Winter Break Reading!!

As a college student, reading for pleasure has fallen by the wayside with the stress of tests, homework and extracurriculars. Luckily for me, I have had time during this winter break to get back in the saddle and knock some books off of my TBR list. Because I am reading, and am planning to read, some pretty fantastic books, I figured I could show case my list and share it with the entire internet. For convenience sake I have bolded the books I have finished already.

NORTHANGER ABBEY – JANE AUSTEN-  I decided to kick off break with a classic. Jane Austen is a woman and writer that I admire and every once and awhile I like to read another one of her books just to keep her in mind. Northanger Abbey is a gothic parody (or said to be) about Catherine, a young lady who goes to visit friends in Bath and ends up having some excellent adventures and of course falls in love, but not without some misfortune.

CUCKOO’S CALLING – ROBERT GALBRAITH- Robert Galbraith is not who you think he is, unless you happen to think that he is J.K. Rowling in which case you are right and I shouldn’t even need to tell you why this was on my reading list. Cuckoo’s Calling is about a private detective (Cormoran Strike) and he accidental assistant (Robin). In this adventure, the duo is investigating a supermodel whose brother believes that her death was not the suicide it was classified as. Honestly this series has had me very focused for most of break, it’s a thriller I could not put down.

HOW TO BE PARISIAN WHEREVER YOU ARE – ANNE BEREST- You may recognize the name of this book from my summer reading list because I have been waiting just that long to get to it. This book was a nice little break from the high speed world of crime that Jo Rowling has gotten me so deep into. This is just a few style tips and life lesson after the influence of the French. If only I wasn’t so gosh darn bad at language classes maybe I’d be a more successful Parisian.

ASKING FOR IT – LOUISE O’NEILL- WOWIE this book was Intense. I was drawn in by the cover and the title (yes, I judge), but I stayed for the whole ride and boy was I glad I did. Asking For It follows Emma through some regular high school trials and through a party that changes her life and not for the better. The reason I liked this book was that it felt raw and real and honestly a little bit terrifying and you don’t always get that in YA Lit. Although the ending was a little ambiguous, I think this book is worth the read and I’m going to be looking out for more by Louise O’Neill in the future. TW RAPE

THE SILKWORM – ROBERT GALBRAITH- Well if I read the first one I have to read the next two, now I am invested. The Silkworm is again about Robin and Strike, but this time they are hired (well really they take this client for free) to find an author that stormed out on his family. One thing leads to another and Strike spends most of the novel trying to tie together the clues that the author left behind. I can’t say too much because no spoilies but I can tell you I went straight to the bookstore after I finished it to pick up the next one (Career of Evil) which I will be reading promptly.

THE NEW JIM CROW – MICHELLE ALEXANDER- I have never read anything by this author but I am really looking forward to this read. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness sheds a light on how the racism isn’t gone, it’s just been redesigned. Looking forward to the next four years, I think education on the social issues is more important than it has ever been.

HOLDING UP THE UNIVERSE – JENNIFER NIVEN- As many of you know Jennifer Niven’s debut novel is one of my favorite books, All the Bright Places stole my heart. Because of All the Bright Places, Holding Up The Universe automatically made it’s way on my list. From what I understand two out of place teens are going to find themselves and each other and high school will probably suck less for both of them because of it. But Niven has taken high school scenarios to completely different levels before and I’m really counting on her to do it again.

THE STORYTELLER – JODI PICOULT – Lastly, (for this post, my TBR list is longer than my lifespan) I chose a Jodi Picoult because she is reliable and I can trust her to tell a great and emotional story. The Storyteller happens when a young woman befriends an old man and one day he asks her to kill him. Were the mistakes of his past worth ending his life as an old man? I don’t know yet but I am certainly going to find out!

What I’m Reading

College is clearly a tumultuous time. Although I am completely in love with my city and my school, it is a lot different than high school. Minneapolis feels like a whole different world than little old Bloomer. As much as you might be thinking, ‘Lauren get to the point’, I swear I have one and I’m getting there. I know I am not the first freshman to get to college and have no idea what they are doing or who they want to be, or for that matter, who they are. If you haven’t already guessed I am very much in that boat. As it turns out, the proverbial boat is very crowded, and not just with all these lost college students.

Filled with confusion, I did what I have always done. I read. I turned to some brave ladies that were lost far before I was, hoping they could help me out. Similar to many other times in my life, these books did not disappoint. The first on my journey was Elizabeth Gilbert and her book, Eat Pray Love, which I am sure you have heard of because I think everyone and their grandma read this a few years back when the movie came out. I joined the movement a little late, but late is better than never.

Eat Pray Love was a story about how Gilbert got a divorce, dealt with her depression, and found God, all while traveling the world. This woman took control of her life by seeing the world and living in ways she wasn’t used to. I really loved this, I loved reading about how this women became her own. At the time of reading it, I wasn’t very happy with all of her choices along the way, like spending more time at the ashram and getting involved with Felipe. I wanted her to stick to her plans because plans were something I relied on. I think now that I have had some time to reflect on the book, I like that she was able to get into a healthy relationship after healing from a few not-so-healthy relationships. And since managing my anxiety, I respect her being able to change her plans. I think that was brave of her. I think her whole journey was brave of her. I would really recommend this book to anyone thinking of reading it, there is a reason it was so popular, that’s because it’s good.

Elizabeth Gilbert has many other books, not all nonfiction, but most recently Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear has caught my eye. It is partially due to the fact that I am pretty much a middle aged woman in spirit, and partially due to Eat Pray Love being the beginning of my self exploration book binge. I hope I get around to reading her others and they don’t just end up on my endless to-be-read list.

The next two books that have been huge for me were both by Cheryl Strayed, my new hero. I started off with Wild, because of another movie adaptation I have yet to see. Wild is about how Cheryl dealt with herself and the death of her mother. Cheryl Strayed went to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, just like me so obviously that filled me with enough joy to make it through midterms. Cheryl tried to deal with her problems in different ways, with drugs and affairs before she divorced a man she loved and hiked the PCT. Her story was amazing to me, she up and left everything she knew to hike and then just stay in Portland. The story was much more about her emotional journey than her hike although her hike was amazing. I am so in awe of this woman and if I grew up to be one third as cool as she is I will die happy.

I also read Brave Enough, also by Cheryl Strayed. I read this on one afternoon during Spring Break when I spent a few hours just hanging out in Barnes and Noble and valuing my alone time. I picked it up because the title has the word brave in it and kept it because I saw Cheryl Strayed. The word  brave is very important to me because that is one thing I really want to be, those of you who know me know that I have this word tattooed on my arm. It’s a great reminder. Brave Enough is just a small book full of words of wisdom and to anyone who needs them, it is infinitely helpful and I would sit in Barnes and Noble forever to read it.

I am not done reading books about exploration and I doubt that I will ever be. I’ll be sure to let you know if I come by any more life-changers and I am always looking for recommendations. Hopefully, I’ll be able to talk about some more great ones soon.

Elemental by Antony John

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If you happened to have read the review I wrote previous to this one (Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs), you will find that these stories are extremely similar. The predicament is kind of the same dealio. Thomas is really whiny because all his friends and family and everyone in the tiny village has some sort of elemental power and he doesn’t. One day, when a storm is rolling in, all the kids are sent to an island and all the adults are left to hold down the fort. When the children are away, BAM! pirates attack leaving all the island children to fend for themselves. Of course Thomas pulls through for everyone, it’s touching really.

In all honesty, I did like this book. Although it was super similar to Powerless, I liked the time period perspective better in this one. It is set in the future after a new version of the Plague wipes out the world as we know it (that’s what happens if you don’t get your kids vaccinated, folks!) the people in this book go back to living the way they did long ago. Evolution sure did help these guys out, giving them elemental powers sure did come in handy. Anyway, during this book, Thomas and the kids meet new people, form new bonds, and discover important, hidden information about the past of the island, all in an attempt to save the village from the pirates.

I’m going to give this book a solid three stars, maybe three and a half although my view might be a bit biased based off the fact that I feel like I read the same book twice in a row and I’m kind of bored of it.

Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs

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Kenna has always been jealous of the Heroes, living her life in the lab trying to prove she is as useful as they are through research. In a world of good and evil, right and wrong, heroes and villains, Kenna knows what side she is on, or so she thought. After being witness to a Villain break in, the lines begin to become a little blurred. When Kenna’s mother goes missing, and her best friend switching sides it seems as though what Kenna has known her whole life isn’t so concrete and she begins to doubt everything she believes in.

Powerless is a good story about a group of unlikely friends united to a good cause. Even if it is a little cliche, it was a good fun story, but cliche is definitely something it was. A girl without superpowers trying to find her place in a world where she is surrounded with superhuman abilities only to find out she is the one who holds the whole group together and ends up being super irreplaceable. What can I say, it was just a tad predictable. She also falls in love with someone totally “unlikely”, by that I mean you could make an educated guess and probably guess who Kenna falls in love with.

Although this book was predictable, I did enjoy it. It was a fast read, and it was fun. It wasn’t a heavy read, it didn’t require a ton of brain power or thinking, which is good because after Saint Anything I was really ready for a good old dystopian novel where the characters have much more important things to worry about than falling in love but they do it anyway. Everyone knows how I feel about that.

Three stars, maybe three and a half.

My True Love Gave to Me, Twelve Holiday Stories

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If anyone else isn’t quite ready to be done with Christmas, or this holiday season for that matter, this is the book for you. Edited by Stephanie Perkins (author of Anna and the French Kiss, and others), My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of holiday short stories from several prominent authors such as Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Holly Black, Jenny Han and Gayle Foreman. This collection has stories for more than one type of reader, although many stories are cute little romances, a few of them have more of a fantasy element, which is cool. Variety is neat.

I have to say I really was impressed with this book. I wanted a fun holiday read and that is exactly what I got. It was perfect, I was so impressed with a lot of the stories and it was a quick read. Because there are twelve stories I won’t go into all of them but I do want to talk about a few of my personal favorites.

The Star of Bethlehem by Ally Carter – This is a cute story about Lydia who helps out another girl, Hulda, by switching plane tickets because Hulda does not love the boy she is going to see in Oklahoma. When Lydia gets to Oklahoma she is greeted by an entire family awaiting the arrival of Icelandic foreign exchange student, Hulda. Lydia isn’t sure she can keep up her charade but she loves this family and as it turns out, the boy Hulda left behind. She finds her place by running from her problems, which is often not a solution.

What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? by Gayle Foreman – This story is about a big city girl trying to find her place in a small, midwestern college. Sophie feels lost until, while attending a Christmas concert, she meets Russell. He takes her to go get pie and she finds a way to celebrate Hanukkah after all. It’s adorable and Gayle Foreman is an amazing author.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins – My goodness, this story is adorable. Everyday for almost a month, Marigold has been going over to the tree farm across the street. But, she hasn’t been going for the normal reason a person would visit a tree farm, she’s is going for the boy who works there, or more specifically, his voice. As an aspiring  animator, Marigold wants to make the perfect film for her mother and she wants North’s voice in it. But being as shy as she is, she has to jump through quite a few hoops to get to it.

Midnights by Rainbow Rowell – There is a reason I saved this one for last, and that is because it is my absolute favorite. This came as a surprise to me because it is no secret that I was not a fan of Eleanor and Park, like not even a little bit. This one is different, Midnights is about two unlikely friends and all the new year’s eves that they have spent together as friends. The characters were brilliant. I loved Noel so much, he is such a giant nerd but at the same time kind of cool and confident. This story also addresses the kind of awkwardness that happens when everyone comes back from college  for break and don’t really know how to feel about it, it’s nice. I think this short story converted me and now I need to read her other stuff, she converted me in 22 pages. That is talent.

It’s super hard to write little bits about short stories because short stories are little bits, but I did my best. I will honestly give this book five stars because I still feel the Christmas Spirit and there was not a single story I did not like.

Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

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Far From The Madding Crowd is mainly about Farmer Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. Throughout the story they deal with many problems that I imagine where just a part of everyday life in the 1870’s and some predicaments that the townspeople didn’t encounter as often. Although it was written over a hundred years ago, it isn’t a book that isolates newer readers. I enjoyed Hardy’s realistic characters and understandable scenarios, even though I personally could not relate to Bathsheba and the other’s struggles, I understood and sympathized with them. This book is about love and life and I would say fate definitely has a part in this story.

I really enjoyed this book, like I said earlier, Hardy does a really good job of making this book timeless and enjoyable for younger generations. It reminded me (kind of) of The Little House on the Prairie  books that I liked when I was younger. It had that same kind of feeling to it, the feeling that you’re there on the old-fashioned farmlands with them even when, in my case, you’re a nineteen year old member of generation Z who will do anything in your power to avoid farms for the rest of your life. But that might just be me.

The characters in this book were awesome. I love Bathsheba, she literally does whatever she wants. She runs her deceased uncle’s farm as a woman in the 1800’s. Also, even though she is powerful and confident and maybe a little bitchy, she still falls in love and makes mistakes and has feelings. That’s important because often when you get a strong female she is too good for feelings, and when you take away what makes her relatable you take a lot of the depth out of the character. It was very cool to see this amazing female character written so long ago. Farmer Oak was an awesome character as well, although he doesn’t seem as real or relatable because he is almost too kind and patient. The supporting characters are all very interesting as well.

I would definitely recommend this one. It took a long time to get into, but it was worth it. A very pleasant read but I wouldn’t call it a page turner. Solid four stars.

 

 

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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Since this book is wildly popular, I am going to acknowledge that many of you have probably read it, but there are many people that haven’t and I haven’t written a book review in awhile so here we go.

Slaughterhouse Five is about a man named Billy Pilgrim and an author who I believe is writing about him. Billy Pilgrim is an optometrist, a soldier, and somewhat of a time traveler. The whole book revolves around Billy and his adventures.

I have mixed feelings about Billy. The soldiers he was in Dresden with thought he was some kind of idiot, his daughter thinks he is crazy, the man in the hospital thinks he is a waste of human life and his wife thinks he put the sun in the sky. As a person I think Billy Pilgrim would be average, I don’t think that I would be friends with him, but as a character Billy Pilgrim is extraordinary. Billy is kind of an example that anybody can live an interesting life I think. I feel like if a boring optometrist with a wife he hates can be abducted by aliens then there is hope for everyone.

I’m honestly not sure what the plot or conflict of this book was. It also feels like a framed narrative, but there is so little about the author that I’m not really sure if that counts as a frame. Despite the amount of confusion I am still feeling about this book, I really liked how it was written. Slaughterhouse Five brings in the reader within the first chapter and keeps their attention which is no small task. It is a quick read, but reader beware, it gives you a lot to think about in those 211 pages. I recommend it for sure. Definitely worth the book hangover.

 

 

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

As crazy busy as it has been, I have found time to read The Young Elites and boy was it worth it. As you all know, I have a terrible weakness for young adult dystopian novels so this book was right up my alley. Before I tell you all about this lovely novel, I want to apologize for lack of book photography. I really am putting much more effort into acclimating to college life and forgot to take a picture of the cover. You can look it up if you want to see it.

The Young Elites is about a girl named Adelina who has been different her whole life. Many children caught the blood fever when they were young, the difference between them and Adelina is that Adelina never  got the powers that came with the strange markings. That is until one night, the powers that she had been hoping for manifest themselves leaving her abusive father dead. Adelina is pursued by the police and sentenced to be burned at the stake. Luckily for her she has caught the eye of the Dagger Society, a group of young elites with powers like hers. After she pledges her loyalty to the Daggers, she discovers that her sister is in captivity of the same man who arrested Adelina. She is faced with the difficult decision of proving her loyalty or saving her sister.

I liked this book for a lot of reasons. First of all, female hero with barely a love interest? I am all about that. Adelina is such a badass, but you also can’t help but feel bad for her. She is set up for such dark things, I almost feel like this could be a back story for her becoming a villain in future books. Adelina really has had a hard life and I’m kind of happy that she doesn’t just get to a point where everything is automatically fine because that isn’t realistic. Granted, diseased royal teenagers with super powers aren’t really something you come across everyday, but that isn’t the point! Basically, Adelina was written really well and a lot of the other characters were too. I was nervous to read this because I liked the Legend series so much, but not to worry, Marie Lu did not disappoint. This book is also a pretty quick read so there is no excuse not to read it (unless it’s not your thing in which case to each their own).

Four and a half stars.

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

  
I really enjoyed this book because it wasn’t really what I expected it to be. Judging by the cover (which I am always guilty of), this story looks like it would be a Romeo and Juliet-esque love story. Two star crossed lovers who can be together because their families disapprove.

Fortunately, this book is not that. It’s not that at all. There’s not even that much romance. The Wrong Side of Right is about an orphan who never had a father named Kate who, at sixteen years old, finds out who he is and becomes a blemish on Senator Cooper’s campaign for presidency. Instead of just pretending Kate doesn’t exist, then senator and his crew bring Kate into their home and onto the campaign. Kate’s whole life is turned upside down when she has to learn to deal with siblings, camera crews, and becoming a political poster child. 

Kate is such a phenomenal character. She’s such a good person, she’s smart and very strong. I just love how much of a real person she seems to be, dispite being a fictional character. I honestly loved it, I really like how good she was at keeping her romantic life where it should be, on the side. I love when characters focus on the task at hand instead of deciding that falling in love with the boy next door is more important than their responsibilities.

4 and a half stars. Ms. Thorne did a great job writing a solid ya book. Boys, please don’t be put off by the pink cover. It’s worth the read

The Brilliant Light of Amber Sunrise by Matthew Crow

 

When will sick children learn that the Cancer unit of a hospital is not the best place to fall in love? I mean, honestly, I’ve never read a story that started out like that and ended well. 

I clearly bought this book judging by the cover and it really wasn’t the worse decision I’ve ever made. It didn’t make my favorites list but it gave me something to do, as I am the last one of my friends to move into my dorm, I was desperately in need of something to do.

This book is about Francis, a dramatic teen with cancer, that falls in love with Amber, an obnoxious teen with cancer. Now, you may be thinking ‘Lauren, this fictional character has cancer! Don’t you think he has every right to be dramatic about that?!’ To which I would have to answer yes he does. When diagnosed with cancer, I believe you are allowed to cry and scream and hate the world as much as you want. However, how can you juggle obsessing over a girl on top of that? Talk about exhausting. I just don’t think waiting for a girl to text you back would be at the top of your priorities, but as I have never had a fatal disease I do not know. 

Aside from Francis’ drama and having it be kind of a remix of TFiOS, I liked it. Amber was such a great character and her personality holds true until the end. She is loud and obnoxious and really just tough. Her family is crazy and I adore Francis’ mother and brother. Honestly, they make the story. What I didn’t like was how Francis and Amber treated the other two teens in the Unit. At one point all I could think was how does putting down what some else likes make you cooler? I just really didn’t like the ‘you’re not like other girls’ type of attraction Francis had. 

3 stars though, it was decent