What’s in Your Bag… Bella Swan?

Confession time: I have a weird obsession with getting a peek inside other people’s bags. Those magazine features that show you what celebs tote around in their purses? Love them. Pinterest pics that give you a glimpse of what to carry in your school or gym bag? Can’t get enough of ’em.

What’s in Your Bag is a new feature that combines books with my curiosity and speculates what characters in books I’ve read would carry in their own bag.

The items I curate are based on the character’s personality & hobbies, facts mentioned in the book, and a little of my own imagination. If you have an idea of a character you’d like to see featured on WIYB, or you think of something they’d have in their bag that I didn’t list, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!

In the first installment of What’s in Your Bag, we get a glimpse inside Bella Swan’s backpack:

Whats in your bag1WIYB bella swan

  • Because Bella is a no-frills kinda girl, she wouldn’t carry around a purse but a simple, worn canvas backpack instead.
  • Ray Ban sunglasses are cool without trying to be cool. Plus, she needs to shield her eyes from Edward’s sparkly bod when he starts to shine too brightly.
  • Every girl carries around lip balm. Bella carries Burt’s Bees because it’s practical and gets the job done.
  • Music is a must, so it only makes sense she has an iPod to listen to her favorite classical symphonies (including “Bella’s Lullaby”) on the go.
  • Bella is a bookworm who probably always has a book in her bag. Since Wuthering Heights is her favorite book, it only makes sense that she’s carrying it around as she reads it for the hundredth time.
  • Whether it’s to just keep her hair out her face, or pull it up in a quick ponytail to keep the vamps from sniffing her out, having an endless supply of hair ties is a given.
  • Between school and her supernatural life, Bella leads a hectic life. So when she needs to pull an all-night study sesh, keep up with Edward, or hang out Jacob and his wolf pack, she can maintain her energy with a quick snack. Plus, the potassium in bananas is great for preventing anemia (for the occasional vamp bite).

Bella Swan is the teenaged heroine in Stephanie Meyer’s YA supernatural Twilight series.

Murder, She Read

Murder She Readjessica fletcherAnyone who’s a fan of mystery series — be it TV shows, movies, or books — is bound to be familiar with the popular show Murder, She Wrote. Even though the show debuted years before I was born, I remember catching the reruns that seemed to always air in marathons — perfect for binge-watching at all hours of the day. I have fond memories of watching it with my grandma and as soon as I found out it was on Netflix I added it to my Favorites list ASAP.

A few years back while I was browsing a used bookstore I came across a Murder, She Wrote serial book. I’d heard of other TV shows that had been made into print series (i.e., Star Trek, Monk, The X-Files), but how had I missed that one of my favorite shows had been translated into books?? The series is written in first person and chronicles Jessica Fletcher and her mystery-solving adventures across the globe — exactly like the TV show!

One of the things I love most is that the books are all “written” by Jessica Fletcher, with Donald Bain as the co-author. Bain, who is the actual author, does an excellent job of capturing Mrs. Fletcher’s style and has been the sole writer of the series since the release of the first book, Gin and Daggers, in 1989.

Though Gin and Daggers was released in ’89 the series didn’t really kick off until after the second book (Manhattans and Murder) was released in 1994. Since then, more than 40 books have been published — all of which I’ve been working to add to my personal collection.

It’s no secret I’m a sucker for series; there’s something comforting about going back to the same town or set of characters. With the Murder She Wrote series, I’m able to tag along with Mrs. Fletcher and revisit Cabot Cove, which is especially comforting to me. With nearly 50 books already published (and no sign of the series stopping either!) it looks like I’ll be able to enjoy this classic cozy mystery series for a good while.

My Murder, She Wrote collection thus far :)

Pros & Cons: Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark

Believe it or not, before I discovered the romance genre, my favorite genre was mystery/suspense. I flocked toward creep-you-out, keep-you-up-all-night thrillers, and when I came across a stack of Mary Higgins Clark books at a yard sale way back when, I scooped them all up and haven’t looked back since! Up until recently it had been a while since I read a book by the “Queen of Suspense”, so when I found myself craving a psychological thriller, I knew it was time to reintroduce myself to MHC.

Enter Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark. Yes, this is one of her older titles, but it still holds up more than 20 years later! In fact, the lack of cell phones and social media was a refreshing pace from all the contemporary stories I’ve read lately–just one of many things that makes this book a great read. Take a look at my pro/con list to get an overall gist of the story.

And, check out my other Pros & Cons reviews here.

Pro-Con Loves Music Loves to Dance

Review: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

Ivy Lane (Part One: Spring) by Cathy Bramley
Series: Ivy Lane series, Book #1
Pages: 87 pp.
Genre: Chick Lit
Published: Apr. 2014, Transworld Digital

Friendship blossoms at Ivy Lane…

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she settles in to a new town seeking peace and solitude, taking on her own plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution. But the vibrant, friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and endeavour to entice Tilly into seedling swaps and Easter egg hunts. Can Tilly let new friends into her life, or will she stay a wallflower for good?

Ivy Lane is a serialized novel told in four parts – taking you from spring to summer, autumn to winter – which tell a charming, light-hearted and moving story you won’t want to put down. [GOODREADS]

 

It’s been a while since I’ve read a chick-lit book but I’m happy to say that Ivy Lane was a charming short story. Tilly is an endearing heroine looking for a fresh start — something I fantasize about sometimes — and her openness to try new things and optimistic can-do attitude really makes her likable. She’s someone I can picture myself having tea and biscuits with while discussing the best plants for novice green thumbs.

The supporting cast of characters are what makes Ivy Lane feel like a quaint, friendly place worth visiting. Instead of just casually mentioning a neighbor here or there, everyone has their own distinct personality. And the fact that they are so willing to share the fruits of their labor (pun intended!) with Tilly gave me a serious case of the warm ‘n fuzzies! I also really enjoyed the imagery in this story — from the gardening terms to the English countryside descriptions, I found myself longing for a cup of tea and a biscuit while wishing Ivy Lane was a real place I could retreat to for holiday!

Lastly, can we talk about how adorable to book cover is? To be honest, it’s the main reason I chose this book in the first place. I think it perfectly depicts the genre and tone of the story. It was also the inspiration behind the photo collage below, which I think captures the essence of Ivy Lane.

Ivy Lane photo summary

There’s An App For That: Bookworm Edition

I have no shame in admitting that my phone is my lifeline. It’s never more than, oh, 5 feet away from me at all times — and yes, that includes when I’m in the shower (don’t judge!). While I do have my fist-shaking, get-off-my-lawn moments about technology (Can someone explain the point of Snapchat??), I am most definitely on #teamiPhone when it comes to 21st century technology. Because my phone is pretty much an extension of my personality, it only makes sense that a good portion of my apps represent my bookish side.

These apps are bound to please readers, lexophiles, and the book-obsessed — I already own a few, and the ones that I don’t have will be downloaded in T-minus…

Apps for Bookworms

  • Want to listen to listen to audiobooks on your daily commute? Audible (free)
  • Want to read your Kindle books but left your Kindle at home? Kindle for iPhone (free)
  • Want to look up what that obscure word means in the book you’re reading? Merriam-Webster Dictionary (free)
  • Want to update your reading progress while on the go? Goodreads (free)
  • Want to survive the Hunger Games as Katniss? Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Panem Run ($0.99)
  • Want to play an addicting word puzzle game? Wurdle ($1.99)
  • Want to have fun while reading Pride and Prejudice? Stride & Prejudice ($1.99)
  • Want to create angsty refrigerator poetry? Instant Poetry ($1.99)
  • Want to check out audiobooks from your local library? Overdrive (free)
  • Want to find your next read based on its cover? Book Wall (free)
  • Want to create your own library database? Book Crawler ($1.99)

What are your favorite bookish (and non-bookish) apps? I’m sure there’s a sliver of memory left on my phone for just ONE (or two) more app suggestions!

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Wishlist

TTT logo

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by the lovely (and creative!) Jamie of The Broke and the Bookish. After following along since TTT’s inception (and because list-making is a die-hard hobby of mine) it only makes sense that I chime in with my own top tens. This week’s topic is ten bookish things that I’d like to own — items on the list range from fandom souvenirs to accessories that contribute to or enhance my bookish obsession… Scroll down & take a look!

Check out my past Top Ten Tuesdays or head to The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten topics.

TTT book wishlist

TTT-bookish wishlist

1. Penguin clothbound classics ($20) // 2. Penguin book mugs ($10) // 3. “Too Fond of Books” tote ($15) // 4.  Out of Print literary classic tee ($28) // 5. Harry Potter ring ($28) // 6. BookBook laptop case ($80) // 7. Agate bookends ($25) // 8. Royal typewriter ($450) // 9. Ikea Billy bookcase combination ($250) // 10. Warby Parker glasses ($95)

 

 

Pros & Cons: Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett

Hello there! I’m back with another review, but I thought I’d try something new this time around… While some books call for fangirling and in-depth analysis of characters, plot and other literary devices, there’s something refreshing about a simple pro/con list that gives an at-a-glance look at the book as a whole (and, let’s be honest, it can be easier to get your thoughts down this way sometimes). That said, I’ve whipped up a pro/con list of a book I read recently — MURDER IS BINDING.

These type of reviews are meant to be short & touch on a few key points that stood out to me — not delve into every single aspect of the book. Are you a fan of pro/con lists? Or do you prefer reviews that dig deep into the story? Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments!

Pro-Con_Murder is Binding1

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

 

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell
Pages: 445 pp.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Published: Sept. 2013, St. Martin’s Press

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? [GOODREADS]

Oh gosh, where to start with this book. My first reaction is to dive right into fangirling (shameless pun) and gushing over how much I loved this book, but I feel like it deserves more than that… Then again, to hell with it —

*Kermit flail* I LOOOOOOOVED this book SO. FREAKING. MUCH.

kermit flail

You know the books where you just want to crawl between the pages and never leave? The kind where you’re so consumed by the story that you begin to take on the qualities of the main character? This was it for me. While Cath is certainly relateable as it is, I found myself becoming even MORE like here while I was reading the story — awkward, angsty, a hermit (more so than usual), and totally into fanfic (something I’ve never dabbled in). I relived my freshman year through her eyes, experiencing both familiar and new-found emotions that actually made me wish (if just for a moment) that I were in college all over again.

There was something about Cath that made me connect to her right away — some of which I could directly relate to (a combination of her love for writing & fictional characters as well as her social awkwardness), and some that I’ve never experienced but learned to appreciate while reading this book (her ingrained need to be the “caretaker” for her dad and sister).

Cath is worrisome, awkward, judgemental, creative, caring and REAL. I could both imagine myself AS her as well as someone I could be best friends with. As someone with an extremely small friend circle, this says a lot.

Also, can I just point out how adorable it was that she and Wren were named together? Cather & Wren… I love it! Speaking of Wren, I appreciated the fact that the story showed Wren wanting to branch out on her own. On the surface, it seemed like Wren was a reckless, stupid college student (which she was at times), but to me, Wren’s character was more of a vehicle to show Cath’s personal growth and the fact that she’s not defined by her twin — just like she’s not defined by Simon Snow.

The fanfic part of this story was one of my favorites, not only because I’m a huge Harry Potter fan (which I assume Simon Snow was based on), but also because it added another layer to the story as well as illustrated the author’s exceptional writing talent to write a genre aside from the one Fangirl is categorized as (though it was really “Cath” who was the author of the Simon Snow fanfic ^_^). I’m not familiar with online world of fanfic, but as an outsider, it seemed to me that Rowell did a good job of showing the art of fanfic, as well as the behind-the-scenes pressure and seriousness of it all. When you think about it, Cath was to Harry Potter as E.L. James was to Twilight… Ha! Wouldn’t it be something if she became an overnight sensation for publishing a book that was originally based on Simon Snow? How about a real life fanfic about her rise to fame? Talk about Inception: a fanfic about a character who writes fanfic about another character who’s based on another character? Eek!

mind blown

I digress…

So, Levi… Umph. I ADORED Levi!

adventure time love it

The fact that he WANTED Cath to read her fanfic to him like a lullaby and didn’t judge or make fun of her for it made my heart swell and my gut clench. What girl wouldn’t want that?? Even though it seemed as if he “had it together”, simply because he was older and he smoked and lived off campus, he was just as flawed and lost as Cath, which made him all the more endearing.

This is the first book I’ve ready by Rainbow Rowell and she’s already one of my new favorite authors. Her ability to write characters that are so inherently relateable, regardless of if you really share common traits, is a gift — one that I’m grateful to have experienced. When it comes to deciding if a book is a favorite, of course there’s more to it than simply the book — it’s the book, the mind frame of the reader, the setting and circumstances of how they came to read said book… in essence, it’s the entire reading experience that determines why a book becomes a favorite.

all the feels

Fangirl is one of those rare books where everything came together and made this a favorite that I was pulled into, obsessed with, and actually somewhat melancholy when it was over.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Gateway Books + Authors

TTT logo

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by the lovely (and creative!) Jamie of The Broke and the Bookish. After following along since TTT’s inception (and because list-making is a die-hard hobby of mine) it only makes sense that I chime in with my own top tens. This week’s topic spotlights “gateway” books/authors that somehow led me to discovering a certain genre, book or author.

Check out my past Top Ten Tuesdays or head to The Broke and the Bookish for more Top Ten topics.

TTT-Gateway Books

1. Nefertiti by Michel Moran… gateway to historical fiction.

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri… gateway to literary fiction & short stories.

3. Mythology by Edith Hamilton… gateway to Greek/Roman mythology.

4. Majoring in Murder by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain… gateway to Murder She Wrote series (HUGE fan of the show!).

5. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss… gateway to READING! This was the first book I learned to read all on my own.

6. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell… gateway to Rainbow Rowell. Also, this book got me out of a major reading slump!

7. Truly, Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson… gateway to the romance genre (aka The One That Started It All).

8. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer… gateway to paranormal fiction.

9. One for the Money by Janet Evanovich… gateway to cozy mysteries.

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins… gateway to the dystopian genre.

 

 

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent series, Book #1
Pages: 487 pp.
Genre: Dystopian YA
Published: Apr. 2011, Harper Collins

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her. [GOODREADS]

 

I admit, I jumped on the Hype Train with this one, since I didn’t really have an inclination to read it on my own. After downloading Divergent on a whim when it was on sale, it sat for months on my Kindle before I finally decided it was time to see what all the hoopla was about.

I finished it in less than a day.

When I first started reading, the similarities between it and The Hunger Games were glaringly obvious (dystopian setting, teens forced to make a life-altering decision), but it only took a few chapters before Divergent started branching off into its own adrenaline-pumping storyline. When it did, my fingers were swiping as fast as I could read!

Like Katniss, Tris is a strong female lead, but I found her a bit more compassionate and a lot less self righteous. Unlike Katniss, she wasn’t a natural fighter and not the best at combat — I actually appreciated this because it made her character more believable. Not to say she was weak — girlfriend was scrappy! — but it’s refreshing to read about a heroine who isn’t perfect at everything right off the bat. Plus it gives her character room to grow as the series progresses.

I could go into the whole “Divergent” aspect, but I don’t feel like it was the real crux of the story (at least not yet) — this book was more about character development. Which leads me to… Four. Oh, Four. So brooding & deep. There’s just something about him… I already know he is a reader favorite and rightfully so! I haven’t gotten around to them yet, but I will be reading the Four novellas because he’s got a complicated history that I’d love to learn more about. His feelings for Tris were swoon-worthy but I have to say, I didn’t quite get WHY he was so drawn to her so quickly. Luckily, Tris doesn’t either, which makes this subplot easier to follow along with, since both readers and Tris get an explanation as to why Four is so smitten.

One thing that really stood out to me was how violent this book is. Between the hand-to-hand combat and the multiple shoot-outs, I found myself cringing while reading at times. As someone who watches gory crime dramas (Dexter, Criminal Minds, etc.), I’m pretty immune to stuff like that, but Ms. Roth is one hell of a writer if she can make me squeamish with just words. I’m counting that as a plus.

Obviously Divergent is part of a trilogy — one that I feel obligated to see through. I mean, I owe it to Four, right? ;)