2014 TBR Challenge

I have never participated in any book challenges, so now that I am blogging and reviewing again, I’ve decided I want to give it a shot. I think the TBR Challenge is perfect for me, because I tend to want to read something, add it to my to-read list, and forget about it.

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This challenge is hosted by BookishThe sign up page and complete list of rules can be found here.

The different levels are:

1-10 – A Firm Handshake
11-20 – A Friendly Hug
21-30 – First Kiss
31-40 – Sweet Summer Fling
41-50 – Could this be love?
50+ – Married With Children

I am going to aim for ‘First Kiss’, but may move up in levels as the year goes on. I don’t want to stress myself out with it, so I think 21-30 is a great place to start.

  • Notes from an Exhibition by Patrick Gale
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • The Observations by Jane Harris
  • Grange House by Sarah Blake
  • The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • The Coffins of Little Hope by Timothy Schaffert
  • The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
  • The Gallows Curse by Karen Maitland
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Girl who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Uninvited by Liz Jensen
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  • Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
  • The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  • Magpie Hall by Rachael King
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
  • A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
  • Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam
  • Little Hands Clapping by Dan Rhodes
  • Purgatory by Tomas Eloy Martinez
  • Splintered by A.G. Howard

This list is tentative, but I wanted to give myself a general idea. I’ve had these sitting on my TBR list for what feels like ages, so I really do want to read them. I will possibly add to this as the year goes on, and this is not in any particular order.

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Seriously, is everyone hanging out without me?

13532238Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Publisher: Three Rivers Press

Pages: 219

Source & Format: Paperback; bought from B&N

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.

 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PM This is a book that I have been meaning to check out for a long time. While I am not very big on memoirs, if something seems funny and it is talked about enough, I will most likely at some point need to read it. This is how a great number of books happen to be in my possession.

This doesn’t read like any memoir that I have ever read before, but I think that’s okay. It is a series of essays about many different things in Mindy’s life, and it is incredibly relatable. She writes in a very witty style that just makes it impossible not to fall in love with her. She also has a way of making even the most traumatizing moments of her life (a boy in school calling her a whale) seem like just a hilarious little anecdote.

I love when someone is able to be both serious and funny, and I think that even though this book was mostly the latter, Mindy managed to also give readers something to hold on to. You are left with wondering just WHY it’s so wrong to actually (GASP!) enjoy spending time with parents as a teenager, and why would anyone ever think that high school is actually the ‘thrill of living’? Listen, as someone who absolutely hated high school and thought that watching movies with my mom on a Friday evening was a good time (still does), this book made me feel less alone. Thanks Mindy!

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“Teenage girls, please don’t worry about being super popular in high school, or being the best actress in high school, or the best athlete. Not only do people not care about any of that the second you graduate, but when you get older, if you reference your successes in high school too much, it actually makes you look kind of pitiful, like some babbling old Tennessee Williams character with nothing else going on in her current life. What I’ve noticed is that almost no one who was a big star in high school is also big star later in life. For us overlooked kids, it’s so wonderfully fair.” 

“I’m the kind of person who would rather get my hopes up really high and watch them get dashed to pieces than wisely keep my expectations at bay and hope they are exceeded. This quality has made me a needy and theatrical friend, but has given me a spectacularly dramatic emotional life.”

“The chorus of “Jack and Diane” is: Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone. Are you kidding me? The thrill of living was high school? Come on, Mr. Cougar Mellencamp. Get a life.” 

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.37 PMListen, this book is probably not for everybody. I doubt I am going to be telling everyone I know to read it, because lets face it, a lot of the people I know just wouldn’t get it. But, on that note, I do think it is worth reading if you are a person who thinks that laughing at yourself is really good medicine. There’s nothing wrong with a little self-deprecating humor every now and then. I mean, I finished this book in less than a day. It’s not hard to read and you don’t need to invest yourself for long. It’s just a good, fun read.

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Cress!

ImageCress by Marissa Meyer

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Pages: 560

Source & Format: preordered from Amazon; hardcover

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

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The Lunar Chronicles is one of those series that I tried to avoid reading for the longest time. It just seemed to be too popular and too different from my normal tastes, and I thought I would absolutely hate it. I finally conceded defeat and borrowed Cinder from my library, and I was hooked. I quickly purchased both of the two books that were already available (Cinder & Scarlet), and preordered my copy of Cress, knowing I needed it asap.

Cress picks off immediately where Scarlet left off, with Cinder, Scarlet, Captain Thorne, Wolf, and Iko escaping on the Rampion. While making plans to stop the wedding of Prince Kai and Queen Levana, they also decide to rescue Cress, a hacker who has been imprisoned on a satellite and works for the Lunar queen against her will. In the midst of her escape, the group gets separated.

I think my favorite thing about Cress was the alternating POV storyline. I enjoyed getting to know all of the different characters, especially Scarlet, who quickly became my favorite after I first read the second book. Also, it is impossible not to fall in love with Cress. She is absolutely adorable, and I found myself relating to her immediately. Meyer did a fantastic job of showing the lack of social skills in Cress, and showing the hope she holds in her heart, throughout everything she sees in the world. I enjoyed Cress’s POV so much in this book; the way she played out imaginary scenarios in her head in order to cope with the things she was facing was something incredibly relatable. I myself do it all the time, and I love Meyer for creating this character.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“She was a girl. A living girl, smart and sweet and awkward and unusual, and she was worth far more than they could ever realize.”

“Knees suddenly weak, she reached for his forearms to stabilize herself. ‘You came for me.’

He beamed, looking for all the world like a selfless, daring hero.

‘Don’t sound so surprised.'”

“Iko bent toward her. ‘That dress looks amazing on you,’ she said. ‘Cinder, doesn’t she look amazing?’

Cinder sighed as the elevator came to a full stop. ‘Iko, after this we’re going to start working on occasion appropriateness.'”

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Overall, I think this might be my favorite book from the series, at least so far, as Winter is yet to be published 😉 I must applaud Meyer for the way she can take the classic fairytales we all know and give them such an imaginative spin. It’s highly obvious that she has a wonderful imagination and zest for storytelling. I can’t wait for 2015!

 

Thanks for reading!

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The Winter Sea

ImageThe Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated

Pages: 527

Source & Format: purchased; nookbook

Amazon // The Book Depository

Synopsis from GoodreadsIn the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her…

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.22.29 PMI am not convinced that I will have the proper words to do this book justice. It was an absolutely beautiful story, with all the elements that I love best. This is historical fiction at its finest, properly researched with just the right amount of imagination to give it a little extra.

I was slightly unsure how I was going to feel about it, because I found the actual historical aspect involving King James and the Jacobites and the war all a bit confusing in the beginning. Luckily, Kearsley included a very great scene where a character broke it down a bit, and from that point on I was able to follow along and truly disappear into the lives of the characters. And oh- what lovely characters they all were! Many times, when books go back and forth between time periods and character point of views, it can get slightly muffled in a reader’s mind. That absolutely never happened in this book. The author truly made me care deeply about all the people I met on my journey throughout Slains.

I think that one of my favorite parts of the whole story was the creativity behind having a protagonist doing research for her own novel, coming across this interesting secret history that traces back in her own lineage, and being able to follow along with her process of writing and learning about her own ancestor. It was executed flawlessly. I am in love with books about books and books within books, so this was absolutely my cup of tea. I can’t wait to read it again, and I highly recommend that others pick it up and do the same.

Screen shot 2014-02-06 at 8.21.55 PM“But life, if nothing else, had taught her promises weren’t always to be counted on, and what appeared at first a shining chance might end in bitter disappointment.”

“And where he had run out of room to stand a book up properly on edge, he’d laid it horizontally across the top of its companions and stacked others over that, so there were books wedged in wherever there was space. It had the same effect on me as the sight of a candy store had on a six-year-old.”

“But God passes His affairs into the hands of men, and there the trouble lies.”

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This is absolutely a book that you want to stay up and finish late into the night. It actually has a nice ambience reading it into the evening, curled up under some blankets. You can sleep another time 😉

 

Thanks for reading =)

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Oh, the feels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke & The Bookish. This past month as I was contemplating bringing the blog back, I was checking out all the different lists people came up with, so I am very excited to finally have my own!

So, without further ado:

Top Ten Books That Made Me Cry

  • The entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, with emphasis on Prisoner of Azkaban, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly HallowsThis whole book series was my childhood. I wouldn’t even be the person I am today had it not been for the Harry Potter series. Out of the seven books, these were the three that took the biggest emotional toll on me. 
  • Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. The first book (besides the Harry Potter books) that I was able to read after my dad passed away. I wasn’t able to finish anything I tried to read for months after his death, but this book pulled me back.  
  • The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. A very interesting love story with time travel and art and mental illness throughout. The ending was, in one word, breathtaking. I loved it. 
  • I Know this Much Is True by Wally Lamb. This was a hard one to get through, due to size and content. A very difficult yet touching read.
  • Night by Elie Wiesel. I remember reading this in high school, and I finished the book in one night. My teacher didn’t even believe me when I said I was done. Knowing the truth behind the words in this book made it one of the biggest tearjerkers of all time. 
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I felt that this book was written for me when I was in high school. I was a socially anxious loner who needed someone to relate to, and Charlie was that person. 
  • The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank. The one book that I make sure to re-read at least once every year. Without a doubt one of the most touching things I’ve ever read. 
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Trying to imagine myself as Claire in this book and wondering how I could live with what she lives with? Impossible. 
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. One word- Prim. 
  • The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. A book that still haunts me to this day. 

This list is actually not in any particular order. Also, it was very hard for me to only pick ten, because I am highly emotional and become completely invested in a great story. 

Back to the book reviews…

This past month, I’ve given much thought as to why I had let this blog go. I have come to the conclusion that I just wasn’t writing the type of reviews I was meant to write. I am not the kind of person who reads books with the intention of paying attention to what makes something “good” or “bad”. Whether something is a good or bad read is so subjective! I just can’t stress about that anymore.

I have decided to create a review policy based on how I recommend books to the people I know in real life. To me, a book is something you stay up late to finish (super amazing BEST THING EVER type of book), finish the next day (it’s good … but sleep is better), or just read it whenever (maybe finish, maybe not. not holding my interest enough to worry with it).

That is it. That’s basically the way I think of books. Also, I REFUSE to force myself to finish something I don’t like. I am the absolute WORST person in the world when it comes to this. I feel so bad if I don’t complete a book, but I will sometimes hate every second of it. I can’t do this anymore. Life is too short.

So, here’s to the revamped blog. Hopefully I will have a couple reviews up within the next couple of days. =)

Book Review: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

ImageOh my stars! This books is absolutely wonderful! I must say, I am ashamed of myself for not reading it sooner. When I first heard of this book a few months ago, the blurb really threw me off. Cyborgs? Eh… I didn’t think I would have any interest whatsoever. I forgot about it.

But wait! It kept popping up on goodreads with stellar reviews. I was coming across people raving about it on tumblr. And I just couldn’t stop thinking about it… I HAD TO KNOW WHAT THE FUSS WAS ABOUT!

Seriously, I will never write off any other book just for not being like everything else I read. I’ve learned my lesson.

Cinder is a mechanic, living in New Beijing some time after the fourth World War. She lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony. While Peony is her good friend, her stepmother and Pearl treat her as a second class citizen, which, in a way, she is. Cinder is not an average girl. She is a cyborg.

One day while Cinder is working at her mechanic booth in the town market, the young prince, Kai, comes seeking her assistance in repairing his android. While he tries insisting that it holds a sentimental value, Cinder is led to believe there are more important reasons for his needing the android repaired, and quickly.

Why did I love this book so much, you ask?

-Obviously this is a loose re-telling of Cinderella. The author did a STELLAR job with including all the elements from Cinderella, but still managed to create something fresh. I kept thinking the whole time, ‘WOW! What an amazing imagination! I could NEVER have thought of all this!’ No, really, I was truly amazed.

-The futuristic aspects. I was completely ENAMORED with Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century when I was younger, always envisioning living in space and all that jazz. The idea of a whole colony of people living on the moon made me all kinds of crazy excited. I was fascinated with the history of the Lunar people.

-CINDER! I absolutely loved her to pieces!

And many, many more reasons that I’m not going to tell you, because you just need to read it. Seriously, do it now. You won’t regret it.