Bookworm Quirks: Books are Confusing, or, Why I Need a Book Club All the Time

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For one semester in college, I was in a book club. It was new, and I was transferring. It was one of the best book experiences in my life. We only read two or three books, but I realized I knew so much more about books than I had thought. When people were there to discuss aspects of a novel, there were theories and concepts in my mind just waiting to come out. And I understood the books I read so clearly.

Recently, I’ve been reading or rereading a lot of books that I really want to discuss with a group. From the super diverse If You Could Be Mine to the slow moving but intense The Miniaturist, I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about books by just reading and writing reviews. But it’s hard, y’all! There’s less back and forth, more waiting. And it was so nice to see ‘Book Club!’ in my planner.

On the other hand, I’m a speed reader. And waiting on others to finish a book just makes me feel sluggish. Or I’m in a reading slump and haven’t touched a book in over a month. So it’s struggle either way, I suppose. But who wouldn’t prefer to struggle with a group of like-minded bookworms rather than alone?

What do you think about book clubs? What books have you read recently that you needed to discuss? Sound off in the comments!

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Bookworm Quirks: Crying Over Spilled Ink, or, How Books Emotionally Manipulate Me

Crying Over Spilled Ink

Many bookworms know the struggle of ‘the feels’, when a book makes you feel a lot of emotions, typically unhappy ones. Being a Highly Sensitive Person, I’m very subjective to emotional manipulation. So being a reader is a tough gig.

Some books are about tragic things, such as The Fault in Our Stars. Others hit me in ways they shouldn’t, like Off the Page and Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. Others have intense scenes that have gorgeous wording or imagery, as seen in Just Listen and Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen.

In TFiOS, characters meet because of their poor health. From page one, we know this can only end in tears. In my case, when I read it in one sitting in the back of a car on a road trip, I had nine separate sobbing sessions. It hurt. You know in Shakespeare in Love, how Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet to prove love could be portrayed on the stage? It felt like John Green wrote TFiOS to prove it would be accurately written. While Green is known for writing pretentious teenagers, these felt real. Like I could have known them from school or seen them at the movies. And that makes the ending hit so much harder. Anyone can get sick. Even people you know.

Have you ever seen that tumblr post that begs someone to write a novel where the main character falls in love with the reader? It’s already happened. Jodi Picoult teamed up with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer to create a duology about a prince stuck in a fairy tale and the reader who wants to help him escape. The second book deals with the falling out of their efforts. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it hit me so hard. I’m in a long distance relationship in which we only get to see each other once or twice a year. I was reading these books near the end of a visit to see him, and many of the feelings I was struggling with were reflected in the novel. I was crying and sobbing while he held me close, begging me to stop reading if I was so upset. But if I read it when he wasn’t there, who would comfort me? I still haven’t been able to reread the books since, even though they are among my all time favorites.

Sarah Dessen is the QUEEN of YA romance. She creates characters that feel real but don’t seem ordinary. And in Keeping the Moon, she tore at issues I’ve long fought with. Colie was a bigger girl that was laughed at, made fun of, and bullied terribly. She lost weight when her mom became a fitness guru, but still felt like that girl everyone was judging. I felt like Sarah Dessen was writing about me, but the sad reality is that many girls feel this way. In Just Listen, the main character has to get past her assumptions and judgements to find where her life is taking her after a huge life change. She feels like her world is ending, but in the grand scheme of things, they aren’t. I am so bad at that! Every tiny setback sends me spiraling, and I also have to learn the importance of this quote: “Don’t think, don’t judge. Just listen.”

All of these books broke and fixed and broke my heart. Among SO MANY MORE. So tell me: what books did you cry over? Why? Did you have similar reactions to these books? Sound off in the comments!

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Book Review: Conversion by Katherine Howe

Conversion

Synopsis: It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.

First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.

Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .

Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Why I Chose This Book: 

First Impression: Intriguing cover. What does the yellow bird mean? The thorny branch  gave off a feeling of danger and mystery without being too cliche. I really liked this cover.

What I Liked: I’d never heard of the confession that came years after the Salem Witch Trials and revealed everything to be a prank. It was very interesting to read. I also didn’t know about the Mystery Illness of 2012, so this book showed brand new history to me, both older and recent. I liked that we didn’t get a straight answer at the end. It felt very real.

What I Didn’t Like: The two narratives didn’t mesh well to me. I think the stories would have been better as two separate novels or maybe if it had been written by someone more YA-oriented? It could have been 100 pages shorter and had a much stronger impact instead of dragging on. There’s a taboo relationship that almost felt condoned by the author/plot. Colleen felt like someone trying too hard to be a teenager.

Ratings and Recommendations: I honestly don’t know? I’m still trying to figure out how I feel.

6. Not Sure How To Feel

Final Thoughts:  I really needed to read this with a book club so I had a group of people to help me figure out what I thought of it. I went back and forth on so many aspects, that I don’t know how many stars to give or who should read it or anything. I’m very conflicted with this book.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know!

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Book Review: Brazen by Katherine Longshore

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Synopsis: Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she’s married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court’s inner circle. Mary and “Fitz” join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court’s strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed…but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Why I Chose This Book: I got this book as a prize for beating my sister at the 2015 PopSugar Reading Challenge last year. Being obsessed with historical fiction, specifically anything set in Henry VIII’s court, I have had this on my radar since it started getting publicity. As soon as it was in my hands, I started devouring it.

First Impression: My one disappointment with this GORGEOUS cover is that the jewel under the z is off center. This was so distracting!!! It drove me so crazy that I just took the dust cover off and left it on the shelf.

What I Liked: I loved that Anne Boleyn was such a large part of this book! She’s my favorite historical figure and I love seeing her from different perspectives because so much of her life is uncertain. Fitz was so sweet and I really grew to love Mary. Her poetry is gorgeous. She has a love of words that many bookworms will super relate to: “I flinch a little at the word. [Concubine]’s not as bad as whore. The round u and long i make it taste almost fruity. But the hard c’s are like seeds, puckering the mouth.” There’s so much of this almost tasting of words, and it’s such a gorgeous way of connecting to Mary.

There are many quotes I wrote down in my notes just so I could share them.

“There are some people who make an impact as soon as you meet them. Lodge themselves in your mind. Embed themselves in your very soul. Anne Boleyn is one of those people.”

“Power undetected is not the same as powerless.”

“‘What does love feel like, your majesty?'”
“‘It’s like music only plays when you’re together. Like the very air tastes of strawberries. And like one touch-one look-could send you whirling like a seed on the wind.'”

“‘And when he looks at her- have you seen it?'”
“‘It’s like his gaze is a nod. As if he agrees not only with everything she says but with everything she is.'”

SO BEAUTIFUL, AM I RIGHT?!

Another very cool thing in this book is that it describes how the Devonshire Manuscript came to exist. The semester after I read this, we actually studied the Manuscript in class and it was so amazing to see history and fiction combine. I highly recommend looking into the Devonshire Manuscript whether you read this book or not.

What I Didn’t Like: In the first few pages, Mary spends a whole paragraph describing her surroundings, and ends it with “My eyes never left him.” Sure, Mary. You just have all-encompassing peripheral vision. I had to put down the book for a little bit after that, but thankfully it got much better. It really took my breath away, and I grabbed Tarnish (Longshore’s book from Anne Boleyn’s perspective) as soon as I could afford it.

Ratings and Recommendations: Good for anyone that loves historical fiction, Henry VIII, Tudor court, or seeing history through the eyes of a young girl and her friends.

2. Loved It

Final Thoughts: I’m really excited to read more of Longshore’s work and see how she uses real events to bring history to life.

Sound off in the comments: Have you read this book? What did you think? What’s your favorite setting for historical fiction? Let me know!

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Bookworm Quirks: Kinds of Love I Love, or, Relationships I Love to Read About

Kinds of Love I Love

Most books are about romance of some kind. I’m not complaining about it because I’ve always been in love with love. But as anyone who has to constantly defend their adoration of Valentine’s Day will tell you, there are several kinds of love and they all deserve to be written about!! Here are my favorites and a few books that fulfill that need.

Family Love

My Life Next Door

There are few things I love more than a well-written family that gets along. You know when you watched Easy A for the first time and could not stop laughing at Olive’s amazing parents and brother? They are so fun! Who wouldn’t want a family like that? Well, that’s the feeling I’m always searching for when I pick up a new book. Thankfully, My Life Next Door hits the spot. The Garretts are so real and loving. It shows that families don’t always have to get along to be amazing, and that love is what makes life worthwhile. There’s love overflowing between these characters, and it’s such a delight to read about them.

Sibling Love

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Related to Family Love (HA! Get it? Related. They’re siblings and family!), Sibling Love is all about the brothers and sisters that would do anything for each other. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is gorgeous in so many ways, but especially in the ways Lara Jean interacts with her sisters. There’s so much love without it feeling forced or fake. I’m so here for it!

Friendship Love

Keeping the Moon

THIS IS MY FAVORITE KIND. I LOVE FRIENDS. There are so many books I could use for this, but Keeping the Moon really satisfied everything I look for in a story about friendship. It had the struggle of wanting to support a friend who keeps making decisions that are TERRIBLE for them, trying to fit in when you don’t know who you are, and allowing others to show you your best traits. I just love friendship SO MUCH, y’all.

Self-Love

Keeping the Moon

Keeping the Moon also deals a lot with something I’m so glad to see emerging into the YA scene: self-love. Dumplin is also very much about loving yourself, but I haven’t read it yet (I know, I’m terrible!). Colie recently lost forty pounds when her mom because an international fitness guru, but she still sees herself as the fat girl at the dance everyone laughed at. But through breaking down her walls and making new friends, she learns that she is strong, no matter her size. YES, PLEASE!

What are the kinds of love you love reading about? Do you have any book suggestions? Sound off in the comments!

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Review Roundup: Capt. Hook, Even in Paradise, and Love Letters to the Dead

It’s time for another Review Roundup! RR is a feature in which I briefly review books that didn’t inspire enough feedback for a full review. In this edition, I’ll be recapping Capt. Hook by J.V. Hart, Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, and Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira.

Capt. Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth by J.V. Hart

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I love how sinister Jas is. At the start, he reminded me of a Brony Friendzoni waiting to happen (“His position and stance were those of a skilled swordsman.” with a corresponding illustration totally made this worse), but he redeemed himself. Jas is so fearless, y’all. And while it was so cool to see Hook as a kid, I would have loved to have seen how he got to be so sinister and unafraid of being a villain. We are told more than shown, and this was disappointing.

I am so in love with the references to Peter Pan, such as the way Jas sees Neverland by squeezing his eyes too tightly. I hate action scenes, but I love a good friendship, and Jas/Jolly totally delivered on my BrOTP dreams. There are parts that were hard to understand, like the Wall Game and why there were so few consequences for the awful behavior of these students (?!). But it is all so worth it just for Ananova. I need a book series and movie adaptations all about her RIGHT NOW. She’s so fun and inspiring, even though her relationship with Jas was instalove. Still cute, and I still ship it.

I didn’t finish this book, but that’s not its fault. I had just gotten new books and it was my fourth Peter Pan themed book in a row. My biggest feeling after I put it down was “I really need to use the phrases ‘good/bad form’ and ‘topping swank’ more in my life. I gave this book four stars.

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

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One of the big reasons I picked up this book was the thought that it was based loosely on The Great Gatsby. It took me a while to get into it, and the events never really reminded me of TGG. It had amazing quotes, though.

“I felt like I could make out his individual fingerprints on my skin. Could you feel touch in your veins? As he held my wrist it seemed possible.”

“If I had to pinpoint one moment, pick an exact second when it happened, I would say it was that night – when Julia, Sebastian, and Cordelia stood side by side daring, just daring anyone to say anything to any of them – that I fell in love with the Buchanans.”

When I finished reading this book, I had one thought. It’s not based on the plot of Gatsby. It’s based on the emotions evoked in the reader.

I loved so much of this novel, but it was slow to suck me in. I recommend it for fans of Gatsby, Looking for Alaska, and Anna Godbersen. I gave this book four stars.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

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Ugh. One of the most disappointing reads I’ve ever experienced. I’m pretty easily emotionally manipulated by books, and this one is about a girl who lost her sister. I’m pretty close to my sister, so I knew this would make me cry a lot. I was wrong. I felt pretty much nothing. It had gorgeous writing, but the characters fell flat. Unfortunately, the cover was the best part of the book. For a while, I tried to find ways to keep this on my shelf, but I couldn’t keep its space reserved when there are so many books out there that are so much better.

I gave this book three stars.

There’s another Review Roundup! Sound off in the comments: Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do we agree or disagree on any points? Let me know!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Historical Settings I Love

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wondrous women over at The Broke and The Bookish. Thanks, y’all!

I LOVE THIS TOPIC. I LOVE HISTORICAL FICTION SO MUCH, Y’ALL. HERE WE GO.

Tudor and Henry VIII

These are so good, y’all. I know a lot of people think this time period is way over done, but I’ll never get enough. Ever.

Titanic

SO FASCINATING. The high school I went to is doing a play about it (The Last Lifeboat) and I cannot wait.

WWII

Isn’t everyone totally into this time period? I feel like some of the most popular HF books I hear about are set in WWII. Such an unbelievable event.

Salem Witch Trials

Another super weird time period I can’t get enough of. I’m currently reading Conversion by Katherine Howe, which switches between witch trials and modern day.

Roaring Twenties

I owe my love of this era to my bestie, who is totally obsessed. And after Gatsby, I couldn’t go back. Too awesome. Too influential.

Early 1900's

I’m thinking mostly of The Luxe books by Anna Godberson, which is one of my favorite HF series. (She also wrote the Bright Young Things series for those who agree on the 20’s love).

Arthurian

Maybe it’s because I just finished rewatching Merlin, but give me all of these books.

Pirates

I AM SO INTO PIRATES RIGHT NOW, Y’ALL. PLEASE REC BOOKS TO ME.

Shakespearean

I can’t think of any books I’ve read in this period in a while, but I’m always up for book recs!

Austen and Regency

I just love Jane Austen so much. I want everything set in the Regency period please.

Sound off in the comments: What settings/time periods/eras do you love most? Do we have any in common? Or do we totally disagree? Let me know!

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