A Stranger in the House – Shari Lapena | A Spoiler-Filled Rant Review

I mentioned Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House briefly in my Reading Rush Wrap-Up, but I wanted to make a spoiler-filled post discussing the grimey details because it was an utter disappoint…

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The Details

Lapena’s novel starts off with a woman having a car accident. That woman is Karen Krupp, wife of Tom Krupp. After rushing to the hospital, the Krupp’s discover Karen has a concussion and temporary amnesia. While all of these events are occurring, a man is found dead on the “bad side of town”, very close to where Karen’s accident occurred.

As Karen tries to remember what happened that night, both the Krupp’s and local detectives attempt to put the pieces together while simultaneously unveiling the many lies hidden within this seemingly innocent suburban home.

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The Rant Review

We’re diving right into the spoilers because I just simply can’t hold back. You have been warned.

I gave Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House a 2/5. Since I didn’t decide to DNF this book, I bumped it up from a 1/5. It was bearable, to say the least.

I want to start off by saying that I hated the ending of this book. Since all of the charges got dropped against Karen and Brigid, I feel like there was no point to this story. To be fair, I don’t read a lot of crime thrillers — any thrillers in general, really — and this might be a good ending to some readers, but it just feels so dissatisfying to me. Of course, Brigid’s life is ruined in the end and the Krupp’s prosper, but I just wanted a more impactful ending. Where is the tragedy, people?

Another thing about the ending that irked me was the fact that we never learn what really happened the night of the murder! Did Karen kill Robert? Brigid?? Granted, it’s pretty obvious that Karen is probably the murderer, but still. At least give me some type of closure.

I’m not going to say I saw everything coming — obviously I didn’t see that cringey ending coming — but most things were not that difficult to predict. It felt like every other crime thriller movie I’d ever seen, just in book form. This is typically why I stay away from thrillers because they all feel like the same story repeating over and over again.

With only 3 focal characters, minus Detective Jennings and Rasbach, it wasn’t difficult to see Tom and Brigid’s affair unfold. To be honest, their relationship throughout the entire book made me cringe. From the disturbing seduction scenes, to the blackmail sex, I just wanted to throw the book every time they were in each other’s presence.

Without the serious adult topics, like affairs and bloody murder, Lapena’s novel felt very amateur. The writing felt very simple and basic, which is not a bad quality by any means, but I guess I expected a little more from an adult thriller. (Could be bad judgement on my part.)

None of the characters had any depth to them, except Detective Rasbach — I really enjoyed how Lapena molded him into this sensitive, yet harsh detective. It was more dialogue back and forth rather than connecting with any of the characters at all, so I didn’t really care what happened to them. At one point, I did feel sorry for Brigid because she dreamed of being a mother — I assume that is what feeds her want for Tom — but it almost felt like she was forgotten about towards the end of the story.

The premise of A Stranger in the House is intriguing; however, as much as I love Detective Rasbach, I wish Lapena would have cut the murder plot out entirely and focused the story on Brigid’s obsession with Tom and Karen. A Stranger in the House had the potential to be a creepy, disturbing tale of an obsessive neighbor who attempts to kill her “lover’s” wife and take her place. Sadly, it was more murder mystery than psychotic lovers. Obviously, I miss judged this one.

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The Conclusion

I may not have enjoyed Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House — clearly — but that doesn’t mean this is a bad book. It just isn’t the right one for me.

I’m still having a hard time deciding whether I like the thriller genre or not. On one hand, I loved Leila Slimani’s Adèle, a domestic thriller. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of crime thrillers, since that seems to be my main problem with this novel.

Rather than being biased and throwing the entire crime thriller genre to the curb like a heartless villain, I might dip my toes into a few more. Who knows, I might find one that changes my world!

With that being said, if you have any good crime thriller recommendations, send them my way. Clearly, I need all the help I can get.

Checkout my Goodreads for more real-time reading updates.

The Reading Rush 2020 Wrap-Up | A Bug and 2 Housewives Walk into a Bar…

First things first, I should’ve jumped on the readathon bandwagon a long time ago.

I always felt intimidated by readathons, probably because I have an overwhelming anxiety to complete an unrealistic and stressful TBR, but this time I had no excuse to not participate.

Plus, I’ve really been trying to amp up my reading, and what better way to do that than forcing myself to read for a week?

The Recap

If you’ve never heard of the Reading Rush, it is an annual week-long readathon (July 20-26) hosted by Ariel Bissett and Raeleen Lemay. The goal is simply to take one week to read more, as well as challenge your usual reading taste with unique reading prompts.

Every readathon includes 7 new reading prompts, and these challenges are, perhaps, my favorite part of the Reading Rush. They’re always so unique and interesting, and they make me actually look forward to reading something I usually wouldn’t pick up.

And, let’s face it, if anyone needs more motivation to read, it’s moi.

To recap, here’s a list of the 2020 Reading Rush challenges:

  1. Read a book matching the color of your birthstone.
  2. Read a book that starts with the word “The”.
  3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve seen.
  4. Read the first book you touch.
  5. Read a book completely not in your house.
  6. Read a genre that scares you or your least read genre.
  7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than yours.

For a detailed 2020 Reading Rush TBR, check out my previous post.

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The Wrap-Up

As a slow reader, I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete my full TBR of 7 books in 7 days — I envy anyone who can read a book a day — but I did manage to finish 3 books.

The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka

The first book I finished was Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

I’ve been meaning to get to this short, 50-page novella for about 3 years now, so I finally bit the bullet and picked it up. Don’t ask me why I never read this since it is so small because I couldn’t tell you why.

I chose this novella specifically for the read a book that starts with the word “The” challenge. I was hoping it would be able to overlap with the other prompts, but, sadly, it does not.

This story made me laugh out loud, squeam in my seat, and broke my heart all at the same time, and I ended up giving Kafka’s Metamorphosis a 4/5. I can definitely see why it’s a classic that almost everyone has read.

I specifically loved Gregor’s character and how, despite the fact that he just woke up as a human-size bug, he’s still more worried about losing his job than anything else. His character arc is very unusual and, let’s face it, nauseating, but I think the underlying metaphor has a lot to say about us as humans and our — primarily — poor priorities.

Even though the story itself was phenomenal, I couldn’t give it a 5/5 because of the plethora of grammatical errors. To be fair, the introduction of my edition stated that the edition and translation contained the original, unedited text. Kafka did not share his writings with many people while he was alive, so much of his original works are unedited and consist of a lot of errors.

I realize being a stickler on grammar isn’t the most popular opinion, but it hendered my experience with the story, personally. However, I still enjoyed the story over all, and I wouldn’t mind picking it up again sometime.

Adèle – Leila Slimani

After I finished Kafka’s novella, I immediately picked up Leila Slimani’s Adèle.

I didn’t know much about this book, other than it being about a French woman who loves attention and feeling wanted, and Noelle Gallagher hated it (which scared me a little, tbh). Little did I know that I would stumble upon one of my favorite reads of the year.

Since Slimani’s novel is set in Paris, France, I picked it up for the challenge read a book that takes place on a different continent than yours. Unlike Kafka’s novella, Slimani’s novel does overlap with the “read a genre that scares you or your least read genre” since it’s a domestic thriller, but you’ll see in a little bit that it doesn’t really matter.

I gave Adèle a 4/5. To be honest, now that I’m looking bad, I don’t know why it’s not a 5/5, but I’m sticking with my gut on this one. Don’t let the rating fool you; I will definitely be re-reading at some point, and it has become a favorite of mine.

Slimani’s Adèle follows, you guessed it, Adèle, an unhappy wife/mother living in the heart of Paris’ beautiful city. With a ER doctor as a husband, Adèle is able to participate in a complicated and secret sex life filled with numerous affairs and one-night-stands.

I’m not sure if anyone else is weird like me, but I love reading and watching movies that explore humans’ desires and sex lives. I think because of the taboo surrounding that act of sex and sex culture — even though it’s a natural thing that almost everyone is bound to explore one day — is what peaks my interest. Plus, it’s like reading about a whole other world, even if it does get weird from time to time.

Adèle reminds me of the Nymphomaniac movies directed by Lars von Trier, but toned down a lot. Adèle is such an interesting character, coming off as one of those terrible protagonists that you can’t help but root for, which we all know I love. Even though she is constantly cheating on her husband and not taking care of herself, I couldn’t help but feel for Adèle. Personally, she seems like a woman suffering from possible post-partum depression, but that could be up for debate since I’m not an expert on that particular subject.

I could go on and on about this book, but I might have to save it for another time. All in all, it was a wonderful book.

A Stranger in the House – Shari Lapena

The final book I finished for the Reading Rush was Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House.

My mom let me borrow this book and said she couldn’t put it down. Naturally, I selected it for a readathon if it truly was an edge-of-your-seat type book, but, boy, was I highly disappointed.

I originally picked Lapena’s story for the read a genre that scares you or your least read genre because it’s a domestic thriller, much like Adèle, but with a layer of crime.

Whereas Slimani’s novel followed a woman’s chaotic sex life, A Stranger in the House follows Karen and Tom Krupp, a newly married couple of 2 years. Much like every other domestic/crime thriller novels, their marriage is picture perfect with a beautiful suburban house. That is, until Karen has a car accident and is found in the same area as a murdered man. Karen just so happens to wake up with amnesia (shocker), and the plot unfolds from their as everyone tries to piece the puzzle together.

I’m not going to lie, I had a pretty hard time getting through this novel, and I ended up giving it a 2/5. At first, I was pretty unimpressed with the basic writing style and typical domestic thriller clichés, but I carried on because I did want to see what happened. However, the ending completely ruined the book for me.

I’m definitely going to be making a separate spoiler-filled post about Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House because I just have to vent about this book.

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The Leftovers

Before Everything – Victoria Redel

I did start Victoria Redel’s Before Everything, which I already know is going to break my heart, and I’m about 25 pages in. Somehow, I didn’t even realize that it’s a novel written in prose, but I’m super excited to dive into it. I’ve never read a book written in prose, so I’m interested to see how that differs my reading experience. I also chose this book for the prompt read a book matching the color of your birthstone.

The Taming of the Shrew – William Shakespeare

Technically, I didn’t start Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew for the read a book that inspired a movie you’ve seen challenge, BUT I did read the introduction. I plan on reading it immediately after writing this, so I’m counting it in the “leftover” section. From what I learned in the introduction, this play seems to be incredible — as if I expect anything less from Shakespeare — and touches on themes of gender and marriage.

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The Conclusion

I’m really happy with my overall performance in the 2020 Reading Rush, even though I didn’t get to all of the books on my TBR.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to be more involved on the actual Reading Rush website with forums and all of that fun stuff next year. I’m definitely going to be working on my reading stamina until then!

The Reading Rush 2020 TBR |A Very Ambitious List Of Very Short Books For A Very Slow Reader

It’s July, which means it’s time for The Reading Rush!

I’ve never participated in any kind of reading event (frankly, because I’m super intimidated by how slow I read and setting myself up for disappointment from the start), but I’ve been seriously lacking on my reading. 10 pages here, 40 pages there. I’ve just been pushing it to the side.

Once I saw Ariel Bissett and Noelle Gallagher upload their TBRs (along with organizing my own staggering TBR pile), something sparked inside me, and now I’m ready to read everything!

Check out thereadingrush.com for more information about the event!

Without further ado, let’s get into the books!

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1. Read a book matching the color of your birthstone.

I love this idea for a reading challenge because it’s unique to the reader. Plus, I just really love birthstones. I’m an October baby (shoutout to all of my libras!), and my birthstones are Opal and a pink gem called Tourmaline.

As someone who adores bright and exciting colors, I’m shocked to see how DULL my TBR pile is. The trend seems to be black and orange books, at least for now, which does not work in my favor at all.

But alas! I found the one book with pink or rainbow on the cover, and that would be Victoria Redel’s Before Everything.

I don’t know much about this book other than it has a stunning cover. I don’t know what it is, but the colors and figures just speak to me. Ironic for the challenge, huh?

I’m pretty sure it’s a drama involving a family? group of friends? I’m not too sure (I should probably look into this kind of stuff before writing instead of repeatedly typing variations of “I don’t know”), but it fits the challenge AND it’s short (you’ll notice short books as a trend throughout this post).

2. Read a book that starts with the word “The”.

This challenge was a little difficult for me; not finding a book that started with “The”, but trying to decide on one!

I have at least 5 books that I can see right now that start with “The” on my shelf, but, in true Reading Rush fashion, I opted for the shortest book, which is Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis.

This tiny book maxes out at 55 pages! And let’s not even get started on this creepy, yet intriguing cover that I found at Books-A-Million. It’s also one of those stories that gets referenced time and time again, and I selfishly want to be included in those conversations. Sometimes you just have to feed into your ego’s desires.

3. Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve seen.

Another great challenge! I’m a very big stickler in reading the book before watching the movie adaptations (unless I don’t know about the book, of course), but this challenge flips that tradition on its head.

Now, this could be a controversial pick, but I don’t really care because I have been trying to find a reason to make myself read another Shakespeare play (plus, they’re short!). Here’s my moment to shine, as the Shakespeare nerd that I am, and I chose Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.

(I’m sorry about the blandness of this photo; I need to invest in some copies of Shakespeare pronto!)

After some Googling, I noticed that 10 Things I Hate About You (Heath Ledger… That is all.) was inspired by Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, which I know nothing about. Since 10 Things is one of my favorite childhood movies, I have a feeling I’ll enjoy Shakespeare’s play.

Fingers crossed!

4. Read the first book you touch.

You all are going to have to trust me on this one.

I’ve seen variations of this challenge, such as Noelle’s technique of touching all the books and blindly choosing one, but I wanted to take this challenge for what it is.

After I picked all of the books for the other challenges, I turned away from my leftover pile of books and simply reached back. Since the enormous Anna Karenina is placed in the middle of the stack, I was a teeny tiny bit nervous.

And would you believe that I almost touched that gigantic 800+ pages monster?! Exactly one book away, the mere distance of a fingernail!

What I ended up grabbing was Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sandition.

Another short book! We love a good trend, no?

I love Austen, as well as a short collection of stories, so I’m excited for this read. I’ve tried starting this one a few times, but I always got busy and ended up never picking it back up. Here goes nothing!

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5. Read a book completely not in your house.

The sun has finally come out to stay here in the Appalachia’s, which means plenty of time to read on the porch and let the sunshine soak into your skin.

Seasonal depression? Never heard of her.

For this challenge, I chose Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

I don’t know if it’s the theme (I think) of self awareness or finding your feminine power, but Chopin’s book deserves to be read outside. Perhaps it’s the cover art of the woman, hopefully, enjoying a sunny day. Whatever it might be, I’m here for it. Another tiny book for the win!

6. Read a genre that scares you or your least read genre

As we’ve all probably noticed, I’m a reader of classics mainly. I’ve read my fair share of contemporary and supernatural books, but I typically stick to my beloveds.

However, I recently got quite the stack of books from my mom of different genres, so what better time than now to give a new style a try?

Shari Lapena’s A Stranger in the House, an adult thriller, was one my mom pointed out in particular and said she really enjoyed. Since I’ve never read a thriller (that I remember, at least), now’s my chance to try it out.

My mom said she read this is just a few days, so I’m hoping it’ll be the perfect book to speed through. This is a reading challenge, after all.

7. Read a book that takes place on a different continent than yours.

This challenge is probably my favorite of them all. It allows readers who typically pick up books that resemble their own lives and learn about another culture! (My anthropology minor really comes out when discussing different cultures because I thrive on that shit).

I love reading about how people live in different parts of the world; their religions, food, family traditions, societal behaviors, and all of the enriching aspects that different cultures have to offer.

Anyways, back to the books. That’s what we’re all here for.

For this challenge, I chose Adèle by Leila Slimani, which is written by a French author and takes place in Paris, France.

I’m a little skeptical about this book because I remember hearing a review that it was kind of a disappointment, but I’m trying to go in unbiased and take it for what it is. (I’m terrible at letting people persuade my opinion of a book).

After reading the back of the book, it seems to be about this woman (I’m assuming Adèle) who seems to have the perfect life, but she’s apparently coocoo for sex.

Let’s just say this book is either going to be eh material, or it could end up being one of my favorite books of all time. We shall see!

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Please Send Good Vibes And Lots Of Coffee

Do I think I’m going to finish 7 books in a week? Absolutely not because I have no hope in my slow-reading self, but what the hell. Let’s give it a shot!

I have a feeling I’m going to be drinking quite a bit of coffee to get as much reading done as I can.

Hopefully, this reading challenge will get me more into the habit of picking up a book rather than my phone. It is also possible that reading so much is going to make me view reading as a chore, which it never should be, and I will fall back into that wretched slump of mine.

Sending hopeful wishes and great books your way!

The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson | A Glass Of Rum With A Side Of Suckfish

First and foremost, what a guy!

I’ve seen countless interviews of Hunter S. Thompson, as well as the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp, but not once have I read any of his works. (Well, not until a few days ago, that is.) I was once a poser fan, but no longer!

If you plan on reading this book, I hope you’re in the mood for a glass of rum on ice because it will definitely have you craving one.

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The Details

Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary is a piece of “gonzo journalism,” a type of journalism where the reporter is a part of the story and often told in a first-person narrative, making it very personal. Thompson lead the gonzo journalism movement in the 1970’s, making him the O.G. of the style.

The Rum Diary tells of “Paul Kemp,” a young journalist, and his time working at a drowning newspaper in San Juan, Puerto Rico in the late 1950’s. Once Kemp arrives in San Juan, he’s thrown into a whirlwind of drunken, sexual, and sometimes violent events with his friends and coworkers (while consuming a plethora of rum, of course).

Even though The Rum Diary was not published until 1998, Thompson first began writing this novel in 1959 when he was 22 years old, making The Rum Diary his first novel.

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The Review

I don’t know if it was just my reading experience (aka working a full-time job and moving), but this book was pretty forgettable to me. It could be because my mind was focused on more important things, but the first 2/3 of the book have completely left my mind. I can recount the somewhat big events that happen, but I definitely wouldn’t put money on my Rum Diary trivia, if you know what I mean.

Thompson’s simple and captivating writing style kept drawing me to pick up the novel whenever I had 20 minutes of free time. I suppose you could argue that I wanted to pick up the book because I wanted a distraction from my actual responsibilities, and you would probably be right (I can’t even begin to express the hatred I have for moving), but Thompson’s prose definitely gave me an excuse to keep reading.

Another thing I enjoyed about The Rum Diary was the characters. I’m not sure if they were people that Thompson actually met, or if they were dramatized in a certain way, but I absolutely loved that the characters were FLAWED (we love some good humanism) in more ways than one. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy loveable and pure characters every now and then, but let’s be real, they’re boring. Thompson seems to make it a point to show the faults and lows of characters rather than their highs and achievements, and I admire that more than words can express. I’m all for complex, loveable-but-broken characters, much like Alex from A Clockwork Orange (my fav <3), and it just makes the story that much more engaging.

Even though Hunter S. Thompson’s prose and characters were intriguing, I decided to rate the book 4/5 because it’s pretty forgettable. Again, like I previously mentioned, it’s probably because of my reading experience, but it is what it is. I am interested in picking this book up again some time in the future and see if I enjoy it more because there are SO many reviews praising this book.

Are we surprised that I tainted my own reading experience? Absolutely not. I seem to be the queen of self-sabotage.

Another problem I had with Thompson’s novel was the outdated language and concepts, so Trigger Warnings for racism and rape. They definitely are not at the forefront of the novel, but I did feel uneasy when one of Thompson’s characters use the n-word, as well as the same character trying to take advantage of a drunk woman. However, Thompson does kind of save himself by having Kemp speak up or change the subject whenever these events occur. But still made me uncomfortable, nonetheless.

Thompson’s The Rum Diary is an enjoyable read, minus the aforementioned uneasiness, and would be a perfect summer read for the right person. Perhaps with a side of rum.

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Extra Thoughts and Spoilers

I don’t really have a lot of extra thoughts on this novel because I, you guessed it, can’t remember enough to actually compare. Well, that and I don’t really have anything to compare it to, much like the unique and eccentric Hunter S. Thompson himself.

BUT I had to touch on perhaps my favorite quote of all time: “I’m tired of being a punk–a human suckfish.” Kemp then explains that he latches himself onto bad things, much like suckfish latch onto sharks.

As someone who also tends to be attracted to all things bad for me, this metaphor of the suckfish resonated with me in more ways than one. Rather than being the suckfish in my life, I’d prefer to swim in my own stream. I often have the energy sucked out of me (pun intended) when it comes to my job, family and friends, but it’s time for a change.

I think everyone can resonate with not wanting to be a suckfish, whether you apply it to your friends or work or anything. We all deserve to treat ourselves with kindness than letting some shitty shark determine our route.

Swim free my little fishies!

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The Golden Ass – Apuleius | The Story of an Ass of a Man

When Apuleius’ story of The Golden Ass popped up as I scrolled through the Book Outlet classics section, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I don’t know whether it was the title of the book, the classical antiquity cover art, or the overall curiosity of this unheard classic, but something was grabbing my attention and not letting me go.

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The Details

Upon further investigating, (aka reading the description), I discovered this story follows a man named Lucius who is turned into an ass after meddling with uncertain witchcraft. As he awaits his final human transformation, Lucius the ass finds himself in the midst of chaotic events and comical misadventures.

The Golden Ass was written towards the end of the second century AD in Italy, and it is broken up into 11 Books (much like Milton’s Paradise Lost). The edition I acquired is published by Penguin Classics and translated by E. J. Kenny. Apuleius’ hilarious text is one of the only and funniest stories still left from classical antiquity.

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The Review

This book made me literally laugh out loud so many times, and do you realize how rare that is to come by for me?

Within the first Book, Lucius in his pre-ass form meets Socrates, who is later almost completely beheaded by a group of witches (I promise this is not a spoiler; it happens within the first 15 pages.), to which they then pop a squat over Lucius and take a piss.

May I remind you, this was all within the first 20 pages.

I didn’t realize what I had gotten myself into by picking up this strange collection of stories from the perspective of an ass, but I truly enjoyed it and gave it 4 out of 5 stars.

I couldn’t let myself give Apuleius’ The Golden Ass 5 stars because it seemed like the pacing of the story started to slow down in the middle. I’m thinking my mood had a lot to do with losing interest in certain parts since I read most of it at work. Sometimes I would have to put the book down multiple times to help with customers and stocking, so I felt distanced and pulled a little from the story.

However, even with distractions and small reading slump moods, I couldn’t quit picking this up. Because of The Golden Ass, I now have formed the habit of getting to work early just to have time to read. I wasn’t able to find a lot of time to read at home with chores and other things to occupy my time, so I took it upon myself to make time to fit this book into my schedule.

With all of the chaos and gloomy moods from the COVID pandemic, I need some type of comedic relief. Thankfully, Apuleius had my back.

Along with Lucius’ metamorphis journey, Apuleius has also sprinkled little anecdotes and classic tales throughout The Golden Ass. My favorite story within the text had to be the tale of Cupid and Psyche, and it was quite a nice size chunk of the book (35 pages, to be exact). Because I was constantly having to stop in the midst of paragraphs while reading this, I feel like I only skimmed the surface of this engrossing narrative of the Cupid and Psyche’s stressful love story. Hopefully I’ll be able to go back soon and read it uninterrupted so I’m able to fully digest its themes and moral compass.

Fortune is also mentioned a lot throughout Lucius’ troubling metamorphis journey, seeing that Fortune isn’t exactly lending him a helping hand. Whenever Lucius seemed to be having a small string of good luck, Fortune made sure to put him back in his place. Rather than causing me a lot of stress, these little touches added a lot of humor to the writing.

In conclusion, this book had me hooked and snickering to myself in the back of a liquor store from the beginning. The small anecdotes and hilarious misfortunes happening to poor Lucius made it impossible not to put down, as well as keeping a straight face.

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Extra Thoughts and Comparisons

The Golden Ass reminded me some of Dante’s Inferno, where Dante the Pilgrim witnesses many unfortunate souls and events that eventually lead him to personal and spiritual development. However, rather than Dante’s serious approach to cruel Fortune’s powers, Apuleius takes a comical leap and 100% achieves just that. Could this heroic journey be a staple of classic Italian antiquity?

(Possible spoiler alerts ahead!)

Even though these two are very independent from one another and differ in their own unique ways, some traits, although differing content, resemble one another when comparing Dante and Apuleius’ character-driven stories.

After all of Lucius’ mishaps, he decides to dedicate his life to the goddess Isis, much like Dante worships Love and God at the end of Purgatorio. Both Dante and Lucius drastically flip their own selfish habits to actions of worship and love. For both characters to achieve these holy endeavors, they must undergo some form of change/initiations. Dante is shaped by his time in Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, while Lucius’ goes through multiple initiations for Isis, as well as being admitted to office as an advocate by the main god Osiris.

While both Dante and Lucius are experiencing their own personal journeys, their spiritual journeys seem to run parallel to one another. On the bright side of this, if you don’t feel like committing a lot of time to complete Dante’s complex and dense Divine Comedy, it could be possible to get a similar story in a short 214 pages. Don’t get me wrong, Apuleius’ text is also pretty dense, but a 200 page book beats a trilogy, no?

Until Next Time…

Have you ever heard of Apuleius’ The Golden Ass? If so, what were your thoughts on it? I’d love to discuss this insane story with someone who’s read it, but it doesn’t seem like many people know the story of the man who once morphed into an ass and later found spiritual enlightenment.

A Mini Book Haul

Lately, I’ve had a terrible itch to go to a bookstore. Since that’s not possible at the moment, the Walmart discount section will have to do for now.

I don’t typically find anything worth a damn in these piles of unwanted bindings, but Fortune seems to have turned her wheel in my favor.

So, without further ado, allow me to share my (hopefully) diamonds found in the rough.

The Girls in the Picture – Melanie Benjamin

I immediately picked this up for the insanely gorgeous cover. (Just look at the fashion!)

After reading the synopsis, I found out that this book is about two girls trying to make it on Hollywood in 1914 during the rise of silent films. And to be honest, that’s pretty much all I know.

I never saw myself has a historical fiction reader, but after diving head first into Stephen King’s 11/22/63, I think I’ve adopted a nice little reading niche for myself.

A Country Road, A Tree – Jo Baker

Yet another historical fiction book and another beautiful cover buy.

All I know about this story is that it follows a writer in Paris in 1939 during WWII.

I love Paris. I love learning about WWII. I, too, am a writer. This book checks off all of the boxes for me!

And the best part? It’s less than 300 pages! I’ve caught myself buying nothing but larger books lately, which is great for my reading challenge, but it’s also a teeny bit stressful when it feels like it takes an entire month just to finish one book. Sometimes I love a quick and enjoyable read, so I’m hoping Jo Baker can deliver!

Better Homes & Gardens Decorating Book

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved interior design. So, naturally, when I came across this beautiful book, I had to snatch it.

Unlike other decorating books, this one is primarily 1961 designs. I love the 60’s, bright colors, and retro theme, and this has already hit all of those soft spots for me.

What books have you picked up recently, and which ones are you most excited for? I’d love to hear them!

Why I Love Reading Classics | Words and Time Travel

Classic literature is something that I hold near and dear to my heart. Whenever I peruse the shelves for something to read or buy, I always end up grabbing a Jane Austen novel or a Shakespeare play over a newer contemporary or thriller.

Don’t get me wrong, I do read modern books, but there’s something enchanting about classics that I just can’t resist.

I often feel left out since most enjoy reading more popular books, but then again, I may just not have found my people yet!

In the wise words of Mark Twain, “‘Classic.’ A book which people praise and don’t read.”

I often find myself feeling uncomfortable expressing my love for Plato and Dante to the average human, as well as bringing up John Milton’s Paradise Lost as a book recommendation. Their responses are typically confused looks and some small words of encouragement.

Nevertheless, I will continue to spread my love for dense, thematic literature until my face turns blue, even despite the painful interactions.

Perhaps one of my favorite things about classics is you know it’ll be an enjoyable and enriching read (for the most part).

I mean, it’s well-known for a reason, right?

Of course, not everyone is going to like reading a classic if that’s not the type of writing style you enjoy, but this is just my reading experience.

Also, when I read a classic, I feel like I’ve been teleported back to that time period.

How were women viewed in Ancient Greek? What did people think of England and its government during the Renaissance? How do people view the world? What do people think about the Bible? All of these questions, and countless more, can be answered through reading literature.

Even with their fictitious elements, classics are encapsilated by their author’s language. As an avid studier of language and how it evolves, I love exploring previous cultures and how they utilized their word choice, structure, etc. The author’s language shapes the world that they are living in through their own perspective.

I don’t really know where I was going with that. I just love how writers have the ability to create a world that readers feel like they have truly explored and experienced.

Lastly, I love how much classics teach you about yourself.

Take Dante’s Divine Comedy, for instance. By following Dante along side his own journey of self-actualization, the reader is able to reflect on their own person and assess things about themself.

As a real life scenario, I have a friend that took a Dante class with me, and he explained that following Dante’s journey through depression helped him out of his own depression. Now he’s completing a thesis all about bibliotherapy (therapy through books) and the power of bibliotherapy for mental health.

If that isn’t the most impactful example of classics and how they shape you, then I don’t know what to tell you.

At the end of the day, everyone has their own reading taste, and mine just happens to be classics!

Maybe one day I’ll explore a wider variety of more modern novels, but I think I’m comfortable in my cozy classics for now.

What kind of books do you like and why? I’d love to hear some recommendations!

Stay safe. Stay home. Stay stuck in a book.

Ending the Fear of Big Books

I don’t know what it is about that 500 page milestone, but there is just something inside of me that immediately repels the idea of starting a big book.

Maybe it’s a feeling of unworthiness, or even a feeling of incompetence, but I seem to steer clear of all big books.

Honestly, I didn’t even think about my fear of big books until I watched Ariel Bissett’s video “trying to end my fear of big books!!!” and it inspired me to finally take on this terrifying challenge.

After watching Ariel’s video, I realized I was missing out on a lot of incredible books and literature all because of that daunting 500 page mark.

I love reading, and I usually romanticize this idea of books never ending and being immersed in a world I love so much, so why would I not want to tackle a longer read?

Perhaps I’m afraid of spending so much time on a story that I may not even enjoy? Or maybe I just have commitment issues (which seems more likely)?

No matter the case, I’m ready to add some big books to my TBR list! So, I present to you a few chunky boys that I plan to get to some time soon.

Moby Dick – Herman Melville

To be honest, I have no idea what this book is about except a whale and a ship? I think? Nevertheless, it’s a classic, and I want to see why this gigantic book is so memorable and held so highly. I’ve heard very mixed reviews regarding the story itself, but I’m trying to go in completely blind to develop my own unbiased review.

1Q84 – Haruki Murakami

I actually never heard of this until seeing Ariel’s video. Much like myself, Ariel is a huge fan of George Orwell, and this book is apparently based on his novel 1984. I have no idea what it’s about, but I have to read it solely because it’s based on George Orwell’s novel.

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

I love France. I love literature. So why would I not include some classic French literature?

This book has been on my TBR FOREVER, and I just need to read it already. One of my classmates in college talked about how this was his favorite book and how awesome it was, so he definitely solidified Dumas’ classic text on my TBR.

Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Yet another classic that has been on my TBR for a long time, but I have been too intimidated to pick it up. Not only am I intimidated by the size, but I also have no idea which translation to read. To be honest, I’ll probably just pick up the book with the nicest cover, but I’m also terrified to pick up a bad translation because I don’t want to dislike a story because the translation is poor, you know?

If you have a favorite translation, or know of a really good translation, let me know! I would greatly appreciate it 🙂

11/22/63 – Stephen King

Ah. Stephen King. A man I can trust.

I’ve already seen the Hulu adaptation of this book and I was addicted to it. Part of my addiction was obviously seeing James Franco dressed like a 1960’s heartthrob for hours, but I was also so engaged with the story and the concept. So even though I may have spoiled myself for the ending, I still want to read it simply because I loved the show. Plus, Stephen King is an incredible writer, so I hope his writing will help ease me into big book territory since I know (hopefully) that it will be enjoyable.

I also added King’s 11/22/63 to my blog post “15 Books I Want To Read In 2020“, so this particular book will definitely become one of my top priority reads.

I hope you plan on joining me (and Ariel, of course) in breaking down the stigma of big books being completely petrifying! Let us immerse ourselves into brand new worlds, and experience stories we have always been too afraid to dive into.

Honestly, I’m mainly excited to finally understand these big book references! How cool will that be!?

15 Books I Want To Read In 2020

Oh, the places we’ll go.

Now.. I know what you’re thinking…

“Zoe, it’s the end of February. It’s a little late for this, don’t you think?”

To answer: Yes, I know we’re already two months into 2020, but my seasonal depression is just now starting to wear off. So, as they say, there’s no better time like the present!

Ever since graduating in December, I haven’t really read much of anything. After spending almost two years consecutively binge-reading books assigned by my professors, I decided I deserved a well-deserved break from reading.

However, that break has lasted two months, and I’m ready to start finally reading some books again!

So, without further ado, I present a list of 20 reads and re-reads that I want to get to in the 2020 year.

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Re-Reads

To begin, I thought I’d share which books I want to re-read. These re-reads mainly consist of classic literature that were previously assigned for my classes, as well as some old favorites.

1. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri

Even though The Divine Comedy technically consists of 3 epic poems (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso), but when combined, they truly stand as one cohesive narrative and story. Plus, since they’re poems, they’re pretty quick reads.

After taking the best Dante course in college (shoutout to Dr. Reid), I completely fell in love with Dante and his incredible story of literally dragging himself out of his own hell and finding acceptance and love within himself.

Since our class was assigned to read The Divine Comedy twice, this will be my 3rd re-read of this epic poem. Every time I read it, I feel like I’m taking a new journey and still finding things buried within Dante’s masterpiece, and I’m really excited to see what I discover this next time around!

2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles was the first Victorian classic, and perhaps the first classic ever, that I read. This novel really paved the way for my love of Victorian literature, such as the Brontë’s and the infamous Jane Austen, as well as my entire literature endeavors.

Of course, I’ve always loved reading ever since I first learned how to read, but as my life started getting busier with cheerleading practices and jobs in high school, I didn’t have as much time to read. I first went to college thinking I was going to be a veterianarian, but complicated chemistry classes and THIS BOOK helped me decide to change my entire future.

Because Hardy’s book holds a sentimental value close to my heart, I’m really excited to pick it up again and see if it still holds up!

3. Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James

I’m sure everyone will judge me for this re-read, but hear me out.

There’s obviously a lot of controversy surrounding this series, but I completely fell in love with it when I first read it. I’m still a pretty big Fifty Shades stan (I’ve watched all of the movies too many times to count), but I’ve only read the books once. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED these books, but I am interested to see if I’ll still be rave about them the way that I do.

James’ book is sentimental to me much like the way Twilight is. A guilty pleasure, if you will. It is also how I found out about Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the first place, as well as the publishing world. So, even if I don’t end up liking it, I can still thank the Fifty Shades series for helping me find my love of literature.

4. Paradise Lost – John Milton

Honestly, I’m only putting this on here to try and hold myself accountable for re-reading this soon.

I was lucky enough to have an amazing professor that assigned and taught our class Milton’s entire epic poem recalling The Fall of Satan, as well as Adam and Eve.

However, with 18 credit hours and tasked to help organize and campaign for the 2018 Milton Marathon, I didn’t exactly have the time to “fully grasp” (aka not finish) the entirety of this poem.

Basically, I want to re-read it just so I can say that I read it all.

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New Reads

Now here’s a list of books I’ve been dying to get to, but keep pushing them to the side.

5. Various Plays – William Shakespeare

I’m a hoe for Shakespeare. Let’s just get that out now.

My first college English course was Shakespeare, and I was literally obsessed with anything Shakespeare for months (especially Richard III). To be honest, I miss that feeling.

In all honesty, I would love to finish all of his plays by the end of the year, but let’s just say “various” in case that doesn’t happen so I can feel better about myself.

6. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

I actually start this novel a few weeks ago and just never picked it back up.

Even though this is one of the most famous Victorian classics, I have no idea what it is about, and I’d like to keep it that way.

I have a feeling this one will be another favorite!

7. 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Yet another book I started a few weeks ago and sadly put down (are you seeing the pattern yet?).

I have yet to read a Stephen King book, and I refuse to stay that way this year. I’ve definitely spoiled myself by already finishing the Hulu series adaptation of this novel, but I couldn’t stop myself from watching it. James Franco in the 1960’s? Yes, please.

I’ve only finished one chapter of this so far, and I’m already enjoying it so much. I know when I pick it up again, I’m not going to be able to put it down. But who ever complained about that?

8. Astrophil and Stella – Sir Philip Sidney

Another classic set of poems that I have yet to dive into. As a lover of complex and difficult romantic relationships, I’m really excited to get into this juicy love affair.

Other than the love affair, I’m not very familiar with what Astrophil and Stella is about, but it’s just one of those classics that you know is incredible.

9. Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlow

Fun Fact: I thoroughly enjoy exploring adaptations of Satan. No, I’m not satanic.

But I do love when writers create “Satan” figures that are deep, complex, and resonate a lot with what it means to be human, evil, etc.

I could go on forever about my research on Satan as a fictional character, but we’ll save that for another time.

10. Various Poems and Prose – John Milton

Somehow, I took a 3 month course all about John Milton and his works, yet I feel like I’ve only begun to crack open the interesting character that is Mr. Milton.

As I stated earlier, I would like to try to get a re-read in of Milton’s Paradise Lost, but I’d also like to explore his work even more. This man took 6 years off to “study” (basically reading a lot), so he must have quite a lot of influences.

Milton always stated he was destined for greatness, so let’s see what his other works are all about.

11. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare

Again, ANOTHER book I put down and never picked up. Why do I do this to myself?

My friend Matthew swears by The Mortal Instruments series, and, apparently, so does the majority of the BookTube community.

I know a lot people read these growing up, much like Harry Potter, but I guess I was too infatuated with Edward Cullen at that time to really broaden my horizons.

I flew through City of Bones, so I’m sure I’ll finish City of Ashes super quick once I finally pick it back up again.

12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

Again, I know what you’re thinking.

“Zoe, shouldn’t this be in your re-read section? Everyone has read the Harry Potter series.”

Wrong.

I wasn’t interested in anything Harry Potter until around 2016. Of course, I’ve watched all the movies now, and I’ve even been to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando a couple of times. However, I’ve never read the books.

I do remember “reading” through the first book a few years ago, but I can hardly remember anything about it. So, here’s to a thorough read through.

13. Various Poems – John Donne

I’ve always heard John Donne being compared to Fifty Shades and other erotic ideas, and I’m honestly here for it. Surprisingly enough, I’ve never read any of his poems, even though I love Fifty Shades.

I have no idea what to expect, but I’m ready for the raunch.

14. Wilder Girls – Rory Power

I remember when this book came out last year, and everyone created all this hype around it. I always tried to start it, but classes and family kept getting in the way.

Apparently, Wilder Girls has a similar premise to Lord of the Flies, which I still haven’t read, but I believe it has something to do with being stranded/quarantined. I’ve also heard there’s body horror in this book, which really isn’t my thing, but I want to be invested in the hype, if there is any hype to be had.

15. Animal Farm – George Orwell

George Orwell’s 1984 completely changed my life. Naturally, I’m ready to pick up more of his works as fast as I can.

I love how Orwell tackles the issues of social classes and inequality, so I’m super pumped to finally get to another one of his well-known works. From what I’ve heard about Animal Farm, it seems like it might compete with my love for 1984.

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And the list goes on

To be quite frank, I originally planned on making this post 20 books instead of 15, but I didn’t realize how little my TBR truly is (at the moment, anyway). However, as we all know, the TBR list is constantly evolving and basically endless. There are always books, both old and new, that are always popping up on my radar.

Will I get to all of these books? Probably not.

Would I like to try to get to all of them? Hell yeah!

Apparently, this year seems to be a catch-up on all of the classics I have yet to read, as well as a few modern books here and there. I hope you found some new books, poems, or plays from this list to add to your own 2020 TBR!