Tackling My TBR List

During November’s NaBloPoMo, I shared eight books that were on my To Be Read list. Amazingly, I’ve read five of the books since then, so I wanted to do a quick update on them.

1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book was a disappointment for me. I was really looking forward to Anna’s quirky commentary and wit. What I got was a lot about her sex life and recreational drug use and not near enough humor. Parts I did like: learning how Anna started acting at a young age – and in theater, mostly. The first time I saw her act was in Twilight and then Pitch Perfect, so it was interesting to hear about her career before those films. She seemed to have a pretty level-headed upbringing despite being a child actor, and she certainly didn’t make money from acting until recently. That being said, I don’t think I would recommend this book. There just wasn’t anything captivating enough about it. If you feel the need to check this one out, I’d recommend the audio CD over reading the book, as Kendrick herself reads it, so at least it’s a bit more manageable. My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

2. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han  

The third book in the Summer series, We’ll Always Have Summer, picks up at the end of Belly’s freshman year of college. She and Jeremiah have been dating and even attend the same school. It all seems to be going well, but when Belly hears about a mistake Jeremiah made, she’s forced to question whether he is the right guy for her. I read this book in two days because I had to know, who would it be – Jeremiah or Conrad?! Was this a fantastic book? No. Belly was just as immature and selfish as she was in the first two books and the plot was a bit ridiculous, but it didn’t matter – I was sucked in! Jenny Han should really write a television show because her teenage drama is spot on. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

3. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

In Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, a young writer named Darcy decides to defer her freshman year of college so that she can move to NYC and experience life as a debut YA author. Her story as a budding writer, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry, as well as her growth as a young adult, help her shape her manuscript about a girl who survives a terrorist attack and now has the power to “cross over” into an even better story. I bought this book a few years ago in Barnes & Noble’s clearance section, thinking it was a great price for such a huge book! Sadly, the size of the book kept me from actually getting around to reading it. As an e-book however, it was much less daunting. And, boy, am I glad I finally read it. I enjoyed both stories, though they were not as interconnected as I thought they were going to be. I really liked following Darcy’s experience as a debut author. Her story about the afterworld, which is told in the alternating chapters, is just as original and entertaining as the framing story. I’d recommend this book to fans of YA literature and people who have participated in the NaNoWriMo experience. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s sci-fi novel envisions a world where people are genetically engineered and brainwashed so that they are good consumers. Thanks to a society where sex is recreational and not monogamous, and drugs are always available to pick you up or wipe out lonely thoughts, everyone is happy. However, a few characters in the novel start to feel different – the basis for the book’s conflict. I think the book was probably advanced for its time, but reading it today, I found the language a bit difficult to understand. The concept of creating people (and clones of the same person) and preconditioning them was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, but the story went in strange directions and there were some odd writing techniques. For instance, I almost had to picture it like a movie in certain sections because the author would have multiple “scenes” happening all at the same time and I had to keep up with who was talking and what they were talking about. There were some very interesting ideas about sexuality and gender roles – especially for a book published in 1932. Unfortunately, the book had a terrible ending. Terrible because it just ended abruptly without filling the reader in on how all the character’s stories were resolved. There were several main characters, but none of their stories felt finished or complete to me. While an ending like this sometimes leaves room for the reader to fill in the blanks, in this case, I wanted more information. I left not really knowing what I was supposed to make of this strange new world – other than it was certainly not the utopia it claimed to be. There were a lot of messages: the fear of taking science and technology too far, the importance of reading and education, how religion can control people and form society, how free is our free will, just to name a few. I’m sure it’d be a fascinating book to use for discussion in a book club or classroom. In all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, but I’m not sure I liked it all that much. My Goodreads rating: 2 stars

5. Shadow and Bone, Book 1 of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The first book of the Grisha Trilogy begins with a trek across a dangerously dark and monster-filled area called the Shadow Fold. The main character, Alina, finds she has incredible powers that can ward off the terror of the Shadow Fold. She is sent to the royal court to be trained as an elite fighter. But the luxurious life being a powerful member of the elite isn’t what it seems. I almost gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads, as it was pretty close to perfect. I raced to finish this one, and then was sad when I made it to the last page. The characters and world were just plain enjoyable to read about. I was hooked from the beginning and I will definitely be continuing the rest of the series. I’ve already got the next book on hold. There are many books about people who have strange powers or abilities (Graceling, Three Dark Crowns, Shatter Me, Under the Never Sky – all books I enjoyed, by the way), but this book still held its own and brought something different and interesting. I would highly recommend this book (especially if you liked the books I listed in parentheses)! My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

What books have you recently crossed off your TBR list?

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Always and Forever, Cute Shoes

alwaysandforevershoe

Shoes inspired by the upcoming novel, Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.


A while back, I commented on a line of footwear that was (supposedly) inspired by classic American literature. Since the final product was so watered down, I created a few of my own shoe designs for classic novels.

I love drawing shoes. Check out a design I came up with for Andy Weir’s novel, The Martian here. Here you’ll find a design for Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I even designed a pair for the classic children’s book Chicka Chicka ABC here. The book Uprooted inspired some great boots here.

My TBR List

mytbrlistThe great thing about having reading as a hobby is that you’ll never run out of books! There are always more books to be read, authors to discover, and characters to connect with. And even as you grow and change, your hobby can grow and change with you. There are different genres to explore and challenges to take on. That means my TBR (to be read) list is always growing and changing too. I keep track of what I want to read next by adding titles to my Goodreads To-Read list, and also my wish list and holds list on OverDrive.

mytbrlonglistHere is what is currently on my TBR list (in no particular order):

  1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick – I love Anna Kendrick in movies, on talk shows, and the internet, so I can’t wait to see what quips she comes up with for a book!
  2. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han – I have to see who Belly ends up with. Will it be the fun, loving, quick-to-smile Jeremiah, or his older brother, the mysterious and brooding Conrad?
  3. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld – I bought the hardcover version of this book years ago and haven’t had time to sit down and enjoy it yet. I’m looking forward to seeing how Westerfeld weaves the story of a young writer who is just about to be published along with the actual novel that is being written.
  4. The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis – First, the cover is beautiful. Second, it sounds like there will be a really interesting setting to this story: NYC’s Barbizon Hotel for Women.
  5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – I enjoy science fiction, and this feels like a classic that I’ve been missing out on.
  6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – This is another classic that has somehow escaped me. As an English major, can you believe that it was never on one of my required reading lists?
  7. Shadow and Bone, Book 1 of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – Many book bloggers seem to love this series, so I’m interested to see if it will be one of my favorites, too.
  8. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han – I’ll have to wait until April 2017 to read this one, but I’m really looking forward to it. This is the third book in Lara Jean Song’s story, and originally Han had said that there were only going to be two books, as “It organically feels like two books to me–two halves of a heart.” But I guess she (or her readers or editors?) changed her mind about that! I felt that the second book ended things nicely…but I’m also eager to read more of the story! You can read more about my thoughts to the first book in the series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before here.

What books are you looking forward to reading soon? How do you keep track of your TBR list?

Falling into Summer Books

summerbooks
A Reading Update:

Since my last update, I finished reading a book and am 60% through another. I read the second book in Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty series called It’s Not Summer Without You in just a few days. I really enjoy Jenny Han’s novels and have read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You, as well as the Burn for Burn trilogy she wrote with Siobhan Vivian. The Summer series has three books in it, so I’ve still got to read that one, but overall, I feel like the Summer series is the weakest of Han’s works. The main character, Belly, is just a bit too juvenile and whiny. She adores two brothers and can’t figure out which one she should date. Their mom is dealing with cancer, so I was sometimes annoyed by how much Belly thought of herself. That being said, the (ridiculous) love triangle sucked me in and I have to read the third book in the series to see how it ends!

Currently, I’m reading Invincible Summer by Alice Adams. Since this book cleverly has “Summer” in the title, it was on a lot of “perfect summer reads” lists. The book is adult fiction and follows four friends as they navigate relationships and careers after college. There are parts of this book that I like, and even moments I can relate to because I’m similar to the character’s ages and places in life, but I’m still on the fence about it. I’m over halfway through the novel and I still can’t tell why the book is called Invincible Summer. Sure, the epigraph has a quote that uses the phrase “invincible summer,” but I thought more of the book would take place during the summer, or that there would be an epic summer that would impact the characters’ lives. I guess I’ll just have to keep reading to find out more.     

A Writing Update:

I went back to a novel that I had been working on years ago and discovered that I had written an ending AND gone through and edited it once. I was surprised at this! So I’m going to make the changes to the text and then print up a copy. I know it’s rough, but I can’t see what I’m working with yet. I think seeing it in its entirety will be useful. Also, I’ll feel like I actually finished a writing project.  

What are you reading and writing this Creativember?

Casting To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

According to a blog post from October 2014 on If List, Jenny Han’s novel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been optioned for film by Overbrook Entertainment. Overbrook Entertainment is Will Smith’s production company. I wonder what drew him and his partner to this novel. It doesn’t seem like a big blockbuster opportunity like The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, or even a stand-alone novel like The Fault in Our Stars. What do you think? Would To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before make a great movie?

Lara Jean Song Covey has been in love before…it’s just that none of her crushes have ever known about it – until now. Lara Jean spilled all of her feelings into love letters, sealed them, and hid them in a box. Somehow, those letters get mailed out and Lara Jean has to live with the consequences. When she finds out that one of the boys (who also happens to be her older sister’s ex) has feelings for her, she freaks out and pretends to be in a relationship with another one of her crushes. But Lara Jean is surprised when this fake relationship starts to turn into something more. Will Lara Jean trust in her feelings or let her insecurities get the best of her?

I thought this was a really cute book. It’s like a young adult romantic comedy. Han’s writing style is approachable and believable. You’ll smile as you read this book. When you’re finished reading this book, Lara Jean’s story continues in P.S. I Still Love You. And if you find that you’ve become a fan of Jenny Han’s writing, I’d also recommend the Burn for Burn trilogy, which she co-wrote with Siobhan Vivian.

Here are some of my casting suggestions in case Will needs some help! 

toalltheboys_dreamcast

A Box of Books

box_of_booksI recently mailed a package to the school I worked at for four years. Inside the box was a stack of books that I had picked up at the Half Price Bookstore, read, and wanted to share. Mind you, I bought these books months ago, but I couldn’t bear to part with them! I almost decided not to mail them at all. Then I looked around at our apartment (which is bursting at the seams already) and decided that since I had read the books, I could live without the physical proof. Here’s what I sent and a review in fifteen words or less, plus some notes to help you decide whether or not you should add it to your summer reading list:

  • Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson: Average teen pulls prank, earning a reputation. He then deals with rumors and ruined reputations.
    • Read Twisted if you like realistic characters and situations, and topics that are relevant to today’s teens. Also read if you liked Anderson’s other novels, like Speak.
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Accident lands a girl in a coma. She must decide to live or let go.
    • Read If I Stay if you saw the movie preview and thought it looked interesting, or if you like teenagers put in difficult situations that they must overcome. This one’s a bit of a tearjerker.
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: 1996 teens access their future Facebook pages through AOL CD. Their choices affect their futures.
    • Read The Future of Us if you enjoyed Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, or if you are interested in how technology has changed our lives in a relatively short time, thanks to the internet and Facebook.
  • Starters by Lissa Price: Elderly rent out teenagers’ bodies for fun, but teens soon become mindless weapons.
    • Read Starters if you like YA dystopian novels with strong female leads like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched. This novel has a sequel titled Enders, which I picked up from the library this week, but haven’t started yet.
  • Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: Lillia, Kat, and Mary help one another seek revenge, but maybe they go too far…
    • Read Burn for Burn if you are tired of YA dystopian novels! This novel has three girls from different social cliques working together on revenge plots. There is also a bit of the supernatural involved. This book is followed by Fire with Fire, which I also read and enjoyed, and I’m interested to see what will happen in the third book in the series.
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: Meteor pushes moon closer to earth and family must survive with stockpiled food and wood-stove.
    • Read Life As We Knew It if you’re interested in finding out what life would be like if a global natural disaster really happened and you were forced to survive without grocery stores, water, heat, electricity, cell phones, and the internet. The novel is written as a series of journal entries. It is followed up by three other books in the series (which I have not read, and I’m not sure that I will).
  • The Kill Order by James Dashner: Prequel to Maze Runner series. How it all started. Mutating disease released on innocent people.
    • Read The Kill Order if you read the Maze Runner series and are still confused! While this novel still didn’t answer all of my questions, it did help explain how the disease started in the first place. It also shows what life was like right at the time of the sun flares, which are discussed in the Maze Runner books.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Kid leaves reservation school to attend a white school for hope of a better future.
    • Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian if you have ever felt like you didn’t belong in your family, community, or school. Read this book if you’ve felt like there was more to you and your potential than everyone around you imagined. As the main character is a teenage boy, I feel like boys would be drawn to this book more than girls would. Read this book if you disagree with book banning/challenging and you want to see what all the fuss is about.
  • Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen: Author of Hatchet and Brian’s Winter returns with more of Brian’s story.
    • This is the only book out of the bunch that I didn’t read. I just know that kids always like Gary Paulsen’s books. Students are captivated by Brian’s ability to survive in the wild on his own. I remember reading Hatchet and Brian’s Winter in elementary school and really enjoying them. I think I remember this unit in particular because we even got to build our own forts in the school forest. How cool is that?!

How did I do?  Do you think my box of books will be a hit with teenagers looking for something new to read?