Adult · Books · Favorites · Fiction · Middle Grade · Young Adult

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Reads of 2017 (So Far) 

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Happy Tuesday! This week’s theme for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is Favorite Reads of 2017. It feels a little weird filling this out already because I don’t feel like I’ve read all that much yet, but I’ll give it a shot anyway…

  1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  2. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  3. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (re-read)
  5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  6. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (re-read)
  7. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  8. Stars by Colleen Oakes
  9. Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrande
  10. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (currently re-reading)
Book Reviews · Books · Favorites · Fiction · Middle Grade

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrande

13260524My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s going to be a weird summer for Finley Hart. First, she has to figure out how to deal with the fact that her parents might be getting a divorce. Second, she has to spend the summer at her grandparents’ house. She’s never even met her grandparents. Third, she’s having “blue days.” Days where she’s sad for no reason and she can’t snap out of it. Days where she can’t get out of bed and feels hopeless and scared. Nobody else knows about her blue days. 

On her blue days, Finley retreats to the imaginary Everwood. In the Everwood she can be herself. Over the summer, Finley (with the help of her cousins) brings the Everwood to life. There she discovers that she may not be the only one in the family who has been keeping secrets. 

“The Dark Ones latched on to her, digging their shadowed claws into her shoulders, wrapping their arms around her  throat. 

When the queen opened her eyes, she saw the world through a cloudy black veil.” 

Some Kind of Happiness completely blew me away. As someone who has struggled with depression for the majority of their life, I want to hug Claire Legrande for writing this book. Finley’s experience was one of the most accurate depictions of depression that I have ever encountered before. The fact that it was told through the eyes of an eleven year old made it feel more realistic to me. There was no sugar-coating, no scientific explanations, no playing the martyr. Finely didn’t really understand why she was constantly feeling sad and afraid, but she just trudged along, dealing with it as best as she could.

“How can the world look so perfect when I feel so broken?”

Finley escaped into her notebook and her stories of the Everwood as a coping mechanism for dealing with her sadness and her parents’ divorce. The world she created and the way her stories paralleled what was happening in her own life was brilliantly done.

“Still my sadness remains. It comes and goes in waves, like a never-ending ocean.” 

This was an incredible story, not only about mental health, but also the bonds of family and friendship that help pull us through the hard times. I highly recommend it. 

Adult · Books · Favorites · Fiction · Middle Grade

Easy Reads for Hard Times

This week is shaping up to be a stressful one. Typically when I am stressed or going through some emotional turmoil I have a difficult time reading. It’s easy for me to lose focus on things that require a lot of effort when my mind is already putting all of its energy into something that’s bothering me. That being said, I do recognize the importance of trying to unwind and disconnect from the stress so as not to go completely insane. I’m already a little insane. I don’t need to go full on crazy 😉

I’ve been thinking of revisiting some books that are lighthearted and “easy.” That way, I can still enjoy reading without feeling like it’s something that I am trying to force myself through.

These are a few favorites for when I need something light, but entertaining:

What kind of books do you read when you’re stressed out? 

Books · Favorites · Fiction · Middle Grade · Young Adult

On Reading Children’s Literature

I came across an article on Bookstr this weekend that I really enjoyed. It was about children’s literature and how much people can learn from it, even as adults. I have absolutely no shame in admitting that I still read “children’s” books. One of the books I started working on a few years ago was intended to be a middle grade (ages 8-12) book. During that time, not having read middle grade fiction in years, I decided that I needed to familiarize myself with “children’s literature” again.

I don’t remember exactly what I expected, but I imagine it was simple story lines and juvenile dialogue. To my surprise, what I found exceeded my expectations by tenfold. I was amazed at the rich, creative stories and the complexities of the characters involved. The stories weren’t just fun, but they were smart and funny, also. They discussed valuable life lessons without being preachy; lessons on love, friendship,  family, trust, courage, honesty, empathy, acceptance, etc. Until I started reading children’s books again, I never realized how much of this is lacking from adult literature. Perhaps it is assumed that once we grow up we’ve already learned all of these lessons, therefore, we no longer need to be reminded of them. I don’t know about everyone else, but personally, I feel like no matter how old you are, you are never too old to keep learning or to be reminded what things are truly important in life.

If you haven’t picked up any children’s literature lately, I highly suggest you give it a chance.

 

Books · Fantasy · Favorites · Middle Grade

Currently (Re)Reading

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It was my turn to pick a book for our book club to read. As it’s only our second month and we don’t have a specific genre set for the club, I wasn’t sure what to pick. There are just too many choices! I ended up choosing Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for two reasons: a)  it’s one of my all-time favorites and b) I’ve been dying to reread it. Despite the fact that I love reading, this is actually the first time I’ve ever joined a book club before. I’m not quite sure what the criteria is when selecting a book for the group. Hopefully everyone else will enjoy it as much as I am!

Books · Favorites · Fiction · Middle Grade · Young Adult

Kiersten’s Favorites: Pt 2

Continuing the discussion from my last post, here’s round 2 of my all-time favorite reads.

5. The Books of Elsewhere series by Jaqueline West – Olive Dunwoody’s new house is strange. Among the dust, antiques, and strange paintings on the walls there are some dark secrets. When Olive puts on an old pair of spectacles one day and stumbles inside one of the paintings, she discovers just how dark those secrets really are. The house previously belonged to the McMartins, a family of witches with the ability to paint new worlds and trap people inside them. Throughout the series Olive teams up with boy made of paint, 3 talking cats, and the strange boy next door to fight against the house’s sinister attempts to get rid of Olive’s family and to be reunited with its former owners. I adore this series. It has all the components of a fantasy story that I enjoy now and would have enjoyed as a child. I love the way the author found a way to combine classical elements of art and magic together to create such an original concept. My favorite characters are the talking cats (or witches familiars), particularly Harvey, who regularly assumes the aliases of his favorite literary/historical characters.

6. The Queen of Hearts series by Colleen Oakes – I am a huge fan of re-tellings of classic tales. This one in particular is about Dinah, the princess of Wonderland. Dinah is days away from her coronation when a series of traitorous events send her fleeing from the palace. She escapes to the Twisted Wood, the dark, dangerous forest that lies between her home and the Yurkei mountains. Alone, fighting for her own survival, she realizes that she will never truly be able to escape the past and is faced with a difficult decision: Should she stay an outlaw forever? Or should she enact her revenge on the king and gain back her place on the throne?  Packed with adventure, deception, and a thirst for vengeance, the series is very different than the original that it is based on. It contains all the strangeness of Alice in Wonderland, but with far less whimsy. Definitely a must read for any Lewis Carroll fan.

7. A Rose for the Crown by Anne Easter Smith – I will admit that is has been a few years since I read this one, so I am a little hazy on some of the specific details. I do remember, however, how much this book moved me. It’s a historical fiction novel based on Kate Haute, the mistress of the Duke of Gloucester, Richard III. Kate and Richard have a long term love affair that is deeper than either of them could have possibly imagined. Due to their different social statuses, it is never easy for them to be together. The story follows Kate’s life from her first meeting with Richard as a young peasant woman, to her years serving in the royal courts, and her years spent mothering Richard’s illegitimate children. Her story is one filled with drama, heartache, and challenges, as she figures out how to do what’s right for her children and watch the man she adores go off into battle to protect his place in the kingdom. This is a long, but beautiful book, worth every turn of the page.  (Spoiler alert: It’s also a real tear jerker. I’m pretty sure I bawled at least 3-4 times while reading it.)