Books I’ve Read In Spring 2020

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to be going over all the books I’ve read in the past couple months. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been keeping track of everything on Goodreads, which makes it much easier to make this post. If you’re interested in finding out what I’ve been reading and my opinions on each book, keep on scrolling.

  1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany – I don’t know how, but I was never really aware that this add-on to the Harry Potter series was a thing. I didn’t love everything about it (no spoilers here though) but I was happy to have anything added onto the series. In some ways, I think the series would’ve been fine without this add on, but I’ll take what I can get. I would love to see the actual play live someday. I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.
  2. Child of the Moon by Jessica Semaan – My mom got this on Amazon as a whim and I read it after her. It falls under the umbrella of Instagram poetry, but since I write a decent amount of poetry in that style myself, I was still able to appreciate it. I also like work that relates to the moon/astrology so that was interesting for me. I rated it 3/5 on Goodreads.
  3. Almost Home by Madisen Kuhn – This was another book my mom ordered and I ended up reading. I thought the separation of the book into different rooms/parts of the house was clever, and I related to Kuhn’s sentiments about never really feeling at home, but I wasn’t particularly in love with any of the poems. Kuhn is another Instagram poet, so I’d avoid this if you don’t like that style. I rated it 3/5 on Goodreads.
  4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding – I read this for English class, and I really enjoyed it. I had actually been thinking a lot about the nature of man lately just because of everything going on in the world right now and our (our meaning society’s) reaction to it all. It was a short and easy read, and I was able to pick up on the symbolism in it. I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.
  5. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – We were supposed to read this in my English class but it got cut from the distance learning curriculum. I had already bought it in advance, so I read it on my own. Although I know the message behind the story is important, it was very hard for me to get through despite it being a short read. I rated it 3/5 on Goodreads.
  6. The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer – This is an outlier on this list since it’s a spiritual self-help book, but I still wanted to include it. It’s enlightening but still in the way of being hard to take action and follow the book’s advice in everyday life. I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.
  7. Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson – LOVED this. It was suggested but not required reading for my writing workshop. It was a super fast read and honestly my dream book since it incorporated supernatural elements with an otherwise realistic fiction plot. I rated it 5/5 on Goodreads.
  8. I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark – This is a book of poetry that’s required reading for my writing workshop. Clark’s poems are moving and I think everyone should read this and support her as a talented Black poet. I rated it 5/5 on Goodreads.
  9. Tunneling to the Center of the Earth by Kevin Wilson – This is a book with multiple short stories, all somewhat different from one another. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Nothing to See Here, but I definitely do love Wilson’s work and hope to read more of it soon. I rated it 4/5 on Goodreads.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the books I’ve read recently, and that this inspires you go to spend some time reading. Whether it’s an old favorite or something new, reading is always such a relaxing and nice pastime. Plus, it’s summer! Congrats to everyone who is finishing up/has just finished their school year. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

How Using Goodreads Changed My Reading Habits

Hello everyone!

If you’re an avid reader, you’ve most likely stumbled across the Goodreads website at some point in your life. I was no exception, but I didn’t use it myself; I would only peruse the website if I wanted to read reviews on a specific book or find a recommendation. However, about a month and a half ago, I made a Goodreads account and started actually keeping track of the books I was reading and rating them. I also have been steadily building a giant “want to read” list of books I’ll have to check out at my library once it’s back open. If you want to find out how it’s changed my reading habits, keep on reading.

I’m kind of an organization-freak when it comes to lists and keeping track of things I’ve done/want to do/need to do, so I’m not sure why I just came around to using Goodreads. I love the idea of being able to look back on everything I’ve read and remind myself whether I liked certain books or not, and being on the website in general motivates me to read more.

It has a feature where you can set your goal of how many books you want to read in 2020, and I found this to be motivating as well. I personally chose 20 books. I’ve already met that goal and read over that amount, so I’ll probably change that limit soon.

I’m more motivated to read because I know that I’ll get to check off that I finished a book on my Goodreads. This is probably a questionable mindset, but since I love reading and this motivates me to make time for it, I’m okay with that. 🙂 I’m just that type of person, so Goodreads has been helpful for me in that regard.

It’s also useful in case you’re looking for new books to read! They suggest book recommendations off of the categories you choose or the books you’ve read, and of course you can read the reviews to get a taste of whether you’d actually like them or not.

If you already have an ongoing list of books you’d like to read, it definitely makes it easier to keep track of them. I’ll get recommendations from friends or hear about different books in passing that I’d like to read, but I’ll easily forget about them if I don’t write them down somewhere. Even if I do manage to write them down, I rarely end up following through with reading the book and I usually end up losing the note to myself. Not anymore!

My “Want to Read” list is at least 70 books at the moment, so I definitely have a lot to go through. I’m proud to say that during quarantine I’ve reread almost every single book on my bookshelf and rated it on Goodreads for future reference. I can’t stress enough how helpful the five-star rating system and shelves are for an organized yet forgetful person like me.

Quarantine is also a huge part of this equation. I wouldn’t have had time to play with Goodreads or read so many books in the past couple months in general if it wasn’t for being stuck in my house. That’s one of the few upsides of this situation, and one that I plan on continuing taking advantage of.

This probably sounded like a weird ad for Goodreads- I know it’s been around forever and so it’s not exactly groundbreaking news, but using it is a new habit of mine and I wanted to share how it’s impacted my reading. I hope you still enjoyed it and are inspired to go check out the website if you’re like me and haven’t before. Stay safe and healthy.

Brooke

Working On My Novel – Q&A

Hello everyone!

If you read my post not too long ago about my latest writing projects, you might remember that I’ve started working on writing a novel during this quarantine. I thought this would make an interesting topic for a post and I could answer some questions that my friends and other people have been asking me about the process so far and what I’m planning to do with it in the future. If you’re interested in learning more about the book I’m working on, keep on reading!

Q: Why did you start writing this novel/what made you take on such a large project?

A: Honestly, a few reasons came together to convince me that this was the time to sit down and give my best attempt at writing a book. I’ve had a few book ideas, but the one that I ended up using had been sticking out to me for a while. I’d written the prologue and brainstormed some of the plot and characters, and I was waiting a time for when I’d actually sit down and write it. Additionally, quarantine’s given me a lot more free time to work on writing and projects like this, so I actually had the time to dive into it and get myself started. I’ve only been working on it for a couple weeks now, but I know that I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it wasn’t for quarantine. The thing that really sparked me sitting down and writing the first few pages was getting an email from NaNoWriMo that because of quarantine, they were making April another novel-writing month challenge. I started towards the end of April and definitely didn’t finish, but I still took that as a sign of sorts.

Q: What is your book about, and how did you get the idea?

A: Honestly, my book is about a lot of things. The main character, Lauren, is trying to find herself. At the beginning of the book, she doesn’t even know that she’s trying to find herself, but she is. In that way, it’s a very typical coming-of-age type book about teenagers growing up, but there’s a lot more than that going on in the plot. Lauren has been selected by the government to live on this island with 499 other people in her age range for a year, and it’s very mysterious as to what the actual purpose of this little social experiment is. I know it sounds kind of sci-fi, but it’s really not. I got the idea because as a high schooler who will be going off to college in a few years, I’m surrounded by people trying to figure out their lives and who they want to be. Some people determine this by just figuring it out in college, some people go into the workforce, some people take gap years- I wanted to explore this idea but with something else going on in the mix. I’m also a big fan of typical YA dystopias, so the island isolation thing was something I’d wanted to play with.

Q: How far are you in the writing process?

A: Not far at all. At the time of writing this post, I’m at about 20,000 words. I got the ball rolling with around 7,000 words in a weekend, but my daily word count goal is only 1,000, and I’ve been doing that pretty consistently for the last couple of weeks. I’ve gone back and edited a few things like mini plot holes, but other than that I haven’t even started editing what I’ve written so far.

Q: What do you plan to do when you finish it? Are you just going to keep it to yourself?

A: I haven’t decided yet. It’s always been a goal of mine to publish a book, but I wouldn’t want to put something out there that I’m not really proud of. I know it would be very difficult to go down the traditional publishing route and that’s a whole other world I don’t know a lot about- I’ll probably do some research to see how feasible it would be. If I finish the project and edit it to the point where I think it needs to be seen by the world, I would probably end up self-publishing it, since that’s a more realistic goal.

Q: What is your main character like?

A: I’ve based my main character largely off of myself, kind of accidentally. Lauren is an over-thinker who’s trying so hard not to be. She’s a fiercely loyal friend who will protect the people she loves at all costs, but she has trouble standing up for herself and putting herself out there. One of the main reasons she agreed to come to the island was to get out of her comfort zone, and she struggles with actually doing this once she’s there. I think that choice proves she’s more daring than she/other people think, but it takes a bit of pressure for her to demonstrate her true potential in a lot of ways.

I could go on with more, but I don’t want to give too much away, and like I said, I am still pretty early on in the writing process. This has been such an exciting project for me to work on, and I hope to write more posts about it and share more about the book in the future! Let me know if you have any specific questions, as I would be happy to answer them in the comments. 🙂

Brooke

My Childhood Favorite Books

Welcome back everyone!

When I was younger, I used to devour books. I would get ten at a time from the library, and read them all within a weekend- I lived and breathed to read. I still love to read, but I definitely can’t keep up with my younger self’s dedication to seeking out new books and series to binge-read (Is binge-reading a term? If binge-watching is, it should be…). As I mentioned in a recent post, I recently re-read a bunch of my old favorite books as I was figuring out which I was ready to part with and pass on to the next generation of young readers. If you’re interested in my list of the best kids’ books, keep on reading!

I would like to clarify that these vary in age-range. I read most of them between second grade and seventh grade, but I read at a higher reading level throughout elementary school, so the books I read in elementary school aren’t very different from what I read in middle school. Some of these recommendations are very basic, but I included them anyway if they were truly some of my favorites, since that’s the topic of this list.

  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – What would this list be without the Harry Potter books? I read them starting at the end of first grade, but didn’t finish the later and longer books in the series until second grade. These rocked my world and made me fall in love with the fantasy genre, and every time I go back to read them again I’m reminded of the magic they held in that first read. My personal favorite has always been the Goblet of Fire.
  • Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder – This is another classic series that I started in first grade but didn’t finish until later in elementary school. My grandmother adored these books and bought me a box set of the first few for Christmas one year, and I remember being fascinated by them, wanting to experience prairie life for myself. My grandmother has now passed away, and although I haven’t read these in quite a few years, I know that when I eventually revisit them I will be reminded of her.
  • The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch – I forget how I stumbled upon this series, but all I know is I loved every minute of it. The humor (especially coming from the narrator) and the mystery are perfectly intertwined, and each book actually gets better rather than worse as in some kids’ book sequels. It’s a fairly intricate storyline in terms of trying to sum it up, but the reveals towards the end of the series are worth waiting for and actually not predictable (I’m bad at predicting events though, so maybe find out for yourself on that one).
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – I actually didn’t like this book at first. I’m still not the biggest fan of the other books in the series, but I will say this book grew on me more than I ever thought it would. The world Madeleine L’Engle creates is mind-boggling yet completely realistic (funny how that works) and made me appreciate science and theoretical thinking more. I love how the Murry family is relatable in some ways, yet incredibly special in their talent and intellect- it’s the perfect balance and makes you want to root for Meg and Charles Wallace even more.
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funk/e – I got this book in a random store in upstate New York the summer after second grade, looking for a book to read during long car rides on that trip visiting my grandparents. I wish I had the same ability to make words come to life that Meggie does, but reading this book was magical enough. However, I didn’t enjoy the other two books in the trio (Inkspell, Inkdeath) nearly as much.
  • The Winnie Years series by Lauren Myracle – This book series isn’t a classic or a series with a complicated plot, but it meant a lot to me as an anxious pre-teen awaiting middle school. It’s a fairly accurate portrayal of late elementary school and middle school, and I went through a lot of the same things that Winnie did. I recommend it for girls who are in the pre-teen age range and just need something light and fluffy to relate to.
  • Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech – My mom loved the plot of this book so she read it out loud to me in early elementary school. I think it teaches some important life lessons with a creative manner of events unfolding, and the twist at the end was both unexpectedly beautiful and heartbreaking. It’s a sad one, but the ending only shows how great the beginning of the book/everything leading up to the end is.
  • Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass – As someone who’s been having an existential crisis since forever, it made sense I would love this book. When I re-read it a few weeks ago, I cried just as much as I did the first time. I saw a lot of myself in Jeremy, and you’ll enjoy following his journey- it’s a really beautiful storyline.
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – This book is another sad one, but it’s just as beautiful. It follows the story of Mia, an eighth grader with synesthesia (someone in The Secret Series also has synesthesia!) and her discovering what exactly that is and how it relates to her self-identity. I found this book fascinating as it introduced me to something new, but it also managed to be relatable just because everyone struggles with their identity in some way. It perfectly captures those growing pains.
  • A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin – Another heartbreakingly beautiful book my mom read to me when I was younger, this story is set in a 1960s summer where a small-town-girl meets her mentally-ill uncle that was previously hidden from her. The ending is abrupt and sad, but twelve-year-old Hattie was all too relatable to me at the time of reading this, and her growth throughout the story is inspiring.
  • A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler –
  • Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman – I remember liking this book a lot, but I didn’t even realize how wonderful the plot and the protagonist’s journey was until I re-read it a couple weeks ago. It follows ten-year-old Allie moving cities (to a street named Strawberry Hill) and experiencing the struggles of making true friends as well as anti-Semitism. It clarifies what a true friend is, and it also has a couple cute pictures in my version of the book.
  • The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall – I LOVED this series when my second-grade teacher first introduced me to it. I always wanted sisters (I just have a younger brother) and I envied the Penderwicks’ tight-knit family. It’s a fun read that still touches on life lessons and serious issues like most kids’ books do.

I hope this list helps anyone out who’s looking for good kids’ books! Whether you’re a teacher, parent, or just someone who likes to read and was curious on if we shared the same favorite kids’ books, this list should have something for everyone. Honestly, I enjoy most of the books I read, and I’ll dabble in pretty much any genre if someone encourages me to read a certain book or I’m gifted one. I could’ve included more, but these are the ones that I would re-read again and again and that really stuck out to me. Let me know what your favorite children’s books are/were!

Brooke

What I Learned From Rereading My Childhood Books

Hello everyone!

Due to all the free time I’ve had at home, I decided I would declutter my bookshelf in my room. I had an idea of which books I had long outgrown and would be able to part with, but I kind of wanted to read them one last time before letting go of them, just to reflect on what my younger self saw in them. I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on what I read and how I felt during this little process of decluttering, so if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts and possibly doing this yourself, keep on reading!

I’m not going to go too into depth about each specific book that I reread, but in case you’re curious, here’s the list for reference:

  • The Winnie Years series by Lauren Myracle (Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Thirteen Plus One)
  • Canterwood Crest series by Jessica Burkhart (20 books so I won’t list them all!)
  • The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life by Lauren Myracle
  • The Clique by Lisi Harrison
  • The Ashley Project by Melissa de la Cruz
  • Ten Rules for Living With My Sister by Ann M. Martin
  • Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far) by Ann M. Martin
  • A Corner of The Universe by Ann M. Martin (this one’s more serious and sad)
  • Strawberry Hill by Mary Ann Hoberman

They’re all pretty childish, each centered on girls around 10-13. I read them all in the later portion of my elementary school years, but remained attached to them in middle school. I haven’t looked back on any of them in a few years at least, but there were many other books I’ve donated and let go of since I was younger; these were kind of the stragglers remaining on my bookshelf from long ago. Reading them was a huge awakening as to how much I’ve matured, considering I used to think they were such thrilling storylines packed with drama. Now, a few of them just seemed like, well…typical young person problems. Don’t get me wrong, a couple of them tackle more serious issues for youth and teach important life lessons, but a lot of the books were simply obnoxious (The Clique, The Ashley Project).

It was crazy to think about how the girls in these books (middle school age) seemed so old to my fourth and fifth-grade self. Honestly, now I know why- because middle schoolers don’t act like that. At least in my experience, I didn’t have the independence a lot of the book characters did, and that greatly influences the events in the books/what the characters do. The types of books I read also said a lot about the person I aspired to be. A lot of the books focus on privileged, independent preteens with some sort of exciting lives (boarding school, living in the city, take your pick). This is not exactly the type of life I’ve experienced, but I am 100% okay with that now.

I find these books could greatly skew a young, impressionable child’s impression of middle school, but it’s all in good fun. Even as a child, I don’t think I took them too seriously. However, I’m glad I decided to reread them and experience them one more time before letting go of them; I was worried I would get too sentimental and want to hang on to them, but reading them only confirmed I was ready to pass them on to someone else who can enjoy them. The feeling of clearing space on my bookshelf and that these books will get read by others is super special. I’m not sure where to donate them yet and will obviously still be hanging onto them because of the current quarantine, but I’ll figure it out soon.

Overall, I can definitely see how much I’ve grown as a person through even the books I’ve gravitated towards reading. Most of these books were realistic fiction, but now I prefer to read almost anything but realistic fiction, as books are truly an escape. However, at the time I read them, I think these books still were an escape to me, an escape to my ideal middle school/preteen life. I also learned how important it is go through your books and belongings in general to donate things you’re no longer using. I hadn’t even questioned getting rid of these books before, but I’m glad that I finally did since they’ll go to much better use.

I used to be extremely attached to everything I owned and hesitant to get rid of/donate anything, but now I’m almost the opposite and am eager to give away anything I feel I’ve already gotten my use out of. I suggest you also go through your books, reflect on the person you used to be when you read them for the first time and how they helped you grow, and pass them onto someone else if you’re ready. It’s rewarding, I promise!

I hope you enjoyed hearing my perspective on this. I didn’t want to go too into detail on each book since that’s not the most relevant part of this little process, but let me know if you’d like to hear more about any of them 🙂

Brooke

My Current Reading List

Hello everyone!

As I’ve had more free time on my hands lately, I knew I wanted to do some reading while I had the chance to explore new books. I made a mini list of the books I wanted to read before spring break was over, and I’m trying my best to read everything on it, if not even more books beyond it. If you’re interested in seeing what books I’m currently reading/going to read, keep on reading! A few of these I’ve already read since originally making this reading list, but they’re all books that my English teacher or other people have recently recommended to me.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell – I actually read this in 8th grade in English class so I already have a copy, but we’re reading 1984 in my current English class and my English teacher suggested we read Animal Farm if we were interested in more of Orwell’s work. I remember really liking Animal Farm, so I want to revisit it, especially now that I’ve learned about all of the history behind it in AP Euro this year.
  • A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova – Another recommendation from my English teacher, this again sounded intriguing since I’ll understand the historical context from AP Euro. It’s also not something I would normally read, so I figured I would give it a try.
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – My English teacher gave us a brief synopsis of this, and I was immediately drawn in. I ordered it on Amazon and I can’t wait to read it! I really like Orwell’s work if you can’t tell.
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell – This was added to my list last minute since the edition of Down and Out in Paris and London that I ordered from Amazon also includes this work. I don’t really know anything about it, but I’m excited to read it.
  • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – I read Jane Eyre in my English class at the beginning of the year, and my English teacher suggested we check out this prequel sort of book after. I had made a mental note to read it at some point but never ended up taking initiative to do so until now, so I’m excited to revisit the world of Mr. Rochester. It sounds intriguing and I’m a sucker for a good prequel type story.
  • Walt Whitman (Selected Poems Collection) by Walt Whitman/State Street Press – This is a little weird since it’s just a book I found on my parents’ bookshelf full of classics and “fancy” books, but I’d heard of Walt Whitman before and since I know a lot of his poems relate to history, I figured it would be an interesting read. I’ve read about half of it so far, but it’s been taking me some time to digest each poem and interpret it.
  • W.B. Yeats (Selected Poems Collection) by W.B. Yeats/State Street Press – This is from the same publisher and it’s the same style collection as the Walt Whitman one, which I also found on my parents’ bookshelf. The name Yeats sounds familiar, but beyond that I’m honestly just trying to expose myself to as much poetry and different work as possible.

I hope this reading list inspired you to make your own, or possibly even read some of these books! I know it’s kind of a strange mix, but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone as well as read some books that my parents already had around the house. Let me know if you have any recommendations 🙂

Brooke