spotlight in this series has always shined on the characters. The magical elements are unique and fascinating and the writing is absolutely gorgeous, but the characters are what really brings this story to life. There are a lot of different players in this magical game, but for now I’m only going to focus on the main stars: Blue, Adam, Ronan, and Gansey.

Let’s start with Blue, the strong, independent, intelligent, funny, feminist female protagonist. Blue is the heroine we should all aspire to be, the determined girl who will stand up not only for her friends but for herself as well. She also adds an important element to the story: family dynamics, specifically in a household of mostly women. 300 Fox Way offers a unique perspective on countless topics, including gender roles. The women in Blue’s household are all providers in some way, whether that be with money earned from psychic work or with invaluable knowledge of unusual things. Blue can be a dominating characters both within and beyond the domestic sphere, proving her defiance of stereotypes. She refuses to be categorized or boxed in, providing yet another reason why Blue is to be admired.

Of course, one cannot mention Blue without also discussing her loyal group of friends. Just as Blue breaks through the stereotypes of her gender, so does Adam with the stigmas of his lower economic class. Though he inhabits a privileged academic world, Adam’s home life is anything but. Nevertheless, Adam is able to face his experiences of abuse and financial hardship direct, showing remarkable character development over the course of the series. Adam has always struck me as the most “real” character of the bunch, for he deals with issues that people struggle with every day. Alongside the drama of the main plot, Adam must also work several jobs while simultaneously focusing on his studies. He is a grounding presence for Ronan and Gansey, both of whom live much more privileged lives. I actually think Adam might be my favorite character; his authenticity, strong sense of conscience, and incredible dedication are hard to beat.

However, I must say that Ronan is a close second. I didn’t really like Ronan at the beginning of the series– he was much too harsh, brutal, and raw for me– but I now consider him to be one of my favorite characters. Such is the magic of Stiefvater’s writing: she can uncover the humanity in even the cruelest villain. The more I learned about Ronan’s family, past, and dreaming ability, the more difficult it became for me to dislike him. Beneath that tough exterior and vulgar mouth is actually a loyal, emotional, and caring individual. He cares deeply about his family and friends and is willing to risk his own life to save them if necessary. Forget all of the unexpected plot twists– for me, Ronan is by far the most surprising aspect of this series.

Nothing shows Ronan’s immense development as a character more than when he kisses Adam. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to think when I first stumbled upon this surprising scene. It’s fantastic that different sexual orientations are represented in this story, but this relationship suddenly appeared out of the blue (yes, pun intended). One moment Adam is fuming over the blossoming romance between Blue and Gansey, and the next he is teetering on the edge of a relationship with Ronan. Perhaps there were hints dropped along the way that I have forgotten (it’s very likely, since I read these books months apart from one another), but I never saw that kiss coming. I would have liked to see more details thrown in leading up to it.

Finally we come to Gansey, a king in more ways than one. I love the “king” and “royalty” imagery that Stiefvater plays with when talking about Gansey. While he is obviously a king when it comes to the ley lines, he is also like a member of royalty in his everyday life. At school he is highly regarded by his peers and teachers alike; in wealthy social circles his name brings a cheerful smile to those who speak it. Yet Gansey does not exude the uppity, righteous personality one might expect from someone so privileged. He is aware of the crown he bears, but he does not flaunt it. In this way, Gansey is also a breaker of stereotypes. I admire Gansey’s determination, his insatiable hunger for knowledge, his unfailing loyalty to those he cares about. Gansey is one king I wouldn’t mind ruling a kingdom. 

Overall, The Raven King is a brilliant conclusion to a remarkable series. Though it is not perfect, it nevertheless provides a captivating, satisfying ending to a story I wish could go on forever. (How strange it feels to have finished it!) The Raven King surprised me, scared me, delighted me, and ultimately made me think. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Maggie Stiefvater is a supremely talented storyteller, one whose work I look forward to reading more of in the future.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, especially to a fan of fantasy or even magical realism.

What are your thoughts on The Raven King, the Raven Cycle series, or Maggie Stiefvater in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,
HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

AUGUST 2016 | Wrap-Up

JUNE 2016-3

I’ve always considered August to be one of my favorite months. Not only does it bring a new school year and a promise of the coming autumn, but it also allows you to enjoy the last few weeks of summer without baking in July’s toasty heat. This August was no exception, from both a reading and personal standpoint.
June

7597In August I read a total of 9 books:

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  3. The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  4. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  5. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  6. The Mulligan Guard Ball by Edward Harrigan
  7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  8. Light in August by William Faulkner
  9. A Little History of Literature by John Sutherland

10974Choosing a favorite book this month is a challenge because I read quite a few 5-star books, but I suppose that’s a good problem to have! I think it’s a tie between One Hundred Years of Solitude and As I Lay Dying. Both are brilliant in different ways, so it’s difficult for me to distinctly favor one over the other.

Reviews of these works will be posted in the near future, so stay tuned!

June (1)

The majority of my August was spent preparing for college and tying up lose ends before move-in day. As always, there are many “lasts”: the last time soaking up the summer sun, the last time eating at your favorite local restaurant, the last time sleeping in your own bedroom, the last time seeing friends and family until the next break in several months. These lasts are bittersweet, for they are inevitably accompanied by numerous “firsts”: first time seeing old friends since the end of last semester, first time sleeping in a new dorm room, first night away from home in a while. It’s all new and different but still familiar in some way, reaffirming my belief that August is the most nostalgic month.

This month I completed my internship at a local Child Advocacy Center, an eye-opening experience for which I am incredibly grateful. The purpose of Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) is to provide a neutral, safe, comfortable environment in which to conduct forensic interviews of children who are alleged victims of abuse. Throughout my time working at the CAC I observed several of these interviews, and each time I couldn’t help but be heartbroken by how traumatic and awful their experiences were. It really puts things in perspective.

On a lighter note, I also got new glasses! My prescription changed and my other glasses were several years old, so it was finally time to purchase new ones. I’ve always wanted bolder glasses like these. I love them so much! ❤

As you read this I have already moved back to campus and have settled into my new dorm room for my first semester of sophomore year. It feels strange and exciting and nerve-racking to be back after nearly four months of glorious summer break, but I can’t wait to get the ball rolling at Wheaton again. Bring on the new adventures!

June (2)

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

Here’s the thing: because school is now in session, I basically have negative time for blogging. I’ve scheduled posts like a fiend this summer, and I was actually able to schedule posts in advance for all of September and even much of October. However, this means that I won’t be as active reading and commenting on all of your lovely posts and it may take me a while to respond to any comments that you leave on mind. But don’t worry– I still read and greatly appreciate each and every one of them!! ❤

How was your August? What books did you read? What fun things did you do? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY