January Monthly Favorites

I have decided to start trying something new and that is what this blog post is! Every month, I find that I have a lot of new favorite things that I want to talk about. My favorite things consist of both bookish and not bookish things. I am going to attempt to do this every month and incorporate things like movies, music, podcasts, books, etc.

Here are some of the things that I have been enjoying in January…

Movies- La La Land

La_La_Land_(film)

I know that I’m really late to the game on this one, but I’m so glad that I eventually ended up watching it. It was way better than I was expecting it to be! I love Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone together and this movie was magical (if that’s not too much of a cheesy way to describe it). I have heard that the ending is pretty controversial, but personally, I loved it. Also, I have been listening to the soundtrack on repeat while I do homework. The music is so good!

Spoiler Alert: I’m so glad that it ended really realistically and not in the classic Hollywood romantic ending. I don’t know if this makes me seem unromantic or not, but it’s true. The fact that they parted after smiling at each other in the end left me feeling content and satisfied. They both benefitted from being in each other’s lives, yet they still had to go their separate ways to pursue their dreams and they couldn’t have both– realistic and satisfying

Podcasts- The Heart of It by Estee Lalonde

BD01E15A-0FDA-4891-831F-F26B1AF0E67E

If you don’t know Estee Lalonde, she is famous for her youtube channel where she posts about beauty, lifestyle, etc. I started listening to her podcast series, “The Heart of It” over winter break, as I was spending a lot of time in the car commuting to a class I was taking. Each episode in the podcast covers a broad topic and hosts a special guest that gives a unique perspective on the subject. The topics include Travel, Identity, Mothers, Strength, Feminism, Makeup, Tattoos, and Protests. I think she has a second season coming out sometime in February and I can’t wait to listen to it! Somehow, she just has this way about her that makes everything so calming and nice to listen to. You can definitely tell that a lot of effort was put into each episode and each one is very enlightening. Definitely, recommend!

Music- Turn by The Wombats

31848

I absolutely adore The Wombats’ music and when I heard that they were coming out with a new album in February, I was ecstatic! Their song “Turn” is one they released from the album early and I have listened to it way too many times on repeat. So good.

If you’ve never listened to The Wombats before, you should also check out “Curveballs”, “Pink Lemonade”, “Tokyo”, “Jump Into The Fog”, “Walking Disasters”, and “Moving To New York”. They have a lot of other really good songs: those are just some of my favorites.

Books- The Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

This was probably my favorite book that I read this month. I also really loved And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (my full review), but I think The Chalkman just stole the show for me. It was such a gripping, mystery story and I didn’t want to put it down!

Read this one if you’re in the mood for a book that keeps you turning pages. You can read my full review of it here: The Chalkman 

Bullet Journaling

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

This month I started trying to bullet journal because when is a better time to do that than the start of the year? My journal is super simple and not beautiful like the ones on all the youtube tutorials, but the only way that I will actually use it is if I don’t have to spend too much time on it. I really like the idea of having different spreads and being able to put whatever you want in it. You can cater it to yourself and if it looks kind of ugly, that’s okay. It’s only been a month though, so I’ll still have to see if I stick with it, but so far so good! Also, yes, I immediately put a narwhal sticker on the front after I bought it 🙂

 

Advertisements

Book Review: The Chalkman by C.J. Tudor

My Rating: FIVE STARS

Goodreads Description:

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he’s put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank–until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

My Review:

I gave this book 5 stars and that isn’t something that I do often! To put it simply, I loved this book. And per usual, it is really hard for me to put into words why I love the books that I do, but I shall try.

When I first read the description, it had me hooked. The plot seemed so creative and I had a huge desire to pick it up and read it right away. I am so glad to say that it lived up to my expectations.

The storyline always had something huge/exciting that would happen and would leave you needing to keep reading. I honestly could have read it in one sitting if I had the time because of how much I wanted to keep knowing what happens next. I was always so excited to pick it up and read a little bit of it before bed and sad to have to put it down. I think that says a lot about how great the plot was and how easy the prose was to read.

One of the major things that I appreciated about this book was the fact that all of the characters contained a little bit of crazy about them, but in the end, they were all well developed. Their actions were realistic and not just attributed to them being a psycho maniac. I have read books like this where the author assigns all of the people in the story as “crazy” and attributes their actions to the fact that they are “crazy”. This is just not realistic–not everyone can be off their hinges. In this book, everyone’s reasons for their actions were comprehensible and something that could actually happen, which made it even more creepy.

If you are looking for a creepy, mystery novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat and turning pages until after midnight, then this is the book for you!

 

ARC Review: The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Publisher: Berkely Publishing Group

Genre: Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Published Date: 1/9/18

Goodreads Description:

The fourth title in Genevieve Cogman’s witty and wonderful The Invisible Library series, The Lost Plot is an action-packed literary adventure.

In a 1930s-esque Chicago, Prohibition is in force, fedoras, flapper dresses and Tommy guns are in fashion, and intrigue is afoot. Intrepid Librarians Irene and Kai find themselves caught in the middle of a dragon vs dragon contest. It seems a young librarian has become tangled in this conflict, and if they can’t extricate him there could be serious political repercussions for the mysterious Library. And, as the balance of power across mighty factions hangs in the balance, this could even trigger war.

Irene and Kai find themselves trapped in a race against time (and dragons) to procure a rare book. They’ll face gangsters, blackmail and fiendish security systems. And if this doesn’t end well, it could have dire consequences for Irene’s job. And, incidentally, for her life . . .

My Review:

I quite enjoyed this book. When I read the description of it, I knew that it sounded like something I would pick up. Therefore, I really wanted to read it. Little did I realize, until I picked it up, that it is the fourth book in a series called The Invisible Library series.

You could certainly read this as a stand-alone. The plot seems to be new and you can pick up on the rules of the world fairly easily. However, for me, I feel like I could have gotten more out of it if I had read the books in order. This would have let me get to know the main characters (Irene and Kai) better and understand their relationship more. For this reason, it got a three out of five stars from me, but if you have read all of the other books and liked them, then you should definitely pick this up.

The part of this book that I enjoyed the most is Irene’s character. She is so incredibly clever and witty! She seemed almost like the female version of Sherlock Holmes because of how well she was able to analyze a situation, figure out other people’s motives, and get herself out of sticky situations. I had so much confidence in her intelligence that whenever she was in a trap, I knew she would find the best way out of it that would end up benefitting her in the end. Irene’s thought dialogue contributed so much towards the intricacy of the plot.

Ultimately, if you are a book lover, a lover of fantasy, or a lover of mystery and intense storylines, then you should definitely read this book.

I received this ARC on NetGalley from Berkely Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. 

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

My Rating: download-1

Goodreads Description:

‘My name is August.
I won’t describe to you what I look like.
Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.’

Ten-year-old August Pullman wants to be ordinary. He does ordinary things. He eats ice-cream. He plays on his Xbox. He feels ordinary – inside.

But Auggie is far from ordinary. Born with a terrible facial abnormality, he has been home-schooled by his parents his entire life, in an attempt to protect him from the cruelty of the outside world. Now, Auggie’s parents are sending him to a real school. Can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, underneath it all?

My Review:

This was a beautiful story about a middle school boy with a facial abnormality trying to navigate life. It truly brought me back to my own middle school days with the way that Palacio described all of the different types of people.

It’s very easy to look at the characters and compare yourself to who you probably were in middle school. Were you the one being bullied (August), the bully (Julian), the one who fully befriended the lonely kid (Jack and Summer), or the one who is nice to the lonely kid but can’t risk not being popular (Charlotte).

It’s also easy to find each of these types of people in the world outside of school and that’s why this book is so important to read. The lessons it teaches can be applied almost anywhere. We should all try to have Auggie’s outlook on life if we are the ones being bullied or to be Jack and Summer when someone else is in need of a friend.

I absolutely loved Auggie’s character. He is so lovable and hilarious that it’s easy to see that the only reason some other people don’t want to be friends with him is because of the way he looks. His story can teach so many good lessons about inclusion and not judging other people on the way they look.

The other thing I really liked about this book is that it gave the perspectives of Auggie’s friends and family so that we are able to see how Auggie has touched and affected their lives.

I listened to this book on audiobook and while I wouldn’t wholeheartedly recommend the audiobook version (some of the voices were hard to listen to), I would definitely recommend picking this one up. I don’t think you will regret reading this. It is so lovely and important and I know it is a story that will stay with me.

Book Review: The City Of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

My Rating: download

Goodreads Description:

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles. 

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound. 

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. 

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for

My Review:

I am really surprised to say this, but this book just wasn’t for me. I went into it fully expecting to love it because of all the amazing reviews that it has, yet that just wasn’t the case. However, there were many parts that I did appreciate and I will outline those first (good before bad). Nonetheless, I couldn’t give this any more than three stars because I found myself not wanting to pick it up as I was reading it.

The good thing about this book was how much thought went into everything. It is easy to tell that Chakroborty knows every detail about the world and has managed to make it very politically complex.

The plot was really original and unlike anything that I have read before. All the characters are extremely gray (meaning they aren’t only good or bad) and the plot was filled with unexpected plot twists (especially towards the end).

Now, onto the bad. Throughout the entire book, there were so many different names of groups, people, etc. that I couldn’t keep things straight. This made my whole reading experience a bit confusing. I’m still not completely sure how to feel about most characters or things that happened in the story.

To be fair, I think a big part of the book was meant to have the reader not be sure who was on whose side or what the motives were behind things. However, I feel like the story left too much out in these aspects so that the reader is forced to go back and reread multiple passages. It’s not enjoyable for me when I end up having to do this with a book.

I found the characters to be very complex and I enjoyed reading from Ali’s perspective the most. The entire book alternates between Nahri and Ali’s narratives.

The ending made it feel like there is going to be a second book, but I don’t think I will be picking it up if there is one. This is due to the fact that I didn’t find the story riveting until about the last 200 pages of the 526-page book.

Before reading this, make sure that you are ready to think hard and expect to be confused at times. I would recommend this book to people wanting very detailed world building with complex politics and characters.

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My Rating: 4_5_StarRating

Goodreads Description:

First, there were ten – a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal – and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My Review:

This was my first Agatha Christie book and I really enjoyed it. Believe it or not, I hadn’t known who Agatha Christie was until I saw the screen adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express. The movie was very fun to watch and after learning more about Agatha, I wanted to pick up one of her books. I got this one from a Book of the Month box.

While reading this, I didn’t want to put it down. It was so gripping and I got completely wrapped up in the Who Dunnit of the story.

As you can see from the top, I gave this a 4.5 out of 5 stars. The only reason that this didn’t get 5 stars from me was that halfway through the book, I came up with a theory of how I wanted it to end and it ended a different way. I know what you’re thinking…not the best reason to take away half a star, but hear me out. It was basically only for personal reasons.

I’m not saying that it ended badly, the ending was quite clever, however, I was so caught up in how I wanted it to end that I was a little disappointed. I really really liked my idea for the ending and I thought it would have been even more clever. I’m not going to write what my idea actually was though because who knows…. maybe I could incorporate it into something that I write in the future…

The idea of having a bunch of strangers on a mysterious island with no idea who keeps killing them off one by one is so creative and spooky. Honestly, while reading this, my heart was pounding and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone in a reading slump (it helped me out of mine). It was a quick read (264 pgs) and something that is hard to put down considering the constant shock factors. In fact, I think it would be really fun to read this in one sitting on a dark and rainy day (just a suggestion).

Book Review: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

A book review of The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

My Rating 3-out-of-5

Goodreads Description:

In the spirit of Station Eleven and Never Let Me Go, this dazzling and ambitious literary debut follows three generations of beekeepers from the past, present, and future, weaving a spellbinding story of their relationship to the bees and to their children and one another against the backdrop of an urgent, global crisis.

England, 1852. William is a biologist and seed merchant, who sets out to build a new type of beehive one that will give both him and his children honor and fame.

United States, 2007. George is a beekeeper fighting an uphill battle against modern farming but hopes that his son can be their salvation.

China, 2098. Tao hand paints pollen onto the fruit trees now that the bees have long since disappeared. When Tao’s young son is taken away by the authorities after a tragic accident, she sets out on a grueling journey to find out what happened to him.

Haunting, illuminating, and deftly written, The History of Bees joins these three very different narratives into one gripping and thought-provoking story that is just as much about the powerful bond between children and parents as it is about our very relationship to nature and humanity. 

My Review:

I was really excited to read this book when I won it in a giveaway. It sounded like it was going to be a super interesting historical fiction read and that genre is one that always tends to keep my interest. I was also hoping that this book would teach me a lot more about bees and their disappearances (a phenomenon happening in our world today).

Both of those things turned out to be true, but not quite in the way that I had expected.

The book was an interesting historical read, however, it was just too slow for me. At the time that I read this, I think that I needed something a bit more fast-paced considering I just finished up reading a lot of textbooks at University. I found myself not wanting to pick it up, not because the story or writing wasn’t good, but because it wasn’t the pace that I wanted to be reading. This is one of the main reasons that the book got a 3 out of 5 stars from me.

Nonetheless, the story taught me a lot about bees and was a really creative take on the past, present, and future relationship between bees and humans. I loved that the story was told from three different perspectives and I think that is what made it work. Maja would not have been able to tell the whole story without the three different time periods.

The characters in this book were all parents and the story centered very strongly on their relationships with their kids. For this reason, it was hard for me to connect strongly with their narratives because I have never been a parent. I’m not saying that they weren’t at all relatable, but I do think that this story might resonate stronger with parents and people who know what it feels like to have a strong relationship with a child.

Lastly, I would like to say that the ending of this book was very beautiful. All three narratives were tied together quite nicely.

If you are at all interested in reading this, I don’t want to discourage you from picking it up. However, you should know whether or not you are truly interested in the story and be aware that it can get slow at times. Overall, it’s a pretty informative read.