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Weekly Reads: Week 23

**Welcome to Weekly Reads! Each Monday I’ll share reviews for the books I’ve recently read. For more reviews, please visit my page, The Reads: From A to Z. **

Good news, friends! My temporary position has become full time! I’m so excited to be brought on by the company I’ve been working for so long, but it’ll be a busy next few weeks as I take on more responsibilities. I’m hoping to continue a good balance between work and blogging still, but if a post is late or missing, you’ll know why!

As you’ll see with my reviews this week, my latest obsession with YA hasn’t slowed yet – I can’t get enough! When I was younger, I read my fair share of YA and Juvenile Fiction, but it seems so different these days – bigger and better, everything I wish was available in my teens. I’m so jealous of the youth today for having such a wonderful selection and wide range of genres within YA to choose from. Most of the novels I read in middle school were family focused, real world adventures or romance novels – a fantasy or dystopian novel for teens was unheard of then. But, as we all know, YA is not just for the young! Their themes speak to tragic and emotional personal battles, outlining issues we can all relate to at any age. What are your favorite YA novels?

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The Chimes by Anna Smaill

The Chimes is an exquisite link between the literary world and the power of music – set in a dystopian world where memory is forbidden and written language forgotten, where music is the last remaining key to the past and the only way to build a new future. With his parents’ deaths, Simon journeys to London, a directive given by his mother, a last hope for building his future and discovering the truths of the past, but with drastic change to his every day routine, his memory is flooded and his quest forgotten. He joins a pact of runners, a group of teenagers searching the deserted underground tunnels of London for fragments of palladium, a metal that disrupts the memory erasing effect of the chimes. By honing his ability to retain memories and those of others, Simon finds an ally in Lucien, the leader of the pact and a talented musician, trained by the very order responsible for the demise of memory. With great imagination and musical prose, The Chimes is not a novel to miss – a great choice for LGBT Pride Month.

“How without mercy and without blame we have all of us been. And how careless to have misplaced so much.”

Where to begin? This novel is amazing, and thinking back on my reading, I’m tempted to add another star to my rating! The novel begins quite suddenly with Simon’s short journey to London. Once there, the language of the action is taken by the melody of confusion – both for Simon and for me. I wasn’t quite sure on the specifics of the world Simon lives, what are they hunting for in the river? Why is it important? The specifics of their world are only revealed as Simon is able to recover his memories and learns them for himself, bonding the reader to Simon’s plight and making for a thrilling discovery. Though, once the secrets behind the Order are revealed, the novel comes to a quick conclusion. This is the reason for the lower rating – the end is both rushed and anticlimactic with little more than a simple explanation behind the creation of the chimes. I was left wanting more, more of the history and more of the whys and the hows, but especially more of an ending for Simon and Lucien.

Rating: 3 Stars      GoodReads      Amazon

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses is the fantastical retelling of Beauty and the Beast we’ve all been waiting for. Living on the outskirts of Prythian, the land of the Fae, nineteen year old Feyre is out hunting for her family’s survival when startled by the presence of a wolf. Days later, after selling the wolf’s pelt, she’s visited by a beast demanding penance by an ancient treaty between the fae and human kind: death, or her return with him to Prythian for the rest of her days. Little does she know, but the beast is no animal, but Tamlin, High Lord of the Spring Court and high fae. Expecting to be treated prisoner, she finds herself treated equal with all the indulgences the court has to offer laid at her feet, but with a magical blight o’er the land, there’ll be vast mysteries to uncover as she finds herself caught amidst an ancient war between faeries.

“I threw myself into that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.”

I absolutely loved this novel! Full of action, mystery, lore, and romance, there’s absolutely nothing lacking in this beautiful retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Let’s just start with Feyre – I love her character. She’s smart and independent, but she’s also vulnerable and while she doesn’t often take no for an answer or let others push her down, she easily lets her family take advantage, a soft spot I think we can all relate to. Though her relationship with Tamlin is difficult from the start, their teasing slowly turns to respect, to friendship, and then to love, a path all to familiar in life. Part of their relationship is based on his kindness, for the first time in her life, Feyre is treated as an equal, someone to be cared for and not forgotten, something that truly opens her eyes to Tamlin, but I can’t help but feel something desperate lurks in his intentions.

PLEASE STOP READING – SPOILERS!

My issues with the novel begin with the rite – though it’s an ancient tradition that he’s required to take part, I still can’t believe she’d forgive him so easily. He slept with someone else and had the gall to pursue her right after doing so, like an animal. He’s controlling and more than the gentle giant we’re introduced to at the novel’s start. And for his chance to finally see her under the mountain, he spends their time lusting for her when he could be consoling her, helping her. He does nothing but for himself, but that’s just my two cents. Then there’s the riddle – wasn’t it glaringly obvious?? Each line seemed to correspond perfectly to a specific character and their given background, but given her duress, I can see her difficulty in solving the puzzle. Oh, but Rhysand. I’m still not sure what to make of him – why should he help her? And why is he so much more attractive than Tamlin? His cunning and teasing – he always brings about Feyre’s snarkier side. Still, I thought she died, so why is the bargain still valid? I thought faeries were always specific with their wording and all about their loopholes – so with her new beginning, the bargain should be dead in the water. Guess we’ll just have to see what happens in the latest installment, The Court of Mist and Fury!

Rating: 4 Stars      GoodReads      Amazon

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The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest is the perfect fusion of modern life and faerie lore, a combination I couldn’t resist. Hazel and her brother Ben live in a magical town on the outskirts of the forest, side by side with the magical fae and a mysterious glass coffin in the heart of the forest. Waves of tourists flock to their little town to visit the peculiar horned boy asleep in the coffin, but the people of Fairfold know better than to test the limits of the fae. Never eat their food, never drink the wine, never say thank you… There are rules to be followed to ensure peace between kinds, until the day the glass is shattered and the enchanted prince awakes. As secrets are revealed and loyalties made, Hazel will have to trust her instincts to save the town.

“Hazel, Hazel, blue of eye. Kissed the boys and made them cry.”

A modern fairy tale with faeries? Count me in! I really enjoyed the premise of the novel, expecting to be wowed by enchanting characters and faerie lore, and while Black did deliver on those points, the melding between the modern and the fantastical didn’t always work. The novel novel felt separated into two parts, one story in which Hazel is a normal teenage girl: family problems, boy crazy, self-doubting, a total tease, and the second part in which Hazel is a bad ass knight – kicking ass and slaying monsters. As more of her story is revealed, we see she has even more problems that implied at the beginning, an element of the story I struggled with. Yes, the end of the novel focuses more on her childhood and parental abandonment all those years, but it’s not really dealt with, so much as acknowledged, and for a girl who’s spent years exerting so much violence – how is she so normal? But, that aside, Hazel is pretty great: loyal, brave, willing to stand up for others, she’s stronger than she knows and makes for an excellent hero. Sub-story to the plot, there’s a good deal of romance thrown into the mix. Hazel falls for a changeling, Jack (yup! I really love that there’s a changeling in this story – maybe it needs another star) while her brother falls for the faerie prince, an unexpected romance but my favorite. While Hazel’s relationship seemed rush in its progression, the story reveals Ben has been a frequent visitor to the glass coffin for years, talking to the prince as he would a friend – culminating to a grand gesture and heartbreak. Together, the fantastical elements, romance, and focus on friendship makes for an amazing read, AND another great YA for LGBT Pride Month – and yes, just another fun happenstance in that regard.

Rating: 3 Stars      GoodReads      Amazon

What have you been reading lately?

** This post contains affiliate links. All reviews are of my own opinion. Thank you for supporting my love of reading! **

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Digital Media: Which App Is For You?

I absolutely LOVE my digital libraries. The Houston Library subscribes to several digital catalogs, and I definitely could not do all my reading without them! They make my life much simpler and wait times much, much shorter – because waiting 5 months for a book is incredibly frustrating. But with so many options, you can have it all now. The only question is, which app are you going to use? Or will you use several? For each title I have on my TBR list, I pretty much have a clear plan in mind on where I’ll be borrowing – whether from the library itself, or as an audiobook, or as an eBook. My choice of digital catalog is primarily dependent on if an audiobook is available and the wait time for the title I’m looking for, but there are pros and cons to each app available. Here, I’ll be reviewing the 4 main digital catalogs my library uses: Overdrive, Hoopla, Axis 360 and One Click Digital.

**UPDATE**

After publishing this post, I have since discovered my library had a “secret” audio copy of A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas on One Click Digital! I say “secret” because **shockingly** there weren’t any holds on the audiobook! One Click Digital definitely deserves a little more credit in this post, and spread the word – there might be more treasures to find there!

If you have any tips or tricks for these apps, please share! Which is your favorite?

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Overdrive Pros:

  • Audiobooks and eBooks available.
  • You can borrow an unlimited amount per month.
  • You can borrow up to ten items at time.
  • Using the advanced search, you can search by subject or genre, format, language, awards, reading level, and availability. Being able to search titles immediately available is definitely what keeps bringing me back to Overdrive.
  • Overdrive’s audiobook player is the best! They have a wide range of playback speeds, a sound boost, and a searchable index of chapters.
  • Can listen to an audiobook while downloading.
  • You can download Kindle eBooks.

Overdrive Cons:

  • Very popular, so there can be a longer wait time for popular titles.
  • App can be a little slow and a search will take you a few minutes to scroll through – it’s a multiple page process.
  • Does not show page lengths.
  • Pop ups when you bookmark a title or put a title on hold or borrow – it can get in the way and is pretty annoying!

 

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Hoopla Pros:

  • More content available: audiobooks, eBooks, movies, television, music and comics!
  • All titles available NOW!
  • They have a lot of popular titles available – even cookbooks!
  • App is set up similar to Netflix and very easy to use.
  • Borrow time for eBooks and audiobooks is 21 days!
  • Chromecast button -straight to your TV in a blink of an eye.
  • Faster download times.
  • Shows page lengths and time lengths right below the title – no scrolling or searching for this vital information.
  • Hoopla’s reading app is very easy to use and works just like Kindle.

Hoopla Cons:

  • You can only borrow 8 titles a month (this is for all digital formats). But, your borrowing time is 21 days, so your checkouts can overlap.
  • Audio player is not so great – limited playback speeds, does not automatically start playing when you resume (you have push play a few times), no sound boost, and no chapter index. You can only fast-forward or rewind, so switching between a book and an audiobook on Hoopla is very tedious.
  • Cannot listen to an audiobook as it downloads.
  • Their recommendations make no sense. I can check historical fiction all I want, but they’ll never show any recs from my favorite genre.

 

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Axis 360 Pros:

  • Only eBooks available through my library.
  • Lots of titles available and shorter wait times. Their app shows the number of holds as well as an estimated wait time.
  • Unlimited checkouts during the month.
  • Brand new titles available!
  • Set up is similar to Hoopla – visually pleasing, fast download time, fast app.
  • Best recommendations by an app! They actually recommend titles I’d like to read based on what I’m looking at.
  • It has ALL the subgenres listed. You’ll find what you’re looking for here, and quickly.

Axis 360 Cons:

  • In app reader is kind of terrible. It never resumes at the right spot (unless you bookmark your place, but that’s more for notating and highlighting) and it always resumes at the largest text size? It’s pretty frustrating. Plus, it does this highly animated page flip that’s really slow and very unnecessary.
  • Does not show page lengths or anything more than a very short summary.

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 One Click Digital Pros:

  • There are no holds – all titles available immediately! Including (at my library, at least) A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
  • Great audio quality, probably the best out of all the apps. No echo!
  • For audiobooks, a chapter list is available to skip ahead or go back – super easy to navigate.

One Click Digital Cons:

  • The app is overall, a little more complicated to navigate. Once in the listing area of your checked-out titles, the only way back to the main menu area is to click “search” at the bottom. And then, you must type in your password each time and it’s easy to accidentally go back to your checked-out materials to repeat the process many times…
  • There are no options when it comes to playback speed on audiobooks. I tried – the option is mentioned in the tutorial, but I was never able to find the actual button for it. My app is updated, I pressed every menu option – if you’ve found it, PLEASE share your secrets!
  • Not the greatest selection of available titles, but as mentioned above, there are a few hidden gems.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely love Overdrive and Hoopla for their accessibility and ease of use, but these days I’ve been favoring Hoopla for audiobooks and Axis 360 for eBooks. Even though their reader could be better, my issues are easily trumped by the shorter waiting periods. I’m just not patient enough for Overdrive anymore, even though their audio player is by far the best of the bunch.

Which is your favorite? Do you have any tips or tricks?

 

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Are Some Books Better In Audio?

As any bookworm, my TBR is always growing – ALWAYS. So with a growing list, and new titles being added almost daily, at this point, what else is there to do but listen to more audiobooks? It’s the fastest way to devour new titles, or at least for me it is. I have an 8 hour work day, and I’m typically able to listen for a good 5 to 6 hours of audio a day – and added 2 to 3 books a week to my reading! But on my journey into the audio world, I’ve realized a few things. First, all audiobooks are dependent on the narrator, and not all narrators are equally as awesome. Second, given a great narrator, my experience listening to the audio version completely enhances my reading – pretty sure I cry more often listening to a book than when reading text. But, this leads me to the question, are some books better in audio? And since I’m leaning toward yes, this also means there will be books that are inherently worse in their audio format (perhaps even without considering the narrator!). So, how can we tell the difference, especially before starting a book?

The latter, is my biggest dilemma these days. On a limited budget and dependent on library resources, I only have so many audiobooks I can check out over digital media, so wasting a check-out (or a few) a month on a dud is always a downer. So what makes a great audiobook? An attentive narrator, obviously, but especially one who can differentiate characters by voice and tone and add an engaging element to the story. But for an audiobook to be engaging is also dependent on the writer’s voice at all – too little prose or description makes for a bland reading or too much prose or description makes for a fairy tale – both end in a soothing concoction to put me to sleep or listen without hearing anything. Either way, your experience with an audiobook is dependent on many aspects, all of which are dependent on personal judgment and likings, making an array of reviews all the more helpful – I always try to mention when I’ve listened to an audio version for this reason.

Now that I’ve had some audio-time under my belt, here are a few books I’m sad to have missed out on. I’ll definitely need to reread, I mean, re-listen to these eventually! I have a feeling the audio version makes for an even more enriching experience, really bringing the characters to life or picking up where the text can drag. Have you listened to any of these, what did you think?

  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • The Passenger by F.R. Tallis (I bet the audiobook really amplifies the spooky elements of the story!
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

There have also been some stellar audiobooks. They made me laugh and cry and laugh some more, and I’m sure if I had read the print version of the novels I’d have experienced that as well, but it was such an emotional roller coaster listening to the stories acted aloud, the feeling in the narrator’s voice, the catch in their throat as the character suffered or the joy in their cry for happiness… I can’t recommend these enough!

  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

And the Duds. These were just too melodic in their writing, and my ears completely blocked it all out. Please don’t ask me about these titles, they were not successful readings by any means.

  • Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan
  • The Age of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks (the narration was pretty bland)
  • The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey
  • We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen (I’m going to have to actually read this one – too many characters and little distinction made by the narrator)

What have been your best/worst audiobooks? Any books you’re waiting to listen to vs. read?

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Weekly Reads: Week 22

Hello, June! I hope y’all are having a great start to your summer!

You guys, look at all these books. I really need to step up my reading game this month – I still have a few stragglers left from last month’s library haul that I probably won’t get to, but these are all so great, I can’t imagine not reading any of these! Although now I face another problem, which to read first? I’ve already snooped on the first 20 pages from a few of them, and now I just keep switching between them. I can’t choose!

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Thank goodness for good books, because life just keeps on throwing its punches – luckily they’re rather small slaps this time, but still, annoying. Minutes before my state inspection, my gas cap tether decided to crumble to pieces, so yeah, never imagined that could happen…let alone weeks after finally getting my car back from the shop. I’m so grateful for good friends and stories to keep me going!

And I can’t forget these happy faces! My roomie’s pup is going to make a great calendar model. 🙂

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Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Maddy is the girl you only see in movies, trapped insider her home for the last seventeen years with little hope of ever leaving. She suffers from a rare immunodeficiency disease known as SCID which makes her allergic to pretty much everything or anyone she’ll ever come into contact with, hence the bubble her mother has created for her safety. Then one day, new neighbors arrive next door, complete with their son Olly – tall, lean, wearing all black, always mysteriously disappearing to the roof, she can’t help but spy on the neighbors, becoming fascinated with their every move, a new connection to the outside world. A romantic, and online, flirtation ensues, leading to the dramatic entrance of a new person inside the protected bubble, leading Maddy to new temptations and a wild dream of joining the outside world.

“Everything is a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.”

I listened to the audio version of the novel, and it drew me in from the very first second. You can’t help but fall for Maddy, she’s vulnerable in a way none of us can even dream of and desperate for any chance at connection. She’s unique and obsessed with books, her one outlet into the world – I think this was Yoon’s attempt to make Maddy more relatable to the reader, and boy, did it work. Then, the romance – their flirtation is magnetic, simply adorable! Olly is a much more dramatic character than Maddy, surprising since she’s the one with the illness, but he has more drama in his life than meets the eye. Their relationship is everything it should be, a little naïve and a little awkward – it’s not too much to overpower the real story, Maddy’s story. The central theme is more, wanting more, needing more, more connection, more of life, more of everything. The ending was a little unexpected given everything that led up to it, and I don’t think enough was done to justify the means, but how else could it have ended? Clearly, a happy ending was called for and Yoon definitely delivered.

Rating: 3 Stars

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Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith

 Set just after the Revolutionary War in the American South, three men bound by their search for freedom will go to desperate lengths to take hold of a future not promised by fate. An escaped slave, a Creek Indian, and an emotionally disturbed white man are on the run when their paths fortuitously converge. The white man, Cat, is short on words while Bob, the escaped slave, is as talkative as the days are long, learning long ago to fill the voids with the sound of his voice, while the Creek man is sparing with his words he is found wise, seeking retribution in order to take leadership of his community. Together, they hatch a plan to rob a party of their coin, but the plan is botched and the trio soon find themselves on the run for a shocking murder. A French trapper, Le Clerc, has been charged with their capture, but after years of studying as an amateur anthropologist, Le Clerc is overwhelmed by his curiosity. What could have possibly brought these three men together? What binds them? As they continue on their journey, they’ll find a new meaning in freedom and family as they become the embodiment of any young American.

“You’ll see…soon you’ll be old enough to know what you want, and it’ll take all of you to get it and hold it. It’ll take all of you to keep on holding it, even after nothing’s left. That’s what all this is, just finding and then holding.”

“This was how we whipped ourselves into froth. Revenge played in our hearts, weaseled down our arms into our hands, which could not stop clenching. No man could take my brothers and not in turn be taken, or I was not a man.”

Knowing little of the actual story line, I was initially drawn to the novel by its setting, taking place in 1788 only ten years after the Revolutionary War. I was immediately drawn by the unique story that unfolded, bringing with it a wide range of perspectives for a cast of characters typical of the time. Each of the men narrates his own telling of the story, beginning with their childhood and ending as they each grow to manhood and escape their respective homes, to the incident that brought them together. Their relationship is certainly unique, as they initially meet in distrust and part as friends, no part of it is unrealistic and unfolds the way you’d expect between men on the run, each wondering if the man on their left is eager for the kill or on his way to turn him in, but together they find a common ground and a peace of mind in the freedom they ultimately seek. Cat is, to me, the most intriguing character, and even at the novel’s conclusion, I’m still not exactly sure of his motives in the end. Of all the men, his story is the most heartbreaking, from his abusive father to an orphanage to his apprenticeship to a doctor (not as great of a set-up as you’d think) to losing his family. The man has certainly gone through it, and hasn’t even reached his fortieth yet. I guess I can understand after everything he experienced, his willingness to give up in exchange for another man’s happiness, but I still can’t help but grieve for his ending.

Rating: 5 Stars

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

 Following the event from To Kill a Mockingbird, Jean Louise Finch, now twenty-six, is returning home to Maycomb, Alabama from New York City for a visit. From the novel’s start, we’re presented a very different Jean Louise – no longer “Scout”, she’s grown into womanhood with a spunk that refuses to back down, and yet has grown a weakness susceptible to mechanical objects, be it a fold a way bed or an automobile, she’s a walking contradiction from the very beginning. Modern, yet hesitant. Hesitant to embrace new technology, and hesitant to embrace the very change she argues to support (more on that later). During her visit, she’ll discover a secret side to Maycomb and her beloved family, a side not altogether hidden from her child self, but perhaps not seen for it’s full value. She’ll question her values and everything she’s esteemed her father, the righteous Atticus Finch, to be.

First off, the novel is spared of any real plot scheme – besides her discovery of Atticus’ true beliefs and the resulting argument, not much really happens. There’s a little town gossip to catch up on and a depressing visit to Calpurnia’s, but much of the novel is filled in by amusing childhood memories that have little to do with her ultimate dilemma. I guess you could argue the flashbacks give clues as to her real problem…i.e. should she marry Henry given everything she now knows about him, but once the discovery is made, it feels like the first half of the novel was spun in a way to fill pages. Days into her two-week visit, she sneaks into a town council meeting at which Atticus is a prime member, a council where the men of the town get their fill of bashing the African American population of Alabama and the Supreme Court’s rulings to allow desegregation. It’s an outrage, a sin to any true believer of equal rights – how could Atticus be apart of this?

“I need a watchman to tell me this what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”

But he is. Sadly, our Atticus Finch is not the God he was perceived to be in To Kill a Mockingbird – he is human, and there are dualities to his beliefs that any man may be presumed to carry. I’d rather not go into the arguments made, it’s a long discussion that really doesn’t result to much…other than Jean Louise’s decision to ultimately look the other way. Oh, and this is after her uncle hits her over the head as a distraction. Yeah, they just glossed right over that. In the end, it’s not clear if she’ll really be staying in Maycomb for good, or at least immediately, but it’s clear that she’s no longer bumping heads with the town (a visual given many times throughout the novel). She chooses to accept their bigotry, while forgetting her own. No real conclusion is reached by either side, and it’s not the “we’ll agree to disagree” closure one might expect. If anything, the result is completely understandable for the time and much closer to the uncomfortable truth, which is perhaps the cause for all the turmoil over the big reveal. Compared to it’s predecessor, it really doesn’t matter what Atticus believes, because in the end, he did the right thing standing up for an innocent man, and he’ll continue to do so, just lacking the moral punch that came with it.

 Rating: 3 Stars

What have you been reading lately?

Have you read Go Set a Watchman? What did you think?

**For a complete list of reviews, check out The Reads: From A to Z**

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The Classics Club: My First Spin!

Tomorrow is the start of a new spin with The Classics Club. Every spin, we’re asked to pick 20 reads from our Master Classics List, they’ll then pick a random number from 1 to 20, and that will be your read for the month (well, two months). This month is meant to be a challenge, asking us to pick 5 books we love, 5 we’re intimidated by, 5 we’re neutral on, and 5 freebies….I figured I’d make my list too easy, so I asked my boyfriend to pick a few random numbers – and he definitely gave me a list up to the challenge!

  1. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  2. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  3. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  5. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  6. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Reread)
  9. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe
  10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
  11. Emma by Jane Austen
  12. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  13. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  14. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (Reread)
  15. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  16. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  17. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Reread)
  18. Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens
  19. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  20. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

**Update** The winner is lucky #15, The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury! While all books listed are ones I want to read, I’m kind of glad I didn’t get Les Miserables my first go.

What’s on your Classics Club list?

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Reading the Classics: To Do List

I recently discovered the beauty of The Classics Club, a project bringing bookworms together to conquer their classics to do list, one spin at a time! The overall premise of the group is to encourage a rediscovery of the classics through reading and discussion. For my list, I’ll be including a mix of titles, from classics I feel obligated to read to intimidating classics to those I’m excited to read but just haven’t gotten to yet. The best part about the group is the understanding our reading lists are “living lists”, meaning they can be altered at any time. I absolutely love the freedom this allows – I just know I’ll be finding new titles to add or might take some away as my tastes change, and even my goals for the challenge may change. Our reading takes on a life of its own, and so should our TBR lists! Continue reading

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RIP: Retired Podcasts I Still Love

With so many podcasts saved to my favorites, there’s bound to be a few that have closed up shop, no longer posting new episodes and forever retired. Some are undoubtedly serial with a limited number episodes available to them and so retirement is inevitable, but for others, the hosts have moved on or the show has been cancelled. No matter the reason, I will always miss them in my feed and go back to old episodes.

The Born Yesterday Podcast by Joey Brunelle

I was totally ecstatic the day I discovered The Born Yesterday podcast. Finally, a history podcast that’s beautifully produced with a compelling host and unique topics rarely discussed elsewhere. I especially love his two-part series on the Aztecs, covering both their rise and fall. While The Born Yesterday is forever retired, you can still check out Brunelle’s latest project, The Context – covering current events and discussing immediate cause and effect, historical origins, and the implications for a wide range of topics.

Why Oh Why? by Andrea Silenzi

Why Oh Why? first appeared while I was single and new to Houston, the perfect time to listen to a new take on dating. With her microphone in hand, Andrea Silenzi went where few of us have gone, from interviewing her coupled friends to analyzing the psyche of emotional unavailable men to going on a first date, live on the air! I was instantly hooked, and then, she went on a date with Randy. Ooooh Randy. He’s a pig, he says all the wrong things, and just when you think he’s crossed the line, he finds a new way to leap across it and insult you again. And I couldn’t get enough. His stories will make you livid, and have you laughing out loud. There is a twist to his story in the end, I should have seen it coming, but I’ll let you find out for yourself. Of all my retired podcasts, this is by far my favorite!

Mystery Show by Starlee Kine

A mysterious lunch box scene, a disappeared video store, to an intriguing license plate, if you’ve got a mystery, Starlee Kine is there to solve it! Her radio voice is just spot on, and she has that beloved quality of getting anyone to talk, because she really is interested in what you have to say. I especially loved her episode on her friend who really wanted to know if she was friends with Aaron Carter…or is she really a groupie? Turns out it’s a little bit of both but you’ll love the journey she takes to solve her friend’s dilemma. There’s supposed to be a second season, but it’s been a mysterious amount of time since it was announced…..I’m still hoping!

Literary Punk by Helen Milte

The Literary Punk is no longer active, but their backlog of episodes is sure to please fans of classic literature. As the name suggests, Milte and guests discuss a work of literature, digging into its inherent punkness and the themes that make it not just a classic, but badass. My favorite is their discussion on Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

Pop Stuff! by How Stuff Works

If you’re a fan of Stuff You Missed in History Class, you’ll know current hosts Tracy and Holly got their start in podcasting on Pop Stuff! From cooking shows to weddings to Harry Potter – they talk about it all. Check out their episode on manic pixie dream girls!

What retired podcasts do you miss? Do you re-listen to favorite episodes?