Thursday, January 28, 2016

2016 Backlist TBR Challenge

A week or so ago, the lovely ladies at Cuddlebuggery (seriously, Kat, Meg, & Steph are some of my absolute favorite bookish people) put up a post in which each of them chose 12 books from their backlist TBRs that they were making a priority to read in 2016. I've largely decided to do away with TBR videos/posts this year, just because I'm too much of a mood reader and don't like feeling beholden to a set TBR list each month. However, there are quite a lot of unread books on my shelves, and 12 seems like an entirely manageable number for the next year. I decided to join in on the Backlist TBR Challenge that they started, so here are my 12 picks!

1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I bought this ages ago and never read it, but this is a classic that I've been intrigued to read recently. I want 2016 to be the year I start reading classics, so hopefully this will be a good way of kicking things off.

2. Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen by Kwame Anthony Appiah. I picked this up because I wanted to read more nonfiction, and this book really aligns with what I studied in my Ethics seminar in college. I'm still really excited to read this, but somehow it keeps being overlooked.

3. The Essential Feminist Reader edited by Estelle Freedman. It's such a shame that I haven't read this yet. But this reader spans history, genre, political thought, to provide (as it says on the tin) essential readings in feminism.

4. Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes. I read Falling Kingdoms and hated it, but I had already purchased this second book. So I'm going to read it, probably hate it, and then finally and totally move on from this series and live my best life.

5. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. This was gifted to me by my friend Lindsay over a year ago, and I still haven't read it. It's a murder mystery that takes place during a reunion at Oxford, and I'll probably be thinking of the shenanigans Lindsay and I got up to while we were at Oxford the whole time.

6. The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. Again, I bought this ages ago and never read it. It's the first in a series about vampires and humans, but much more sinister than any Twilight business. I have no idea what to expect, but it's got to get read this year.

7. More Than This by Patrick Ness. I have never read a single Patrick Ness book, despite owning this one for close to two years. It's time that changed. I have no idea what this book is about other than the story begins with the main character dies. Well then.

8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I keep putting this off, and I don't even have a good reason for it. I need to just buckle down and finally read Plath in 2016. It will probably ruin me, but that's fine.

9. Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. I was THE MOST EXCITED to read this, and then I didn't (notice a theme here?). But it's absolutely happening in 2016, and probably soon at that. I have a feeling that this book will dial the radical feminist in me up to 11, and I'm so ready for it.

10. Zodiac by Romina Russell. I preordered this book when it came out in December 2014. PREORDERED IT. And alas, here it sits, unread. This is turning into a TBR of shame. But this book is about a world (solar system?) where each zodiac sign has its own planet and society and civilization. Seems pretty interesting, right?

11. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I was almost too ashamed to include this book in my list. I preordered this! I know I will love it! But I also know that I will be devastated and emotionally destroyed by it, and I need to mentally prepare for that.

12. The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. This beautiful book will be read soon in 2016, because it has been calling to me from atop my shelves. "Jaaaane," it sings, "read me! Stop admiring my glorious design and actually read me!" Or something like that.

Those are the 12 books I've chosen for my Backlist TBR Challenge! Hopefully when 2017 roles around these will all (finally) be read. Well, fingers crossed. What books are you hoping to get to in 2016?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ARC Review: The Love That Split the World

Title: The Love That Split the World
Author: Emily Henry
Publisher: Razorbill / Penguin
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Format: eARC

“Natalie’s last summer in her small Kentucky hometown is off to a magical start…until she starts seeing the “wrong things.” They’re just momentary glimpses at first—her front door is red instead of its usual green, there’s a pre-school where the garden store should be. But then her whole town disappears for hours, fading away into rolling hills and grazing buffalo, and Nat knows something isn’t right.

That’s when she gets a visit from the kind but mysterious apparition she calls “Grandmother,” who tells her: “You have three months to save him.” The next night, under the stadium lights of the high school football field, she meets a beautiful boy named Beau, and it’s as if time just stops and nothing exists. Nothing, except Natalie and Beau.

Emily Henry’s stunning debut novel is Friday Night Lights meets The Time Traveler’s Wife, and perfectly captures those bittersweet months after high school, when we dream not only of the future, but of all the roads and paths we’ve left untaken.”


Where to even begin with this review? I’m not sure that I have the words for this book. I had no idea what I was getting into with The Love That Split the World, because this story absolutely blew me away. A book marketed as Friday Night Lights meets anything is likely not something I’d pick up – I just don’t enjoy those types of contemporary stories. And yet, The Love That Split the World is that and so, so much more. This is a coming of age story, a love story, a finding yourself story, a creation story. This is a story that brought me to tears by beautifully written it was.

Our protagonist Natalie has been visited by this “spirit” she calls Grandmother for years, but the summer before she moves to college, Grandmother warns Natalie that she must save “him.” Natalie has no idea who this mystery boy is or how she’s supposed to save him, but soon she finds herself switching over into an alternate version of her town, where everything and everyone is different. The only other person who can switch between towns is Beau. Natalie and Beau have to figure out what’s going on as the switches occur increasingly faster and with no warning, with Grandmother’s warning looming over Natalie.

The very beginning of this book confused me, because I thought this was being set up as a ghost story. I was, thankfully, wrong. The Love That Split the World is nearly indescribable, as is evident by my not-so-eloquent waxing over this story. There is just so much depth to this book, from the stories Grandmother tells Natalie to the possibilities of alternate dimensions, to the difficulties an adopted child faces in forming their self-identity. See what I meant about the lack of eloquence? Probably because my words seem so dull in comparison to this book. Emily Henry’s writing is so lovely that it actually made my heart ache at times.

I know, I’m describing this book to you and you’re probably thinking there’s no way it all works. But IT DOES, DEAR READER, IT DOES. This review doesn’t do the book justice, but trust me when I say that this book is a beautiful, magical tale that resonated with me for days.

Have you ever loved someone enough to split the world?

Rating: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top 10 Tuesday: Bookish Resolutions for 2016

It’s Tuesday, so that means it’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday post. Top Ten Tuesday was created by the bloggers over at The Broke and the Bookish, and each week there’s a new topic to discuss. This week’s topic is your Top Ten 2016 Resolutions. This was intended to be a pretty broad subject, so I decided to include ten bookish resolutions I’m setting myself for 2016. Let’s get started!

1. Cut down my TBR. I have roughly 40 unread books on my shelves, and I want to have read them all by the end of 2016. My TBR pile is ever changing, but the books I didn’t get to in 2015 need to be read this year.

2. Read diversely. This is an ongoing goal, one that I don’t think is necessarily something to be checked off a to-do list but rather develop into habit. I don’t want to be insular when it comes to my reading – characters and stories and authors who are different from myself can only enrich my understanding and appreciation of the world.

3. Go back to class. Not actual class, because grad school nearly killed me, but in 2016 I want to read more history, philosophy, and classic (ancient and modern) literature. I studied these subjects so intensely in school, so I feel bad for pretty much abandoning them in my post-grad life.

4. Literature? Classic. It is a truth universally acknowledged that I don’t love reading the “classics.” So many people include some variation of this in their reading resolutions, but I want to read more classic literature in 2016, and finally find a classic that I love (besides Pride and Prejudice, of course).

5. Don’t Be Afraid to DNF. Does this book suck? Is it just annoying enough that I’m not actually enjoying it? THEN STOP READING IT. I posted my first installment of the DNF Diaries a couple months ago, and I’m sure there will be many more entries in 2016. Who has time to force themselves to read a crappy book? Not me.

6. Read and Review. Every book that I read in 2016 will have at least a brief Goodreads review. That will probably be a lot, because I read 170 books in 2015. But I want to take the time and say something about each book that I read, even if it is just a few sentences. Hopefully this will help to make me a better reviewer. That being said…

7. Go Beyond Reviews. Reviews are a big part of having a book blog, that goes without saying. However, in 2016 I don’t want to keep posting one review after another. I’m not the most creative person by nature, but I really want to push myself to think more creatively about the content I want to create here and on my YouTube channel. I’ve already started with DNF Diaries, but hopefully that’s just the first step.

8. Resist the Hype. I fall victim to book hype all the time, and that led to some of my most disappointing reads in 2015. It’s hard not to get swept up in the hype surrounding a new book’s release – fancy ARCs! every blogger on the planet singing its praises! But as book blogger becomes more popular than ever, and publishers increasingly rely on bloggers and BookTubers to create buzz, hype is a real problem. In 2016, I want to focus on reading books I actually want to read, not just what everyone else has preordered. I want to be honest about when I think a book is overhyped and undeserving. I want to not waste as much money buying new releases I was convinced that I needed. This is probably the most difficult resolution on the list, but also the most necessary.

9. Stay Organized. When it comes to blog posts and videos, I definitely needed to be better organized last year. Hopefully in 2016 I can really buckle down and find a schedule that works for me. Posting too often makes this feel like a chore, so striking a balance will be key.

10. Don't Buy It If You Won't Read It...Yet. Far too often in 2015, I bought or even preordered a book, only for it to sit unread for months. I still haven’t read Illuminae or Winter, and those were a couple of my most anticipated releases. This is definitely something I need to work on in 2016!

What are some of your bookish resolutions for 2016? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

ARC Review: Worlds of Ink and Shadow

Title: Worlds of Ink and Shadow
Author: Lena Coakley
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books (ABRAMS)
Format: eARC*
Goodreads | BookDepository

“Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings find escape from their constrained lives via their rich imaginations. The glittering world of Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy world of Gondal literally come to life under their pens, offering the sort of romance and intrigue missing from their isolated parsonage home. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as the characters they have created—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink and Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families in a thrilling, suspenseful fantasy.”


I’m going to admit this up front: I don’t know much about the Brontës, and what little I do know has nothing to do with their childhoods or juvenilia. I’ve only read one of their novels: Charlotte’s Jane Eyre.  However, I think this worked in my favor when it came to Worlds of Ink and Shadow, and I probably enjoyed this more because I knew so little going in.

Worlds of Ink and Shadow follows the Brontë siblings during their adventures in Vedropolis, the alternate world based upon their writings. In Vedropolis, the characters and stories they write come to life, and the siblings are able to become participants in these fictional tales in order to escape their unhappy everyday lives back in England. This was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire story for me – I loved seeing how they interact with their characters, how they were able to manipulate the stories while in Vedropolis. Lena Coakley actually uses the same places and characters from the Brontës’ juvenilia; the Angria and Gondal that you read about are as the siblings originally wrote them.

Throughout Worlds of Ink and Shadow, the reader sees connections to the siblings’ future writings, specifically Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. While I appreciated seeing these threads, it came across heavy handedly at times: Emily is always on the moor and likes foul-tempered characters, Charlotte is nearly described just short of ugly but aspires to be more than a governess, and Anne is quiet but likes things to be realistic. It’s nice at first, but eventually these themes become as obvious as the symbols in a Nathaniel Hawthorne story.

You may have noticed that I am yet to mention Branwell, the only Brontë brother. That’s largely because Branwell is made completely unforgettable. This is rather amazing, considering that he takes up so much of the actual story. But I can’t tell you a thing about Branwell Brontë other than he liked to drink and was a decent painter. He is not given the same care as his sisters, and it definitely comes across to the reader. Branwell feels more like a character from Vedropolis than an equal counterpart to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne.

For me, things fell apart at the end. The siblings’ characters are starting to act independently of their stories, and the Brontës are losing control over Vedropolis. While I liked this in theory, in execution it deteriorated into something all too confusing. Further, I genuinely did not like the “big reveal” regarding how it is that the Brontës could create and travel to Vedropolis in the first place.

What made Worlds of Ink and Shadow work so well is that it is a uniquely atmospheric book. I felt pulled into the Brontës’ lives, and the relationship dynamics between all four helped endear me to these characters. I’m definitely intrigued to read more of their novels now, and I think that this book does a great job of humanizing these classic literary figures. If you’re new to the Brontës like me, or a devoted reader already, this was an enjoyable and magical look into their younger years.

Rating: 3.5 stars

*I received a free ARC via Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.