What I Read This Spring

Today is the first official day of summer! While it may feel like it’s been summer for a month already, I know it is likely to get a lot hotter where I currently live. Last year when I was just getting back into blogging, I wrote a few summary posts of all the books I read during the span of each season. Since I haven’t been writing monthly wrap ups lately, I decided to revisit that old format this year. While my life has been all over the place, my reading has been fun and I want to write down all my thoughts while they’re still fresh.

From March 20, 2019, to June 20, 2019, I read a grand total of seven books. That’s a whole lot more than I would’ve guessed considering how ambivalent I’ve been about being a book blogger. I did manage to stick to my spring TBR for the most part, and I’m really surprised at myself!

Long post made short, here’s the list of the books I read with my star ratings.

  1. Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor(★★★)
  2. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff(★★★)
  3. Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff(★★★★★)
  4. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (★★★)
  5. The Promise by Chaim Potok(★★★)
  6. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo(★★★★★)
  7. Again, but Better by Christine Riccio (★★★)

I won’t go into detail of why I rated each book the way I did but instead contextualize my reading and give some talking points. Hopefully that will give you an idea of these books if you aren’t familiar with them already and whether you’d like to investigate them some more. I’ve included links to them on Goodreads and Amazon*.

*If you purchase any of the books I talk about in this post after following one of my affiliate links, I may receive a small commission at no extra expense to you.

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Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★

It is a general rule of mine not to buy new books if I don’t intend to read them immediately, and Akata Warrior has been one of those books that is a reminder that I had not been abiding by this rule!

Akata Warrior continues the story of Sunny Nwazue, which started in Akata Witch. After defeating the villain of the first book, Sunny’s destiny is not yet complete as she continues to learn about her magical heritage and how to master her unique gifts.

I talk about this book a bit more in-depth in my full-length review, but I will say that I really love the world and magic system that Okorafor has created. I’ll happily read more by this author, but I think I am done buying these books, at least until I have more disposable income. I think these books are really great and important entries to the young adult fantasy genre.

What these books have taught me as a writer is that books as rich and imaginatively exciting and evocative as Harry Potter are not exclusive to any one culture. You might think that this is a no-brainer, but this book has definitely gotten me thinking more deeply about how culture influences the magic systems devised by authors and what it can mean to people of color moving forward.

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

I’ve read Illuminae about three times now and I love it every time. I love Kady and Ezra and how the science fiction is so compelling and accessible to young adult audiences (myself included) who are not scientifically inclined. I like to think about all the young girls who may read these books and be inspired to go into STEM fields and kick butt.

I also love that these books deal with the ethical side of the equation. A lot of times in action-filled YA, death counts can be high and violence heavy. I like that the human cost of survival in these space expeditions and battles are highlighted and on the forefront of the characters’ minds, and not in an obnoxious or superficial way.

I would argue that is just about anything you could want in this series (i.e. action, romance, mystery, horror, etc.), so these books are endless fun. After you get into the rhythm of the storytelling (i.e. reading the files), these books are extremely immersive.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★★ 

This book was another reread on my journey to reach Obsidio. It was as enjoyable as the first time around. I don’t really know where to start with this book. I love it so much. If you hate series that introduce a completely new cast in each book, you don’t need to worry about that with this book.

For one, the protagonists Hanna and Nik just as terrific as Kady and Ezra, maybe even more so. It’s like the authors mastered the romantic formula of the first book and utilized it to perfection in the second book’s lead characters. Hanna is not your stereotypical spoiled princess and Nik is not your stereotypical drug dealer. This book may be more hilarious than the first and more of an emotional rollercoaster.

The other reason you don’t need to worry is we see Kady and Ezra in this book! They’ve not become completely irrelevant to the story. They enter Gemina right when Hanna and Nik need them.

Gemina is definitely my favorite book in the series, which may or may not be remarkable. I know that most bridge books in a trilogy are just that, a bridge that doesn’t really stand well on its own or it’s a clone of the first book. In my opinion, Gemina can’t really be reduced to either.

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Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★

After a short reading break, I finally picked up Obsidio. Unlike Illuminae and Gemina, I have only read this book once, and I’m already a little foggy on the exact plot of this book. Going into this book, I had fairly low expectations despite the fun of the first two because of how big a let down the final book of the Starbound trilogy was for me.

I will say that I did not care for Asha or Rhys very much. I feel like their backstory was a little unbelievable, and I wasn’t satisfied with how it was revealed. I also don’t like the dynamic between oppressed and unwitting oppressor. I would have maybe liked it if Rhys was more ruthless and he underwent more significant character development, but he was kind of pathetic but also brilliant liar somehow. What.

I think the problem is that the authors didn’t have a whole book to focus on them; they had to share page-time with Kady, Ezra, Hanna, and Nik. By the way, I’m not complaining! I’m glad that we got to see how they dealt with the aftermath of the previous books and prepared for the return to Kerenza. I’m just saying Asha and Rhys’s romance was a probably a little lackluster as result.

I was able to enjoy Obsidio. Yes, I thought a few things happened that were a little too convenient and disneyfied to wrap the story up with a pretty bow, but I am aware of how challenging it might have been to conclude this series in just one book. I just wish that the villains of BeiTech, specifically Frobisher, could have been a bigger part of the climactic action.

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The Promise by Chaim Potok
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Last year in a similar post describing What I Read (That) Winter, I talked about The Chosen by Chaim Potok. It was a book I enjoyed passionately. I felt similarly passionate reading this book, but for very different reasons.

The Promise catches with Reuven as he is studying to become a rabbi. He still lives with his father who has been working on this controversial book, which is radical to conservative Jews because of how it analyzes Jewish texts. While The Chosen follows Reuven and his unlikely friendship with Danny in the years leading up to the formation of Israel, which was a hot button issue amongst Jewish sects in the 1930s, The Promise is set in a New York into which the Jews who survived the holocaust have immigrated. So there’s a lot of, not just, culture clash but also clash of fundamental ideologies that The Chosen merely introduces.

I feel really hesitant talking in depth about these two books, given that everything I know about Jewish theology and scholarship has come from these books. I am not Jewish, nor have I ever really even casually met practicing Jews. Even using the word conservative to describe the opposing viewpoint to Reuven’s feels like it may be inaccurate considering Reuven himself would probably be considered conservative in his own right.

The summary of the book would have you believe that it is about Reuven, Danny, and this boy Michael, but that storyline is more of a marginal thread that ties the book together. What I found most compelling about this book was Reuven’s struggle against his rabbinical professor Rav Kalman, a world-famous rabbi who survived the holocaust and is steadfast in his mission to smear the name and work of Reuven’s father.

I appreciate The Promise coming into my life at this time, because I feel like not enough people are talking about how we should talk to people we don’t agree with. I agonized with Reuven over his frustration with his professor. I was also inspired to see how he persevered. Truthfully, I would have been likely to give up in his position and make my own way. I think there is something to say about seeing things through. (If this is vague, I’m sorry! I just can’t go into more detail in this space!)

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King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Similar to Akata Warrior and Obsidio, King of Scars was beginning to cause me a little bit of book buying guilt. It’s a book I had pre-ordered as soon as I learned about it and then when it came…nothing. I didn’t feel like reading it. Truthfully, I’ve not really been in the mood for fantasy these days. I’m not sure why.

As I had begun to hear hints of conflicting opinions about King of Scars, I was really nervous when I finally picked it up. It didn’t help that the first 80 or so pages were really discouraging. I could tell that Nina and Zoya were going to be central characters in this book, and they were never favorites of mine. Also, I was getting hints about a potential romance between Zoya and Nikolai, and I wasn’t sure I liked that development. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I was able to trust and respect Bardugo’s character choices in the end!

I don’t want to get into spoilers since this book once came out in January and there may be others out there, like I was, who are still waiting to pick up this book. I will just say that the book does end up becoming really exciting and satisfying after about 100 pages. I loved Nina’s storyline and can’t wait to see what she does next. I’m also still in shock-awe about what is revealed at the end! Wow!

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Again, but Better by Christine Riccio
⟡ Find on Goodreads | Amazon
⟡ My rating: ★★★★

Again, but Better ended up being one of my most anticipated reads of this year, because it has honestly been on my radar since Christine started writing it. I had begun to follow her YouTube channel PolandbananasBOOKS somewhere between 2014 and 2015, discovering her from her collaborations with Katytastic. She started writing this book in January 2016 and made periodic writing update videos about her progress.

It was so inspiring to watch her talk about writing it, and I’ve recently gone back to rewatch the first ten or so videos where she talks about writing the first draft specifically. It is such a cool experience now having read the book to know a lot of what she is talking about plot-wise!

As for the book itself, it kind of blew me away. I wasn’t expecting much, especially after the first few chapters or so. I started it feeling like it was a fan-fiction of someone’s idea of college and college romance. But as I got deeper into the story, it began to feel so real and authentic. I could really relate to Shane and her awkward struggles, and even as a proper adult now feel like I’ve learned from her mistakes alongside her.

I do wish this is a book I had when I was still in high school, so I adore Christine for writing this book! I did not have the highest expectations for this book, but it is so much fun but also so relevant, which I think is necessary for contemporary novels these days. I may end up doing a full-length review later on…

End Note

Next Tuesday (6/25) I’ll be sharing the books on my summer TBR for Top Ten Tuesday, which is why I wanted to get this post written and published ahead of it! It’ll a look a little different from past TBRs, because it will feature a lot of books I don’t already own. Before that I’m hoping to share something else this weekend, but I’m not sure what yet! There have been some exciting job hunt developments that I’m hoping I will be able to share next week!

What did you read this spring?

Thank you for reading!
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Akata Warrior (Akata Witch, #2) by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Review of Akata Warrior by The Inky Saga

I did not set myself the most ambitious reading goals this year, and it has been a struggle to just read one book per month. However, I was really happy to get to read Akata Warrior, the sequel to Akata Witch, which I read and adored last year. The magical adventures of Sunny and her coven are so much fun and full of heart.

I also love the African representation in the book. These books comment on identity in Nigeria, which is as varied as complex as it is in America. I think is so important that children read a book set in different countries, especially countries that we don’t often see portrayed for a young adult audience. Africa is such a huge continent and in many places, it is surprisingly not that different from certain parts of the United States.

In this post I will talk about the plot and potential spoilers from this sequel. Like with my last review of a sequel, I’m not sure how many people will read this post. So I’m just going to assume it will be people who have already read it and want to talk about it! If you’ve not read Akata Witch, I highly recommend it. You can check out the review I wrote last year.

SEE: AKATA WITCH BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

 • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor 

Released: October 16, 2018 by Speak
Pages: Paperback, 512 pages
Theme(s): Identity, inner strength, power of knowledge, friendship, balance
Genre(s): YA / Fantasy / African-American Fiction
Age Group: 10+
Goodreads | Amazon*

*Affiliate link disclaimer

A year ago, Sunny Nwazue, an American-born girl Nigerian girl, was inducted into the secret Leopard Society. As she began to develop her magical powers, Sunny learned that she had been chosen to lead a dangerous mission to avert an apocalypse, brought about by the terrifying masquerade, Ekwensu. Now, stronger, feistier, and a bit older, Sunny is studying with her mentor Sugar Cream and struggling to unlock the secrets in her strange Nsibidi book. Eventually, Sunny knows she must confront her destiny. With the support of her Leopard Society friends, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha, and of her spirit face, Anyanwu, she will travel through worlds both visible and invisible to the mysterious town of Osisi, where she will fight a climactic battle to save humanity.

Akata Warrior picks up some time after Sunny and her oha coven have defeated Black Hat and are well into studying independently with guidance from their individual mentors. The book actually started with a really great recap in the form of a letter from the snarky Obi Library Collective of Leopard Knocks’ Department of Responsibility! I had been worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the story, but I ended up recalling most of the first book. I was actually only fuzzy on the ending, probably because I was so unsatisfied by the plot’s main conflict.

In this book Sunny is being haunted by the evil spirit Ekwenzu who wants to bring on the destruction of the natural world. She manages to separate Sunny from her spirit face Azue, which to everyone’s surprise does not kill her. Instead Sunny is forced to navigate the magical world without her spirit guide and find inner strength and confidence in herself.

In this second book, we see Sunny grow closer to her brothers. Each sibling is so different, they all have live such different lives despite all having lived under the same roof. It’s really nice to see them start to opening up and trusting each other with their vulnerabilities and trouble they get into. It is through her brothers that we see a real-life problem plaguing Nigerian higher education: confraternities.

I had never heard of this problem and was glad that Okorafor included this little side plot that was so relevant to the story because of the leopard world’s value of education and the story’s Nigerian setting. It is horrifying to see how people are press-ganged into these secret societies full of corruption that ultimately seem to have nothing to do with the honest pursuit of knowledge.

One more minor thing that I found highly unsettling was the development of a relationship between Sunny’s friend Chichi and her older brother Chuckwu. It’s super creepy to think of a 18-year-old guy who is obsessed with body building off at college being attracted to a literally underdeveloped child! Chichi is supposed to be this tiny little girl. The first book makes it seem like Chichi is older than she looks, but I don’t think that makes it okay!

I think drama of a love triangle was the main the point of throwing Chuckwu into Chichi and Sasha’s relationship. Maybe it can be chalked up to cultural differences, but I do feel it was highly inappropriate even if their relationship was more innocent.

Aside from the horrors of reality, this book was a lot of fun! My favorite parts of these books is always following Sunny as she discovers more about the leopard world and all of what’s possible. The flying wood cutter, Grashcoatah, was a particular delight. He was like a playful Loki in giant grasscutter disguise!

Like the first book, I feel the second suffers from a similar weakness in the plot. I was really in shock again about how many things happened that Sunny did not see fit to explain to the Leopard adults, particularly her mentor Sugar Cream! In the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events books, the children are always trying to tell adults first and it’s only when they realize they are not being taken seriously do they realize they must act on their own. I’m not sure why it doesn’t even occur to Sunny and her friends to confide in more older people with more experience!

I also really didn’t like how disconnected the climax felt from the rest of the book. I actually did like the slow unraveling of the discovery that the house Sunny had been learning about in her grandmother’s letter was Ekwenzu’s home in the spirit land, but it was not a very smooth transition from the mystery the coven was chasing by visiting the mythical city of Osisi. To be honest, though, maybe I’m just used to stories where the protagonists know what they need to do. Sunny and the gang are plagued by problems not at all personal to them but derived from ancestral conflict.

If I had to rate this book by stars, I’d give it a 4 stars. It’s a very fun read and does what a great fantasy book should: ignite our imagination but also reflect problems we face in the real world. My biggest critique is just the same as it was for the first book; a lacking plot. Ultimately, however, that is easy to overlook since the rest of the book is so fun and I truly care about the characters.

If you read this post in its entirety, let me know if you’re read these books yet! I’m truly curious, as I never used to review sequels in the past. I didn’t see a point. If the first book grabs you, you’re going to want to read the sequel naturally. But I guess people can be curious about where the story goes without wanting to sit through a story and characters they feel so-so about. I, for one, am extremely interested in continuing to follow Sunny’s story and see where this series goes!

Thank you for reading!
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The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious, #2) by Maureen Johnson

Easily my most anticipated book of January, hell, of 2019 as a whole, was The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson, the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2018, Truly Devious. In case you weren’t around way back then, here’s a link to the review I wrote of the book that started this fantastic series. It’s one of my favorite reviews I’ve ever written on the blog for a book I still consider highly underrated.

Stevie is such an amazing female character for young girls to be able to see in YA literature. I love that she is filled with such purpose and passion for something so unique and practical. I also think it’s great to see someone who has to deal with anxiety and parents with such different fundamental values. It’s so timely.

Before I go into detail, I just want to say I loved The Vanishing Stair as much as I did the first book! It sufficiently answered just enough questions about the mystery to keep me satisfied and still managed to end in a way that left me aching for the third installment to come out already!

I’ve decided not will not spoil the end of the book, but I will detail the questions I still have regarding the ending. So if you are halfway interested in checking out this series, go away now! I’ve warned you!

• The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson  

The Vanishing Stair picks up maybe a month after where the first book left off the morning after Stevie’s housemate Ellie escaped Ellingham Academy and Stevie learned David is the son of the infamous politician Edward King her parents idolize. As it turned out, Germaine Batt’s report about how Stevie discovered the link between Ellie and Hayes Major’s death became a hit online. After Stevie’s parents read it, they quickly whisked her away from dreamy boarding school and plopped her back into public school.

Honestly, I could empathize with her sadness and frustration. I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle this distress as gracefully as I assume she did. But to her dubious fortune, Stevie is able to return to the academy after Senator King shows up at her parents house and convinces them to allow her to return to school. She discovers that David has been going off the rails since she left and his father has decided Stevie can fix him.

Although she is unhappy with how she was able to return to Ellingham, she is not able to resist the opportunity to return to the scenes of the crime that drew her to the school in the first place.

Much more of the past is quickly revealed in The Vanishing Stair through flashbacks involving the two new characters introduced at the end of Truly Devious. For much of the book I wondered when and if Stevie would become privy to the information we as readers are granted ahead of time! Before Stevie, we are able to find out more about Albert Ellingham’s life and the long-forgotten secret passageways that allowed the founder to keep his secrets. But our girl Stevie eventually pieces together the mystery herself in a scene where I imagined her standing like Sherlock below.

sherlock

In this novel, Stevie is introduced to Fenton, a historian on the crime who needs a research assistant. This older woman is an authority on the case who intends to solve the mystery of Alice’s whereabout in order to win a monetary reward set by Ellingham before he died. Her presence in the book adds new stakes and competition for Stevie as she discovers she’s in a race against the clock to solve the mystery.

There are light moments between Stevie and the gang as they celebrate Halloween. There’s some steamy moments as Stevie and David reconnect. Of course their relationship is complicated by Stevie’s secret deal with his father, which feels rote and thrown in just because our lovebirds can’t have too much fun. There are also some absolutely devastating moments akin which for me harkened to the sadness of that scene in season one of Stranger Things where they think they’ve found Will’s body to the cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”.

By the end of this book, we discover the true culprit behind the crimes at Ellingham Academy and why it was so hard to identify them! Honestly, the truth blew me away. I feel like I might’ve been able to guess them if it had not been for all the smoke and mirrors, which is why this YA mystery is so fantastic! It’s such a smart series on par with the Six of Crows duology, which is a YA (or perhaps New Adult) masterpiece.

I decided to rate this book 4.5 stars. It’s beautifully crafted and paced, and my main complaint right now is how frustrating David has been for no apparent reason at all! I hope that he is able to redeem himself by the end of the next book or I want a storyline where Stevie learns to avoid broken, troubled boys like him. I’m so over love interests with self-destructive tendencies.

END OF THE BOOK QUESTIONS

  1. Was Ellie working with someone?
  2. What the heck is David doing?
  3. Who at the academy doesn’t want the mystery solved?
  4. What happened to Alice?

I hope you liked this review! I’m really not sure who is going to click on the review for a sequel of a highly underrated book, so if you read all the way through you’re something special in my eyes! <3 ^_^

This is probably my last blog post before the weekend. I’ve been planning blog content for the days I’ll be out of town (Saturday–Tuesday) finally visiting my poor grandma who had a stroke in January. I’ll try to be active on WordPress as much as possible, responding to comments and blog hopping whenever I can. You can also always get in touch on Twitter if you’d like. :)

Thank you for reading!
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Top 5 Tuesday: Beautiful Book Spines

Welcome back to another Top 5 Tuesday here on The Inky Saga! At the beginning of each month, Shanah @ Bionic Book Worm annouces the weekly themes for this bookish meme. For this week, she asked us to share our “top five book spines.” I decided to look at my bookshelves and select the five I think are the most beautiful. Some of these books I’ve read, some I haven’t.

If you want to participate in this meme, be sure to link to Shanah’s original blog post so she gets a ping back and can add you to her post’s list of participants. It’s a fun way to discover new blogs and see what other books people listed for each topic. It’s my goal to start going through each week’s list and start blog hopping again this month.

Without further ado, here’s my top five book spines along with my rationale and the artists/designers behind the book cover art!

⟡ Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo ⟡

My love for this book is no secret. I also am just so enamored by the original cover aesthetic for the Grishaverse books as a whole. A word that comes to mind is ornate. Six of Crows in particular is gorgeous because of the looping letters that are at once so fine and sweeping. I like how they are positioned so that the book title can be read without the need tilt the head or reorient your eyes. Also the feather details and the spiral towers at the bottom are a really nice little touch.

Jacket Art & Design: Jack Deas

⟡ Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter ⟡

A book spine with similar characteristics to the Six of Crows, Vassa in the Night has a refined architectural detail of the castle. There’s also pretty swan that takes priority over the book spine space by placing on top of the title. It makes the spine look much more like a work of art than a book spine concerned with legibility.

Illustrations Copyright: Sarah Porter

⟡ The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton ⟡

This is one of the first books that came to mind for this list. I love the readable cursive letters distilling the long title and ultimately emphasizing Ava, the ultimate protagonist of this detailed ancestral saga. Copper feathers in contrast with the blue background are delicate and beautifully fit with the story.

Cover Design & Book Jacket: Matt Roeser

⟡ The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson ⟡

When I received this book on release day, I just remember being awe-struck by the vibrant pinkish red of this book cover. The book spine of The Vanishing Stair is a continuation of the abstract pop-art-style book cover and replicates the hand-written-style of the title from the front cover. Johnson’s name in a bright sky blue which presents a fantastic contrast.

I feel like the recent trend toward bright colors and erratic lettering (thinking of John and Hank Green’s most recent books) has verged on being over-done. Having read both books of the Truly Devious series, I feel like there was a missed opportunity to create an intricately detailed book cover. But I do think that these books are great to go into blind, and the simple abstract design make the books visually appealing without giving anything of the story away.

Jacket Art: Leo Nickolls | Jacket Design: Katie Fitch

⟡ We, the Drowned by Cartsen Jensen ⟡

I feel no shame in admitting that I was entirely compelled to by this book because of it’s startlingly beautiful cover. The summary of the book seemed fascinating, but I am 100% certain that this book was purely an aesthetic purchase. The spine is a continuation of the sea illustrated in swift, powerful lines.

Cover Design: Suzanne Dean | Cover Illustration: Joe McLaren

I was a nice change of pace to think about why certain book spines are more appealing than others. I’m clearly a sucker for a delicate, intricate design. I’m interested in reading other people’s lists because I wonder what our choices might say about us. I also wonder how much research goes into book spine design, or if it’s less of a concern for publishers when it comes to marketing books. If you have any resources on this topic, feel free to drop links in the comments below?

Do you have any of these books on your shelves?

What are book spine elements you consider most appealing?

Thank you for reading!
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My Good Reading Habits | Blog Tag

On Monday I was tagged by Siobhan @ Novelties to share my good reading habits in the My Good Reading Habits Tag. Since it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog tag and these posts can be a fun way for new blog followers to get to know me, I decided to do it!

From the outset, I wasn’t sure if I had many good reading habits. I’m not a very consistent reader or blogger, so I worried what kinds of things I could list. But then I realized that there are reasons for why I am the reader that I am, and I’m very happy with how reading fits into my life these days.

Rules

I prioritize reading books that I’ve owned for a long time. 

There’s nothing worse than owning a collection of books you never end up reading. I understand the appeal of surrounding yourself with books upon books, but I think seeing books sit neglected on your bookshelves never to be read is sad. It’s also sad to think about what I could’ve done with that money at this time instead!

I support second-hand bookstores and libraries.

It can be appealing to purchase books brand new, but I find that I can often find books I want in perfectly good condition at second-hand bookstores. It benefits small businesses and can still benefit authors by showing that there is an interest in their work.

This avenue is also great for if you want to protest a problematic author or publisher by putting your money in other people’s pockets.

When I review books, I’m fair to the author and readers who can appreciate the books even when I don’t.

While I love to read negative book reviews (which I don’t particularly find a crime), I can never bring myself to write them personally. I don’t take particular joy in shaming people who put time and effort into their books. In college I learned not to speculate about what goes into a work when I’m analyzing it, so I always assume there’s been some degree of love and/or pride.

I strongly believe books can hold different meaning for different people. I know that who I am as a reader has changed throughout my life. So when I read a book and then critique it, I try to share where I’m coming from so that people who read my reviews can decide for themselves if they might like a book or not.

I DNF books that I don’t like.

It can be painful, especially if it’s a book I purchased with my own money. But if I’m not liking a book, I will put it down. It’s not the easiest decision all the time, as I do try to see the positives to finishing books even if they aren’t doing anything for me personally. But I’m past that mad rush to devour any book in my sight just to add another tally to my Read in [Insert Year Here] list.

I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone but myself. And my reading enjoyment has improved.

Tag Time

Actually, it’s confession time. I’ve not been very good at keeping up with all the lovely blogs I follow lately. There’s a hand few of people who comment on almost every blog post I publish and make me feel so loved, even though I’m so inconsistent. I feel like I’m always tagging them when I do a tag!

So today (well, Tuesday) I decided to look through the blogs I’ve most recently followed to randomly select some bloggers I don’t interact with much at all yet. Yay for new friends!

Nicole & Isis | Anthony | Czai | Carolina | Krista & Dawlyn | Zuki | Dani

(If you are tagged and have no interest in this tag, no pressure!)

endnote

I really enjoyed thinking about how I read and what habits might qualify as “good,” so thanks again to Siobhan for tagging me and Ally for creating this tag! I feel like doing more discussion-based blog posts soon, and I got kernels of ideas from doing this post.

If you decide to do this tag, please do link back to this post so I get a ping and can go read yours. Alternatively, let me know in the comments what habits we share ^_^

Thank you for reading!
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The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List | Top Ten Tuesday

Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday (TTT)! It’s a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish but now run by the terrific Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week Jana provides the bookish theme and book bloggers share their top ten picks.

This week’s theme is Favorite Couples in Books, but I’m really bummed that I never posted my entry in The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List from a couple of weeks ago! I figured there is no reason I shouldn’t share it, even if it’s on the wrong week. But first, a little context.

I’m not really keeping up to date with new releases or highly promoted books in the YA blogosphere at the moment. Neither am I using Goodreads anymore, so a really cool post to find a few weeks ago was 20(ish) Books For Readers Who are 20(ish) // A List of NA Books Written in the YA Style by Kat @ Novels and Waffles.

I’m definitely well within the New Adult genre demographic and would like to read more about protagonists closer to my age engaging in plots that closer mirror the coming-of-age issues that 20-somethings face. I recognized a good few of the books on the list and have even read a couple (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, Fangirl)!

So from Kat’s list comes my own, a list whittled down from hers to encapsulate the latest books on my TBR. Some of them are not too new to my TBR, but considering that I don’t regularly add books to my TBR anymore, they still work!

  1. Smothered by Autumn Chiklis | Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?
  2. Bucket List to Love by C.P. Santi | Aya Contreras is thrilled to be studying in the land of sakura and sushi. Tokyo is a fascinating city to live in—vending machines, cosplayers, karaoke boxes, and bright, colorful conbinis on every corner. And the architectural design program she’s in is everything she dreamed it to be. The only problem? Her tutor doesn’t seem to like her. Well, she doesn’t like him very much either. Sure, Ryohei Mori is talented, and there’s no denying he’s hot. But he’s also a surly, bossy know-it-all who eats too many cookies. Another annoying thing about him is he’s nosy. And when he stumbles upon the crazy bucket list Aya’s sisters forced on her, he teases her mercilessly about it. But when their professor pairs them up for a design competition, things get . . . interesting. Fueled by beer and a whole lot of cookies, can Aya and Ryo cross out some items on her bucket list without killing each other? Or will they realize there’s much more to each other than they’d originally thought?
  3. We Are Still Tornadoes by Michael Kun & Susan Mullen |Growing up across the street from each other, Scott and Cath have been best friends for most of their lives. Now they’ve graduated high school, and Cath is off to college while Scott stays at home trying to get his band off the ground. Neither of them realized that their first year after high school would be so hard. Fortunately, Scott and Cath still have each other, and it’s through their letters that they survive heartache, annoying roommates, family dramas, and the pressure of figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives. And through it all, they realize that the only person they’ve ever wanted to turn to is each other. But does that mean they should think about being more than friends? One thing is clear: Change is an inescapable part of growing up, and we share unbreakable bonds with the friends who help us navigate it.
  4. Again, But Better by Christina Riccio | Shane has been doing college all wrong. Pre-med, stellar grades, and happy parents…sounds ideal — but Shane’s made zero friends, goes home every weekend, and romance…what’s that? Her life has been dorm, dining hall, class, repeat. Time’s a ticking, and she needs a change — there’s nothing like moving to a new country to really mix things up. Shane signs up for a semester abroad in London. She’s going to right all her college mistakes: make friends, pursue boys, and find adventure! Easier said than done. She is soon faced with the complicated realities of living outside her bubble, and when self-doubt sneaks in, her new life starts to fall apart. Shane comes to find that, with the right amount of courage and determination one can conquer anything. Throw in some fate and a touch of magic – the possibilities are endless.
  5. Three Mages and A Margarita by Annette Marie | Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig. It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an asshole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right? I expected to get thrown out on my ass. Instead, they… offered me the job? It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-shit bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here. So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

  1. The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton | The Blackburn women are cursed. Ever since the extraordinary witch Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island centuries ago and was shunned by the eight “original” settlers, Blackburn witches have been doomed to carry out a brief whirlwind affair with a descendant of the Original Eight. The vengeful curse, however, had unintended side effects: it diluted the Blackburns’ supernatural powers. That’s perfectly all right with seventeen-year-old Nor Blackburn. All she wants is a quiet, unremarkable life—her powers are blissfully unexceptional, her love life pretty much nonexistent. Nor hopes the curse has played itself out through enough generations that she’ll finally be spared the drama. But when a mysterious book comes out promising to cast any spell for the right price, Nor senses a dark storm headed straight for Anathema—and straight for her.
  2. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi | Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance. To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much. Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.
  3. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo | Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, ranging from Jodie Foster to George W. Bush. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more supernatural than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
  4. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan | A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself. A prince in danger must decide who to trust. A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war. In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light.
  5. Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak | The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

I don’t know when I’ll next have any money for a book buying spree, but I do hope to find some of these or request them at my local library soon. I would like to make it my mission to seek out and promote more books that fall under the New Adult label. I’m a bit fatigued with the current slate of YA fantasy, so I’m much more interested in contemporaries and mysteries as a whole right now.

Are any of these books are your TBR?

Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on The Man in the High Castle

I finished The Man in the High Castle in January. I discovered the show in November or December of 2017 and binged the first two seasons over the course of a single weekend, if I remember correctly. The show was just so beautiful, with the scenery of the reimagined U.S. under Japanese and German control. I loved the fashion. It was all just so beautiful, even while the world created depicted what would have been the world could have been like if ruled by fascism.

There is not a whole lot to spoil in the book. This is the kind of book that left me with more questions than answers, so I didn’t see any point to omitting anything. If you have been keeping up with the show, there is not anything I discuss that would spoil anything in the show.

I actually hoped I would find a hint of how the show would end by reading this book, but I was sorely mistaken. The show takes and adapts a lot from this book, but it is not a beat-for-beat adaptation. It’s actually a really wonderful adaptation that, I think, would be a really satisfying companion to the book for old fans. It takes philosophical ideas from the book further and develops a more compelling storyline.

• ⟡ • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick  • ⟡ •

I was left a little disappointed by the book overall, but that is mainly because the main draws of the show, in my opinion, are absent from the book.

Julianna Crane, the star of the show, is a mere shadow of herself in the book. The mystery that drives the show, the mystery of the films and where they come from are not in the book at all! There is no growing resistance in the book for which we can root, as there is in the show. Instead of a twisting plot, the book is heavy in philosophical quandaries and big ideas.

Instead of the films, the emergence of a banned book threatens the Nazi powers that be. We see from the perspectives of several different characters how this book, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, has affected the status quo. What has made this book so controversial? Well, it describes an alternative history in which the Allies and not the Axis powers won WWII. It shows what the world could be like, which would be a preferable reality to Americans and others under Nazi dominion.

The book goes into much greater detail than the show about what happened in other parts of the world, like South America and Africa. It also goes into greater detail of the warring Nazi factions. Cut out of the show was the space colonization project of the Nazi, which is slightly comical. It’s one of the many details that reminds you that this book was written before the first human walked on the moon in 1969.

What stuck out most to me is that the alternative history presented in the fictional book was not ours, but one in which the U.S. and Great Britain become the major world powers.

The alternatives presented in this book, one by the controversial book and one by the extremely unpleasant Joe Cinnadella, made me wonder which the author Philip K. Dick might have actually have been predicting would be the way our world could actually end up. While the U.S. did become a major world power post-WWII, the relative peace and freedom which Americans enjoy today was not a reality in the 1950s or 60s. It took a lot of work to get where we are today, and there’s still a lot to be done.

Did Dick think the U.S. was heading towards its own demise when he wrote the book? I ask this question because I also wonder in what ways the U.S. might still be hurdling towards this destruction today. We have a lot of social safe-guards at the moment, protecting our most vulnerable people and keeping us all safe as result. But the Republican party at large seems intent on taking these things away. Are we becoming a plutocracy? Will that mean the end of our world as we know it?

…Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive…

I think this idea of alternative universes must have been on many people’s minds during the Cold War, not least because I’ve encountered children’s literature that ponders the same the questions. I’m not really sure what to make of it, as I didn’t have time to look into it. If I had to guess, I assume it has something to do with the fear in the back of many people’s minds that the world could end at any moment. Maybe thinking that there were other worlds out there provided some peace of mind?

We do not have the ideal world, such as we would like, where morality is easy because cognition is easy. Where one can do right with no effort because he can detect the obvious.

I actually finished this book as the third season of The Good Place was wrapping up, so it was oddly gratifying to see the familiar theme emerge that highlights how difficult it is to tell right from wrong in modern society. The choices you make and the kind of life you choose to live all depend on where you live, the power and economic structures in place, and the laws of the land. It is easy to look at different people and cultures and say that they have it all wrong. But it’s important to remember how many constraints we all live under.

He told us about our own world, she thought as she unlocked the door to her motel room. This, what’s around us now. In the room, she again switched on the radio. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.

I am sure many things went over my head in this book. I admit I am not sure I was able to follow Julianna’s logic when it came to understanding why Abendsen wrote the book or what its purpose was. I’m not sure if I was supposed to or really needed to. The book was successful for me in that it was thought-provoking. It’s one I could see myself reading periodically throughout my life and picking up new meaning each time.

☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙

If you’re wondering if this is a worth-while read, I recommend picking it up if you are intrigued by any of the thoughts I shared above. It’s the kind of book you want to read and have a conversation about, so a book club or group reading might be the best situations in which to experience this book and its ideas.

It took me a little while to finish this post, so I have since read The Vanishing Stair, the sequel to one of my favorite reads last year, Truly Devious! You can expect a review of that one very soon.

Thank you for reading!
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Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but Didn’t Get To | Top Ten Tuesday

TTTpages

In case you haven’t noticed, this blog has been in a bit of a transitional phase lately. In an effort to show some more love to the books, I decided it was high time I participated in Top Ten Tuesday (TTT) again! It’s a weekly meme that was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish but now is run by the terrific Jana @ That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week Jana provides the bookish theme and book bloggers share their top ten picks.

This week’s theme is Books I Meant to Read in 2018 but Didn’t Get To, which feels like a personal attack. There were a lot of books I hoped to read, last fall specifically, that I didn’t have time to get to. I have a love-hate relationship with TBRs, in that I love them but sometimes hate feeling like I need to follow them to a T. Let’s be real, life can throw curve balls at any moment.

I think this will probably be one of the weirdest collection of books you read today, if you are a frequent reader of these TTT posts!

  1. Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor | I bought the sequel to Akata Witch on impulse last year, perfectly aware that if I just waited I could have the matching paperback in a matter of months. For this fact alone, I’m annoyed I’ve still not read this book!
  2. Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas | I started this book in December and just didn’t manage to finish it before the new year. I probably should’ve abandoned this series after Tower of Dawn, but I was so close to the end and wanted to see how this series of epic proportions wrapped up. Hopefully I will finish it by March.
  3. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor | This book was the subject of some major hype last year as it’s sequel’s publication date approached. As result, I became really nervous it wouldn’t live up to expectations. Also, the book is huge, so I was intimidated. It’s still high on my TBR for 2019, so hopefully I will read it sooner rather than later.
  4. The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid | This was one of those odd ball purchases that I don’t know what to do with. I’m in the mood for science fiction every now and then, so I don’t mind saving it for one of those reading moods to come along. I hoped it would come last year, but I’m cool if it doesn’t come until next fall.
  5. It by Stephen King | I’ve wanted to read this book ever since I saw the most recent theatrical adaptation. It feels like it needs to be a book for the fall, but it’s set in the summer (I think) so maybe it’ll call to me around May. I just want to read it before the next movie comes out!
  6. Disrupt You! by Jay Samit | This is the other book I started but did not finish in December. It wasn’t turning out the way I hoped it would, but I’m still hopefully it will have something in it that makes reading it worth the time and money spent on it.
  7. The Promise by Chaim Potok | I think this book is the sequel to The Chosen, one of my favorite reads last year. I had hoped I might read it last fall, but I don’t feel much urgency to read it immediately. It’s one that I think will mean more to me if I read it at the right time, so I don’t want to rush it. To be honest, I’m also a little worried it may not live up to The Chosen… I’m trying to manage my expectations!
  8. The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle | Last summer I embarked on a quest to reread some of my favorite childhood books centered around Madeleine L’Engle’s Austin family. I decided to wait until fall to read this particular book, but it didn’t end up a priority when fall came around.
  9. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff | I can’t believe I almost forgot this one! Wow. There was a time when this was one of my most anticipated releases. I think the reason I forgot about it is because I did want to read at least Gemina before jumping into the final book in this YA sci-fi trilogy.
  10. [Textbooks] | I hoped to read a few of my old textbooks from grad school last year and never quite got around to it. I made it a goal for 2019 to read one non-fiction book each year, so hopefully I’ll at least read the ones I find most relevant to life and my future work.

I hope to get to all of these books by the end of the year, but you never know. I’m sure I’ll get to most of them. I’ve done a really good job of cutting down on the number of books I buy, so I do a better job of prioritizing books that have been on my TBR for a long time. Of course, the only two books I entered 2019 anticipating come out this month! So I’ll probably read those two (The Vanishing Stair and King of Scars) before anything else, but those won’t take me all year. I hope. *gulp*

Are any of these books are your TBR?

Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Not going to lie, I’m finding it incredible that I am already right on track with my new year’s resolution to read one fiction and one non-fiction book per month. It was difficult for me to read in Fall 2018. I feel like there was so much I wanted to read, but at the same time I was shifting my reading priorities. I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge a few months early last year, so I didn’t know what was motivating to me to read or what to prioritize.

I guess I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I am a mood reader.

This year I want to really enjoy reading, so I’ve decided to take a break from Goodreads. I used to love tracking my reading progress and using the mobile app as a bookmark. But I ultimately have begun to feel like sharing my reading progress is giving me undue stress to read more quickly. I also feel the review system is a little broken. My feed is always cluttered by the same people and updates.

I do not I feel like I’m benefiting from a community either. I don’t engage in any conversations on Goodreads. In fact my only joy from the app has been when complete strangers find my old reviews and interact with them! That’s the only thing I’ll miss, beyond the ability to organize books by shelves.

All that said, I plan to continue these “Thoughts on…” posts throughout the year to talk about what I’ve been reading. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was my first full read of the year, but in this post I also want to talk about what I’ve been reading since my last blog post (see: Thoughts on AART + Heist Society).

CURRENTLY READING

I started two books in December that I did not finish, but I still consider myself to be “currently reading.” They are Disrupt You by Jay Samit and Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas. My reasons for putting both these books down are different. Disrupt You was not turning out the way I hoped it would. It’s turned out to be very anecdotal and argumentative in ways I do not want or need.

I put down Kingdom of Ash because I realized I wanted to take a step back to 1) start the blog post for the review because I was afraid I might forget the beginning, and 2) refresh myself on character names and relationship dynamics so I could fully appreciate the story without feeling like I’m missing why certain things are significant.

At the beginning of January I felt like picking up The Democratic Surround by Fred Turner. I’m about two chapters in and really like it, but I’ve had to set it aside while getting back into the swing of things at work. I wanted to read something fictional, so I picked up The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

Over the holidays I finally got around to watching the third season of the Amazon Prime original show. While I wasn’t as captivated by it as much as I was the first two seasons, I am still eager to find how the story will wrap up. Since it took two years for the third season to arrive, I’m not holding my breath for the fourth and have decided it’s a great time to read the book the show was based on! About thirty pages in, I’m already surprised by some of the character differences. I don’t know what to expect now!

• ⟡ • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  • ⟡ •

I finally decided to pick up this novella after starting to read The Democratic Surround, just because the time period in which the novella is set is the same more or less as the time period discussed in the academic text. I felt these texts would compliment each other, and I do think fiction is a great way to become immersed in places and times long past.

I really love Truman Capote’s writing style. It’s so clear and concise, yet still so evocative in its simple descriptions of place and people. There’s also a fair amount of humor subtly weaved into the story from dialogue to situations. It’s not at all surprising so much of the dialogue from the movie starring Audrey Hepburn was directly lifted from the book.

On the topic of the movie, after having now read the book, I think the movie is an excellent adaptation. It keeps Holly Golightly’s spirit alive. While the movie does paint her a little bit nicer and give her a more hopeful ending, I think the more important aspects of her character and strife are preserved. She is often manipulative and just plain mean, but there’s something I really respect about her self-awareness and how she lives her life by her own moral code.

I feel like this novella is absolutely a must-read for anyone who loves the movie beyond its superficial façade. You get to see how truly clever and bold Holly is. Additionally, the novella really helps to illuminate certain parts of the story and lines from the movie that have long stuck with me, including how she can still be so fond of the man who she married as a child (although, I’m still horrified) and how she justifies her scandalous lifestyle.

…good things only happen to you if you’re good. Good? Honest is more what I mean. Not law-type honest…but unto-thyself-type honest. Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I’d rather have cancer than a dishonest heart…

One thing I found myself thinking about after finishing the novella is how much Holly Golightly reminds me of Jay Gatsby. They are both models of self-improvement and ambition. Both characters are extremely charming despite humble (and mysterious) backstories. They both work hard to advance in life, but ultimately fail to live their lives to their fullest because they are haunted by great loves they are unable to leave in the past.

I’m not sure what I can take away with me from this book. I’m no Holly Golightly, nor do I wish to be. For me Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a love letter to people who refuse to accept the lot they are given in life and are shameless enough to strive for more. They’re dreamers who actually do something to pursue their dreams, which is more than can be said for a lot of people (myself included). I think that is why I was first so moved by the movie and now by the novella.

☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙

I was feeling really optimistic with my reading at the beginning of the month but it has since dissipated a bit. I don’t really mind, though! I’m glad I’m reading at all. I hope to finish The Man in the High Castle this weekend as I have three days off. I would also like to reread Truly Devious immediately after as the sequel, The Vanishing Stair, is coming out soon! Ideally I would like to read both that and King of Scars. I’ve pre-ordered both and can’t wait to finally hold them in my hands.

Thank you for reading!
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My 2019 Bullet Journal + January Spread

Over the past couple of years, I have begun dabbling in bullet journalling. I’ve always loved stationary and keeping a planner in school. I’ve also always been highly reflective, creativity-inclined, and goal-oriented, so bullet journalling felt like a natural fit for me. I’m also attracted to the fact that it is something I could make and hold in my hands since so much of my time is spent online.

In total, I had created three monthly spreads before this month, for June 2017, September 2018, and October 2018. Each time felt like an experiment. When I was first starting out, I didn’t know what page elements I would want or need during the month. I didn’t know what was practical and or what would work for me.

I’m not going to lie, I did not complete filling out any of these previous spreads, abandoning each project at some point during the month. But each time I started a new one, I got closer to the right layout and elements for me.

In this blog post, I will share my inspiration, my January spread, and my rationale for what I decided to include in my bullet journal this month.

My Method

I was recently watching AmandaRachLee‘s 2018 Journal Flip Through for ideas when I came to an important realization. While I love her artistic style and creativity in spreads, I do not feel motivated to make my bullet journal a planner. I don’t have many important dates to remember each month and prefer to keep an actual paper calendar on my desk for quick reference.

Rather my aim with my bullet journal to track progress on my projects over time, to brainstorm, to keep a log of the things I want to do and actually do. Some people also make their bullet journal their diary, but I personally am keeping that in a separate notebook. I treat my bullet journal more as a physical manifestation of a online blog, highly selective and curated towards what I want to share and remember.

If you’re interested in starting a bullet journal, I highly recommend:

  1. Immersing yourself in the bullet journal communities in the blogosphere, on Pinterest, on Instagram, and on YouTube. There are a lot of fun ideas to parse through and only you know what spreads will work best for you.
  2. Practicing first in journals you already have. You don’t need to buy special notebooks or pens when you are just starting out! It will most likely just psyche you out anyway if you have perfectionist tendencies; you will be too anxious not to make mistakes.
  3. Using sticky notes to organize your layout. Some people like to create story board-like rough drafts before they start putting pen officially to paper, but I find sticky notes work just as well. After I list all the page elements I want, I go through my journal and figure out where things will fit most naturally.

I went back and forth with the idea of buying a new notebook for my bullet journal this year. The specific one on my wish list was the Scribbles That Matter A5 dotted notebook. It was only $20, but money was tight over the holidays and I wanted to buy gifts for my loved ones instead. *le sigh*

Also, the more I thought about it, I realized using a regular notebook would work just as well. It would be my gimmick if I started dedicating more of my blog-space and focus to journalling. So I looked through my small collection of notebooks I had collected over the years and decided to use a more recently acquired journal, my Target decomposition notebook. It’s a nice size and makes me happy every time I look at it.

One negative to this notebook is that my pen ink (Pilot G-2, fine, ball-point) bleeds through the pages quite easily. My current solution is to tape pages together so I do not need to worry about the visibility of the ink marks. It feels a little wasteful of page space, but I figure I might find better solution later on this year. I know there’s liquid paper I could paint over the back, and I could also start gluing in loose leaf.

My January 2019 Spread

I decided to make clouds my January theme because it’s been a very rainy winter in Texas this year and because I always feel like I always have my head in the clouds, especially around the new year. Clouds carry a lot of symbolic meaning.

I did not come up with this theme on my own. My spread is heavily inspired by my bujo idol AmandaRachLee‘s April 2018 set-up, from the distinct cloud design to specific page elements like the mood tracker. Where I deviated was primarily in the actual layout. I don’t love drawing out calendars, so my spreads have elements that lend themselves better to list formats and brain dumps.

Directly after the main page, I have a page for my mood and habit trackers. I find it enlightening to be able to see at a glance how happy or unhappy I was during a month, particularly since I generally end the month without remembering everything that went on. I’m still working out how I want to visually depict my mood (e.g. via size of rain drop, length dropped, or color shade of blue-grey).

I used to make my habit trackers a simple table that would take up half a page. I decided to try out this mini-calendar design to better be able to see how consistently I was sticking to the daily habits I wanted to nurture.

Next up is my two-column January event planner. I break it up into personal and blog categories for better spatial organization. Personal plans might be related to work, appointments, or social events. For the blog section, I like to keep track of the blog posts I plan to write. Once they are complete and published, I go over the final titles in ink so I can see at a glance what went up that month.

Next to my plans, I like to be able to see the specific goals I set for the month. The ones shown in the picture below (see page on the right) were ideas I had last week before I hurt my back. I plan to get to them once I’m 100% again!

I also like to keep space for brain dump. Here I record any special ideas I might have regarding writing, blogging, or any number of my projects. It’s not a lot of space, but I do find that it’s enough room key ideas that remind me what I was thinking at the time.

The newest addition to my monthly spread a place for weekly notes and to-do lists. Many people allot space for diary-like notes they want to remember. I personally see myself just writing to-do lists and short life highlights. I folded a page in half to reduce the number of times I would have to draw the side-bar calendar. 

I have still been thinking about how I want to use this space, so I’ve not applied much ink beyond the side-bar calendar. I do think it will be a place to keep track of what I end up doing each day or maybe job positions for which I apply.

 ☙ ❧ End Note ❧ ☙

I hope you liked this blog post! I have been wanting to start talking about bullet journalling on this blog for a long time. In case anyone’s interested, I think I will try to share a flip through this spread at the end of the month with some more commentary about how well my set-up worked. I’d also like to start doing more focused posts about the set-up of my bullet journals.

I will be back this weekend most likely with a writing update + 2019 writing plans. I have a post on my recent reads that is nearly complete, but I think that I will not be able to finish the last book I want to talk about until after this weekend.

Do you bullet journal? How do create your monthly spreads? Is your set-up organized entirely differently?