January 2018 Book Haul

I don’t know how to start this post, because I am extra awkward today. A book haul is in order for January 2018. Here are the books I got for this month.

sequels

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood.
The first book in this trilogy kind of rocked my world through its dealing with feminism within a very conservative patriarchy. There is a queer character in there, and I am curious to see how things will work out for her, if at all. Also: the bond between the sisters is sweet, but also stressful, given that a separation between them is eminent.

 

Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi
From all the reviews I have watched and read about this book, one thing remains clear: it is a sequel, because Alice and what’s his face appear in this book. My feelings regarding this fact remain quite mysterious, mainly because I don’t know how much of the story will revolve around Alice. I want to read about a brown kid who has to clean dead bodies, please and thank you.

series starters

Cruel Prince by Holly Black
Hang on. Let me just fling myself at the book and everything about it. Nobody writes fae books as well as Holly Black. My body is ready for the heartbreak, cruelty, and adventure. I don’t even know the details around this story. All I heard was that this is by far Black’s best novel to date, and that makes me so happy.

stand-alone novels

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I will admit that I have been scared of Sylvia Plath, because she tends to be romanticized as a person who was mentally ill. Like, people idolize the illness, and it always upset me. But, I have felt a tug toward her all along, because she managed to create in spite of all the pressures of illness. It is something I wish I could manage. Plus, I think she may actually be, you know, actually good. What comes to mind if John Green’s video about her. I think about that video often, to be honest.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Nope, not reading it because of the series on television. If anything, I am reading this initially because Ely mentions Atwood a lot in recent videos. I wish I could be half as smart as this friend of mine, so I have a good feeling about Atwood. I have personal reasons for reading this story, too, and I hope the story relates to my experience as a woman particularly when I was living in the Middle East.

so…yeah. okay, bye!

  Welcome to my final book haul of 2017! Abiding by the rules, I have
  Ah, yes, it is time for my monthly book haul. November 2017, I was
  Hi there! So, it's finally October. As a very lucky girl, I get to

BR: The Ocean at the End of the Lane Book Review

I finished reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane on the last day of 2017. My brain has been struggling to contain the excitement of having read my first Gaiman novel. Seriously. In some ways, The Ocean in the End of the Lane will always be special to me, because of its content. Uh, let me dive into this review, though, because I can gush all day.

premise

An unnamed middle aged man returns to his family home, and recalls the adventure of a summer he spent with childhood friend, Lettie Hempstock.

theme–childhood and imagination

My favorite aspect of this story has to be the magical realism feel to it. Throughout the novel, it is unclear if the story is literal or figurative. This blurring of reality with imagination is very much rooted in childhood (from what I experienced).

But, also, the charming factor in this story has to be the way the characters behave. Sure, we go on a supernatural kind of surreal adventure with monsters and a worm that turns into an awful creature. However, the children (unnamed main character and Lettie) behave like children. They talk like children, and they cry, throw tantrums, and argue with their sister (well, this is mainly our dude character, but hey).

Gaiman creates such a rosy view of life at first, but then, it is warped and scary in parts (nothing disturbing, but it will linger for a bit).

Speaking of which…

darkness in the so-called “pure”

The story begins with a quote about children remembering or knowing things that adults assume they wouldn’t. It’s about the way we undermine children and their maturity. Truly, our unnamed hero and Lettie see some really dark stuff, stuff we wouldn’t expect children to comprehend, and they fight valiantly.

As I have said earlier, I am in awe of this teetering balance Gaiman strikes between child characters, surreal story lines, and darkness. I am intrigued by Ursula Montakin, her connection to our main character’s family, and what that really means in regards to children’s understanding of infidelity, gender roles, and family dynamics in relation to all of these things.

There is a scene in particular that stunned me: the bath scene with our main character’s father. In some ways, it highlighted the idea of embarrassment and shame contrasting with social expectations from parents. Like, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see parents negatively when they can’t “control” their children. But Ursula signifies the pressure on parents to be authority figures, even if it means they get to act aggressive.

 friendship and family

Most importantly, this is a story about found-family vs. blood family. I think our main character would have loved to see Lettie and her strangely beautiful ocean at the end of the lane. Her family, equally invested in child-like wonder and superstition, lead a safe home to the main hero. It is a home he goes back to, over and over, with and without Lettie.

It is such a telling sign that Lettie’s legacy, consciously or not, drives the main character to return for refuge throughout his life. If this isn’t what the best friendships are about, I don’t know what is.

 

    I have been very lucky with books lately, so excuse the barrage of
  Warning: Here be spoilers. If you are interested in reading this book, and you
    I devoured Becky Albertalli's second novel over the course of two days. Many

Top 5 Resolutions to Shape Up my Reading for 2018

 

This week’s top 5 Wednesday is all about resolutions. In other words, folks all over the blog-o-sphere will be discussing their bookish resolutions. For me, I am going to discuss my top 5 resolutions that (I hope) will shape up my reading for 2018. Let’s do this.

1. read at least two hours a day

My biggest problem is how much time I spend online. It took me a while to recognize this as an issue. The more I focus on other people’s lives, I get more anxious and slip into this arena of comparison. It’s like, “Oh wow, so and so read this many books so far. I am a failure,” and so on.

While I understand that the Internet helps me a lot, I also am trying to minimize my reliance on it because, you know, it is slowing me down in terms of reading (and getting things done, in general).

So, I am trying to get off the Internet earlier, and read at least two hours or more before bed time.

2. read more diversely and more critically

I know there is a surge to be reading from different diverse groups, and I like this movement. However, I think sometimes I don’t notice certain things when it comes to representation. Like, is it authentic? Is it catering to an “other” audience? What do some # ownvoices folks think of this representation?

In doing so, I would be exercising my critical thinking muscles, which have been mostly dormant because of my confidence issues. I worry that I am offending someone now that I have a blog. And, I admit that I get anxiety just thinking of any kind of backlash.

But, I am trying to get comfortable with the idea of conflict being part of life.

3. remembering that all things are problematic

I have to be mindful of this idea: anyone can find a work problematic based on their experiences. Getting comfortable with acknowledging the ways a work fails to incorporate a certain perspective doesn’t diminish my own appreciation of it.

As someone who has been trained in analysis of literature, I used to be more emotional in how I reacted to books, then I became too afraid to stray from the norm to avoid confrontation.

 

An open mind can guide my reading life to be less driven by fear, and more driven by thought and growth.

4. read more widely

Kind of different to number 2, I promise. I understand that reading diversely from popular literature’s growing batch is always going to be a thing for me, because…I like some of these stories. However, I would like to venture into classics again.

5. keep statistics on my reading

Emily was sharing her statistics of 2017, and I was so intrigued by it that I am going to give this a try in 2018. I want to keep track of what I read and how it relates to the world. Hopefully it will guide me to develop reading habits that reflect how I want to participate in the reading realm.

 

    Welcome to Top 5 Wednesday. In this week's edition, I will cheat (as
This week marks the final days of December, 2017. As such, Top 5 Wednesday is
Look at me going back a week just to use this Top 5 Wednesday topic.

On Developing a Gratitude Practice

 

Sometimes, when I talk to certain people, I see it clearly. Negativity. Like a lot of it. Granted, my own knack for slipping into a nice bath of complaints has been around for ages. Still, I am not one to give into the default settings of my programming. I’d been toying with the idea of a gratitude practice, but it wasn’t until Inge mentioned it that I saw it as a possibility. Here is my gratitude practice thus far.

3 in-progress learning experiences

I have looked into templates on Pinterest when I started this practice way back in November. The reason behind templates is twofold. First, it is to facilitate discussion when I am not feeling my best. Often, my moods settle on an epic low note for days or weeks, so I struggle to come up with coherent thoughts as it is. A template creates a routine to this journal. It also acts as a guiding hand, because I am out of practice when it comes to positivity and gratitude–and I admit this not as a point of pride. Not at all. I want to manage my mental health better.

Victim-mentality drives my narrative and I have a rather cruel lens filtering my daily ups and downs. Reframing the experiences as a learning opportunity is like earth-shattering information to me. I do a lot of panicking when conflict arises, and this template reminds me to try and stay calm.

Plus, I think when I look back and see lessons repeating, it neutralizes the dooms-day threat a little bit. It gives me concrete examples of this conflict repeating. Besides, it could act as a good jumping off point for meditation, journaling, and therapy discussions. Hey, maybe I’ll be more self aware and conscious of how I interact with the world (that is the dream, to be quite frank).

a list of things i am grateful for

I try to list some stuff that makes me happy that day. Moreover, I try not to repeat too much. Now, obviously, sometimes duplicates will appear on my lists, but I do make it a point to not check what I wrote the day before until I am done.

but…testing more prompts

But, I noticed that my journal can be a bit cyclical by doing just two things every day. SO. I am incorporating more prompts. I want to reflect more on different things, and then derive my own gratitude nuggets from whatever it is I have reflected on.

The point is for it to be fairly brief and always consistent. So far, I had been journaling every couple of days, which is not that good. I am going to try it tonight, and keep it

 

Bullet journals are kind of a fashion statement for those who love organizing things. And,
  As 2018 approaches, I am going to try challenging myself to read and comment
From what I recall, this website was started in mid-to-late September. I had started taking

January, 2018 Week 1 Reading Plans

Oh my God, it is the first week of January, 2018. Everyone panic with me, please. For this week, I am trying to balance the monthly reading challenges I have devised for the year. (Heh. Don’t be impressed. I am merely following other people on the journey). Here we go: My January, 2018 Week 1 Reading Plans are as follows.

mental health book bingo

My pals Inge and Wendy are two of the hosts for this readathon. There are different challenges in relation to mental health books. However, let me be honest with you: I am probably not going to get a bingo there. I am simply participating by reading the mental health books I have on my shelves.

From what I have gathered, it is a month-long readathon. Hopefully, I can manage to read a little bit every week (or, you know, I could just read a lot of those books in one week. Anything can happen).

My options include:

The Rest of Us Still Live Here by Patrick Ness
This book demands to be read, I say! I have only read one Ness book, and I loved it so much. Celebrating the average peeps, Ness showcases the perspectives of a variety of people. None of whom happen to be “superheroes”in the traditional sense.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Not sure what is the representation in this one, but I saw it on a Goodreads list that I will include here. 

It is kind of a stretch, but I can also give The Upside of Unrequited a try this week, too. Who knows.

kind of related

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis is also what I am reading this week. I know. My progress is really sad thus far. This is not a reflection on the book itself, merely my mental health’s status as of late.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

finally

I have to wrap up Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At the End of the Lane. Also: I want to somehow put a dent on Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns. 

 

    Hello! We're about to start week 4 of January 2018. I'm planning to
  I haven't managed to write that much last week, but here we are anyway.
My lovely pal Jolien talked about the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge in one of her

Bullet Journaling and My 2018 Approach To It

Bullet journals are kind of a fashion statement for those who love organizing things. And, let me get on the record to say: I don’t organize things. I am messy, and moody, so it’s hard for me to predict what I can manage to do next.

But, I had started my bullet journal in August of 2017. I think it has helped me a lot, and I am sharing my experience with you today.

2017 lessons on bullet journals

I did not know much about bullet journals early on. Here is a nice link on what these journals’ functions are. Anyway, I have seen many posts on YouTube and Pinterest regarding ideas on how to set up a bullet journal. Essentially, I have been trying out different set up formats and pages.

My favorite way to use the journal is to track my daily activity, mood, and set up a list of the books I got for the month along with the ones I did read as well.

I found that my bullet journal has helped me look forward to my day a little better, for simple reasons. When I decorate my journal for the next day, I find myself decompressing before bed while working on them. Even the simple act of adding stickers, or changing the color of the pen would give me a little boost–I know, it sounds silly.

2018 ideas for my bullet journal

Part of the journal’s charm is to add awareness to one’s daily activities. I noticed that my days tend to be repetitious in terms of the individual tasks. As a result, a sense of hopelessness has been festering along the way.

So, I am thinking of changing my goals for each day. For instance, I always try to write a post on my blog each day, but, instead, it takes me all day, staring at a blank screen. Sometimes, I think I am really clever and attempt to multitask. Let me tell you something about me: I don’t get much done when I am trying to do more than one thing at a time. Therefore, I need to stop trying to go on YouTube, and write a post, while tweeting. It’s not working for me at all.

How does this relate to bullet journals? Well, I am thinking of using mine to also include reminders. Like, “Hey, if you finished this task, give yourself 10 minutes on YouTube.” For a while, I used to designate Pomodoros for each day, and that worked well. I am thinking of going back to that.

Another really neat use of bullet journals is that of trackers. I have slowly been integrating mood trackers, as someone who has a milder form of bipolar disorder (it’s called cyclothymia). I want to cross reference my journals, though. I keep a journal for therapy, and I am thinking of including a short description of how I am feeling, accompanied with why I think I feel that way.

In addition, tracking reading time (in Pomodoros, for ease) sounds like a good idea, because I don’t regulate how often I read. Instead, I try to rely on my mood, which is not such a good idea. Anything that involves me sitting still for a long period of time intimidates me. I think scheduling a time for me to get off the Internet and read will help me disconnect.

Finally, I want to use my bullet journal as a practice in accepting imperfection. I tend to beat myself up for not drawing the perfect shape, or messing up the spelling of a word. For the new year, I want to embrace these flaws and carry on with my journal without ripping pages (that’s why the page numbers help me).

 

  Sometimes, when I talk to certain people, I see it clearly. Negativity. Like a
  As 2018 approaches, I am going to try challenging myself to read and comment

Reading Challenges for 2018

 

As 2018 approaches, I am going to try challenging myself to read and comment more often. This idea came from the lovely NovelKnight, who tweeted about 2018 challenges they will be participating in. SO. Being the entirely original peeps that I am, I am following suit. Let’s go!

Because of my anxiety, I don’t want to really talk about teams and sign up officially for any of this. (Surprise! I am breaking the rules already).

beat the backlist

I have learned that back-list books are books that are older than the current year. In other words, for 2018, I will have to be reading books published in the years prior. Here are some of the books I want to try to get to.

1. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
2. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
3. Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
4. The Siren by Kiera Cass
5. The Diviners by Libba Bray
6. Fairyland series by Cathrynne M. Valente (at least read the first one)
7. Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series (at least read Soulless)
8. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertali
9. Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
10. Rebel Mechanics  by Shanna Swendson
11. Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
12. Any Gaiman book

a series a month

I have many serious I want to try to read this year.  Here are some of them for my potential TBR.

1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy
2. Seven Realms books (basically, I need to read as much Cinda Williams Chima as possible to catch up)
3. Mistborn first or second trilogy.
4. Legend trilogy by Marie Lu
5. Remnant Chronicles trilogy by Mary E. Pearson
6. Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
7. Chaos Walking trilogy
8. Firebird trilogy by Claudia Grey
9. Fallen Kingdom by Morgan Rhodes
10. Shiver trilogy by Maggie Steifvater
11. Unspoken trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan
12. Half Bad trilogy by Sally Greene

OTHER POSSIBILITIES

The Young Elites trilogy by Marie Lu
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

commenting 365  challenge 

I am going to attempt to comment on more blogs and just make more friends, in general. From what I have noticed, I don’t comment enough, not even on my own blog do I reply to conversations. It’ll be hard to socialize on some days, I know (and part of this is to push me out of those cycles).

 

 

  Sometimes, when I talk to certain people, I see it clearly. Negativity. Like a
Bullet journals are kind of a fashion statement for those who love organizing things. And,

Top 5 Books I’m Wishing For in 2018

This week marks the final days of December, 2017. As such, Top 5 Wednesday is all about our top 5 books we wish for. Here are some of the themes I want more of.

5. Minority groups in historical settings

Right now, I am reading A Madness so Discreet, and all I am thinking about is how rare it is to discuss mental health in a historical setting. Not only is it a shunned topic, it is also not often discussed in a complicated manner in young adult literature. I am not sure why this is the case. Why do some people assume that all those who read YA are not capable of complex discussions. It just needs to change.

I want it to go beyond just mental illness. Intersectional identities existed throughout history. Talk about queen people with mental illness in a historical setting. And, as much as I love steam punk, I want authentic narratives. My favorite discussion was definitely in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Definitely want more well-researched historical fiction in 2018.

4. magical realism

Your home girl here loves a lot of magical realism. Basically, it feels like a good stepping stone between fantasy and contemporary fiction. There’s this je ne sais quoi factor to it. It’s like being in Neverland but not being totally sure of what is happening. Anna Marie McLemore is basically the leader on my boards of magical realism tallies. I adored her work (read all of it this year and the year past). So, here’s what I’d like: queer identities, minorities, disabled people in magical realism tales. Write about how awesome these characters are. Make them varied and complex, and messy. The messier, the better.

3. raw discussions of society as it stands

Part of the charm of stories lies in their potential social commentaries. The Hate U Give offered so much nuance and direct correlations from the text to the news.  It shed light on what it is like to live in such a disadvantaged position in the social structure of American communities.

While it felt rushed, a similar discussion was in The Sun is Also a Star. Yoon discussed the multi-faceted nature of being an American. She explores the dimensions of first love, heartbreak, hope, and loss.

Sometimes, I feel like we want social justice to be discussed in contemporaries, but we don’t see the power of symbolism. This Savage Song and its sequel had such an impact on myself as a person, because I was shaken by the way Schwab examined cruelty and humanity. What if your acts had a physical manifestation as a result? Something bold and strong, and it tracks you down?

2. genre mash up

The beauty of stories also is in the way they can be presented. I think that we need to start freshening things up. Try different ways of telling a story. Like Illuminae comes to mind. I enjoyed the way its authors included such a vast exploration of genre and story telling methods. They worked well for me, and I am looking forward to continue with stories like this.

Another mash up I really enjoyed is in Rebel Belle. It is the clash between a contemporary and a fight/action tale that really made the story memorable. Sometimes, you just need to read something amusing and different. What I am trying to say is that authors could perhaps try meshing various commonly used genres to get something completely different and unique.

 1. open ended conclusions

My favorite ending was the one in The Raven King, and I just want stories with inconclusive conclusions. You don’t have to spoon-feed me an ending. I can come up with my own assumptions about what happened to the characters after the main conflict is resolved–if it is resolved at all.

In other words, I want authors to treat readers as the intelligent people that they are. Nobody needs all stories to have a nicely wrapped up bow atop the ending. Totally fine with vagueness, too. Like, “Did this person live or no?” I think, in doing so, the stories become more about us and less about a dictated spelled-out series of actions. The coolest thing is when you read a story, and your understanding of what happened changes completely over time.

Just a thought.

 

    Welcome to Top 5 Wednesday. In this week's edition, I will cheat (as
  This week's top 5 Wednesday is all about resolutions. In other words, folks all
Look at me going back a week just to use this Top 5 Wednesday topic.

Top 10 Books I Can’t Wait to Get to in 2018

Welcome to Top 10 Tuesday. This week, the topic for my list is the Top 10 Books I Can’t Wait to Get to in 2018. As always, here is a link to the Broke and the Bookish, the folks who created Top 10 Tuesday.

Basically, in the upcoming year, I want to make a dent on the series that I have.

10. cinder by marissa Meyer

I know, I’m way behind on this train. Whenever I see mood boards inspired by the characters in this series, I feel things. No matter how often I see quotes from it, I get hopeful. So, my hope is that I read this series before the spring of 2018. Or at least start it by then.

9. the young elites by marie lu

Villains or anti-heroes are my jam. This is a story of a character descending (or ascending, it’s all about perspective) into villainy. I’m here for this, gosh darn it. I have high hopes for this trilogy.

8. gemina by amie kaufman and jay kristoff

I enjoyed the first book in this series, and I am going to move into Gemina land some time before Obsidio is out. I hope the new cast of characters is easy to like, just as Ezra and Kady were pleasant and humorous. What will AIDAN do this time?

7. caraval by stephanie garber

Judging by the polarized reviews about Caraval and The Night Circus, I am thinking of tackling this novel first. It sounds like it is easier to digest because it is not as hard to follow (so I have gathered, anyway). Besides, I am nervous about Night Circus because Julie and Sam were saying that it is a lot like Uprooted in terms of style.

And I did not like Uprooted. 

 

6. Strange the dreamer by laini taylor

I have her other trilogy, but I am going to slowly get through her books. Right now, I am thinking of starting with this book first. But, it’s also on my mind to try reading Karou’s story first, since I have read some of it before. Either way, I am going to read Laini Taylor’s work, gosh dang it.

5. cinda williams chima

I know. I keep mentioning that I want to read her stuff, but then I don’t follow through. 2018 is going to be the year I catch up on her stuff.

Speaking of which.

4. brandon sanderson

Listen. He broke my heart in one book. This is why I am hesitating, but I will try to get back into his stuff once more. His stories are good. I just need to gather up the courage to do this.

3. neil gaiman

You know, the usual. I have some of his books, and I need to keep reading his work, because, dang. He is talented and he paints the most alluring yet haunting images in his stories. Heartbreak while in awe sounds like a perfect way to spend my time in 2018.

2.gail carriger

I have been collecting her books used for a while now, and I need to give her a shot. She just sounds like the cutest writer and her work seems charming and sweet. I am intrigued.

 1. rae carson

I have only read one of her books, and I had mixed feelings about it. But, I got her other books fairly cheap. I’m somewhat intimidated by her, however, I want to continue.

And all the trilogies that I have are also on my most exciting things to get through in 2018.

what about you?

 

    I have fallen off the Top Ten Tuesday wagon, but I have returned.
As the year's end approaches, I want to reflect on what I have read. Some
    So, I discovered that I messed up the prompt for last week's Top

BT: Festive Christmas Book Tag

I’m late to the party, but I thought of sharing a book tag to celebrate Christmas. This tag, which I have seen on Sam’s channel, is called the Festive Christmas Book Tag. Happy holidays!

1) A fictional family you would like to spend Christmas dinner with?

Lara Jean’s family sounds like the most fun family. We can bake together. I don’t know, I just see myself painting the girls’ nails. Their dad can fuss over us a little.

2) A bookish item you would like to receive as a gift?

I am kind of weird with gifts, because I worry a lot about having to buy something in return. Bookmarks sound a little more doable than the other bookish items. Hot dang, bookish merchandise is way too expensive.

3) A fictional character you think would make a perfect christmas elf?

Someone with a good sense of humor, but also kind of crude, sounds like a Christmas Elf to me. I’m thinking Kenji from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

4) Match a book to it’s perfect Christmas song.

“I’ll be Home for Christmas” sounds like the anthem to The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima. (which I have yet to read, I know).

5) Bah Humbug. A book or fictional character you’ve been disappointed in and should be put on the naughty list?

I actually don’t think of the Naughty List that way. Some of the coolest people commit acts of disobedience to get a point across. But, to answer the prompt, I would say Ursula Monkton from The Ocean at the End of the Lane. 

6) A book or a fictional character you think deserves more love and appreciation and deserve to be put on the nice list?

 

7) Red, Gold and Green. A book cover that has a wonderfully christmasy feel to it.

Shiver series by Maggie Steifvater has winter-y vibes in general.

8) A book or series you love so much, you want everyone to find under their Christmas tree this year so they can read it and love it too?

A few books come to mind: Turtles All the Way Down tops the list in general.

    While watching Ally's video on this tag, I decided to follow suit. In
It has been a while since I have done a book tag. Here is one
The lovely Julie from Pages and Pens made a video on this tag. I thought