.november wrap-up.


Hello, bookworms. If you read my last post, you know that I decided to shed my goal of following a list of books to read for 2015. I’m typically not the quitter type, but let me tell you, I have not looked back. I’ve learned that following a list forces me to read books that I may not be in the right mindset to read at that time. I’m the type of person who has to be free to read and bounce back and forth between genres as I choose. Forgoing the 2015 reading list has been a great choice for me, because I’ve found some great books in November.

Here’s what I read:



Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Since I enjoyed Gone Girl so much a couple years ago, I thought I’d pick up one of her other two novels. I found this one to be just as dark and creepy as Gone Girl, if not more. I’m talking cults, devil worship, and murdering innocents. The plot revolves around Libby Day, whose family has been murdered, allegedly by her older brother. She is contacted by a group of people obsessed with her family’s murder, who claim her brother is innocent. This forces Libby to revisit her past and re-evaluate what she thought was the truth.

I’m glad I saved this book for the spookiest (and my favorite) time of year, because it really fit that theme. It’s easily the most bleak book I’ve read this year, but I enjoyed every minute. The thing I like about Flynn’s work is that most of her characters are pretty despicable people, but she doesn’t try to get the reader to see them as anything but what they are. Libby, for instance, is selfish and often cruel, but it was so easy to follow her through the story because the reader is right there in her head. This goes for her brother Ben and her mother Patty, who also narrate portions of the story. Flynn is also a master of illustrating vile, mysterious situations and keeping the reader with her till the end, where all is revealed. I’m pretty hard to shock when it comes to violence and sex, but some people will find parts of this book hard to stomach. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to her other book, Sharp Objects. Four stars.


Earth Magic: Ancient Shamanic Wisdom for Healing Yourself, Others, and the Planet by Steven D. Farmer

Characteristic of this time of year, I took on quite a bit of spiritual study, as you’ll see in some of the other books I read in November. Paganism is a belief system that really interests me, and because the Pagan New Year (Samhain) took place on the 31st of October, I decided to educate myself on the subject of Paganism. I left Books-a-Million with an armload of books from the New Age section, this being one of them.

This isn’t really a book about Paganism, but more of a guide to shamanism and animal/spirit guides. Farmer touched on the basics of Pagan beliefs, but he mainly focused on meditative and healing practices people can use to find their spirit guide and connecting with the Earth. While shamanism isn’t something I’m necessarily interested in at this point in my spiritual path, I’m glad to have read it and will probably revisit it again for reference later. Three stars.


What Is Magic? by Rowan Moss

It might be odd to give a book with less than 15 pages five stars, but this one so deserves it! You may or may not be aware that there aren’t a lot of Pagan books aimed at children. Moss has a three-book series that Pagan parents can use to teach their children about different aspects of Paganism, magick being one of them (some people choose to spell it with a k, some without).

This is a very, very simplistic picture book that gives a basic definition of what magick is. No, not Harry Potter magic–real magick! Moss discusses the idea of magick being as simple as wishing protection to another person, and something that isn’t used to harm others. I think she handled the subject in a very mature and understanding way. I found this book very sweet, simplistic, and definitely worth giving to a young reader. Five stars.


The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

This book has been lurking on my to-read list for a while, so I decided to pick it up since it’s a pretty quick book. I thought the plot sounded kind of interesting. It’s narrated by Lennie, a girl who has played second fiddle to her sister Bailey, who dies suddenly. Lennie is then catapulted to the spotlight of her own life, getting attention where she previously didn’t.

I went into this thinking it was going to be a book about a young person dealing with grief, something we don’t see in the YA genre much. Nope. Almost immediately this book becomes less about losing a loved one and more about an overused device in YA lit: a love triangle. The story then becomes a dime-a-dozen romance where it initially had me interested in the emotional growth of the main character, not which guy she was making out with. The writing wasn’t terrible, but Nelson really seems to like her metaphors and a lot of them made no sense to me. The characters were reminiscent of John Green’s archetypes (and some of you know how I feel about his work) and I found it hard to connect with them. Didn’t care much for this book and probably won’t pick up any of Nelson’s other books. Two stars.


Paganism: An Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions by Joyce and River Higginbotham

Like I said before, November was a month of spiritual exploration and growth for me. I was thrilled to start a real “intro to Paganism” book, and this one did not disappoint. In fact, I loved this book and didn’t want it to end!

Some of you may understand the experience of being at a loss with your spirituality. Reading this book was very freeing for me, because for the first time I saw my own values and ethics mirrored back at me and put into words. I transcribed like a madwoman reading this book, finding all kinds of useful information about the Pagan path. I’d like to write another blog post about things I’ve learned from this book, because I found it both informative and inspiring. It has ignited a flame within me that burns brighter the more I read about the Pagan path, because it directly mirrors beliefs I knew I had, but didn’t have the words to describe. The book was only seven chapters long, but it was chock full of information related to what your basic Pagan believes, what they think in regards to Satan (to save you some time: Pagans don’t believe in Satan!), human nature, and even magick. I know I will revisit this book as I continue on my path, and I’m thrilled to have gotten started so positively. Five stars!

What did you read in November?

Kellyn xoxo


.october wrap-up.


Hello, little autumn leaves. This month, I come to you short. That is to say, I read almost nothing in October. Months prior, I had all these dreams of diving into all my spooky books I’ve been saving. Yet I simply had neither time nor interest to devote to reading. October should be forthwith known as “The Big Reading Slump 2k15.” I’m starting to feel that it has a lot to do with this reading challenge list. As much as it pains me to consider it, I’m considering throwing in the towel. You see, I’ve discovered that I don’t do well following a list. I am a freeform reader; my mood and tastes change on a dime. Being forced to stick to certain books (or to add books to my TBR simply because the list warrants it) is kind of a bummer. That’s decided, then–no more reading challenge. Till the end of the year, I’m going to read exactly what I want.

So, here’s what I read in October.


Guests on Earth by Lee Smith

This was the second book I had to read for my Southern Literature course. Immediately it was like a breath of fresh air, because it wasn’t Faulkner. Yay! This is the story of a young woman named Evalina who is admitted to Highland Hospital (a mental institution) after her mother’s death. The book takes us through her early years living with her mother in New Orleans to her life at Highland, and her encounters with a variety of colorful people in between–one of those people being the famous Zelda Fitzgerald.

This is a very “book club” book. By that I mean I can picture this book being discussed by a group of middle-aged women over watercress sandwiches. If I were in a book club, this isn’t the type of book I’d bring for discussion. I feel like the story sets itself up for this big climax, but rather than hitting that high peak, the story kind of flat-lines. This really isn’t a spoiler because it’s mentioned on the very first page: Highland Hospital catches fire and kills nine women, Zelda Fitzgerald included. I feel if that hadn’t been mentioned at the very start of the story, the climax would have been more effective. I  liked the writing style of the story, and many of the characters were very entertaining and three-dimensional. But this just isn’t my type of book, and it’s not something I would have picked up on my own. Two stars.


A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

This was another novel I had to read for Southern Literature. I use “had to” in the loosest sense possible, because this is the best book we’ve had to read so far. It’s the story of a black schoolteacher in late 40s Louisiana who is commissioned to give “a lesson before dying” to a black man named Jefferson, who was given the death penalty. The main character, Grant, tries to impart to Jefferson a sense of pride before he is executed, and struggles with the gravity of the situation as the execution date draws nearer.

I found A Lesson Before Dying poignant and sorrowful at times, but not throughout. It draws on themes of racism, friendship, religion, and societal expectations. Gaines does a great job illustrating these themes with emotion and intelligence, but I didn’t find that the entire story represented this. To be honest, the best part of the book is the last  third (holy cow, the tears). I don’t really have anything negative to say about the book, but it wasn’t a five-star one for me. I didn’t find myself totally hooked throughout, but when it was good, it was quite good. I think it’s definitely worth a read for those interested in African-American literature, but I can’t say it’ll be in my “best of 2015” list. Three stars.

watership down

A book with nonhuman characters: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Oh, man. I was NOT prepared for this. Okay, deep breaths. This is a book about rabbits. I beg of you, please don’t brush this one off because it’s about rabbits. Watership Down is nothing short of epic. It is the story of a group of rabbits driven out of their home by a premonition of violence, and their journey to reestablish themselves elsewhere. Much of the story is the rabbits (with names like Hazel, Acorn, Bluebell, and Pipkin) settling in Watership Down. By the way, a down is another word for a hill, and it has nothing to do with ships. Much of the conflict in the story comes from the Watership Down rabbits being threatened and attacked by an opposing warren called Efrafa.

I really, really enjoyed this book. It takes everything you love from the adventure, fantasy, and folktale genres and combines them into a spectacular mash-up. The writing is some of the very best; it reminds me of Tolkien with its whimsy and infectious charm. The characters are charming as well; you have steadfast Hazel, gruff yet softhearted Bigwig, jokey Bluebell, and countless others. There are quite a lot of characters in this book, yet I never found myself getting lost in them. In fact, I loved all of them! There are also quite a few spots in which I teared up (and subsequently thought to myself, I’m crying over rabbits…). The long and short of it is that this is a book everyone should read. I could see this being a great book for someone just starting out with the fantasy genre. Four stars.

What did you read in October? I’d love to hear it.

Kellyn xoxo

.september wrap-up.


Hi, sweet readers. This is it–we are officially in autumn. I’m really thrilled to be getting into October because, truly, September was not a good month for reading. I neither enjoyed much of what I read, nor did I really feel like reading at all. Everyone goes through a reading slump, right? No worries; I’m still keeping up with my reading challenge.

Here’s what I read in September:

the martian

A book a friend recommended: The Martian by Andy Weir

So, this book is having a moment. As of right now, the Ridley Scott film adaptation is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Of course, the book itself is also receiving high marks among readers, having been chosen for the Goodreads Choice Winner of 2014. If you’ve missed any discussion of The Martian thus far, it’s about an astronaut named Mark Watney who becomes stranded on Mars after the mission is aborted and his crew members unintentionally evacuate without him.

My good friend recommended this book to me, raving about the technical-yet-digestable writing style. In all honesty, I had a love-hate relationship with the writing style. At first, it seems like the book will rely on a log book-style account of Watney’s struggle to survive, including every minute detail a person would need to stay alive on a remote planet with scant supplies or resources. Then, the point of view shifts to the crew and team at NASA (so the story goes back and forth from first-person to third-person) struggling to contact and rescue Watney. I found myself losing interest in the third-person sections of the book, because I wanted to stick with Watney and follow along with what he was doing. His narrative voice was far more interesting, and surprisingly hilarious. I was cracking up right and left while reading his sections. Also, although I was told this book is perfect for those who are not science-oriented (read: me), I was a little bewildered at some of the jargon in this book. In his logs, Watney discusses and explains several scientific processes that he needs to use in order to stay alive, and they’re sometimes hard to follow. I’d say engineers would really dig this book, more than non-engineers. I’m glad I picked it up, but I’m looking more forward to the film, which is being released in a few days. I think the dual perspective would lend itself better to film. Three stars.

as i lay dying

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Eughhhhh. This is a book I would never have picked up on my own, but I got the bright idea to enroll in a Southern literature course. Y’all, this is not my first Faulkner. I’ve read his short story “Barn Burning.” I know he’s supposed to be one of the greatest authors of the 20th century, and perhaps of all time. I don’t care. I hated this book. I hated the writing, I hated the characters, I hated everything. And no, it’s not because I didn’t “get it.” The reason why I don’t like it is because there’s nothing in it to “get.” Get it?

This is the story of a poor Southern family who must make a days-long journey into town to bury their recently-deceased matriarch. It is told from several different perspectives (different members of the family, people outside the family), yet there is little to no differentiation between each character’s section. Oh my God, the writing. Y’all. It’s one thing to intersperse stream-of-consciousness throughout a story. It’s quite another when that’s the method you rely on for the majority of the story. Half the time I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, because the writing was too introspective and confused. . It’s hard to connect to a character or a situation when it’s described so ambiguously. Also, the tone of the book put me to sleep. It’s catatonic; no sense of dread or excitement anywhere in the story. I kept picturing a flat line on a heart rate monitor. This book may get its own blog post, because I cannot limit my thoughts on it to one short summary. I will not be picking up Faulkner again; there are far too many other classics I’d rather spend time with. One star.

all the king's men

A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: All The King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

How about another Southern read to wash Faulkner out of my eyes? This is a political novel, not the typical genre I reach for. Warren based the story on the real-life politician Huey Long in the Depression-era South. It takes on a Gatsby-esque narrative quality; the focus of the story is politician Willie Stark, but the narrator is his press agent, Jack Burden. It’s a lengthy tale of a man’s rise to power in Louisiana, first as a man of the people, and then a transition into something much more sinister.

I’ll be honest: I didn’t get all the way through this book, but not because I didn’t like it. It’s probably one of the slower-moving books I’ve read, which I actually think benefits the story, because it’s a hefty one and it spans several years. But it’s slow, very slow. I think I’d like to pick up this book again sometime and continue where I left off, because the writing is quite good. I can definitely see how this won a Pulitzer. For now, though, there are other books I’d like to get to. Three stars.

What did you read in September? I’d really like to hear.

Kellyn xoxo

.august wrap-up.


Hi, my sweet bookworms. How was your August? I must admit that I started off the month strong and fervent for words, but towards the end, that feeling petered out and didn’t feel like reading much at all. I also left my Big Grown-Up Job and headed back into the world of academia, which promised much reading to come. I’m tickled pink at the thought of my “autumn book” pile I have squirreled away in my room: books I’ve set aside specifically for the colder weather. I’ll definitely be dipping into that in September. Whee!

Here’s what I read in August:


Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman

This is yet another YA dystopian novel (not that I’m complaining–I’ll read every one I can get my hands on). It seems to be a popular one in the UK in particular; I’d never heard of it outside some British online reviewers, who seemed to be unanimous in how great it is. It has a cool setup as well. Noughts and Crosses takes place in a far-distant British society (this book kind of hits you over the head with its anglicisms) in which society is divided between whites (noughts), who are at the bottom of the food chain, and blacks (Crosses) who own the highest ranking in the world. Callum, a nought, and Sephy, a Cross, take a dual narration and tell their story from polar opposite perspectives.

Unfortunately, once again, I am in the minority with this book. It got to the point where I wondered if I was reading the same book as everyone who rated it so high. Guys, I found the writing of this book AWFUL. I’m not the type of person who hunts through a book looking for typos, but I found more than one here. The plot has quite a few twists and turns, but Blackman isn’t very good at fleshing them out and giving the reader a detailed account. When something big happens in the story, it’s more of a sum-up than a serious plot point. I also found the writing to be quite immature and unintentionally funny. Like, to the point where I couldn’t tell if Blackman was trying to insert some humor into a serious moment, or if she just couldn’t think of something different to say. Yes, there were a few moments in the story  that I really enjoyed, but when the writing is awkward and rushed, enjoyment can be had only to a point. All in all, I found Noughts and Crosses to be a big disappointment and I will not be continuing with the other books. Two stars.


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Ahhhhhh. Now that’s more like it. I don’t think I have to sum up the plot much, because Lolita is a classic and it’s still an source of contention with people for its lewdness. It’s the story of an English scholar named Humbert Humbert who takes up residence in suburban America with a woman and her daughter, Dolores. Humbert is instantly infatuated with little Dolores, and through a turn of events, becomes her adopted father and takes her on a whirlwind road trip through America, fraught with lust and resentment and paranoia.

While Blackman’s writing was a letdown, Nabokov’s exists on a completely different plane. I think this is some of the richest and passionate writing that exists, ever. Each scene is expertly crafted and completely engrosses the reader. I zoomed through this thing and fully intend to read it again. It’s truly a thing of beauty, yet there is more than enough to repulse a particularly squeamish audience member. There’s a lot of debate about whether this is a true love story (mind you, this is a graphic story about a middle-aged man and a twelve-year-old girl) or if it is about one man’s obsession. There’s truth to both of these camps, but I would implore the reader not to take it as solely a love story or one about pedophilia with nothing beneath the surface. This book deserves a closer look than that. Five stars.


A book more than 100 years old: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

I’m gonna go ahead and leave the plot synopsis out of this one, because…you’ve seen the movie. While the movie is a timeless classic for children and adults, it naturally leaves out quite a bit.

This is a book strictly for kids, yet I didn’t find it to be dumbed down at all. In fact, to my shame, I had to look up one of the words (“garret,” which is another word for attic). It’s a classic for a reason: it’s a fun, magical journey with interesting creatures and conflict on a child’s level. I never read it as a child, but this would be a perfect thing to introduce to a very young crowd. One thing I want to note, and I don’t fault the author for this as much as the film and the media surrounding The Wizard of Oz: the Wicked Witch of the West is barely in the story! I’d even wager that she has less than ten lines. Still worth a read, though. Four stars.


Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan

August was a bit of a depressing month for me, personal life-wise, so to combat that I went for a goofy read to close out the month. I read Jim’s first book, Dad is Fat, last year and enjoyed it quite a bit, so I expected good things from this one too.

There’s clearly no real plot here; Food is just chapter upon chapter of Jim’s quirky opinions on different types of food. No stone (scone?) goes unturned here. He goes from McDonald’s to Mexican food to desserts to, yes, Hot Pockets. I found it quite funny at parts, yet I enjoyed Dad Is Fat more because it was more anecdotal and personal, and less of a stand-up act. Still worth a read if you’re into Jim’s brand of comedy. Three stars.

I’d love to hear what you read in August.

Kellyn xoxo

.july wrap-up.

2015-07-25 16.09.22

Happy August! Not to be cliche, but I seriously can’t believe it’s August. I honestly can’t wait for autumn, my favorite season. Knowing the South, though, we’ll get about five seconds of true fall weather sandwiched between long stretches of heat and ice. I’m super excited for fall, though, because of the pile of books I’ve set aside for the chilly weather. Summer, as you’ve probably figured out, is for the light and fluffy reads. Fall is for the paranormal and odd ones.

Here’s what I read in July:

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

My success with Stephanie Perkins continues! This is the second installment in her series which started with Anna and the French Kiss. Lola is not quite a continuation of the same story as Anna, but they exist in the same world with the same characters. That means that yes, the handsome and witty Etienne St. Clair makes an appearance! Ooh la la.

Lola Nolan lives in San Francisco with her two dads, and has a fairly normal life of school, designing costumes, and going to her rocker boyfriend’s shows. Her life becomes complicated, however, when her old almost-boyfriend Cricket Bell returns and moves in next door. Lola must deal with her feelings toward Cricket, as well as her feelings toward her boyfriend Max. This book was just as charming and and lively as Anna and I am currently torn between which one I enjoyed better. The romance was very sweet and realistic, much like the rest of the book. These books are very easy and light, yet not forgettable. I enjoyed this book so much and am thrilled to finish out the trilogy. Four stars.

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

More than anything else, this book reminds me of Tumblr. Tumblr is OBSESSED with this book for some reason. I was assigned to read it in tenth grade English, but for one reason or another, never got around to reading it entirely. In July I decided to bite the bullet and figure out what attracts people to this classic.

I admit that the environment and “feel” of the time is evident in Fitzgerald’s writing. It’s glittering and fast-paced and decadent, which is what I think he was going for. To a point, that was the main reason I was sticking with it. However, I didn’t find the plot or characters interesting or memorable. Page after page, I kept wondering when my interest would be piqued and I’d really find that point to latch onto the story. That never happened. Seems I’m in the minority with this one, though. I just wasn’t impressed and don’t consider it “the great American novel” by any stretch of the imagination. Three stars.

A book your mom loves: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

My mom has been trying to get me to read this book for years, but it honestly kept slipping my mind. As a South Carolina resident and fond visitor of Savannah, this book is pretty much required reading. I opened it having little idea of what kind of book it was. Even now, having finished it, I find it a little hard to categorize as a book. I also am struggling a little to map out my thoughts of it.

It’s easiest to think of this book as two halves (though not perfectly proportionate halves). One half is a travelogue, in which the author moves to Savannah and encounters the weird and wonderful residents (including a stinking-rich antiques dealer, a drag queen, and a voodoo priestess). This half of the book was my favorite, probably because it was introduced first and was fairly fast-paced and interesting. Then the author introduces the murder mystery aspect of the story, which is the actual focus of the story. The problem for me, though, is that the murder mystery storyline took too long to happen, and it was pretty anticlimactic for me. The book is still worth a read for its irreverent characters and dishy, shimmering writing. Three stars.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Remember when I said that I couldn’t decide whether I liked Anna and the French Kiss or Lola and the Boy Next Door best? That was before I read the third installment of the series, and now there is no question. Isla blew MY FREAKING MIND.

Like I said, Perkins’ series is not a linear story, but it contains the same characters at the same time in the same world. This one focuses on Isla Martin, who attends the same school Anna Oliphant goes to in Paris. Since she entered the school three years ago, Isla has had a huge crush on Josh, her classmate and son of a US senator. By a twist of fate, the two become friends and eventually a couple. I know, I’m making it sound incredibly generic, but this one really has the simplest story of the three. But I so, so loved it. The characters were incredibly lovable and well-written (including Kurt, Isla’s best friend with high-functioning autism–yay for inclusion!). I also completely loved the romance and the drama. I’d recommend reading the first two, of course, but this one was definitely the crowning jewel of the trilogy. Five stars!

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

I was on vacation on Siesta Key while I read this, and following Isla with this was a match made in heaven. When I was finished squee-ing with delight at Isla, I transitioned to this book and immediately starting giggling hysterically.

This book was a lot of fun. It’s the diary of Georgia Nicolson, British neurotic teen obsessed with making out (“snogging”). It reminds me of The Princess Diaries, but where that has a more solid storyline, Angus is purely about the laughs. Georgia is incredibly witty and likable. I enjoyed this book, but I don’t know if I enjoyed it enough to continue the series, which spans out to ten books. As funny as the book was, I don’t know if it warrants nine more books of essentially the same story. My TBR (to-be-read) list is currently at over 700 books, so I can’t really justify adding the rest of this series on top of that! Three stars.

A book with a love triangle: Matched by Ally Condie

For as many YA books I own that I haven’t read, I pretty much had my pick of ones with love triangles. Since this one has been collecting dust for a while, I decided to pick it up. The description of it pretty much only talks about the love triangle, but there’s a bit more to the story than that.

Cassia Reyes lives in a dystopian society in which everything is chosen for her, including who she marries. She is Matched with her best friend, Xander…but what seems like a fluke, she is Matched with Ky, another boy in her community. That isn’t the whole focus of the story, but it’s the main “gimmick,” if you will. Despite the negative ratings on Goodreads, I really enjoyed this book. I found the dystopia resonant of The Giver, but it wasn’t annoyingly similar (cough, cough, Divergent). It had several really good emotional scenes as well. I felt the excitement start to dwindle the further along I got, though. The romance was also a touch forced. Still, I will probably continue the trilogy. Four stars.

What did you read in July? I’d love to know.

Kellyn xoxo

.june wrap-up.

Happy July, my sweet sunfish. I hope your summer reading is in full swing. Despite my stiff office dwelling 40 hours a week, I am still exploiting the art of escapism with books, books, and more books. Halfway through the year, and I can say that I have had much success with my chosen tomes. No one-star books as of yet (fingers crossed that this continues).

Here’s what I read in June.

The One by Kiera Cass

Oh, boy. This is the third (but NOT final) installment of The Selection series. I still liken it to a cross between The Hunger Games and The Bachelor (much to the chagrin of an angry Pinterest user who told me I was wrong about that). It’s very light and fluffy with only hints of totally non-threatening dystopia danger. As you can tell from the cover, it’s really centered on the romance and the drama.

The competition to win the heart of Prince Maxon is slowly coming to a close. We are still following the Crown Princess of Frustrating Trope Heroines, none other than America Singer. Yes, those who aren’t reading the series, that is her real name. If you’re reading the series, then you won’t be shocked at the final outcome of the Selection. In all honesty, I picked this up just to get it over with. For the most part, it was what I expected. There were twists and exciting scenes that kept me hooked to see what happened next, but still a lot of the same-old. Lots of YA tropes, forced dialogue, irritating characters (ASPEN). While these are far from cerebral, Cass’ books are pretty fun and light for the YA reader. I must admit this one was probably my favorite of the three. Accordingly, three stars.

A book with more than 500 pages: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I thought that the Divergent trilogy would be the trilogy I’d read this year, as per the 2015 reading challenge. Unfortunately, after reading Insurgent, that is not going to be the case. While I found Divergent…well, diverting, Insurgent was flat and had an air of disinterest. Let me briefly pull out a Hunger Games comparison. The first installment of that series, like Divergent, was thrilling and inviting. However, while Catching Fire is definitely the crown jewel of the series, Insurgent was the complete opposite. It was the fizzled-out remains of Divergent‘s spirit.

Though the story is set in a nation divided, shrouded in secrecy and deception, weapons and security guards, it isn’t the least bit exciting. The focus, mainly, is on Tris and Four’s relationship, which grows precarious for some reason. I assume it’s to add drama that isn’t needed, given the drama-filled environment already provided. There’s also a slew of nondescript, four-letter-name side characters who add nothing to the story. I found Insurgent dull, dialogue-heavy, and full of what I consider filler. My stint with the trilogy is hereby terminated. Two stars.

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

What a treat! Talk about a shift in protagonist character in comparison to The One. America Singer is frustrating, selfish, and all-around unsavory. Anna Oliphant, however, is vibrant and funny and takes this book to the next level. The protagonist of a story can either make or break the novel, and Anna as the star makes this book TOPS.

The novel tells of a girl sent from Atlanta (side note: there is a real lack of Southerners in YA fiction) to a Paris boarding school for Americans. There she makes the acquaintance of several charming and colorful students, including the wry and dashing Etienne St. Clair. Truly the shining star of the book are its characters, its writing, and its romance, which never came across as forced or even cheesy. If a person were only to read YA books like The One or City of Bones, he/she would miss the spirit and charisma that is so present in Anna, and his/her perception of YA literature would be pretty skewed. This book was awesome and I plan to continue reading Perkins’ work. Four stars.

A popular author’s first book: The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Two years ago, I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and thought it was amazing. That, paired with having seen The Virgin Suicides film and enjoying it, made me think I’d really enjoy this book. I have to say I really enjoyed it. Eugenides is such a skilled writer and world builder, and I was as engrossed in this book as I was in Middlesex.

The Virgin Suicides tells of the Lisbon family: a controlling mother, a weak father, and five daughters. The youngest commits suicide, causing a ripple in the family and in the neighborhood. The story is told by a group of young boys who are obsessed with the Lisbon girls, who become gradually more oppressed by their mother, and follow their movements throughout a period of years. The story reads dreamlike, keeping itself shrouded in soft mystery until the rather shocking end. The reader finds themselves fascinated by the Lisbon girls too, who are delicate and womanly and wise. I really enjoyed this novel and will continue to explore other works by Eugenides. Four stars.

The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

Though it’s an exceedingly rare occurrence, I’ve been wrong before. For example, when I started this book, I didn’t think I’d like it, or even finish it. Sticking with it, however, proved to be a pleasant surprise. At first it seemed like too much of a doppelganger of Ella Enchanted, one of my all-time childhood favorites. While it is very similar, it ended up being an awesome YA fairy tale in its own right.

The Goose Girl tells of a young princess named Ani, who is betrayed by her staff of guards and is forced into hiding as a peasant, as her staff passes off one of their own as the princess in a faraway kingdom. Ani finds work as a goose girl and meets a band of rustic allies who help her reclaim her throne. The story was full of twists, excitement, and even some amazing romance and friendship. Fans of Ella Enchanted and other similar fantasy books will really enjoy this. Four stars.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book has been on my Goodreads TBR list for about three years, added when it was really in its heyday. I decided to finally bite the bullet and pick it up in June. The cover really is cute, and it’s gotten pretty stellar reviews online.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is unique in that it almost solely relies on memos, emails, and transcripts to tell its story. It is probably the only book I’ve read that jumps around wildly and actually benefits from this style. Any other book using this style would feel crowded and confused. The story centers around Bee, the daughter of an eccentric architect, Bernadette Fox. She is something of a legend, having received a MacArthur grant and routinely pissing off the other private school mothers. Prior to a family trip to Antarctica, Bernadette goes missing. Bee uses artifacts like newsletters and emails to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance, and also learns a lot about the other people around her. This novel was quite funny and smart, with colorful characters and dialogue. Four stars.

A play: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

Like Tampa, this is a book that would only result in embarrassment if caught with it in a professional setting. It’s easy to read quickly and then stash away quickly, though. Basically, this is a collection of interviews Ensler had with various women about their vaginas, often humorous but always fantastical and almost New-Age preachy-poetic. It gives the reader a feel for other women’s experiences and feelings about their anatomy, menstruation, and sex. However, in all honesty it’s not something I’ll read again. I’m not anywhere near prudish; it was just the odd poetry of it that didn’t land it a perfect score with me. Three stars.

I would love to hear what you read in the comments below.

Kellyn xoxo

.may wrap-up.



Welcome to June, my sweet readers. I’m writing this after spending a sunny afternoon by the pool with–what else?–a book. I told you last time that May would be more active reading-wise, and I managed to keep that promise, despite starting a Big Fancy Job (!) and having the worst cold of my life. It was also my birth month!

Here’s what I read in May:

A book set in a different country: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The novel revolves around the appearance of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Islam’s tightening grip on women’s lives. It uses a dual narrative, describing two women entering adulthood at different points in time in Afghanistan. One woman, Mariam, grows up a social pariah due to the nature of her birth and eventually is sold into a controlling and terrifying marriage. Another younger woman, Laila, grows up privileged in another area of the country but is adopted as a second wife to this man, due to a terrible wartime tragedy.

I found the novel’s merits lie in its developed characters and its emotional resonance. Seriously–this book gets SAD; tears were shed for sure. The atmosphere was also very well-written; I really enjoyed reading about a land that most people only know from television (the author has spent quite a lot of time in Afghanistan). The abusive husband character, Rasheed, lacked the same development that the other main characters had. I thought the reasons for his nastiness could have been explored more. Other than that, I found the book to be absolutely stellar and a must-read for those interested in Afghan culture, as well as female relationships. Four stars.

A book that was originally written in a different language: Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh

I finished this in a night and immediately wanted to turn back to page 1. Having previously seen the French film based on this book, I found that they were quite similar and equally enjoyable. This novel tells the story of a young woman named Clementine who struggles with her feelings towards women. She falls in love with a woman named Emma who sports a fluorescent mop of blue hair (her hair is the only feature in the novel that is in color). The story is told over a period of many years, starting when Clementine is still in high school and ending in adulthood.

I have been getting more interested in lesbian fiction lately, and I found that this was a great place to start. Both the art and the story are beautiful and fluid, reading like an epic love story spanning years and years of two women’s lives. Five stars.

(I’m not your mother, but this book contains situations of a carnal nature. Use discretion as necessary).

A book set in high school: Princess in the Spotlight by Meg Cabot

Like I said above, I came down with the worst cold of my life in May. That means two weeks of coughing, balled-up tissue, Flonase, and general misery. Now who wants some hefty, deep-thinking book when they’re sprawled on the couch in days-old pajamas? I grabbed for Princess in the Spotlight and was treated with musings from one of my all-time favorite book heroines.

This is the second book book in the series (do I even need to tell you the plot of these books?), focusing on Mia Thermopolis growing more used to her title as Princess of Genovia. She appears on a nationwide TV show to give an interview, and even has a secret admirer! Ooh la la. A secret admirer, even in my weakened state, I figured out a mile off. Oh well; that’s why I wanted to read it while I was sick. The series is quick and easily digestible, yet hilarious and great fun to read. I particularly enjoyed this one and gave it five stars.

A book written by someone under 30: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

This was definitely the standout book for the month of May. Among the top ten best-selling books of all time, the diary sets itself up for very high expectations and, though it was not written to entertain, it far exceeded those expectations for me. Anne’s style is precocious and often wry, a true delight to read. She observes her surroundings and recounts her experiences with a sly passion, yet her youth and inexperience is also present in her writing. Anne offers insight that surpasses the ability of most adults.

I feel that it’s not necessary to give a plot summation, because most people know already Anne’s story. However, her diary offers a deeper look into the isolated lives of these people in hiding from 1942 to 1944. It is an absolute must-read. Five stars.

A book by a female author: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I mentioned that I started a Grownup Office Job for the summer in the NUCLEAR INDUSTRY (!!!). Though nowadays I’m finding ways to break up the day, starting out I had very little to do. Because escapism is an effective tool, I picked up Wild in order to fill my time. It is the popular story of a woman’s trek across the Pacific Crest Trail (which is 2,663 miles long) after her mother’s untimely death and her own divorce from her husband. I’m about as outdoorsy as [insert joke here], but I really enjoyed the descriptions of the ever-changing terrain Strayed encountered. She is an incredibly skilled writer, effortlessly changing the subject from one thing to another with the reader following right along behind. Her story is often a tragic one, but her story of her hike carrying a backpack bigger than her is inspirational and insightful. It’s a great one to take with you on an airplane or to the beach. Four stars.

A funny book: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Speaking of beach reading, the last book I read in May was read at Folly Beach in Charleston, SC. A few chapters into this one, I was reminded of Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Lawson, however, writes in much more of a manic, tangential style. Her recounts of her childhood in 1970s rural Texas with a taxidermist father are downright odd and side-splittingly hilarious. I adore stories about people’s families–the stranger the better–and these were my favorite part of the book.

However, I got burned out rather quickly in the later portions of the book when Lawson discusses her adult years. Her chattery, off-the-wall voice gets a bit tiresome and hard to follow. However, for the most part the book was very funny and entertaining. Four stars.

What did you read in May?

Kellyn xoxo