My Christmas Haul

A little late, but I hope everyone had a happy holidays! This Christmas I primarily asked for– you guessed it– books.

I buy most of mine from either an independent bookstore in my hometown called “Little Professor”, or from a thrift bookstore called “2nd and Charles”.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I heard wonders about this book, and I am interested to read it and learn from it! I saw this book my senior year of high school, but since going off to college I have not been able to shop for any more reads. Now that it’s Christmas, I have my chance! I never watched the movie (I am a firm believer of reading the book first– ALWAYS) but I plan to once I finish this one.

2. Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen was first a stage musical, starring Ben Platt and existing as the most emotional and realistic musical I have ever seen. When the book was released in October, I knew that i had to get my hands on it and read the print version. I wonder if there are any differences, and how it will compare to the musical. It certainly has high expectations to live up to.

3. One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Honestly, I have no clue what this book is about. I am not one to judge a book on its cover, but I was so impressed by the cover and the suspense of the title that I wrote it on my Christmas list without even researching the summary. Let’s hope the story and the writing is just as good as the cover!

The Golden Woods

Shiver: Book Review

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, originally published August 1st, 2009, by Scholastic

When I first picked this book from the bookshelf, I admit I was not expecting a good story. The concept of including werewolves into a story was an immediate turnoff– after all, we all saw how Twilight turned out. However, being the first Maggie Stiefvater book I had ever read, I kept my mind open. Especially considering the main character shared my own name.

Shiver is the first book of a trilogy. The second book is called Linger, and the third is Forever. It is certainly one of those series where you must read them in order, otherwise you risk exposing yourself to spoilers and an endless amount of confusion. The trilogy also has a companion book, Sinner. This is also something you should read after the series.

Shiver, in my opinion, is the best of the entire series.

The story is set in Minnesota, where a girl named Grace lives in a house with dense woods as her backyard. She has an obsession for the wolves that live there. In fact, one specific wolf in particular. As a child, Grace was dragged from her swings and attacked by the wolves during one brutal winter. She was saved by a wolf with yellow eyes. Ever since, she has kept her eyes on him with pure fascination.

Sam is this yellow-eyed wolf. He lives in two different worlds. In the summer, he is human. In the winter, he is a wolf. He watches Grace back, but lacks the courage to talk to her during the summer when he is human.

This all changes one fall, when the two meet unexpectedly and under a particularly dire circumstance. Grace is struck by his familiar yellow eyes, knowing instantly exactly who he is. Together, they fight for warmth as winter nears so that Sam can stay human. Otherwise, he loses everything he has known and loves, forever.

The chapters alternate between first person perspectives of Grace and Sam. While I typically find alternating perspectives unnecessary, this format is actually extremely beneficial in gathering all the knowledge necessary to understand both characters fully. 

Unlike Twilight, Stiefvater’s unique twist on the werewolf mythology was what kept me reading. The way one becomes a werewolf was the same: getting bitten. But in Stiefvater’s version, the transformation is uncontrollable and is persuaded by temperature. During the winter, the werewolves were wolves. In the summer, they were human. In addition, after a certain number of years, each werewolf would shift back to human later and later into the summer, until eventually they would not turn back at all, deeming them wolves for the rest of their lives. Another conflict– nobody had a cure.

While I particularly enjoyed this unique take on werewolf-ism, it was the characters that earned Shiver a spot on my Top Picks of 2018. First, Grace Brisbane. One of our antagonists, she is independent, strong-willed, and determined. Her fascination with the wolves and the compassion she has for them, despite their dangerous reputation, made her a remarkable character.

Then, a favorite of all characters I have met before, Sam Roth. Our second antagonist, he is sensitive, earnest, and raw. He is a flawed but lovable character, and the pain he has endured makes his character even more endearing. He has a painful past that haunts him, and he is a complex character with many different parts to him. From his love for poetry to his admiration for his father-like figure, Beck, Sam’s character is enchanting. It is rare for a character to stick in a reader’s mind years after having read the book, but this is Sam’s character for me.

And then there are the side characters. Cole St. Clair, an extremely flawed and not very likable musician who has a knack for getting on someone’s bad side. Isabel Culpeper, an equally flawed character but with positive hints of character development throughout the story. She also is the culprit of a lot of the humor in the story. Two characters I wish we saw more of are Rachel and Olivia, Grace’s two best friends. Once Sam enters the picture, Grace hardly talks to them, apart from when she is in class with them. I wish we saw more of that friendship. I think it would have deepened Grace’s character.

Being the first book of Maggie Stiefvater’s that I had read, I was blown away by her writing prose and her talent for combining unlikely elements into incredible plot lines. Magical realism definitely seems to be a skill of hers, something I didn’t know I was a fan of until I read her books. My copy of Shiver is worn to the spine, which is held together by a few trusty layers of duct tape. Somehow, the book manages gets better and better every time I read it. 

Rating: A

Click here to listen to my Shiver Spotify playlist.

“You’re like a song that I heard when I was a little kid but forgot I knew until I heard it again.”

-Maggie Stiefvater, Shiver

Top 10 Heart-Wrenching Books 2018

Oddly enough, my favorite type of book is the type of book that makes me cry at the end. I love the happy, feel-good stories too. But there is something about a heart-wrenchingly sad book that makes me remember it far after I read the last page.

In case anyone shares this strange preference, I have created a list of my favorite heart-wrenching books that I read in 2018.

  1. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

It is not often that the entire ending of a book is spoiled by the title, but this is what Adam Silvera did with They Both Die at the End. In a world where people receive a call in the morning informing that they they will die sometime that day, the book follows two boys who are destined for death, and spend their last remaining day going on adventures together, even resulting in a blooming romance. 

Listen to my They Both Die at the End Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read!

    2. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A popular movie but a less popular book, Me Before You is a saddening story about a paralyzed young man, Will Traynor, who is assigned a young woman, Lou, to take care of him. Through heartfelt pages of tears, laughter, and the bonding of two unlikely people, this story is certainly one to pull at the heartstrings. 

Listen to my Me Before You Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read!

    3. Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

If the movie didn’t make you cry, then the book certainly will. Having seen the movie before I read the book, I had the benefit of connecting Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer’s stunning performance in the movie to their characters in the book. However, the book is even more saddening than the movie. Following a young boy named Elio and a man named Oliver, a romance like no other blossoms between the two. This book is much more than a simple romance novel however, and truly captures the essence of a but beautiful heart-wrenchingly sad story.

Listen to my Call Me By Your Name Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read!

    4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

You may recognize this book in my Favorites list. My copy is torn, bruised, and is held together by a few trusty layers of duct tape. Shiver follows the story of two characters named Grace and Sam. Stiefvater’s interesting and unique twist on  werewolf folklore immediately makes the story different than any other, while also avoiding all the clichés. While the plot is not necessarily one to make you tear up, it’s the characters that do. 

Listen to my Shiver Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read!

    5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book when I put it in my TBR pile. It was a summer reading requirement, and I therefore deemed it unimportant and a waste of my time. However, the moment I opened it, I fell in love. The Curious Incident follows a young boy named Christopher who is diagnosed with autism. Written from his perspective, this book give an insight into Christopher’s brain and the events that happen around him. 

    6. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A classic, The Outsiders is a popular book involving a group of boys in 1965 in Oklahoma. The book is surrounded around the rivalry between two social groups: the Greasers (our narrators) and the Socials. After one of the Socials dies in a fight between the two groups, the Greasers are forced to go into hiding, resulting in plot twists, violence, and heartaches. 

    7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Another classic. The Book Thief tells the story of a girl named Liesel who lives in Nazi Germany, and befriends a Jew who the family hides in their basement. Through stealing books and learning how to read, Liesel fights against a cruel and dangerous society, all told from the perspective of Death.

Listen to my The Book Thief Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read! 

    8. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Have you ever read a book that has made you throw it across the room when you finished? This is We Were Liars. Set on a private island belonging to a prestigious family, the story revolves around four close friends, identified as the Liars. Friendship turns to heartbreak, a peaceful island turns to chaos. Beautiful but shocking, We Were Liars was destined to end up on this list. 

Listen to my We Were Liars Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read!

    9. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

An oldie but a goodie. My Sisters Keeper is as heart wrenching as heart wrenching gets. The story is about two sisters, one with cancer, Kate, and one born to be a genetic match for the one with cancer, Anna. When Anna decides that she does not want to be a donor anymore, she is forced to get an esteemed lawyer involved. Some of you may be familiar with the movie.

10. Legend by Marie Lu

Probably typically not considered a “heart wrenching” story, Legend is filled with action and adventure in a world where the United States has been split into two, and is ruled with an overbearing and violent government. However, it is the characters that make this book on this list. Through separated families, kids living on the streets, and having to go to desperate measures to survive, Legend certainly qualifies to be on this list.

Listen to my Legend Spotify playlist to set the mood as you read.