Books

Predicting 5-Star Reads

There are so many books on by TBR! Too many books on my TBR… Some books I’m more excited about then others, and some of them I really think that I will absolutely ADORE once I’ve finally read them. I saw a few booktubers do 5-star book prediction videos, and I thought it would be fun if I did that too!

I went through my TBR on Goodreads and picked out 5 books that I think I’m most likely to give a 5-star rating.

Without any further ado, lets begin!

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I absolutely love reading about mythology – heck, I wrote a children’s book about it! I also happen to be a fan of Neil Gaiman’s writing, and there are a ton of his work on by TBR that I would really love to get to sometime in the very near future. At the very top of my list of Neil Gaiman’s books I want to read is Norse Mythology, which is literally retellings of all the Norse myths – with Thor and Odin and Asgard and all that wonderful stuff. I can’t imagine not loving this book and giving it 5 stars.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This book is the latest craze at the moment, and I would have read it already had the bookshelf it’s currently living on not been blocked by boxes… But alas, I must wait until said boxes are moved. *cries* But this book just looks incredible and I’ve heard nothing but great things. Also apparently some people are comparing it to Avatar the Last Airbender?? That just makes me want to read it even more!

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

I read Every Heart a Doorway earlier this year and absolutely adored it and gave it 5 stars. It was the perfect combination of magic and creepiness and was basically everything I could want in a book (I only wish it were a little longer). And it had great LGBT+ representation, which is always a plus. I’m certain I’ll love Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which is a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, but I’m even more excited to read the third book, Beneath the Sugar Sky as it is a direct sequel. Due to spoilers I can’t quite explain what makes me so excited about it, but know that it sounds amazing and I CAN’T WAIT to get my hands on it.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

Last year I read Horns, which is also by Joe Hill, and ever since I have wanted to read more of his books. Probably the one that interests me the most is NOS4A2, purely for how strange it sounds. I don’t even know if I could explain this one. Its about an evil man named Charles Manx who has a special car that he uses to kidnap children and take them to another world called…Christmasland? And there’s a little girl named Vic who has a magic bike that helps her find lost things. And when she’s taken away to Christmasland she becomes the only child to ever escape. But then many years later when Vic is an adult her son is taken away to Christmasland and she has to go back and rescue him. It sounds completely nonsensical, and I hear its really creepy, so I’m fairly certain I will really enjoy it. Will it be a 5-star read? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

I’ve been hearing this book mentioned a lot online recently, and I’ve been captivated by it. Not only is the cover BEAUTIFUL, but I find the concept of the book fascinating. It’s a magical realism that takes place in Taiwan, and is about a girl named Leigh who is convinced that when her mother committed suicide she transformed into a bird. According to the synopsis, “Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.” I really want to read this book. And I really hope to give it 5 stars when I do.

What books on your TBR do you hope to give 5 stars to? Let me know in the comments below!

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Books

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

“People really are like houses with vast rooms and tiny windows. And maybe it’s a good thing, the way we never stop surprising each other.” 

If you’re active in the YA book community, then you’ve probably heard of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Especially recently, with the film adaptation Love, Simon in theaters which people are raving about. I’ve known of this books existence for a little while now, but never got around to reading it. Most likely because it’s basically a rom-com, and that’s a genre I generally don’t gravitate towards. Like at all. But with all the hype that it’s been getting I felt that it was something I had to read.

And so I did!

And my gosh, I loved it.

With all the dark fantasy/horror stuff I generally like to read, I need a little fluff in my life now and then and this book was just what I was hoping for.

For those that don’t know, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is a YA contemporary about a closeted gay boy named Simon Spier who is in an anonymous e-mail relationship with a boy from his school, who he only knows by his screen-name Blue. They’re both happy in their current situation, though Simon starts to wonder just who Blue really is.

This book is funny, endearing, and full of unique and likable characters who really brought the story to life. My favorite character was definitely Leah, one of Simon’s closest friends, as I found that I related to her character the most. And I also loved the fact that Leah was an anime/manga fan – and especially freaked out when she was dressed as Tohru from Fruits Basket at the Halloween party. That was pretty much the moment I decided I loved her character most – anybody who likes Fruits Basket is instantly a cool person in my eyes.

Also, I won’t spoil his identity, but Blue is absolutely adorable and I just want to wrap him up in a warm blanket and feed him muffins.

One of the best parts of this book are the email exchanges between Simon and Blue, which make up approximately half of the book. They’re witty, fun, and share insight into the two of them as people. Even though we don’t really know who Blue is until the end of the book, it feels as if we do.

Who do I recommend this to?

EVERYONE! YAY!

This is a very sweet, heartwarming book that everyone needs in their life. It manages to discuss topics such as homophobia while still being a generally cheerful, happy story that will just bring a smile to your face (and maybe even tears to your eyes, if you’re the sort of person who does that whilst reading). I dare you not to smile while reading this. I DARE YOU!

If you can, go see Love, Simon in theaters! Unfortunately I think I’ll have to wait until it comes out on Blu-ray/Netflix to see it… But if you can go see it you definitely should! I hear it’s just as wonderful as the novel.

And there isn’t a question about it – I’m reading Leah on the Offbeat as soon as it’s released. 😀

Have you already read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

Books, Writing

ANNOUNCEMENT: I wrote a book! // World Mythology for Children

Paperback cover

You read the title right – I have written a book!

Ten billion years ago, I wrote a book called World Mythology for Children. It was written specifically for Grade 1 (now Level 1) of my mom’s homeschool curriculum Build Your Library. But it wasn’t really a book, it was just extra pages included in the back of the lesson plan PDF. Back then I thought it was pretty good! And my mom still defends it and claims it isn’t nearly as terrible as I thought it was (though I don’t think she’s even read it in years…)

But 13-year-old Sarah and 18-year-old Sarah write very differently. And because I’m going off to college to study creative writing I felt that having hundreds upon hundreds of people reading my 13-year-old self’s comically bad writing aloud to their children was, quite frankly, embarrassing – plus I wanted the money to help pay for college tuition. So it’s basically a win-win situation!

Mythology has always been an obsession of mine. It’s the reason I always said that ancient history was my favorite school subject when I was younger – ancient people had really cool mythologies! I would drool over books like D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm. That’s basically the reason my mom had me write the original version of the book in the first place – not only was it a good way to get me to practice writing, but it was also me writing about a subject I was passionate about.

The synopsis for the book is as follows:

In the past, before there was science, people told each other stories in order to explain and understand the world around them. These stories are known as myths, and while they may seem a bit strange now, people really believed them to be true for many years! Travel far into the past and hear some of the many strange and exciting myths from ancient Egypt to Rome!

E-book cover 

Also! All the artwork for the book was done by my younger brother, Robbie (you can follow him on Instagram if you’re interested in seeing more of his art!)

If you’re interested in purchasing my book, you can buy the paperback version here. Or, you can buy it as an e-book!

Books

My Favorite Childhood Novels

Books have always been a big part of my life – mostly thanks to my mom, who also loves books and has always encouraged me to read. I honestly can’t recall a time when I wasn’t reading books. I thought that it would be fun to reflect back to my childhood and share with you some of my favorite novels I read when I was very small. I’m pretty sure a couple of these were read aloud to me by my mom, but a grand majority were books I read myself. Some of these I can’t even recall the plots of, I just knew my tinier self was obsessed with them for some reason or another.

Also I’m not including Harry Potter in this, because DUH of course little Sarah was obsessed with Harry Potter! How could I call myself a bookwormy if I hadn’t read them?! I thought it would just be silly to include it here.

And now, without further ado, let’s begin!

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (aka The Secret of NIMH) by Robert C. O’Brien 

This was (and still is) one of my favorite movies of all time, but I do know that I read the book first. I’m about 99% sure my mom read it aloud to me first, but I definitely picked it up a bit later on and read it to myself again when I was a little bit older. I did that a lot. I honestly want to go back and re-read this sometime soon, because I don’t really remember the book at all. The movie is a lot more vivid in my memory (and even that I haven’t seen in years…)

The Tales of Dimwood Forest by Avi (series)

Oh hey, more books about mice! I loooooooooved this series when I was younger. I can vividly recall being really obnoxiously excited to find Ragweed (the prequel to the series) at the library and staying up really late at night reading it. (Actually I recall staying up reading late into the night a lot when I was younger, but because my concept of ‘staying up late’ was a lot different then that it is now I was probably only staying up past 8:30ish reading…)

The series is (in order) Poppy, Poppy and Rye, Ereth’s Birthdayand Poppy Returns (with Ragweed as the prequel). I’ve read and loved them all deeply. I unfortunately don’t remember the plots to any of them… Aside from little snippets I’ve heard when my mom read Poppy and Ereth’s Birthday aloud to my younger sister recently. I enjoyed the little snippets I heard. I love this series.

(EDIT: I recently came the attention that there is a FIFTH BOOK IN THE SERIES. It’s called Poppy and Ereth and I’m freaking out because I never read it or even knew it existed and now I need to cancel everything and read it so that my childhood can be complete.)

Anything by Beverly Cleary

I’ve probably checked out every Beverly Cleary book the library children’s section had because I loved her books. We still own a bunch of her books as well. The Ramona Quimby books were my favorites, but I read a ton of her other ones too. I liked the Henry and Ribsy books (sort of a Ramona spin-off series, I think) but not quite as much. I also liked the Ralph S. Mouse  trilogy (more mouse books!). I’m sure I’ve read a ton more of her work, but I can’t remember any of them off the top of my head.

The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (series)

I literally couldn’t tell you anything about this series other than it was about three siblings who discover a secret world of fairies. I do remember it sparking an obsession with finding real fairies, and being really sad that I never did actually find any. I’m still searching though. I read all five of them, LOVED THEM, and can recall being super disappointed in the movie adaptation. I don’t remember anything from the movie either, other than apparently I found it inaccurate.

There’s also a sequel series called Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, and I happen to own the first one, but I never read it.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo 

Oh hey, another mouse book! I don’t think I need to say too much about this one, its still one of my favorite books of all time. It’s one of my mom’s all time favorites as well. I can recall checking it out from the library one evening and then the very next day finishing it in a single sitting because I enjoyed it so much.

There’s also the movie that I’ve seen a few times – NOWHERE NEAR AS GOOD AS THE BOOK but not the worst movie adaptation a book has ever gotten. And Emma Watson voices the princess in it so there’s that.

Anything by Marguerite Henry

I, like many young girls, went through a bit of a horse phase at one point. I don’t really know why – I did ride a horse once during a girl-scout trip but I thought it was scary. But I loved to read books about horses! I know for a fact that I read Misty of Chincoteague; Sea Star: Orphan of Chincoteague; Stormy, Misty’s Foaland Mustang: Wild Spirit of the West. I don’t think I read any of her other work (though I’m pretty sure we own Justin Morgan Had a Horse so it’s possible I read that one too.)

I also happened to own Black Beauty by Anna Sewell but never read it because for some reason I convinced myself it was a “grown up book” and I couldn’t read it, but I stared at it a lot. I was a weird kid.

Royal Diaries (series) by various authors

Ah, now here’s an obsession. My mom is very into history, so I read a lot of historical fiction when I was younger. I read a lot of different ones, but my all time favorite historical fiction novels were from the Royal Diaries series, which were basically fictional diaries written by various princesses throughout history. I devoured these – I’m pretty sure we own a bunch, but I know I got a lot of them from the library as well.

After checking Goodreads I found that there were a few that I never read!! This is outrageous – especially seeing as there was one about a princess from China that I never read?! I had an obsession with China as a small child, so the fact that I never read that one is preposterous!

But the ones I know I did read include: Marie Antoinette: Princess of Versailles, Austria – France 1769 by Kathryn Lasky, Cleopatra VII: Daughter of the Nile – 57 B.C . by Kristiana Gregory, Isabel: Jewel of Castilla, Spain, 1466 by Carolyn Meyer, Jahanara: Princess of Princesses by Kathryn Lasky, and my personal favorite Elizabeth I: Red Rose of the House of Tutor, England, 1544 by Kathryn Lasky.

D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths

When I was younger a lot of my friends were really obsessed with the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan but I could never really get into them. I did eventually read all five books of the first series, but I never cared enough to read further. Which is bizarre considering how obsessive I was about Greek mythology. This isn’t technically a novel, but I really loved D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire when I was younger. It’s basically a big picture book full of stories from Greek mythology that I read obsessively. Like, I’ve probably read through this book over a hundred times. It once inspired me to write a very embarrassingly bad novel about Jason and the Golden Fleece.

There’s also a D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths that I haven’t actually read yet, but would like to one day.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

I actually forgot this book existed until just now as I was reminiscing about old favorite books. It’s basically about three orphan girls who join a school for dance and theater. I think I read this book during my “theater phase”. I was in a few plays as a child, and enjoyed it, but unfortunately it never went anywhere and I haven’t done theater since. I also did ballet once when I was a very tiny child, but that also went nowhere. I have little to no memory of that time but I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it – honestly all I can really recall from the experience is getting new stuffed animals after performances (a ballerina doll, and a teddy bear named Teddy that was one of my greatest friends for many years).

The Mysterious Benedict Society (trilogy) by Trenton Lee Stewart

I had to save the best for last. The Mysterious Benedict Society is one of my favorite middle-grade trilogies of all time and I have fond memories of reading them. These books are about four children who are exceptionally smart that have to go on a secret undercover mission in an evil school. Not only is it an addictively fun story, but its full of tests and puzzles that you, the reader, can solve too! Sadly, I could never solve them myself… But it was still really fun to read!!

There’s also a prequel called The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict all about Mr. Benedict when he was child and while I wasn’t nearly as obsessed with it as I was with the rest of the series I still found it very enjoyable.

Did you read any of these books as a child? What are some of your childhood favorite books? Let me know in the comments below!

Books

Book Series Review: The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

“Without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.”

YA can often be a bit hit-or-miss for me. I generally enjoy reading it, but there’s so much in YA that I find overly cliché and boring that it can often be difficult for me to find a YA book or series that I actually genuinely love.

I was almost surprised by how much I loved the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. Everything about these books was just…right.

The story follows our protagonist Todd Hewitt, a boy living on another planet in a town inhabited exclusively by men. All the men on the planet have the strange ability to hear each others thoughts, something they refer to as “Noise”. One month before he becomes a man, Todd and his dog Manchee (who also happens to have Noise) accidentally stumble upon a pocket of silence which turns out to be a girl named Viola who doesn’t have Noise. Todd soon discovers that his town harbors a dark secret, and now he and Viola must run for their lives if they want to survive. There’s so much that happens during these three books that I can’t even begin to explain for risk of spoilers. You’ll just have to read it for yourself – trust me, it’s worth it.

The writing style alone is an experience in itself. The whole first book is entirely in Todd’s perspective, and is written exactly as you’d expect an illiterate farm-boy to think. While you’d expect the misspellings and odd sentence structure to be a bit of a turn-off, it actually adds to the immersion and I really enjoyed it. In later books we start to get the perspective of other characters, with each POV denoted by a different font. Noise is also generally written in a different font, which I just found stylistically appealing.

Todd and Viola and their relationship is definitely one of the best parts of the series, which definitely surprised me. I’m very picky about my fictional romances – especially in YA. I don’t ship characters unless I truly feel that they were meant to be, and not because the author shoved their relationship in my face. But Todd and Viola have a special bond that grows stronger throughout the three books and never feels forced. I really came to care about them.

These books could be a bit stressful to read at times and there were plenty of moments where I grew genuinely worried for the characters. Besides Todd and Viola, there is a whole cast of characters that I came to care about as the story went on – even some that I initially hated (and others that I despised ’til the very end).

Overall I give The Knife of Never Letting Go 4.5 stars, The Ask and the Answer 4 stars, and Monsters of Men a solid 5 stars. This is definitely a new all-time favorite series for me, and one that I absolutely recommend to everyone. And hey, I generally don’t care for sci-fi and I still loved these books so even if you’re not a big sci-fi reader either I think you should still check these out. Like I said, its very worth it.

Have you already read the Chaos Walking trilogy? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!

Books

The Reader Problems Tag

For today’s post, I thought it’d be fun to do a tag! Therefore I am going to be doing The Reader Problems Tag – which I wasn’t tagged in per-say… (I TAGGED MYSELF so there) I’m a reader and I have problems. Therefore, this tag is perfect!

1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next??

I am very much a mood reader, so honestly it isn’t usually that difficult for me to decide what to read next. I find that if I set myself a very strict monthly TBR I fail miserably, but if I pick and choose as I go its much easier. If I read a really good fantasy and really want to read another fantasy, I’ll pick up another fantasy. But if I’m more in the mood for a horror novel next, I’ll pick up a horror novel. I’ve been reading a lot of YA over the past few months, so it’s highly likely that I’m going to gravitate towards middle grade or adult books in the very near future. I need variety in my life or I’ll probably die.

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re not loving it. Do you put it down or are you committed?

I have commitment issues when it comes to any form of fiction- if I’m not 100% invested in the story I will not hesitate to drop it if I’m not enjoying it. A lot of the time I don’t necessarily hate the book. I’m just no longer in the mood for that type of story and *hopefully* I’ll pick it back up later when I’m actually in the mood. But if I don’t really like the book? I definitely won’t force myself to finish it. There so many good books in this world, why waste my time on the crappy ones?

3. The end of the year is approaching, but you’re so far away from hitting your Goodreads goal. Do you try to catch up? How?

I’m actually trying an experiment at the moment to see if I can avoid this problem.

Basically, rather than setting my Goodreads goal to 25 or 50 or 10,000 books I’m continuously raising it each time I hit a milestone. At the beginning of January I set my goal to 5 books and after I hit 5 I raised the goal to 10. That way there isn’t an intimidating number of books to reach. I might actually read more this year than I have in the past few years! Or I’ll never get past 10. (Kidding, kidding….) But I feel confident that this will be a successful reading year.

Let’s just hope college doesn’t make reading more difficult…

4. The covers of a series you have don’t match. How do you cope?

While perhaps it doesn’t bother me quite as much as other people, it’s still pretty annoying. Most of the series I own are box sets, so it’s not something directly affecting me as of right now. I like my books to look pretty together, and if they don’t match then they don’t look quite as pretty together. But sometimes the newer cover designs are pretty too…

5. Everyone and their mother loves a book that you don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings? 

The biggest issue with this is that if I don’t like a book I don’t finish it. So there aren’t any books that I just HATE, and I can’t discuss my hatred for said books with anyone if I haven’t read the whole thing… so nobody? I generally keep my negative feelings towards fiction to myself. There’s so many great stories to focus on instead!!

For me personally, a lot of the books I don’t like are the super popular YA series that some of the bigger booktubers/bloggers rave about. I don’t care for, say, Throne of Glass. I only read maybe the first 4-5 chapters (maybe even less) but I just couldn’t get into it and didn’t want to force myself through a book that I didn’t think I’d enjoy. So I just didn’t bother. Same with The Mortal Instruments (though I did get through the first 3 books and didn’t hate them! I just don’t foresee myself ever reading the rest)

I guess I bond with my mom over these feelings, since she doesn’t care for a lot of the popular YA books either. Though she hasn’t even attempted most of them… I’ve at least tried!!

6. You’re reading a book and are about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

Silly mortals, I don’t cry over books.

No, seriously – for years I just assumed I had no soul because fictional things never made me cry. (And I’m a very cry-babyish person, so it was weird). In recent years, I am much more likely to cry over a TV show/movie/anime than I am over a book. I sobbed like a wee child over shows like Fullmetal Alchemist and Supernatural. But for some reason I’ve never found a book that caused me to shed actual tears. It isn’t that I don’t get sad if something upsetting happens in a story, I just won’t physically cry.

I almost envy people who are able to cry while reading an emotional scene in a book. What is it that I’m missing here?!

7. A sequel to a book you love came out, but you’ve long forgotten what happened in the previous novel. What do you do?

I find myself in this situation a lot. I’m a very forgetful person, and forgetting the plotlines of “favorite books” is one of my many talents. If I can’t recall a thing from the previous novel, then the best thing to do would be to re-read it first and then read the sequel. But realistically speaking that likely won’t happen. Instead I’ll set aside the sequel for many long years, and maybe never read it. But its on my TBR so I’ll have to get to it eventually. Right? Right?!

8. You don’t want anyone borrowing your books. How do you politely tell them “no” when they ask?

Easy! I just threaten to eat them if they harm my book. They’ll just slowly back away and never ask to borrow a book from me again. Problem solved!

9. Reading ADD: you’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?

I’m the human-embodiment of a reading slump. Honestly, my only solution is to continue picking up and putting down books until finally finding THE BOOK that rescues me from the depths of the abyss. It can take years… But hey, I’m currently reading slump-free so it does work!

10. How long do newly purchased books live on your shelf before you finally get to reading them?

Anywhere from one day to ten billion years. Like I said, I’m a mood reader. I’ll get to it when I feel like it and not a millisecond sooner.

And that’s the tag! Do you have any of these problems? Let’s chat about it in the comments below! 

Books

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

“Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.
He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died.
Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.”

I’ll admit: I’m generally pretty slow when it comes to getting around to reading the latest popular books, but finally after hearing nothing but glowing reviews all throughout 2017 I knew that this was definitely a must-read in 2018.

I am happy to say that this book did not disappoint!

The Hate U Give, the debut novel of author Angie Thomas, is a heart-wrenching YA contemporary raising awareness of the importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign and the harmfulness of racism. The novel follows our main character Starr Carter, who recently witnessed the death of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a cop – an event that will change her life forever. For most of her life she’s lived in two worlds – Williamson: the fancy prep school she attends, and Garden Heights: the poor black neighborhood where she lives. She’s always been able to keep those two lives separate, until now.

Should she stay safe, stay quiet? Or should she speak up and fight for change?

I think Starr Carter was a very well written protagonist and a great role model for younger teens. Her resilience and strength were inspiring and something we need more of in this world.

Angie Thomas painted a vivid picture of what life is like for so many black people today. It’s unpleasant, but real. The honesty in this book will make you forget you’re reading fiction – Starr feels like a real person, as do all of the characters and the world they live in. Because…they are real. This is a real thing happening right now to so many people. How many Khalils are there in this world, reduced into only “drug dealers” and “thugs” in the media, who will only ever be remembered as such?

But amidst the dark reality of this story, it was still able to have a lot of heart and humor that made it even easier to fall in love with the characters. Angie Thomas is clearly a Harry Potter fan, you can tell by all the references she sprinkled in.

Who do I recommend this to?

Well…

Everyone?

This is one of those books important enough that everyone should read it, even if your not that into contemporary YA (like me). If more people understood and emphasized with those who were different then themselves, perhaps the world would be a much better place.

Have you already read The Hate U Give? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!