May & June Reading Recap

Phew, these last two months have been busy. Between graduating, packing, hosting my family, and then moving home, unpacking, and getting settled in our new home, I missed out on last month’s reading recap post and I hadn’t read as much last month. So I’m going to recap both months here.

Over May and June, I read 8 books. In total, I’ve read 28 books this year, which puts me past halfway done with my goal of reading 52 books this year and 3 books ahead of schedule! Yay! The 8 books I read were mainly from two series – one I finished and one I’m still working on. So I’m going to divide this review up by the series, instead of by the individual book. I’ve included the individual books underneath for clarification.

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer – 4.5/5 stars
(Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter)

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)This series was such a lovely surprise. It takes a classic fairy tale story and characters and transforms it into something fresh and unique. The series focuses on Cinder, a cyborg mechanic living in a world ravaged by a plague called Letumosis. The Lunars – the population living on the moon – are ruled by an evil queen who is just biding her time to intervene on earth. The fate of both worlds lie in Cinder’s hands…. *dun dun dun*

Meyer did a wonderful job creating and developing the characters in this novel. I also loved how each book introduced a new fairy tale and the subsequent characters. And all of the plot points fit the fairy tale theme, if you will, without seeming like stretching the story to fit. It was effortless.

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3)Scarlet introduces Scarlet, who mimics Little Red Riding Hood, as well as the grandmother and Big Bad Wolf, who isn’t so bad after all. Cress introduces Rapunzel,  and finally Winter introduces Snow White and her story. But while each book introduces new characters, the story still focuses around Cinder, with each of the characters playing vital roles.

The ending was very fitting as well; it wrapped things up while still giving some room for the reader’s speculation. It was such a creative series, giving a fun spin on the fairy tale stories we’ve all grown up with. Yet, the series really stands alone and I would recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy and young adult novels. There’s plenty of action and romance, and of course a strong female lead. :)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – 2/5 stars

The AlchemistI received this book as a Christmas gift last year and just got around to reading it. It was a short book – only 200 pages – but it still took me over a week to finish because I just couldn’t get into it. It reads like a parable, comparable perhaps to a book like Le Petit Prince or The Time Keeper. But unlike these novels, I was very underwhelmed by The Alchemist.

The story follows a simple shepherd boy who has a dream about treasures near the pyramids in Egypt. So he begins his quest, leaving everything behind to find this treasure, meeting different characters along the way.

While I suppose the author never intended this novel to carry suspense like a mystery novel, or action like an adventure novel, I feel like it didn’t have anything to go for it except for platitudes and other overgeneralized life lessons like:

Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you´ll find your treasure

As another reviewer put, “I feel like this book was trying to be deep but failed,” and I completely agree. This book is critically acclaimed and loved by many, many readers (including my brother who gave it 5 stars); however, I just didn’t get it. I felt generous giving it two stars.

Brotherband Chronicles (#1 – 3) by John Flanagan – 4/5 stars
The Outcasts, The Invaders, and The Hunters

The Outcasts (Brotherband Chronicles, #1)In middle school and high school – and still to this day – one of my favorite series of books is Flanagan’s Ranger’s Apprentice. I was really disappointed when he finally concluded the series, but equally excited when I found out he would be writing a companion series that focuses on a different country and it’s people, called the Skandians, set in the same world. I was a bit skeptical of first, however, because while I liked Skandia – a land loosely based on present day Scandinavia, who present similar traits and qualities as vikings – I wasn’t enraptured. So, I went in with some low expectations and was, again, pleasantly surprised.

The Outcasts introduces us to our three main characters: Hal, Stig, and Thorn, the first two of which are young boys entering the brotherband training – the warrior and seafairing training that all boys enter in Skandia. It follows their training, which has Flanagan’s same trademark style from the Ranger’s Apprentice series. The Invaders and The Hunters follow Hal and his crew after they graduate from their Brotherband training and hunt down thieves who stole Skandia’s most prized treasure.

The Invaders (Brotherband Chronicles, #2)I really enjoy all of the characters. Each of them have distinct strengths as well as flaws, and Flanagan does a nice job developing them throughout each book. The plot remains interesting enough and Flanagan does a wonderful job developing the world and the different cultures and countries.

As children’s and teen books do, it does have some silly boy humor and some of the lines seem a bit contrived. There’s a fair amount of eye rolling and an unusually large amount of the phrase “pretty much” being used. But even so, I really enjoy the series and can’t seem to keep the books down for long. I don’t like them quite as much as the Ranger’s Apprentice books and they won’t hit my “favorite” shelf, but I still really enjoy them. I describe them as my “pre-teen boy” guilty pleasure, haha. ;)

Overall a pretty good couple months. Happy reading! :D

Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach, Florida

Andrew and I spent the last week with my family in Daytona Beach, Florida. My parents own a timeshare there, so it’s a familiar spot for my family, but this was the first time that Andrew would be joining us. Everyone but my eldest brother came, so it was really nice having almost the entire family together again. :D

The weather was beautiful all week long. There was a bit of rain the day we got there and the day that we left, but I couldn’t have planned it better.

I love the beach. We were pretty lazy most of the week (which is why this blog post is a bit late). In the mornings, we would put on our sun tan lotion and hit the beach. Andrew got really sun burnt the first day, so he wore a shirt the rest of the week. I felt bad because he burns so easily! He is just too white. :P I brought my book with me most mornings, but I liked to swim in the ocean and just relax in the sun. I did end up reading three books over the course of the week, though!

Andrew and I on the beach
Andrew and I on the beach

We also took a lot of walks during the day and at night. Walking on the beach is so much better than just walking in a park here, for sure!

While me and my family are content to lazy around, Andrew was a bit bored, so we planned a day to visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure. I had visited four years ago with my best friend Becky and we loved the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

We hit a lot of traffic on the way into Orlando, so we didn’t get there as early as we would have liked. It took almost two hours to get there, where normally it only takes a little over an hour. We went to the Harry Potter section of the park first, since we figured that would get busier as the day went on.

We headed towards Dragon Challenge first, since there was practically no line, and were surprised when two attendants told us we weren’t allowed to carry anything in our pockets. I wasn’t even allowed to keep my phone in my pocket. I was a bit annoyed, but we got a locker anyways and then started our way through the line. There was another security check point where they actually had metal detectors and wands to check that people weren’t bringing anything. It was so strict that it almost took a lot of the fun out of it. I also couldn’t have my phone so I couldn’t take any pictures. But the ride was still very fun!

Hogwarts Castle
Hogwarts Castle

We headed to Hogwarts Castle next to ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. I think this was my favorite ride because the line takes you through Hogwarts. It made me feel like a student walking through the corridors and seeing the moving paintings on the wall. The Sorting Hat was also there to greet us, unfortunately he didn’t sort me, haha. The ride itself was a 4D ride, and normally I am fine riding roller coasters,  but this one made me a little queasy. But other than that it was really fun!

We rode Flight of the Hippogriff next, which was like a mine train roller coaster, but it was very jerky and the seats were very small and uncomfortable – and Andrew and I are both just average-sized. So we visited Honeyduke’s, but it was all really crowded by this point that there were lines to enter all of the other shops, so that’s the only one we visited.

I bought a couple of soft pretzels (one of my favorite things about theme parks!) and we shared some Dippin’ Dots later, which I haven’t had in a long time. We visited the other sections of the park, but I think Andrew was a bit bored because there really weren’t a lot of big roller coasters. One of them was shut down because they were adding some new features to it, and another they had just built but it wasn’t open until later in the summer.

Orlando

We considered upgrading our pass to visit Universal Resort, which has the Diagon Alley section of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Neither of us have been there since they added that to the park, but I think that it’s dumb that you have to visit both parks (and pay for both parks) to experience all of the Wizarding World. We ended up deciding against it because we were both hot and tired and didn’t want to pay the extra money (considering my current unemployment, haha).

Later on in the week, we went go-karting and played mini golf. But other than that, we just hung out by the beach and the pool. I was really bummed to leave Saturday morning, but Andrew and I got up early to watch the sunrise and that made it worth it. So I’ll just leave you with this.

the sunrise at 6:33 a.m.
the sunrise at 6:33 a.m.
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