Friday, July 31, 2015

July Wrap-Up

Happy end of July, you guys! And, today, happy birthday to my loves, Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling! I definitely got a lot more reading done this month, and even started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer--which isn't book related (though there are graphic novels) but it's still awesome either way. So let's hop right to it. Here are the books I lost myself in this month:

-My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick- 3 stars

"The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another."

-The Program by Suzanne Young- 4 stars

"Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them."

-The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes -5 stars

"Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather's ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess's classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess."

-reread To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee- 5 stars

"The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbirdtakes readers to the roots of human behavior—to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature."

-Bloodlines by Richelle Mead- 4 stars

"Sydney's blood is special. That's because she's an alchemist - one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. But the last encounter Sydney had with vampires got her in deep trouble with the other alchemists. And now with her allegiences in question, her future is on the line.

When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the unlikeliest of places: a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one.

The Moroi court believe Jill and Sydney will be safe at Amberwood Prep, but threats, distractions, and forbidden romance lurk both outside - and within - the school grounds. Now that they're in hiding, the drama is only just beginning."

-Made for You by Marissa Marr- 3 stars

"When Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital, she’s confused—who in her sleepy little North Carolina town could have hit her with their car? And why? But before she can consider the question, she finds that she’s awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people’s deaths when they touch her. While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old flame, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva’s power to keep her friends—and themselves—alive. But while Eva and Nate grow closer, the killer grows increasingly frantic in his attempt to get to Eva."

-The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead- 5 stars 

"Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she's been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California - tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formorly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age-old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and her sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi - the fiercest vampires, the ones who don't die. But it's her fear of being just that - special, magical, powerful - that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Braydon, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else - someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney's loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists - or her heart?"

-The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead- 4 stars

"In the aftermath of a forbidden moment that rocked Sydney to her core, she struggles to draw the line between her Alchemist teachings and what her heart is urging her to do.

Then she finally tracks down the elusive, enigmatic Marcus Finch - a former Alchemist who the organization denies exists, and who lives in shadows, on the run. With Marcus's help, Sydney realizes that the group she's been loyal to her whole life has been hiding the truth from her. Is it possible that her golden lily tattoo might have more power over her than she thinks?

As she struggles to come to terms with what that might mean, Sydney is compelled to use her magical powers to track down an evil magic user who is targeting powerful young witches. Using magic goes against everything she always thought she believed, but she realizes that her only hope is to embrace her special blood - or else she might be next.

Forging her own way is harder than Sydney ever dreamed. Maybe by turning off her brain - and following her heart - she'll be able to finally figure out where she belongs."

If you can't tell, I've been speeding through the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. It might or might not be correlated to the whole Buffy thing, too. Either way, I'm now at 45 books, making me 60% of the way to my goal of 75 for the year! Yay! What books did you guys read this month?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

I'm not going to read Go Set A Watchman

In the last couple months, all I could think about was the epic release of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman. Since To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite books of all time, I was so excited for its 'sequel'. But after reading reviews from book bloggers and fancy newspapers, I've come to a conclusion: I don't think I'm actually going to read this book.

Now, I did buy the book. It has a gorgeous cover, and as far as yesterday was concerned, I was still going to read it. Then, I saw the reviews.

I'll be the first to admit I like flawed characters. Nobody is perfect in the real world, so why should they be perfect in the literary one? Atticus Finch was not perfect in Mockingbird, he had his problematic moments. But he was a good man who saw the world differently than a lot of his peers. He became the literary character that symbolized justice and equality. He was a hero to many. I also understand that when we see Atticus in Mockingbird, it's through the eyes of Scout as a child. There are going to be some biases in that point of view, of course. But after rereading Mockingbird, I can't help but see Atticus in the same light as I did before, only my love for him grew. Those quotes, you guys, those quotes. He's incredibly articulate and wise and just.

Watchman, however, shows us a different side of Atticus. It's a side that I don't particularly want to see. Not because I don't want to see my favorite character of all time ruined, but because it doesn't fit with who the actual character is. Based on the reviews I've seen, this is a different person. He's a "blatant racist", "white supremacist", and "disgustingly grotesque". Yeah, this isn't for me. I've also heard that the writing itself is kind of a mess, and so really, I don't see a point in destroying my favorite character for something that isn't even well written.

That's not to say that I won't some day read it. Maybe, I just need some time. But maybe not. I just know that reading this book will probably upset me and would like to avoid that as much as I can. Because I love Mockingbird so much, I think I'm going to have to pretend it's a standalone. I'm going to keep my Atticus the way he is.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Who Run the World?

Looking back on my childhood, I realize just how many bookish girls influenced my life. I looked up to these fictional characters, and thought they were the absolute coolest because they loved reading and school and 'nerdy' things like that. Hey, I still think they're the coolest. They shaped my reading habits. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up, who cared if they didn't actually exist? It was all about what they stood for. So here are some of those girls who I owe a lot to, thanks for always being there for me. 

1. Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew is my homegirl, for real. I wanted to be just like her growing up. I wanted a baby blue convertible, I wanted to solve mysteries, and my oh my did I want her wardrobe. To me, she is the ultimate Smart Girl. The first book I ever tried to write at the tender age of ten, ended up being some kind of Nancy Drew fanfic. I used to read Nancy's books with my grandmother and I was in awe how she was able to always catch the bad guy, despite the sticky situations get found herself in. Nancy was always thinking one step ahead. She is independent, girly, and intelligent. She was my childhood superhero. 

Fun fact: Did you know that ladies like Sandra Day O'Connor, Sonya Sotomayor, Hilary Clinton, and Laura Bush cite Nancy Drew as a major influence in their lives? You keep good company, Nancy. 

2. Hermione Granger

Where do I even start with Hermione Granger? She has a thirst for knowledge and wants to know everything about everything. What I love most about Hermione is how she always goes straight to the library in times of crisis, convinced that she can find all the answers she needs in a book. That's a good way to go through life, if I do say so myself. She has a kind heart, a passion for equality for humans and magical creatures alike, and a stubborn side. She had to work hard to catch up to kids who had magical tendencies their whole lives, girl was all about studying, but she wasn't afraid to cry. Hermione was so very real. Let's be real here, we ALL want Hermione Granger and a rocket ship...

Fun fact: Hermione is regarded as a top feminist character by many critics for her character development and what she stands for. Four for you, Hermione Granger. 

3. Rory Gilmore

Okay, so Rory isn't a character from a book or anything, but sweet baby Jesus she is everything I aspire to be in life. She's the epitome of the bookish girl. Rory always had a book with her, she sometimes even had two in her purse because what if she finished the first one? Ever since Rory, I've always kept a book with me--even if it is on my kindle on my phone. When I was in tenth grade, I read The Fountainhead because Rory did. That was when I realized that we had different taste in books, but still. She opened my eyes to the classics, and I have her to thank for my love for Sylvia Plath. Like Hermione, Rory was all about good grades and studying until her eyes went blurry. She had to get into an Ivy League school, had to be a journalist. For the longest time, I put myself on the Rory Gilmore path to success. I wanted to go Ivy too (didn't, but that's okay), and ended up majoring in journalism (I also learned our writing style is very different too). I still see a lot of Rory in myself and use her ambition when I find myself getting off track and procrastinating. 

Fun fact: After graduating from Yale, Rory goes on to be a reporter for Barack Obama's campaign before he even becomes president. Coincidence? I think not. In my mind, I like to think Rory had a lot to do with his election, and then she went off to marry Jess and live happily ever after. 

4. Samantha Parkington

Samantha wasn't necessarily a bookish girl, even though she had her own book series, she wasn't a big reader or anything. But she was adventurous and loyal and had one of the biggest hearts. For some reason, whenever I think of Samantha, I think of her at school. Were there a lot of scenes of Samantha at school in the books, or was it just something I created for myself when I was playing with my dolls? Even at the age of eleven, Samantha was progressive beyond her years. She fought alongside her aunt for women's suffrage and rights--to me, she is such a large influence in my feminist ideals. She broke the rules of being a typical girl growing up in the Victorian times. She climbed trees and rebelled against what was proper. She was the rebel I always wanted to be. 

Fun fact: Even though she was retired in 2009 (and let me tell you how upset I was when I found out...she was my very first American Girl doll after all), she was brought back by popular demand in 2014. I guess she wasn't done being a rebel!

5. Jo March

Jo March is another one of those classic bookish girls. Every picture that exists on the internet has her holding a book. Life goals. Not only was she a big reader, but she loved to write too! She was the role model in fiction I needed growing up because that's exactly what I wanted to do too. Jo was a troublemaker with a sense of humor to boot, but she always put her family first. And she was incredibly independent. I mean, she rejected Laurie's proposal (aka the love of her life. Laurie and Jo = OTP forever) because she doesn't want to leave her sisters. That's love right there. 

Fun fact: Jo went to New York City to pursue a writing career. I mean, can you get any cooler than that? Not possible. 

6. Anne Shirley

When I was younger, I was incredibly biased towards Anne because when you have the same name as an awesome literary character like her, there's no going back. Anne was a dreamer with a huge imagination. She always saw life in such an optimistic way but she somehow always found trouble. remember that time she accidentally got drunk on wine because she thought it was raspberry cordial? Good times, man. Anne was so feisty and took matters into her own hands, and she was also super competitive in school. She and Gilbert were always competing for the top spot in their class. I loved seeing how important school was to her, even though sometimes it felt like she was only doing it to get under Gilbert's skin. Hey, if it works, it works. 

Fun fact: When she got older, and I mean, decently older, Anne would write poems and short stories. Gotta love those girls who write. 

Did your favorite bookish girl make my list? Who inspired you, growing up? I'd love to hear all about her!