Monthly Reading Update – January 2018 Edition

Hello Readers!

At the start of January I had set out to read three books. The three books I had planned on reading were:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – In just one short week I will be heading to Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  Because I didn’t have a chance to read the series in its entirety (like I planned) last year, with the start of January I said to myself “Nicole, you have to at least read Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. I read the first book a few years back, and while I (vaguely) remember it, I wanted to read at least one more book in the series as to have a better understanding of the world, so that I wouldn’t be completely confused (and not be a complete poser) while at Universal Studios.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy – I added this to my January to read list because it’s one that I’ve wanted to read since I first met Julie Murphy. After reading Dumplin’ I’m convinced that I will love Murphy’s debut just as much as beloved Dumplin’.

A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – You don’t know this yet (a post about this will be going live tomorrow) I want to  step outside of my reading comfort zone and read more adult books.  Not knowing where to start I stumbled upon this while browsing Amazon. It sounded like a book I wanted to read. So I quickly added it to my list.

Three books may not seem like a lot to you, but for me it is a definite challenge. I have terrible time management skills, don’t necessarily have the longest commute, and honestly am not always in the mood to read when I get home from a long day of work.

But this month, I read  three and a half books plus eleven picture books for my weekly storytime programming at work. In total I read thirteen and a half books!

I decided to put off reading Side Effects May Vary and A Visit From the Good Squad so that I can continue reading Harry Potter. To date (when this post is live) I have currently read:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • and I am halfway through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Not only have I surpassed my monthly goal, but I also found a new (to me, after all it is my first time read Harry Potter) series that I absolutely love. Speaking of love – I am thinking about posting a series of reaction posts to the Harry Potter books. Would that be something you’d like to see/read here? If so, please comment below.

Like I said before three books is a challenge for me. I am a slow reader, but I have found a solution – one that I really wish I thought of sooner. Because I drive to and from work I cannot read my current book. However, I can listen. While I am at home, I have my physical copies of the book(s) I am reading, but for my commute (which is upwards of 30 minutes) I also have the audiobook. I alternate between the two and have found that, not only does it help me read more, but it helps me understand what is going on in the story (and sometimes as an added bonus the audio version helps bring the story to life).

Because I count everything I read, this month I also read a total of eleven picture books. They were:

  • The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo by Laura Murray
  • Bear Loves Ben by David McPhail
  • Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion by Alex T. Smith
  • Catch that Cookie by Hallie Durand
  • Red Riding Hood by James Marshall
  • Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz
  • Pretty Salma by Niki Daly
  • The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle
  • Perfect Apple’s Bad Day by Edward Hemingway
  • Who Needs a Bath by Jeff Mack
  • Carrot and Pea: An Unlikely Friendship by Morag Hood

With that said, let’s get into my February goals.

I am hoping to read four books in February. I am hoping to finish the remaining books in the Harry Potter series. The books I still need to finish are:

  • Half of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

Besides them, I also hope to read:

  • Side Effects May Vary 

And still, I’m sure I’ll be reading several more picture books.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Read

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.

Hello Readers!

We’ve all read books that, after reading, we wondered why we actually read them. Maybe they were books that we didn’t like but felt we had to finish for one reason or another. Maybe they were books that you read and loved at one stage in your life, and looking back you can’t imaging that you – the present you – would have ever picked up such a book. Whatever the case may be, we all have those books.

For me, the books on this list were books that I really didn’t like, but read through for some odd reason. With that said, does this mean that I feel that these are “bad” books. They were books that simply didn’t suit me.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer – I think almost everyone has read this book. And while I enjoyed it, I still can’t believe that I read it! As much as I love a good paranormal read, the premise of it, in my opinion, is cheesy. At the time though, I really did enjoy it (as much as I hate to admit it lol), and it did provide some escape from a highly stressful time in my life.

My Blood Approves by Amanda Hocking – I’m starting to see a trend here. When I was in grad school, and particularly stressed out/overwhelmed I turned to books that I wouldn’t have to put too much thought into (or books I felt that I didn’t need to put much thought into). And for some odd reason, teen vampire books became my escape.

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills by Lizabeth Zindel – I know I read this. I don’t remember much of it besides the fact that it’s a Hamlet retelling or a loose one at least. I remember it being very intriguing, but by the time I finished it, I was left wondering why I felt the need to finish it. Looking back, I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would have.

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer – I was really excited to read this book. The plot seemed intriguing. But as  I was reading something was off. And I knew, about a quarter of the way through that this wasn’t a book for me.  But I had to keep reading – I had to find out exactly what happened, and why it happened the way it did. In the end, my questions weren’t answered, and I was left very unsatisfying.

As Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann – This is a book I picked up solely because of a review I read. It was a practically glowing review from a source that I trust, so I thought “this must be a good book!” But I read though it, and realized that even though it was good (even great) for some readers, it wasn’t good for me. I didn’t particularly love the main character, and ultimately I found that the plot wasn’t as unique as pitched to me in that review.

A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchinson – Again this was a book I was VERY excited to read. And yes, it was another Hamlet retelling. I promise, I don’t have a thing for Hamlet retellings (even though it may be one of my fave works of Shakespeare). I REALLY, REALLY did not like this book. There were many issues I had, specifically with how the main character allowed herself to be treated by her male counterpart. Thinking about it now, I realize I should have walked away. But I didn’t because I had hope that the character would grow and see what was really happening, and how it wasn’t okay.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan – It was at this point in my reading life that I started to walk away from books that I wasn’t enjoying. I walked away from this book. But I can’t believe how much of it I actually read. I love the premise of the plot, but feel that ultimately it wasn’t executed well.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige – I knew that this wasn’t going to be a me book from the moment I read the first page. But there was just so much hype I needed to see what it was all about. But instead of walking away from the book, I stuck it out and now am sitting here thinking “I can’t believe I read this book!”

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson – While I thought that this book was very well written, there was something that just didn’t work for me. Again, it was a book that I knew as I was about halfway through that I wasn’t going to fully enjoy, but I had hope.

Tales from My Closet by Jennifer Anne Moses – This, judging from the pitch, seemed like it would be a great book to read if I needed to escape. But it wasn’t. In fact, it caused me more stress because I didn’t love the characters.

Middle Grade Monday: Real Friends

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

For as long as Shannon could be remember, it’s always been Shannon and Adrienne, Adrienne and Shannon. That is … until middle school.

Shannon doesn’t think that middle school will affect their friendship. And it doesn’t. But a new friend – Jen – will.

It seems that Adrienne is hanging out with Jen more and more. Because of that it seems that she’s ditching Shannon more and more. Shannon has to do something to save their friendship, but what?

Will becoming popular solve all her problems? Or will it become the problem that breaks up all of her friendships?

Real Friends, written by author Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, is a realistic graphic novel that will surely resonate with, not only the intended audience, but all who pick it up. Whether you are a kid in middle school or you are like me – an adult with a full time job, this book has something for every reader.

There were many (many!) reasons why I enjoyed Real Friends. But the first reason is an obvious one: the writing. This isn’t Hale’s first rodeo – her writing is strong, engaging, and above all, has a “voice” all her own.

The second reason, another obvious reason, as to why I enjoyed this book was because of Pham’s illustrations. I enjoyed how her artwork was so realistic. Readers could look at the many faces within the illustrations and easily see themselves. Besides that, I loved how the illustrations not only enhanced Hale’s story, but they how they also told their own side of the same story.

The third, and maybe not so obvious reasons as to why I really enjoyed Real Friends, was that I found it to be authentic. The dialog felt true to the age the characters were portrayed to be. The situations were real and well realized – many kids more than likely experience exactly what young Shannon experienced. I also enjoyed how Hale didn’t shy away from the scary side of growing up. Hale doesn’t sugarcoat things, and as a reader I appreciated it, and feel that young readers will also appreciate it.

Freebie Friday: December Stars Hollow Monthly Subscription Box Review

By now you all know that a) I’m an insanely HUGE Gilmore Girls fan and b) I subscribe to a monthly box called Stars Hollow Monthly put out by Lit Cube.

I love getting mail. That is half the reason why I love this subscription box. The other reason is because it’s all Gilmore Girls themed.

When the box arrives, I can’t wait to tear into it.

And this past December, I was super excited, because I assumed there would be some special, Christmas-y items.

This is what I found inside of the December Stars Hollow Subscription Box.

A set of four Christmas Ornaments
A pair of socks with little cups of coffee all over them.
A reusable travel mug that says “Everything Magical When It Snows.”
A tin of Cisse Cocoa Company Semisweet Hot Cocoa mix
A box of peppermint Marshmallows
A magnet with a purple scarf that says “I Smell Snow”
An “oi with the poodles” car air freshener

The first thing I noticed about this box, was the actual box. Previously all the goodies were contained in Stars Hollow themed decorative boxes. Some had umbrellas, some had tiny coffee cups, one even had food in honor of Sookie St. James. But this time around it was a plain, brown cardboard box. Honestly, I was disappointed.

Lit Cube’s Stars Hollow Monthly – which I pay for out of my own pocket – isn’t exactly cheap. It’s roughly $30.00 plus dollars. While I fully get that that money goes to the goodies inside of the box, I do kind of expect for that price should cover the packing supplies.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the December box was a set of four Gilmore Girls themed Christmas ornaments. There was a purple one that has the Dragonfly Inn logo. One that was silver and said Al’s Pancake World. A gold ornament with the Doose’s Market logo. And lastly, a Christmas red ornament with a Luke’s Diner logo.

Honestly, before I took them out of the plastic packaging, I absolutely LOVED them. I thought they would be a really fun edition to the Christmas tree. But after taking them out of the packaging, I felt that they weren’t the best quality. The silver “Al’s Pancake World” wasn’t only scuffed, but the top bit which holds the string (to hang the ornament) in place was slightly broken. It doesn’t sit on the ornament correctly. I’m not sure if it was because it was cheaply made (I feel really bad saying that but that’s the truth of it) or if the packaging was lacking.

Moving on, I found a pair of socks made by the brand Evenbright. The socks are super cute, and feature pictures of coffee cups and coffee beans all over them. Perfect for any Gilmore Girls fan. The socks, which they aren’t heavy, are a solid pair of socks. They aren’t flimsy, and they do not feel scratchy. I am looking forward to wearing them in the future.

Each and every month each Stars Hollow Monthly box features a magnet and a car air freshener. I have never used the air fresheners, because I don’t necessarily love those kinds of fresheners – I find them to not last very wrong. But the magnets I absolutely LOVE. And I am sure that my parents love them too! I loved the soft baby blue color of this one, and how it perfectly captures, not only Lorelai, but winter as a season.

The next two items I found go hand in hand. The first was a shiny blue, reusable to go cup that says “Everything’s Magical When it Snows.” While I only half heartedly agree with the saying (I, unlike the Gilmore Girls am not a fan of snow), I like the cup just fine. It seems to be a sturdy plastic. But with that said, I have found that they give a LOT of cups/mugs in this subscription box. I mean, I get it, both Lorelei and Rory drink a lot of coffee, but it’s getting a little excessive.

In the past I have received:

A Doose’s Market mug
A Ceramic Luke’s Diner (reusable) to go cup
A metal travel cup that says “I Drink Coffee like a Gilmore Girl”
Two stemless wine glasses with fun Gilmore Girl quotes
A mason jar “Luke’s Diner” cup

That’s a lot of drink ware for an already cramped kitchen cabinets.

Honestly … it’s a bit munch and I’m kind of over it. Even though I will undoubtedly put this to good use.

Accompanying the mug was a tin of Semisweet Hot Cocoa by the brand Cisse Cocoa Company. It’s a brand I have heard of, nor one I have tried before. I thought it was a nice touch to the box, and I don’t want to say too much because I have a whole review already written and schedule to post next week about it. But in short: I liked it. And stay tuned to a full review to find out why I liked this product.

Finally, what is hot cocoa without marshmallows. But not just any marshmallows, but Wondermade Peppermint flavored marshmallows. I haven’t tried these, and I probably won’t. I don’t necessarily love peppermint, and I don’t necessarily love marshmallows. The fact that these two things have been combined, does not make me want to try them any more than I would want to try any flavored marshmallow. But I can honestly say, the packaging was nice.

Overall, I think this box contained more items in it than in previous boxes. Which was a nice surprise, because again, it’s not a cheap subscription box. But I also found that the items weren’t all of the best quality.

Each month I think the next will be great. But the more boxes I receive the more they seem to be missing the mark. But I’m still very much on the fence as to whether or not I’m going to keep subscribing. I’d love for you to weigh in readers! Please comment below! Tell me what I should do? Or at least what you would do if you were in my shoes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Know I Read, But Really Can’t Remember Anything About

(Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. The above image was taken and altered by me for the purpose of this post.)

Hello Readers!

Even though I do not read as much as others, I still feel like I read a lot. And because of that, I feel it’s almost impossible to remember each and every book I have picked up and read. Especially when I do not have a great memory.

Today, I am sharing with you the not quite ten books that I know I have read, but for some reason remember little to nothing about.

Tithe by Holly Black (this was one of the first “ya” books I ever read. And it was what lead me to be the Holly Black fan I am today)

Harry Potters and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: I read this years ago, and haven’t really thought about it until I decided to read the whole series.

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott: I can’t remember, but I don’t think I necessarily loved this book. I think that’s why I cannot remember any detail about this book.

A Girl, A Ghost, and the Hollywood Hills by Lizabeth Zindel: I remember bits and pieces of this book when I sit and try hard to remember, but I can’t necessarily remember it as a whole.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: Again, this was one of those books I read way back when it was first published, and was one of the first “ya” books I read. Because of that I remember the main plot points, but not the finer details. And yes, I have watched the Netflix show, and I did enjoy it, but I cannot tell you whether or not it stuck close to the original source.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson: I read this one very quickly, enough said.

A Grass Rope by William Mayne: This is a book I read at least twice when I was a kid. It was a book I continually picked up while at “library” in grammar school. I read it, and loved it, but haven’t a clue as to what it was about and why I possibly loved it.

Dear readers, please share what books you have read and remember little (or absolutely nothing) about down in the comments. I hope I am not alone in my lack of remembering.

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews.

Hello Readers!

I spend a lot of time scrolling through the pages and pages of discount books on Book Outlet. Most of the time I don’t buy anything, because let’s be honest: I don’t really NEED any more books. But a few weeks ago, while scrolling through, I realized there were several books I wanted.

Throwing caution to the wind, and ignoring the fact that my book shelves are already packed (it gives me a reason to go through and purge some books I no longer want) I ordered four books. Two of the books have been books that I’ve been wanting since I first heard of them. The other two I purchased on a whim, but ones that I think I would really enjoy.

The books I purchased are:

Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

Beautiful Broken Girls by Kim Savage

Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan

Have you added new books to your collection or to your to be read pile? If so, please share in the comments. I’d love to know!

Freebie Friday: Top Books of 2017

Hello Readers!

Today I’m sharing with you my top books read in 2017. I broke it down by category: top picture books, top middle grade books, top YA books. and top graphic novels. Generally I do not love sharing these kinds of lists because it is very difficult for me to narrow down my choices. To make it a bit easier on myself (and ensure that this post was super long) I decided to limit each category to my top five favorite books. In total these are my top 20 favorite books I read last year.

Top Picture Books:

  • Love by Matt de la Pena
  • Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
  • Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea
  • Actual Size by Steve Jenkins
  • The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito
  • Honorable Mention: Every Color by Erin Eitter Kono

 

Top Middle Grade Books:

  • Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
  • Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Hotel by Kimberly Willis Holt
  • Threads by Ami Polonski
  • Honorable Mention: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pearce

Top YA Books:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  • Honorable Mention: The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Top Graphic Novels:

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
  • The Stonekeeper (Amulet #1) by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Akame ga Kill by Takahiro
  • The Girl From the Other Side, Vol. 1 by Nagabe
  • Honorable Mention: Real Friends by Shannon Hale