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!

Bitter Romance, Bitter Family: Review of Vinegar Girl

good morning friends! at least for those that it is still morning. trying to continue my adventures in posting a review every, single day (trust me i already almost forgot about that today!), here is another review!

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth Shakespeare on June 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Pages: 240
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 3.5 out of 5

 

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Kate Battista is the head of her house but not by choice. her younger, high-school aged sister, bunny, is more interested in boys than her family and their father is a hardwokring, but slightly crazed scientist. when he comes to his eldest daughter about a problem at work, he wants kate’s help in something she doesn’t think she could do: marriage.

mr. battista’s prized assistant is about to be booted out of the country because his visa is up. however, if he finds a woman to marry him, his green card will stay in tact and mr. battista can continue the scientific breakthrough he claims he’s having. kate, feeling like she is in a rut, contemplates the idea of helping her family, or herself.

taking on the infamous Taming of the Shrew by none other than shakespeare himself, tyler puts a modern spin on the classic play.

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alright so i really wanted to like this book. i really wanted to. The Taming of the Shrew is such a classic play and one really cannot grasp shakespeare’s portrayl of women without reading that play. there have been a few modern reconstructions of the performance, the first, and probably best that comes to mind is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late heath ledger and julia stiles. to say that i heart that movie would be an understatement. so i was very excited when i discovered this hogarth shakespeare and their modern adaptations of the centuries-old plays. however, tyler’s rendition left me slightly unsatisfied–but in a good way.

allow me to explain. [please note: this might be considered spoilers] if you haven’t read the original play, please do, you will not only understand me better as a person, but also better your life. that being said, the play has much controversy over what katherine does to herself. she willingly submits to a brute and marries him, seemingly silencing her forever. (thats the short version obviously). now, in tyler’s rendition, it seems that her kate does something similar.

in the age of third-wave feminism and everyone talking on facebook about women’s rights (the fact that we’re about to potentially have a female president) it’s only fitting that this modern retelling would have the opposite ending that the play portrays. however, it doesn’t. i was disappointed in kate’s decision to marry the lab assistant instead of doing what she wants–much like how the katherine in the play does. so perhaps i am upset because tyler did exactly what shakespeare did: allow us to question the role women play in families and marriages.

on the other hand, and the bright side, tyler’s writing style is elegant and soft. it wasn’t a difficult read, however it didn’t fully suck me in either. perhaps this is because of i wasn’t too enthralled with any of the characters. bunny is supposed to be annoying and tyler captures this well–she doesn’t care about her family at all until what seems like it’s too late. mr. battista is a groveling father who also doesn’t care about his family, just his research, leaving his young daughters to not only take care of themselves, but also him. pyotr, the foreign lab assistant, is just that: foreign. he doesn’t seem to understand the social graces and concepts of the battista’s home and village and america in general. he is forward and only slightly charming. when i have romantic characters, i want them to be charming and fire-y and yet neither pyotr nor kate are those things. finally kate is submissive and nonchalant. she doesn’t seem to care, not about her family, but about herself. she only aims to please her family and those around her, which is not necessarily an endearing quality.

She walked into work every day feeling starkly, conspicuously alone. It seemed that everyone else on the street had someone to keep them company. someone to laugh with and confide in and nudge in the ribs…Kate pretended not to hear. If she ducked her head low enough, her hair would swing forward so it completely hid her profile (page 71).

so i wasn’t that impressed with Vinegar Girl, but i did still enjoy the read while finding it challenging and true to the original. it was easy enough, short enough, that i could have finished it in a day if i felt that it suck me in, but it didn’t really so i did struggle with that. i would still recommend it of course, especially to those who are shakespeare lovers like myself. to read a modern interpretation is to allow oneself to remember and relive the first and original story. it’s a beautiful thing.

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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?