I wasn’t originally planning to post today, but since I’m on a blogging kick and today is National Read a Book Day, I decided to take part in the hype surrounding the return of The Great American Read. The television show returns to PBS next week on Tuesday, September 11, 2018. It will detail the host’s journey to discover the top 100 favorite books in America.
The list includes many books new and old that can now claim the distinction of being considered a classic. I kid you not, Fifty Shades of Grey is on the list! You can vote for your favorite if you’re willing to sign up for an account or with your Facebook or email. For the record, I preferred not to.
Part of what I find so fun about this program is that it aims to poll the U.S. as a whole, not just your academic friends and literary circles. It will show what books stand the test of time amongst people as a whole, not just those who have made reading a significant part of their lives.
So in honor of the return of The Great American Read(and since I don’t have a book review to share today), I decided to share the list of books that I can personally say I’ve read from PBS’s list of 100 Books, along with my picks from the list that I would like to read one day.
The Books I’ve Read
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Separate Peaceby John Knowles
The Adventures of Tom Sawyerby Mark Twain *
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie *
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger *
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
The Chronicles of Narnia(Series) by C.S. Lewis
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Harry Potter(Series) by J.K. Rowling
The Hunger Games(Series) by Suzanne Collins
Jane Eyreby Charlotte Brontë
Left Behind(Series) by Tim LaHaye/ Jerry B. Jenkins
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton *
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen *
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline *
The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (Note: far from my favorite Vonnegut novel!)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
To Kill a Mockingbirdby Harper Lee *
The Twilight Saga(Series) by Stephenie Meyer
The Books I Would Like to Read
1984by George Orwell
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Where the Red Fern Growsby Wilson Rawls
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
I already own Catch-22, so that one I could tick off this list soon with a little motivation. Some of these books I have less interest in reading but could see myself picking them up from the library if I had nothing else to read. The books I find myself most eager to get my hands on are Americanah, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Joy Luck Club, and White Teeth.
❧ ☙END NOTE ☙ ❧
I spent much of morning on this post, but with my remaining hours before and after work, I’m going to try to finish up Rebel Spring in honor of National Read a Book Day. I’ve been “Currently Reading” it for far too long and I’m ready to move on to something new! ^_^
Do you have time today to drop everything and read?
I realize we are more than halfway through the month, but going out of town threw a wrench in my plans. What should have been a nice, pleasant trip turned out to be quite stressful and unhappy. I came back home kind of overwhelmed by all the projects I had started and questioning whether it was all worth it.
I guess you could say the blog has been somewhat on hold this month while I figure it all out. I’m still trying to figure it out, but I’m dipping my toes back into it slowly. Even though it is late, I didn’t want to look back on this entire month and wonder what happened.
So I ruminated about what I’d like to get done by the end of August minimally and came up with this list of three things. I also thought about what books are my priority TBR right now as I’m just trying to keep my head above water!
➴ 1. Develop a more healthy reading-blogging-writing balance
I feel like I have a strange habit of taking on all the things and then struggling because I find one thing more interesting than all the others. Looking back at my monthly notes/goal posts from this past year, the pattern is really clear! My passion jumps between reading, writing, and blogging all the time. This month in the couple weeks I have left, I want to better prioritize.
Unless I find a way for the blog to become a major source of income, I don’t want to be spending all my time on it. Blogging should be for reflection anyway, so I don’t want it to take up all my time. Neither do I want to feel like all I have time to do is read, because that can become just as dangerous as watching YouTube or Netflix all day long.
So when it gets down to it, writing is what I want to focus on more while I still have the luxury of free-time.
➴ 2. Look for a Job + Share the Search
In July I realized I really do need to start looking for a full-time job again. It’s something I don’t really like to talk about, because it’s kind of embarrassing. But I know the longer I put it off the worse off I’ll be in terms of future job opportunities and debt repayment. So I want to overcome my job lack of confidence and interview anxiety to apply more widely for job paths I may not have considered before.
I also want to start talking jobs on the blog for anyone who is still in high school and college and doesn’t know what they want to do or anyone who may not be happy with their current employment and might like to consider other options. Job searching seriously sucks, and I hope to make it more fun by blogging about it!
➴3. End in the month with all my loose ends tied up
I can never fully relax while I know there are things that I’ve left incomplete. Blog-wise, there’s a lot that I still want to finish up and would like to do before the end of the month. This list of things is less for you, my blog readers, and more for my own peace of mind. It does include books, though! I really want to end the month having at minimum finished all the books I’m “currently reading” (Strange the Dreamer, How I Resist, and Rebel Spring).
I also don’t want to start anything that I’m not going to complete this month! If I start something, I want to keep it to myself until I’m sure I’ll follow through with sharing it.
In July I met my Goodreads Reading Challenge 2018 goal of reading 30 books. At the start of the year, I literally had no idea that I’d be where I am with my blog today. It’s kind of insane. I thought I might’ve peaked in 2015 with my blogging career, and I’m just so happy that I’ve fallen back in love with reading and reviewing books.
As it’s halfway through the month already, I don’t think I’ll read more beyond what I’m currently reading. I do have some books I’m itching to start once I can commit to them. I’m on a contemporary/non-fiction/literary fiction kick right now, and I’m going to see where it takes me!
In today’s volatile business landscape, adaptability and creativity are more crucial than ever. It is no longer possible-or even desirable-to learn one set of job skills and to work your way up the ladder. At the same time, entrepreneurs with great ideas for new products or technologies that could change the world often struggle to capture the attention of venture capital firms and incubators; finding the funding necessary to launch a start-up can feel impossible. The business leaders of our future must anticipate change to create their own opportunities for personal satisfaction and professional success. In Disrupt You!, Jay Samit, a digital media expert who has launched, grown, and sold start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, describes the unique method he has used to invent new markets and expand established businesses.
Samit has been at the helm of businesses in the ecommerce, digital video, social media, mobile communications, and software industries, helping to navigate them through turbulent economic times and guide them through necessary transformation so that they stay ahead of the curve. In Disrupt You!, he reveals how specific strategies that help companies flourish can be applied at an individual level to help anyone can achieve success and lasting prosperity-without needing to raise funds from outside investors.
Incorporating stories from his own experience and anecdotes from other innovators and disruptive businesses-including Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, YouTube, Circ du Soleil, Odor Eaters, Iams, Silly Putty, and many more-Samit shows how personal transformation can reap entrepreneurial and professional rewards. Disrupt You! offers clear and empowering advice for anyone looking to break through; for anyone with a big idea but with no idea how to apply it; and for anyone worried about being made irrelevant in an era of technological transformation. This engaging, perspective-shifting book demystifies the mechanics of disruption for individuals and businesses alike.
For my birthday this February, I treated myself to some non-fiction books of the self-help variety, hoping I might find some inspiration from them on what my next step should be. I wouldn’t say they lit any lightbulbs personally, but they were motivational in the sense that they made me get more productive. I decided to save on of those books, Disrupt You!, for later and have decided that now as I need to switch gears again is a great time for it.
“A superb mirror of a place, a time, and a group of people who capture our immediate interest and hold it tightly.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
Young Reuven Malter is unsure of himself and his place in life. An unconventional scholar, he struggles for recognition from his teachers. With his old friend Danny Saunders—who himself had abandoned the legacy as the chosen heir to his father’s rabbinical dynasty for the uncertain life of a healer—Reuvan battles to save a sensitive boy imprisoned by his genius and rage. Painfully, triumphantly, Reuven’s understanding of himself, though the boy change, as he starts to approach the peace he has long sought…
The Chosen by Chaim Potok was one of my first reads of the year (see What I Read This Winter), a book that got me back into reading after a few months of despair and uncertainty. I loved it and immediately looked into what other books the author had written, happy to find that there is a “sequel.” I had to order it on Amazon, but shelved it soon after as I was on a mission to read more popular fiction. I’m in a funny place again where I need to read more books that feed my soul, so I’m hoping this one does not disappoint!
In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.
This volume also includes three of Capote’s best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents–––a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend–––whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.
Like most young girls, I went through an adoring Audrey Hepburn phase. I first watched Billy Wilder’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1960) in high school. I even gave myself horrible baby bangs à la Holly Golightly my senior year. It was not a good look, considering I never ever wore my hair up back then! Also my hair was all bleached.
Anyway (and in case you didn’t know), the movie is based on Truman Capote’s short story. It not supposed to be anything like it, but I still find myself wanting to read the source material. The specific book I have includes three short stories in addition to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which I think will be a fun read as I don’t read a lot of short fiction.
I read the first 50 pages or so of Capote’s non-fiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood, so I know he’s a brilliant writer. The only reason I didn’t finish that book is at the time I wasn’t in the mood for something quite so chilling . . .
✄ —– End Note ——–
In case you missed it, my July Notes ➴ in which I summarized my successes and failures of last month went up on the blog last week shortly after I returned from my trip. The first thing on my agenda is to start tying up those loose ends this weekend with regards to the books I’m reading and the blog stuff I want to complete. Maybe I’ll share my to-do list on Sunday . . .
After a month like June, I kind of want to reset and take myself back to basics. I loved blog hopping, and I want that to be something I do a couple of times a week. But I also want to put less stress on myself and focus more on creating quality blog posts and developing my own unique blogging style. I don’t want to do just book reviews and the occasional tag, so I’ll also try to experiment with different posts this month.
All of my goals, which you can see below, are geared towards blog development. I’ve also got a lot of reading/reviewing plans that I can’t wait to start. For a preview of what you can expect on Betwined Reads this month, keep reading ^_^
➴1. Dedicate M/W/F to Writing Blog Posts
I feel like I work better under time constraints, and I also think having specific days set aside for blogging will help me not always feel guilty or residual stress about not finishing up posts. I think it’ll be easier to remember what I complete and also do other things offline that might otherwise compete for attention.
Note. While I may work on the blog on these days, that does not mean blog posts will always go up on these days. I do like to schedule posts in advance so I have a chance to polish them and catch mistakes I might miss at first glance.
➴ 2. Develop a Unique Blog Theme
I tend to make my featured images on book reviews from random searches for backgrounds that relate to the setting of my novels. I also use Unsplash a lot for base images of my featured images. I’ve noticed another blogger who uses a lot of photos I recognize from Unsplash (to awesome effect I might add), so I would like to move away from stock images (no matter how gorgeous) and take my own so that my blog has apersonal touch all my own.
I’ve also really longed to use my drawing tablet, so the blog would give me a good excuse to break it out and have fun creating a graphics around a specific theme for the blog.
➴3. Condense my Book Reviews
I like the way I’ve written my book reviews, but I feel like I could do better to make the posts less intimidating reads by utilizing shorter sections, using more graphics that speak louder than words can, and highlighting the most important ideas I want to share. I’ve seen some awesome styles of review and I’d like to experiment by breaking away from the wordy format with which I’ve become too comfortable. It’s time to shake things up!
On July 1st I sat down with a little $1 brown calendar I bought at Target at the beginning of the year and looked at my shelves. While I am very much a mood reader, I feel like I can avoid reading slumps by keeping what I’m reading fresh and varied. So for the next three months on each Thursday I wrote down a book I’d like to see myself read and review for the blog.
In case anything changes, I don’t want to share all the books I plan to read or my anticipated blogging schedule. But I will continue to share the books I would like to read at minimum. Ideally I’ll start getting ahead on these reviews so there’s a buffer for the unexpected hiatus or vacations where it is hard to blog (I already have one trip scheduled for August)!
In the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn, the fashionable people put on cute shoes, go to parties in warehouses, drink on rooftops at sunset, and tell themselves they’ve arrived. A whole lot of Brooklyn is like that now—but not Vassa’s working-class neighborhood.In Vassa’s neighborhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling away again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission.
But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough-talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg’s help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch’s curse and free her Brooklyn neighborhood. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
I read this book last fall and really wanted to review it, but I was in a bit of a blogging rut last year. I don’t see this book around much online, so I’m hoping by sharing it on my blog it will find some new readers!
Tayo, a young Native American, has been a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II, and the horrors of captivity have almost eroded his will to survive. His return to the Laguna Pueblo reservation only increases his feeling of estrangement and alienation. While other returning soldiers find easy refuge in alcohol and senseless violence, Tayo searches for another kind of comfort and resolution. Tayo’s quest leads him back to the Indian past and its traditions, to beliefs about witchcraft and evil, and to the ancient stories of his people. The search itself becomes a ritual, a curative ceremony that defeats the most virulent of afflictions—despair.
This is one of the books I bought but never read for my Native American literature survey I took during my undergrad. I feel like it is a good time to start reading some of these works, and this one was really attractive to me because it’s on the shorter side. So hopefully I really connect with it. I’m in the mood to read about different cultures.
The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi — but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends — even her freedom — for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.
This book was one of my random purchases at 2nd & Charles in May. I’m not really sure what to expect. It’s an oldie and a historical fiction, which is a genre I love to read. I also assume it’s a romance book, but since it is an award-winning book I feel like it might be really good. I’m hoping it give me all the feels.
The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?
Welcome to Weep.
I bought this book on a whim last month. Maybe it’s because ARCs of its sequel are out, but I’ve been seeing so many people I follow read and gush about this book. Fortunately for me, I discovered it’s the group read of Of Wonderland‘s Book Club hosted on Goodreads, so I’ll have fun becoming involved on there this month!
✄ —– End Note ——–
You should be able to expect a book review for Vassa in the Night on Thursday and hopefully something fun and out of the ordinary this weekend. This weekend was a drag for me as I’ve had bad sinuses since Friday. I think it has something to do with the Saharan Dust that hit Texas this weekend. I’m already really susceptible to sinus problems, and now I think I have an sinus infection. I generally just wait them out with Benadryl, NyQuil, Afrin nasal spray, and loads of sleep.
But hopefully I’m not knocked down for much longer. I’ve got a lot I’m excited to do!
June will be a very different month for me, because I’ll have a lot of time on my own to work on my personal projects. I’ll have a lot more personal freedom about what I do and when. I don’t know about you, but when I have a lot of extra free time on my hands I have a tendency to get less done than I do when my life has more of a structure (school, work, etc.). For that reason, this month’s goals and TBR are more important than previous months!
Not only do I want to get my novel done I want to continue the work I’ve started on Betwined Reads. Below are my goals and the list of books I intend to read in the month of June. I have no doubt I will reference this post at several points throughout the month.
➴ 1. Read more blogs!
I don’t know about others, but I feel sometimes like a lot of us are shouting into the void when it comes to our blog posts and bookish social media. I think the problem is we think so much about what we want to say and how we want to say that we forget that there are others we can learn from and find enjoyment in hearing from. So I want to start making it a daily habit to read and comment on blogs. In case you missed it, I did a specific post about my plans for Blog Hopping in June.
➴ 2. Write for at least 30 minutes everyday
I’m in the thick of writing my novel now and I really want to commit to working on it each day this month while my mind is still deep in my story. It hurts my progress to take a few days off of working on it so I know that if I commit to working on it everyday without fail great things will result.
➴ 3. Get organized
It’s been a year since I completed grad school and I’ve still yet to go through all my binders with readings or even fully organize my desktop and all my folders. I feel like I need to declutter and that will help me refocus my life in a way. I’d like to commit to at least one blog post this month on my progress. I think it will be a fun creative challenge to look forward to so that I don’t get burnt out on all the reading, writing, and blog hopping I’ll be doing this month. Wanna join me in getting organized this month?!
I feel like I made a mistake last month choosing books that would call for a lot of my time when I was still in the thick of a big reading project (what I will now refer to as the great Harry Potter rereading project of 2018). I also seemed to forget what I already know about myself, which is I don’t like getting stuck with a TBR of books that I have no immediate reason for/interest in reading.
So this month I thought realistically about the books that I want to read 1) in order to review, and 2) because I think they will inform my writing this month. As it turns out, the start of a new month (and the approach of summer) reminded me that I wanted to review all the great summer reads that are the Madeleine L’Engle books I acquired last month.
After a week of preparing posts the night before they were scheduled to upload, I’m ready for a little break to focus solely on writing! You’ll hear from me again next on Sunday with a new feature linked to my Blog Hopping in June plans. In the comments below, let me know what you plan to do in June!
In case you missed them, here’s a list of this week’s posts:
Released: June 18, 2013 Pages: 195 pages (paperback) Theme(s): Memory, friendship, trust, childhood trauma, nightmares, multiplicity of worlds Genre(s): Adult / Fantasy / Fiction Age Group: 14+
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touch-paper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.
I’m not someone who grew up with Neil Gaiman. I was only first exposed to, and really made aware of him, by my creative writing club filled with a bunch of pop-culture, story-loving nerds (who I adored dearly). Looking back, however, I realize I had seen Stardust(2007) and Coraline (2009) in high school and loved them, not knowing they were stories derived books from the same author.
Of Gaiman’s books, I had only read his adult fantasy novel Stardust, which I borrowed from my college finally read in 2014 (I reviewed it on Goodreads!) More recently, I had read his middle grade novel The Graveyard Book (which I talked about last year in my Summer Biannual Biblioton Wrap Up).
With my limited experience of the true scope of Gaiman’s works, I entered The Ocean at the End of the Lane assuming that the book would be dark and beautifully written, but (like the previous works I had read) I didn’t expect it to become a favorite or one even one that I found myself thinking about long after reading it. I’m not too sure where I rank this book in relation to the others, but I rated it 4.5 stars.
…Different people remember things differently, and you’ll not get any two people to remember anything the same, whether they were there or not….
This book is not a new favorite. Nor is it one I could myself reaching for again for the sake of enjoyment. Nevertheless, I had to rate it highly because this book made me feel all kinds of emotions while reading it. Also it kept me wondering, long after I finished it, about the characters how the universe worked.
The experience of reading this book reminded me a lot of the movie Annihilation (2018), which I saw for my birthday this year. It was very beautifully crafted and was a gripping story, but I had no idea what really to think of it at the end. Both that movie and this book left me with a lot of questions, and I feel like the creators of each would argue that that is point.
The problem is I like answers!
I can only describe this book as a beautiful nightmare. When the book opens, there is a middle-aged man who after attending a funeral finds himself drawn back to his childhood home, which no longer exists. As he follows his intuition, he finds himself at the end of the lane from which the book’s title is derived. Little by little, he is remembering tidbits recalled as he arrives at Hempstock Farm.
It’s once he finds himself at the pond, which his childhood friend called an ocean, that he remembers the childhood events that were buried away deep inside.
This novella covers what happens to the 7-year-old narrator after an opal miner who was renting a room in his house is discovered dead in his father’s car. This opal miner has lost the money of his friend and in his guilt apparently killed himself, but not before accidentally summoning some type of evil spirit that decided that it would give people money, but in the strangest and cruelest ways.
I don’t know how much more I should say about this book for fear of spoiling it for any who have no read it. It’s really spooky. There’s some vividly gory imagery that may stay with you longer than you wish (that worm…ick). At times it is painfully sad and, at others, a melancholic dream. The Hempstock Farm is a place I think everyone would like to one day visit.
The Hempstocks, themselves, are what made this book so much more fascinating to me. I don’t remember if they consider themselves witches but they do magic that seems to fit snuggly within recognizable science, come from “the old country” (wherever that is), they are older than they look, and have a very nuanced view of monsters, literal and figurative. They take the narrator under their wing when he needs them most, comforting him and reviving him.
Even though the protagonist is a child, this book is better left for adults. The story will be more meaningful for adults who have more experience with guilt and the unfairness of life. So much of this book is commentary on memory as well, which adults also have far more of. Everyone has memories they wish they could forget, memories that they think might make their lives a little easier if they could just let them go.
There’s no denying memories can be painful, but this book, for me, posed the question of whether or not there are certain memories that person is better left without. Memories not of great mental or physical trauma, but memories that could fundamentally change the way you live your life. Memories that house secrets to the universe….
I’ll leave my review with that question to pique your interest in checking this book out!
In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, you get the sense that Gaiman is trying to convey a story without much fuss about the actual prose. The pacing keeps you marching steadily along, reading very colloquially. You feel like you’re inside the head of the narrator, who doesn’t seem to have planned out this story at all but is telling it simultaneously as he recalls it, providing bits of commentary along the way.
I loved how at the beginning of the book we see the narrator subconsciously drawn the the duck pond Lettie Hempstock called an ocean. As he sees things along his path, bits of his lost memories unravel. At the end of the book, we learn that something was drawing him back to the Hempstock Farm, but even if there hadn’t been it felt natural. I don’t think there’s a person who, if they really thought about it, has not moved through life seemingly as if on autopilot without a conscious plan and ended up somewhere interesting.
One thing that particularly stuck out to me in this novel was how it caused me to feel so much emotion (sadness, anger, fear, etc.) even the though the prose was often so subdued and the language used so simple. The first moment that made me cry reading this book happened very early in the story and so unexpectedly.
We learn the boy had a cat given to him on his birthday after no one showed up to his party, and it becomes his best friend. Not a half the page down from where the cat is introduced and we see what a great bond the boy has with it, we learn the kitten was run over by a taxi after just a month. It was a punch I just was not expecting, especially because the book was already off to such a dreary start! I should have known this was the kind of story where things only get worse.
This book reminded me of a few others, including The Graveyard Book, the middle grade book Gaiman wrote that also features a child protagonist, an older girl character, and journeys to netherworlds with orange skies. It also reminded me of A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, where Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which who are in this book inhabiting the Hempstocks.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an extremely quick read, so I do recommend it if you haven’t read it already. Just be warned it might be a bit heavy at parts.
Have you read The Ocean at the End of the Lane? If so, what’d you think?!
Like last month, I felt motivated to set myself some personal goals for Betwined Reads and think ahead about what I might like to prioritize reading this month. For a summary of my progress last month, see my April Notes, which went up yesterday!
I expect May will be a lot like April for me. My biggest priorities right now are still reading, writing reviews, and finishing up my first draft of my current W.I.P. Nevertheless, I’m still hoping to share a lot more this month in terms of different kinds of blogs posts.
➴ 1. Build a backlog of book reviews
I’m comfortable saying I’ve fallen in love with creating book reviews again. They are still evolving with each one I write, but I think I’m getting closer and closer to the magic formula that works for me. However, not every book I read is one I can (or am willing to) review, so I have found myself wanting to start building a backlog of reviews that I can publish weeks I don’t have a new one to share. Last year I read a handful of great books on which I’d like to shine a spot-light, so I have an idea of which ones I may revisit soon for this endeavor.
➴ 2. Finish my first draft of my W.I.P.
As I mentioned in last month’s writing update, in March I decided to complete the first draft of my current W.I.P. by the end of May, so it’s really time for me to hustle! I’m not shooting for a specific word goal, as I’m writing with care but I imagine I will need to write around 20k words. I’m just shooting for major scenes at the beginning, middle, and end. I’m trying this new drafting technique of starting small with the first draft so that in future drafts I’m adding value rather than subtracting fluff.
➴ 3. Post three times a week
Last month I failed majorly at starting up my new features (tech reviews and weekly wrap ups), so these are the kinds of posts I’d like to focus on this month as I’d really like to post more than just book reviews. However, I don’t want to commit to anything specific on a weekly basis. I want to be able to experiment each week and see what else I enjoy posting and what my readers respond to. (With that in mind, if you have requests or suggestions, feel free to share them below!)
Like last month, I’m playing it safe by only selecting three books that I will try to read this month. I expect I’ll read more outside of the books on this list (e.g. HP books 5–7), which is why you may want to follow/friend me on Goodreads to stay up-to-date with my reading!
Obsidioby Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
It completely slipped my mind that the final installment of the Illuminae Files trilogy was coming out last month, and I’ve been eager to catch up! First I’d like to try to reread ILLUMINAE and GEMINA, but I make no promises to you or myself. As much as I’d really like to reread the previous books, I know I should be reading books that more directly relate to my life and my work. (To me, this series is blockbuster fare, plain and simple.)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
In order to continue making progress on reading books that have long been on my TBR, I’m resolved to read this book this month. It sounds like it will be dark but beautiful. It’s also short, which hopefully means I can read and review it quickly! I’m entering it with absolutely no expectations.
The Democratic Surround by Fred Turner
Like last month, I want to encourage myself to read another academic book. In one of my final grad classes last spring, we were assigned to read the introduction and, I think, one chapter from this book. They were among some of the most fascinating reads of the semester (of which there were several). This one was about how the arts in the U.S. were state-funded to combat communism and, amongst other things, treat servicemen who had come back from the war. I’m really looking forward to reading the entire book and finding a way to share some of the things I learn in some way on this blog!
Next up on Betwined Reads will be my review of the children’s classic A RING OF ENDLESS LIGHT by Madeleine L’Engle. Then I hope to come out with something else this weekend, although just what I do not yet know. If you have an suggestions or requests for anything you want to see, please don’t be shy!
For the first time in a long time, I’ve been excited to sit down and plan out future blog posts. This March after I announced my hesitant return to blogging, I tested the waters with two blog posts: a book review and a winter reading wrap up. Now I feel like I can begin to plan for a future in which this blog is indisputable part of my daily life.
On that note, I wanted to share my goals and TBR for the month of April related to Betwined Reads. I love the direction I’ve decided to take this blog and want to let you all know what you can expect to see this month in my little corner of the internet.
➴ 1. Publish at Least two blog posts per week: one book review and one technology review
I feel that at the rate I’m going with my reading at the moment, I can realistically expect to write one book review per week this month. I’ve definitely been bitten by the reading bug and have begun to better know what I’m looking for at this time in my life. For a list of the books you can most likely expect to see reviewed this month, see my TBR a little further below.
I also would like to find and write reviews of cool technologies that I think could be useful to bloggers, students, and digital media enthusiasts. For this month, I’ve tentatively planned to write reviews of new websites and applications that I’ve be learning this month: Unsplash, Trello, Skillshare, and Duolingo.
➴ 2. Share a writing update
I’ve been working on my novel these past couple of months and I’ve been itching to share my progress and some of things I’ve found useful. I even started a post last month that is practically all ready to go, I just didn’t want it to come out of nowhere! So most likely I want to write a blog post updating you all on my writing, my personal deadlines, and also explaining what direction I’d like to take with my writing-related posts this year.
➴ 3. Find and shout out blogs that I’m loving
One of the things I used to really love doing on my original blog Books o’ the Wisp was shout-out the blogs and blog posts that I was loving each week. But, as I briefly hit on in The Return, I realized that I am not aware of many blogs that actively fulfill me and consistently share content I would love to see. To be honest, though, I’ve not done a lot of searching.
Since it has always been a goal of mine when I started Betwined Reads to connect my readers not just with awesome books but also with awesome bloggers that I’m loving who are doing cool and innovative stuff, I feel like there’s no time like the present to start.
I’ve decided to make it a goal for this month to start searching and start sharing here in some kind of weekly format. I think this feature (which will hopefully have a name soon) will go up on Sundays, as I think that is a nice cosy time for most people with busy lives to unwind and catch up—at least Sundays have always that way for me.
I’m not overly confident in my ability to stick to a strict TBR so I don’t find it realistic to look at my bookshelves right now and pretend that the books that appeal to me in this moment will be the books I still want to read at the end of April. Especially as I’m rediscovering my love of reading at the moment. That being said, I have three books I know I will try to get to early this month.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
I first learned of AKATA WITCH from Leigh Bardugo. Bardugo is one of my favorite authors writing today and so I had been looking for books she had recommended for people who love her work and AKATA WITCH was one of them. Upon reading the premise (Goodreads), I decided this book was worth checking out for myself, not just as a reader but a writer.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
I’m still attempting to prioritize reading books that have been on my TBR for a longer amount of time, so SOPHIE’S WORLD (Goodreads) would help me check another off that list. This is actually a book that I might’ve bought in high school; it’s been that long since I acquired it that I can’t exactly remember. I know I’ve attempted reading this book before and found it boring, so I’m not entering it with high expectations. I just want to know if it’s worth unhauling it.
Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins et al.
I started reading SPREADABLE MEDIA (Goodreads) at the beginning of the year. I actually read the entire Introduction, or that thing that comes before an Introduction—it’s been a while since I’ve picked it up again! I really do want to read it, though! I may just have to commit a few days to it and only it so that I can check it off my TBR.
Coming up next this week on Betwined Reads will be my first technology review of Unsplash, a free stock photo service I’ve discovered, which has some awesome photo collections any fellow blogger might find useful. I’m currently using a photo I found on Unsplash for my blog site icon and header image (cited on my About page). You can look forward to this review on Monday. And Thursday you can expect my review of BURIAL RITES, which I finished this weekend! It was gorgeous and heart-rending.
Released: May 19, 2015 Pages: 435 pages (paperback) Theme(s): Magic, human nature, friendship, tolls of war, value of life Genre(s): YA/ Fantasy / Fairytale Age Group: 14+
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But when the dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
Uprooted is a standalone, fantasy novel that has been on my radar for a long time. I love fairytales of all sorts so this book’s summary seemed right up my alley, especially I was in the mood for what I thought might be a little light-hearted romance. That it is not; but nevertheless I enjoyed it tremendously. It was beautifully told and the story really resonated with me, probably because of how unflinchingly honest it was about human nature and relationships.
I didn’t fall in love with this book all at once. It took me a little while to really get into the story, especially as the protagonist Agnieszka at first felt like a Mary Sue. But we soon find what makes her special and her follies are given somewhat of an explanation and, thus, turn into her personal strengths.
I really enjoyed how the story was told. The novel is written entirely from the perspective of Agnieszka, as if she’s telling this story to us directly, with hints of something like foreshadowing which is never too heavy handed but is a subtle reminder of no matter how dark things become that she’s made it out. My only critique in terms of style is that at times the story seemed to drag and force you to put aside your questions to be stumbling around in the moment with Agnieszka.
Why You Should Read It
Strong Female Friendship. Agnieszka’s main driving force throughout the novel is protecting her best friend Kasia. Much of their lives are defined by the knowledge that either of them might be whisked away by the Dragon, although everyone believes it will be Kasia who everyone sees as special. After Agnieszka is chosen, we get to see the aftermath and how they grow closer after the Wood tries to tear them apart.
A Beautiful Mad World. If you’re someone who loves vivid and fantastic world-building and imagery, then I think you will enjoy this book. As I was reading I felt I could see the world unfolding in my mind’s eye like a cinematic experience. The world is essentially a character in the story, magnificent and terrifying. It reminds me of nothing else I’ve read in recent years. Or ever.
Horror & Suspense. Although it is at times a slow-burner, this is the most suspenseful novel I’ve read in a long time. There are moments where I felt like I was reading a psychological thriller. The antagonist is the Wood, which is ever creeping up upon the villages and has the power to corrupt people’s minds and bodies. The country is low on wizards so it is near impossible to tell if someone has been corrupted until they have snapped and are causing pain and suffering in their neighbors and loved ones.
My biggest criticism of the book after having now read the whole thing is that it feels a bit disjointed. I was terrified of the antagonistic force throughout the entire novel, which caused a lot of suspense. But finding out the “why” of it all didn’t do much to satisfy me, maybe because of how out of nowhere it came after the rest of the novel with no real hints. I also felt there was a lack of justice that was just devastating because of how much pain and sorrow the Wood had caused.
I do like where how the novel ends with Agnieszka and the Dragon, as it feels very believable and realistic. But also hopeful.
If August was the month of rereads, September is going to be the month of new releases, or new purchases! At least for the most part. I do not expect that I will want to burn through all my new books super quickly, especially as I want to get back into the process of spending time recording my thoughts on the books I read. So I will try to intersperse older books that I should have read a long time ago too.
I also want to make sure I’m doing other things this month too, so I’ve spent some time thinking about other goals I have that like to get done this month beyond reading so that I can share them with you, for accountability purposes. ^_^
I’d be happy if I read just six books this month, especially if the rest of my free time is spent writing and blogging. But today I want to share the books that are at the top of my TBR for this month.
Persuasion by Jane Austen (which I wanted to read for #MakeMeRead in August)
Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo (which is a new release by my fav author)
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas (which is the latest installment in the Throne of Glass series)
The House of the Scorpionsby Nancy Farmer (which is technically a reread but it’s been over 10 years since I read it)
Maus IIby Art Spiegelman (which is one of my latest purchases that I ended up deciding I wanted to have after reading Maus I last month)
Yes, I’m only listing five books above. But that’s because I want to keep my TBR open for whatever books I may not know I will want to read this month. I have a few other books that have been on my mind for a few months now, but they’re ones I want to save for the right time. Ya know?
Last month in By the first day of fall… I shared three goals that I wanted to accomplish by September 22nd, the first day of fall. Those goals still stand, and I believe I’m currently making good progress on all of them. But I have some other things I want to do this month that I also thought I’d include here.
#1 Publish one book review per week. I’ve long wished to make Thursday a day reserved for book reviews. I’m really going to start prioritizing these posts after this weekend so that they begin rolling out each Thursday. The reviews will include a summary, notes on the format, my thoughts on the story, a list of similar or somehow related books, and my recommendations for who I think would enjoy reading it. I will include what I gained from a writer’s perspective, as I read because I want to write.
My promise to you and, more importantly, to myself is that I will only review books I think are worthy of the time I will put into them and that I think should be shared. So I hope you will enjoy these posts! I know book reviews are not the most popular posts so I hope that anyone who by chance clicks upon one of them will be enchanted by my spin on them.
#2 Write at least 2k words every day I do not have work. I get about 2-3 days off each week, though, they are not the same days each week. In an effort to begin giving myself some structure, I want to start mandating a word count goal that will whip me into shape for NaNoWriMo. I’ve begun to slack on writing with my efforts to catch up on my Goodreads Reading Challenge, and while that’s been valuable, it’s time to switch gears and gain more balance. So hopefully 2k words is a challenge that is achievable. I want to write these words even if I feel like they’re crap and will never be included in the first draft. It’s just exercise.
#3 Research doctorate programs in which I am interested. I’ve been debating my original idea to apply to doctorate programs for the next academic year. I still would love for that to be my next big move, but I want to make sure I’m choosing the right program that will get me where I want to end up. So I want to investigate my options, even the most wild ones. That way I will have plenty of time to work on my application by December, which I think is the time most schools open for submission.
#4 Apply for five jobs. Yes, I have a job. But it’s not one that was ever meant to be long-term. It’s nice to have so that I’m not doing nothing and have a little money coming in, but it’s not going to help me get rid of my debt. It’s a job that will help me survive, but not thrive. So I want to apply for at least five jobs more befitting my academic background and skill set. I’m not in the biggest hurry to leave my parents house, but if I can get a good job that isn’t here, I’m prepared to take it. I feel like I’m in limbo right now.
#5 Finalize a theme for Betwined Reads. Last week I created a fun collage to use as my blog logo, but I still want to create something completely of my own mind and creativity. I love playing around with the design and theme of the blog, but I’m hoping by the end of September I will have something set to use for the rest of fall all the very least.
All right! I’m feeling pumped for the month. How about you?! The next posts you can expect to see here are my next installment of my revived writing feature Novel Progress (see first post here) on Wednesday & a book review for Vassa in the Night on Thursday. From then on, we will see!
I wasn’t sure I was going to participate in the Make Me Read It Read-a-Thon this year as I’ve typically used this read-a-thon as an opportunity to read popular YA titles that I’ve been meaning to get to but the right time had just never come to pick them up (a.k.a. procrastination). Since I’ve burned through almost all my YA titles, I wasn’t sure it’d even be worth putting out a poll on the random literary fiction books high on my personal TBR these days. But, I’ve since had the idea I may use this challenge to knock some classics off my TBR, and therein lies my theme for this read-a-thon!
The Make Me Read It Read-a-Thonis hosted by the lovely Ely @ Tea and Titles and Val @ The Innocent Smiley. The way this read-a-thon works is you choose a selection of books that you are willing and able to read this year between August 6–13, 2017, make a poll, and ask for your followers to vote to decide which books you will tackle during the week-long reading event. The theme of this read-a-thon is to force yourself to read books you just haven’t gotten around to yet. Maybe they’re overhyped online or a book that you were supposed to read for that one class…
After you’ve shared your post with the poll, search the tag #MakeMeRead on Twitter & Instagram to find others who need people to vote on their polls!
Since I still want to participate as I’ve done very few read-a-thons in the past few months and definitely need to participate in more to catch up on my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I decided to give myself more of a challenge by providing a collection of classicsthat are unofficially on my life bucket list TBR. The thought of reading any of these books at the moment scares me, so it’s with a twisted sort of excitement that I look forward to seeing what books win!
Realistically speaking, I’ll likely only be able to read about two books during the read-a-thon, so make your vote count (And maybe only vote for about three books maximum)! Depending on how this experience goes, I may be turned off of reading classics for at least another year ;)
I will announce the winners of this vote a day or two ahead of the read-a-thon’s start date in August with an official TBR. Meanwhile on this blog, you may soon find a TBR for the Summer Biannual Bibliothon, a read-a-thon which runs next week across BookTube, book blogs, and other bookish social media! I look forward to being more active on here and upping my reading game.
Thanks ahead of time for voting and please feel free to leave a link to your own poll if you’d like me to vote on it! I’m having fun blog hopping and voting wherever I can. :)