Firsts of 2017

It’s been a while (since October) that I posted regularly, so I wanted to inform my minuscule readers what I’ve been reading and up to while on hiatus. Mostly, I was too depressed to actually write, but I was still reading. My goal here is to compile a list of books that I read in the first few months that meant something to me. Now, I’ve certainly read books that have made me cry or made me go “what did I just read?” but these books are the first books of the year that I’ve read that made me cry or made me go “whaaaat?” So without further adieu, let’s get started.

2017’s Firsts


First Book I Bought for an Actual Reason: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Disclaimer: the pink/white pills are joint medication for my cat; the purple round ones are children’s chewable ibuprofen; the two prescription bottles are obviously that–prescriptions written for me. This is a commentary on Carrie Fisher’s love of drugs, especially her own.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by Blue Rider Press on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Biography, Diary, History
Pages: 272
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I knew that when this book came out that I had to own it. It was over Christmas break, I was back home in Chicago while my cat and boyfriend were in our little cottage in central PA when we heard the news. Princess Leia has passed away. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (I was stereotypically given dolls and not science things), but I knew of the impact these movies have had on future movies to come, Hollywood itself, and nerds of every age. I only saw the movies for the first time about two years ago, all in the rightful order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and then 7 and 3.5 when they came out respectively. I cried at the end of 7, The Force Awakens, because, though I didn’t see them as a child, I was already deeply attached to the characters and the harrowing story.

When Carrie Fisher died, I didn’t know what to think. She was older and clearly didn’t take the best care of herself, but she was an idol–is an idol–and will continue to be not only for fans in metal bikinis everywhere, but for those with mental illness that she made feel more normal with her hilarity towards her own problems. I didn’t even know much about her seminars and discussions, mostly because I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I know that she influenced many outside of the Star Wars franchise. Long story short, I had to have her book. I knew her also as an hilarious actor outside of the franchise–starring in 30 Rock as a crazy cat-less lady and the equally real and hilarious British show Catastrophe. I watched her with admiration as someone who accomplished so much in her life, while struggling with her own problems of stardom, mental health, unrequited love, etc.

I will continue collecting her works–I didn’t know she wrote so much, why did she have to leave us!–and forever remember her as fantastic woman.


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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The Graces by Laura Eve
Published by Harry N. Abrams on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance, Friendship
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Has anyone read this book????? Can someone explain to me this book??? Laura Eve, you have done it. I have a literature degree and have been trained, for more than four years if we’re counting my excessive literature classes in high school, as well as getting my Master’s in literature starting in August and yet, you have stumped me. So thank you. Thank you, Laura Eve for completely and utterly confusing me.

I thought I had it all figured this out while reading this book, and yet once I got to that last chapter, everything I thought I knew went flying out the window. And it was so refreshing! I love young adult books, they’re my favorite genre–so much so that I write in this genre–and yet sometimes I can figure out the entire story during the first couple of chapters. And this is nice, don’t get me wrong, I can then just focus on the characters, love stories, familial ties, etc. and not have to worry about using my brain too much. But not with Eve’s ridiculous and outstanding tale.

Also, I can’t even disclose any of my confusion because it would give away the entire story, and I wouldn’t want to do that because the twist is so intense, so heart-stopping, that it would be an injustice as a book-lover to spoil. Please read this book if you have ever thought what it would be like to meet real-life witches, people you have read about in books and searched the internet for, and are desperate to be a part of that life. I can imagine Harry Potter lovers relating with River and her desperate need to know more about the Grace family. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with witches?

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT! If you enjoy murder mystery, surprise twists with characters, forbidden love and desperate lust, then read The Graces; it will do you well.

A close second for this category is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.


First Book I Cried In: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Family, Mental Health
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

This book is beautiful. It does seem a little long in the beginning, and since it’s almost 500 pages long, it can seem like it’s dragging. But do not lose hope because the more you read, the more you discover. Armentrout carefully and artfully discloses only certain information at a time, never giving away too much, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. I fell in love with the characters–feeling so much for them that when the time is right I am going to consider adoption myself. I wanted to go into the book and hug Mallory and Rider each (even though the name Rider isn’t my favorite name for the character, but that’s just how it is).

Mallory and Rider’s relationship is so complicated and heartbreaking, but also extremely uplifting and hopeful. Rider’s unconditional love for Mallory, both as her boyfriend but mostly as her best friend, is so endearing and real. Of course he wants, needs, to protect her from the horrible things she’s seen, but he’s also there to watch her grow into the fully functioning and courageous woman she becomes.

Definitely a must read for those wanting a good cry, to feel something in their chest as they near the end of the story, and the aggressive need to keep reading.


First Book I Wanted to Like, but Didn’t: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, History
Pages: 512
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Okay, I didn’t hate this book, that is much too dramatic. In fact, it’s quite silly and hilarious, making the reader laugh out loud. However, the main factor that I disliked was the constant intervention from the narrators. I’ve done my fair share of studying when it comes to the British monarch and while I hadn’t heard of all the characters, I did have a pretty good grasp on who was who. I would be reading, though, and suddenly the narrators would intervene to tell me that what I’m reading isn’t true. Well…duh. Someone didn’t actually have a horrible curse–that isn’t really a curse–that turns them into a horse every day break. That would just be ridiculous of me to think that was real. I love the idea of the authors taking over a story that we don’t know much of, and turning into something lovely, but the constant interruptions are a little jarring.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure. This is an easy read, so though it’s a long 500 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t need to fuss over it (other than it being heavy!). The characters, Jane and G are adorable and hilarious, but part of me (spoiler!) wanted Jane to end up with Edward! I know that there is an incest-problem there, but as the narrators dutifully point out, this was very common back then. And something about Edward and Jane seemed real. On the other hand, G and Jane are quite fitting for each other too–how G constantly teases Jane, calling her “love” even when they haven’t discussed their relationship other than their pure hatred for each other. I think this book would have been better if there weren’t so many interruptions from the writers–simply let the story be and you can either disclaim in the prologue or epilogue that none of it was real–as well as getting more in-depth with the characters. I wanted to feel something when reading about them, other than just laughing and enjoying my time. I want to worry about them, fear for them, love them.


First Book with a Love Story that Won Me Over: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Family, Suspense
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

So even though I’ve given this book the title of winning me over with the love story, I actually don’t know if I’m going to read the sequel, mostly because I can’t take any more heartbreak between the main characters. Now I’m not the biggest science fiction buff, so it took me a little while to get into the whole “Firebird”, multi-demnsional travel, but I was able to get through it and I’m so glad that I did because Marguerite and the Russian Paul’s love is indescribable. I constantly go back to how I felt, my heart racing, sweating palms as I frantically read to make sure they made it out of the snow storm alright and into each other’s arms.

I don’t know if what I feel for this dimension’s Paul, for my own, or for both of them. I can’t tell the difference any longer, and in the moment, I don’t care…

“Paul,” I murmur, “call me by my name.”

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

And we are lost. I’m the one who breaks the last rule, the final taboo–the one who kisses him. But then he surrenders. He holds nothing back. We tangle together, kissing desperately, clutching at the few clothes we still wear, hardly able to breathe or think or do anything other than those ourselves in each other (194-95).

I could go on, pretty much quoting this entire scene between Paul and Marguerite because I get butterflies in my stomach, rising up my throat, threatening to escape, but I won’t; I’ll let the beauty stay in the book. I don’t know how Gray does it, but I feel so enchanted with the characters and storyline. There is a sense of urgency, the rushing that Marguerite, Paul, and Theo feel trying to catch each other and get to the right dimension, that manifests in the reader, as if we are a part of the race.


First Collection: The Entire Works of William Shakespeare by Modern Library

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From left to right: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV Part 2, Macbeth, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry IV Part 1, Titus Andronicus & Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King John & Henry VIII, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Sonnets and Other Poems; King Lear, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Richard II

 

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shakespeare is my true passion. I wrote my 30-page senior thesis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and am now going to attend St. John’s University in New York for my Master’s and then Ph.D in literature with an emphasis in the Early Modern Period, or Shakespeare’s time. The collection I just bought is published by Modern Library and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s work published; I have many different copies of the same play (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) as well as the entire collection in one book by Oxford. However, I saw these editions on Instagram and fell in love. It took me so long to find them, but when I did, I knew I had to get them. They are not only beautiful covers, the editions themselves (footnotes, introductory information, etc.) are spot on. This is something I look for as a scholar and the main scene I double check is Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Most editions will print “etc.” on line 40, but this edition does print the “open arse” that is usually left out. A winner for sure!

I don’t normally buy collections, partly because trilogy, sagas, etc. don’t all come out at the same time unless you’re reading a collection that has been out for a while. My boyfriend buys many comic book collections (like March written by Congressman John Lewis), but I don’t have many completed collection, except for now! These plays will serve me well once I start school again this fall. Wish me luck!

The Love that Split Me

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welcome to a book that is the epitome of the saying “never judge a book by its cover.” henry’s tale, what i expected to be a cliched, young adult love story, spins the storyline 180 degrees and forces the reader to turn every page, absorbing every word in order to clarify every painstaking detail henry provides.

i was not expecting more than half of what this book provides. every chapter brings a new twist, a new tiny blip in the plot that, though small to the readers, has major impact on the characters and what is happening between natalie and beau.

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The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
Published by Razorbill on January 26th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Heritage, Fantasy
Pages: 400
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 4 out of 5

★★★★☆

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natalie’s summer is running out. she has graduated high school and is ready to start her new, uninterrupted life at Brown. after changing the past year, she is eager to get away from the small town, Union, she calls home and everyone who inhabits it. however, grandmother returns, stopping natalie in her planned-out tracks.

born to a young, native american woman who wanted her daughter to have a better life outside of the reservation she lived on, natalie’s mother gives her up. natalie seems to have a normal life with her adopted family, but when she begins hallucinating in her sleep, seeing things she knows shouldn’t be there, and must go through intensive therapy in order to remove these images from her young brain, the reader realizes that natalie isn’t a normal teen. suddenly, the summer before her life is supposed to change, one of the main hallucinations to visit natalie over the years shows up again, three years after disappearing for what natalie thought was good. grandmother, natalie’s nickname for the old, weathered native american woman who resides in the rocking chair in the corner, informs her simply she has three months to save him.

what if there are two different Unions? what if there were two different versions of her best friend megan? ex-boyfriend matt? popular girl the reader loves to hate, rachel? everyone has a double in this overlapping dimension of union except for natalie and a strange boy, beau, who resides in the “other union.”

from there, the reader is bounced along on this tumultuous journey where natalie uncovers the secrets of union, beau, and herself.

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“I missed you,” she heard herself call to him–though was it possible to miss someone you didn’t know? (page 390).

honestly, this book would have gotten 5 out of 5 stars if i weren’t so biased about happy endings. naturally, i will strive to never give anything away, however the story does not end in the traditional sense of “happily ever after” which most of the time sends me over the edge. why can’t one small thing, as small as a book of 400 pages can be, end in happiness? is that too much to ask emily henry? now, this is certainly me being biased and a child because the ending does completely coincide with the entire over-arching plot. henry expertly adds in details of the native american people featured. there are creation stories and many other moments full of natalie’s heritage that i haven’t seen in any other young adult read. much like rainbow rowell’s book, Carry On, featuring the unorthodox two gay main characters, henry crosses the threshold of having an “ethnic main character” and creates a storyline unlike any other.

weaving her knowledge of native american tribes and stories, henry casts natalie as an adopted daughter with a troubled past. henry uses creation stories, as told by grandmother to natalie over the years, as clues for natalie to figure out what really is happening to her and her town. i’m not sure where henry obtained all of this information, or if it is correct to any specific tribe, but i can say that it surely is convincing. i was not expecting the creation stories and the journey they would take me on when purchasing this book.

of course there are romantic moments in the story, it isn’t all drama all the time. beau resides in the “other union” and their love seems not to be forbidden, but more impossible. their meeting is by chance, in a time where they both are unaware that there are other people who can jump through time and space. natalie only recently discovered her powers upon meeting beau, whereas beau has been jumping (for lack of a better word) since he was a young boy. but how are two people allowed to be together when they don’t live in the same world? without sounding like the 2006 hit movie, The Lake House starring sandra bullock and keanu reeves, henry creates an impossible world and has it actually make sense.

I don’t believe in love at first sight but maybe this is as close as it gets: seeing someone, a person you have no business loveing, on a football field one night and thinking, I want you to be mine and I want to be yours (page 183).

they can’t contact each other because cell phones can’t connect between realms. obviously even in this fictional world we are still having cell problems. as the summer continues and beau and natalie get nearer to their Closing, a time where they can no longer jump between dimensions, they begin to lose control of their powers. natalie is torn into different times without commanding it and beau can’t get into natalie’s world when he absolutely needs to. however, when the two are together, it really is magical. henry’s depiction of young and urgent love is spot on when it comes to these two.

It’s true that nothing has the potential to hurt so much as loving someone, but nothing heals like it either (page 235).

ouch, henry makes me want to cry with their such young and naive, but totally Gryffindor-like hearts. even though it certainly isn’t possible–crossing into dimensions and time traveling simply through a push and pull in one’s abdomen–beau and natalie are striking characters and my inner fangirl demands that they find a way to be together. cleverly enough, though the title was the first thing that swayed me towards buying this book, and assuming that i knew what it would be about, the title is quite accurate for what the story holds. we want a happy ending for natalie and beau, so in a way, their own creation story that could be featured in this book like the others slightly fantastical stories told. the title “the love that split the world” sounds like its own creation story, as if grandmother herself speaks directly to us when she tells this story.

if you are interested in a young adult book that is out of the box and far from ordinary, pick up henry’s The Love that Split the World. you will be blown away by her intelligence in a field some forget exist. she executes a perfect creation story of two young people, not only forced into the odd, but inevitable world of “growing up” but also the strange, parallel dimensions henry creates. natalie and beau’s struggle to fix their two worlds that are colliding ever so quickly into each other is palpable and you will fall in love with these two star-crossed lovers.

thank you emily henry for such a beautifully crafted edition to the teen reading section. i hope many other readers were as surprised as me by this small, earth-changing book.

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First Book Haul

 

welcome to the new edition to shelbylueders.com! A place for me to put my talent to the test and see if how quickly i can read new books as well as how well i can review it.

here is the first haul for my new site.

during the month of july (and a tiny part of august) i purchased 18.5 books (i’ll get to that half in a second). that is quite a haul! normally i would peruse the shelves of barns and nobles and write some titles down and then see how much they cost on amazon kindle (usually much cheaper!), but recently i decided to just forgo that whole step and if i saw something interesting, i would just buy it. you only live once right?

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so here’s a list of the books:

this haul, as you can see, ranges over many different genres, with the most being in the young adult category. even though i just got my degree in literature, young adult books, though mostly left out of schooling, is one of my favorite genres to read and write. they entertain me to no end, satisfy my romantic relationship needs, and generally don’t require much thought.

here’s the young adult books all together:

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stay tuned for some reviews of a few of these books, and for more blog posts to come.

have you read any of these yet? what is your favorite genre to splurge in?