Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Recently Read: Mary's Monster

Author: Lita Judge
Genre: Nonfiction/Illustrated
Publication Date: 2018
Page Count: 320
Rating: 5/5

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Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley created Frankenstein tells Mary Shelley's life and woes with beautiful illustrations. From her own birth, which brings misfortune, to the death of her beloved, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the creation of her masterpiece and the science fiction genre, Mary Shelley's story is heartbreaking and poetic. 

I read Frankenstein a couple of years ago, and I believe it is one of the best and most important novels ever written, even more impressive, is that Shelley was eighteen years old when she began writing it. I researched the origin of the novel a little bit when I first read it, as I was writing a paper on it, and immediately knew I needed to learn more about Shelley. When I saw this one, I was interested, but upon learning it was completely illustrated, I immediately ran to my library to grab it. 

The story of Shelley's life is told in free-verse and accompanied by absolutely breathtaking illustrations. The back-flap reveals that this books took Judge five years to finish, and I cannot imagine how much work went into this novel. Every illustration is a full-page or double-page charcoal drawing, which captures the mood of Shelley's life perfectly. 

Mary Shelley had a turbulent life and romance with the famous poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her fear of and tragic experiences with pregnancy and birth lead her to explore themes of creation and motherhood in Frankenstein and her involvement with Shelley, Byron, and others in the Romantic circle allowed for her to create and publish her novel. Shelley wrote Frankenstein in nine months, while she was pregnant with her second child; her first had died ten days after birth. It was published anonymously, but after it's great success with the public, Lord Byron published proof that Shelley was the author.

This biography is a great introduction to Shelley's life. It gives the complete story of Shelley and her creation, but it doesn't go too deep. I have plans to read much larger biographies, but I'm glad that I read this one first. The art is what really makes this novel. Shelley was an amazingly brilliant woman who defied society at every turn and created one of the most important and popular novels ever written. I recommend this novel for all levels of interest in Shelley and her work. Even if you are a seasoned-Shelley-scholar, the artwork in this novel is worth seeing alongside her story. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Library Holds List

I've been trying to cut down on my book buying this year, as I am running out of shelf space for my physical TBR at the moment. It really stresses me out to see a jam-packed shelf of  books that I have owned for various amounts of time that are still unread, so I've been trying not to add to it. I have of course bought some books this year,  but I have been using the library a ton in the past two months. One thing I like about placing holds on books from the library is that you're on the list to get the book, but if there are people in front of you, you don't get it right away. That means that in the mean time I can read the books I own and it really is the best of both worlds. Here's a look at what I have a hold on at the moment in both physical and ebook format from my library.

Everything I have read by Maureen Johnson has made me crack up, so I really want to read her new release. She's great at mystery and humor, and since this is a mystery, I think I'll really enjoy it. 

This sci-fi novella is a bit different from what I would normally pick up, but I've heard great things about this series, and I have been interested in science fiction lately. I've got a long list of books I want to read in this genre, and I think this will be a good starting place. 

What really drew me to this nonfiction account of Mary Shelley's life and her creation of Frankenstein was that it is illustrated. I love Frankenstein; I think it is one of the best novels ever written, and I really want to learn more about Shelley. I have a longer biography of her and her mother on my shelves already (Romantic Outlaws), but I think this shorter one will be a nice introduction. 

Ever since reading Women in Science, I have been wanting to read all of the anthologies about historical women! They are so expensive though, so I am loving getting them from the library and then deciding which ones I want to buy in the future. This one looks like it has beautiful illustrations, which is something on my priority list for books like this. 

This is a similar anthology, but I have heard some mixed things about this one, so I wanted to check it out from the library and get in on the controversy. This one has become very popular, which is why I was surprised to see the controversy around it. I don't think this is the best anthology out there, but I want to check it out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Recently Read: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Genre: Children's Classic/Science Fiction
Page Count: 256
Publication Date: 1963
Rating: 4/5

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Meg's scientist father has been missing for years and no one will tell her family where he is. She's having trouble fitting in at school and misses her father. When a stranger shows up at her house and  claims to know where her father is, Meg, her younger brother Charles Wallace, and a boy from school named Calvin go on a journey through time and space to save him.

I never read this as a child, and with the Disney adaptation coming out in March, I knew I needed to pick this up. The adaptation looks brilliant, and I have very high hopes for it. I wasn't sure what to expect out of this book as I know it is well beloved, but also aimed at young readers and was written in the 1960s. I sometimes have issues with older books aimed at children because they can sometimes seem too simple or dumbed-down compared with the children's books of today. That was not the case with this book.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was. I was pulled in right away by Meg and the three Mrs. characters. The writing was good and the plot and concepts totally unique. I knew absolutely nothing about this book (in fact I kept waiting for them to ride a big furry creature before realizing that I was thinking of The Never Ending Story) so I truly got to experience the story for the first time, and as an adult, loved it.  

I really liked the science fiction elements of this story as they were based in reality and L'Engle doesn't shy away from including real science in the book. The concept of wrinkling time is so poetic and a great analogy and mental image. The themes running through this novel are both obvious and subtle and for readers of all ages, as there is much to examine under the surface of this novel. I think this book would have been so unique and outstanding in its time of publication, but I also think it stands the test of time as a story that will fascinate young readers and inspire nostalgia in older readers for years to come. 

I am really looking forward to seeing this novel visually, as its world is so interesting and has the potential to be so beautiful. I really like the casting for the movie as well. On a side note: the inclusion of a few references to  religion has me interested in researching the motif of religion in children's sci-fi and fantasy novels. If you have examples of novels besides this one and Narnia with religious references or themes, let me know! 

If you haven't read this one yet, I really recommend you do before the film comes out. It's a quick, light-hearted adventure through time and space. What more could you want in a children's book? 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Made a Romance Skeptic Swoon

I am not the biggest fan of romance as it's portrayed in books and movies. I find myself rolling my eyes at a lot of things classified as romantic, both in real life and in books and movies, but there are some portrayals of romance that I will grudgingly admit make me swoon. Here's ten of my favorite book romances (some go way back to my teenage years) that I got embarrassingly caught up in. 

1. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Like every teenage girl, I loved Sarah Dessen. This was the first book of hers that I read and I remember being so in love with the romance, and the male interest, Wes, specifically. The fact that I can even remember his name after all these years proves how much I loved him.

2. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares 
These books were so important to me as a teen, and I loved them so fiercely. The romances were so amazing for teenage me, and I remember going through a roller-coaster of emotions for Bridget's and Lena's romances specifically. I was so heartbroken over the book three events concerning Lena and Kostos. 

3. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This is still the saddest book I have ever read, and my teenage self was so enthralled by this romance. I felt so grown-up reading it and felt every emotion so deeply. The movie version is NOTHING compared to the novel, and I still really recommend this one. 


4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
This is my favorite romance out of the Austen's I have read so far. Anne and Captain Wentworth's romance was so agonizing and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for them to communicate their feelings to one another, even though I knew how the story would ultimately end. That deceleration of love!- The best I've ever read.  

5. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli 
I was so giddy over this romance! I had a huge smile on my face for the whole novel and I can't wait to see this one played out on film! This story is so well-done and so much fun. 

6. The Diary of Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy Forever! These books are so funny and Bridget is so real and endearing. The movies are some of my favorites too. Even though they are completely different from the novels, both stories are brilliant. 


7. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater 
I don't want to spoil anything just in case you haven't gotten to these books yet, but a romance between two main characters in this novel is so swoon worthy. I wasn't really impressed by the main romance in the novel, but the side romance had me on the edge of my seat for the whole series. 

8.  Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff
Something about this book really spoke to me. Perhaps it was the magical realism idea of visiting each other in their dreams, but this romance really caught me off guard and I liked this novel so much more than I expected to. 

9. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
I devoured this novel about first love and fate and had butterflies the whole time! This romance was so sweet and nostalgic, but there was a lot more to this book than just the romance which I appreciated. 

10. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Another book that I devoured; I couldn't put this down. I loved the romance in this one so much as well as the other themes that were woven in. This is one I can see myself rereading for ages to come. 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Poetry Spotlight: Black History Month

In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.

Read the Rest of my Poetry Spotlight Posts 

I figured I would celebrate Black History Month the best way I know how to celebrate anything, which is with some poetry! Today I'm here to spotlight a few of my favorite black poets and their amazing work. I've also rounded up some really interesting links for you at the end of the post!

Countee Cullen
Cullen was an American poet writing during the Harlem Renaissance (see links below for more info.) Harlem, New York was a hub of art and creation for black Americans in the 1920s, and many artists influenced each other and worked together. Cullen has a bit of a mysterious childhood, but he was adopted by black activist and minister in 1918. Cullen was gay, which caused an internal struggle with his strict Christian upbringing, and tension with his adopted father. Cullen was briefly married to W.E.B Du Bois' daughter Yolanda, until she filed for divorce, partly because of Cullen's attraction to men. After their lavish wedding, and then divorce two years later, he taught French at Fredrick Douglas Junior High, where James Baldwin was one of his pupils. Cullen wrote poetry, novels, plays, and translated fiction, but it is his poetry that has garnered the most recognition in recent years.  

Yet Do I Marvel-- I remember reading this poem for the first time, which is how I know it's a good one. Although the poem only contains two sentences, it packs a huge punch. Cullen starts by stating that he "doubt[s] not God is good, well-meaning, kind" and that he could explain his reasons for everything in this world, including the suffering, but he ends the poem by questioning one specific act of God: "Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:/ To make a poet black, and bid him sing!" 

From the Dark Tower-- This is a poem that speaks of history and future change. The imagery in this poem is very strong and clear and the rhythm carries you through the the final message at the end.   

Langston Hughes
Hughes is one of the most-known Harlem poets, and for good reason. His poetry is easily accessible for all ages, yet is complex and powerful. Hughes' work received a fair bit of criticism from his contemporaries, perhaps because his work was so popular during his lifetime, and many questioned his decision to write about ordinary life and ordinary people in black America, including those of the lower class. Hughes was active in every aspect of the Harlem art scene, running a magazine, writing novels and poetry, and contributing to theater programs. The themes in Hughes poems are so applicable to today's political conversations that they could have easily been written yesterday rather than almost a hundred years ago. 

I, Too-- This short poem is bursting with emotion and statement. Hughes is a great poet to read at any time, but particularly in today's political climate.
Harlem-- I wrote on this poem in college and loved taking an in-depth look at all it had to offer. It has so many poetic elements that work together to bolster the impact of the theme. This poem is great to hear read aloud and must be read a couple of times.
Let America Be America Again--This poem is so relevant to the current American political climate surrounding a certain campaign slogan with a very similar message as the poem's title. Hughes challenges the idealistic nostalgia for the American past and shines a light on all those who were excluded from America's 'glory days.'

Claude McKay
Born in Jamaica, McKay was another central figure to the Harlem Renaissance. Many of McKay's poems focus on themes of racism and bigotry. Like Hughes, McKay was criticized by his choice to portray the lives of lower class African Americas, as some activists felt it hurt rather than helped their case for equality. Like Cullen, McKay's work fell out of popularity after his death, but has reemerged and found a new popularity. McKay's poems cover religion, race, Jamaica, and resistance. 
If We Must Die-- One of his more popular poems, McKay speaks of resistance, resilience, and retaliation. 
Harlem Shadows-- Beautiful imagery and a melancholy tone.
America-- This is a great poem about loving your country, while also wanting to change and improve its shortcomings.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is my hero. She was such an amazing woman AND so talented. She literally did it all. She danced, sang, acted, wrote, inspired, and had every job under the sun. Her autobiographies are SO GOOD and I highly recommend you read them as well as her poetry. In addition to all of this, she was also an activist and active in the political spheres of both America and Africa. Her poetry is honest, beautiful, and empowering. Her poems often contains themes related to race as well as gender, and the best way to experience them is to hear her read them herself. 
Phenomenal Woman--This poem is so empowering and really captures the grace of Ms. Angelou.
And Still I Rise--This is one of my favorite poems of all times, and I have linked you to a version of Angelou reading it. I love her delivery of this poem as well as the sentiment behind it.
Caged Bird-- The imagery in this poem is similar to the title of Angelou's first memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The beautiful imagery and juxtaposition in this poem build the themes of longing and hope. 
Kin-- This very emotional poem is dedicated to Angelou's beloved brother Bailey, who died as a young man. Angelou was very close to her brother, and the two had a beautiful relationship.

Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks is one of the most popular and highly regarded poets of the twentieth century. She was the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize, and received much recognition during her lifetime. Brooks wrote during the Civil Rights Movement in 1960s America, and many of her poems have a political undertone. Brooks left her publisher Harper Row in the 1970s in order to help publishing companies focused on publishing black authors by allowing them to publish her works. Brooks faced backlash for some of the political statements found in some of her poems, but she was undeterred by this. Brooks experimented with various forms of poetry and wrote a two volume autobiography.

We Real Cool--This is one of Brooks most anthologized and popular poems. This short poem is best heard aloud. Brooks often covered the life of 'everyday' people as Hughes did in his poetry.
The Bean Eaters--There's a lot going on in this simple little poem.
Riot-- This poem has so many emotions and so much human nature packed into it. There's anger and hypocrisy, violence and ignorance, and truth. 

Interesting Links:
Celebrating Black History @ The Poetry Foundation-- This page has poems, articles, essays, and podcasts to help you celebrate Black History Month. 
Modern American Poetry's Page on Countee Cullen-- Poetry analysis, essays, and more links. 
My Literary Look post on the Harlem Renaissance-- Find more information on this literary movement and more recommended authors to check out.  

Please leave me your favorite black poet or poem below! I'm always looking to expand my list of favorite poems.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Recently Read: All the Crooked Saints

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Young Adult- Historical fiction/Magical Realism
Page Count: 311
Publication Date: 2017
Rating: 3.5/5
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Also by Maggie Stiefvater:
The Raven Boys Quartet

A town in the desert named Bicho Raro is full of saints who grant miracles and the pilgrims who come to receive the miracles. The Soria family has been preforming miracles in their 1960s Colorado town for generations, but they can only perform the first miracle which manifests a pilgrim's darkness, the banishment of the darkness must be done by the pilgrim and the pilgrim alone. Interference or help from a Soria is forbidden, until a saint and a pilgrim fall in love. 

I loved The Raven Boys quartet by Stiefvater and have been meaning to read more of her works since finishing the series. I was browsing in my local bookstore when I came across a signed copy of this one, so I decided it was the next Stiefvater I would read. Stiefvater has a very unique and beautiful writing style which lends itself to magic and magical realism very well. This book, I was a bit surprised to see, is very full of magic and borders on fantasy. I loved the concept of this novel and the idea of miracles and darkness being given physical forms. The concept was totally unique and felt so real and plausible. The town of Bicho Raro had a real life of its own and felt as if it truly existed thanks to Stiefvater's writing. 

Despite this, I felt the book was lacking in a few ways. I thought that this concept had so much potential and the story could have been much longer or more developed. I love that it's a standalone, and I think the ending was great, but I think there could have been more 'middle' to the story. The characters were a bit unmemorable, and although Stiefvater's writing is always beautiful, I felt that the writing sometimes got in the way of the plot and made me loose interest. 

With that being said, I think this book is definitely worth reading and there is a lot of beauty in this story. I'm eager to read The Scorpio Races as I know a lot of people love that novel, and of course, I will be reading whatever Stiefvater releases in the future as her novels are always unique, atmospheric, and entertaining. I'm really itching to reread The Raven Boys now! 

Monday, February 5, 2018

January Wrap-Up: T.V. Books and Movies

I had a really great month of consuming! Here's a quick look at what I read and watched this month.

T.V and Movies

I watched the first season of Glow on Netflix in two days. It's been in my list since it came out, and I was just craving a new show to binge and started it on a whim. I really, really liked it! It was funny, smart, and full of beautiful 80s leotards. I loved the majority female cast, and the concept of female wrestling. I really liked Alison Brie in Mad Men and loved seeing her in a leading role. I'm really exited for season two. I recommend checking this one out if you're looking for a quick and entertaining watch.

This was my first time watching this 80s cult classic and I loved it! If you've been here before, you know that I LOVE a well-done satire, and that's exactly what this is! This was a super smart and hilarious satire of the typical 'teen-movie.' Winona Ryder is brilliant of course, and I'm already itching to watch this one again! If you have ever watched a typical teen-movie, you'll love how this one pokes fun at them. It also holds up extremely well, as teen-movies haven't changed much in the past thirty years. This one is on Netflix U.S.  

Carol has been on my to-watch list since the Oscars last year, and it finally came to Netflix. This was a quiet but powerful movie, and I have a feeling that the book it is based on is even better; it was immediately added to my TBR after finishing the movie. This movie is beautiful to look at, and both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett give great performances. This would make a great Valentine's Day watch.  

I LOVE Robert Redford (who doesn't?) so I always pick up his movies when I see them out and about. I love 'classic' and older movies and have a pretty large collection of them. This is one that I bought during the summer last year and then never watched, so I figured it was about time. This movie was a lot more than I expected it to be. Streisand's character was so interesting and the ending was a lot different than I expected. This isn't your typical romance movie, and it has a lot to say about love and compromise. 

I had a really great reading month in January too! I read six books, and really enjoyed them all. I would love to keep up this pace for February, as I want to concentrate on reading the books on my shelves. In January, 4/6 books I read came from the library, which is great, but doesn't help me reduce my physical TBR. 

Bird Box. Josh Malerman-- 3.5/5 REVIEW
The Miniaturist, Jesse Burton-- 4/5 REVIEW
Weave a Circle Around, Kari Maaren-- 3/5 REVIEW

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers who Changed the World, Rachel Ignotofsky-- 4/5 REVIEW

The Art of the Affair, Catherine Lacey and Forsyth Harmon-- 3/5 Quick thoughts: I don't think I'm going to officially review this one on the blog because I don't have that much to say. This is a small coffee table book that chronicles the connections (romantic and otherwise) between famous people of the 20th century. The layout was a bit confusing at times, and a lot of the information was scattered. I didn't know a lot of the people in this book, which made it less interesting at times, but I loved the art and it introduced me to some new super interesting people. It's worth checking it out from the library or browsing through at the bookstore.  

All the Crooked Saints, Maggie Stiefvater-- 3.5/5 REVIEW: to come

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Hope you had a great January and good luck on your February goals and plans! You can see what I plan to read in February here!