Quick Tip to Read More in the New Year!

Ah, that lovely time of year when we are all so motivated and pure. If you’re like me, you probably have been setting a hefty reading goal for yourself every year. Maybe you lowballed your goal once and read some impossible percentage of books. Good for you. Or maybe, you failed horribly (goal-wise, at least) and read far less than you wanted to.

For those of you who are sticking with the goals this year, here’s a quick little tip for reading a LOT more this year: read before bed. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of reading, do it.

I’d personally recommend you opt for a real, physical book for this method. Yes, those still exist. For one, this is the perfect way to unwind, de-stress, and relax before bed. There are no bright phone or computer screens messing with your brain’s ability to fall asleep; it’s just you and a story. And then plus number two is that this is extra reading time you don’t need to schedule! You have absolutely no excuses! And this extra reading = more books read this year. Score!

Perhaps this tip is fairly obvious to you, but some people just have not given it a try. Do it! You’ll love it! (But maybe stay away from the Stephen King books, at least at night. Just a suggestion.)

While we’re on the topic of resolutions, I’ll let you know what my “hefty reading goal” is for the year: 75 books. I know, breathe in, breathe out. That’s a lot. For the average person, that’s probably a lifetime of books. But I think I’m up for the challenge this year. *suits up for the ultimate reading battle*

So tell me, what are YOUR reading goals this year? Are you setting one on Goodreads, or foregoing that altogether?  Let me know in the comments below!

Third Time’s the Charm (A review of Pride and Prejudice years in the making)

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of never having read a book as well known as Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Whether you have read it or not, its fame is obvious from the slew of remakes and parodies on the internet and in literature as a whole.

My first attempt to read the novel was at some point in middle school. At this time, my reading taste was limited to girly YA novels with happy-go-lucky endings and whatever my teen librarian recommended we read each month for book club. (Which by the way, I was the only female member of, and then eventually the only member of at all.) So P & P seemed like something I would read, if I had the brain for it.

I got through a few pages and then set it down, thinking to myself how impossibly boring and abstruse the text was. “People read this, how?” was all I could think.

The second time was less than a year ago. I really wanted to try it, and like it, so yet again I sat and attempted to beat my middle school Pride and Prejudice record. Nada. I felt like giving up on it forever. Until I started my current literature course.

A bad literature teacher or professor can make every book seem like generic brand cereal. A good one, however, can make the most banal of details an hour long discussion topic into which the class is fervently engaged. Luckily, I have a great professor. So great, in fact, that I’ve declared myself a literature major.

This professor happened to assign us Pride and Prejudice as our third novel in the semester. My first thoughts were a mix of how the devil was now coming back (You again!?!) and how I would finally finish this novel. I had to. It was for an assignment.

I was so happy upon finishing it I even took it right to Twitter at that moment.

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OK, enough about me and my snail book-finishing pace. Let’s hear what I actually thought of Pride and Prejudice.

Part of what increased my appreciation for this classic novel was context. Having studied it for a literature course, we read novels chronologically, in the order they were published. So prior to reading Austen’s novel, we read The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster. We discussed how this novel may have been one of the reasons for the soon-to-come women’s suffrage movement, after having been a bestseller for 50 years. (Can you imagine that in modern times? When was the last time a book was a bestseller for 50 years!?) Pride and Prejudice tells a similar story, yes, but with a dramatically different ending that preaches a different, even more empowering message.

Friends, Pride and Prejudice is not the fluffy, junky romance novel my previous, young self thought it was. Pride and Prejudice is the story of a woman who thinks for herself and gets what she wants as a result. Compare Elizabeth to her sisters and their different marriages and you’ll discover marriages based purely on “but darling, he’s rich! Marry him for money!”, marriages based on desire, and marriages based on both, and the various outcomes for them. The happiest marriages were the ones based on more than just someone’s wealth; the ones based on what you actually think and feel for each other.  For the time period, this novel, and especially The Coquette, were incredibly revolutionary.

So for me, I read Pride and Prejudice not for the plot itself, but for the message, for what the novel accomplished. Pride and Prejudice also represents the introduction of the third person narrator (a huge invention!) into literature, rather than using the epistolary form. (Gosh, say Pride and Prejudice ten times fast. Could I say that phrase any more times during this post?!)

And if Pride and Prejudice (!) is still bland for you, you can always check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, whose movie trailer just debuted this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAChymiQC-o

So, now that I have officially read Pride and Prejudice, we can have discussions about it! Have you read it? What did you think? Join me in the comments below!

4 Tips for Reading Books Faster!

So many books, so little time. It’s the phrase that runs through readers’ heads as they stare, er, glare down their overflowing TBR piles. How are you supposed to read all of those AND the books you want to read AND the books other people are going to ask you to read AND still have a life? While I can’t give you any scientific tips on how to make your eyes move back and forth faster (that’s just weird), I can give you some tips on making sure you finish those books so you can keep on moving.

  1. Read in a distraction-free environment

If you’re distracted while you’re reading, it’s going to take you longer to finish the book. Or, even if you keep reading, your mind is going to be drifting off to the quesadillas that await you at dinner tonight and not your characters who oh-so-desperately want your attention. If you’re reading at home, turn everything off so you can keep your attention at 100. That’s right; turn off those phones, tablets, computers, everything. Can’t do that? Flip your phone over so you can’t see the push notification light and make sure the sound is off. Those things drive me insane if I don’t respond to them. If your home is too loud and distracting, move to the library or the park, where it will be quiet and you can focus on the task at hand. Bonus points if you go to the library and return only with the book you’re reading.

2. Try audiobooks

This point could go both ways. For me, audiobooks are longer than the amount of time it would take me to read a book in one sitting. However, audiobooks allow you to read at times that normally aren’t times you can read, such as in a long car ride, train ride, or walking around town. Just put in your headphones (unless you are driving; I know some people listen to audiobooks while they drive, but honestly I think it’s safer keep your eyes and ears on the road. Stories can be immersive.) and listen to a book of your choice. You can actually get audiobooks free through your local library, both in physical CD form or in digital format that you can download such as through Overdrive. Ask your librarian about such services!

3. Read books you WANT to read

The fact is, if you don’t like the book you’re reading, you’re probably not going to schedule your life around finishing it as quickly as possible. If there’s a list of books you need to read for school, try and alternate so you can fit in books you want to read as well to prevent getting into a reading slump and thinking of all reading as boring.

4. Read shorter books

The trick that works for readathons also works for your year-long reading goals! If you’re trying to read a large amount of books, Infinite Jest may not be the one you want to choose right now. (Unless your goal is to read it, then of course, read Infinite Jest.)

Comic books work too, especially as in-between books like I described in point 3.

However, I’d say that as far as reading goes, quality trumps quantity. It’s not about who read the most books in a month or year or how fast they read them, it’s about reading good books and enjoying them. Of course, setting a goal for the year can be motivating too. So have fun, go read and of course, let me know when you finish your Goodreads reading challenges!

The Literary Canon and Being a True Book Lover?

Last Tuesday marked the first day of my semester’s literature course. I consider myself to be a bit of a voracious reader, seeing as I spend a large chunk of my time in the library, reading or finding books, and then talking about them. Totally excited for the class, I sat down and waited for the rest of my classmates to trickle in.

I was sandwiched between two people, both book enthusiasts like me, of course. But as I overheard their conversations, my heart started to sink. They were throwing around names of novels I’d never read, fervently discussed exactly which Kurt Vonnegut novel was his best, and I found myself completely left out of the conversation because I had not read even two of the books they were discussing. I’d read one of them, in high school, but I couldn’t quote what was on page 15 and say it changed my life like they could. For a minute, I felt like a “bad” book nerd. What was my favorite book? It wasn’t written by Geoffrey Chaucer or Shakespeare. It was a YA novel, and is probably the same favorite book as throngs of other teenagers.

Later as I sat in the library and browsed, I started to think about what truly made someone a book nerd or a voracious reader or a book lover. And that’s when I decided upon my personal definition- someone who enjoys reading books.

It’s that simple!

You don’t need to memorize Shakespeare and read elevated literary fiction and have pretentious discussions on the use of allusions in Hemingway’s works in order to be a book enthusiast. You don’t need to feel bad about reading YA or comic books; whatever you read is awesome! Reading is awesome. If you read books, we’re best friends. Besides, you should enjoy what you read. Don’t read because someone else makes you- find a book YOU enjoy, and read it. Have a good time!

One good thing I did get out of this experience, though, was exposure to books I’d never considered reading before. For a while I’ve been waffling about trying more adult fiction, but I didn’t know where to start. I think when I was younger I told myself that I couldn’t relate to older, married characters with children in novels so I shouldn’t read books about them, but really, you can read whatever it is you want. This got me to start a book called The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, which I currently adore.

It was wildly popular when it came out a few years ago, so I imagine many of you are nodding your heads and going, Yeah! I know that book! There’s a reason so many people bought and read this book; it’s moving and beautifully written, and I can’t wait to share my thoughts on it with you once I complete it and get all my emotions in order.

This post is all serving as an announcement of sorts that I will be beginning to review some more “literary” fiction in addition to the usual YA on this blog. We read quite a bit for my literature course, and I figure why not tell you guys about some of those in addition to what I’m reading for leisure?

Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject down in the comments below! Also, be sure to give me any recommendations you have because I am truly lost in terms of where to start with Vonnegut (besides Slaughterhouse Five) and other popular adult authors of our day.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Read Authors

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week, we are discussing my top ten most read authors!

This was an especially fun theme I thought because I never knew that there is a feature on Goodreads that allows you to see your top ten authors. I would’ve made a completely different list if I had just been going off the top of my head!

One thing to note is I am not going to include authors of books I read as a child (Laura Numeroff, author of the beloved picture book If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, is on my top ten list…) or in elementary school!

  1. William Shakespeare (5) – I have High School to blame for this. I wouldn’t classify myself as someone who chooses to read Shakespeare’s works purely by choice and for fun in the same way I read comic books or, to give a relevant example, The Lunar Chronicles. I’ve read Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing, Macbeth, Hamlet and The Tempest, in that order. However, while we’re on my subject, my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays is his last; The Tempest.
  2. Marissa Meyer (4)- The Lunar Chronicles series is one of my favorite sci-fi series, and one of my favorite series in general. I cannot wait until the next book Winter is out!
  3. Rand Miller (3)- Thank you Myst trilogy for providing me with 3 books by the same author!
  4. John Green (3)- Looking for Alaska is still my favorite of all of John Green’s books. I HIGHLY recommend it. (I even used capital letters there. That’s some serious recommendation going on there.)
  5. Dom Testa (3)- Dom Testa’s books are nostalgia for me. The Comet’s Curse was the first true sci-book I ever read, way back in about 6th grade. They were a starting point for me into some of my favorite books today.
  6. Beth Revis (3)- Oh boy, more sci-fi. I must really like sci-fi. But seriously, the Across the Universe trilogy is also amazing! (Exclamation points have been equipped!)
  7. Suzanne Collins (3)- I don’t have much to say about the Hunger Games, except that it was my first completed trilogy, and I have yet to watch any of the movies. I know, I know, how could I not watch a movie with Jennifer Lawrence in it? Isn’t that some sort of sin? The only movies I’ve seen of hers are X-Men movies.
  8. Jenny Han (3)- Nowadays, the blogosphere loves talking about her newest series that begins with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. But, the books of hers that I read were her Summer series. (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You..) According to Goodreads, I gave the books a 5 star rating in 2009 and 2010.  Wow, time goes fast.
  9. Kirsten Miller (2)- More nostalgia! The Kiki Strike series also used to be one of my favorite series. A really entertaining YA mystery series for the younger end of the YA spectrum.
  10. Brian K. Vaughn (2)- I’ve read Saga Volume 1 (loved it!) and one of his Green Lantern comic trades. (Loved that one too!)

Who are YOUR most read authors? Are they your favorite authors, or you just gave their books a lot of chances? Let me know in the comments below!

Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K Johnston cover, taken from the Netgalley website.

A Thousand Nights by E.K Johnston cover, taken from the Netgalley website.

Release date: October 6, 2015

Disclaimer:  The Disney Book Group over at Disney-Hyperion kindly provided me with a digital galley/digital ARC of this book on Netgalley. I was not obligated to review it, but I would love to share my thoughts with you anyway! (And thank you, to them, because I have been yearning to read this book since I first heard it existed!)

Ok, I know I’m a little early in the game to review this. But the book is available for preorder now for all you lovely readers, and I wanted to offset some of the advance negative comments I’ve read about this book. I actually squealed with delight when I heard I was being given a chance to review this novel for myself!

Official Synopsis

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister’s place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin’s court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

My Thoughts

I have not read the original collection of stories, One Thousand and One Nights that I believe this novel is a new retelling of. I also have not read The Wrath and the Dawn, which is also a retelling of the aforementioned story. So, this review is based solely on what I thought of the book, not on how it compares to the original story or any other retellings.

First of all, I read this book in one sitting, in the car during a long drive. It didn’t take me long at all to read because it is so engrossing. Immediately you are sucked into this world, swept up into the darkness surrounding Lo-Melkhiin’s kingdom. The words that make up the story are woven together beautifully.

E.K Johnston has done storytelling at its finest.

I loved how the story started out one way, and then ran with it. There were elements of magic in it, a lot of courage and bravery,  dramatic moments, good vs. evil, etc. This made it really entertaining to read.

Another unique element to the story was the perspectives. I won’t tell you who the other perspective is, besides our main character, but that added such an interesting element to the story. Some multiple POV stories are a little annoying, going back and forth like that, but this one only switched at the right times, and enriched the setting and situation even more.

However.

One thing I’ve seen a lot of reviewers complain about is the lack of a name for our main character. Or, pretty much anyone else. We hear about “my father’s father’s father” and “my sister’s mother” but never “My great-grandfather Stanley.” Ok, his name probably wouldn’t be Stanley. But you get my point.

But while this vague naming is a little monotonous to read, I feel that there was a point to this. One reviewer said she stopped 75% of the way through the book to try and figure out if she’d missed something, but I think all these people are missing something. This girl is nameless. Yes, she probably has a name, but within Lo-Melkhiin’s world, she’s just another girl. He married and killed hundreds before her. They were just property. Possessions. Toys. She’s just another wife, really. If she had a name, that’d give her power and status. So no, the author didn’t just “forget” to put in a name.

I also read that some people thought they were misled to believe this book would have some whirlwind romance. But upon my reading of the blurb, I didn’t sense any of that. I didn’t think there was supposed to be one;

Just because it’s a YA novel, doesn’t mean the girl needs to be swept off her feet by prince charming.

And yes, there is a lack of dialogue. But again, this book is told like a story. It’s told like you’re sitting in the desert being told a story. You don’t need dialogue! Or names! Or a romantic sex scene! Seriously people? A Thousand Nights is gorgeously written as it is.

Of course, that’s just me. Everyone is going to read and see things differently, so just because I didn’t read the blurb and think it  hinted at a romantic story, doesn’t mean someone else won’t see it that way.

Instead of a frilly romance, you get a story about strong resilient and determined women. Most of the characters are women. Our heroine is a woman. How many books can you say this about? How many books put so much emphasis on females and their wit.

What made me love this novel even more was that in the Acknowledgements, I noticed the author says she spent time in Jordan.  (Four years and six summers, actually) I’m sure this influence the author in writing the book, and it shows. The setting really comes alive, and it makes me happy to see it is probably based on research. Plus, our master storyteller here is an archaeologist. How cool is that?

The verdict?

This book was different from the books I normally read in a few ways. But, I felt is was quite well done. Sure, I think I would’ve liked the main character to have a little more depth to her character, but then again, this book is storytelling. If you were being told a story that’s been passed down for generations, you probably aren’t hearing it the same way the original people heard it, because some details would be lost or just unimportant to the true matter at heart. Don’t read this book expecting to swoon; read this book because you want some excellent, vibrant storytelling based on a true classic.

For these reasons, I’m giving A Thousand Nights 4 stars.

Oh yeah, and the cover is gorgeous. You know I can’t review a book without at least mentioning the cover.

I wasn’t told to tell you where you can buy the book but I did notice if you preorder it on Amazon right now, the hardcover is only $9.08. Less than 10 bucks for a hardback, and Amazon isn’t even ThriftBooks or any of those book discount sites. And hey, you could read it with The Wrath and the Dawn and find out which retelling you liked better! I can’t wait for October so I can hear all of your thoughts on the book!