Winter Mini Reviews

Hey y'all!Grace here, slightly more alive by the end of the term. We have less than two weeks left until I leave for spring break, and I could not be more ready to get out of this winter! It's been a hard one.I've scaled down a lot this semester just trying to get through it, so a lot of my daily routine has involved class, running, and then reading. I've caught up with some series I missed and gotten back to that 2011 mindset of just inhaling genre reads. (I'm still a sucker for paranormal books.)With that being said, I wanted to share my thoughts by discussing books that I first read when I was starting out blogging, almost eight years ago. Highlighting some ones that are still notable!Series:Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter | GoodreadsRelease Date: May 1, 2006Publisher: Disney Hyperion

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

I forgot how much pacing means to a book series. If an author can pace well -- perfectly proportioning intrigue, character development, and action, it makes a world of difference. Ally Carter is honestly brilliant in her plotting, and her writing punctuates it all to make it all feel larger-than-life. One of the most exciting and cinematic series I've ever gotten the privilege of reading.Series: Fallen by Lauren Kate | GoodreadsRelease Date: December 8, 2009Publisher: Delacorte Press

What if the person you were meant to be with could never be yours?17-year-old Lucinda falls in love with a gorgeous, intelligent boy, Daniel, at her new school, the grim, foreboding Sword & Cross . . . only to find out that Daniel is a fallen angel, and that they have spent lifetimes finding and losing one another as good & evil forces plot to keep them apart.Get ready to fall . . .

Okay, so Fallen was a book that I LOVED when I was younger. When I first read it, I was blown away by the dark atmosphere and the twisted world of the fallen angels. Lauren Kate nails the Gothic vibe. I still adore it, having gone back, but the writing and the love story were weaker than I remember them being. Luce doesn't have much of a personality. Still, it's a solidly escapist read. Also, this is one of my favorite book covers of all time.Series: Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot | GoodreadsRelease Date: October 14, 2014Publisher: HarperCollins

When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne’s at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about the former senator’s daughter. Most people do... or think they do.Charlotte certainly never expects she’ll be Julia’s friend. But almost immediately, she is drawn into the larger than-life-new girl’s world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia’s handsome older brother, Sebastian.But behind her self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes that Julia is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden... until now.

I genuinely forgot how incredible this book is. When I first reviewed it, I saw it as a modern day Gatsby set in a picturesque boarding school atmosphere. I called it "subtle and winning." Flawed characters, family secrets, and an undercurrent of wistfulness make for a stunning, powerful read that also feels gentle. I will champion this book forever. Intoxicating.Series: Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle | GoodreadsRelease Date: October 23, 2014Publisher: Poppy

The romantic story of a girl who gets plucked from obscurity to star in the next major feature film franchise based on a book and the ensuing love triangles she gets entangled in on—-and off screen.Meet Paige Townsen, Rainer Devon, and Jordan Wilder…When Paige Townsen, a young unknown, gets cast in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a crowded movie set on the shores of Maui, and is spending quality time with her co-star Rainer Devon, one of People’s Sexiest Men Alive. But when troubled star Jordan Wilder lands the role of the other point in the movie’s famous love triangle, Paige’s crazy new life gets even crazier.In this coming-of-age romance inspired by the kind of celeb hookups that get clever nicknames and a million page views, Paige must figure out who she is – and who she wants – while the whole world watches.

The branding for this book does it a disservice, I think. The title, coloring, and "love triangle" focus undermine a coming-of-age that's poignant and affecting. It has a main character who I genuinely wish I could be best friends with. Self-aware, mature, thoughtful. Also, the framework of this book (small town girl catapulted to fame) include plenty of decadent scenes that also satisfy a craving for a fun read. I wish I could better capture in words how expertly curated this book is, and how full-bodied and distinct the experience of reading it is. Gorgeous.

What books have y'all rediscovered?

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On Bingeing & Book Series

When it's been a while since I've gotten the chance to read -- or I read only in bits and fragments -- I forget sometimes how a book can take you away from yourself.It sounds poetic, when I put it like that, or overly sappy. But in difficult times (or even just busy ones), it's such a luxury to be able to leave your own skin. To be so caught up in other characters, worlds, or stories. Even sometimes just to feel understood.

**

Yesterday, I read four books between class and bedtime. In the past two weeks, I've read 23 books. In total, I've read 34 books in 2019. To break it down for you, that's 68% of the books I've read this entire year.Last year, in 2018, I read 101 books, so I'm nearly to 1/3 of that already with only two months in. I've been fully bingeing. When I have time between classes, or need my head to quiet in between homework and bedtime, I've been reading. I'm not sure if I've been tearing through books more quickly than normal because of the pure quantity of reads I've consumed lately, or whether I've just been more focused on them. Regardless, I'm staying on my kick until it ends.

**

I get in a lot of moods in which I don't want to talk, or create. I don't want to write, or put myself out there. I just want to observe. To listen rather than speak. Absorb a lot of the world around me. Reading is good for that.Although reading is inevitably a huge part of my identity, and why I do what I do, sometimes I like to pick apart why it affects me so much. I am a words person. I have a lot swirling around in my head at a given time, because I fixate on details. Sometimes I read for peace; other times, I read for stimulation. Right now, I'm reading for distraction.I've been reading a lot of my favorite series, recently, for several reasons:

  • it's easy to tear through books when you're primed to the story, characters, and dynamic already
  • it's refreshing to see whole of everything: the lows and the highs
  • in a place as small as my school and town, it's comforting to remember that there's a diversity of experiences and people out there
  • I love rereading and tracking the ways that my reactions to books have changed over time
  • it's a productive way to fill up free time in between classes when I don't feel like doing continuing to do (constant) work
  • they are fun and winter term of junior year is not
  • all my favorite series are engaging and intense, and I love feeling passionate about them again

This semester has tested me, and so I've been dialing back and examining ways in which I can be easier on myself. Reading has been excellent for that. I've loved feeling like I can circle back to myself with the help of my favorite books, or just a really good series.

Winter Hiatus

Hey y'all!

It has been a while since I've taken an extended amount of time off from the blog -- which is something I never want to do. Anyone who knows me knows that my blog is my FAVORITE activity. But after a lot of thinking, I've decided to take a few weeks off to focus on getting healthy.The flu really beat me down into the ground, and I have notoriously awful lungs. (A job application recently asked me what my memoir title would be, and my final answer was "The Aesthetic Asthmatic.") My 53% effective lung capacity and I will be taking some time to fully recover. Plus, hopefully taking more time for catching up on work and less time for screens will mean that I get plenty of reviews written. (As much as I can restrict myself from posting, I can't seem to stop myself from reading and writing...)In the meantime, let me know what y'all want to see! Message me, tweet me, shoot me an email. I'll be taking a break from social media as well (and will likely lose some followers over it), but I would LOVE to hear your suggestions and incorporate that to the blog content I'm psyched about this spring.See y'all in a few!

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In My Mailbox -- January 27, 2019

Although I've been bed-ridden and not particularly up for reading lately (flu season has hit W&L and it hit HARD), some of my holds from the library came in! I'm psyched for these, and I genuinely enjoy having a time limit, because it keeps me accountable to build time into my schedule.Curiosity books, for me, are ones I borrow from the library rather than buy because I know I'll likely only read them once. Books that satisfy my continual urge to learn more about science, philosophy, or any other discipline I don't regularly study -- books to feed my pretension.If you don't take advantage of being able to check out books from your local library, DO. Go and get a library card. Download some reads on your e-reader or your phone. (It's my favorite life hack for finding time to read, as well as for not supporting Amazon.)Without further ado, here are some reads I'm psyched about.Novel: Beauty: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton | GoodreadsRelease Date: April 8, 2011Publisher: Oxford University Press

Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference. In this Very Short Introduction, the renowned philosopher Roger Scruton explores the concept of beauty, asking what makes an object--either in art, in nature, or the human form--beautiful, and examining how we can compare differing judgments of beauty when it is evident all around us that our tastes vary so widely. Is there a right judgment to be made about beauty? Is it right to say there is more beauty in a classical temple than a concrete office block, more in a Rembrandt than in an Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can? Forthright and thought-provoking, and as accessible as it is intellectually rigorous, this introduction to the philosophy of beauty draws conclusions that some may find controversial, but, as Scruton shows, help us to find greater sense of meaning in the beautiful objects that fill our lives.

We read a few out of this "short introduction" series for my history class -- granted, those were about Puritanism and the Protestant Reformation -- and I really enjoyed the plainspoken overview of a topic. I'm really fascinated by the idea of beauty as a whole. What attracts you, how to quantify it, how to speak about it. Because I'm so fascinated by aesthetic, I figured I'd venture into some new nonfiction explanations.Novel: What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund | GoodreadsRelease Date: August 5, 2014Publisher: Vintage

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the phenomenology of reading-how we visualize images from reading works of literature, from one of our very best book jacket designers, himself a passionate reader. A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like?The collection of fragmented images on a page - a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so - and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved - or reviled - literary figures.In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf's Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature - he thinks of himself first, and foremost, as a reader - into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading.

I used to always see this title when I was a bookseller at Oxford Exchange, and I was always tempted to buy it. As proven by the past seven and a half years, I love to read for plenty of reasons, and I'm fascinated by the science behind it. I feel like I'd derive a lot of comfort from understanding the mechanisms that are in place for it, as well as what cognitive benefits it provides.Novel: How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price | GoodreadsRelease Date: February 13, 2018Publisher: Ten Speed Press

Packed with tested strategies and practical tips, this book is the essential, life-changing guide for everyone who owns a smartphone.Is your phone the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch before bed? Do you frequently pick it up "just to check," only to look up forty-five minutes later wondering where the time has gone? Do you say you want to spend less time on your phone--but have no idea how to do so without giving it up completely? If so, this book is your solution.Award-winning journalist Catherine Price presents a practical, hands-on plan to break up--and then make up--with your phone. The goal? A long-term relationship that actually feels good. You'll discover how phones and apps are designed to be addictive, and learn how the time we spend on them damages our abilities to focus, think deeply, and form new memories. You'll then make customized changes to your settings, apps, environment, and mindset that will ultimately enable you to take back control of your life.

On a more practical note, I spend a lot of time on my phone. I'm conscious about the role that photo-taking and scrolling through inspirational feeds has in my life. While I think I have a pretty good balance (sharing what makes me happy but not sharing much of my personal life aside from the occasional formal photo), I'd love to be less dependent on the security of my phone. My goal is to automate my Instagram as much as possible, via content planning and consistent photoshoots and all of that. Getting less screen time would be a good thing.Novel: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt | GoodreadsRelease Date: May 10, 2016Publisher: Knopf

From the best-selling author of Traffic, a brilliant and entertaining exploration of our personal tastes--why we like the things we like, and what it says about us.Everyone knows his or her favorite color, the foods we most enjoy, and which season of House of Cards deserves the most stars on Netflix. But what does it really mean when we like something? How do we decide what's good? Is it something biological? What is the role of our personal experiences in shaping our tastes? And how do businesses make use of this information? Comprehensively researched and singularly insightful, You May Also Like delves deep into psychology, marketing, and neuroscience to answer these complex and fascinating questions. From the tangled underpinnings of our food choices, to the dynamics of the pop charts and our playlists, to our nonstop procession of "thumbs" and "likes" and "stars," to our insecurity before unfamiliar works of art, the book explores how we form our preferences--and how they shape us. It explains how difficult it is, even for experts, to pinpoint exactly what makes something good or enjoyable, and how the success of companies such as Netflix, Spotify, and Yelp depends on the complicated task of predicting what we will enjoy. Like Traffic, this book takes us on a fascinating and consistently surprising intellectual journey that helps us better understand how we perceive and appreciate the world around us.

I'm both personally and professionally interested in the idea of "taste" -- curating it, reviewing it, all that jazz. I'm in an advertising class this term, and I'm so curious about how taste functions. Plus, the bit about being overwhelmed is really helpful to read about in this day and age. Always on the hunt to learn more about it.

What books have y'all gotten this week?

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January To-Read List

Hey y'all!It's been a busy January here in Virginia -- one of those months that's almost over before I get the chance to blink. I've been thrown into a lot, but trying to take enough time to myself to rest and recharge while everyone around me seemingly has the flu. Fingers crossed!I didn't go into my semester with books I wanted to read this month, mostly because I knew it would likely be my most frenzied time of year. (Junior year has been my busiest year, and winter term should be my busiest season.) Still, I've had some titles tucked away as a breath of fresh air for me -- a 9 P.M., early-to-bed treat when I want my thoughts to quiet and a story to pull me away.Without further ado, here are the books I have planned for the rest of the month.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer | GoodreadsThe First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally | Goodreads

I'm hoping to review Heartless when I'm done, because I want to share my LOVE for Marissa Meyer. As for the second, it'll result in two presentations and a ten-page paper. You, however, can avoid the academics by perusing some of my other favorite scientific reads!

What have y'all been reading this month?

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