Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Recently Read: Truly Devious

Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Young Adult/ Mystery
Publication Date: 2018
Page Count: 416
Rating: 4/5

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Also by Maureen Johnson 
The Name of the Star
The Madness Underneath
The Shadow Cabinet 

Stevie Bell is obsessed with solving crimes, one crime in particular: the disappearance of an American billionaire's wife in daughter in the late 1930s. When Stevie is accepted into the boarding school started by the billionaire, and the scene of the infamous crime, she is determined to solve the mystery once and for all, but first, she may have a few other crimes to solve. 

Back in 2014 I read the first book in Johnson's Shades of London mystery series and I loved it! The next books in the series were less-great (though still good) so I was excited to hear that Johnson had a new YA mystery series coming out this year, but also a little unsure of how I would feel about it.

I really enjoyed this book! It was such a quick read. I read the ebook and couldn't believe when I finished it that it was four hundred pages because I flew through it. As usual, Johnson's characters were super loveable and interesting. I loved the dual mysteries and time-lines that were in the plot, and thought both of them were equally intriguing and entertaining. We receive information on the 1936 case in alternating chapters alongside Stevie's story, and I was just as invested in the past crime as the current story-line. I think the two will come together in a brilliant way in the upcoming novels.

All elements of this novel were high-quality including the mysteries, the characters, the setting, and the slow-burn and confused romance. I loved the idea of the boarding school for super-smart and creative kids, and I thought it made a great setting for a mystery. I think that this plot will really expand in the upcoming novels, as there is a lot of unanswered questions at the end of this book. I'm not looking forward to the wait for book two! I also loved all of the side characters, and found Stevie's classmates to be so interesting. I'm hoping that we will get to know these characters more in the upcoming books. There is a lot of natural-feeling diversity in the side characters, which is always appreciated.

I'm really looking forward to more books in this series. The end of this book had me trying to turn the page to the next chapter, and being shocked to see it was done. If you've been thinking about picking this one up, go for it!  

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Right now, I'm in a HUGE science fiction and fantasy mood, which you will see reflected in this list of books I really want to get to this spring. I've been craving to sit down with a long and super involved fantasy: problem is, work is taking up all my reading time and energy. Hopefully I'll find some time to dive into a few of the selections from this list during the season. Let me know where I should start! All titles link to Goodreads! 

(Need to reread Heir of Fire before diving into this one)

(Loved the movie, now I want to read the series)

(Will be reading this one very soon)

(High hopes for this one) 

I will be a happy camper if I manage to make it through some of these reads this spring! What are you looking forward to reading this spring? Any good sci-fi or fantasy recommendations? 

Monday, March 19, 2018

Women's History Month:Classic Reading Recommendations

Happy Women's History Month! It's taken me longer than I would have wished to be able to put some posts together about this event because work got in the way, but I'm here now! If you have visited before, you would know that literature and feminism are two of my favorite things, so I love posting about Women's History Month. I thought I would start out with a few reading recommendations in case you are looking for a way to celebrate.

As I was putting this general recommendations list together, I realized I had too many recommendations for one post, so I have decided to split it up between genres. Stay tuned for the nonfiction and Young Adult recommendation lists!
Titles Link to my reviews 

This is a great place to dive in to both Woolf and feminist nonfiction if you are looking for a jumping in spot. Although this was written about ninety years ago, it still rings very true and is very accessible for the modern reader. If you have an interest in feminist literature, this is a must read. 

Chopin is the ultimate feminist author. The Awaking is a feminist manifesto for women in every century. Chopin is clever and talented but also fearless with her heavy feminist themes in a time where they were even less accepted than today. 

Plath is one of my all-time favorite authors, and I am constantly in awe of the power her words posses. Her poetry leaves me speechless, and every time I read a poem of hers, I find something new to admire or ponder, which is really saying something, because I have read some of her poems countless times. Plath with always be one of the most talented poets that literature has ever seen in my eyes. 

This novel is a true masterpiece. I thought I would enjoy it when I picked it up, but I didn't know I would be awed by its beauty and power and go on to spend a semester completing two different projects on it. The genre of science fiction was created by a teenage girl, and I really don't think that is a sentence that is said enough. 

Maya Angelou is my ultimate inspirational woman. I love all of her works and various talents and forms of activism. I have been making my way through her autobiographies and loving each and every one, but her first memoir is my favorite. This book made me laugh and cry and I was completely consumed by Angelou's written voice, and verbal voice, as I listened to this on audio. This book is fantastic and should be read by all.  

I really enjoyed researching this book after I finished it. This novel's history is so much more interesting than the actual novel itself. This is not di Prima's real memoir, as the publishers were not interested in publishing the true story of a female Beatnik poet, but a fictionalized memoir that di Prima wrote to sell to the publishers to fund her poetry projects. I loved reviewing this one and talking about the story of how it came to be, and the reception of the novel. I've got my eyes on di Prima's actual memoir, as I think her life is super interesting. 

This novel was wildly popular in its time, but is now mostly forgotten. It is a long Victorian novel written by a female author about a female main character. It follows the main character all through out her life (Jane Eyre style) and is a classic example of the domestic novels that allowed women an opportunity to earn their own income in the mid 1800s. For more information on this time period of "scribbling women" check out this post on forgotten American women writers

 I couldn't make this list without including my favorite Austen novel! This novel is so funny, and all of Austen's works are so timeless. Emma is so irritating yet redeemable and really pushes the boundaries set on Georgian women. All of the Austen's works I have read so far are great, but this is by-far my favorite.  

This is just a small collection of recommended reading; this list could be pages and pages long. For more recommendations see my Women Writer's List for reviews of books I have read, and authors I want to read. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Recently Read Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Author: Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo
Genre: Nonfiction/ Illustrated
Publication Date: 2017
Page Count: 212
Rating:  2.5/5

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You may also like:
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls in an anthology in the style of bed-time stories about one hundred women from history. Each story is accompanied by an illustration. 

These anthologies of forgotten or overlooked women of history are becoming quite popular, and I love it! I have been reading as many as I can get my hands on because I love using them to discover new-to-me women from history. You may know I majored in English and minored in history, and my area of interest was always gender in both subjects, so these books were made for me! This is the most popular of these anthologies as it is already getting a sequel and has had quite a bit of buzz. However, I heard some critiques of the book I found interesting (mainly this video from Jean Bookish Thoughts on Youtube) so I was really interested in checking it out from the library before purchasing it for myself, and I'm glad I did because I have some mixed thoughts.

Obviously, I love the premise behind this one. I love the idea of a book funded by kickstarter about forgotten women of history all around the world accompanied by portraits of said women done by tons of different women artists, but this sounds better than it was. I found my main problem with this book was the writing of the actual stories. The stories were so vague and watered down that they hardly contained any information about the women themselves or their work. I also found that some of the women's stories focused on strange aspects of their lives other than their work. Virginia Woolf's page, for example, was all about her depression; two short sentences on the page mention that she was a writer. I found myself wanting to learn more about these women than these short summaries offered. There is also the question of the inclusion of a few of the women, as Jean mentions in the video above. There are ancient female leaders who conquered other nations in here, as well as Margaret Thatcher, who was anti-equal rights for many groups of individuals. This brings to light the idea that having power should not automatically earn someone admiration. 

One thing I did love about this book was the full-page color illustration of each woman. I loved that the authors worked with sixty different female artists and that the portraits were of all different styles. Some of the art I loved, and some I didn't, but I appreciated the variation more than I thought I would at the beginning. I also loved that this book included women from around the world as well as  throughout time. This collection was one of the most diverse I have seen. It spans ancient Chinese rulers to current athletes and activists. I also appreciated that current women were represented in this book, and a lot of them are very young. 

If more time and detail had been put into the writing in this book, I would have loved it. I came away with a long list of women I want to research and read about, which is exactly what I'm looking for in these anthologies. I will continue to read every one of these types of anthologies that come out because I love supporting books and ideas like this. Although I think there are probably better anthologies out there, (I'll let you know when I find one) I do recommend you pick this one up.

Let me know if you have any recommendations for me of similar books. Oh, and Happy National Women's History Month :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

February Wrap-Up: T.V, Movies, Books, and More

February has been busy for me. The long-term substitute job I had lined up started about five weeks earlier than I had expected it too, so I have been a bit scrambled. That also means that my February reading plans did not happen, as I found myself without a lot of reading time. However, I did manage to read and watch a few things this month, that I wanted to tell you about. I'm going to to try to stick to two posts a week during this new teaching job, but we will see what I can get done. 

T.V. and Movies
I've been in the mood for documentaries lately, so I started the month off with Paris is Burning which is a documentary made in 1990 about the Drag Queen scene in Harlem New York. I found this one really interesting, as I didn't know anything about the 90s drag scene. The documentary interviews various frequenters of the club Paris is Burning, and interviews them about their life inside and out of the nightclub. I found it fascinating to see that a lot of the slang that black drag queens had invented is coming back in style, and that they are responsible for a lot of cultural elements that they are not given credit for. This documentary is both series and funny, and I really enjoyed watching it. 

The second documentary I watched this month was Finding Vivian Maier. This one reminded me of Packed in a Trunk, which I loved, as they both centered around an undiscovered woman artist. This was is about a nanny who was a secret street photographer and took hundreds of thousands of photos in her lifetime. I really loved this one as it was a dynamic look at her art and her life, and was so engrossing. The photos Vivian Maier took are absolutely stunning, and you can see some of them on the website dedicated to her art here.  

My mom and I devoured the Queer Eye for a Straight Guy reboot in a matter of two days this month! I LOVE this show! The new fab five is so sweet and funny, and this show has so much heart. It's so much more than a makeover show. It's about human connection and understanding and doesn't shy away from current social topics. This show had me tearing up from emotion and laughter, and I hope there is a million more seasons! 

I really loved Black Panther and I was glad to see that it lived up to the hype! The Afro-futurism setting was super cool; everyone in this movie is so beautiful; and it had more interesting female characters in it than all of the other marvel movies combined. I'm excited to see where this franchise goes, and I'm hoping that Marvel keeps delivering movies like this with complex and diverse characters. 


A Wrinkle in Time- 4/5 stars- This was a first-time read for me, and I really enjoyed it. I'm really looking forward to this movie!
Mary's Monster-5/5 stars- This book was gorgeous! It's an illustrated biography of Mary Shelley and the art is breathtaking. 


My Life on the Road-5/5 stars- This was my first read of Steinem's work, and I really loved it. The writing is great and her experiences and knowledge of our society are so vast and intricate. She has really inspired me to concentrate on listening even more than I was before reading this novel.

This Darkness Mine- 3.5/5 stars- This book was a wild ride in true Mindy McGinnis style. This book was addicting and dark and cemented McGinnis' place on my auto-read list.

Posts to Check Out
the way back to my teenage reading years)

Stay tuned for some Women's History Month themed posts in March! 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Recently Read: This Darkness Mine

Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult/Thriller
Publication Date: 2017
Page Count: 376
Rating: 3.5/5

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Also by this author:
The Female of the Species  

Sasha Stone is the perfect girl. She's a gifted clarinet player destined to play for a top college, a straight A student, and has a perfectly polite boyfriend. But a bad-boy named Issac seems to have control of her heart, even more-so than she does. Sasha learns that before birth, she had a twin sister who was never born, but her sister may have found a way to get what, and who, she wants through Sasha. 

McGinnis is a brilliant writer. Her writing is so captivating and intense, and even though her stories are uncomfortable at times, I just can't look away. The Female of the Species really shocked and consumed me when I read it, and I knew I had to read more from McGinnis after finishing that one. I picked this one up at my library as soon as I saw it, and flew through it.

McGinnis is brilliant at writing unhinged characters. Her characters are so unlike anything else in YA. I love a well-done unreliable narrator, and McGinnis has the best in YA. This story is weird, mysterious, shocking, and at times uncomfortable, but McGinnis' story-telling makes it impossible to look away. I really didn't know where this story was headed and was surprised at every twist-and-turn. 

While I really enjoyed being immersed in this book, I don't think it was as strong of a novel as The Female of the Species. To me, The Female of the Species read like a very sophisticated literary fiction, and it dealt with themes and ideas that were vast and complex. This one read more like a typical YA thriller, but with a brilliantly well-done main character. I thought the first half of the book was a lot stronger than the second half, but I was still completely hooked the whole way through. 

McGinnis has made her way on to my 'auto-read' list, and I have picked up another one of her books since finishing this one. If you are looking for a book that will completely absorb you, or get you out of a slump, I recommend checking out McGinnis' works. What she's doing feels unique, and she's very good at what she does.  

If you have any recommendations for YA books with unreliable narrators, please let me know! 

Monday, February 26, 2018

Recently Read: My Life on the Road

Author: Gloria Steinem
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Page Count: 280
Publication Date: 2015
Rating: 5/5

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Gloria Steinem has done everything. She's an activist, journalist, organizer, magazine editor, traveler, speaker, and listener. In her essay-style memoir, she recounts some of the most important events in her life and what she has learned from her travels and her long activist career. 

This is my first Steinem experience. I was aware of her and her work before reading this, and I knew she was a person that I wanted to read about and from, so I thought her memoir would be a good place to start. I knew I would enjoy this, but I didn't know the writing would be so good. Steinem's writing is so engaging and entertaining, that even when she is discussing complex or distressing concepts, it felt like a casual conversation with a friend. 

This memoir starts with a chapter on her childhood with a focus on her father. This was my favorite chapter of the novel. The way that Steinem writes about her always-traveling father with love, admiration, and introspective-reflection was quite beautiful. Steinem has a great outlook on life, and has accomplished so much in so many areas of life and activism, it's a bit insane. 

The biggest take away from this memoir for me was the importance of listening. Steinem is a constant listener, and because of this, she is able to learn and experience so much life. She covers so many interesting topics and eras in the novel and recounts the stories of others rather than herself. While feminism is a large focus of this novel, as it is a large focus of Steinem's career, it is not the only focus. Steinem discusses racism, overcoming a fear of public speaking, AIDS activism, the rights of indigenous Americans, and of course travel. Her section on the primary election in 2008 between Obama and Hillary Clinton was fascinating. Her account of listening to democratic women who did not support Clinton was so interesting, and her conclusions were something that I had never thought of before. 

Before this novel, I admired Steinem for her activism and barrier-breaking career. After reading her memoir, I still admire her for those things, but even more than that, I admire her ability to listen and communicate. Her chapter on talking circles and her audience-involvement at her public speaking events has really inspired me to listen more. I have always considered myself a good listener, but I could always do a better job of listening to individuals (particularly ones I disagree with or who think differently than me) and I think that is something that is universally true of humans. I can see myself revisiting chapters in this novel many times, and found myself marking many sections where I learned something new or was introduced to a new approach to a topic. 

I highly recommend checking this out if you have an interest in Steinem, feminism, activism, or just want to learn something new. I want to search out more of her work, particularly her essays in the near future, as well as learn more about some of the activists I was introduced to in this novel.