Top 5 TBR for Summer 2018

This year, I’ve read very few books other than the long list of required reading for my grad classes. And I would like to change this, especially since I have dozens of books sitting on my shelves that I was once (and maybe still am) excited to read!

With the help of grad school, I’ve become quite fond of to-do lists, especially when they’re very attainable. So, I thought I’d make up a list of my top 5 books that I own copies of and want to read this summer:

So, in no particular order…

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1. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli — I’ve heard mostly positive things about this YA contemporary and its movie adaptation Love, Simon. And in order to watch the latter, I feel the need to read the former. (Yeah, I’m one of those people.) I’m all about YA romance, LGBTQ characters, and coming-of-age stories, so I’m sure this one will be an enjoyable read. And I’ll get to watch the movie after! (Maybe I’ll post a read & watch review at a later date.)

20820994.jpg2. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson — I’ve heard amazing things about this YA contemporary and, in 2014, I very much enjoyed Jandy Nelson’s novel The Sky is Everywhere. (I definitely recommend it if you like YA contemporary and stories that deal with family and grief!) Just like that one, I’m expecting an emotional and touching story. I’ll Give You the Sun depicts a set of twins (one boy and one girl) and their relationship that has drastically changed over time. I’m looking forward to the multiple timelines and the mystery aspect of what exactly changed their relationship.

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3. American Gods by Neil Gaiman — So, I love everything I’ve read by Neil Gaiman, but it’s like I have some kind of mental block for American Gods. I’ve read the first (maybe) third of it, and it hasn’t quite held my interest like his other books have. Honestly, that’s probably because I’ve stopped and started so many times! It’s a fascinating premise: the main character Shadow encounters American manifestations of ancient gods from all over the world. And it’s just as bizarre and fantastical (and difficult to summarize) as Gaiman’s other novels. This is one I definitely want to have read by the end of this summer, so if I was forced to pick my #1 priority, I would have to pick this one.

49974162ed0cf858575b96ade2b72eebe. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz — This is another YA contemporary that I’ve heard is wonderful. (I mean, look at all those awards on the cover!) It’s also an LGBTQ coming-of-age story about two teenage boys. I remember reading a little of this one a few years back and enjoying it, but I got sidetracked (as I’ve been known to do.) But from that brief time reading, it seemed like a novel I’d fly through! I’m excited to get back into this one and see what all the fuss is about.

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5. Scott Pilgrim, Volumes 2-6 by Bryan Lee O’Malley — This series might seem a bit out of place, but I’m very fond of graphic novels and don’t read them anywhere near enough. I flew through the first volume in 2014 and planned to read the next five rest shortly after. (Oops!) If the first volume is any indication, this series will be a very fun one! But let’s be real, I’ll definitely be rereading Volume 1 before the rest.

 

I think this short summer TBR will help me focus and get through some books I’ve been wanting to read for a while! What books are at the top of your list for summer? Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear!

– bits of prose and whimsy –

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Unfinished failings

“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” — Neil Gaiman

I thought we’d start this post with a quote from one of my favorite authors. He’s absolutely brilliant, and his writing portfolio is wonderfully varied and rich and basically my ideal version of a creative future.

One of my greatest flaws is my intense fear of failure. This fear encourages my inability, and unwillingness, to finish things. And this struggle has only grown with time, culminating in a long list of half-finished creative projects and maybe-someday to-do’s. Leaving things unfinished allows me to never know if I’ll fail or not, which also means that I rarely give myself the chance to succeed.

I’ve reached an age that, in my mind, makes it ever-so-important to overcome my intense fear of failing epically. Because, let’s be real, everyone fails. And failing can lead to improving my strategies or trying something new altogether. Instead of viewing things through a lens of potential catastrophe, I should look at my attempts with excitement.

During the second half of this year, I plan to try new things, finish projects, probably fail at some of them, and maybe succeed at others. Here’s to trying and failing and living to tell the tales!

 

– bits of prose and whimsy –

Classics I should’ve read by now

I’m currently on my way (halfway, to be exact) to getting my master’s degree in English. (Don’t ask me what exactly I plan to do with it, please and thank you.) My life and class experiences have made me realize there are certain novels I really should have read by now. So, here’s a short list in no particular order:

9780199537167.jpg1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – In my experience, English students love bringing this one up in discussions. Gothic, horror, a fascinating look into human nature, technology… this apparently has it all. In fact, it’s been mentioned so many times that I snagged it from a local book store in the hopes of motivating myself to read it over the summer. It’s a short one, too! (P.S. there are some truly ugly covers of this book, so I recommend browsing and having a laugh.)

 

Catcher 4.jpg2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger – I swear I’m one of the only American students who hasn’t read this one, and I probably would have strongly identified with it as an angsty teen. I’ve seen so many jokes about the obnoxious yet relatable personality of Holden Caulfield. This is another one that sits on my shelf awaiting my eventual attempt to read it. It’s also very short! So we’ll see what excuses I make up until I’ve read it.

 

9780142000670_ofmice-56a15c423df78cf7726a0f21.jpg3. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Saying you’ve read this one just makes you sound smart, right? Maybe not, but it’s also very short! This novella is just under 200 pages, and it tells the story of two migrant workers during the Great Depression. Not exactly the most uplifting subject matter, but it seems worth a try!

 

1953.jpg4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – In high school, I read Dickens’ Great Expectations and very much enjoyed it. I absolutely love the atmosphere he creates. There is a delicious darkness to his English setting. This not-so-short novel comes in at between 400-500 pages. I know very little about the French Revolution, so this might serve as a good literary introduction.

 

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5. 1984 by George Orwell – Relevant? I think so! There’s a reason the sales for this novel have spiked in the last few years. I’m sure I would enjoy it, too, since I’ve been quite a fan of several contemporary dystopian novels. As you probably already know, Orwell predicts what happens when modernity and technology are brought to nightmarish extremes. This is another I’ve been recommended to read countless times.

 

imgres6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Oh hello, Plath is still on my TBR. Who knows why I haven’t read it yet? I certainly don’t. I’ll blame it on my coursework. Several fellow English students have told me I would love her, and I’m sure I would! I’ve also now read many wonderful Victorian and Modernist woman novelists, so it would be a shame to exclude Plath for too much longer.

 

So, those are some classic novels I (probably) should’ve read by now. But I still can! Because something I’ve discovered in my English program is that (as far as I can tell) no one actually judges you for not having read a particular book. So, there’s always time to read books you should’ve read years ago, and maybe you’ll appreciate them more now anyway.

What are some of the classics on your to-read list?

xx bits of prose and whimsy

Compartmentalizing my life

I’ve determined that I really like to compartmentalize my life.

I like to have separate friend groups, separate things I do with said groups (as I rarely mix them), separate places to do different activities, separate things I tell certain people but not others… the list goes on.

And I’ve also realized that I need separate places to share my writing and art. Venues separate from my family and friends.

I’m not a particularly “open” person in general. So when I briefly tried to share the occasional drawing on social media, where most people I know could see it, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wendy, why would you ever do this?? Abort mission!”

Long story short, I’ve decided to start another blog to share my (silly? comical? sometimes cynical?) drawings and maybe the occasional watercolor and I don’t know what else.

But the fact that this will be separate makes me feel better. Phew. (I know, I know, my neuroses are showing.)

My art blog is at here if you’re at all interested. I’ll be posting both here & there! 🙂

***

I’d love to know–
Does anyone else have the strong need to compartmentalize their life and keep things separate?

Thanks for reading!

xx bits of prose and whimsy

Favorite Audiobooks

For the last few years, I’ve listened to quite a few audiobooks. They’re perfect to listen to before falling asleep or while doing things around the house.

(I’d definitely recommend looking into checking out digital copies from your local library–that’s how I listened to all of the books on this list!)

Here are some of my favorite audiobooks!

ast5-square-4001. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Narrated by Jim Dale — Jim Dale has a deep, pleasant voice that he uses to create distinct voices for each character. He’s amazing at setting the mood for this magical story, in which the physical setting of a mysterious circus takes on a life of its own. AND he has an English accent! Nothing against American accents (because I, of course, have one), but I’ve (generally) found English voice actors much more pleasant to listen to for long periods of time.

b9hf-square-1536.jpg2. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Dan Stevens — Okay, so Dan Stevens is the actor who plays Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey. Firstly, he’s very attractive so it’s kind of fun knowing that he’s reading the book to you. Secondly, he’s so fantastic at his different voices for all the characters that you sometimes forget it’s even him. Thirdly, his accent in general is fantastic. And, come on, Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery, and this is one of her very best. A group of strangers all meet on an island and they mysteriously die one by one. Add all that together and you get hours of edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

b9hi-square-1536.jpg3. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Dan Stevens — Well, obviously, after listening to And Then There Were None, I just had to listen to another one of Christie’s best novels narrated again by the good ol’ Dan Stevens. A train full of people becomes stranded in the snow as a passenger’s death occurs. The French detective Hercule Poirot is then put on the case to find out who on the train was responsible. Dan Stevens somehow manages a fantastic French accent for Poirot, along with a unique voice for every other character. The whole thing is great and I have a lot of feelings about the brilliant narration.

pride-and-prejudice-audiobook-carolyn-seymour4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Narrated by Carolyn Seymour — Finally a female voice on my list! (Still British, though…) Listening to this recording was how I first experienced this beloved classic. It was my first Jane Austen novel, and it prompted me to take a fantastic Austen Lit/Film college course. No matter what form you choose, Pride and Prejudice is a must-read classic, especially for the back-and-forth between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. If you have an aversion to classics in general, maybe try listening instead! If done well, a recording can make it a more lively experience.

atjc-square-1536.jpg5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Narrated by Rebecca Lowman & Sunil Malhotra — It’s a whole other kind of awesome listening experience when an audiobook has dual narration! The recording uses a female narrator for Eleanor’s chapters and a male narrator for Park’s. This was the perfect way to absorb the loveliness of this Young Adult Contemporary that quickly earned a spot among my favorites. It’s a story, set in the ’80s, about teenagers Eleanor and Park as they navigate their own lives and find comfort in each other. A sweet, heartfelt, but deals-with-real-issues contemporary.

imgres.jpg6. Crooked House by Agatha Christie, Narrated by Hugh Fraser — Can you tell I love Agatha Christie? Here’s another by an English narrator who has narrated quite a few other Christie novels. Excellent, soothing voice. This story revolves around the sudden death of a wealthy elderly man, and suspicions rest on all those who reside in the mansion. Another twisted, unexpected tale with brilliant narration.


Those are just a few of my favorite audiobooks! I plan to make more lists once I’ve accumulated more favorites.

What are your thoughts on audiobooks? Do you have any recommendations for me?

Thanks for reading! 🙂

xx bits of prose and whimsy

25 Lessons in 25 Years

So, I recently turned 25 and, whilst having another casual quarter-life crisis, I’ve been reflecting back on decisions I’ve made and experiences I’ve had.

Here are 25 lessons (of varying importance & in no particular order) that I’ve learned in my 25 years:

  1. Most things don’t go as you originally planned, but Plans B, C, D or even E usually aren’t so bad. They might even be better.
  2. High school sucks and it feels like it will last forever, but it doesn’t. In fact, you’ll be able to laugh with friends later about how much it sucked.
  3. Mental health issues are always hard to deal with, but they’re made much easier when you let people help you.
  4. Punctuality might not be something that everyone can master.
  5. The job you think is “the actual worst” is most likely not. Things can almost always be more terrible.
  6. Having awful jobs will help you appreciate the better ones.
  7. Who you work with is just as important as what you’re doing.
  8. Finding and keeping at least one hobby that centers you and chills you out is super-duper important.
  9. You can, at any point, return to a hobby you had given up.
  10. Old friends are hard to beat, but you’re not required to keep all of them around just because you’ve known them for years. You’ll realize which friends you’ll always have room for.
  11. Recognizing that someone isn’t good for you, and acting accordingly, doesn’t make you a bad person.
  12. Not everyone is going to like you. This is sometimes hard to accept, but you’ll become more okay with it the older you get.
  13. You don’t always have to be agreeable and “nice.” Some things are worth getting angry and passionate and frustrated over.
  14. Trust your gut, it’s usually right.
  15. Being organized is important, and it does not come naturally to some of us. But it’s always worth improving on.
  16. Literally everyone is dealing with difficult stuff. Some people are just better at hiding it.
  17. College can be great, but thinking they’re the absolute “best years of your life” can make you feel stressed about appreciating it. The years after are different but can be just as great.
  18. Keeping up with college friends is so important, and sometimes all it takes is the occasional text or call.
  19. Starting in college, coffee will probably become one of your best friends.
  20. Even when experiences with dating turn out to be terrible, they’ll help you figure out your deal-breakers.
  21. Being single is usually really nice, despite what society tells you. You don’t need anyone to validate you.
  22. Most people don’t know what they’re doing, it’s not just you.
  23. It’s important to take risks because you will definitely regret things you didn’t do more than things you did.
  24. Sometimes all you need is a good book.
  25. Being able to laugh at yourself will make everything easier.

xx bits of prose and whimsy

Needing to Create

As a small child, I would cut and staple computer paper together and make tiny, lopsided books of my drawings. I drew people, bunnies, houses, and clouds. I painted wooden birdhouses and made things out of pipe-cleaners and popsicle sticks.

Creating something out of nothing was what I loved to do, and it kept me busy. I would tell people I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

From my younger years through high school, I was always in art classes, whether in or outside of school. I honed my drawing skills and began painting. My favorite thing to draw were faces, and I loved making them as realistic as possible. I used shading and highlights to make them look just right.

Towards the end of high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my artistic abilities. I began college as a double major in studio art and political science. My painting class during my first semester was particularly inspiring. It taught me so much that I still refer to now.

After a year at that university, I transferred to another in my hometown. And while I loved my new school, I strayed from the arts (for the most part) and concentrated primarily on the social sciences.

And now here I am.

I am more than two years out of undergrad, taking a graduate-level English course, and still not knowing where exactly I, and my creativity, fit into things.

I’ve realized that naturally creative people will always have the need to create, and denying this side of myself will only make me unhappy.

I’m trying to decide what kind of creative life I want to live.

xx bits of prose and whimsy