May Wrap-Up

May is almost over – it’s May 31st, how time flies! It feels like I blasted through this month, but I’m pretty happy with the number of books that I read this month.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the books that I read in May.
In no particular order:

  • So B. It by Sarah Weeks
  • The Quaker Cafe by Brenda Bevan Remmes
  • Everything I never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • The Comforters by Muriel Spark
  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

All told, I read 8 books in May. Some of the books are slim and easy to get through (like middle grade books), granted, but I could at least bring back the book count from the plunging seven to eight. Considering I was almost 100 pages into Cloudstreet by Tim Winton before I gave up, which means I had been reading it for about 4 to 5 days, I think this book count looks pretty satisfactory and I’m sort of proud of myself.

Favorites:

  1. The Book Thief 
  2. Wonder
  3. Everything I Never Told You

The Book Thief was hands down the best book that I read this month. It’s simply a wondrously beautiful, poignant book. It’s no doubt a masterpiece. It left a huge impact on me.
Everything I Never Told was also a stunning debut novel from Celeste Ng. It’s a complex yet beautiful, heart-breaking story. It still kind of haunts me to be honest.

The Least Favorite

  1. The Jane Austen Book Club

It really pains me to put it like this, but it was really a disappointment for me.
That was the book I had been meaning to read for the longest time so when it became apparent to me that I might not like this book as much as I had thought, the reading experience rapidly turned into a laborious one 😦
I wanted to read more of the book club activities and discussions rather than background stories of the book club members. (rant-alert!)  It would have been a lot more engaging and intriguing to get through that way.

 

Apart from those I mentioned above, I also enjoyed reading So B. It and The Comforters.
The former is a really good middle grade coming-of-age story and the latter is a rather peculiar, intriguing book. The story seems a bit disjointed and disorienting at a glance; it makes you wonder where the story is heading to, but pretty much everything comes together nicely in the end. I particularly fell in love its somewhat cynical, sinister undertone. This book actually made me get another Muriel Spark book and I can’t wait to read it.


Although I’m still working my way through All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, it looks next to impossible for me to finish the remaining 150 pages today, so I decided to do a wrap-up today.

 

That’s it, guys. Those are the books and my brief reflection on my May reads.
How about you? Did you have a good reading month?
Let me know in the comments below, I can’t wait to read your answers!

Thank you for reading as always, I’ll talk to you all again soon! 😀

 

So B. It by Sarah Weeks

So.B. It

So B. It

This is actually hard to rate this book; a beautiful middle-grade coming-of-age story, yet the ending left me with a bitter-sweet feeling.

Heidi is a 12 year-old girl with her 13th birthday coming up and she is living with her Mom with ‘a bum brain’ (as Heidi puts it). Her mother can only handle 23 words and she can only do things after a grueling, numerous number of repetitions, she is by no means capable of raising Heidi herself. She was like ‘a machine with broken parts,’  she just couldn’t function as a mother thus Heidi is literally raised by her neighbor, Bernadette. But she has her own issue, too – she’s been suffering from agoraphobia which prevents her from going outside. Even a small step outside the house will send her into a meltdown so Heidi has been taught everything she needs to know by Bernadette (she is very smart by the way; she used to love reading and go to library practically every day.)

There is one word that only her mother uses, “soof,”  and this word starts to occupy Heidi’s mind; no one knows what it means and that makes Heidi more and more itching to know what it is.
One day, she finds an old camera buried in a drawer and decides to have the film developed. The photographs reveal that her mother might have lived in an institution named Hilltop Home, Liberty in New York.
Being anxious to know more about her mother and find an answer to a question, “who am I?,’ she determines to set out on a journey to discover her own identity – all by herself.


I picked up this book being on a huge middle-grade kick after ‘Wonder.
The first thing that I noticed was this book got a very similar vibe to my all-time favorite middle-grade book, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass.
The overall feel each book delivers is of course slightly different, but the main plot where the protagonist embarks on a journey to find the truth felt very similar as far as I’m concerned and I liked them both a lot.

That being said though, I think this book is more hard-hitting; it’s more emotionally evocative and very compelling. Heidi’s emotions are well reflected in Sarah Weeks’ writing, it just hit me in the feels. I felt embarrassed and slightly humiliated when Heidi is accused of telling a lie (from a jealousy pang) and felt miserable and lost  when a terrible thing happened to her on the way to Liberty. My mood was literally in sync with Heidi’s one; I felt exactly the same way she does in the story.

I think it owes to the brilliant characterization. All the characters are so well realized and felt like real people. In particular, Heidi’s strong, determined (probably a teeny bit fiery) character is well drawn, I even felt a bit frustrated by how pushy and forceful she is; she wouldn’t back down once she determines to do something. She can be pretty harsh and mean to others – even to Bernadette. Again, it’s so evocative and just strong.

What happens at Hilltop Home is gut-wrenching; it was like a sucker-punch for me.
If I were Heidi, I would be emotionally shattered and broken; I’d probably think, “did I come here all the way from Nevada only to find this?” Given what Heidi goes through, Heidi’s angst, her desperate want to know “who she is/ where she came from,” this truth must have been quite heart-breaking for her. She could have wished she hadn’t gone there in the first place.

This story felt more complex than I had imagined; it’s a great coming-of-age story but it also makes me wonder if we might want to keep the truth undisturbed at times; we might be happier if we stopped ourselves from getting down to the bottom of things when the ‘thing’ was not to be unravelled.
It wasn’t like that I had no issues with this book; there were a few points that I felt a bit far-fetched, but well-crafted main plot made up for them.

The ending, the very last sentence made me really wonder if Heidi is any happier than before she knows the truth; if she regrets what she did. I certainly hope not, but I can’t help reflecting on it.
Despite the undertone that implies a bright future in store for Heidi, I still felt a waft of poignancy in it.

With all that said, this is a beautiful, enthralling story of courage and love, and probably ‘hope.’ It’s well-written, really compelling, a wonderful book. I certainly recommend this.
I gave this book 4 (probably 4.5) out of 5 stars.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Wonder

 Wonder

 

This book did it again; this book left me in a complete sobbing mess.
Thank goodness I was at home vegging out on my couch while reading this rather than stuck in the middle seat on the airplane which was what happened the last time.

 

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.


 

As I mentioned earlier in my #WeekendReads post, this was the second time I’ve read this book. Although I knew I would enjoy this reread as much as I did the last time, little did I imagine that I would literally gobble up this book so quickly. I got through the remaining 70% in almost one sitting. Once I picked it up, I just couldn’t put it down.
It was a pure delight to read this book. I enjoyed this book IMMENSELY and I loved it so much.

This story is told in multiple perspectives; we follow this epic story from mainly Auggie’s POV and those of his family member, friends and some other characters appear in this book.
I vaguely remembered that, but I thought it was in dual perspectives and was pleasantly surprised that there are even more.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t quite sold on that; I didn’t find it absolutely necessary to follow some of the characters’ viewpoints. That being said though, I must admit that their perspectives did serve well to help us better understand what was behind the story such as their true feelings or reservations and it definitely adds more depth to the story.
It might come across a bit spoilery, but I personally loved Via’s side of the story. Her emotional shift toward August and her family that she experiences after spending weeks at her Grandma’s place and especially since she started high school was brilliantly depicted. While you’re in the thick of something or a situation which may not be considered ‘normal’ from a conventional point of view, you’re kind of used to it and you take it for granted because it is the ‘world’ that you exist in. But once you get away from it – however short it may be – you start looking at it in a different way when you get back to it as though being away from it opened the door that leads to a different world you have never known. I totally understand her feelings. I would feel exactly the same way if I were in her shoes. Let’s be real; we all probably would more or less. 

Although I already knew how the story unfolds, I was quite surprised by how raw it felt with this reread; everything in this book, like, the dialogues between characters came directly into me and I found it tough to get through at times.
Although this is basically a middle-grade book written for children, I was deeply impressed with how complex this book actually is. This is definitely not your average children’s book; this touches on some heavy yet important issues such as bullying, discrimination, prejudice.

I got so emotional with all the mean stuff that Auggie goes through in his early days at middle school. I, as a reader, was once again reminded that how prejudiced we can be against those who we see DON’T BELONG to our group/society. We can brush them off or even expel them just because they’re ‘different’ from us. We could even go far as to put them in a box and label them as ‘misfits’  It’s even worse when it’s done by us adult than done by little kids because, in Auggie’s words, ‘they don’t actually know what they’re saying.’

They(little kids) don’s say stuff to try to hurt your feelings, even though sometimes they do say stuff that hurts your feelings. But they don’t actually know what they’re saying. Big kids, though: they know what they’re saying.

I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Auggie to go through all this. It’s too much to take for a mere 10-year old boy, but I was deeply moved and enthralled by the strong bond of Auggie’s family. Whenever Auggie needs help, they are all there for him; they embrace him and stand by him with all their might. So do Jack and Summer, and some other kids in class. It was really captivating and therapeutic to read how the shift in the dynamics surfaces and how Auggie starts to gain popularity in the latter part of the book. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that point.

All the characters are well-fleshed out and so vibrant. My personal favorite is actually Via. I adore Auggie of course, but I like the ‘big sisterly’ piece of advice that she throws at Auggie after Halloween. She is smart, understanding, sensitive and warm at heart. I basically loved all the characters appeared in this book except ‘the jerk,’ Julian. I can’t tell you enough how irritated and infuriated I was.
Like I mentioned, the shift in the character dynamics is brilliant. I felt like I was vindicated if that makes any sense.

The writing is quite straightforward, brisk and strong. Since the main bulk of the story is narrated by Auggie, the diction is quite casual and easy to follow.
In addition to that, I was also impressed by this story being partially narrated in multiple formats: IM and Facebook etc, etc.
I know it’s a format that often appears in YA, but I didn’t even know the same goes for middle grade books. I quite enjoyed that.


There are actually still a lot of things I think I need to cover and I want to talk about, but I’ll leave them to you readers to find out. Just grab the book and read it. You’ll be touched by how beautifully and wonderfully crafted this story is.

This book inspired me in every possible way; so insightful, so enlightening and beautiful.
There is hardly any issue in this book. This is definitely a 5 star book for me.
I simply LOVE IT.

April & May Book Haul!

Despite my steadfast pledge that I made after my Out-of-Control Book Haul, I did it again;
I ended up buying a lot more books than I initially anticipated.

Although it wasn’t that I bought all of them in one go, I bought them in the span of two months from April to May, but I’ll lump them up and show you what I got 🙂

In no particular order, I got:

Being prone to mood swings, my taste in books and inclination tend to swing depending on my mood; one day I’m madly in love and all about YA and the next day I do a completely 180 and turn my back against it. I know it doesn’t make a ton of sense, but that’s the way I am as a reader 😦

In other words, I’m inclined to read whatever genres or books once I get interested and tend to buy a lot of books without knowing much about the synopsis.
It can be the main plot/core of the story, or, it can be the cover that draws my attention.
Whatever the reason is, I more often than not bend my rules and end up buying books. And I just can’t stop it.

As you can see, I ended up buying as many as 19 books (once again) in two months from April to May.
But seriously, how could I not buy books having read or watched so many great reviews up both on BookTube and this book blog community???  At least 4 books have been added to my already too long wish list within a week… Too many temptations to resist. Utterly impossible. It’s so much fun though!

Anyways, that concludes (probably) my April & May book haul!
Thanks for reading as always.
Happy reading! XD

#WeekendReads: May 26th, 2017

Hello, everybody! I hope you’re all having a great reading week.
It’s time for another #Weekend Reads post and I’m going to share with you the books I’ll be reading this weekend.

If you’ve been following me on Goodreads, you might know that I had been reading Cloudstreet: A Novel ( Tim Winton) and just picked up Tenth of December: Stories (George Saunders) yesterday. I thought I had been enjoying both of them, but yesterday, something just snapped;  my brain just stopped functioning.

I guess I can put it down to me having been busy in the last couple of weeks; I put in many hours of overtime, I often found myself dozing off with a book in my hands.
In addition to the looming due date of our financial statement, there have also been a lot of things/demands that I needed to handle, they might have just mentally drained me.

Then I crashed. 

I was like, ‘OMG, nothing comes into me, I can’t, I just can’t process these books.’

To be honest with you, Cloudstreet had been a tough read for me. Like I said, I had been enjoying it, the story of two dysfunctional families seemed and was actually interesting to read.
However, the biggest issue that I had was ‘diction/dialect’ in the book.
I’m not sure if that was because of Tim Winton being an Australian author or the lack of my English skills (duh), but it had been an awfully slow read. I could only read 20 pages per hour at best.

My brain fatigue might have come to a head at that point; I just wanted to read something I could process without using any brain power. I was by no means in the mood for another tough novel.

So I put those book back in my bookshelf and picked up All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr. I needed something emotionally gripping and compelling enough to get me completely hooked.

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And it turned out right!
I was swept up in the emotions right off the bat and I’ve already read about a hundred pages. I’m absolutely loving this so far! I just don’t want to stop reading.

What I’m particularly enjoying to get through is the bond between Papa and Marie. Ah, it’s sooooo beautiful. It’s just hitting all the right notes for me. I JUST ADORE THEM!

Surprisingly, this book turned out to be such a page-turner and a quick read (compared to Cloudstreet :p).  I don’t have any socializing coming up this weekend, so I hope I can make headway in this book.

Another book I’m currently reading (technically, I’ve just started reading this morning) is Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Wonder

Again, I just needed some quick, emotional reads in which I can immerse myself AND I must admit the retweet from my friend tempted me to pick up this one. It put me in the mood for a nice middle grade read.

This is actually a reread for me; I read this book in the summer of 2014 or sometime and I remember enjoying it so much. I was reading this on the airplane sandwiched by two men in business suits, and then there came the most emotional scene at the end of the book where August performs in a school play or something or it could be a commencement ceremony? (I no longer quite remember.)  Anyways, the entire time that I was reading that sequence, I kept telling myself, ‘don’t cry, don’t cry! I can’t let them see me crying over a book!’  I didn’t expect the book to be so emotional and moving; it was so hard to keep myself from shedding tears and sniffing lol

I was pretty positive that I’d enjoy this reread as much as I did the last time. I knew I would blast through this one, so this one made the list. I’m 10% into the book right now and am quite enjoying it 🙂

If I get to finish either of these two books, I think I’ll pick up Five Go Glamping: An adventure in the countryside for grown ups by Liz Tipping that I just got from Amazon.jp yesterday.

Five go Glamping

Doesn’t the cover look cute? I found this book on my trusty Bookbub feed and I immediately snatched it. There’s a lot of reviews that say this is not your typical Glamping story, it’s more like a romance story, but why not?  It’s such a slim novel with around 176 page count, and I am in the mood for a Summery read right now.
I NEED SOMETHING LIGHT AND FLUFFY for a change!

That’s it, guys. Those are the books that I’m currently reading and plan to read this weekend. Hopefully, I can finish at least two of them, but we’ll see 🙂

What are you reading right now?
Let me know in the comments and I’ll talk to you guys again soon.
Happy reading! XD

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

The Jane Austen Book Club

The Jane Austen Book Club

I gave this book solid 2 stars on Goodreads. I might be being a bit too harsh on this one and I could rate this as a 3-star read, but I could only go for 2.5 out of 5 stars at best.

First and foremost, please do note that I really, REALLY wanted to like this book. I really did.  I watched the movie adaptation years ago and I liked it a lot. I started off this book with high expectations. I was expecting that I would fall madly in love with this book and that this book would hook me, but sadly, it didn’t pan out that way.

The premise sounds interesting and the story kicked off pretty nicely.  It kind of gives off a whimsical feel and I instantly fell in love with the story; I only had a good feeling about this.
However, from the second chapter, where the author starts to delve a bit deeper into each character, it felt bogged down. It felt slowed, tedious and plain boring. I sometimes wondered why I would have to keep reading about the characters whom I couldn’t even relate to. It was pretty painful to say the least.

I think the plot where five women plus one man hold a book club and discuss Jane Austen was interesting and promising enough;  the members are all somewhat unhappy and lovelorn in their own way, they all have their own issues/problems irrespective of its degree and through the book club, their paths slowly cross as time goes by.

The drawback is that I didn’t get to fully invested either in the story nor the characters. Like I mentioned earlier, I didn’t get relate to any of the main characters. In particular, their attitude towards Grigg in the beginning was such a turn-off for me; it even raised my hackles up. Here’s the part that made me most irritated;

Grigg had never read Pride and Prejudice.
Grigg had never read Pride and Prejudice.
Grigg had never read Pride and Prejudice.
Grigg had read The Mysteries of Udolpho and God knows how much science fiction but he’d never found the time or the inclination to read Pride and Prejudice
We really didn’t know what to say.

I would say this illustrates amazingly well how obsessed with Jane Austen those four women  – Bernadette, Jocelyn, Sylvia and Prudie – are; they’re all hardcore Jane Austen buffs and I totally understand where they’re coming from. Jane Austen has undeniably a massive fan base, I know a lot of readers have been enthralled by her books.
That being said though, I found their somewhat disdainful attitude toward Grigg for not having read Pride and Prejudice a bit over the top. I actually irritated me a lot.
In that regard, I can give credit to this book but I wish this book had more character development. Being hardly any character growth may have been the reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had expected.

With not much going on, the story goes on and on and on until the very end of the book with about 20 pages left, and then the story suddenly picks up and there comes a mad rush toward the epilogue. I felt this pacing a bit too odd and rather hasty. This is also the point where things start to be looking up for the members (in particular, for Sylvia and Jocelyn). This twist also came cross a bit too fortuitous and ostentatious to me; it felt as though the author suddenly decided that this story would need a happy ending to beautifully wrap things up. It even felt like an afterthought.

I reckon the saving grace of this book is the redeeming ending; it literally saved this book for me. Had it not been for this twist, I would’ve rated this book as the least interesting and the most frustrating book I’ve ever read in the year 2017.
Although it felt everything tied together a bit too nicely in the end, the ‘Ask Austen’ sequence put a smile on my face. It was nicely done.

Now, I was thinking of getting her another book, We are All Completely Beside Ourselves when I started reading this, but I’m not quite sure about it now.

Do you think I should give this author another try or I shouldn’t?
Let me know in the comments below and I’m looking forward to reading your feedback! 😀

Bookshelf Tour! (Mostly Unread Books)

What’s up world!
Today, I’m going to be giving you a snippet of what my bookshelves look like!

First up, this is the overview of my bookshelves ↓

File_004

I used to organize my bookshelves by genres, but I was kind of stressed out by how rapidly the shelf on which I put my romance books had been filling up. With three more women’s novels (most likely even more) coming my way, I didn’t know what to do.

Then, watching a BookTuber’s Bookshelf Tour video gave me the inspiration for organizing my bookshelves; I decided to squeeze all the books that I read into the bookshelf on the left and the unread books into the one on the right. Yup, it goes to show how many books I still have that I need to read…

I did my best to sort my unread books by genres, but to be honest with you, I wasn’t particularly happy with how it turned out right after reorganizing my bookshelves.
In particular, I wasn’t at all happy with the color scheme of my books; it kind of looked a bit disorganized despite the fact they WERE in fact sorted by genres to some extent 😦
That said, I’m glad that I rearranged my bookshelves because it actually created some more space in my shelves!

All right, enough about the overview, let’s take a closer look at the individual shelves and we’re going to start from the top.

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I’m not going much into these books here but I’ll give you the titles instead.

From left to right:

  • Lab Girl by Hope Johren
  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • No Safe House by Linwood Barclay
  • The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek
  • The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist
  • Dune by Frank Herbert
  • One Day by David Nicholls

 

On the next shelf, we have:

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  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Oops, some books are upside-down…)
  • Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  • All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Pact by Jodi Picoult
  • Watermelon by Marian Keyes
  • Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  • Luck, Love and Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert
  • All the Good Parts by  Loretta Nyhan 
  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
  • The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
  • Always by Sarah Jio

 

Now, let’s move down to my Classic section:

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Actually, there are WAY TOO MANY to enumerate and most of them are from my Out-of-Control-Book Haul and Crazy Classic Book Haul, so if you’re interested, please check them out, too 😀

The books on this shelf that ARE NOT from those hauls are:

  • Most Secret by Nevil Shute
  • The Public Image by Muriel Spark

The funny thing is that I myself think I did a pretty good job in fitting everything in this shelf, but two of my Bookish friends are actually not at all happy with this layout; they favor how my Classic section used to look like (You can see my Instagram photo here) – they are saddened by my pretty Penguin English Library editions being pushed back and not showing lol

 

All right, we’re almost there! On the bottom shelf we have:

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  • The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Windwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Gemina by  Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
  • Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 

That is it!!
Phew, I didn’t even know how many books I’ve actually got myself. I probably should have stuck with buying paperbacks rather than hardcovers; my tiny bookshelves have been filling up at a much faster pace than I had anticipated!
I think I’ll need to learn to read on my Kindle too…

Anyways, thanks for sticking around, hope you all have a great reading week! XD