first week of December; I think I already know my favorite book of the year

Thursday, December 3, 2015

I may sound like a broken record for talking about this book one more time, but I can't help myself. I loved this book so much that even though there's still a few weeks until the end of the year, I have already made up my mind that this book is definitely my favorite from this year. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is a historical fiction novel set in France during WWII and tells the story of two women during this time period. I already wrote a full review on this, so if you would like to read that, click here, but basically, I can not rave about this book enough. I have to recommend it to you if you haven't picked it up yet, because it is completely worth your time! 

It is just such a perfect and beautiful story; it is eloquently told and is such a page-turner that you may find it difficult to put down. At the same time, you would probably want to force yourself to put it down, for fear of the story ending. While I can go on and on about it, I still would not be able to give justice to the purity and very essence of the story. There simply aren't enough words to say about it without sounding repetitive and cliche. What I will focus on is how much it moved me. It moved me to tears as I was reading it, and it broke my heart so many times that I've lost count. And when I was done with it, all I wanted to do was talk to the characters, hug them, as I felt that they become my friends; they have become my sisters. 

On that note, I would like your top favorite reads this year so far. I am just starting to get back into reading after a bit of a break so I'm excited to pick one and read it before the year ends. Maybe it will become my favorite too. 

Christmas Wishlist

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I've never made a wish list before, and I always have a hard time picking my gifts when asked what I want. Honestly, I would be pretty happy with fuzzy socks, candles, books, and pajamas! But hey, just because, I thought it would be fun to make an actual list for a change, here's mine. 
As for books, the only thing on my list right now is definitely Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: Illustrated version! It is just so beautiful and beautiful and beautiful and I just want it but I can't justify buying it because I don't really need it, but let's be honest, I do.
I also would very much love to have The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones because I love that expansive world so much. 

What's on top of your list this holiday season? 

On Grief and Coping

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

One of my close friends passed away in late August, and three months later, I still feel completely lost and heartbroken. I don't want to give away more details, out of respect to her family, who are also my friends, but basically, a tragic accident took her life. It was and still is devastating. There aren't words to describe the shock and the pain, but here I am, wanting to share, because I think at the very least, people should know who she is and how much of an impact she has made on so many people.

My friend, Medina, was 20 years old. She was young, carefree, and incredibly beautiful inside and out. Whether you were close to her or not, everyone felt her strong and confident presence. She was vibrant - a true beauty and a go-getter with a nurturing quality. At times, she would get into this mom-mode in which she would speak with such maturity and authority that I sometimes forgot how young she still was.

Why am I writing this blog post? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm writing this because I am not sure how else to cope. I've always found this blog to be a great outlet, and countless times I've gotten genuine feedback and conversations here, and I feel like talking about my friend and remembering her are the only things I can do right now. So here I am. 

That being said, I do also want to take my time to thank those that left me nice comments and messages on Instagram and Twitter when I shared the news in August; your support was not left unnoticed. I really appreciate having a group of people online that I've never even met in real life, help me through this tough time. 

While I'm not sure I am 100% there yet, I feel I've made some progress as I'm blogging again. I'm reading again, which was the hardest thing to do after it happened because she used to love my book posts on my IG. I'm also considering going on trips to places similar to the place she was once last, which is a big deal. Will I actually go? Maybe not, maybe yes, but like they say... baby steps. 

End of Nanowrimo - what?!

Monday, November 30, 2015

what November looked like for me
Challenge: 30 days to write 50,000 words.
Challenge accepted!

I can't believe today is the last day of Nanowrimo or National Novel Writing Month. It was my first time participating, and it was a lot of fun. Honestly though, the entire November was such a blur to me - full of late night and early morning writing sessions in between 'real life.' Overall, it was exciting, and thankfully, I managed to reach that 50,000 mark on Day 25 even though I seriously doubted myself along the way. 

I think I still have about 30,000 words or so left to finish the story, but just the fact that I have words down now and an actual story is very encouraging to me.

I have to thank the entire Nanowrimo community as well as the writing community on social media, specifically on Instagram. Of course, I have to thank my boyfriend for pushing me to write everyday and for understanding when I can't.

Now time to write more, to finish, and then to edit 0_o. If you also participated, I hope that you hit your own personal goals for your novel too!

Scariest Book You've Read?

Friday, October 23, 2015

It's October. It's almost Halloween. It's that time again - that month to read some scary books. I have to admit I am what you can call a chicken when it comes to horror stories. I have such an overactive imagination that it's hard for me to get things out of my mind, especially if those said things are terrifying things. 

Despite that though I love horror because it really challenges me and yes, it's kind of fun to be scared every once in a while. This novel by Stephen King is my favorite horror. It scared me so much and the movie didn't make it any better either. That terrified me as well.
Currently, I'm reading Salem's Lot because so many recommended this to me when I
asked for a horror recommendation. That may or may not be a good idea. What's the scariest book you've read? 

I Am Malala: FIVE stars and nothing less

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

When the Taliban took over the Swat Valley in Pakistan, a girl refused to be silenced. All she wanted to do was to fight for her right to an education. In 2013, she paid the price for her bravery and was shot in the head by a member of a Taliban armed with a pistol. Her future was not promising and nobody expected her to survive. Over time and through countless support globally, she recovered from her injuries, and instead of letting the events silence her, it made her even more motivated. You might be familiar with her through her powerful speech when she took her cause to the halls of the United Nations and when she spoke with powerful leaders around the world. Until today, she continues her efforts to fight for the right for all people to get an education. I Am Malala is the story of this heroic girl, and what a story indeed.

Since I've known about her story before, I knew I was going to appreciate this book. However, there was so much more that I did not know about her. While reading, I found myself not able to put the book down, and in just a few hours, I finished it. From the moment I read the first page, I was immediately captured by Malala's voice. She sounded so relatable to me, as if she was just a friend talking to me about her daily life. But she's not an ordinary person, not like anyone at all. She is Malala, and her story is anything but ordinary. 

Another huge thing for me was how this book opened my eyes. As a person residing in the U.S., we hear about all the things happening abroad through the news and the press coverage. We are informed that way, but there's so much more that we do not know about. It was a shock to me in a way, and it was extremely moving to see it from the point of view of a teenager who actually lived there and has seen it all. Admittedly, I found myself in tears while reading some parts, because it really made me realize how much we take things for granted: being able to walk outside freely without fear, being able to wear whatever we want, read whatever we want, and more. The fact that this is just one story makes me feel sick to think about all the other stories left untold. 

If there's anything else that my review can do for you, I hope it's to encourage you to get the book and read it too. It's Malala's story, but it's also more than that. It's a story of her country, her culture, and her family. Of her relationship with her father. It's a story that shows courage, resilience, and strength. It is inspiring and motivating, and it deserves to be read just like Malala deserves to be heard all around the world. 

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon: Reading for a Cause

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I am so excited that the Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is here yet again. It's probably one of my favorite things from the book community. I love the fact that we get to dedicate a whole day to reading, but I especially love how it gives us readers a chance to interact with fellow book lovers.

This time around, I, along with four others (Melissa, Roberta, Jennifer, and Rikke) decided to read for a cause. Together we started a fundraising campaign for Pencils of Promise, a global organization that focuses on providing quality education for all. Their proceeds go directly into building schools in communities, supporting and training teachers, and providing a safe and sanitary place for education.

I ask you now if you are participating in the readathon to donate any amount that you can because every little bit counts.

We also of course are very excited that we have extra "perks" to offer those who donate to the cause. Thanks to our generous sponsors like Out of Print, among others, we are able to host mini giveaways for very cool bookish items. We will make announcements regarding the giveaways later, but in the meantime, enjoy the readathon and please support an organization that could potentially help provide a much-needed quality education for those that do not get the same privilege that we get everyday.

Man Booker Prize Shortlist

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Man Booker Prize is an annual literary award that is given to the year's best original fictional novel, and just this month, the shortlist was officially announced. I was so excited to see that A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara was one of the finalists because so far this year, it's one of my favorite reads.

Aside from the heartwrenching novel by Yanagihara, the others nominated are:

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Because of I really loved A Little Life and am rooting for it to win, I wanted to also give the others a chance. I mean, if the book is shortlisted, it probably means it's worth a read, right? So I picked up and am currently reading A Brief History of Seven Killings. This imaginative novel has a plot that is difficult to explain, but it takes true events and twists them to create various perspectives.

If you've read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them!

Reading Two Books At Once: Currently Reading

Saturday, August 22, 2015

I'm reading two books at once. Or at least trying to. It's not the easiest, but I just want to read both so much that I am making an attempt. I borrowed Norwegian Wood from the ebook library and also have Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
I have to admit I am more engaged with Norwegian Wood; there's something gripping about Murakami's writing, which is good because this is my first Murakami. And while I am liking Blood Meridian, maybe I have to be in a certain mood for something as dark as McCarthy's style?

Anyway, do you read multiple books at once? Or are you like me who find it almost impossible to do so?

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee *no spoilers*

Monday, July 20, 2015

The initial thought I had when I read the first few chapters was how much I missed Harper Lee's writing. Her prose is just as beautiful, just as poetic, and just as eloquent as I remembered. She has a way of creating imagery and of putting meaningful messages without trying hard to do so. I also found it incredibly difficult to put it down and yet, I made a decision to take my time with it because I didn't want it to be over so soon. Overall, it was a real treat just being able to devour her words again. 

As I started getting through the book a bit more, like I just mentioned, I found myself in love with the writing. Then I asked myself, "Would I like these characters and story, as well as their developments, if this was not written by Harper Lee? If it was not a sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird? Would I still be invested or would I think 'eeehh it's alright?'"

I am saying this because I think my favorite part of this novel was because it's connected to To Kill A Mockingbird. This brought me back to the settings and characters of the story that I loved. It almost felt like a grand reunion of childhood friends after years of not seeing or hearing from each other. I'd ask myself too; "am I still friends with these people in this reunion or are we united by the memories of our friendship so long ago? Other than that, what else do we have in common?" Comparing it to a reunion made me think about how I love the connection, but if I didn't know anything about its background, I wonder if I would still like the book as much as I do.

That being said, the biggest strength of this book is how it's driven by such well-written characters. They are still realistic and believable, and I loved that this book offered a more complex view of them. In my opinion, they have become more multifaceted in my eyes, and it proved many things to me. First, it really showed how innocent children can be when growing up. As kids, we were protected from many things, and as we got older, we discovered more things about life. It's an inevitable part of maturity and of growing up. Go Set A Watchman did a great job exploring this. 
It also did a great job showing how nobody and nothing can be just black or white. There are gray areas, there are middle grounds, and also common grounds. No one is just a bad person or a good person; everyone has a light and dark side. Ultimately, as people, we are just trying our best to survive everyday despite our flaws and life's challenges. 
This book also showed that there is something to learn and discover everyday, and we must open our minds more. While boldness is an admirable characteristic, we must  not assume we are in the right all the time because the truth is, we're not. What we can do is always hear both sides of every person involved or every story, learn from our mistakes, learn from others, and just try to be better people in our society more and more each day.

Technically speaking, as a sequel of a classic, I feel it is not strong enough to be considered 'complete.' It read more like a scattered draft - a great one at that - but not quite a finished novel. It didn't feel cohesive enough. 
The great thing about books though is that we do not just read them for their literary merit. We read books for different reasons, and for this one, I read it for the experience. It made me feel nostalgic, and it showed me that the best characters to read about (like Atticus and Scout) are the ones who are real, flawed, believable, and true. 
If you are still debating whether or not to read it because you are afraid it will ruin To Kill A Mockingbird, my advice is for you to just push everything aside and read with an open-mind. Read it for what it is, let go of your expectations, and maybe you'd also be able to appreciate it as much as I did too.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Friday, July 17, 2015

Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

I've been warned that Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro was going to be a sad story, and it definitely lived up to that expectation that was set up for me. It was one of those books that will stay with you long after you're done reading it. It was bleak and atmospheric. Personally, it literally haunted me in my dreams and admittedly affected me the day when I finished it.

I felt this way after reading Burial Rites last year too. It haunted me and stayed with me. It must be the atmosphere behind this that makes this book stick. Combine that with Ishiguro's effortless prose and it's especially difficult not to love it. It never seems as if he is trying so hard to write beautifully too, which is always a plus; he just does.

Overall, I do not think it is for everyone, but I do highly recommend this is you want a unique story with creative settings and characters, paired with gorgeous writing. It's a simple and beautiful book. It is honest and unflinching. As my first book by Ishiguro, this has turned me into his fan.

Best Books So Far In 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

We are a little bit more than halfway through the year already, which is insane to me to be honest. Reading-wise, I'm having quite a great year! I'm on a reading high, and that's the way I like it. I figured I should recognize some of my favorite reads this year so far. Here are the six books I picked.
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  • Ebook from my Kindle: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
    What a heart wrenching book. This one was tough to read, but so worth it. It has some incredibly effective storytelling and effortlessly beautiful prose. It also has some of the more memorable characters I've read in a while.
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
    After reading On the Road, I had to read more Kerouac. I really liked this one and it gave me a new sense for adventures.
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
    Read my review here.
  • The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath
    Admittedly I've been working on this one for a few months now, but I only finished it in June. If you are a fan of The Bell Jar and you're intrigued and interested by Plath's life, I definitely recommend this one.
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
    Read my review here.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    Read my review here.
What about you? Tell me your favorite reads so far this year.

Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

Friday, July 3, 2015

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
I read this book in a day and a half for a reason - it's a quick and fast-paced read. As soon as I received it for review, I couldn't wait and I dove right in. First off, it's a fictional novel set in my dream city destination (someday, I'll go there!) so that part of it attracted me to this. It also centers around this character who owns a floating bookstore on the Seine, where he 'prescribes books for a living,' which to me, sounds like a dream. It also has the tag line that states it's "a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories." Are you sold yet? Because I was.

Fortunately, it did not disappoint. It was just how I thought it would be: charming. The setting of course, was a huge part that made it like so. It was great to read the lovely descriptions of France and specifically, of Paris. Another thing I really loved was the main character himself. I felt like I was reading about someone I personally knew. He was realistic and believable. All I wanted to do was to ask him for his specific recommendations for me. Of course, the biggest characters for me in this story were the literary aspects. The books, the bookstore, the quotes... it will truly captivate any reader and book lover.

Overall, I thought this book was a delightful read. While it's not automatically going on my 'favorites' pile, it is definitely a novel that will go on my books-about-books list. It is sort of similar to how I feel when I read Mr. Penumbra's Bookstore and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I didn't 100% love it, but I found it incredibly blissful to read a story surrounding literature and the power of reading.

More about the book
More about the author
FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by Penguin Random House for review.

Father's Day: Memorable Fictional Dads

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Father's day was already this past Sunday, but I thought since I did a post for Mother's day, I should do it this time around as well. On my Instagram, I posted a photo of books that in my opinion has some of the most memorable and great dads as well as father figures in literature.
Atticus Finch : To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Ned Stark : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Oberyn Martell : Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin
Mr. Bennett : Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Arthur Weasley : Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Hans Hubermann : The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
not pictured: the father in The Road by Cormac Mccarthy

Who are some of the memorable fictional fathers to you? 

Zion National Park.

Friday, June 12, 2015

My boyfriend and I have a bit of a tradition - we love going on trips in general, but we have a special place in our hearts for National Parks. I've personally gone on two without him - Grand Canyon and Yosemite. He's gone on more, but hardly recalls them as his parents took him when he was younger.. As an adult, he's gone to Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks by himself. Together, we've visited Yosemite, Mt. Rainier, and Olympic National Park. On May 28-June 2, we were in Utah, spending three and a half days in Zion and spending two and a half days in Bryce. Both were amazingly wonderful destinations.

From where I live in Northern California, the drive itself took ten and a half hours. It was an enjoyable ride through Southern California, Nevada, a bit of Arizona, and then into the unique canyons of Utah.

Two hours from Las Vegas, you arrive in Zion. Zion National Park kind of comes out of nowhere. We were driving and following the map when all of a sudden, we see everything towering over us. Mountain peaks with colorful rock formations say hello, and we couldn't help but stare in awe; we were in total disbelief that such a thing can exist in our world.
We hurried to our reserved 'home away from home' in the fully booked Watchmen campground. I adored this place! Despite the fact that it was full of people, the sites were far apart enough that it still made you feel as if you were there alone in the wild. It was also immaculately clean despite having no showers. It also was very peaceful and quiet enough. The best part was that we were surrounded by the majestic mountains called the Watchmen, making the experience even more remote and serene. Since this was our first day and we were a little tired, we did most of the scenic routes by car. We drove through Zion-Mount Carmel Highway, which is not to be missed, as it offers views like no other.
On our second day, after having breakfast while looking at maps and learning a bit more of what Zion has to offer, we quickly realized that four days in the park weren't going to be enough to fully explore. There were countless hiking trails that we wanted to do, but we had to pick and choose. Of course, The Narrows was number one on my list as that has been something I've always wanted to do. And let me tell you, it was more than what I expected to be. It was more beautiful, more peaceful, more awe-inspiring, but also more challenging than I anticipated. In all honesty, it kicked my butt, but oh it was so worth it. 
The Narrows overall is a 16-mile hike, one-way, but hikers need a permit to go all the way as it requires camping in the area. It was never our plan to do the whole thing, so we only tried to go as long as we physically wanted to. Since there weren't any signs on how many miles we've done, we could only assume. We did decide to head back about two hours before sunset, and overall, we were down there for 8 hours. It's very easy to lose track of time, so if you go, be very alert and cautious!
Exploring The Narrows was the most adventurous thing I've done, but it was also the toughest and most grueling. You really have to take your time as you are fighting against the river's current while also watching carefully for your next step as underneath are rocks of all sizes. We rented special water hiking shoes and socks from the store near the Visitor Center, and I highly recommend this as it helped keep my feet warm and also saved my ankle so many times! In terms of depth, the water mostly went up to my knees, but there were times when it went up my belly button! It was a lot of fun walking through that water. 
By the 6th hour of us hiking, I admittedly wanted to give up, but I knew I needed to strengthen myself mentally more than anything. I kept going and I was extremely proud of myself when we were finally done with it. There is nothing like being able to come back from where you started and saying, "We did it!" 
We trudged on and when we got back to the campground, it was the best feeling ever. We were both extremely exhausted and sore from the hike that we ate dinner quietly and went to bed early. We slept for a full eight hours, and when we woke up, we surprisingly felt a lot better! Feeling strong, encouraged, and inspired by the 8 hour hike we just did the day before, we wanted to keep going! Thankfully, we were smart and chose a much easier trail: The Emerald Pools Trail. It was a 3-mile roundtrip hike with moderate difficulty,and it was also a much more straight-forward trail. You go up, you go down. While hiking, we saw waterfalls, emerald pools, and monoliths... it had it all. It was gorgeous to say the least. After that, we rewarded ourselves with burgers, a lot of water, and soft-serve ice cream cones.
That late afternoon, just minutes before sunset, we decided that instead of taking the shuttle back to the campground that we would walk instead. The well-paved trail was only a mile and a half long after all. While walking, we took in the fantastic views of the mountains again. Nearby, we could hear the water rushing from the river, which made our walk even more serene than it already was. Since we pretty much had the trail to ourselves, it was completely peaceful that we almost didn't notice a deer. It probably noticed us first. It was just eating, and as we walked almost next to it, I remember just watching her (yes, her, because she was pregnant!) stare at us nonchalantly. It hit me again, as nature always tends to do to me; we were nobody. Just humans. Living in a big world. We do not own it, we are not the masters of it. We are just part of it, and that's what makes it so captivating. 
On our last day in Zion, we woke up early to enjoy the campground. We had breakfast and packed up as we were heading to Bryce Canyon National Park. It was very bittersweet to leave. There simply wasn't enough time to fully explore the area, but we were excited for Bryce at the same time. I guess it just means we have to go back again... 

Latest Haul (Birthday Gifts)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My birthday is not until Sunday and yet I've already gotten gifts from people. First, a good friend of mine got me a gift card to Half Price Books. I was so excited. I went and got six books that's been in my tbr list for a while now. 
  • An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison - a mental health memoir about manic depression
  • Wasted by Marya Hornbacher - a mental memoir about anorexia and bulimia
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  • Where'd You go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
  • Siddheartha by Herman Hesse
  • Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
Aside from the books, I also received this awesome mug from my boyfriend. It says, "I like to party and by party I mean read books." No truer words have been said.

It's Mother's day on Sunday.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Since it's Mother's day on Sunday, I thought I'd get a head start in celebrating it by honoring the mothers in books we've read. Here are the mothers that I think deserve the recognition! Of course, if you are reading this, I challenge you to write down your own list of fictional moms that are memorable to you.

  • Mrs. Weasley from the Harry Potter series
    Molly Weasley was the first one that came to mind when I thought of this. She is kind, brave, and loyal. She also is generous with her motherly love as she has proven time and time as she pretty much took Harry (and Hermione - as well as others) as her own. 
  • Lily Potter from the Harry Potter series
    Even though we didn't get to see Lily as much, I have always been fond of her. First of all, she sacrificed herself for Harry, and through the stories told throughout the series, it was evident that she was a kind and gentle soul. 
  • Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    She's sassy and a bit tough on Liesl, but there is no denying that her intentions and efforts were pure and simply out of love. She worked hard and she loved her family more than anything.
  • Claire Abshire from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
    Her undying devotion to her family is like nothing else. Despite the special circumstances she's in, she never fails to remember why she does the things she does. 
  • Margaret March from The Little Women
    She plays both the mom and dad in the March family, and through it all, she remained her wise and gentle self. She is a great listener and she always encourages her children to go for whatever they may want.
  • Vianne from The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    If  you haven't read The Nightingale yet, despite the fact that I've mentioned it again and again, you really must! It's a heart wrenching and beautiful book, and Vianne is an unforgettable character. She is a mother that would do anything and everything for her family and those she loves no matter what.
Also, I figured it wouldn't be fair to mention the good moms without mentioning the antagonistic ones. They're moms too after all ;)
  • Mrs. Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Euginedes
  • Margaret White from Carrie by Stephen King
  • the bad mother from Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Now it's your turn. If you are reading this, I tag you to make your own list before or on Mother's day! It's actually surprisingly more challenging than I thought, coming up with this list, so good luck. 

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Genre: Literary Fiction - Modern Classic? 
Rating: 5 stars
I've always wanted to read this book, but it has always intimidated me. I'm glad I finally picked it up. Even before reading it, people had already warned me that this novel was one of those that you either love or hate, depending heavily on what you think of Jack Kerouac's views and his writing style. I am ecstatic to say that I loved it. 

There was just something about this novel that captured my interest while reading it. It felt like I was getting the chance to have an intimate look into one's scattered brain. Jack Kerouac's prose is also just lovely to read. It reads like a heavy stream of consciousness. It's a little messy and sometimes random, but the most important part is it's honest and real. 

I do see the flaws that the people in the book have (especially Dean), but I appreciate how realistic they were. Despite some negative attributes and actions, there were clearly good things that anyone can appreciate and learn from them. I love their free spirit and enthusiasm, and how they never seemed to lose their sense of wonder. They actively searched for the meaning of their lives in all the places they went and the people they met along the way. Through everything, they never lost their adventurous souls. 

I could easily go on and analyze its themes and messages. I could also just say that it's a book that can be appreciated academically due to its brilliant literary merit. However, for me, the book meant more than that. I loved it for its realistic take on humanity and one's struggles, fears, hopes, and dreams. It also proved to me that the only thing that can make you richer in life is experience. It pushed in my mind that there is nothing worse than not doing things you want to do, out of fear of the possible consequences. It reminded me that I should take risks even if it's the scariest thing to do. It made me think about these well-known lines from Erin Hanson's poem: 
There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask, "What if I fall?" 
Oh but my darling, what if you fly? 

I do agree that this book is not for everyone. I understand why some give it a one-star rating, so my my advice is for you to just see if it's something you might like. I would generally recommend this to you if it's been on your TBR for a while. Consider this a little nudge for you to pick it up already. I would also recommend this if you like literary fiction or want to wander around the genre. For me, I'm glad I finally read it and I can't wait to read his other books as well. 

Review: The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Monday, May 4, 2015

my instagram
Genre: Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
The Good Girl is about Mia Dennett, a teacher, who on one night, leaves with a seemingly nice man from the bar. What she didn't expect was that the decision to go home with him was going to be the biggest mistake in her life. 

That's all I can say about the book. If you want to read it, do not look up else much about it or believe anyone when they say it's the next so and so book. I think that setting up those expectations can automatically kill any book. I believe every book deserves to be read with an open-mind, and in my opinion, be read without knowing much about what it's about except for its basic premise. That is exactly what I did with this novel, and I think because of that, I ended up loving it and enjoying it so much.

I won't say a lot, but this book was mysterious, thrilling, and riveting. The author, Mary Kubica, definitely knows what she's doing because she tells this story in such an engaging way. Every chapter will pull you in, giving you more, but also leaving you more curious and more intrigued than when you started. This of course results in some serious late night reading, encouraging sleep deprivation. Basically, what I'm trying to suggest is you should proceed with caution when you pick up this book because once you start, you won't want to stop until you're done with it. It is pretty easy to read too as it is incredibly fast-paced. I finished it in two days! That being said, I highly recommend this if you love page turners. It's quick, easy, and definitely entertaining. The characters are realistic and believable, and the writing is effortless.

I have read mixed reviews for this though, saying it was predictable. Don't let that discourage you because personally, even when I was getting all sorts of clues throughout for what was to happen, I still liked the execution, and I think that's the most important thing - how the author does it. It worked for me, so pick it up and give it a try. 

Books I Plan To Read in May

Friday, May 1, 2015

I read 7.5 books in April, which makes me happy. I love when I am on a reading high. I am determined to make May just as good, if not even better. Here are the five books I'm planning to read this month. 

  • On my Kindle - borrowed from the library - A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • Tess of the d' Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Have you read any of these books and what did you think? Also, let me know what's on your TBR list for this month! Happy reading!

the 24 Hour Readathon that was.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's 5am my time and that's officially it for the readathon! I am so happy I joined again this year, because it's even better. 1,800+ readers participated which is amazing, and I had a fantastic time interacting with each and every book lover online. I spoke to some on twitter, but this time, I was definitely more active on Instagram.

My start time was at 5am, but set my alarm for 6am. When I woke up, I decided there was just no way I would last all day if I got up then. So I slept in until 8:30ish. I made breakfast - a waffle with strawberries and brewed coffee. I started reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac (307 pages) in bed, my favorite place to read.

4:30pm. I finally finished my first book.I went downstairs to make a quick lunch and read a little bit outside. I made a salad with avocados, quinoa, craisins, walnuts, and feta cheese. I started reading Animal Farm by George Orwell (141 pages).

7pm. Sun is almost setting. I finished Animal Farm, and I was surprised how fast-paced and short it was! After reading two full novels, I decided to re-read Watchmen, a favorite, and ignore my planned books for now. I also participated in the #bookishbrews challenge, and had a quick snack during this time - two cookies and dried apricot with homemade iced coffee.

11pm. Hour 19. An hour or so after dinner, I decided to get ready for bed. I have this shirt on because it speaks nothing but the truth, and started reading Ten Short Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe. It is a collection of ten short stories, which I thought would be perfect to end the night with.

Since I work at 10am today (Sunday the 26th) I didn't really want to stay up too late. I would have if I could, but I opted for the smarter decision to just go to bed. As I write this post, I am about to get some much-needed sleep. Overall, I had a fantastic time. I read from 8:30am-12:30am. That's 16 hours. 1,073 pages. In addition to that, I again "met" many new bookish people online. That is probably my most favorite part! Tell me how the readathon was for you! 

my books for the 24 Hour Readathon

Friday, April 24, 2015

The other day, I posted about some book recommendations for the readathon, but failed to show my own stack of books. I was a little indecisive about the options to be honest, but here's my final choices. I am so excited for the readathon tomorrow. I have the full day off, and I look forward to a day of reading and interacting with the book community yet again.

  • The World's Greatest Love Letters - compilation
    This is a compilation of love letters from various figures in history. It's going to be great because I can read a letter or two at a time when I need a break from the novels.
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell - novel
    I just mentioned the other day how guilty I feel that I have not read this book before. I really liked 1984 and thought it was a very thought-provoking book, so I think this should be a good one. 
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac - novel
    Again, here's another book I've been wanting to read but haven't yet. I will read this first, because I just can't wait. I also am doing a readalong of this book with a fellow book lover online.
  • Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe - short story collectoin
    Short stories are great for readathons. It doesn't need a lot of time to get through it at all. Also, I've been meaning to read more from Poe, so I figured this would be the perfect time to do so.
  • The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley - novel
    I borrowed this historical fiction from the library in ebook format, so I know I must get on this soon. What better way to read it than during a readathon?
  • Twenty Love Poems by Pablo Neruda
    Pablo Neruda is my favorite poet. His Sonnet 17 is still my favorite work of poetry. I have not read this yet, but can't wait to. 
As for snacks, I have a lot of strawberries, dried apricot, and trail mix. I also might go out to a coffee shop for a few just to change the scenery, instead of laying in bed all day. We will see though. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram where I'll be on all day! Happy reading.

Used Books and their Previous Owners

Thursday, April 23, 2015

One of the things I love about used books is when I find something from the previous owner. It could be something like a signature or a message. It's also interesting finding random things they used as bookmarks - receipts are the most popular one I've found! Recently, I purchased a used book from the library. A book published in the 60s, I found the previous owner's name (and address - I wish they would white this out before selling it though!), but the most interesting part was this.

It is a chemical structural formula of.... something. I took many health classes and admittedly, Organic Chemistry was a challenging one for me, but thankfully, I remember some material from it. I know that NH3 is ammonia, but what is NH (Nitrogen Hydrogen)? CH3 means methyl and C is carbon. I am just so interested in finding out what this stands for though, because let's be honest, finding this sparked my curiosity!

Then, there's this beauty here. I found this in an antique shop a few years ago. It is an old journal/class book from the 20s-30s. The book contains handwritten letters, poems, and short stories. However, this is the one that truly got my attention. It is a special poem about a girl and a funeral. It's beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
 If you want to read it in its entirety, I posted about that here.
These are just two examples that stand out to me, but most of my vintage books and old books have some sort of dedication on them. It always makes me wonder what happened to the previous owner. Why did they give away the copy if it was a special gift to them? It's interesting to me how not only the books tell the story, but the copies themselves. What's some of the most memorable things that previous owners of your used books have left for you to discover, whether accidentally or intentional? A note perhaps, a message, or a dedication. Tell me all about it!

24 Hour Readathon: Book Recommendations

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon takes place this Saturday, April 25th, just a few days away. This is probably my favorite bookish event online and I finally just decided on my own stack of books! I have heard some are still looking for some options, so I thought I'd create a recommendations list. You still have four days to get them! Now these books are here for three reasons: 1. I loved them. 2. I enjoyed my time as I was reading them. 3. They are all fast-paced page turners.

Graphic Novels and Comic Books
These ones are great to add to your pile. They are the perfect ones to pick up when you are in the hours of the readathon when you feel blah or exhausted. There's pictures for one, so it's so much fun to look at the art. They are also usually very short and quickly paced, that it's easy for anyone to go through them.
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore (graphic novel)
  • The Sandman by Neil Gaiman -(horror comic book series)
  • Y: The Last Man - (comic book series)
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore (graphic novel)
  • Marvels by Kurt Busiek - If you want to get into the Marvel universe and its expansive world, start with this. It will introduce you to the world and to the characters. It's a fantastic introduction. It was a series of comic books, but is now compiled together in graphic novel format. 
Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction
Generally, Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction are relatively shorter compared to adult novels. They're perfect for readathons in my opinion.
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (a sweet contemporary) 
  • Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (contemporary young adult)
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery (children's classic?) This is also an awesome re-read! You discover something new everytime. 
  • The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (fantasy middle grade - for all ages for sure!) 
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman (contemporary young adult)
I always say I don't read a lot of non fiction, but I guess that's not true. I enjoy non fiction and memoirs a lot, but they have to be incredibly engrossing for me!
Fiction Page Turners that I Recommend
That's it for my recommendations. If you notice, there's no classics or modern classics on here! For me, I find them mentally time consuming, so I wasn't sure if I could include a solid recommendation. That's funny though, because some of the books in my own pile are modern classics! I'll show them later on this week. Also, if you have a twitter, blog, or instagram, leave them below so I can follow you on the day of the readathon! If you have other recommendations also, let me know. 


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I've been very good when it comes to buying books. I do not remember the last time I splurged on books or did a huge haul. I usually get my copies from the library through my Kindle, or buy used copies from the used bookstore which usually cost less than $6. However, I am a bibliophile and a book hoarder no matter what I do, and when I saw this edition, I was just like, "TAKE MY MONEY!"

See them here
But you know what's even crazier than these elegant little black books? PINK BOOKS.

I saw them on here

Aren't they so simple, beautiful, and understated?? Sigh. The temptation is real. What are some of the recent editions you just absolutely want to have? Let me know so I can feel better about myself and my need for these beauties. 

Book Guilt Part Deux

Monday, April 13, 2015

Last year, I put up a post on books I probably should have read already but haven't. I've since fixed that and read three out of that list - The Picture of Dorian Gray, Into the Wild, and Lolita. I am happy I did so, because I liked all three, especially The Picture of Dorian Gray. Today, I figured I would go ahead and list down a few of the books I'm guilty I haven't read yet, even though I've always wanted to. Here's to hoping I tackle on them this year.

  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
Now there's a ton more books that I haven't read like Moby Dick for example, but I honestly don't feel like reading it in general, so I'm not including it on the list. These titles are here because I've always wanted to read them. I just haven't yet.

What are some of the books you are ashamed you have never read? 

If I had a superpower, it'd be to read all the books at once.

Friday, April 10, 2015

So many books, so little time. This is such a usual thing for readers to say. We have piles of books stacked, unread, and we could only wish we could pick all of them up at the same time and read them all. Sadly that may be an impossible feat.

I am halfway through In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson, which is highly engaging, and I had no plans of stopping, but then my public library emails me. The said email let me know that Americanah, a book I have been wanting to read for a while, is finally available for me to download on my Kindle. I get serious anxiety when that happens, because I almost want to yell, "No! I'm not ready yet. I'm still working on one book!"

Because I felt torn, I went on twitter and said this.

Then, surprise surprise. Erik Larson himself tweeted back. 

I ended up choosing to finish In the Garden of the Beasts, because how could I say no after this awesome response? So how do you decide which one to read first, which one to read next? Have you ever been in my position wherein you get anxious over choosing which one to pick up? And have you had any memorable interactions with authors through social media? I'd love to know.

the weekend that was.

Monday, April 6, 2015

I had a pretty good weekend. Not only was the #bluebooks campaign for World Autism Awareness day/month a huge success, I also had complete days off, which was perfect as it gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted, and also have the choice do nothing at all.

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon taking a walk with my dog. It was 65 degrees and the sun was out, a perfect spring day in my opinion. We eventually sat on the grass at a nearby park and there, I enjoyed an iced coffee and a new book. I'm starting this historical mystery, The Man from Berlin by Luke McCallin, which surrounds a murder of a German officer and is told from the point of view of a military intelligence officer who's assigned to the case. 
On Easter sunday, it proved that the Bay Area has such unpredictable weather. I woke up in the morning and it was raining. I love listening to the rain, so it was a perfect way to start the day. I also was able to have the "luxury" of breakfast - something I never get to have on a daily basis. I made sunny side up eggs, toast with peanut butter and bananas, pieces of cantaloupe, two biscuit cookies, and of course, coffee. It was quiet in the house and it was probably one of the most peaceful mornings I've had in a while. 

How was your weekend? Did you get some reading done at all? I hope you did, and that your easter sunday was just as relaxing as mine.

#BlueBooks for World Autism Awareness

Friday, April 3, 2015

April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day and as a teacher for some children with autism, I wanted to recognize the day. I also find it important to spread the word about it. Since I'm neither rich nor famous, I decided to go about that through something I know most about: books.

I went ahead and asked as many book lovers as possible online to spread awareness by taking photos of their books with blue covers. Then, I asked them to post them up on Instagram and use the hashtags: #WorldAutismAwarenessDay and #bluebooks. 

I only started messaging people the night before, and could not have imagined that it was going to be so successful. I received an overwhelming response and over 400 participated. The hashtag #bluebooks is insane, and its participants are still increasing by the minute, because that is the power of social media after all.

just some from the hundreds of participants yesterday for #bluebooks
In the grand scheme of things, posting about books is such a small gesture. Doing this alone can not make a difference. However, I believe it is an effort to get people to pay attention. To listen. By seeing that sea of blue, they will wonder about it first. Then, they will ask questions. This effort easily spreads awareness, encourage conversations, and push people to start educating themselves more. These things will shed a much-needed clearer light on the disorder that is heavily misunderstood. My hope is that someday, we will all  be more educated about it and compassionate, and that the misconceptions about people with autism are erased. 

Having said that, I had the most inspiring day. I have been told so many stories related to autism yesterday from people who have it, or who know family members/friends/colleagues who have it. There were also a few who asked for more information as they weren't as aware of it. It was eye-opening.

Because it is Autism Awareness month, I would love #bluebooks to keep going. If you have instagram at all, please join us as it's not too late to post your photos. Tag me @jillmray so I can easily find you and follow me because giveaways will be hosted later on. 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rating: 4 stars
In this non-fiction book, the author, Erik Larson, takes us back to 1893 during the Chicago World's Fair, the very first fair in the country. This fair was where the very first Ferris Wheel was built as well as other carnival-related activities that we still have today. In this book, the author focuses on two people - a man who was the architect behind the fair and then H.H. Holmes, who is infamously known as the serial killer who used the popularity of the fair to lure people into his hotel to kill them. 

All I can say is this author sure has some talent! This book about this specific time in American history was so incredibly well-researched and well-written, but not only that. He was able to tell it in a way that is engrossing and absorbing. I could not stop reading! It was dark, grim, and reads like a history book, but even non-history buffs will appreciate his style as he tells it as if it is a fictional narrative. If only every non-fiction out there is like this, I think more people would read from the broad genre.

I do have to say one thing: I was most definitely more fascinated by the Holmes side of the story. While I cared and liked knowing more about the process of setting up the fair, I think the architect's part in the story dragged on too much. There were too many details, but I think that this is another thing fans of the book loved about this, so to each his own.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book. It was informational and entertaining at the same time. It was excellently written and was so fascinating that after reading this, I went on to watch documentaries and read more articles based on this historical time. It's an interesting look into such a popular (and yet surprisingly not as talked about) part of American history, and to look at two completely different human beings. I highly recommend reading this book if you like non fiction, if you're interested in history, or just want something different than your usual picks.

(sort of unrelated, but if you watch American Horror Story, don't you think this Holmes' storyline could be a good story for season 5?? They said it was going to be focused on a hotel, and the only clue they gave the viewers was a top hat... which Holmes wore all the time. Just a thought!)