#MakeMeRead Read-A-Thon 2016!

makemeread

I’ve decided to once again participate in the #MakeMeRead read-a-thon hosted by Val @ The Innocent Smiley and Ely @ Tea & Titles! This year it runs from July 9–16th, which happens to be the week before my family beach holiday begins, so it’s perfect! I’ve gotten so behind on my Goodreads Challenge that I’m really hoping to get a lot of books read during this week!

This read-a-thon is also special for me for a weird reason. Last year during this read-a-thon I discovered Throne of Glass and, oh boy, what a strange trip I’ve been on since then with reading ALL the books by Sarah J. Maas, most recently A Court of Mist and Fury. So once again I find myself hoping to finally be motivated to read some of the more popular books that have been on my shelves for a while now.

How It Works

In case you’ve never heard of the #MakeMeRead it read-a-thon, I recommend you see Val’s official introductory post because this read-a-thon is a little different from your average one! In this read-a-thon, you create a list and/or poll of your preferred options ask your followers and other participants to vote to decide which books you read for the read-a-thon. So it’s great to choose books that most people will be familiar with that you’ve just needed a little extra push to finally read!

The Options

The books I’ve selected I also own and have never read before. I’m not sure how many books I’ll manage to read, but personally I’d love to read at least four! None of these books look too big, so hopefully it’s manageable. Especially as some of these books belong to series, and it’s easier to marathon series!

Which Books Should I Read?

Cinder, Cress, Scarlet, etc.
Passenger
Snow Like Ashes
A Thousand Pieces of You
Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring, etc.

Do Quizzes

End Note

Let me know in the comments if you are participating and link to your blog if you also have a your poll there so I can go vote on yours (and maybe discover a lovely new blog to follow ^_^)! Also let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought! Of all the books I selected, I literally have no special preference for which “win” so I’m really excited about the randomness of the read-a-thon this year!

As for what to expect next here on IK&OT, I have quite a few posts that should be going up this week including a book review, a writing update, and my June 2016 Notes! I’m also hoping to get a new blog banner up by the end of the week so stay tuned for that! I’m thinking it’ll be a mixture of hand-drawn and online art. I might even end up doing a “How To” post on the process. 🙂

 Thank you for reading!
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Thoughts on Middlesex

I bought this book for myself. This is an honest and spoiler-free review.

MIddlesex

Released: September 16, 2003
Pages: 529 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Identity, family, immigrants, race, war
Genre(s): Literary Fiction / LGBT+ / Historical Fiction
Age Group: 16+

★★★★½

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic.

My Thoughts

I picked up Middlesex at the end of May while our house was still out of electricity after a crazy storm. I had bought this book early last year as it was a book I’d been aware of for a long time, having loved The Virgin Suicides movie which is based on the book also by Jeffrey Eugendies. So this book was a kind of “bucket list” read for me; there was no urgency to reading it. Despite what I gathered from this book’s summary, I quickly discovered as I was sucked into the world of this book that I had no idea I could have expected.

One word could be best used to describe this novel: EPIC.

Middlesex is told from the narrator of Calliope Stephanides as an adult living in Germany. He describes his family history starting with his paternal grandparents, Lefty and Desmodena, to reveal how he came to be who he is. His narrative voice is absolutely charming. I think he’s one of my favorite narrators of all time, the way he describes his family’s past as if he’s a fly on the wall, zooming in and out of focus to relay his grandparents’ and parents’ unique life experiences as Greek immigrants in the Detroit during the 20th century.

I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974.

Going into this book, I was expecting it to focus primarily on the narrator’s life. So I was so surprised to find that this book lingers far longer upon the experiences of his immigrant grandparents and why they had to leave their home, how they crafted new identities and made it through Ellis Island, and how they adjusted to new lives as Americans in Detroit in the 1920s at the height of its greatness. I loved learning about Detroit, a city of which I’m sad to say I’ve only had negative associations growing up.

I was also surprised at how this book was also a love letter to Detroit, and how much I learned about history: the eastern European immigrant experience pre-WWII, the Civil Rights movements of African-Americans and the LGBT+ community, etc. It was so unexpected but also so appreciated.

I actually loved learning about the history through the grandparents’ and parents’ lives so much that it was a kind of a bummer when the book finally began to focus on Callie, especially after their family moves into the suburbs. Much of the narration at this point begins to center on Callie’s childhood and adolescent experiences leading up to her self-discovery.

End Note

I loved this book. It took me a while to finish, but it was an engrossing read that completely transported me into the story with all its historical and familial detail. To anyone who thinks they might want to read this book, I encourage you to do so. I also recommend that you have a good amount of time to commit to it. It took me almost a month to finish this book, although to be fair I went almost two weeks without picking it up after burnout, even though I was enjoying it! Also, I skipped ahead to the end eventually, impatient to see what would happen.

I think this book is an incredibly timely read right now. If you live in the US and follow the news, you likely have heard about the recent controversy about North Carolina trying to block transgender people from using the gendered bathrooms with which they identify. And just this past weekend, an unbalanced psychopath (likely a closeted & conflicted homosexual) took an AR-15 (an assault weapon which is legal for US civilians to purchase because of the National Rifle Association) to kill 49 innocent people in a gay nightclub in Orlando.

We are still fighting for a world that understands and is accepting of all people, regardless of race, sex, etc. So I really thinks books like Middlesex are great reminders of history that is rarely taught in schools (based on my Texas high school experience) that it’s important to know where we came from so that we can put our best feet forward.

 Thank you for reading!
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Writing on Wattpad | #AmWriting (06.15.16)

Do you write on, or read stories, on Wattpad?

I’ve known of Wattpad for probably over a year now, first being introduced to it by one of my favorite BookTubers (Katytastic) who began posting her fanfiction and original work on the site. Then I had the opportunity this spring to explore the app/website more fully for a class assignment, my tool review going up on this blog in February.

I had mulled around a few ideas about how I wanted to use Wattpad then, for my current novel idea and short story anthology. But my writing buddy “Elle” beat me to the punch and began posting her story last month, and now I want to join her!

Unlike Elle, I do not already have a draft of the story I will be publishing starting this Sunday and continuing weekly. I will be working on the novel I’ve been working on all summer, hopefully ending the summer in a place where I’m happy with the story’s development. All I know is that I’ve lost my motivation and I need to make writing fun again.

Goals:

  1. I want to publish a new chapter every Sunday.
  2. I want to have at least 20 chapters in the final story.
  3. I want to get to a place where I am at least a chapter ahead of posting each week.

That’s it. I don’t have any word count goals. By the end of this little expedition, I’d like to be happy with writing again. I don’t want to worry where the story will end up going, but I do want to have it be cohesive and well-thought out. I think I’ll be able to edit previous chapters, so I may do some of that as I go.

The most logical place to start right now, as I have 3-4 days to work on my first installment, seems to me to write the climax of the story so that there’s appropriate foreshadowing leading up to it. So I might try and do that first, then write my prologue which may or may not be recycled from previous writing attempts (of which there are several).

So if you’re interested in reading what I write each week, follow me on Wattpad where I’m @loriwrites. I’ll probably be doing at least weekly #AmWriting updates to share what I’m doing there.

Thank you for reading!
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The State of Things & My Immediate Plans

Hi! Sorry I’ve been so absent recently! I’m hoping to have some regular posts going up as soon as tomorrow, but I did want to just give a quick update here since it feels like forever since I’ve done anything on this blog.

The first half of June has been highly unproductive, which is the primary reason why I’ve not blogged. I’ve still not been able to make myself write and I’ve still not finished Middlesex! (Truth be told I skipped to ahead to the end a week ago, but I still want to finish the 100 or so pages in between before I mark this book read and move onto my next read!)

I Skyped my writing buddy and overall pal Sara yesterday (who’s blogging now as “Elle” at the Nishume Chronicles!) and it got me motivated to start getting stuff done! She’s been posting her first novel chapter-by-chapter weekly over on Wattpad, which has really inspired me to want to do that. Even though I don’t have a novel anywhere nearly developed as hers. So I do want to get on that whole writing thing.

We actually decided that maybe I should just start writing with deadlines and by the seat of my pants, so to speak. So I’m aiming to post a prologue of this “new” story this upcoming Sunday where I’m @loriwrites. I think I’m setting myself a 20 chapter goal to have this story completed by, and it’s probably going to be a draft of my April Camp NaNoWriMo novel, so if you’re interested in reading an imperfect draft of a what will hopefully be my first novel then do go follow me and the story over there. I probably won’t be promoting it here again.

So that’s what I’ll be up to this week after I finish Middlesex. I’m actually about to finally go see Captain America: Civil War in an hour! But after dinner I do intend to finish up that book & its review, then start brainstorming about the story I’ll be trying write over the next few weeks.

I do think I will be doing an official writing post tomorrow explaining more about the project, which I can tell you right now is an exercise to get me excited about writing again without worrying about quality or originality. Actually, I think I have time to go start that right now! So I’ll be off now.

Thank you for reading!
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May Notes | 2016

As usual, May was a transitional month for me. I finished my second semester of grad school early this month (with straights A’s, woohoo!), moved out of my first real apartment, and returned to Conroe where I’ll be spending yet another summer with my parents (hopefully my last). Most of my time since then has just been spent reading and relaxing as I mull over my future.

Last week were had some really bad weather that resulted in us losing our electricity (& thus A/C and wi-fi) for about 48 hours. It was horrible, but it could have been worse (luckily our house wasn’t hit by any trees and we still had running water during this time). I wish I had taken some pictures of the wreckage in our neighborhood, but my iPhone never had a full-charge over that time and we had to rely on charging our phones in the cars. I got a lot of reading done during this time, but sleeping was difficult because it was so warm.

The power outage also resulted in some difficulty posting here and threw in a wrench in some of my writing plans. But, overall, I feel like I’m ending this month on a high note.

What I Read

I completed four books over the course of May and am currently in the midst of two I also started this month. I had hoped to read more, but I actually did read quite a lot considering how big a few of these books were. Starting with the books I finished: At the Water’s Edge (★★★), A Court of Thorns and Roses (★★), A Court of Mist and Fury (★★★), and A Gathering of Shadows (★★).

watersedge acotar acomaf Gathering-of-Shadows_UKcover-400x586

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen | This book is set during WWII in Scotland where the female protagonist Maddie, her husband, and her husband’s best friend go to get proof of the Loch Ness monster. It’s a wonderful tale of disillusionment and female empowerment. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it was such a random read and just what I needed at the time I read it. (In case you recognize the author’s name, she also wrote Water for Elephants, which is another magical-seeming historical fiction novel with a movie starring Robert Pattinson & Reese Witherspoon.)

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas | This was actually I reread, I first read it last fall and had wanted to read it again before I started A Court of Mist and Fury which came out on May 3rd! This reread ended up feeling a tad tedious, and a lot less enjoyable than the first. The first 100 pages in particular was rough because reading about Feyre obsess over her family was frustrating. Then we she was reunited with them again, it was terribly slow again.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas | I started ACOMAF directly after ACOTAR and it proceeded to take me around a week to finish and it was super long as I found myself needing to slow down parts of the way through. Overall, this book took me completely by surprise and what most impressed me was how well-thought out this book was considering how things changed in character relationships from the first book to the second. I have had to look at ACOTAR so completely differently now.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab | I decided to pick up A Gathering of Shadows immediately after finishing ACOMAF, because I didn’t quite know what I was in the mood for next. I had actually started AGOS in March and not gotten very far at the time so it was great to get this one out of the way this month. I’m disappointed to say I did not enjoy much about this book. Very little happens and nothing happens to further invest me in reading the next book, not even that ridiculous cliff-hanger.

Currently Reading

MIddlesex     stokes

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides | I did not have any concrete plans to read Middlesex this month but I started it after AGOS just feeling like I needed to read something that was going to be different. I hoped to finish this book in May, but it just didn’t happen! This book is deceptively long, but it’s also unbelievably good so I don’t even mind! This will be the first book I finish in June and there will most definitely be a “Thoughts on Middlesex” coming as soon as I finish it!

How to Do Media and Cultural Studies | This is the book that came with my order of ACOMAF which I should have bought last fall but didn’t because we didn’t need to read much from this book and it’s pricey. But I realized it might be a good one to get and study over the summer as I am essentially trying to do independent study right now. I’ve only read the first two introductory chapters, but I’m hoping to finish this one up early this month.

What I Watched

Over the course of May I found myself watching a few random movies earlier this month after I returned from Dallas. I watched two smaller independent films, the first of which being Infinitely Polar Bear which starred Mark Ruffalo as a bipolar dad in the late 1970s Boston who has to take care of his daughters in for 18 months as his wife (Zoe Saldana) works on her MBA in NYC. It was very sentimental and harm-warming, but lacked in any grit and was a little anti-climactic. But it showed a nice depiction of a modern family and mental illness.

The other independent film I watched was Ricki and the Flash which stars Meryl Streep as an aging rockstar who never quite made it to the big time but seems pretty happy performing regularly a bar with her band. I was surprised to find this movie was written by the same woman who wrote Juno, which was one of my favorite movies in high school. This wasn’t a great movie, but I loved how it touched on double standards for male and female performers who are parents. As weird as I realize it sounds, I have no trouble believing Meryl Streep could totally have been a rock star. Her voice is perfect for the classic songs she sings.

As far as TV shows go, I finally started watching The Night Manager with Tom Hiddleston which aired on the US channel AMC this spring shortly after it aired in the UK/Europe. I asked my dad to record it while I was still in school, so when I came back I had nearly the entire series waiting for me! It’s only 6 episodes and is a modern day adaption of the novel by the same name. It’s about an ex-soldier who turns spy in order to avenge the death of a woman for whom’s death he feels he is partially responsible. The locations are beautiful and Hiddleston does a great job of infiltrating the ranks of this horrible man’s inner circle in order to thwart and expose his plans to sell illegal arms.

End Note

I’m actually really happy with how May turned out and excitedly enter June. I don’t really know what to expect this coming month, but I have a few plans in the works that I will hopefully be sharing soon. Tomorrow I think I will be posting my June 2016 TBR + Goals. My review of Middlesex should also be out as soon as I finish the book. And I’m hoping to get back into the swing of writing so hopefully June will mark my return and hopefully some successes on that front.

Thank you for reading!
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