How Do You Read?

Strange. She has all those books surrounding her yet she's on an ereader and her phone is lit up?

Reading is an intellectually active activity. Although while most are sedentary while doing so, reading allows your mind stretch and your imagination to explore new heights. What reading looks in the twenty-first century is very different than what it did hundreds of years ago when the first book was bound. Reading is almost unlimited now. You can read printed copies. They can downloaded in various digital formats. You can listen to them when you’re driving or jogging even. I have taken advantage of and enjoyed all of these different avenues. Nonetheless, a printed book will always be my favorite.

This year I made it a goal to begin to learn how to crochet, in which I have to use my hands quite a bit. So I have started listening to books on audible during the time that I crochet, which I enjoy much more than I thought I would. I have even started listening to books while driving and during breaks at work. I had a thought recently about reading habits while I was observing my family reading at home. I notice that my mother often reads with her headphones in, listening to something loud enough so that her attention can’t be caught unless she’s tapped. Today, I laughed when I saw younger cousin reading while sitting upside down in a chair. My sister usually lounges on her bed while she reads mystery novels, which are her recent obsession. I would say that my habits are a bit different, and perhaps it has to do with the way I experience stories in my imagination.

Reading novel, if it’s good enough, is like watching a movie. Depending on how the author writes the story, I can see the scenes so clearly in my mind by just reading the words from the pages, as if I am sitting in a seat in the cinema. Therefore, I treat reading similarly to watching a film. Preferably, I like to be alone while reading and undisputed. Having a light finger snacks and a nice drink around isn’t necessary, but enhances the experience. I don’t usually like bright lights to be on around me, since I find that it distracts me.

I do adapt myself when I am reading in other places. During work or another setting, I can’t necessarily control all the variables in my environment. Although, I find I am able to tune my surrounding out quite well if I want to– making reading not the best idea many times when I am on the job. I have tried reading outside as well, but I find temperatures, neighbors, insects to be a constant distraction for me. However, I am in most comfortable position when it’s raining, storming, or at least cloudy outside. The subtle sounds (or even noisiness) of rainfall and the soft natural white light relaxes me and allows me to achieve the perfect amount of concentration. If it is not raining, I can settle for some light piano or violin music. Then if I can have my feet up, snuggle up with a blanket or long cardigan, light up a fragrant candle, and have a warm cup of tea… I’m all set for the adventures the book before me has yet to set me upon!

My desire for the future, is to have a room dedicated completely to books and reading. The shelves would overflowing with cherished stories I read once before and others yet to sail upon the waves of my imagination. I can only dream of it now, and hope it becomes a reality someday as by small collection of books grows more and more.

I am curious, how do you read? What is your idea of a perfect reading nook? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to talk with you about it.

8/12/20

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The Betrothed by Kiera Cass: A Review

Amazon.com: The Betrothed eBook: Cass, Kiera: Kindle Store
Purchase “The Betrothed” on Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dresses, kings, parties, and castles…Kiera Cass definitely has a specialty.

I am a fan of hers, as she wrote one of my favorite YA series “The Selection.” It is similar to this book in the way that it deals with a common girl’s experience with royalty. However, it is a bit different still in many ways.

In “The Betrothed” we are introduced Hollis Brite, who is a young lady from a nobel family. She has caught the attention of King Jameson, and early on in the book declares his affections for her and his intentions to make her his bride. This story is more of a fairy-tale courtly romance, full of the common royal dramas such as jealousy, parties and guests, and forbidden love. This novel appealed to my inner teenage self who loved stories like the Selection series and the Princess Diaries series, and was very excited for another castle romance. In the Kingdom of Coroa, the regal women were strong influences in their society– something Hollis longs to become as well. Therefore, her budding relationship with the most powerful man in the Kingdom could not be a perfect. It’s also her chance to prove herself to her parents and for them all to live lavishly. However, when a family of Isolten (neighboring kingdom) refugees come to the castle, their oldest son become a good friend and confidant of hers. Her court responsibilities increase and the king only become more enamored by her. Soon, what she thought she wanted her whole life is not all that it seems.

I will say that I liked this novel, but I can’t say that I liked it more than her others.

Hollis Brite, in my opinion, was a good character. She wasn’t something extraordinary, which made her relatable, but it also didn’t make her very interesting. She was a lady of the court, so while she was still a teen girl who liked to have her fun, she was able to uphold a presence of regality with her ability to entertain, conversationalism, and dress. While she seemed like she was quite aloof at first, she was able to sway the ideas of the king to allow the refugees to stay in Coroa. That was probably the part in the book when she appealed the most to me. She was a likable heroine character, although I thought she was a bit foolish at some points.

King Jameson is what I imagine a king would be. I don’t think he has bad intent, and he truly loves Hollis and would give her anything she desired. He is a bit too controlling though, an attribute derived from his late father no doubt. Silas, the eldest son of the Isolten refugee family, did not appeal to me as I hoped he would. He was kind, humorous, and understanding of Hollis difficulties as a soon to be queen. I could not quite understand the relationship between the two of them and how it became what it did. It happened a bit too fast for my liking. What I liked about him most was his skill of crafting fine armory, which became an advantage. There were other characters as well, who I found more interesting than the primary characters. I found that I really liked Silas’ younger sister, Silas’ mother, and the Queen of Isolte to be among my favorite characters. The character that I liked the least is probably Delia Grace. I just didn’t like her attitude.

I thought that the flairs of kingdoms themselves were very fascinating. There were a number of kingdoms, but I don’t remember what they all were. Coroa and Isolte were the most mentioned. They each had selected colors: Coroa was red and Isolte was blue. I appreciated that each kingdom had a strength, and wore different sorts of attire. For example, Isolte focused more on sciences. Some of rulers the kingdoms were more mild in their dealings, and others were more aggressive. I feel that Cass, as well in her other books, shines in her establishment of the realms that her novels are set in.

Overall, I would say that I liked this novel. I would not classify among my favorites, but I did enjoy it. At the end of the novel, I was left quite surprised by the shocking events that I did not anticipate whatsoever. So, I am excited for the next book. I hear it is to be a duology, so it will only have two books. I do recommend this book to Tudor fans, and fairy-tale romance story lovers.

Thanks for reading this review! If you would like to recommend any books to me, let me know in the comments! Also, follow me on goodreads here to see what I’m currently reading! Stay safe!

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman: A Review

Scythe (Barnes & Noble YA Book Club Edition) (Arc of a Scythe ...

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“Everyone is guilty of something, and everyone still harbors a memory of childhood innocence, no matter how many layers of life wrap around it. Humanity is innocent; humanity is guilty, and both states are undeniably true.”

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I haven’t lost hope in YA! It’s official.

I have been apprehensive for the last couple years when it came to YA. All the books seemed to blend together. So many of them seemed to be strange spin-offs of the more populars novels that were written years ago. Lately, I think I have found some novels that were different than others.

During qurantine, I’ve read more than I have in quite a while. I have been busy with working remotely at home, family, and other personal endeavors. Nonetheless, I made it a goal to read more in 2020, and I have read eight novels so far. It’s not much, considering I can read a novel in 3 days or less if I am that invested. Still, it is more than I have for some time. However, Scythe by Neal Shusterman was one of those books that I was very invested in.

Let me tell you a bit about this novel. Here were are in MidMerica, a couple hundred years or so in the future. Humans have conquered death with the help of technological advances. The “cloud,” a term we recognize today as the storage of computed data, has become the “Thunderhead,” the sole governor of humankind on earth. However, although humanity has become immortal, population must be controlled. Therefore, Scythes have the task of “gleaning” individuals, which is essentially killing, in order to maintain this balance. The main characters, Citra and Rowan, are chosen by a Scythe as apprentices of the Scythedom, but only one of them would be chosen to be Scythe after their training is done.

What was most appealing about this book was the style of writing. I think that writing this novel in third person was beneficial. It kept the novel more focused on the events, more than simply the characters themselves. I liked that the Shusterman switched from various points of view. At times we were focusing on Citra, Rowan, a person who was to be gleaned, or other characters as well. I enjoyed the points of view of those who were to be gleaned very much, since it was interesting how the author portrays how an individual would react to a death that they could not prepare for, but must succumb to at any split second.

I also liked the entries of different Scythes between chapters. In the novel, Scythes are required to make daily entries in a journal. Those entries were almost like little nuggets of philosophy, and they made me think quite a bit. It was strange that in their world, where no one ever died of natural causes and all knowledge was readily available in the Thunderhead, the only bit of humanity that remained could be found in the Scythes– who had to kill people. There are not many other comparable endeavors that are as inhumane as that. However, humanity finds itself in that endeavor in this novel, which was very interesting.

Additionally, I appreciated that this novel did not focus on romance. It felt it was quite a small factor in the book, which was refreshing. I think that many YA novelists feel as if when they write, even if their story isn’t technically romance by genre, they must put some sort of love conflict in the plot because perhaps some younger readers won’t be interested without it. In this novel, although romance contributed in the story, it was very minute and tasteful contribution. If it was focused on further it would have been a distraction.

Scythe was more on the darker side, which had it’s own appeal. Some events in the book were a bit disturbing and gruesome, but it was not provocative. I felt that the characters were very relatable, in spite of what they witnessed and did in the book. This novel would be best fit for readers who like edge, but also enjoy the pensivity that they can acquire from reading thought provoking literature. I would not recommend this book to teens younger than fifteen because of the theme and events that took place. However, I can only imagine how interesting discussing this book with teens would be. In the novel, people had become content with the complacency of their immortality, and did not desire much apart from it. It would be great to hear from young minds about if and how perhaps society is affected by such an attitude today, even as mortals.

As you could probably tell, I really enjoyed this novel. I could write about it endlessly, but I don’t think that’s best. I feel positive that many of you would love this book as much as I did. Scythe is a ten in my book ; ) Thank you for reading this review! I will get on to reading the next one in the series, “Thunderhead.” I hope everyone stays safe and healthy. Until next time!

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins: A Review

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

“The show’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“The Hunger Games”, the enormously popular book series (and one of my favorites) turned movie giant touched the world just over a decade ago. Suzanne Collins’ bleak dystopian world is set in Paneam, where the Capitol controls all twelve districts after the end of a gruesome war many years ago. A male and female child from each district are chosen on the day of The Reaping after which all selected tributes are sent to fight each other the death in The Hunger Games- a national event obsevered by all in Paneam. You may remember that Katniss Everdeen volunteered to be a tribute after her sister Primrose was selected. President Snow, the main antagonist in the story, was the minipulative and cruel leader of Paneam. I know I was not the only one who wondered what his back story was. In Suzanne Collin’s newly released novel, we see the world through Snow’s eyes.

In the prequel to the Hunger Games series, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” we find that Presidents Snow’s story was not a what we may have predicted. In the other books of the Hunger Games series we learn some information about what happened in the war that desomated Paneam and caused the Districts to be punished by the Capitol for a seemingly indefinite time. However, this was all seen through the lens of Katniss Everdeen, a member of the poor and lowly district twelve. In this novel, we taken back many decades before Katniss was born, and we are able to see the aftermath of the war through the lens of Coriolanus Snow (who we know to be President Snow in the other books.)

Without spoiling anything, there still much to talk about. Coriolanus Snow is eighteen years of age, and is in his senior year at his academy. His parents are died years before and his remaining family had lost almost all their fortune after the rebellion of the districts. All he had left was his cousin Iris and his Grandma’am. Most of his concern is to keep appearences in order to maintain a good name for his family. Although they barely had enough money for food, they managed to keep their family home and their reputation. I could see early on that it is Coriolanus’ desire to make something of himself and rise to the top- but this seems to be more out of ambition and self-preservation. He desires to be seen and known, but also to care for his cousin, grandmother, and himself. His goal is to be able to attend a top university in the Captiol after he graduates, but they do not have enough money to pay for that education. Therefore, when he gets selected to be a mentor for a tribute in The Hunger Games, it’s his chance to be noticed. If he does well enough and his tribute wins, perhaps he will get a scholarship. However, the odds are set against him when he is given the task to mentor the female tribute of District 12. Her life and his life are in thick of it together, for the fate of Snow lies in the success of this lowly girl’s popularity and success in The Hunger Games.

What I loved about this novel is was Collins’ ability to have the readers root for Coriolanus, although most of us know how he will end up. The evolution of the character was well thought out and very surprising, and there was not a moment where I felt I actually knew what was going to happen. Also, there were so many correlations to the rest of the books, which I felt were great tie-ins. Furthermore, I felt it was intersting how see how different the games, the capitol, and the districts were at the time. I found myself quite shocked to learn how the games truly began, and why they were in fact called “The Hunger Games.”

I would give this novel a nine out of ten if I were to rate it only because I feel there were a few questions I was left with unanswered. I am not sure if Suzanne Collins is planing on writing a sequel to this prequel, but I have the feeling she may not. I absolutely recommend this book to those who already read the rest of Hunger Games series. Perhaps one could make sense of all in this book without reading the others first, but I feel that the significance of much that occurs in the other books can be more appreciated when reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes after the rest of them. If you are haven’t already read the Hunger Games… what are you doing?! I suggest purchasing or borrowing a copy as soon as humanely possible.

I hope this review encourages you to read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, becasue I highly recommend it to all YA book lovers out there. Feel free to share your opinions with me about it too, but be careful not to spoil the story please! Thanks for reading.

Under the Shade of Banyan Tree- A Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Windows

Clean, plain, open, closed, bright,
light, shaded, paned, shuttered, blinded, boarded,
rusty, dirty, smoky windows.
broken, shattered, run down windows
Windows that protect and hide,
a mirror to the world outside
and sometimes to the world within,
unraveling layer by layer, revealing
a glance into a soul,
a tool for introspection and scrutiny,
secrets and smokescreens,
evasions, denials, half-truths
Windows, they tell it all.

“Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree” by Simi K. Rao

I felt as if after reading Simi K. Roa’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree, I was able to take a glance into her soul. This eloquent morsel was released in August of last year and is less than 150 pages in length. Rao was born in India, but she has been living in the United States for several years now. She has also published a few other works within the last few years, such as Inconvenient Relations and the Accidental Wife. Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree was the first work of hers that I have read, but it is definitely now a favorite that I highly recommend.

What attracted me first was the title. I had never heard of a Banyan tree, so I searched it.

Originally, they are from the writer’s home country, where underneath the tree is often a center of activity in many of their communities. Magnificently, Banyans can grow up to be 80 feet tall, cover about 14,500 square feet of space, and live to be over two and a half centuries of age. Often, the tree symbolizes fertility, life, and even resurrection. Hindu texts dating back over 2,500 years reference the Banyan tree as a “world tree,” it’s roots reaching the heaves and delivering blessings to earth.

Significantly, the concept of the vastness of this tree, with it’s sturdy roots consuming all in its path, is more than appropriate metaphor in my opinion. It would be difficult to use one word to encumber all that is contained in Rao’s, Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree. However, if I did, I would choose a word that a Banyan tree itself represents. Life.

Life penned by Simi Rao, as I read, had been written through the many lenses that she wore in her time. A Mother. A Physician. An Innocent Child. A Mischievous Teen. A Lover. An Immigrant. A Dreamer. Every poem and short story is coated with her observations of human nature, her experiences a cross-cultured woman, her internal struggles, her perceptions of love, and her emancipation from the darkness that can tend to follow us in life.

The poems were written in a variety of different styles, which I find is important in books such as these. It is more engaging when authors change the rhythm, rhyme patterns (or not rhyme at all), and the topics as well. She accomplished that skillfully, and she also included some excepts from her other books and a few short stories. The poem “Windows” was my favorite poem style wise, and I thought it was very deep. Rao gave us a peek through her window. Through it, the inner workings of her humanity was laid bare, which made almost everything she wrote easy to relate to. I felt as if I could almost feel her soul in some of the poems. Her affection for others and nature was plain to me. Her love of her culture was also evident. In the vivid short story “Mr. Tim“, a little girl befriends a squirrel in a tree. At the end, I almost shed tears just as the character did. The poem “Phobia” cleverly explained how tragic it is that fear can imprison us, even when freeing ourselves from it’s control is more possible than it seems. Simi shared her experiences as a physician with writing of a cancer patient, an addict, and an elderly woman with dementia. And of course, the love stories “Crush” and “A Cup of Chai” were heartwarming.

All that is included in Under the Shade of the Banyan Tree is touching in it own right. As Simi describes it, we must all ride “the carnival of life,” and it is bumpy ride. With all the unrest occurring in the world at present, the burden of simply existing is not foreign to anyone. Nonetheless, Roa reassures in this composition that there is light awaiting after the dark, somewhere a hand is always out-stretched, the beauty of love flows in unlikely places, and that rain will always fall to spread the roots of the Banyan tree.