Bookish Recap-2016

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Well! That was a thing. Overall, reading wise, 2016 was a good year. Personally there were ups and downs which prevented me from blogging the way I wanted to. I’m still figuring out the ins and outs of blogging and this year I hope that I can be more consistent.

Obviously we have to review my favorite books of the past year and what my reading goals are this year.

According to the Goodread’s challenge I read 34 books (the same amount as 2015). But I also re-read a lot of books, which Goodreads doesn’t take into consideration. And so according to my calculations (yay for doing bookish-recaps every month), I read 37 books. I didn’t review all of them for the blog, but that’s ok. Again, that’s something I want to work on.

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My average rating according to Goodreads was a 3.7 which is pretty high, and also cements the fact it was a good reading year. You would think that I would have had a hard time picking my top five, but it was quite easy.

My top 5 books for 2016 (in no particular order; click the title for a link to my reviews):

The Martian (Andy Weir)

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Do I really need to say anything more about this book? It ended up on three of my bookish lists this year, and I also re-read it in December. Reading a book twice in one year is a new record for me. If you’re not quite sure why I’m in love with this story of resilience and team work, check out my review.

The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

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This book ended up on two of my bookish lists, and I’ve recommended this book to numerous people off line. If you love fantasy I think this is a must read. While Stiefvater’s writing style isn’t for everyone, I adore it and the characters just sealed the deal for me. I found myself able to relate to each one and learning more about myself through reading the book. It’s rare that a book does that for me, and I’m so grateful that I finally caved in and gave this book and series a chance. I’m currently finishing up this series. If I die, put The Raven Cycle as the cause of death.

Nevernight (Jay Kristoff)

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MIA!! This is how you do assassins! I loved the mix of Italian Renaissance and Roman Empire. The world building was fantastic, and nothing ever felt out of place. Mia was by no means a good person, although she had good in her. The book is filled with questionable content and in a way, it’s an uncomfortable book. The bad is portrayed as bad, but the big question is, “is it truly bad if it’s done for good reasons?” and that’s something the reader has to decide for themselves. Mia, despite her flaws and questionable choices was a character I could get behind. Needless to say, I’m excited for the next books in the series.

I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai)

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Speaking of hard books…I am Malala was a hard book to read in parts. It was eye opening read. I think that this is the most important book I’ve read this year. This book gives great insight to what is going on in the world and why we must help young women world wide get a good education. I was surprised to find that this book is as much about Malala as it is her father. While disturbing in parts, this book is also one of hope and resilience. If you want to learn more about current events and hear Malala’s story from the start and source,  I strongly recommend you read this.

And finally, Fascinate by Sally Hogshead.

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Although I didn’t review this book on the blog, I did review it on Goodreads. I really loved the psychology in this book. For those of you that have no interest in branding or starting your own business I think this book is a great read, just because it makes one more aware of how the media uses different methods to influence our behavior. It’s an eye opening book, and it’s a lot of fun. For those of you that are interested in the business side of thing, this is a great book. I recently added it to my personal library and am looking forward to reading it again.

 

As for my reading goals this year, I set my Goodreads challenge to 13 books. Last year I set it at 16 so that I wouldn’t feel too pressured, but I’d be encouraged to read. It worked wonderfully! I’m setting it lower than the past year because I’m doing a personal challenge to read mostly big books (400+ pages). Some of the books I’ll be tackling are filled with heavy world building and are over 700 pages. With school, writing, and work it’ll take me time to get though those monsters! I’ll also be focusing on more diverse reads too. Hopefully with these goals I’ll wind up getting through a lot of books on my TBR pile.

I’m keeping my goals simple, but I’ll have fun achieving them. What books are you looking forward to reading this year? Got any bookish goals for the upcoming year?

Bookish Recap: Top 5 Faves…So Far

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So we’re about half way through the month that is the half way point through the year. My birthday is this week so to celebrate I’ve decided to share my top five favorites of the year so far. This actually wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I’ve reviewed all of these books and included links to the reviews if you missed them and want to check out my more in depth thoughts.

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The Martian (Andy Weir): Does it surprise anyone that I listed this book first? It’s the one I talk the most about, I don’t even know why I’m pretending like this wouldn’t have been on the list. I just put it on another list too. You can tell I love this one! I loved the humor and the resilience that Mark had. The nerd in me rejoiced at the behind the scenes look at NASA and all the science not related to space. I am a die hard fan of survival stories and this one came with science. I was sobbing at the end and I think the only other book I cried so hard at was The Hobbit. You can read my review of it (The Martian, not The Hobbit) here. I promise I don’t talk about potatoes…much.

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The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater): This book came as a surprise for me. I was expecting it to be kind of meh, over-hyped, and not my cup of tea despite the lovely writing style. I was so wrong. I am so, so glad that I was so, so wrong. I deeply connected to each of the main characters and was awed by the beautifully executed plot. The world building blew me away. I set aside reading the series so that I could buy all of it. Now I just need to prepare myself for major feels. The Raven Boys is one of my most recent reviews and you can check it out here.

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We Awaken (Calista Lynne): Asexual representation? Check. Cute girls loving girls? Check. Magic? Check. Lovely world building? Check! I was stoked when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this book, but I was also anxious. As someone who has asexual friends and who is on the asexual spectrum herself, I was pretty worried about how accurate the representation would be. I didn’t have a thing to worry about and really enjoyed the organic romance that developed between the characters. I also loved Lynne’s writing style. Overall, We Awaken struck me as an incredibly elegant book.

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I Funny (James Patterson): Speaking of diversity…I Funny was a wonderful and incredibly quick read. I really loved the humor in it, and adored how Jamie defined himself outside of his disability-something that is so hard for us to do. While I couldn’t relate to the situation Jamie was in, I could relate to the bullying, the struggles of middle school and the need to define yourself outside of your disability. This is the sort of book I wish I had when I was in elementary and middle school, and I’m so glad that the I Funny series is available for today’s generation. You can read my review here.

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I am Malala (Malala Yousafzai): This was a really hard book to read at times because of the struggles Malala, her family, and her friends went through. It’s hard to believe that this stuff actually happened because America is seemingly so far removed from these issues. That was one thing I loved about this book. Through honesty and passion Malala shows that education can be improved everywhere and that it’s everyone’s business that we educate everyone in the upcoming generations. No matter their gender. This was hard to review due to the fact that it was so powerful for me and I needed time to sit on it, but I managed it!

So, have you got any favorites of the year so far? Any way you could narrow your list down to just five? I’d love to hear what books you’d put on your list as I’m always (needlessly, my TBR pile is massive) on the look out for new books to read!

Book Review: I Am Malala

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“Education is neither Eastern nor Western, it is human” ~Malala (I Am Malala)

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Author: Malala Yousafzai

Genre: Memoir/Autobiography

Summary: When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.

On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.

Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls’ education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

My Opinion: To get inside the mind of Malala and hear her story in her own words, without all the media slants is really wonderful. I learned so much about many things, and as usual Malala’s passion shines through. The only reason I didn’t give this book a perfect rating was because some vital transitions were confusing and there were some issues brought up and then never expanded upon which added to my confusion, especially when Malala has told us how important those things were. Because of those issues I gave this book 4.5 stars (rounded up to 5 on Goodreads).

The first thing I learned about Malala when I started reading was how passionate she is. She’s passionate about her home in Swat, her family, her religion, and as we all know, her education. Through her passion I learned a lot and found myself becoming much more passionate about education.

I don’t know how I got the idea in my head, but I always thought that the Middle East was a place filled with deserts and had very little beauty, but a whole lot of vital history. Oh boy was I wrong. Malala paints a beautiful picture of her home in the Swat valley, and I learned that before the Taliban had invaded it had been a massive tourist destination.

As Malala shares her home with us, she also shares her religion, which is deeply entwined with her homeland and family.  She goes deep, sharing how her family members approach their faith, and how she approaches it. She talks about Christian/Muslim interactions as well, yet she never forces her religious beliefs on the reader. Throughout all of this there is a clear focus on her family, particularly her father.

Perhaps what’s most interesting in the book is that the book starts in the Swat valley, not with Malala being shot, but many years before that, with her father’s passion for education. This book is equally about Malala as it is her father. I came to love and respect her father as much as I love and respect Malala. Both are incredibly inspiring people and to read about how their stories are so connected was a really wonderful experience.

I’m sure the book would have been just as big of a seller if Malala had chosen to focus on herself, what happened when she was shot and after, but instead she opted to focus on her family and the events leading up to her brush with death. Because of that the book is so much more profound and inspiring. And throughout it all Malala never puts anyone down. Instead she challenges their beliefs and encourages people to look at things differently and to be open with their hearts and minds.

Malala and her family and their story is completely inspiring and vitally important. This story holds so much information and honestly if you want to be on top of things in the world you really have to read this book. This is an insider’s story, and it’s told in such a beautiful way. Even if you aren’t interested in politics, you should still read this because Malala’s passion is contagious and uplifting. Her thirst for life is incredible, and until I started reading it I had no idea how much I needed this book. I’m willing to bet that a lot of other readers will feel the same way. So really, you should give this book a go.

TL;DR: This book is a must read. It’s a vitally important book not only about education and women, but about religions, politics that are still driving the world, how families impact children, and what it really takes to unite people. It’s not always an easy read due to the subject, but it is well worth it. True there are some confusing elements in the book, but they don’t overshadow the heart of the story or Malala’s passion. As I’ve said, this book is a must read.

Memorable Monday

Memorable Monday is where I dig through my books (including ones I’m currently reading) and find a quote that really stood out to me and still sticks with me. Some of these quotes you might recognize from reviews, but this time I get to go into more detail.

I’ve just finished reading I Am Malala and the review is going up on Thursday. I don’t really think it needs to be said, seeing that I’m picking a quote from it, but I loved it. There was a lot about this book that stood out to me, but the quote I chose was the hands down choice.

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Well…dang. That’s one way to change how I view things!

Let me back up here. My mother is in education and has been for 15 years. One of my aunts used to be in education and another still is. I volunteer frequently at the elementary school my mother works at and have done so for the past 9 years. Eventually I would love to work in an elementary or middle school library. I know a lot about the American education system and I know how deeply and tragically flawed it is. Ultimately education is something that’s close to my  heart.

Yet my view of education was very skewed and American focused. I had heard and seen things about education in other countries but it was very much in a “which is better” context instead of a “oh, hey, this might work for us, let’s learn from this.” And honestly, as embarrassing as it is to say, I used to think that what I knew about education was all I needed to know unless I wound up in teaching in a school library myself. And even then, I thought I’d only need to focus on Western education.

When I read those words I had to stop and then read them again. It completely changed my view on education and I realized how right it was.

There really isn’t Eastern or Western when it comes to education. Education is  done for the same purposes world wide: to build up those learning and to give them opportunities in the future.

Education is different around the world because of different cultures and lifestyles. But the education fits the lifestyle of the people. Or it should. And when it doesn’t, when education isn’t accessible, then that’s a problem. It’s not a problem confined to third world or developing countries, it’s a problem in the U.S.  as well. Yet the problem isn’t going to be fixed if we’re caught in a mindset of “my way is better than yours,” it will only continue to hurt us.

Malala’s words are so simple, yet incredibly eye opening.  I realize now that the less we see education as “Eastern vs. Western” and see it as a universal journey, the more we can learn from each other and improve our education systems. And through that we’re encouraging the upcoming generations and improving our world.