.february wrap-up.

2015-02-27 22.09.02

Hi, friends! How was February, the longest/shortest month of the year? You’re talking to a woman on the edge. Am I the only person whose favorite season is always the one not currently being experienced? Any other time of the year, I would have sworn winter was my favorite season. Winter is Christmas, thick knits, tall rubber boots, blankets, willfully refusing to shave. Now, I’ve discovered, it is also seasonal affective disorder, bulky layers, dry skin.

Can you fault me? Summer in my neck of the woods can be positively hellish. Right now, though, I’d take a sunburn over wind burn.

I now understand the phrase from CS Lewis: always winter and never Christmas. Horrible prospect.

The only thing that can ease my sun-starved soul are–what else?–books. February was a pretty good reading month; not one book under 4 stars. I also couldn’t help but divert a little from my reading challenge list; winter makes you do crazy things.

Here’s what I read this month:

The_Absolutely_True_Diary_of_a_Part-Time_Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

This was the second assigned book in my adolescent literature class. It didn’t wow me quite as much as Stargirl did, but it was still quite good. It tells the story of Junior, a Native American boy living on the Spokane reservation in Washington. To say the least, his life on the rez is awful. His parents are drunks, his neighbors pick on him and beat him up, and his school is trying to “kill the Indians.” Junior eventually sets out for a better education outside the rez, to the dismay of his best friend Rowdy, at a school where he is the only Native American.

I think the drawings (Junior is an aspiring cartoonist) really make the story. They are absolutely HILARIOUS. Otherwise this is a darkly comic coming-of-age tale about diversity, family, community, basketball, and…boners. This was a little more “boyish” than I would normally like, but like I said, it’s very funny despite some of the depressing stuff. Four easy stars.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Chalk this up to a thirst for teen dystopia. I certainly don’t think this is better than The Hunger Games, but there’s something so addictive about it. It’s the story of a girl named Beatrice who lives in a world where everyone’s place in society is decided by a government-engineered simulation. Those who don’t fit the mold for any faction are known as Divergent. In order to go under the radar, Beatrice (who of course is Divergent) joins the Dauntless faction, who are known for wearing all black, getting tattoos, and jumping off of moving trains. Most of the story is her and her fellow initiates training to become for-real Dauntless. It’s like if the pre-arena part of The Hunger Games was really, really stretched out.

This was a very fast-paced story, which was a blessing, considering how I struggled through City of Bones last month. We find out all about the Test and the fact that Beatrice is Divergent within twenty pages of the book. It was also exciting to follow the training of the Dauntless inductees, which mainly involved hand-to-hand combat and general dangerous living. The character development was good in this book, especially involving Tris and Al. There were quite a few “background” characters to keep up with, yet I could tell one from the other after a few pages. I’m not in a huge hurry to pick up Insurgent, but I definitely will continue the series. Four stars.

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A book of short stories: A Good Man Is Hard To Find and Other Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Short stories are wonderful, especially for the hurried reader. You can feel like you’ve traversed through a whole world of characters and setting in half the time a novel would take. And if you don’t feel great about the world of that particular story, another one is only about twenty pages away. I think a person could learn to like short stories if he or she were given a copy of this book. O’Connor is a master of short stories, as well as the Southern Gothic medium. All the stories have a touch of the ugly, the bleak, the dirty. The characters are broken and grotesque, and while the settings have a down-home flavor, there’s a sense of foreign terror all around.

I didn’t love all the stories in this book equally, but I at least got some enjoyment out of each one. You can check out my individual ratings for each of the ten stories here. Altogether, though, I gave the book four stars. I really enjoyed it and would recommend O’Connor to anyone who loves the Southern Gothic genre.

holes

Holes by Louis Sachar (guys…enough mispronunciation. It’s SACK-er!)

This is my pick of best book in February. I could sing this book’s praises forever and ever. I’m assuming most of you have read or at least heard of it, but if you haven’t, I can only say that you should pick it up as soon as possible. At least see the movie. Pretty decent adaptation of the book, considering (looking at you, The Giver).

Holes is the story of a very unlucky kid named Stanley Yelnats who, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, is sent to Camp Green Lake to serve a jail sentence for stealing a pair of shoes. Here he must dig a hole in the dry desert sand each day, to “build character.” As these stories often go, there’s something secret going on at Camp Green Lake, and it all has to do with Stanley and his ancestors, who are the reason he seems to be so unlucky.

This is one of my all-time favorite young adult novels–definitely in the top 5. It’s a darkly humorous story with great, believable characters. It has fairly short chapters, making it easily digestible in a day or two. Pick it up if you like YA, period.

friends with boysA graphic novel: Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Having enjoyed V for Vendetta last year, I’ve decided to make an effort to read more graphic novels this year. This was a pleasant start! Friends with Boys is very much a middle-grade story, starring Maggie and her three older brothers. She’s going to high school for the first time, having been homeschooled previously. Obviously this is a big worry for her. And there’s the whole I’m-being-haunted-by-a-widow’s-ghost thing…

The best thing about Friends with Boys was the artwork. It was very lively and full of expression, yet still true to life. The characters are all very humorous and sweet; I loved Maggie and her brothers and the way they communicated. However, there’s a big problem with this book: there’s very little conflict. There’s a subplot about a ghost and an old artifact from the museum being stolen, but it was introduced and resolved so quickly that it seemed pointless. I really hope a sequel will be in the works soon, because these characters are too sweet and funny to waste. Four stars.

aliceA banned book: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

I had quite a pick with this category. I’m sure half of the books I own are banned somewhere in the US. We all know the story: Alice follows a rabbit down a hole, questions absolutely nothing, oddity ensues.

I have to say I enjoyed the first installment much more than the second. The first was giddy and humorous and nonsensical, in a good way. The second was…whoa. Jumbled and tedious and nonsensical in a decidedly BAD way. To pull out a tired comparison, Through the Looking-Glass was mostly a bad acid trip throughout.

I’m glad I read them, though. They ARE classics, right? And I can understand why. I got mostly enjoyment out of them both, although I had to sit back and rub my eyes more times with the second. Four stars. Read sober.

All in all, a very good reading month. Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear how your reading endeavors went in February.

xoxo,

Kellyn

.january wrap-up.

Welcome to 2015, friends. Welcome to exciting prospects and goals for the upcoming months, if you’re the resolution-making sort. :)

Last year, though I wouldn’t consider it a resolution so much as a fun project, I read 53 books of all shapes and sizes. If you’ll allow me just a second of gloating, that’s one book for each week of 2014, plus one! I can’t help but be proud that this goal worked out so well, as I’d never attempted such a feat in years prior. Though I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until 2014 that I began to really examine what I was reading, as well as keep a detailed log of what I was reading (available on Goodreads).

I decided to up the ante in 2015 by not only pushing the goal up by 10 books (60 books in 2015), but I’m also following a checklist of different genres or types of books. Here’s the list if you’re interested:

reading challenge

 

Along with this reading goal, I’ve decided that blogging each month about what I read would be fun and also give me the opportunity to narrow down my thoughts about each book. Connecting with others via blogging and opening up a dialogue for readers never hurt either!

Here’s what I read in January:

A nonfiction book: I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame by Brene Brown

Following the sort-of tradition of last year, I started 2015 with a nonfiction choice. Brene Brown is famous particularly for her TED talks about shame and courage. Her books are growing more of a following as well. This book outlines real-life experiences women have that elicit feelings of shame (which, I learned, is different and more intense than guilt and embarrassment). If nothing else, Brown offers an opportunity for the reader to connect to the women’s shame stories and find reassurance that their feelings are validated. However, I was expecting the book to also provide more accessible strategies in dealing with feelings of shame, and there were none. This shortcoming is why I docked a star off my Goodreads rating. However, I think the book is worth a read for the opportunity for connection, as well as for Brown’s scientific information about the subject of shame softened by her Southern wit.

A book with a one-word title: Tampa by Alissa Nutting (NSFW!)

If there was a category on my 2015 challenge checklist called “a book you would be embarrassed to be seen holding in public,” Tampa would be it. Goodreads users have called this a reverse Lolita (an adult woman involved with a pubescent boy), but I don’t believe that’s accurate. Celeste Price, unlike Humbert Humbert, does not at any point try to convince the reader of her innocent intentions. Her actions are strictly lustful, rather than romantic. It’s a fascinating, addictive dive into a beautiful trophy-wife-by-day’s hunt for the perfect partner: a fourteen-year-old boy in her classroom. The book might make a few readers squeamish, given the subject matter and the candid, unemotional way Celeste describes her own actions and desires. It’s completely exceptional, yet disturbing and cold and detached. I gave it five stars. For those over 18, but use your own discretion.

A book you can finish in a day: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

This is my pick for my favorite book in January. I was commissioned to read Stargirl for my adolescent literature class this semester. Never did an assigned reading go over better. I finished the book in one day and immediately scampered out to the local bookstore for the sequel, Love, Stargirl. This is a fantastic story about bullying, acceptance, and being oneself, and not once does it veer into sappy, after-school special territory. Everyone that has ever been in public school should read this book. Five stars.

A book from your childhood: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

It is my firm opinion that you haven’t fully experienced children’s literature until you’ve read a Roald Dahl book. While this isn’t necessarily my favorite of his, it’s a sheer delight that will have even adults cracking up. It’s hilarious and cheerful without being too cloying–Dahl always incorporates wry, dark humor into his stories that keeps his stories from veering into Pollyanna territory. Five stars.

A book with magic: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Sad to say, at three stars, this was the most disappointing book I read in January. It was also the longest. Good gracious, was it long! I’m not the kind of person to shy away from a long book (I’ve read Gone with the Wind more than once), but City of Bones could easily have been about 100 pages shorter. I found it was often very slow-paced and depended too much on dialogue, and I got either bored or lost at times. I loved the almost constant adventure, and the action sequences were well-written, but when the story slowed down, it REALLY slowed down. There was a real lack of character development as well. Finally (and I know at this point it sounds like I hated the book–I didn’t), a LOT of the happenings were very, very predictable. I may make a whole separate blog entry on this book, just to organize my thoughts on it. Multiple people have told me that the series picks up in the second or third book (which I think is another flaw), but we’ll have to see.

All in all, I can’t say I had a bad reading month. Here’s hoping that February produces such great reactions!

What are y’all reading lately? I’d love to know in the comments. Also, those of you following along on the reading challenge above, what did you mark off the list in January?

I’m off to pick my next book,

Kellyn

.best of the best.

I set a goal for myself earlier this year to read fifty books in 2014. As of right now, I’m four books shy of that goal. Not to worry; Christmas is fast approaching, which means I plan to devote large amounts of time with a book shoved up under my nose, slouched underneath three or four blankets, with my ragdoll kittens causing adorable ruckus not too far away. If I can’t see them knocking over nail lacquer bottles and devouring toilet paper, it’s not happening.

Amidst a slew of very “meh” books, I’m thrilled to report I’ve had the pleasure of acquainting myself with a few shining stars. Please consider adding the following volumes to your to-be-read pile. And, always, I’m open to hearing book suggestions.

.White Oleander by Janet Fitch.

I’m writing about this one first because I finished it only a couple days ago. Perhaps you’ve seen the movie with Michelle Pfeiffer and Renee Zellweger. Even if you haven’t, this book is a must-read, if only for the writing style. Janet Fitch is a force, let me tell you. As you come to know the characters, you come to know exactly what their reactions will be, and she absolutely delights or saddens you with the sharpness, delicacy, ease, and sheer poetry of her words. It’s very much a character-driven piece (rather than an action-driven one), at which my boyfriend Carson rolls his eyes (he’d rather have action).

In White Oleander, Astrid lives with her mother Ingrid, a cold, controlling, narcissistic woman, until Ingrid is convicted of murder. As Astrid then floats from foster home to foster home, she still keeps in touch with her mother from prison, for better or worse. You feel sorrow for Astrid as she slowly comes to realize the hold her mother has on her, and how much her mother has failed her in motherly duties. It’s also hard not to get pulled under Ingrid’s spell yourself. Definitely pick this one up to experience some incredible writing, as well as a great “villain.”

.Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.

After I finished this book, I looked like a deer in headlights for the rest of the day. I read it in just a couple days (which is uncommon for me; I tend to stretch out books and am prone to procrastinate) while on vacation at Myrtle Beach. This is the best book in the trilogy, no contest.

Talk about non-stop action and emotion! I don’t care if you’re Team Gale or Team Wrong–everyone loves Katniss, period. Everyone wants to see her make it. You’re right there with her as she experiences depression, flashbacks, near-constant danger, and walking on eggshells to protect those she loves. Complete thrill-ride from start to finish.

If you’re a newbie, it’s not too late to start this series. Just don’t talk to me about Mockingjay.

.Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

I’m no longer on Tumblr (in my opinion, the whole site brings new meaning to the phrase “dumb masses“), but I imagine that the Tumblrsphere went a little cuckoo when this book came out. I can say this with confidence: if you even slightly like John Green, you’ll love Rainbow Rowell. (This is the part, for my own protection, where I pretend to like John Green’s books).

This book takes place in 1980s suburbia, and follows Asian, X-Men-fanatic Park and redheaded outcast Eleanor. You already know they’re going to fall in love, right? That’s okay; you’ll still read it. The book is written with such nostalgia (80s references aside) and sweetness that you’ll get all schmoopy and want to cuddle something. By no means is the romance overkill. It makes you pine, even just a little, for high school simplicity. Gorgeous book. Even if you don’t like YA, pick it up.

.Room by Emma Donoghue.

Whoa. Nelly. That’s all.

(Not really.)

One part mystery and one part emotional journey with mother and son, Room is told by a five-year-old boy who has spent his entire life in the same room with his Ma. While you read this book, you’re experiencing things on a very narrow, almost untrustworthy, plane. I mean, your narrator is a five-year-old. This gives you a stripped-down, simplistic view of the shocking and often horrific events in the book. If you’re anything like me, you’ll cry tears of both sorrow and triumph.

Get the audiobook if you can, too.

LOL. Who run the world? Oprah.

.Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter.

Nice to end on a children’s book, eh? Haters to the left, please; I believe adults can, and should, read children’s literature. Somehow, words of childhood are sweeter when they are read years after childhood has passed.

Pollyanna was (and still is) a free book on iBooks, an app which I strongly recommend you heavy readers utilize. I found it along the same lines, tone-wise, as Little Women. It’s sweet, sweet, sweet–but if you’re made of tougher stuff, it may be a bit too sentimental.

I, for one, adore Little Women, and I adore Pollyanna. It’s about an orphaned girl who goes to live with her austere Aunt Polly in an equally austere town. As child protagonists often do, Pollyanna changes each person with whom she comes in contact, declaring that she always tries to see the good in everything.

Sound schmultzy? It is. However, it is for children, and like I said, it’s along the same lines as Little Women. I really enjoyed it, even tearing up a few times at Pollyanna’s enduring sweetness.

What were your favorite books this year? I’d love to know.

Until next time,

Kellyn xoxo

P.S. Awesome people reading.

Candy-colored Jane Austens.

Incredibly helpful list of grammar tips.

.the joy of a library.

Is there anything more quietly thrilling than a library? It’s a tranquil place made up of four walls, a couple desks and computers, and shelves as tall as you like. As soon as you tug on the heavy doors into the place (or, as I often discreetly do, nudge the handicapped door button with your foot), the A/C deliciously wafts your way. After all, we’re in South Carolina, and it’s scorching out there.

Maybe you have a list with you (I almost always do), or maybe you’re here to simply mosey and go where the wind takes you. Either way, it’s nice to take it slow. You’ve gotten there well before the place closes, after all. There are often other people milling around–looking for books themselves, chatting in low tones with each other. It can be fun to go to the library with a close friend, whispering and carefully pulling books off the shelves for consideration. Going alone can be a zen experience too. You can chill out in an armchair and take your time.

Now for the moment of truth. You pick out a worthy pile of books, head to an unoccupied corner, and sift through them. I rarely take more than 3 books at a time, because I don’t like to bog myself down. There’s just something about hefting a stack of books to a private table to decide which ones to take. Of course, make sure to reassure those who didn’t make the final cut that you’ll be back for them soon!

I most recently picked up Quiet, by Susan Cain. It’s a non-fiction book about introversion in the business world, schools, and in everyday life. It’s very insightful so far. In a talkative world, it makes me feel more normal.

I also picked up a little independent dystopian young-adult called The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. Ever heard of it?

So, what are you reading? And what’s your local library like?

Tell me all about it,

Kellyn xoxo

 

.hello there.

 

Sun in face!

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog entry, let alone thought about writing one. Partly, I blame college. This past semester was the most stressful I’ve dealt with (I’ll be a junior this fall). All I’ll say is I recall a certain breakdown over a fourteen-page write-up about various parts of the brain, which had gotten lost in the vastness of the university computer system. Despite the stress (as well as enduring the most politically uninformed philosophy professor—go figure), I made out like a bandit with a 3.7 GPA. Not bad, huh?

Part two of my excuse for my absence is, frankly, what’s a girl like me to write about? I’ve scarcely dipped my toe into blogging before skidding to a complete halt, so to speak. One thing I know for sure—this is not going to be a beauty blog. Let me clarify: I love to use cosmetics and never pass up the chance to talk about them. However, I need to do it my way: not constantly. I read beauty blogs, but transferring their style to my blog just doesn’t work for me. I hate hyping and pushing certain products on the reader. It feels phony and overly chirpy—the complete opposite of who I am. I don’t want you to feel like you’re watching an infomercial, and I certainly don’t want it to seem like I’m getting paid to talk about certain items. So, the long and short of it is, this isn’t a beauty blog. (Am I even an authority on beauty? I do my makeup in bed in an oversized nightie, for heaven’s sake.)

There’s one thing hasn’t changed: I’m still an unstoppable reader. I’m exactly halfway through my 50-books-in-2014 challenge (you can see all the books I’ve read so far on Goodreads), and I’m happy to report that most of the books I’ve tackled were worth recommending. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ve already decided on an undisputed favorite book so far (Room by Emma Donoghue) and a least favorite book of the year (The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani). Both of these books deserve blog posts starring each of them—coming soon.

Perhaps this blog will become more book-oriented than anything else. After all, I adore when people share what they’re reading with me.

Here’s to inspiration and wherever it will take me,

Kellyn xoxo

Patrick Wilson: regulation hottie

In light of the release of his new film, “The Conjuring,” I was inspired to remind everyone of just who we’re dealing with here. No, I’m not talking demons or ghosts or whatever paranormal entities we are dealing with in this film. I’m talking about Patrick Wilson: regulation hottie.

I feel like this man is often looked over by the celebrity world, as well as general unpaid boy-watchers (i.e myself). The media focuses on people like Bradley Cooper and James Franco who, of course, are quite talented in their own right and also nice to look at at times. However, I can’t ignore a face like this.

You know what my favorite thing about him is? There’s no celebrity scandal surrounding his name. No infidelity, no crazy drunken rampages, no bong-throwing. Just honest, all-American acting. Isn’t that refreshing? Here’s a guy you could bring home to mom and dad, and everyone involved would be both thrilled and relieved.

Ahhh, there he is in Phantom of the Opera. Here’s where the subject gets difficult. I’m going to say this only once, and I welcome all judgment hereafter. IN CHRISTINE’S SITUATION, I WOULD CHOOSE RAOUL OVER THE PHANTOM. For some of you, this may be painful to hear. I understand. It’s not you, it’s me. I have a strange proclivity toward normal, honest, clean-cut guys with long hair rather than mangled maniacs who construct mannequins of their love target and sleep in a swan bed. The yucky long hair can be fixed, but can you fix crazy? No, Christine. You can’t.

I often make that face when I see Patrick Wilson. I know too well where that monster is coming from.