Reading Roundup #4

I read a lot of books since my last reading roundup so I figured it was time for another one. My goal for this year is to read 100 books. I read 55 from June to the end of last year, so I’m hoping I’m not shooting too high. Being in school always slows me down some, but I’m graduating in May and then I’ll have some more time on my hands (which I’m pretty anxious about, but we’re not going to think about that right now 😅). As always, let me know if there are any books you are loving at the moment as I am always looking for recommendations!

#3 The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

I had heard good things about this book before I got it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a literary fiction novel that looks at the lengths a parent will go to in order for their children to get into a new “gifted school” that is being built in town. It follows four families who have been friends for years, whose relationships are tested as they all compete to prove their children belong there. It’s a page-turner and you get fully invested in these characters. The characterization was extremely well done. There is also a twist later in the book that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s witty, sad, and heartwarming all at the same time. I think anyone can relate to this story because of all the different family dynamics portrayed throughout. The author did an amazing job of describing all the insecurities and intricacies that come with familial relationships. I particularly connected with this book because it reminded me of one of the places I lived that held kids to an almost impossible standard and had a dog-eat-dog mentality. This book does a good job of showing the pitfalls of that kind of thinking. I’m all about doing well in school, but you should never overextend yourself to the point of it being detrimental to your mental health. This book is funny, yet poignant and I would definitely recommend you put it on your list!

#2 The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

You may remember from a previous roundup that I talked about how much I loved The Night Circus, so I was super excited to hear that she came out with a brand new book. I loved this one as well! Like her other novel, it is mainly a fantasy novel, but other genres are woven throughout. It follows Zachary Rawlings who picks up a dusty book one ay only to find that a story about him is hidden inside. As he reads more and follows the trail left by the words on the pages, he discovers another world made up of underground libraries and the protection of words and stories. He finds himself in a battle with a group of people who are looking to destroy this world and prevent the Starless Sea from reaching its full potential. Erin Morgenstern does an impeccable job of describing the universes she creates. Like The Night Circus, I could picture it vividly. It pulls you in. Especially as someone who loves reading and writing, the world she creates feels like paradise. Much like we all wish we could get a letter to Hogwarts, Morgenstern makes you wish you could find a hidden door and enter this secret world. Definitely read this book whether you usually like fantasy or not. There are aspects of the story that will resonate with everyone because in one way or another the words that are said and stories that are shared connect us all.

#1 Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb

This book was one of the most honest and engaging things I have ever read. As someone who struggles with anxiety, I go to therapy. I think therapy is an important thing. I advocate for everyone to take care of their mental health just as much as they take care of their physical health. Therapy is something I think everyone should experience at least once in their life. The connection you have with your therapist is different than any other relationship in your life. They know everything about you and help you come to conclusions about your life and your struggles on your own. This book perfectly encapsulates what this relationship can feel like. It is written by a therapist and details accounts of some of the patients she is working with, as well as following her own journey through therapy that she is experiencing at the same time after going through a hard break-up. It not only gives you a look inside the head of the person on the other side of the couch, but also shows you that therapists are real people who are also going through problems. Everyone can benefit from therapy. It is funny and real. She has some powerful ideas but doesn’t take herself too seriously. It doesn’t shy away from the truth and it is cool to watch the progress of the patients. There are moments that made me tear up and other moments where I couldn’t stop laughing. If you support mental health in any way or are struggling yourself, I highly recommend this book!

Bonus: Songs I’m Loving at the Moment

Here are six songs that I have been listening to a lot lately. Definitely check out these songs and check out the other songs from these artists as well!

-The Last Time I Was Yellow is by my roommate and it is one of my favorite songs that she has written. It really speaks to how it can feel when you are struggling, but desperately want to feel peace and happiness.

-Guidance is a really honest look at what the relationship can feel like between man and God.

-Slow is a chill track that details how it can be difficult to move on.

-I love Alec Benjamin, and his newest song Demons is no exception.

-I truly believe everyone should listen to First Last Name for the songwriting alone. She went to Belmont and I still remember how impressed I was the first time I heard it. It talks about the special relationship between a father and daughter.

-Even When You’re Home is another chill track that details a feeling we all feel at some point: loneliness.

Books and music are two of my favorite things, so I always love discussing what I’ve been reading or listening to. Let me know if you have any book or music recommendations! I hope you have a great week!

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #3

It’s that time again! This time around I had a lot of books that were just so-so, but these three stood out among those and I liked them all for different reasons. Hopefully, you feel the same if you decide to read any of them. As always, I love getting book recommendations so feel free to leave a comment below telling me what you’ve been loving recently!

#3 Delirium by Lauren Oliver

I wasn’t sure I would like this book. It was a dystopian YA novel that was recommended to me by a friend. My favorite book series in that genre will always be the Giver series. This book reminded me a lot of the first book in that series. The premise is that at age eighteen everyone gets a procedure that gets rid of love. You can no longer feel love for anyone in your life. Love is considered to be a disease that destroys people. They read Romeo and Juliet in Health class (haha) and have their own handbook that they study in school laying out the rules and regulations. The city is separated from the Wilds (where people who survived the bombings live without the cure) and they are said to be dangerous. Lena, the main character, has been looking forward to the procedure. While her family history is a complex one (and one of my favorite subplots) she has a sister who is cured and living a perfectly happy life. She has never questioned whether or not love is as dangerous as they claim until she meets Alex. While a lot of this book is fairly predictable, the characters are well developed and there are no real lulls in the plot. It is always moving. I also just really like the theme. Love is always going to exist even if you try and stop it and watching that concept unfold really makes you think about how important it really is. It is the first book in a series and I look forward to seeing if I like the next book as much as the first!

#2 Hideaway by Nicole Lundrigan

This book is suspenseful, quirky, and pretty dark. It wasn’t what I expected it to be which made me love it even more. Gloria seems like a doting mother to the outside world, but she is actually pretty emotionally abusive. She is going through a separation with Telly who has his own set of flaws. Rowan and Maisy are the typical brother and younger sister, but Rowan does feel more protective because of his mother’s antics. The story revolves around Rowan who runs away with a man named Carl (a really interesting character battling a mental illness) and Gloria trying to win back Telly’s affection. It all goes downhill from there. It gets pretty dark as it continues, but the writing is quirky and you almost don’t notice how horrific it really is. The characters all have interesting arcs and the simultaneous plots are well done. It all comes to a climax that is both unexpected and gut-wrenching. I’m a sucker for a suspenseful book, and this was not a disappointment. It looks into the idea of family and what you’re willing to do to keep it together or to get out of it. It also illustrates that strength can come from unlikely places. Definitely read it if you love the thriller/mystery/suspense genre!

#1 The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My roommate wanted me to read this book and I did no real research into it before I read it. It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. The book tells the story of Evelyn Hugo, an actress who had a long career and was also always in the news because, by the time she retired, she had seven husbands. At the beginning of the book, she calls on Monique Grant who is a low-level writer at a magazine and says she wants to give an interview for the first time in years, but only if it is Monique. There are two twists in the novel. One comes near the beginning and it changes the tone of the book. The second comes at the end and knocks you off balance. It is incredibly well written. What stands out for me is the character development achieved in the book. The characters are rich and in-depth. You understand them and hurt for them as the story goes on. They feel like real people. It also talks about the complexity of a human being. It plays with the idea that everyone has good and bad in them and sometimes people do bad things because they decide it’s for a good reason. It shows how doing something to save your family from hurting, can hurt somebody else. It also discusses topics that are relevant to today’s society. It talks about the LGBTQ community and discrimination. It talks about the inequality that exists between men and women at work. It looks at depression, domestic abuse, and alcoholism. It doesn’t shy away from anything. Evelyn Hugo is finally telling her life story and she is telling her whole truth. Nothing is held back which is what makes this novel so great. She is unapologetic which means that the book is that way as well. When you read the title and start the book, you may have thoughts on what it might be like, but I assure you that perception is wrong. What unfolds is a story focused on love, both romantically and for your family, and what you would do to protect that love. It is one of the most honest books I have read which makes it a must-read!

Thanks for reading and as always leave some recommendations below! I love discovering new books and reading things I wouldn’t have picked for myself. Follow me on GoodReads to see all the books I’m reading. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101673175-rachel-hutchings

Rachel (:

Fictional Characters I Look Up To

The other day I saw a quote from George R R Martin that said “You should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care.” As an avid reader and a writer, I couldn’t agree with it more. It made me start to think about what makes you connect with a character. Sometimes it is seeing a small part of you, but I think that more often than not we love characters because they possess a quality that we wish we had. Or at least that we wish we possessed more of. So today I decided I’d talk about some fictional characters that I love and look up to. I’d love to hear about your top 5 in the comments below!

Winnie the Pooh

In my opinion, Winnie the Pooh is one of the best characters that has ever been created. I loved him as a kid and I still love him now when I’m about to graduate college. My brother who is 25 loves him. My parents love him. But why is that? For me, every time I see a quote from him I immediately feel warm inside. Pooh’s like the embodiment of a hug. However, the two qualities that Pooh possesses that I look up to are his loyalty and his positivity. He sticks by the people that he loves through thick and thin. The newest movie where he goes to find Christopher Robin as an adult showcases this brilliantly. He senses that he is needed and he is there. It all comes from a place of genuine love and the desire for other people’s happiness. That’s an admirable quality. As my senior year continues to fly by, I’m forced to think about what comes after. Not all of my friends will stay here. In the past, I haven’t kept up with friendships as well as I could have. Winnie the Pooh makes me want to remember to make a conscious effort to maintain these friendships in a way that still feels meaningful. In a way, all of the characters in these stories model what friendship should look like. Both the things that you should do, but also how other friends should act toward you. Loyalty should go both ways and Winnie the Pooh is an excellent example of what that should look like. Pooh is also a beacon of positivity. I tend to lean on the more pessimistic side. Sometimes Eeyore reminds me a lot of myself. However, Pooh is always looking on the bright side. One of my favorite Pooh quotes is “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” He is always trying to build people up. He always wants people to see the best in themselves and the world. Every time I see a Winnie the Pooh movie, I leave wanting to live my life through a rose-colored lens. I admire his ability to feel a spectrum of emotions (like sadness when he runs out of honey), but still end the day feeling positive. I’m forever grateful that Winnie the Pooh was created and that I can always look to Pooh for models of friendship and positivity.

Matilda

I have read the book once, but I have seen the movie approximately one million times. I used to watch it every time I went to my Aunt Marla’s house and I never skip it if I scroll past it when channel surfing. It is one of my favorite movies of all time. If you have watched the movie and have not tried to tip over a glass with your mind, you are lying. But her powers are not the main thing that I look up to. I’ve always admired her intelligence and determination. Even though she didn’t have the greatest home life, she was able to dive into books and find other mentorships with people like the librarian and Ms. Honey in order to encourage her learning. She loved school. She actually pleaded to go to school. Sometimes I take for granted the fact that I get to go to college and get a quality education. I complain a lot, but if I take a step back and look at the big picture, I am incredibly lucky. She is a character who makes me look at the world that way. Also, I connect very strongly with her love of books. I bet she has fictional characters that she looks up to as well. I also admire her determination. She was not going to stop without making Ms. Trunchbull pay for the horrible things that she did. Even when others tried to stop her, she believed in herself and pushed forward. In the end, her belief in her goals and her follow-through allowed for everyone to have a much better life. When I watch this movie and think about this character it makes me want to dive into a book and accomplish my goals: both equally important for a happy life for me.

Phineas and Ferb

I haven’t watched this show in a long time. Probably not since I was in middle school, but these characters always made me want to try and do the impossible. These two characters are some of the most inventive and creative characters that I have come across. Their ability to start with an idea in their backyard and transform it into something spectacular was inspiring. They didn’t see anything as too big or too hard. They just did it. I love to write. But for a while now I have been having some sort of a creative block. It may be from stress or from my own anxieties. I’m not totally sure, but for whatever reason, no ideas are flowing. If an idea does come, it’s one that I don’t see ending up well. But characters like Phineas and Ferb wouldn’t just stop. They’d write those bad ideas out if there was even a .00000001 chance it would end up well. They wouldn’t just say “oh well” when writer’s block strikes, they would find a way or build some machine to solve that problem. Too often, I sit by and let things happen around me or ideas pass by without grabbing them because it seems impossible. But characters like these don’t see anything as impossible. They are definitely two characters who possess qualities I’m sometimes lacking.

Nancy Drew

I love this character with all of my heart. I read every Nancy Drew book when I was in elementary school, have played some of the computer games, and have seen the movie. I love the concept of a girl solving crimes with her own wit and strength. She possesses a fearlessness that I wish I had. As you know by now, I struggle with anxiety. I struggle in situations that are much less dire than the places Nancy ends up. She is always willing to jump into the unknown in order to help herself and others, but the unknown is what I fear most. It is what I struggle with coming to terms with on a day to day basis. I wish I had her fearlessness when it comes to diving in even if you aren’t certain it will turn out okay in the end. We aren’t God, so we have no idea what tomorrow brings. Or even what the next hour brings. However, that doesn’t mean that we should just sit in our comfortable bubble and never venture into anything that is uncertain. That is actually impossible. Not everything in life is a sure thing. Sometimes you have to take a deep breath and take a leap of faith. Nancy Drew did that in every book. Sometimes she got out of a sticky situation and learned valuable information that helped her crack the case, but other times she got hit by a bad guy and ended up in a worse position than she started. But she would always take the next case, no matter how difficult the previous one had been. She never let fear hold her back and that is something that I am actively trying to work on. Even just typing this paragraph makes me want to grab a copy and spend some time marveling at Nancy’s ability to walk into the fire. If you never read these books (which is insane to me that this might be the case), you need to. The books are fun but the character and character development that happens over the series is some of my favorite work by an author.

Pippi Longstocking

Last, but certainly not least, is Pippi Longstocking. Based on the mixed reaction I got the year I dressed up as her for Halloween, I would say she is a slightly less popular character than the ones listed above. Not as many people seem to have read these books. For me, she is a character that I have looked up to since the first chapter I read in elementary school. For those of you who don’t know, Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives on her own with her monkey and her horse. She has a unique look and a unique set of skills that lead her on a myriad of adventures including being in the circus and making burglars leave her house. The thing I have always admired about this character is her ability to be totally and completely herself without caring what anyone else thinks about her. I can be self-conscious sometimes even when I don’t want to be. I’m a little bit of a people pleaser and I don’t like to rock the boat. Pippi is not afraid of rocking the boat or being seen as different than everyone else. Her individuality is what makes her such a dynamic character. Owning who you are and being unafraid to show it to the world is something that I would love to do 100% of the time. Part of owning who you are is realizing you have flaws, which Pippi does. It is what makes her such a well written and well-rounded character. She will forever stand out in my mind as the most confident character I have come across.

All of these characters stand out for their own reasons. I love all of them for giving me examples of how to live my life better and to its fullest. I look forward to coming across many more influential characters in the future as I continue to devour books and movies. I want to know what characters you look up to! I think knowing someone’s top five can tell you a lot about them. Let me know in the comments below!

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup #2

It’s time for another roundup of the books that I loved in the last month. My reading speed has slowed down a little since classes started, but I am reading much more than I have in past years. I struggled with what to put as my number three, so there is an honorable mention this month. These three books are all very different, but they each had something that I really connected with. Hopefully, y’all will enjoy them too!

Honorable Mention

#3 Bookshop of Yesterdays by Amy Meyerson

This book was a mix of mystery and drama and was centered around one of my favorite things: a bookstore. The main character, Miranda finds out that her uncle (who she hasn’t seen in sixteen years due to a falling out he had with her mother), left her his bookstore, Prospero Books, in his will. Not only does he leave her his store, but also leads her on a scavenger hunt, like he set up for her as a kid, to find out what exactly happened that caused a major rift between him and the family. Part of the reason I loved this book was the many book references throughout. As a person who loves reading and works at an escape room, the idea of a book-based scavenger hunt was right up my alley. This book is mainly a mystery but also has romance and drama. The idea of family is a major theme. It makes you look at the question: What makes a person family? It also makes you think about where priorities should lie and what actually makes you happy. I always love when a story that you think is one thing turns out to be another and this book definitely felt that way. I really enjoyed this book and think other book enthusiasts will feel the same.

#2 Trust First by Bruce Deel

I decided that I should branch out from reading only fiction and picked up a few nonfiction books. This one was the first one I picked up from the library and I really connected with this book. It is written by a pastor who felt called to take over a church in an unsafe area of Atlanta. Soon that calling became something bigger and he started an organization called City of Refuge. His main philosophy and the philosophy of the organization as a whole is radical trust. The City of Refuge is a one-stop-shop for those who are trying to escape homelessness, drug addiction, joblessness, and human trafficking. They provide housing, treatment plans, doctor visits, career counseling, education programs, and childcare all under one roof. Their idea of radical trust is extended to everyone no matter their past circumstances and no matter how many times that trust is violated. He found that when you give people respect, trust, and love that they haven’t seen before, it can do amazing things. He shares stories of several people who have passed through the program and who have stayed on as staff. The City of Refuge has helped over 20,000 people and they are still going strong. This story was inspiring and made me look at the world a little differently. Why do people turn a blind eye to those in need? Why don’t we just talk to people instead of looking down on them? I found myself tearing up at the way Christ-like love transforms these people’s lives. Not just the people who come through the program, but those who volunteer and work there as well. If you want to feel inspired, this is a must-read.

#1 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

First things first: this was one of the longest books I’ve ever read. I feel the need to tell you that in case you are a person who doesn’t like long novels. It was 771 pages. However, the story it tells is epic and fleshed out in a way that draws you in. It was worth the page count. The book follows Theo, who survives an accident that his mother does not. You follow him from age thirteen into his adult years and watch him grow, make mistakes, fall in love, and try to cope with what he went through as a kid. The one thing he holds onto is a painting, The Goldfinch, that he gets on the day of the attack. It is intertwined with him and his life from the moment he takes it. His life takes many twists and turns, but the painting remains a constant symbol of hope for him. The characters in this novel are so fleshed out, I feel as though I know all of them personally. Some standouts are Boris, Mrs. Barbour, Hobbie, and Pippa. All of them impact Theo in different ways, some positively and some negatively. This book deals with a lot of hard topics because Theo lives a difficult life. Fair warning: there is a pretty big amount of drug use and there are times when he deals with serious depression and suicidal thoughts. It can be difficult to read, but it doesn’t feel like too much in the context of the story. It is a raw and real look at how traumatic events can impact someone’s life. It also looks at what a support system or a lack of a support system can do for you. The imagery is vivid and I felt like I could actually see it all happening. I found out in the middle of reading that it has been adapted into a movie. I’m interested to see what I think. There is so much in this book and not very much that I feel could be cut out, so I hope that it creates the same emotional impact the book does. It’s a rollercoaster from start to finish and whether or not you agree with the final message, it provides a new perspective. I would definitely recommend reading it as long as you can get over the length.

I am always looking for book recommendations so let me know what books you’ve been loving recently. Also, if you want to see all the books that I’m reading, add me on Goodreads!

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/101673175-rachel-hutchings

Rachel (:

Reading Roundup

I have always loved reading. I read all the time when I was younger and fell in love with the way that words on a page could form vivid images in your mind. You could fall in love with a character that wasn’t real but made you feel like they were standing right next to you. Reading was a constant in my life. A way that I could escape the real world for a while. My love of reading and writing is what pushed me to become a publishing major. A job where I can be surrounded by books is a dream come true. While in college, the number of books I read decreased dramatically. After reading textbooks all day, I rarely wanted to read more. But this summer, I have had time to read again and have fallen in love all over again. When I’m feeling particularly anxious at night, I pull out my book and get wrapped up in the story unfolding on the page. By the time I put the book down, I’m calmer than before. I have read a ton of books so far and I am showing no signs of slowing down (I still leave with like five books every time I go to the library) so I decided to start a monthly reading roundup post. Once a month I will talk about the top three books I’ve read. I also want all of you to list some of your favorite books in the comments. I know it can be hard to figure out what to read, so starting this conversation once a month can give us all some ideas. So without further ado, here are my top three books I’ve read this month.

#3 The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

This book is extremely clever. I had read one other book by this same author and his writing style is so interesting to me. It’s very meta. In the book, a detective asks Horowitz to write a book about him solving this case of a woman who walks into a funeral parlor to plan her funeral, and six hours later is found murdered. Horowitz writes a book about him writing a book. It’s clever in its style and it’s clever in its mystery. There are many twists throughout that keep you on your toes. The detective asking Horowitz to write the book is quite the character; eccentric and a little off-putting. The layers to the characters as well as the layers to the mystery are deep. If you like this book, I would suggest also reading Magpie Murders. It’s also pretty meta. I’m always impressed when an author can bring a new angle to a genre that has often become formulaic. Anthony Horowitz does a great job of taking a classic whodunnit and injecting new life into the genre.

#2 Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty

I saw this book on a list for summer reads and decided to give it a shot. I wasn’t quite sure what kind of book it was. I couldn’t tell from the description if it would be a mystery or a comedy or both or neither. It was unclear. After reading it, I would classify it as suspense with humor throughout to break some of the tension. The story centers around nine people who come to a ten-day health retreat. They all come for different reasons that you find out along the way. The head of the retreat is quite the character and has some pretty extreme ideas when it comes to making lives better. What I really love about this book and find incredibly impressive is that each chapter is from the perspective of a different character. Moriarty is constantly switching from one character to another giving you a full picture of every character in the book. The ability to jump from voice to voice seemlessly is extremely difficult, and she makes it look easy. Sometimes with books like this one where there are a lot of characters, things can get muddled and you can lose sight of who they are or where they ended up. Moriarty doesn’t let that happen. By the end, you know each character individually and you know what happens to all the characters. The ending of a book can ruin the whole thing if not handled correctly. But Moriarty finishes this book with ease. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading other works by this author.

#1 The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I picked this book off the shelf at the library on a whim because I saw it near another book I was checking out. I’m so glad I did because this book easily catapulted itself into my top five books of all time. I loved this book! It was like the movies The Prestige and The Greatest Showman (without the music) mixed together with a touch of Romeo and Juliet. Two illusionists take on students and have them compete in a competition that is shrouded in mystery. The stage is the circus that they create and the end of the competition seems to be ambiguous. Everything unfolds at just the right pace. It doesn’t give away things too early, but it doesn’t hold on too long. There is never a dull moment. The imagery is staggering. I could picture this circus so vividly that I could have been watching it play out on TV. Honestly, if a movie isn’t made out of this book then Hollywood is crazy. Although sometimes they butcher books, so I’m torn. The book takes place over many years and follows various groups of characters that weave in and out of each other. By the end of the book, I was dying to go to this circus. Man, do I wish it was real. I’m not usually into fantasy type books, but this one blew me away. It has something for everybody. Mystery, suspense, drama, fantasy, romance. And yet, it always feels cohesive. The weaving in and out of storylines keeps you on your toes much like the two characters in the competition. I can’t say enough good things about this book. I truly think everyone should read it.

So there are my top three for this month’s reading roundup. Now it’s your turn! What are some good books that you have read recently? I’m always looking for more to add to my list.

Rachel (: