Thursday, August 16, 2018

Review: She Caused a Riot

Image result for shecaused a riot goodreadsOne of the squares on my summer library bingo was giving me a little trouble earlier in the season: It's easy enough to read by genre, but who goes out of their way to pick up something under the generic umbrella of "History"? As it turns out, easier than I had originally expected... especially when I swapped that "i" out for an "e"! 

Hannah Jewell's She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It, contains - as you might imagine - exactly that.

A collection of the life stories of "unknown" women of history, ranging from famous ladies who fought tyrants, to those who overturned gender norms; from those who made their name printed in ink, to those who wrote it in blood. Spanning continents and centuries, Jewell has truly pulled from the history books to find names that get little to no coverage in mainstream culture.

Of course, there were obviously some I recognized. Ida B. Wells, Cheng Shih, Phillis Wheatley, Hedy Lamarr, and Nellie Bly have all been favorites for a long time, some since my middle school days. Still, the amount of ancient and audacious historical figures, to recent fearless females who helped topple governmental systems, protected their people, broke with tradition, and otherwise significantly rocked the boat, was a really impressive feat.

This was done in a way that was meant to deliberately appeal to a young-ish audience. Not quite those whose interests might otherwise be suited with books like Elena Favilli and Francesca Cravallo's Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, which skews for the elementary age. Instead, Jewell's She Caused a Riot, is geared more for high schoolers or college kids. Even though it contains a lot of the same names as Ann Shen's Bad Girls Throughout History, this one doesn't really come with pictures.

What I'm saying is, this book is one in a long list of many similar titles that have been published in the past year, detailing these kinds of stories... but the others you might purchase definitely don't come packed with this much slang, euphemism, or downright naughty details involved. PG-13, rating, kiddos.

To best translate the style of writing, essentially, it's as if a transcript of Drunk History was printed in a slightly more edited-down format. (The author was a staff writer for Buzzfeed UK, after all.) Humorous and engaging, but also lacking in consistent detail and maybe containing more than one inappropriate aside, these stories hold up the lives of these oft-overlook champions of history,

The popularity of these kinds of books has definitely been shaped by our political climate... because, in this kind of atmosphere, how the hell could it not be? One of the most telling elements of it, are the differences in title between the US and UK editions: while us Yanks get She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It, those across the pond get a more direct reference to the genus of this particular project, with 100 Nasty Women of History: Brilliant, Badass, and Completely Fearless Women Everyone Should Know. While the US version includes frequent use of the phrase "nasty women" in the introduction, it's fascinating that the US publishers wouldn't seek to use the same title across both publishing markets.

Final Verdict: All in all, a fun and surprisingly informative read, featuring the stories of really unique and exciting historical personalities, though the style did get fairly tedious after a point. Definitely would consider picking up a copy for myself or another her-storically-minded friend, though it would have to be one with a good sense of humor!


What's your favorite feminist read? Were you a history fan growing up? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Reading Romance, Part Three: Recently-Written Historical Romance

As you might recall, my 2018 Summer has been heating up in more ways than one: I've been tackling the genre of cheap romance novels, as a part of my personal Reading Romance Challenge! I've already covered the oldies, so let's see how something a little more contemporary suits me...

how to choose?


When it comes to figuring out which titles to pursue, this selection of romance novels might have been the one that came with the most previous knowledge, for me. Why? Because within the past couple of years, the genre seems to have undergone some kind of fan renaissance, at least online. I've been hearing the name "Tessa Dare" kicked around enough to know that she was one to look out for in this category, and "Julia Quinn" was more of the same. Needlessly to say, those two were immediately placed at the top of my library checkout list.


size doesn't matter... but does format?


While Tessa Dare seems to have quite the fan base at my local library - being that almost all of her books are available in not only print format, but also large font, as well as multiple ebook copies available for checkout - I wasn't having much luck finding Quinn. Thankfully, Book Outlet came to my rescue, and I was able to pick up two for about $2.50 apiece.

Unfortunately, that left me with some uneven reading experiences. Let me tell you: I have never quite lived through the reading high that came with taking my trusty Kindle various places, and knowing that what I was really enjoying, out in broad daylight, was actually a risque romance novel. Obviously, trying to find ways to read the Julia Quinn paperback was a little more difficult. I'm new to this, and definitely not brave enough to whip out these kinds of covers just anywhere.

At least with the vintage romances, they looked somewhat fashionably ironic, and it was easily to hide behind my deceptive and chic Kindle cover, and read it all stealth-like.

And honestly, due to the sort of blockish, unweildly status of the mass market paperback measurements, reading romance novels becomes sort of clumsy.


what I read



Romancing the Duke, Castles Ever After #1, Tessa Dare 


Image result for romancing the duke goodreadsIsolde Ophelia Goodnight isn't the little girl made famous by her author father's famous stories... but she is the one still dealing with the fallout from his untimely death. Thankfully, a fortuitous bequeathment of a castle from a distant relative keeps her from being thrust out into the world on her own; instead, she now has to deal with the angsty and glowering hunk who was completely unaware that his castle had been for sale in the first place. Can the two cohabitate peacefully until their legal grievances are sorted out? Or will Izzy find herself in the middle of her own sort of fairy tale?

  • The love interest from this one was a little different. Not that he wasn't a somewhat entitled, angsty MAN, but that he was a little more emotionally - and physically - wounded than the other novels I've read so far. Kind of like a Rochester figure, but from the end of Jane Eyre. 
  • There's a significant plot presence of Izzy's appreciation-slash-resentment for the various dedicated followers of her father's writing, who enjoy talking to her about character motivations, dressing up as people from the stories, and otherwise giving her unwanted presents. In a way, it kind of felt like a bit of a take-on of fandom culture. Not sure how historically accurate that makes it, but it was definitely damn funny. 
  • So far, in comparison to the past two vintage romances I read, this was definitely a little more trope-heavy, which made things far easier to predict. Not that that's a bad thing... 



Say Yes to the Marquess, Castles Ever After #2, Tessa Dare


Image result for say yes to the marquess goodreadsClio Whitmore was raised to be the perfect bride: charming, intelligent, and fully capable of running a household. However, after 8 years of engaged waiting, she still finds herself short one groom. The Marquess of Granville, her betrothed, remains abroad, while Clio waits at home in England. When she's bequeathed her own castle, Clio can't help but jump at the opportunity to break off the match... something that absolutely cannot come to pass, if the groom's brother has anything to say about it. Can Rafe Brandon convince Clio that the wedding will be worth it after all? Or is he in danger of falling in love himself?

  • Clio has a unique entrepreneurial spirit, while Rafe is a successful touring prizefighter... and for some reason, both of these job prospects seemed almost a little anachronistic with the supposed time period this was set in. 
  • The amount of sexual escapades seemed a little tamer in this book... but that being said, it also felt like there was a whole lot more of it. While these two Tessa Dare novels are still heads above the vintage romances I read by way of intensity of button-popping and shirt-rending - which is QUITE the feat, I must say - this one dialed it back a bit, leaving some of the sexier scenes until the very end of the book.  



Because of Miss Bridgerton, Rokesbys #1, Julia Quinn


Image result for because of miss bridgerton goodreadsBillie Bridgerton was always the girl known for jumping hedges and climbing trees... which explains why our story begins with her trapped on the roof of a barn. Unfortunately for her, the one who comes to her rescue is George Rokesby, her staid and serious neighbor, eldest of the Rokesby boys. While she loves them all like brothers - and always thought she'd end up marrying army-soldier Edward or navy-man Andrew - she has never managed to get along with George... so why is she suddenly so concerned with what he thinks of her?

  • I'm so glad I decided to read more than one author for this challenge, because there is such a significant difference between Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare, and I wouldn't have gotten as accurate a read on the greater population if my sample selection hadn't branched out a little farther than I'd originally thought. 
  • So much more of a traditional, social-rule-adhering novel than others I've read. As in, when Billie and George make a reference to how if anyone knew they'd been alone together for a certain amount of time, they'd have to get married to save reputation, I actually laughed out loud... then had to take pause. Yeah, that's exactly what would actually have had to happen. Which kind of flies in the face of the other books I've been reading. 
  • There was so little sex. That's not an issue, and so far, there have been differing levels of intensity and number as to what I had originally thought would be obvious and widespread, rampant sexcapades in each of the books I've been reading... but by far, BY FAR, the Quinn has been the most prudent, with only one important sex scene occuring at the tail end of the book, with little efforts to descend into the carnal depictions present in the Dare books. 


some more random reading takeaways

  • How many times am I going to have to hear the word "virile"? 
  • Every book must have a beloved pet: vicious ermine, old and slobbery bulldog, angry cat, favorite horse. For some reason, each needs to hit that specific animal character quotient. 
  • There are way too many descriptions of men seemingly taking up a ton of space, like "filling the whole doorway" or whatever. I get what you're insinuating. Don't make it so repetitive. 
  • Deus Ex Machina forever. The resolutions to these novels are consistently unexpected and nowhere near comprehensive in what plot points they try to haphazardly cover. But when it all ends in a wedding, do we really need any more closure than that? 
  • But also sometimes Deus Sex Machina? There have been too many couple conflicts solved by a quick make out session or getting busy on a table or something. Just talk to each other! 
  • Thank goodness, the ages have increased... rather than the fresh-out-of-college Mac and 17-year-old Portia of the vintage romances I read, both Izzy and Clio were 26 and 25, respectively, with emphasis placed on the fact that they had been available to marry for some time, but had not. Even Billie was 23, I think. 

Naturally, I was thinking a lot about the differences and similarities between the Vintage Romances of June, and the Recently-Written Historical Romances of July.

Most notably, the more recent books have more sexual content and have plots that are a little more outlandish, while the vintage novels seemed to pay more attention to serving as genuine sources of reading material, which high quality diction, historical accuracy, and rigorous sub-plotting. Perhaps its the decision to lean in to the stereotypes that romance novels are already known for in this day and age, or maybe it's just a quirk of the authors I chose, or the genre.

However, one thing they definitely have in common: a fierce, stubborn heroine who knows what she wants, and a dominating, masculine love interest who is inevitably won over by her devotion and charm. I don't know what it means to have those identities so significantly ingrained within the construction of the genre, but maybe if I keep reading, I'll get there eventually.


where to next?

This August, I'm looking forward to reading contemporary romance novels... or at least, I think I'm looking forward to them. The question is, where should I start? I have at least one title I'm reading for sure - recently released New Adult romance The Simple Wild, by K. A. Tucker - but besides that, I'm stumped. Do I go full trashy romance, with the Beautiful Bastard series? Or do I keep things semi-appropriate, with Nicholas Sparks? Should I widen my original criteria, and read a YA romance after all?




Do you have any reading recommendations for recent romance? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Book Mashups I'd Love to See


I've got to be honest, as a child of the early '00s Disney Channel Renaissance, I couldn't help but get excited when I saw today's Top Ten Tuesday theme. I mean, mashups were the jam when I was a kid: from That's So Suite Life with Hannah Montana (which was a confluence of the three unstoppable powers that be at that time period, That's So Raven, Suite Life with Zach and Cody, and, naturally, Hannah Montana), to Nickolodeon's repeat Jimmy Neutron and Fairly Oddparents episodes, I've been practically raised on the phenomena of favorite characters invading each others' spaces.

But when it comes to mashing up books, things can get a little sticky. Sure, you can have favorites swap places, or interact with other casts, but what about when it's the settings of the books you want to intertwine? What if it's the ambience or just general theming?

Needless to say, this topic ended up being a little harder than I originally thought. Here's what I came up with:



1. Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame + The Brothers Grimms' Rapunzel
Okay, broader connections between the two include a focus on an innocent youth trapped in a tower, and an overbearing, antagonistic force keeping them there. So, imagine: a young woman (or man) unknowingly woos a prince to the church based on the power of her (or his) voice, but she (or he) has to stay hidden, and is burdened with the knowledge that the two of them could never be together...

2. The Amazing Bronte Power Hour - aka, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre Meets Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights Meets Anne Bronte's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Interactions between the Bronte sisters have been touched on before - perhaps most memorably by Hark! A Vagrant comic artist Kate Beaton - but what about their characters? Jane would have no patience for Catherine but would probably love Helen Graham, and Rochester would only goad Heathcliff into grander hysterics for the sheer drama of it all...

3. Thomas Harris' Silence of the Lambs + Julie Powell's Julie & Julia 
Hear me out, here: two famous stories involving a pretty significant attention to procedural eating. So, what if Julie wasn't cooking her way through Julia Childs' cookbook, but instead, the human anatomy?

4. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein + Peggy Parish's Amelia Bedelia
As a huge Frankenstein fan, I've been perpetually disappointed in how our monster has been portrayed throughout film history. He was never a mumbling, grunting mess, but instead, quickly picked up language from observing human interaction. Here's the thing though: what if, after so rapidly absorbing that information, the semantics and specifics got lost in translation? What might transpire are some classically disastrous Amelia Bedelia-like miscommunications... but with horrifying results.

5. Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer + Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes
There is no literary character as amply gifted as Tom Sawyer, when it comes to master manipulation. Then again, there's no literary character quite as accustomed to weeding out the truth than Sherlock Holmes. Is this my way of asking for recompense for the movie bomb that was League of Extraordinary Gentleman? Kind of.

6. Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island + Frank Herbert's Dune
Just to be very clear, I grew up as not only a fan of Treasure Island, as well as science fiction, but also the blend of the two of them together, a la one of my favorite Disney movies, Treasure Planet. What better place to send the likes of Long John Silver to dig for buried treasure, than the politically turbulent, giant-worm-infested, desperately sandy desert planet of Arrakis?

7. Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain + Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (+ maybe a little Gary Paulsen's Hatchet in the mix, as well?) 
Basically what I'm saying is, I would love a children's classic about a boy living amongst the animals in a climate more similar to my own... though being that Mountain is set in the Catskills of New York, then maybe leaning more towards Paulsen's central Canada location for Hatchet?

8. Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden + Stephanie Perkins' Lola and the Boy Next Door
I've actually talked about this in my Top Ten Tuesday before, but I'd love to take the time to write a contemporary YA romance retelling of The Secret Garden, which is one of my favorite books from childhood. Maybe I'll make it my NaNo writing challenge for this year?

9. Stephanie Meyers's Twilight + Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink's Welcome to Night Vale 
I just really love the idea of the absolute insane emotional dynamics and unstable personalities of YA paranormal romances, propped up against the bleakly observational and objective reporting from Welcome to Nightvale. "Hello, listeners. Local reports say that the forestry fallout from last week's thunderstorm was instead, the resulting noise from a rowdy game of undead vampire baseball..."

10. Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice + pretty much anything
Let me make this abundantly clear: I will read whatever - and I truly mean whatever - Pride and Prejudice retelling you could ever throw at me. We've already had Lizzie and Darcy meets zombies, Bollywood, and web vlogging, and I've pretty much loved all of them, so really, I'm game for anything.



What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below! 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Crazy Eight, Part Three: Exploring Local Little Free Libraries


As you might remember, on July 24th, I celebrated the eighth anniversary of my first blogpost! I've already told you how I celebrated with a book haul... but did you know that I also did a bit of an UN-haul, as well? I packed up some handmade bookmarks, eight past reads that I was willing to part with, and my younger brother - he got some driving practice hours on his permit - while I unloaded some new material at little free libraries in my area! 

There were four total, and by our area, I mean that the closest one was five minutes driving time away, and the furthest was only about ten. We zoomed around our neck of the woods for a little over an hour distributing the goods and taking pictures, and it was a fun and unique way to spend a summer afternoon! 



the bookmarks


Naturally, I wanted to give a handmade touch to my bookish donations. It's not like I can just leave them in there without any kind of note or anything! (For the record: yes, you can totally leave them without any kind of note, and, in fact, it is what most people do.)

However, it was my bloggoversary, and I wanted to celebrate it a little bit, so I left these bookmarks tucked within some of the books' pages, inviting people to use them while they were reading. Naturally, I left my Instagram username and blog address on the back... and who knows? Maybe someone will comment on my blog or Instagram, and tell me that they've decided to borrow one of the novels I dropped off!




the books

The selections that were already present at the little free libraries were not all that great for adults - lots of kids and puzzle books, and not a whole lot of lengthier novels or otherwise solid reading material! - which made me feel good about the ones I've left behind. All of these are books I've either previously read, and didn't necessarily want on my shelves anymore, or ones that had just been languishing on my TBR for too long, and just had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to read.

Because there were a total of four libraries near me, and it was my eighth bloggoversary, I decided that I would be dropping off two at each stop!

the wrath and the dawn and the rose and the dagger, renee ahdieh

zelda, nancy milford
love warrior, glennon doyle melton

pink sari revolution, amana fontanella-khan
as if! the oral history of clueless, jen chaney

final girls, riley sager
a heartbreaking work of staggering genius, dave eggers






This was all my first-ever interaction with a little free library in the wild, and I have to say, it was pretty fun! They were easy to spot and easily accessible from the street, and every single one had at least one shelf of books inside it already.

The stewardship of these little guys seemed to be pretty great, with almost all of them having different things to please users, be it exterior decorations, or a stack of bookmarks piled up just on the inside, for people to take from. One even had a little visitor's journal, in which people could write notes about what they picked up or dropped off on their visit, or leave a brief review of a book they enjoyed!

I can totally see having something like this in my front yard when I'm older. It seems like not only a great way to give back to your community and foster a love of reading directly in your neighborhood, but  also a means of easily recycling old reading material. I can't wait to go back... if only to check out whether my books have been picked up or not!



Have you ever visited a Little Free Library? Have you ever considered being a steward to one? Let me know, in the comments below!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Crazy Eight, Part Two: My Eighth Bloggoversary Haul



Like I mentioned in my previous post, I recently celebrated a pretty significant milestone: I've officially been blogging for eight years! 

While that "crazy eight" number proves to be a pretty big mental hurdle to get over, I knew I was going to be honoring my blogging birthday in my annual fashion: with a big ol' book haul. So, I headed out to go pick up the goods, from two of my favorite places...


barnes and noble haul


It's become a piece of time-worn tradition, that on my bloggoversary, I set out for the blissful summer air conditioning of Barnes and Noble first, and select some new - very new - reading material. Five titles total, to be exact!

Whereas other parts of the year, I remain pretty tight-fisted on how much I spend on brand-new books - usually preferring to buy secondhand, like from Powell's in Portland, or more recently, from Book Outlet, or better yet, lending prodigious amounts of more expensive new releases from the library - my bloggoversary is one of the few times of the year I truly let loose, which is why I almost always walk away with more than one hardcover copy. Or, in the case of this year, three!



This year's choices display some pretty interesting trends in the kinds of books I regularly pick out for myself. I think as time goes on, I only get more invested in Fantasy... and that I know I place a lot of trust in authors I love (hey there, Jennifer Egan). And, as it turns out, in the New York Times Bestseller List, as four of these books have authors who have been there before!

So, from a new YA release from an author I've read before, to a classic Fantasy tale I didn't realize was a book first until a few months ago, here's the lineup of literature I bought to celebrate my eighth anniversary!

Circe, Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles was not only a moving and enthralling YA retelling of the Achilles mythos (from Homer's The Illiad) - told from Patrocles' point of view - but it remains one of my fave LGBT+ picks for that age bracket. That book made me cry... so now that this one covers one of my favorite overlooked characters from the Greek myths, that of Circe (from The Odyssey), I'm truly looking forward to crying again.

Kill the Farm Boy, Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Never has a book title and tagline - "Once. A pun. A time." - made my brother and I laugh so much. Whether it's the promise of gleefully riffing on the standards of Chosen Ones, or the marketing point "for fans of Monty Python," I feel like this will make for a great vacation read this August.

Spinning Silver, Naomi Novik
Novik's Uprooted was a Fantasy favorite for me when I first read it, back in 2016. While I think it's interesting that Novik chose to wrote a companion novel, rather than a continuation in the series, I'm excited to meet her new characters... and I'm pretty stoked that the covers of the two books pair together so perfectly, too!

Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
Egan is one of my favorite authors of all time. Not only do I love her to bits, but I've foisted my enjoyment of her on plenty of others, too. However, Manhattan Beach marks a bit of a departure from her regularly post-modern works, choosing instead to write a linear piece of historical fiction, and I'm excited to see what that looks like.

The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle
I've somewhat annoyingly preached the glories of the 1982 animated masterpiece The Last Unicorn for over a decade, without ever knowing that the Mia Farrow / Jeff Bridges / Christopher Lee / Angela Lansbury- helmed work of art was based off a book. WHAT?! Clearly, it's high time I fixed this grievous error, and read the darn thing!


library haul


Naturally, one does not just visit the bookstore when searching for new reading material... especially not when you have four holds come in all on the same day! After I had wrapped things up at Barnes and Noble, I headed over to do a little celebrating at my local library.

In Other Lands, Sarah Rees Brennan
One of my surprise favorites from the last year, this YA Fantasy standout has been on my mind for a reread recently, just because summer is such a Fantasy-friendly time, in my opinion. However, I might have to wait a little while for that, as my little brother quickly expressed interest... and so far, he's loving it!

Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together (Sort Of), Arden Rose
As as self-help fanatic and somewhat floundering college graduate, I can honestly say I have a significant weakness for books about "Adulting." The ideal of a singular tome you can purchase that will somehow grant you the keys to becoming a functioning, impressive human person, is the Holy Grail I choose to pursue.

How Not to Die, Michael Greger, M. D.
Having a younger sibling go vegan for the better part of a year, is more than enough to make you start rethinking your own eating choices. This popular and attention-grabbing title is a favorite among the healthy-eating community, and I'm trying to get to it soon (mainly because it's so thick, I don't think it would make too much sense as a vacation read!).

Proud: Living My American Dream [Young Readers Edition], Ibtihaj Muhammad
Fun fact about me: I took fencing lessons for about a year, when I was 13 years old. While the hobby fell by the wayside, the appreciation for the physically demanding and fast-paced sport has never truly waned, and certain not in regards to this particular fencer, USA gold medal earner Ibtihaj Muhammad. Not only the first American Olympian to wear a hijab, she has also achieved one of the highest honors I hold dear (having a 2018 Barbie in the "Shero" collection made in her image!).



in total


Well, not in dollars, I mean. I meant "in total" more like "in summary"... and the idea of proudly proclaiming how much money I hemorraged in purposefully purchasing three separate hardcovers makes me want to hurl. At least I sure got my money's worth at the library, right? 

In summary, I picked up nine books. From Fantasy faves, to new nonfiction, I think I really ran the gamut when it comes to celebrating my big milestone with some new material. But, like I said, I sure spent a lot of money on this particular venture this year. If only there was some way I could give those kinds of resources back to my community... ;) 

Guess you're going to have to wait for the third and final installment in this celebratory series to find out! 



What books would you have picked up for your celebration haul? Which of the ones I chose should I read first? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, July 27, 2018

Crazy Eight: Reflecting On My Eight Years of Blogging

My very first post, on July 24th, 2010! 
It's official: I've been blogging for eight years. 

It's almost hard to quantify... this blog has been one of the greatest long-term pursuits of my life, and something I've contributed to more regularly than almost anything else (besides my extensive journal collection, of course). This blog can be measured as longer than the time I spent in both high school and university level classes. It's one of the most valuable resources I have in my continued personal growth as a writer, and it's something I've made almost completely on my own. The skills I've gained throughout the publication of it has taken me places I had never thought before.

Like in the past year, for example. Taking a leaf from the books of a few of my friends - as well as the greater bookish community - I started social media account linked to this blog, for the first time. My Instagram handle - @playinginthepages - might be the same, but the content is different in a way that frees me up to engage with other book fans in new and meaningful ways that don't always come across when you write pretty strictly in short-form reviews and essays. #Bookstagram is a wild, weird, and welcoming place, and I've already made new friends that I would never have been able to reach out to otherwise, including some who, surprisingly enough, live barely a stone's throw away from me.

Another change, for me, has been giving myself room when it comes to writing about my other passions alongside reading. There's so much more I care about in life, and I've finally started to make more room in my blog to reflect that. The rise of the "Tastee-Reads" series was a welcome surprise to myself, that allowed for the integration of my passion for cookbooks as a favored reading material into my regular posting schedule. I love cooking, and I love the aesthetic value that comes with doing so (you eat with your eyes first, after all). Turns out, there's a way to talk about all of that, and books, too!

I've also tried to stop being so embarrassed about the ways I read. In high school - and college, come to think of it - I was constantly on the alert about protecting this narrow image of myself that I had only just learned to adopt: if I was going to be known as a reader and writer as primary personality traits, then I needed to reinforce those with as rigid and easily defensible material as possible. While I still wish I read more of the classics, I've stopped shying away from the kinds of books that turned me so far away before, leading to rereads of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight, as well as this summer's "Reading Romance" challenge.

Those things have resulted in some of the great blogging highs of the past year, because not only am I reading material that is fun and unique, but I'm still managing to do so in a way that is rigorous and academically curious. I love picking up books that have been tossed by the wayside, and finding a new favorite, or embracing the "New" shelf in the YA section of our local library with disregard to the fact that I'll be turning 25 this Fall. Readers are happiest when they are reading, full stop. Picking books that are fun for you will better ensure that you stay that way, more than slogging your way through a tome with someone else's stamp of approval on the front cover.

I'm so thankful for this blog o' mine, as well as the fan base that peruses it from time to time. My Dad hasn't ever missed a post, and reads them the day they go up, and my younger siblings can sometimes be trusted to look at the pictures and skim over the bolded parts. The people and friends who leave comments never fail to make my day, especially when it's on a "Top Ten Tuesday" post. Thank you so much for this platform, as well, for giving me a safe sandbox to play in, and a soapbox to stand on.

I greatly look forward to continuing to grow here.

(And, naturally, I didn't just celebrate my bloggoversary with a sappy blog post. Stay tuned soon for all the other shenanigans I got up to on this milestone, including a very large book haul, and a recap of a special charitable bookish adventure!).



Wow, I can't believe it's been EIGHT YEARS. Thank you for reading with me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Sensory Reading Memories

"Top Ten Tuesday" is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's "Top Ten Tuesday" theme - "Books with Sensory Reading Memories" - kind of stumped me at first. What do you mean, sensory memories? I don't listen to anything while I read, because it distracts me, so that strikes out audible memories, and I eat way too much while reading, so there's too much information there to make anything meaningful out of taste memories.

It was only when I freed up my brain a little bit, and started thinking from the opposite angle, that I finally started to get somewhere.

For instance, what books made me think of summer? Instantly, Tamora Pierce comes to mind, as she's always been the first pick for vacation reading, starting when I was in middle school. Then, there's summer reading, completed frantically while staring out the window at the sunshine outside. Then, there was the old classic, the one I read every summer.

So, it seems that I do have some sensory reading memories, after all. It's just not the experiences that shaped my readings of the books... but the books that shaped the experiences!



Image result for harry potter and the sorcerer's stone goodreads1. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, J. K. Rowling
My Dad was a prodigious nighttime reader, when it came to my sister and I. It's how all three of us first read the first two Harry Potter books: together. I can still remember when my younger sister and I shared a room, the two of us tucked under our matching bedspreads while my Dad read to us. Most notably, he pronounced the name "Hermione" disastrously wrong, but we wouldn't figure that out until the story hit the big screen.

2. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster
This children's classic will always and forever remind me of my Dad, because he might just be its greatest champion. Not only is this another from among the bedtime reading collection, but something he felt so strongly about, that each of us kids has our own collectible hardcover copy to fill out our own libraries. It has a full cast of characters taking part in the action, and for each one, my Dad gave it a voice in such a memorable way, that that's probably how I'll read them forever.

Image result for trickster's choice goodreads3. Trickster's Choice (Trickster duology), Tamora Pierce
This is exactly what I mean, when I said that Tamora Pierce's books remind me of summer. Older fans might sigh, because I read all of her works completely out of order... starting with the Trickster series, the summer after the 8th grade, while I was on vacation in Oregon. I had never read Fantasy like this before, and could frequently be found tucked up in the hammock swinging outside of our cabin, soaking up the words in every bit of sunlight I could find.

4. First Test (Protector of the Small series), Tamora Pierce 
Immediately after finishing the two Trickster books on that vacation, I needed more. Hence, why I could frequently be found reading Keladry's books underneath my desk in Geometry class, once I'd made my way to freshman year of high school. Thankfully, I had a fairly understanding desk partner, who would always make sure I was paying attention when it was important.

Image result for adventures of tom sawyer goodreads5. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain
The classic answer for bookish memory-related questions will always be this one, because of how much there is to pull from: I've read this book every summer since I was about 8 years old, and there are so many experiences that run flush with what I remember of that particular season growing up. From sitting in Summer School quiet-time every afternoon in elementary, to laying outside by the kiddy pool with our nanny, Lindsay, to reading it while curled up in my bed, under the shade of a gloomy Washington June, there are just about as many memories associated with this book, as there are stains on the inner covers, or tears along its spine.

6. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
The first of the two assigned summer reading memories I've mentioned, Wuthering Heights is notable for two reasons: I absolutely hated reading this book, and I finished both it, and the corresponding course material, within three days while on vacation in Sunriver, only days before my Junior year of high school would start. Frantically filling in notes sections on my Word document, and trying to skim over whole pages, only to realize I missed something and had to go back... this novel was an absolute nightmare, compared to the sunny weather I was watching outside.
Image result for into the wild
7. Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
Yet another summer reading gig, but the one from the year before, when I actually was prodded by my mother into finishing the assignment ahead of time. In my tween-and-teen bedroom, one I no longer shared with my sister, I had a large set of bay windows that faced the afternoon sun, and a desk turned against it, so by the time we hit July, I was roasting with the sun at my back when I tried to work... so most of this book was consumed, while sitting on the white carpeted floor, away from the sun's gaze.

8. The Big Book of Pasta: Your Complete Guide to Cooking Perfect Pasta Every Time
This serves as a stand-in for every other book I read while puttering around the kitchen, opening cabinets and stacking ingredients, while making sure not to accidentally move the page as I move around. I cook for my family quite frequently, but due to the rise of Pinterest (all hail), that usually takes the form of me peeking at my computer screen now, than it does the pages of a book (all of which are usually library copies). This one, however, is the counterpoint, as evidenced by its numerous tomato stains, and the battered spine, broken to the exact page for my sister's favorite Spaghetti Bolognese.


Image result for the spiderwick chronicles goodreads9. The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi 
Funny enough, I can't remember the first time I read this batch of small, hardcover books, about children who discover the magical (and dangerous) creatures living around the forest-bound house that their uncle lived in. However, I do remember the second: sitting in quietest part of the school library, enjoying my last chance to read books before Thanksgiving Break, when they'd be doing an inventory of all the books that needed to be retired.

10. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Yet another repeat read that comes with a whole host of various memories to pull from, the most notable part of this book, for me, was that we read it in my senior year of high school. While that year was one of the most significant of all of mine so far, for a few very important reasons, my English class that year was a star standout. I can strongly remember reading this book for the first time, during class itself, as our teacher had us read various parts out loud to the class, but I sped ahead. Thankfully, I had friends there to nudge me when it was my time to read... especially when our teacher selected me to playact as Lizzie during the first proposal scene (I crushed it, in case you were wondering).


What's in your Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bits of Books: More YouTuber Memoirs!


We're midway through summer, and the days are flying by... as are the books on my Goodreads Challenge! In the interest of speeding things up a little bit, I decided to compress two recent reads down into one review... because really, how many blog posts do I need to make about YouTubers?

Here are two memoirs, based on the lives of two very different Internet personalities: LGBT advocate and teen magnet Tyler Oakley, and beauty guru from across the Pond, Estee Lalonde!



bloom: navigating life and style, estee lalonde


29336778Estee Lalonde has been one of my consistent YouTube subscriptions, since my early college years. Her conversational style and life advice is down-to-earth and very chill, which is somewhat at odds as to the current status of a fashion and beauty influencer, and her life is highly affected by the fact that she lives in what I personally think is one of the most interesting cities in the world (London!).

Her book, Bloom, showcases a lot of her signature, laid-back and stream-of-conciousness thinking. It's very conversational and accessible, and despite the physical book's relative thickness, pretty short. Organized into bite-sized portions like "Life," "Home," "Fashion," and "Food," she breezes through each with various degrees of personal inflection, touching on things like her anxiety and depression, disordered eating, and the emotional toll of moving to a new country, without allowing the writing itself to get overly affected or dark.

The style of the book's formatting and layout was just as much of a factor in its construction as the actual word content, and I think it's actually one of my favorite parts of it. It is filled with photographs that are carefully stylized, without losing any sense of personal belonging or intimacy, and they illustrate Estee's sense of organization and colorful personality perfectly.

The fact that the composition of the book itself was so stylized, was both an asset and a detraction. It highlighted Estee's style and fit with her brand, but also felt somewhat disconnected from the highly personal stories she was telling. It was almost as if she was letting the reader get closer to her life, but not that close, holding them at an arm's length away courtesy of colorful blocking, text changes, and perfectly aligned photos.

It also didn't help that her life has changed considerably after the publication of this book last year: while she talks quite a bit about her boyfriend - the Internet best friend, who eventually wooed her to move across to England from Canada in the first place, and who she has been with since the launch of her channel - it stings somewhat, due to the fact that they have recently broken up, and are no longer together.

Regardless, I enjoyed reading it, though I can't say that it was one of my favorite YouTuber memoirs. I wish more attention had been paid to the words, as much as the formatting, and that Estee had gone a little deeper than just surface level attributes. I can listen to her talk for hours at a time on YouTube and on her podcasts; I wish that she had spent as much attention to her storytelling here.


binge, tyler oakley


Image result for binge tyler oakley goodreads
YouTuber Tyler Oakley is highly notable in his particular job market, due to his compassion and activism, high energy, outrageous sense of humor, and equally boisterous laugh. In a realm packed to bursting with big personalities, he has proven himself as a force to be reckoned with, after parlaying his fame into not just greater career opportunities, but significant ways to give back, which is why I'm such a fan.

Binge is a collection of bits and pieces of Tyler's life, likes, and history. Scattershot and short, he discusses more serious topics - like exploring his sexuality, his experiences with homophobia and heartbreak, and a childhood eating disorder - alongside the kind of topics he gleefully dishes on best, like details of late night partying gone awry, tales of hookups past, and his experiences in the fangirl lifestyle. The tones are disparate, but evenly weighed throughout the book, giving both the highs and the lows equal measure, each balanced out with his irreverent, conversational tone.

I do think there are elements of it that surprised me; namely, how raunchy it can get in various sections, especially due to the fact that I consider his fanbase to be rather young. I checked my thinking of, "Is he really okay with kids reading this?" when I put myself in their shoes, and realized that it was exactly the kind of thing I would have loved to read when I was younger (even though my parents would definitely not have approved).

Beyond the somewhat inappropriate nature of quite a few of the stories, there was enough heart to go along with it to recognize that Tyler wasn't blowing these stories up to exaggerate or hyperbolize his life, but because he is a storyteller at heart, who wants to share both the best and worst parts of his life with his fans.

While I think it started to lose a little steam towards the end, that deliberate sense of sharing was something that really set the tone for the book, and makes me think that no matter the medium, Tyler Oakley excels when he has a great story to tell.




What are some of your recent reads this past summer? Have you read any YouTuber books? Let me know, in the comments below!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Novellas and Short Stories


I read today's topic for Top Ten Tuesday, and actually groaned out loud. "Top Ten Favorite Novellas and Short Stories"? Have I even read ten?

As a rule, I never typically involved myself with short stories, mainly choosing to ignore it as a format until I started writing it on my own. Novellas always struck me as a bit of a strange form of measurement and questionable personal preference: why not just add in another b-plot, and stretch it out until it's a longer novel?

Still, the more I thought about it, yes, I have read some really good short form fiction writing within the past couple of years. Maybe this means I'm growing as a reader! Or maybe it's that when it comes to a great plot, engaging characters, and solid writing, I've figured out that it truly doesn't matter.


short stories


180075331. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, B J Novak
These hilarious short stories from the Office alum writer never fail to crack me up, as there are a few I have dog-eared in my personal copy that I return to time and again when I need a good laugh.

2. . Skeleton Crew, Stephen King
After a long battle deciding between Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Everything is Eventual, and this collection, I finally caved, and went with the first one I ever read. (You know, the one that has "The Mist.")

3. Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Tucholke
What continues to be not only one of my favorite books of horror shorts, but one of my favorite horror books of all time! This collection of scary YA shorts inspired by various other books, movies, music, and more are some of the coolest I've read, and I'm planning for a reread in the Fall.

4. Edith Hamilton's Mythology... and D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths 
I don't care if they fit, I'm counting them! I've been a fan of Greek mythology since I was a kid, and the stories within these two editions are told the best.


5. Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales 
20625032
Ditto as to the above! When it comes to picking and choosing your favorite fairy tale tellers, no one was more innovative or interesting than Andersen. Which I say, because he actually wrote his own material... something we can't say for other fairy tale authors. *casts a hard and venomous side-eye at the Brothers Grimm*

6. Beyond: the Queer Sci-Fi and Fantasy Comic Anthology, Sfe R. Monster
Once again, unsure if this truly fits the category, but because of how much I truly enjoyed the book, I'm sliding this one in! This compendium of short form comics, starring LGBT+ heroes and heroines at the helm in various science fiction and fantasy backgrounds, was a happy surprise that I wasn't expecting the first time I read it.

7. The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Because sometimes, you just want to rip through a handful of really great mysteries in a row. To be honest, this is here kind of as a placeholder for all of the really great mystery short stories I've read over my many years with the genre... and shoutout to Encyclopedia Brown for laying the groundwork for that particular hobby!


novellas 


255262968. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire
The series with the most gorgeous covers, also has some of the shortest material. Which is absolutely regrettable, because the quicker I finish these brilliant and unique fantasy stories, the less I get to proudly display them on my coffee table.

9. The Assasin's Blade novellas, S. J. Maas
While saying that I am woefully behind in the Throne of Glass series would be an absolute understatement - I haven't read them since Book 2! - I do remember really enjoying the novellas that kicked off the series, reading all four within the space of one week on my Kindle, during Sorority Recruitment 2013.

10. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach 
Interesting fact about me: I won a memorial scholarship during my senior year of high school, made in the honor of someone whose favorite book was Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I finally got around to reading it once I had graduated college... and despite the fact that it's not a sad book, cried a lot over it.



What's in YOUR Top Ten? Let me know, in the comments below!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reading Romance, Part Two: Vintage Romance

When I labeled this series as a beginner's guide, I meant it. As it came time to fulfill my challenge for the month of June, and choose a vintage romance novel to review, I found I had no background knowledge as to where to start!

how to choose?


I looked up various lists - courtesy of  Goodreads - to try and find some common titles, but nothing seemed like exactly what I was looking for.

Even a cursory glance at Google's recommended yielded too many classics: yes, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and their kind are technically romance novels... but then again, so is Madame Bovary. I needed something printed in mass market paperback, with a flourishy title, large-printed author name, and insane amount of hair on the cover.

I even looked into what it would take to buy a box of Harlequins off of the Internet... and you'd be surprised at the kinds of wonders eBay can work on the regular! However, no matter how good the price was, I knew I didn't exactly want a ton of those books sitting around, because they'd most likely go right back into our donation pile.

Instead, I went thrift shopping!


i'm gonna pop some tags 


The truth is, if I wanted to read like a romance novel fan, then I needed to read the kinds of books that romance fans have read before me. No matter what Goodwill, Value Village, or Bargain World that you look into, the place is sure to have bookshelves stocked with these kinds of novels! Their spines are broken, their covers are tattered, but the people on the front illustration are having just way too much fun to care.

At first, nothing was biting: everything my sister and I grabbed was either too recent (as in, within the past twenty years), outside of my comfort or interest zones (everything from pregnant heroines surviving domestic abuse, to stories centered around things like baseball and airplanes). A great population had, regrettably, seemed to be donated by the same person, all with the words "cowboy," "rancher," or "rodeo" in the title, which I uniformly rejected.

After a rigorous elimination of titles, we walked away with four books that seemed to hit all of the requisite marks. Ranging in years between 1990 to 1998, they were all over twenty years old, had completely ridiculous names and covers, and had the kinds of plots that I was actually looking forward to reading. We figured that I'd do a little more research into each, then from that point, make an executive decision... and we felt fine springing for the four of them, as each was less than two dollars!


what we found

  • Bobbi Smith's Rapture's Rage, published in 1983 by LoveSpell Books, but reprinted in 1997, which is the version I picked up. A brooding widower still scarred by his wife's death is drawn to the innocent woman everyone can't help but seek after.
  • Bertrice Small's The Spitfire, published in 1990 by Ballantine Books. In the year 1483, Lady Arabella Gray is whisked off on her wedding night by the vengeful Travis Stewart.
  • Jane Feather's The Hostage Bride, published in 1998 by Bantam Books. Out of all of the novels, this was the only one Google auto-filled the title for me, which was explained by its Goodreads rating of 3.61 out of 1,253 ratings. Portia, the unwanted bastard ward of a powerful family is mistakenly abducted in place of the marquis' daughter by a ruthless outlaw.
  • Susan Krinard's Twice A Hero, published in 1997 by Bantam Books. Y'all, I can't with this tagline: "She's finally met the man of her dreams... 113 years in the past." Apparently, while undertaking an expedition to Mayan ruins, our heroine falls back in time.


what I read 


Twice a Hero, Susan Krinard


Mac is tasked by her dying grandfather to return a broken necklace - the remnants of a Mayan expedition gone wrong - to the place it was found, and clear the name of an ancestor accused of killing his best friend. At the temple, however, she stumbles back in time, and straight into the arms of the man who was supposed to be dead. (And, gasp, he's hot!) Now Mac must complete her quest, and find her way back to the future... without messing up too much of the past!

It's my first impression of the romance genre, and I came away with a clear and distinct feeling: this was really, really fun.

  • Tropes bananza! Bookish heroine, nude swimming scene, emotional walk along the beach, masquerade ball...
  • Didn't spend as much time in the jungle, but instead, changed up locations halfway through to bring our main characters to San Francisco. I definitely missed the Indiana Jones vibes, the attention to historical detail made for decently interesting backstories for both our love interest, and the background characters. 
  • A vigilante subplot involving the freeing of exploited Chinese immigrants was something I was definitely not expecting; but, surprisingly, I didn't hate it. It gave greater depth to the otherwise kind of boorish love interest, and tied into his backstory in a poignant way. 
  • There were words that I didn't know! Like actual, more-than-SAT-worthy words! I had to Google them! That's awesome! Is all romance diction this low-key impressive? 


The Hostage Bride, Jane Feather


Portia, a willful and wild young girl raised under the wide gaze of an alcoholic father, is suddenly thrust into the middle of a conflict between Court and Parliament, during the English Civil War. After her father dies, she is entrusted to the care of Cato, marquis of Granville, and sworn enemy of local outlaw, Rufus Decatur. After a case of mistaken identity finds Portia captured not once, but twice, she finds herself spending a lot less time trying to escape, and a lot more trying to see Decatur's side in the 30-year-old feud. When her loyalty is called into question, threatening the lives of those she loves most, which side will she choose?

  • Holy cradle robber, Batman! Not sure if it was attention to historical detail that made our author decide to make 17-year-old Portia the perfect leading lady for mid-30-something Rufus, but it was incredibly discomfiting to read. 
  • Lots of ladies breaking out of traditional clothing roles and choosing to wear pants, so far occurring so far in each of the books I've read. It was in keeping with both characters, so I don't mind it too much... and I appreciate the fact that even when reflecting backwards through the nostalgic gaze of history, we can all agree that layered dressing, especially in gowns, is a pain. 
  • Portia is one among three young women, around whom this particular romance trilogy is set. Unfortunately, all are given distinctive attributes that serve to infantalize them in some manner: Portia is a tomboyish prankster and desperate for female friendship, Phoebe is prone to accidental spills and is constantly dirty, and Olivia is not only incredibly shy, but speaks with a slight impediment. All of these character traits only serve to emphasize the already uncomfortable differences in age between them and any potential suitors. 


Takeaways from both novels: 

  • lots of tropes (but that's not a bad thing!)
  • kind of mean or standoffish main love interest, with some kind of shot at redemption
  • kind of nerdy or shy heroine, who maintains an independent streak
  • once you get a couple nicknames, you just kind of stick with them for the rest of the book
  • a young and innocent girl set up as a foil against less-likely-to-bend-to-convention leading lady
In terms of which I preferred, the further I got into Hostage Bride, the more I realized I liked Twice a Hero. It's not that Hostage Bride is bad, because it's not - I liked it! - but it's that Twice a Hero was a lot more of an example to me of what I had thought reading romance would be like. Whereas that choice was more fun, more outlandish, more lighthearted and compelling, Hostage Bride was just bogged down by a few more problematic behaviors, historical details, and questionable writing choices that made the entire thing lose that sense of buoyancy that Twice a Hero had.


where to next? 

As detailed in my plan, the next step in my journey is into the realm of recently written historical romance. I have a couple novels from Tessa Dare already downloaded onto my Kindle, and a few Julia Quinns already coming my way courtesy of a recent book order (Keep your eyes out for a new haul soon!), so I'm pretty ready to get started. 

Besides, I have a cousin getting married this weekend, so I get the feeling I'm going to be in a pretty romance-friendly mood! 


Have you read any vintage romance novels? Which of the ones I listed do you think you'd want to pick up? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, July 2, 2018

Review: The Happiness of Pursuit

20170321
I'm not exactly the boldest crayon in the box, when it comes to standing out on my own. However, one of my favorite self-help authors happens to be an expert in that kind of independence... as well as using that self-drive for forces bigger than yourself! 

I became a fan of Chris Guillebeau's unconventional advice and conversational writing style earlier this year, when I picked up a copy of his first book, The Art of Non-Conformity, in which he explained how he achieves his particular travel-oriented, self-owned lifestyle, by acting outside of social rulebooks. Not only was it interesting and a lot of fun, but it ended up so marked over by my annotations, that I don't even feel like I can lend it to anyone else... so I choose to just recommend everyone else buy it instead!

Or, you could just go my route, and rent it out from the library, like I did with this copy of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest that Will Bring Purpose to Your Life.

As someone who grew up loving mythology and fairy tales, and still currently finds themselves regularly consuming copious amounts of fantasy and science fiction, I've always loved the idea of going off on a quest of my own. In this non-fiction account of not only Guillebeau's own travel bug, but of other grand quests and the people that followed them around the globe - across a country, into the tallest trees, on foot, by bicycle, by sailboat, by kitchen plate, and more - you'll quickly find yourself inspired to go chasing one of your own.

It's not enough to just blindly follow your own whimsy (though, by all means, lead the way). As he explains, it's something that has to make sense for you, something you are personally invested in and made passionate by, something you'd be willing to sacrifice your old and comfortable ways of life for. For Chris, that was traveling to every country on the globe. For others, it was donating $10 every day to charity for a year, walking from one side of the United States to the other by foot, breaking into Apple offices in order to develop a graphing calculator, or going completely silent for over a decade.

Each of these courses of action goes under Chris' examination, in order to dissect them for common themes, productive actions, and similar forms of quest types. What he finds isn't just that people are interested in the same things, but that they are propelled by the same sense of adventure and spirit, one that is accessible to anyone else willing to make the sacrifices to take the journey. He takes down some of the predominant arguments against not following your own grail - from supposed expenses, to traditional social values, and more - in order to help convince you to lead your life just as fully, without regrets. Even quests that end poorly, or aren't fulfilled, have something worth learning from them.

While I'm still searching for that particular challenge that will drive me to journey around the world or unrelentingly towards a singular goal, I truly enjoyed reading about other peoples', at least for the time being.

Final Verdict: For those looking to get inspired for a new life goal, or thinking about striking out on their own journey, this book is an inspirational and motivational perspective on those who strive to achieve the unachievable.


What's your life goal? Have you ever considered undertaking a difficult journey? Let me know, in the comments below!

Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading Romance, Part One: Introduction


As I mentioned in my recent post on my summer reading goals, I'm trying to branch out a little bit in my genre scope, into the realm of romance novels: bare torsos, flowing locks, male smoldering, and all! However, I didn't include a lot of detail as to what that kind of adventuring is going to look like.

So, I wanted to give you all a little more background into my thought process... like how this self-organized reading challenge is going to play out, and the kinds of assigned reading I'm giving myself to augment my understanding! (And trust me: that's all going to be a lot more fun than it sounds.)


a little bit of background


So, when I say I'm a total romance newbie, that's not entirely true. Obviously I've made my way around some romances before... I mean, Pride and Prejudice is on pretty constant rotation on my reading list, and that's not counting the adaptations!

But even beyond that, I've read enough YA romances in middle and high school to fill a few bookshelves. Of course, some of those were of the vampire variety, but for the most part, my penchants were for those based on fairy tales or starring a shy and nerdy heroine, because I am nothing if not consistent, and my romance habits are nothing if not self-insert. In the mix were some various historical romances, as well as anything having to do with boarding schools or circuses.
Oh, and I absolutely love this movie.
But seriously, that's all the genre experience I got.

(Listen, I'm not saying I'm proud of it, I'm just saying it happened.)

As an adult, the only thing I've come close to reading a true straightforward romance novel, was Lauren Willig's The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, but that was back in either late high school, or early college. Either way, I never blogged about it... mainly because I was too embarrassed. My mom ended up reading it after me, and totally hated it, so it never warranted much discussion around the house, anyways.

And, of course, due to the fan hype surrounding the show, I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, so that I would be able to write up a College Fashion post on it, back in 2014! I wasn't a fan, as I talked about recently in a Top Ten Tuesday lineup, and definitely don't plan on revisiting the series.

But those two are still fairly wider-fiction romances, and that's really not what I'm trying to focus my attention on with this challenge. I'm not looking for something you might still be able to find tucked into a general reading section, I really want to make sure what I'm reading is above all a romance, before it's anything else. If I'm trying to read my way deeper into the genre - and find its place in the literary criticism pantheon - for myself, then I need to focus on the most extreme trajectory.

So, to orient my challenge into something that forms a little more structure, I had to break down exactly what that meant.


the categories


june - vintage romances


As you'll soon be hearing in a new blog post, I decided to start my romance journey by going as far back as I could... and that took the form of only romances written before the turn of the century. While I tried looking around various places on the internet to find the best recommendations for these kinds of novels, the actual answers were few and far between... something you'll be hearing more about in that particular update!

Rules for this romance: has to be written before the year 2000, has to be a mass market paperback, has to have some kind of flowery writing or dashing figure on the cover. As you'll be seeing in the post, I achieved that criteria many times over!


july - recently written historical romance


I don't know if it's just my own observations or what, but I feel that the world of the historical romance has really revved up its game within the scope of the past five years or so. At any rate, it's a phenomenon that's gained a lot of traction in the world of the book blogger!

Rules for this romance: has to have been written within the last three years, has to be a mass-market paperback, has to be set sometime before the 1900s... and for some reason, these also seem to be predominantly set somewhere European. (To give you a sneak preview: I've been looking forward to pick up something written by Tessa Dare or Julia Quinn!)


august - modern contemporary romance 


I'm leaving the category I'm perhaps the most wary of for last...

Rules for this romance: has to have been published within the last two years, and set within that time period, as well. I've decided it cannot be YA, so it has to come from either the New Adult or Adult Romance genres... and to be honest, I'm kind of trying to get to one of both, for a truly comprehensive experience.

I have very little point of reference for these categories, so I'm the most unsure of what titles to pick up. I've seen the name Colleen Hoover come up a couple of times, the title The Wedding Date, by Jasmine Guillory, has been flung my way, and I've also had The Simple Wild, by K. A. Tucker - which doesn't actually come out until August! - recommended to me for a choice, as well, but I'm keeping my card open for as long as possible here.

all summer - romance genre literary criticism and popular discourse 


Thankfully, I'm not alone on this journey, of trying to find the points of contact between popular romance and literary criticism: there are already plenty of people doing that same work!

From accessible and popular websites like Medium, XOJane, Jezebel, and Bustle, to staid and serious publications like The Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, and The Economist, there are plenty of articles worth reading when it comes to the greater cultural context of romance novels. There is even an academic journal completely dedicated to that singular subject: JPR Studies (the Journal of Popular Romance)! 

Furthermore, there are also books dedicated to such research. I've currently got Pamela Regis' A Natural History of the Romance Novel checked out from the library, with sticky flags sprouting from its pages. There are other books that have been written on the same topic - Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels, Explained by Maya Rodale, is currently sitting in my Amazon shopping cart, while I debate paying $10 to get it in paperback - that I would hope to have time to get around to, as well.


the project

So, there you have it! I'm not really dipping my toes in here, so much as diving in headfirst, having thought out exactly how I'm going to be doing the diving beforehand. 

By the end of the summer, I'll have read a minimum of 3 complete romance novels and at least one published work of literary criticism, as well as have consumed numerous other resources that I'll be happy to link to you all, as well.

Hope you're ready, and reading, for a really good time! 



Do you read in the popular romance genre? What are some books or authors you'd recommend to me next? Let me know, in the comments below!