March & April 2016 Reading Recap

You may have noticed I didn’t include a March Reading Recap last month, but March was a bit of a slow month for me since we were on vacation (and you would think that I would read more on vacation but I don’t!). So I decided to combine March and April and include some of my favorites and more popular reads.

I read 8 books in the last two months, which brings me to a total of 20 books this year! My goal is 52 books, so that puts me three books ahead of schedule. I would have liked to read a little bit more so  I don’t fall behind during finals and the move back home, but I’ve still got a bit of wiggle room!

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – 3/5 stars
Eleanor & ParkThis young adult novel follows Eleanor and Park, two teenagers who meet at school and slowly fall in love. Everyone thinks Eleanor is weird and she comes from a troubled home, but Park seems to see right through her differences to who she actually is. I really wanted to love this story, truly. Everyone I heard raved and raved about this book, but I should know by now to not set my expectations based on other people’s opinions because I’m often disappointed.

Let’s start with the good. This story took place in the 80s, so this was really refreshing for a young adult romance novel. I love all the quirky tidbits and the lingo that they used, and I feel that Rowell really captured the thoughts and the reactions of teenagers in high school three decades ago. There were thoughts that characters would have that I couldn’t help but giggle or relate to. But there were just so many little things that constantly bothered me in the back of my mind. I tried to push them away until I finished the book, but here we are.

I understand teenage infatuation – I’m only four years out of high school (crazy, yeah!) and I remember the feeling of being swept away by someone (who I am now married to! :heart: ). But their relationship escalated in such a weird way for me. At first they hate each other, and then two days later they are professing their undying love. C’mon. Second, I understand Eleanor’s home life was sucky, but my goodness I felt like she was whining and being so self-deprecating all of the time, and getting mad for absolutely no reason at the one person that made her life better. Third, there were little situations throughout the book that just didn’t make sense to me. For example, near the end of the novel (I won’t go into too much detail to avoid spoilers), Park has to sneak out to help Eleanor and his father catches him. But instead of doing the responsible thing that most parents would do, like accompanying Park and Eleanor to make sure everyone is safe and a dangerous situation, he says, “Sure! Go have fun!” I don’t get it.

Overall, if I didn’t think about it, I enjoyed the book. But the more I stew over it the more it bothers me, so let’s end this long review here. :)

The Martian by Andy Weir – 5/5 stars
The MartianI would like to start out with the fact that I’m really not that interested in science. It was my least favorite subject in school, and while I admit that it’s kind cool, I just don’t really enjoy it. I bought this book for my mother-in-law last Christmas and she has been wanting to talk to me about it but I hadn’t read it yet! I also wanted to see the movie, so I thought a bit reluctantly that it was time to read it.

Mark Whatney is stranded on Mars after he and his crew are hit by a storm and they presume him dead. He has no way to communicate to earth and has to fight to survive in a harsh and unwelcoming Martian environment.

I just, oh my goodness. I don’t know where to begin. I loved everything about this novel, and I’m not even that interested in science. I couldn’t put it down. Mark’s humor was absolutely perfect. It wasn’t a “laugh out loud” kind of humor; it was dry and subtle, but it kept me smirking as I flipped the pages. For example, he takes his laptop out into the Mars atmosphere and when it stops working, says,

Maybe I’ll post a consumer review. “Brought product to surface of Mars. It stopped working. 0/10.”

Smirk, smirk. Another gem:

I’m traveling 90 kilometers per day as usual, but I only get 37 kilometers closer to Schiaparelli because Pythagoras is a dick.

Also:

They’re not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000 because NASA.

I could do this all day, but let’s move on. Weir put so much detail and research into this novel, you would think he was an actual astronaut stranded on Mars and lived through what Mark did. He used such specific numbers and calculations that a lot of the time went right over my head, but were still understandable to an average person without a degree in rocket science. How he managed that perfect balance, I’ve no idea. And through all of the problems and crazy situations that Mark got into, his science-y answers weren’t far fetched. It made sense in a crazy, oh my gosh he’s really going to do that? way.

Hands-down the best book I’ve read all year. I don’t want to see the movie now (though I’ve heard it’s quite good) because I don’t want to be disappointed. D:

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – 4/5 stars
Kitchens of the Great MidwestI love food; I love to eat, I love to cook, I love Food Network, so when I saw had a Goodreads Choice Award and it was about food, it was a no-brainer. The novel follows our food-loving protagonist, Eva, from birth to the height of her culinary career.

The narration of this novel was very unique. The POV changed every chapter to someone that Eva knew – from her father to an ex-boyfriend she dated for a couple months in high school. Every chapter also highlighted a dish that is either important to Eva or to the character currently narrating the story. This was such a fresh and unique way to get to know the different characters but to also see Eva and how she was perceived in the eyes of others.

This was a charming, quick read that I would recommend to any foodie. It will make you hungry while simultaneously warming your heart. Also, I thought it was a wonderful depiction of the absolutely fabulous and kind people that live in the Midwest.;)

Ptolemy’s Gate (Bartimaeus Trilogy #3) by Jonathan Stroud – 5/5 stars
Ptolemy's Gate (Bartimaeus, #3)The first two books in this series that I previously reviewed were good, but not absolutely riveting. The second was actually a bit hard to get through. However, this book was very unlike the others which was such a relief because this series had so much potential, and Stroud was finally capitalizing on it! As the book progressed, I was absolutely glued to the pages. Nathaniel became a likeable protagonist again, Kitty become a likeable character for the first time in the whole series, and their stories were finally intertwining like they should.

And then all of the pieces started to fall into place. Just like Rowling artfully pulled every last detail together in the final Harry Potter book, Stroud pulled all of the pieces together so that as I neared the conclusion, I could only go, “Oooohhhh.” I finally understood why certain things happened in the earlier books and saw how Stroud had been planting little seeds throughout the series to finally draw them all together at the end. The ending was bittersweet, but very fitting and realistic. Stroud put all that he had into this last novel and it really changed the whole series for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve read such a perfect ending to an intricate series, so I would definitely recommend! Just be patient with the first two novels. :)

Okay wow! This Reading Recap went a lot longer than I thought. Happy reading!

A Letter to me at 18

I will be graduating college in three weeks, and it’s all starting to really hit me. I look back and think of how far I have come and wish I could have given myself some advice. So this is a letter to eighteen-year-old me as I’m entering as a young naive college freshman.

Dear Becca,

These next four years are not going to be the best four years of your life, like everyone is going to say they will. You won’t instantly bond with your suite mates and become BFFs with every girl in your dorm hall. You aren’t going to go to any crazy parties full of debauchery. You’re going to wear your heart on your sleeve and people who say they will do things for you and be there for you are going to turn right around and throw your heart on the ground without even realizing what they’ve done. Andrew and you will get into the biggest fight and almost break up. (You’ll work it out though, don’t worry). For the next four years, you are going to struggle with depression. The first two years will be the worst.

But you are going to grow in ways you’ve never thought possible. You are going to start breaking out of the little comfort zone you’ve carefully built around you the last eighteen years. Your roommate is going to be the best answer to any prayer that you’ve every prayed. She will laugh hysterically with you and love you and serve you and cry with you. You will stay up all night eating chocolate and watching movies. You will fall more in love with Andrew every single day and he will never grow out of wearing shorts in December, even though you think someday he will. It’s okay, it only will make you love him more.

You are going to rock a business suit and give such a killer presentation that CEOs from around Kansas City don’t have any advice on how to improve. (Don’t even bother with the notes.)

Speak up in class and get to know your professors. You are so quiet, and that’s okay, but don’t be quiet just because you are afraid of what other people think of you. You will get some great advice from a professor your senior year, even though you aren’t going to like hearing it and it’s not going to be easy to take. But listen and be bold. People aren’t always going to like you, so don’t try to please them. Just speak.

Don’t eat the cafeteria food pizza. Just don’t.

Also don’t work two jobs. No amount of money is worth the stress that you will put on yourself between two jobs and school. It all works out financially in the end. So take a bigger loan (this is the only time you will ever hear me say this) and stop being so hard on yourself. You’re going to have a heart attack at 25 if you keep on this way. God always provides.

Lastly, relish the present. You are going to say “I can’t wait til I graduate!” as your own personal mantra, but enjoy where you are. You’ve got a good group of friends who you are going to leave behind when you graduate. This is the only time you will have when you are all still together. You are going to grow to love the city and all the people around you. Hold on to that for as long as you can.

So no, these are not the best four years of your life. But at the end, you will know where you started and appreciate all the more how far you have come. That’s what makes it worth it, not the piece of paper they give you. So take a deep breath because you are so much more than you think.

Always,
Becca

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