Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Recently Read: The Miniaturist

Author: Jessie Burton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 382
Publication Date: 2014
Rating: 4/5

Add on Goodreads 

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office--leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist--an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand--and fear--the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction? From Goodreads

I have a huge collection of popular historical fiction novels that I have been wanting to read on my TBR shelves and cold weather always puts me in the mood for a long historical novel, so this is the one I picked off my shelf to read first. I really enjoyed this novel. I really didn't know much about it besides the information on the inside flap, and that it received a lot of positive buzz when it was released, and I was pleasantly surprised by what was inside this novel. It had a great plot, intriguing characters, mystery, and beautiful writing. 

I loved the 17th century Amsterdam setting, as this is a setting I have never read before. Burton did an amazing job at bringing the setting to life. This novel felt like a visual experience, and I am happy to hear that it has been adapted into a mini-series. The characters are very real, and all of the characters, even the small side characters, have been given so much detail and care by Brandt that they all seem absolutely essential to the novel. The back cover compares Burton's novel to the works of Sarah Waters, and I have to agree there. While The Miniaturist may not have the same level of twists as Waters' novels, this novel is full of mystery and surprise and kept me on my toes. 

This novel deals with so many subjects in such an interesting way. It comments on religion, wealth, sin in its varying degrees, the historically limited options for women, family, love, and the inner mysteries of every human. All of these ideas weaved into the plot seamlessly along with the mystery of the miniaturist and the question of fate and the future. The writing is beautiful and the plot never falters or slows. Time truly slipped away while I was reading this novel. 

I already purchased Burton's second novel, and I will be eager to read whatever she releases in the future. Her writing was beautiful and her scene building impeccable. I have a feeling that this novel has inspired a marathon of historical fiction reading! 

Monday, January 15, 2018

TBR Spotlight: Books Set in Africa

In the past year, I have really been loving books set in Africa. This was not a setting that I read a lot of fiction about until I read Paula McLain's Circling the Sun. After reading her beautiful descriptions of the African landscape and being intrigued by the colonial Africa setting, I decided I really wanted to pick up more fiction with an African setting. Here's some of the books set in Africa that are highest on my TBR list.
Book titles link to Goodreads!

I've heard lots of praise for this one. A generational family saga set on multiple contents sounds like something I need in my life. 
I've heard that this Adichie novel is a bit more intense than her other novels, but I really love her writing and want to read all her works. I have only read one, so really all of her works are on this list. I really love all of the different editions of Adichie's novels, so it will take some searching before I decide which edition of this one I want to pick up. 

Another novel with a setting on multiple contents, this has been labeled as Adichie's best work so far. 

I've been wanting to read this one after reading so much about Beryl Markham last year. I have never seen the movie (which I hear is quite different) so I can see a back-to-back marathon in my future. 

I had to stop myself from buying this one in the book store the other day, as it sounds so cool. A magic-school series set in Africa. Yes Please! 

I've heard lots of great things about this one, and it sounds like it has a similar feel to Purple Hibiscus in that it's a character driven family drama. 

Leave me recommendations for your favorite fiction set in Africa so I can expand this list! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Year, New Books: Book Haul

I know I just posted about intending to read more of the books I already own, but I couldn't pass up the Book Outlet Boxing Day Sale, and I have been holding onto some credit from my favorite bookstore, so I picked up a few new reads. I'm really excited to get to all of these, and I think I will read them fairly soon, so I don't feel too guilty about picking them up.
Book Titles link to Goodreads.

From Book Outlet

 This looks like a really cute read. Austen inspired  with spies added in? Yes, please.

I've heard lots of great things about this series, so I couldn't resist picking it up. I love a good YA fantasy series, and I think this one is going to deliver. 

 I'm currently reading Burton's The Miniaturist and even though I'm only a few chapters in, I'm loving it, so I'm glad to have this one on hand to pick up soon.  

This one caught my eye on Goodreads a while back. It's got a super unique premise: a group of mediums contributing to the WWI effort by communicating with fallen soldiers. 

I'm a big fan of Cat Winters paranormal historical fiction, and I'm a few books behind on her releases. I've been picking them up whenever I come across them; I believe this is one of her adult novels. I have no idea what this one is about, but Winters is an auto-buy author for me, so I know I will enjoy it. 

From the Bookstore
I couldn't pass up a signed copy of Stiefvater's newest release, especially when I had credit for the bookstore. I'm a big fan of The Raven Cycle, but that's all I have read from Stiefvater, so I'm eager to read more of her works. 

What have you bought in the new year? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Recently Read: Bird Box

Author: Josh Malerman
Genre: Adult Thriller/ Horror
Page Count: 262
Publication Date: 2014
Rating: 3.5/5

Add on Goodreads 

Something outside is making those who see it lose their minds. It starts with a few alarmingly violent cases throughout the world and then quickly spreads. Don't open your eyes because what you see will drive you crazy. Bird Box follows a house of strangers trying to survive this new world with their eyes shut. 

I have seen some buzz about this book lately, and although it's not my usual type of read, the concept sounded so interesting to me that I couldn't resist picking it up. I had no idea of what to expect from the plot or the reading experience, and that made the book even more fun to read. I couldn't put this book down. From page one, Malerman sucks you into a world of suspense and uncertainty and you need to find out what happens next.

I thought the writing style fit with the plot and genre perfectly. You really don't get to know any of the characters all that well, but you don't need to. The plot is constantly moving towards something unknown and that drives the narrative. I also really loved that the book wasn't told in a linear fashion as both the past and present were so interesting that I was equally invested in what was happening in both times, which is not always the case with books that switch back and forth between times. The novel has the perfect amount of "shocks" and suspense, but still keeps an interesting plot and substance. Once you pick this book up, you won't put it down until it's finished.

A lot of the negative reviews on Goodreads are the result of readers being unhappy with the ending of the novel. While this book does leave a lot of questions unanswered, I prefer it that way. I think that's what makes good science fiction or horror so good. The unknown is what scares us as humans, we need to sort and classify everything we see in a logical fashion, and when we can't, that's when we are threatened. Unanswered questions in the real world, and fiction such as this, is what makes horror scary. I don't want to reveal too much about the plot or the ending, but I respected the ending and enjoyed it. It does what the end of a good horror plot should do: make you think about it even after you have finished it. And I agree that some details of the novel are unrealistic, but it's a novel with a supernatural plot; I'm willing to suspend belief for the smaller details as well as the larger ones in an entertaining novel such as this one. 

If you're not usually a reader of this genre, I really recommend this one. I raced through it and really enjoyed not knowing what was going to happen next. I'm interested to explore the thriller/horror genre more in the near future, so leave me your favorites!  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Some 2018 Intentions (reading and otherwise)

Last year, I didn't really set any year-long reading goals for myself. I was so overwhelmed with finishing my degree and the uncertainty that comes along with that, that I couldn't even picture a month into the future, much less a whole year. Over the past week or so, I've been thinking about whether or not to set 2018 goals, reading and otherwise. I started out by saying no I wasn't going to, yet here I am writing this post. My Type-A personality is once again victorious.

Instead of big, lofty goals, I'm going to throw out a few intentions for this year. I have no idea where I will be for most of the year, as this summer I will be interviewing for actual teaching jobs and then tackling my first year of teaching, which is notoriously difficult, but that's okay. These are just some things that I intend to do, or devote some time attempting to do this year.

In 2018 I want to...
  • Read the books I already own. This one is on every year's list, but I never really feel like I make any progress. I buy more books in a year than I read from my existing TBR, and that's fine really. I'm not going to attempt to directly change the number of books I buy in a year, I just want to try and read from my own shelves more. 

  • Read more authors from my Women's Writers List. I made this list a very long time ago, and I would love to revamp it and continue completing it. I've really taken a step back from reading classics this year, as I have been finished with my college literature courses, but I want to get back into them, and classics by women is my area of interest. I'll be revamping this list and posting about it in the near future.  

  • Keep posting. It seems like every time I have been in a good blogging flow in the past two years, some major life thing (usually school) disrupts it and then I loose the flow. It's frustrating to see something you spend a lot of time working on gain in views and reads, only to loose that momentum because of outside forces. Blogging has never been about the views for me, I just love having a place to write about what I read, and I appreciate it even more now that I am out of school and have lost that avenue for discussing literature. I want to keep writing about what I read regardless of how busy I get this year or the numbers. I really love having this record of my relationship with literature. 

  • Continue to declutter my life. Ever since moving out, and then back in my parents, my life has been overflowing with stuff. I moved an apartment's worth of stuff back in my childhood room, which was already filled with stuff, and I don't even know what I own anymore. I have been donating like crazy this year, and I want to keep doing that. I need to be honest with myself about what I need and proactive about getting rid of what I don't. 
I am thinking I will make smaller goals throughout the year as well, but for now, these are the things I want to focus my time and energy on this year. I would love to hear what your intentions for the new year are or your thoughts on New Year in general! Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Recently Read: Purple Hibiscus

Author: Chimanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Literary Fiction
Page Count: 307
Publication Date: 2005
Rating: 4/5

Add on Goodreads 

Fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world is circumscribed by the high walls and frangipani trees of her family compound. Her wealthy Catholic father, under whose shadow Kambili lives, while generous and politically active in the community, is repressive and fanatically religious at home.

When Nigeria begins to fall apart under a military coup, Kambili’s father sends her and her brother away to stay with their aunt, a University professor, whose house is noisy and full of laughter. There, Kambili and her brother discover a life and love beyond the confines of their father’s authority. The visit will lift the silence from their world and, in time, give rise to devotion and defiance that reveal themselves in profound and unexpected ways. 

This is a book about the promise of freedom; about the blurred lines between childhood and adulthood; between love and hatred, between the old gods and the new. From Goodreads 

 This was my first Adichie novel, and as she has been on my to-read list forever, I thought it would be best to start with her first novel. I'm happy to report that I really enjoyed this novel! I will be getting my hands on more of her works very soon. I also love my anniversary edition published by 4th Estate and am now kicking myself for only ordering two works in these editions rather than all four of the ones they offered. 

I really didn't know what to expect plot-wise with this novel when I started it. I was drawn in by Kambili's narrative voice right away, and then I knew it wasn't about plot so much as it was about Kambili as a character. I loved the setting; I have been really craving books set in Africa, and this one has just added fuel to the fire. Africa provides such a rich setting for novels as the physical landscape is so beautiful, and it is often plagued with political turmoil. 

This was a really powerful coming-of-age story for both Kambili and her brother. I felt so strongly for both of them throughout the novel. I felt rather helpless watching them struggle with their strict and controlling father, but was rooting for them with every fiber of my being. This is a novel of contrasts; Kambili and her brother, Kambili's family and her Aunt's family, her mother and her father, her father and the priest. All of these contrasts reflect each other brilliantly and help to shape Kambili's world and internal journey. 

I wish there had been more on the coup in the novel because I was really interested in the political situation surrounding the characters, but it was never explained or examined in any detail. I also thought the end was a bit rushed, lots of big events happen in the last few pages that left me feeling a bit thrown-off because most of the book is motivated by characters rather than plot, and then a pretty large plot unfolds at the very end. Despite these minor complaints, I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was beautifully written. I want to read everything by Adichie now and will be picking up more of her works in 2018, including her nonfiction.  

Which work of Adichie's should I pick up next? Any recommendations for books set in Africa? I'll be making a TBR list soon!  

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 End of the Year Survey!

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 48
Number of Re-Reads:

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?- My Top Three: 

This was such a wild ride. I was gripped by this book and couldn't stop reading 
or look away. This is a must read.

This was so whimsical and dark. In the same vein as Alice and Wonderland and Peter Pan.
Loved how the complex idea of the transition from childhood to adulthood was portrayed. 

This is an amazing YA contemporary. Loved the characters and the themes; this 
is one I will be revisiting in the future. 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?


 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

This one had me on the edge of my seat, and caught me off guard many times.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I recommend Sarah Waters a lot this year. Even though I have only read one of her works (Fingersmith, above) I am confident that all of her works are worth recommending. 

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

I didn't actually start any new series this year! I really concentrated on stand-alones as I always felt too busy to get sucked into a series. 

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Shirley Jackson!  I can't wait to read more from her in the near future.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Science based nonfiction is way out of my comfort zone, but I loved this!
The audiobook was a great experience. 

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

So addicting! 

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

Alex from The Female of the Species. She's so complex and different from usual YA characters.  

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

I did A LOT of thinking about this reread this year. Teaching and reading this novel 
was a great experience this year. This book still holds up to the test of time. 
I spent A LOT of time thinking about this one and how I felt about it. I'm still
not all that sure. Read my review for more details. 

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

I owned this one for years (and moved it to an apartment and then back home) 
before finally picking it up this year. 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest- The novella version of Flowers for Algernon


 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Loved the romances in both of these novels. 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Loved the relationship between Sal and his dad. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

There was SO much hype around this one this summer that I had to pick
it up. Glad I did!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

This year's reread has lead to discover that Atticus Finch is my dream man. 

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

My soul seems to have survived this year intact! I didn't read anything too emotional this year. 

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I was so angry for many of the characters in this book. 
Blog and Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

This was not a consistent year for me in regards to both blogging myself and reading other blogs. That being said, here are a few blogs that I made a conscious effort to keep up with this year. 

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Always love continuing my Poetry Spotlight and Literary Look posts. 

4. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

5. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

This year I participated in the Diversity Bingo challenge with the goal to complete as many squares as possible. Here's my three update posts:  

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

Becky Albertaili's and Adam Silvera's joint project What If It's Us  looks like a lot of fun. 

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Lots of buzz about this one already.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

Actually need more time to research this one. I'm out of the loop on 2017 series. I need to catch up. 

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

Just manage to read while also getting hired for and then actually teaching my first year as a teacher! Wish me luck! 
See my 2015 survey answers

Leave me the link to your survey if you filled one out!