I Sold My Soul to Game of Thrones


It took me 6 months. I trooped through. I conquered.

I have read every single page of those five daunting books and have officially been pulled into the cruel grasp of George R.R. Martin. Let me just say, it’s been a battle– pardon the puns.

Granted, it took me 19 years (the first book was published in 1996) to jump on this bandwagon. I don’t know what it is, but the majority of popular books sit on my “to-read” shelf much longer than books that no one talks about. I think my ego takes it as some slight that I’m not discovering something on my own, but having it pushed on me by popular culture– or in this case my friends and family. That said, once I committed to the first book I was determined to whiz through them. The books sucked me in more than I would have liked, and I found myself falling for characters knowing they would end up dying.

See, that’s the thing with getting on this particular bandwagon. I had my fiancé read Game of Thrones (the first book) before me, and he absolutely hated it because he heard everyone dies. So while Martin’s storytelling keeps you enthralled, and you want to know what happens next, M didn’t want to go through the trouble for all the characters to end up dying. Martin creates an incredible world, right up there with LOTR (OK maybe not quite, but awfully close!). My fiancé hated it because of the spoilers. The Song of Fire and Ice series has an infamous reputation with all the characters dying– in swoops and swarms. Even though you know it’s coming, you somehow don’t see it coming. After reading the first book for myself, I actually felt hopeful that people were just being overly dramatic about it. Then I found this on Pinterest. Someone went so far as to mark every time a character died in the book.

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It’s ridiculous. In this case it’s a little extreme because they obviously marked the death of both small and main characters. Still, my fiancé read the first book and went through the turmoil of “watching” while his favorite characters died. He warned me it would get worse. I didn’t listen.

Martin pulled me in. He made me loathe characters and he made me love characters. And then he killed them with no particular favoritism. At the end of the last book I was screaming at him for pulling me along just to have my heart torn out, and he isn’t even finished writing them!

I spent 6 months devoting my free time to immerse myself in his world, and he had me squirming the whole time. Many would argue, including myself, that because he creates such reactions in his readers that he is a writing genius. Yet, sometimes it makes me wonder if he goes too far… Is there a line that can be drawn?

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My original intent was to be able to watch the TV shows after reading the books. But, it has left me in a serious conundrum. I can’t stand the show. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve only watched two episodes of the first season but the show is already too unlike the books to enjoy. It’s frustrating because of how well-loved it is, but there is no going back for me. I could love the people that play the characters (or hate them, they did an AMAZING job casting Joffrey) but the storyline already annoys me just two episodes in.

I’ve created a complicated relationship with the books and an even more complicated one with the show. For now I’ll embrace the respite while Martin takes his time figuring out who he’s going to kill off next and viewers of the show bicker over the way the screenwriters are changing the original plot line. At the end of the day, Game of Thrones has been an interesting phenomenon to witness and dive into, but it’s time to come up for air.

I’m curious- has anyone else read the books and watched the show? Thoughts? I’d be intrigued to hear other perspectives. And good luck to those trying to tackle the books, winter is coming…

If only I could read…


I recently filled in my calendar for the whole semester. Let’s just say my life is going to be a blur of writing, reading, writing, reading, and writing even more. I can already tell that I will be writing more than I ever have in my entire undergrad experience. If I could give any advice to incoming freshmen… don’t do 12 hours. Just don’t. It sounds magical as a freshmen, just out of high school, to be able to say “I only got class twice a week- boo-yah!!!” But then you enter your junior year and your advisor says, “Oh hey, if you want to graduate on time you’ll need to pack on the hours I’m afraid, you don’t have summer plans, do you?”

Seriously though, I never did the math that 12 hours in the fall and spring, for four years, does not equal even close to enough hours to meet the graduation requirements. In fact, only doing 15 hour semesters barely cut it and that is if you’re lucky (or just have an amazing advisor who actually knows what is going on- which a lot of the time they do not and it is not their fault). They should tell English majors these things right off the bat, because obviously I don’t do math (that stereotype is so so true in my case).

The point is I am going to be writing A LOT of academic papers and my 30 page thesis before this semester is all said and done. It’s just a smidgen daunting.

At this point, I’m trying to imagine my life outside of school. I’ve taken 18 hours for the past two semesters now, including the max amount you can take in the summer, and I feel like I will have this ghost anxiety that a paper will still be due months after I graduate.

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The one thing that keeps me looking forward to that uncertain time of job hunting adventures and applications is the part where I’ll get to read whatever I want. Whatever I want.

I’m slowly building up a list of books to read just for the sheer pleasure of it, and it has been a glorious past time for me in between reading The Odyssey and Beowulf (epics seem to be a thing right now).

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If you have any suggestions for my reading binge that will be taking place during the holidays, I am open to everything. Except anything you would find on a college syllabus…. 😉 At least for now.

 

 

The Secret Keeper Review


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, NY Times Bestseller

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

Pages: 496

With the onset of cold weather, it is only natural that I find myself actually getting to finish more books in what seems like a never-ending, ever-growing pile of to-reads. I’ve been waiting and waiting for an opportunity to read Kate Morton’s latest novel, The Secret Keeper, since it was released in Oct. 2012. I’ve enjoyed every single one of her other books (I blogged about The House at Riverton here) and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be disappointed this go-around either.
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I wasn’t.

Once again, Morton wields her incredible power of story-telling within a plot of World War II, London. I have so much to owe to Morton for making me feel what it would have been like during The Blitz, something that you can only barely comprehend through wartime photos and the little evidence on a few of the still-standing buildings.

I found that this book was incredibly necessary to share, but also incredibly difficult. I have always enjoyed mystery and the “oh my gosh what happened/what will happen next” plots. Who doesn’t? But this book was so delicately and meticulously woven, I almost missed the twist (I literally thought it was a typo at first and had to reread), and when I got what had really happened, I was literally saying out loud– What?? What!! What?!?! Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. What?!

I’ve never spoken out loud to a book before. My mind….was blown. I would say it exploded. Morton’s books have always had this enchanting power of lingering for days after finishing them, but this one, in my opinion, blew the others out of the water. It was a powerful story of love during war, survival, living in uncertainty, and the power of family and second chances. It wasn’t an unrealistic or unearned twist either, it was very believable (albeit shocking)! As an extra kudo to Morton, she even incorporated a little bit of a Harry Potter shout-out that left me smiling (of course). However, I feel like this review is incredibly inadequate. I resorted to Goodreads reviews to see if I could find a more eloquent version. If you would like to see what I think is the perfect review of this book, bound on over to the Ageless Pages Reviews blog. I literally think this woman knew exactly how I felt about this book, because I agree wholeheartedly with everything she says. Honestly, my only goal was to gab about how mind blown I was and how you should read it now! 🙂 But, this truly is going on my all-time favorite list.

If you are looking for a good cold-weather read this holiday season, look no further. Even though it took me a little longer than I would have liked to get into it (meaning I like to be drawn in within the first 10 pages… I’m demanding), once you do, you won’t be able to put it down.

Once again, thank you Kate Morton for sharing another incredible story with us. Also, if you enjoy writing or hearing an author speak about their writing, Morton shares her inspiration (etc) for The Secret Keeper on her website. I always find it intriguing how my favorite authors write!

The Debut of “The Signature of All Things”


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As I foretold in my last post, I am going to give some brief thoughts on my most recent read (which I did devour in 3 days…whoops!), The Signature of All Things by the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert.

But, to start off I should say that I really don’t enjoy giving reviews- I only do so because I like (hopefully) getting people to read books I enjoy. That being said, I think I’m awful at it because I am one of those people that doesn’t like any type of spoiler and tends to say things like- “You just have to read it yourself!”. But, I’ll try to capture my response to it and give a very brief overview of why I thought you might want to put it in your “to-read” pile.

I’m not going to lie to you, many people think that Gilbert’s memoirs weren’t all that incredible. Obviously, I disagree with that. I really can’t say I could see a guy really relating to Gilbert because she obviously harbors very feminine conflicts and experiences. However, she has a perspective on the human experience that is incredibly relatable, even in her memoirs. But, this isn’t about those, this is about her beautifully written 500 page 19th century fiction novel. To be honest, I’m always a sucker for any historical fiction, so she wrote right up my alley.

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The story centers around the life of the very intelligent, independent, and surprisingly interesting woman named Alma (although the story progresses over her entire lifetime). Her main pursuit is botany and scientific study. That in itself should not be interesting. But, I can honestly say, I haven’t read anything quite like this…ever, and I thought it was wonderful. This book, despite its historical setting, felt so real and modern (not in a distracting way). This is the point where I just want to scream to go read it yourself, but I’m refraining.

The narrator of this story is as equally lovable as the main character, reminiscent almost of the Jane Austen narrator that has a distinct personality and voice embedded throughout the tale. This was incredibly refreshing to experience, I truly felt like someone was sitting down in front of me telling me this remarkable life story of Alma.

More than anything, Gilbert once again was able to take me on a journey where I could really feel the enviroment and the psyche of the individual. I now feel like I have lived Alma’s life and gained her experience along side my own. There is so much wisdom to be found on her journey, and the author kindly gives that wisdom to both us the reader, and Alma herself when it is all said and done.

It could be said that some of the minor characters may be less believable to more critical readers, I honestly can’t say I felt that way, but I could see where others may find this to be true. I’m definitely not trying to put this on any literary pedestal, this is just my own reaction to her writing and the overall story.

Overall, I did go into this with very biased affections, but I was not let down. In fact, I think this will stay up there with some of my favorite reads, certainly for the past year. Once again, Gilbert managed to give a very spiritual, real journey- ironically through a 19th century woman’s scientific journey. I can truthfully say this is in many ways NOTHING like her memoirs. But, that is the way it should be. It’s an entirely different genre and an entirely different story. I would have loved this book regardless of her past writing. I believe that wholeheartedly, her name just made it feel like an old friend.

As always, I don’t know if youwill like it. But, Gilbert left me wrapped in a bevy of emotions (in a good way) and very satisfied. A life well-lived, my dear Alma.

The overall plot could be described as ironically tragic, yet beautiful, reminiscent of Hemingway. But, this had a much happier ending, perhaps more realistic than Hemingway in the sense that there seems to be more acceptance of fate than coldness of fate. More gain than loss. It’s all a matter of perspective.

One of my favorite excerpts
“He had wished for the world to be a paradise, when in fact it was a battlefield. He had spent his life longing for the eternal, the constant, and the pure. He desired an airy covenant of angels, but was bound-as is everyone and everything- by the hard rules of nature. Moreover, as Alma well knew, it was not always the most beautiful, brilliant, original, or graceful who survived the struggle for existence; sometimes it was the most ruthless, or the most lucky; or maybe just the most stubborn…
The odds of survival were punishingly slim, for the world was naught but a school of calamity and an endless burning furnace of tribulation. But those who survived the world shaped it- even as the world, simultaneously, shaped them.”

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Perhaps, for a better sense of the book, check out this short trailer (since when do they do book trailers??….but I like it!) It’s short and totally worth watching if you are at all interested in Gilbert or her new book. Trailer

Would I recommend this to a friend, most definitely yes! In fact, I’m giving it to my mom next! 🙂 Let me know your thoughts, especially if you manage to read it! I’m quite excited about it.

All the best!

Day = Made


So, apparently special packages DO come before Christmas.

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I just received a signed (with real pen ink, my friends) copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book The Signature of All Things. Needless to say, it had the power of flipping a simply ordinary day to a little happy dance jig at the door as my fiancé signed off on the package. (And can I just say, the book itself is truly a work of art in its own right).

Day= made. Actually, I could probably ride this high for awhile… Now if only it had old book smell I might reach a new level of euphoria…

It probably seems silly to go “fan girl” over someone I don’t know. But, if you’ve been following me for awhile, you know my favorite author of all time is Elizabeth Gilbert. Not only is her writing spectacular, I also relate to her since I am someone trying to follow some sort of semblance of normality in the writing sphere, and I’ve just gravitated to her philosophy over the year. I think her journey with writing is a special one, and all of her advice has helped me in really dark spells in my own creative work. If there was a fairy godmother for writing, she would be mine!

Posts I’ve wrote with Gilbert’s advice/wisdom:
Writing Confidence
My Writing Experience

Anywho, this occasion is so momentous I may just set aside the rest of the week to read it. College and poetry writing classes be darned. Eh, okay, I’ll wait at least till tomorrow afternoon.

But, I thought I would share this with you (because I’m obviously excited!), and if you are so inclined you should definitely give this new book a peek. It’s already received rave reviews, not to mention Gilbert is just inspiring all around. Ahh, I could go on for ages.

I feel like such a creeper. Oh well. It happens.

Have an incredible day and I hope you find little things to inspire your day as well! And I have a feeling there might be a book review in the future…. 😉

Now I have to go stick my nose in a book….

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Summer Reads and Reviews


Well, it is officially that time of year again. Fall is just around the corner, and while I’m looking forward to the cooler weather, I will miss the freedom of summer and all the incredible memories I got to share with my loved ones. I hope everyone else had a memorable summer too.

Inevitably, the frequency of my blog posts will probably be sporadic over the next few months, and all I can say is bear with me if you can! While my class load isn’t terrifying, it is still all highly intensive, especially with my type-A tendencies. But, just one more year to go! Considering that I’m already exhausted after the third day of class, I would say senior-itis will be a thing.

While the fall brings cooler breezes and some of my favorite things, it does not allow me as much “me” reading time. I thought the summer would be my chance to play catch-up on that ever-growing book pile that I cummilated over the previous semester. I thought wrong. I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I only read four books in total. Honestly, I have no excuses. But, I thought I would share with you the few I did.
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The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory
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I have an insatiable hunger for all things British historical fiction, so I obviously find myself always picking up Gregory’s latest novels when I can. While one could say substance is somewhat lacking in her books compared to other authors of this genre, no one can deny it as a fun history lesson. Gregory has inspired much of my interest in historical fiction in general, and therefore I cannot deny her ability to weave intriguing stories about some of English history’s most noted women. The Red Queen does not disappoint. For those of you who aren’t obsessive about the English royal tree (like me), Margaret Beaufort was the grandmother to King Henry VIII, mother of King Henry VII, making her a large participator in the War of the Roses for much of her life. Gregory’s characterization is incredible, as always. But, despite her ability, I just could not connect with Margaret Beaufort, and therefore, this is one of my least favorite novels by her. I know it’s silly of me to not like the book because of the characteristics Beaufort displays, but it makes me understand why many historians have been harsh on her character. But, I can respect that Gregory represented Beaufort beautifully considering the ruthlessness and entitlement that Beaufort is known for. Despite all this, Gregory shows some more human-like qualities that, while they don’t make Beaufort any more loveable, makes her real, and possibly a good representation of what many women felt at that time, although her situation was quite extraordinary. I also have to admit it was the first time Gregory has tackled a character so disinterested in meaningful relationships (other characters had romantic relationships or even just friends, but Beaufort’s character seems very much alienated) and maybe that, more than anything, was what left me wanting. Beaufort’s idea of love was very skewed, according to Gregory’s representation.

Overall: Definitely a worthy read of any follower of Tudor historical fiction, or any admirer of Gregory’s previous work. She has tackled a wily women in this novel.

“I would not care whether people thought I was special, if my life was truly special. It would not mater to me that people could see me as pious, if I could truly live as a woman scholar of piety. I want to be what I seem to be. I act as if I am specially holy, a special girl; but this is what I really want to be. I really do.”
-Margaret Beaufort, The Red Queen

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
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This was my first Faulkner read, and I understand why my English professor’s mentioned it. If you are an avid writer, it is easy to appreciate Faulkner’s innate ability to represent the human psyche. You are literally inside all of the characters’ heads at one point or another, and it is a pretty powerful mural. I will be honest, this was a laborous read at times. Initially, keeping up with who is who as you jump from one perspective to another is very trying, but once you find a comfort level and a grasp on what is going on, what Faulkner achieves is incredible. I initially thought it was too dry for my taste and too difficult, but when I finally got to the end, I found my stomach in knots and an insane empathy for all the characters. It was truly a human experience through someone else’s mind. In truth, it is difficult to describe, but if you have the patience and desire to get through it, you will come out on the other side changed (just like the characters).

Overall: Truly a classic, and I’m glad I gave it a chance. Not light reading though (in my personal opinion).

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The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
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If you have watched the movie before reading the book, well, you are missing out. Isn’t that always how it goes? But, I fervently believe this is true with this book, more than others that have been made into movies. It’s a truly moving book, and brings forth many legitimate questions and beliefs about why people choose to believe some things over others. This is a great perspective on spirituality and the overall human struggle to understand why things happen. On the surface, it may just seem like another ship-wreck, survival-type story. But, I can tell you it most certainly isn’t. If you are looking for something really “new” to read, I would recommend this, because it certainly isn’t like anything I’ve read before. It has nuances of other books, but the connotations within it are pretty profound. I will warn you that the one thing that made it difficult to read was the graphicness of it. I love animals, a lot. And I cry over animal cruelty in no time flat, and it made this a very difficult read for me. But, I understand that it was not just sensational, it was very important to the story. I wanted to initially say I didn’t like it because it makes you feel so much, but Martel did not disappoint in the end to make it all a powerful and worthwhile journey. Which, honestly, I thought was impossible during some parts.

Overall: I’m glad I gave into the peer pressure and read this ( I initially was told to see the movie, but being the reader that I am, I refused before I read the book– this annoys friends and family often, but it is soooo worth it). If you are looking for a thoughtful and enjoyable read (despite the gore) then I believe it is worthwhile.

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Exactly how I felt after reading the book.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
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I won’t go much into this one since I reviewed it right after I read it- that’s how excited to share I was. I realize many people have already read it, so that is another reason I won’t say much here. But, overall, I believe everyone should read it when they feel stuck or need a pep talk. Not to mention it is an easy read. I believe they are even teaching it in high schools now, that’s how accessible it is. All I can say is, sit back and soak it up! It’s a wise little book.

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So, that is what I read over the summer, and hopefully I will get cracking on the rest of my waiting list. Doubtful, but ever hopeful! English majors chose their major because they love literature, and yet have no time to read on their own! Oh, the irony of it all. Anyways, I hope whether you are going back to school or just continuing on as usual, that you’ve had an amazing day!

An Unconventional Review- “The Alchemist”


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Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Length: Short: 167 pages

Similar reads *in my opinion*: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Walking Drum by Louis L’Amour (not a western story)

One thing I’ve always loved about books is the way the perfect story always falls into my lap when I need it the most. This is what The Alchemist has done for me these past few days. I’ve heard all the rave reviews for months and months now, but finally splurged and bought it on a impromptu Hastings trip. The pull was too strong!

I sat on the beach reading this book as waves lapped back and forth in front of me. Before this vacation, I had the daunting feeling of future expectations weighing me down. I was (and still am) facing the last semester of my undergrad career, along with having to ask for letters of recommendations from my favorite professors (something I’ve been apprehensive about- I don’t like asking for favors). I’m going to start applying to NYU and Cambridge summer programs- major life dreams that I have been trying my best to follow for the past three years, despite all the obstacles. Lastly, but perhaps the most difficult thing to wrap my head around is the prospect of being away from my best friend and my other half for a year. This all had been weighing on me as we drove down to the beach for a last-minute vacation. I’ve always known the importance of the here and now, more lately than ever, but a precarious future has sagged my usually relaxed posture.

As I turned the pages of this book and read the story of the shepherd boy who leaves behind everything he has known to follow his Personal Legend, I began to feel tears forming in my eyes as I began to apply my own journey to Santiago’s (I think I’ve warned everyone before that I’m a sap when it comes to books- but these were happy tears, hopeful tears). We all have dreams, but the price of those dreams are terrifying to us. Paulo Coelho’s beautifully simple tale of a young man’s pursuit of happiness and one’s personal legend (AKA destiny/life dream) is a wonderful fable that I’m sure will inspire many for ages to come. The boy goes on a spiritual and intimate journey with himself, with the sage advice from the unexpected meeting with the alchemist. This book and all it’s reassuring wisdom slowed down my racing heart and let me listen to the lapping waves and the soft cry of seagulls. I can already tell this book will be passed around my family and friends, and be read multiple times by myself, which is a huge honor because it is something I rarely do.

More than anything, this book taught me not to be scared. We are all scared, but it’s how we react to that fear that matters. In the book, Santiago falls in love along the way and is unsure whether or not to continue pursuing his Personal Legend- but learns that true love doesn’t hold you from your dreams.

The alchemist tells him, “If what one finds is made of pure matter, it will never spoil. And one can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.” (p.123)

The prospect of being away from M for a year while we journey our separate paths was a terrifying challenge to me. But like the alchemist said, what is real will always be there, waiting for your return.

The Alchemist is wonderful. I found myself in all of the characters, and only really good stories can achieve that. Even M read it in one sitting, and he too thought it was worth reading. I would like to think that we both have some more reference for the long journey ahead.

I will leave you with just two quotes from the book. I would give more, but I believe this book is like a treasure hunt. I enjoyed finding all these little tidbits of insight, so I will leave it where you will have ample to find on your own (if you choose to read it…. do it now….now! 😉 )

“The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.” (p. 103)

“…every day was the same, and when each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.” (p.27)

I believe that more than ever, thanks to Coelho. The timing could not have been more perfect. M is pursuing his dreams in defending what he loves, and I will be weaving my way through my own journey. This is a path we can walk together, even from a distance.

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