My Bookish Goals for 2017

Hello, dear readers!
I know I’m too late for announcing my bookish goals for 2017, but I’d love to share with you some of my thoughts and intentions, such as what kind of books I want to read in the year 2017.

As far as the number goes, I want to aim for reading 70 books at least this year.
Personally, I think it’s pretty attainable given that I read 76 books in the past 6 months.
I could have set my Goodreads goal for reading 100 books, but I eventually decided against it. While I want to read as many books as I possibly can, I also want to hone my review writing skills by reading other book bloggers’s reviews, so I think it would be wise if I lowered my Goodreads goal to set aside larger chunks of time to do so.
70 books a year works out about 6 books a month and I have already read 14 books this year. I think I can pull off reading 70 books with relative ease if I put my mind to it. (and I do intend to do so.)

Next on my list is to read more diverse books than I did in the past.
Now, I must make it crystal clear that I am a 100 percent mood reader and am quite fastidious about what to read; I rarely pick up books I am not even remotely interested in. To make the matter even more complicated, my mood swings. A LOT. One minute I feel like reading Romance novels and the next minute I care for Historical novels. My interest runs off in all directions at the smallest of things yet I tend to hold fast to my tastes. I don’t particularly relish the idea of reading books I don’t really like.

Non-Fiction generally falls into this category. I would even say that Non-Fiction is the last genre that I would go to; there is something about Non-Fiction that I don’t really care for, I’d rather read Fiction than read Non-Fiction.

Nonetheless, I want to change this. I want to read more of Non-Fiction this year.

Believe it or not, I didn’t used to read a lot of historical novels or horror novels. I would normally go to contemporary novels or romance novels.
But as you can see, I have read several books from both genres and I adore them so much. If anything, I’d now love to read many more Historical novels!

I hope the same thing will happen with Non-Fiction and I will try to read as many of them as possible this year.
Just to show you how willing I actually am, take a look at some of the books I have bought;

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

nonfictions

I found them both on Goodreads and thought; “Oh, that sounds interesting, I might as well try reading them!”
Hopefully, they both turn out to be as good as I expected!

Another thing I’d love to try this year is to follow an author’s complete body of work chronologically.
Now, this bookish goal is inspired by watching this Mementomori video, in which he picks William Faulkner and pledges to read all his books in publication order.
I have yet to decide who to follow, BUT, I am going to (in the near future), or I might tweak the challenge just a little bit and turn it into reading as many historical novels as possible this year.
Now, THAT sounds interesting and attainable.

Speaking of historical novels, take a look at this;

lilac-girls

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. THIS BEAUTY.

I’d had my eye on this for quite some time because the premise sounds so interesting and I just couldn’t resist buying it. I knew I was way over my budget, but I just couldn’t give up on this one.

Now that I have this baby in my hands, I am so excited to read this. Hope it measures up to my expectations!

What are your reading goals for the year 2017?
Are there any books (particularly Historical Fiction) that you think I should definitely read?
Throw in your comments and let me know! I could really use your input to decide what to read (and what to buy)!

Thanks for reading and I’ll talk to you again, very, very soon!
Bye 🙂

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

3688715Another 5 out of 5 stars – although it’s the third time I’ve read this book, it never fails to make me cry in the end.

I don’t think I need to tell you what this book is about, given that it was made into a movie, but this is a historical fiction that touches on the Vel’d’ Hiv’ round-up took place in Paris in July, 1942. Early in the morning, the girl, Sarah Starzynski and her family were round-up and penned in a stadium called Vel’d’ Hiv’ where bicycle events used to be held. After spending a few days in an inhuman condition, they were squeezed onto a train and then subsequently sent to the Auschwitz.

Having read this book three times, I felt I noticed a lot of things that I think I missed in my previous reads. Prior to this re-read, I think my attention was only focused on the atrocity that the roundup had brought on Sarah and her family.
This time, however, I found it interesting and really well-done that the author shed some light on the difference in the attitudes and the perspectives towards the past between the American and the French.
While Julia wants to dig deeper into what actually happened during the roundup and how Sarah’s family ended up, her husband’s family members are indignant at Julia bringing back the past unnecessarily. I thought this contrast was very interesting and added a lot of depth to the story, making it much more compelling and engaging.

I sometimes wondered if it was a bit oversimplified display to depict Julia as an epitome of American people, implying they have a tendency of prying into others’ business and trying to find out the truth against all the backlash and protests from the other side.
I personally didn’t feel comfortable in this depiction, but I reckon the author tried to underscore the fact that there so many people, even in France, who don’t know about the Vel’d’ Hiv, who haven’t even heard of the fact that it was actually the French Police not the German Police that enforced the round-up. Through weaving this story, she must have tried to bring this incident to everyone’s knowledge – so as not to repeat the biggest mistake we humankind have ever made.

The ramification and the consequence what Julia’s conduct has brought to the entire family and Sarah’s son, William, are really well-described. The rejection, the initial rejection – oh, it broke my heart. I felt my heart constricted with pain.

The letter to her brother, Michael on which Sarah scribbled down her true emotions couldn’t be read without tears. I didn’t actually cry, but I was pretty close to. The pain and angst Sarah must have felt, Sarah must have bottled up inside her felt as though it were mine.

I love the writing. Although the wording is pretty simple, it is very atmospheric and has got some calm quality to it which I personally think highlights the cruelty and the pain stemming from the round-up.
I also like how the story develops; initially the story is told in two different time frames and perspectives. One with Julia in 2002 and the other with Sarah in 1942. The story goes back and forth for some time, but the two time frames slowly come together and eventually merge into one as the story develops. It was really well-done.

The author also did an excellent job in depicting how the 1942 roundup changes the lives of many people involving Sarah completely, how the past weighs on everyone not only Sarah, but also Julia and even Sarah’s son, William.
While the whole Sarah thing actually brings an unexpected surprise and delight to Julia, it also breaks her emotionally in many ways and she realizes that she cannot go back to her former self. She cannot go on living the way she used to.
I really felt for her. I felt the pains and sorrows are really well-written. Stunning.

The ending never fails to move me and make me cry;
“She was Sarah. My Sarah.”
These are what pull at my heartstrings, getting my waterworks and making me cry.
The ending never fails to stir my emotions and I just adore it.

This is nothing but a testament to being a good book. A good book can move you however many times you reread it.
This book kind of whetted my appetite for Historical Fiction. I’m totally up for reading many more of historical novels this year.
Highly recommended if you haven’t already, pick up this book and see how this book can move you and affect you. You might be surprised.

Reflection

It has been approximately six months since I launched this book blog back in August, 2016.

Wow, how fast time flies; I still can’t believe six months have passed.
At the same time, I also think it’s been quite a ride. It opened up a whole new world and brought me a lot of delight.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say it has always been fun; it has been grueling and debilitating at times.
Being a non-native (I remember writing exactly the same thing somewhere before), it has always been a struggle, literally trial and error for me. I even felt the more I wrote, the crappier my writing got. Crestfallen, I sometimes intentionally let the update slip; I couldn’t bring myself to sit in front of the PC and write a post while I never ceased reading.

Although I launched this book blog as an outlet where I talk about the books I have read and like, as the number of posts increased, I started putting a lot of pressure on myself, thinking that the newer posts need to be better than the previous one, or that I need to avoid using the same phrase over and over like a broken record.
In other words, I started to set my own parameters as to what my posts should be like and how better I should be as time went on. I completely lost sight of the reason why I started this blog; I had been posting out of a sense of obligation not because I wanted to. what a contradiction.

That said, one thing that happened recently has made me motivated to keep posting once again, made me realize there are readers out there -no matter how small the number might be – readers who are inclined to read my crappy blogs.

I sometimes go back to my older posts and re-read what I posted in the early days.
To tell you the truth, it never fails to put a grimace on my face (Awwww). The very first post could be nothing but pathetic… it is too short and I wrote nothing but my outpouring love and personal feels toward the book. No character and story analysis whatsoever, just gushing how much I adore the story. It’s hysterical.

Having said that, it also made me realize I’ve come a long way.
Over the past six months, I think I’ve learned a lot about review writing from watching BookTubers’ videos and reading a lot of Goodreads reviews. Every single review and video that I read and watch helped me grow tremendously (I hope) and I now would love to think that I’ve got better at writing reviews compared to what I used to be.

Even though my writing is still crappy with my grammar all over the place, leaving A LOT to be desired, I will keep reading and posting without making any excuses from now on.

I love reading.
I love gushing my thoughts and feels on books and sharing them with you all.

So, keep an eye out for me, you guys. And kick my butt if I cut too much slack.

Thanks for reading my rambling as always.
I’ll talk to you guys again, soon!

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

8621462I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
Although I started this book with high expectations after reading so many good reviews and high-ratings, this book didn’t move me as much as I had expected.
In retrospect, I might have expected TOO MUCH, the ducked stars might not be the book’s fault, the fault may have lain with me after all; I probably should have started this book with a clean slate rather than let the fixed idea of this book being good cloud my judgment.

The illustrations are amazing and the writing and the story line are generally gripping and relatable, I personally think this is a page-turner. The story moves at a brisk pace.
However, I didn’t get invested in any of the characters except for the Monster; they all felt kind of aloof and it was hard to read their emotions. I think it is too bad that I didn’t get to relate to the main character, Conor, in particular.

I understand that Conor is going through a tough time with his mother being gravely sick, but I couldn’t relate to him for closing himself off and not letting anybody emotionally be close to him. He could confide in his father or his grandmother that how badly he has been tormented by the ‘Truth’ which he keeps to himself. He could lift the load from his shoulders by letting out his feelings, but he kind of refuses to face it. I know the ‘truth’ is awfully hard for a 13 year-old boy to bear, but that’s all the more reason why I wanted him to open up and let the others know his true feelings. I felt rather frustrated with him being so distant, he felt so out of reach.
My frustration disappeared and I even felt some sympathy toward Conor in the end, though.
The irony – the medicine made from yew tree fails to bring the outcome what Conor desperately was hoping for – felt so poignant. That was probably one of the scenes that spoke to me most strongly.

Although I was impressed with what the fourth tale has done to Conor, and I think it is definitely worth a read, personally, I found the message the Monster tries to convey to Conor a bit difficult to grasp. It felt a bit too vague and fuzzy so I almost let it slip.
I still enjoyed reading how the fourth tale helped Conor to be honest with his true feelings though. It is really cathartic and therapeutic.

What I really like about this book is the monster’s voice. He is sage and insightful yet I can also see he has a sense of humor. Some of his remarks made me giggle.
I also enjoyed reading the dialogues between Conor and the monster so much. The monster’s words are all pregnant with meaning, which may be a bit hard for kids to understand, but I think there are a lot that resonate with everyone.

That being said though, I was a bit underwhelmed by the ending; I did want it to grab me, break me, or even shatter me. With regard to the point, this book fell short of measuring up to my ‘probably way too high’ expectations.

I generally enjoyed the book, but it failed to reel me in and make me emotionally attached completely and that’s the only issue that I had toward this book.

This is not a straight 5 stars book for me (I’m so sorry about that), yet I think it’s worth a read and you may find this book really touching and moving.

A World Without You by Beth Revis

27272505I got this book having watched my favorite BookTuber Mollie Reads video in which she literally cried her eyes out holding the book, saying she has no words to describe it.

As some of you probably know, I like books that emotionally destroy me; it may sound weird, but I seemed to have developed a penchant for emotionally disturbing books somehow, I don’t know why, but upon watching the video, I thought this book would definitely be right up my alley.

And it proved me right; an inexplicable feeling washed over me when I closed the book and I got welled up. It was hard to hold in my emotions from gushing out.

I gave this book 4 stars out of 5 stars.

This book opens with a funeral scene of a girl by the name of Sophia who is said to have committed suicide. Her boyfriend and the protagonist of this story, Bo, doesn’t buy what everyone says and tries to save her from the past where she is trapped by using his special powers of maneuvering timestreams.

I went into this book pretty blindly and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know the synopsis much other than this book is about mental illness, so I wasn’t quite sure if I should take what I read at face value or be skeptic. That sense of suspense added a lot to my excitement as I read along.

Just like another book on mental illness, ‘Under Rose-Tainted Skies,’ I felt like I was sneaking inside Bo’s head and seeing what was going on in his mind and how he was processing his emotions. It felt really accurate and realistic, painful at times.

The writing is crisp and straight-forward, it didn’t come across particularly beautiful, but I thought it was quite visceral and emotionally evocative.  I particularly liked how well Beth Revis describes the vacillating Phoebe’s emotions and her honest feelings wanting to be as she is without disguising herself.

The diverse cast of characters are all well-fleshed out and felt down-to-earth, not fictional at all. Again, I particularly liked Phoebe for her own imperfections and her self-doubt. Her inner conflicts make this story more gripping and add a lot of depth to it.
The scene where I get to see the snippet of Dad’s true feelings and angst is just heart-wrenching. The whole family, Bo’s family is just going through the motions of being a ‘real family,’ acting as though nothing had happened while bearing loads of baggage inside them, and that scene underlined the charade so perfectly and brilliantly. It felt so poignant.

As the ‘reality’ dawns on, the story get heavier and I found it difficult at times to keep reading. It was getting incredibly gripping but knowing what the ‘reality’ implies, I felt torn between me wanting to keep on and me needing to take a break for a while.
The last 60 pages or so is such a page turner. As the story inches up to ‘the core,’ the harder it gets to put it down.

What made me cry was the epilogue. Until then, I didn’t think I would cry over this book.

That said.

I cried.

When I read the remark Bo made in the dialogue with Phoebe, it hit me in the feels, thinking,

He says THIS, after what he went through, after the choice he made, he says THIS!

Personally, the epilogue is just amazing and stunning. I am quite happy with that.

As I mentioned, this book is on mental illness, so it is not a fluffy book with a happy vibe.
It is gripping, beautiful, yet serious and heavy.
That being said though, I think it is definitely worth reading it.

I am glad that I did.