1984 by George Orwell

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I am utterly horrified and in love with this book. What an incredibly creative and unique work of fiction with some crazy parallels to modern life. Let me begin by saying I’m not the biggest George Orwell fan in the world. One of my high school literature classes assigned Animal Farm, and it was, admittedly, not an experience I look back on with fondness. I quite literally hated that story. I still get chills in my very core thinking about it. (Perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, bit I didn’t like it, okay?) Perhaps one day I’ll grow out of my Orwell-induced fear of pigs and communism, but that day is not today.

That being said, I have to say that 1984 surpassed all of my expectations by being enjoyable at all, and went beyond that by actually making fall in love with some of the characters and have some really in-depth thoughts on the world—both the fictional world in the story, and the real world in which I live.

I love a lot of books, but very few make me think about the world around me in such a profoundly new way. That is probably the main reason this book hit four-and-a-half stars for me. One element I found particularly disturbing was the way everyone was recorded, watched, and analyzed at any and every moment. For this reason, the main character, Winston, spends quite a bit of time doing his best to hide from cameras. When he is around them, he spends his time perfecting his expressions as to reveal nothing the government might find suspicious. Beyond the fact that it sounds like a generally horrifying situation, I realized that I would be completely doomed if someone were looking at my face 24/7, waiting for me to do something out of the ordinary.

I make strange faces all the time. I would be as good as dead in that world. In that respect, Winston is an incredibly impressive fellow, for sure.

As for the parallels I notice within modern society, the main one I pull from the story is the idea that society tells us certain thoughts are right and certain thoughts are wrong. Whether your ideas concern something serious or the fact that you do or don’t like a fictional relationship, people seem to find joy in collectivizing themselves against a common “enemy” that they deem as incorrect and, therefore, harmful—even if all that person did was, for example, say they like something that isn’t generally deemed popular. That was a mouthful, but hopefully you get my drift. I’m basically just saying that mob thought is definitely a thing in almost every facet of life, and that people love to hate others for the things they think.

Which is a super weird thought considering all of us have an unpopular opinion or two.

I digress.

Another part of the story I loved was the fact that I truly cared for the characters, even the main female character, who I was at first sure I would hate, and whose role won’t spoil for those of you who haven’t read 1984 yet. But you know when you read a book, and you can just feel that the author put no thought into a certain character and added them as an afterthought? Or when all the characters feel like they are there only to advance the plot, not to play their own unique role? I never felt that with these main characters. I can tell a lot of thought was put into them, shaping them into unique individuals I haven’t seem the likes of in anything else.

The reason I was so surprised with this was that I merely didn’t expect it, considering the publishing year. I often find that older books do use characters only to advance the plot, because that’s just how a lot of stories were written (and there’s nothing wrong with that, in the right story). That being said, 1984 was only stronger for it’s use of characters that matter to the reader, as well as its compelling plot.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking piece of fiction, or anyone looking for a change of pace from literally any modern books they’ve been reading. I cannot stress how incredible this story is.

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The only sensible way to start this review is to acknowledge that Children of Dune was a wild ride from start to finish. It is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read in the recent past.

At the very base level, there was a huge change in how much I cared about these characters in this book compared to its predecessors. While I loved Dune and Dune Messiah–I would not have kept reading the series if I didn’t–I certainly read those books more for the plot than the individual characters. With this third installation, however, there is just as much to love about the characters as about the story.

Perhaps what I liked most was that there were more understandable human thoughts within their heads. Even with characters like Leto, Jessica, and Alia, who are far from ordinary humans, I felt I could understand their motivations and what molded them into the individuals they were.

Yet another aspect of this book I love even more than those that came before it is the understandability factor. This is purely personal opinion and comprehension, but I found this book a whole lot easier to keep track of. I’m not quite sure what it was–since it took place in just as many different locations, with different people, as the others–but there was something about the writing within Children of Dune that made everyone and everything exceedingly easy to keep track of.

Admittedly, there were a couple chapters within the first Dune installation that had me at a bit of a loss as to what I was supposed to get out of them–their point. I never felt that once during this book. Everything served a purpose, and I feel I have a fair understanding of what purpose it all served.

I also found myself greatly enjoying the excerpts that begin each chapter. I’ve always thought the setup of Frank Herbert’s books is incredibly creative and makes the Dune stories stand out from the rest. But I developed a new appreciation for them with this book–especially with the name change at the end, though I won’t go further into detail lest you be reading this to decide whether or not the book is for you. I can tell you though, it came as a bit of a surprise!

Have you ever read or found yourself interested in the Dune series? Will you be watching the film this year?

Crocs vs. Old Men in the Woods

Guess who has a new podcast episode up today?

This girl! And this girl’s sister!

This week, we read Chapters 1-6 of The Knife of Never Letting Go (the first installation in the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness) and recorded our first ever book talk.

We discuss a wide variety of topics, ranging from the benefits of talking dogs, to Todd’s two dads (we think?)

You also get to listen to me entirely forget how to say the name “Ben” for a hot minute.

I hope you’ll check it out. Click here to choose your favorite way to listen!

Let me know in the comments below what you’re currently reading!

Spirituality and Psychopaths

Good morning, noon, or night, my fellow book nerds. I hope you’re all having a superb day. I haven’t talked to you in a hot minute and I thought it was about time I give you a little update, bookish and otherwise.

First, I want to let you know I will still be writing on here, but I also have another platform where I post reviews and other thoughts of mine. I found a site called HubPages at the beginning of the month, and I’ve been having a lot of fun sharing my thoughts there.

I’ve written a few articles so far. One is a reworked review of Dune, in which I explain whether, in my opinion, the story is solid in itself, or if the buzz surrounding it is attributable only to the actors working on the new film. The other is a breakdown of the hilariously feminist superhero film Birds of Prey, where I put its over-the-top female-power tone into perspective. Obviously that one has nothing to do with books—it’s just me having a little bit of fun and providing quality recommendations to the ladies.

In case you didn’t catch it, that’s where the blog title comes into play: spirituality for the Muslim themes in Dune, and psychopaths for the always “fantabulous,” Harley Quinn.

Now onto The Half Theft.

I want to give you all a huge thank you for supporting my writing efforts and an even bigger thank you to those who purchased a copy of The Half Theft. Hearing that you love reading my story as much as I loved writing it fills my heart to the brim with appreciation for every one of you.

Now I definitely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it isn’t how many books you sell that matters, but how meaningful it is to those who read it. The few reviews and kind words I’ve already received are so heartwarming. I can’t thank you enough. And if you’re in the process of reading it right now or recently finished, I would still love to see a review from you whenever you have a chance. You give me so much motivation to complete the sequel.

What am I up to now?

I am currently finishing my fall semester of school. Only a few weeks left! I am intermittently working on The Half Theft’s sequel. Once the semester ends, I will be able to really get moving on it. I’ve been spending plenty of time on Pinterest lately, saving inspiration for locations and people in book two.

As far as reading goes, I haven’t been doing it as much as I want to. Or maybe I am, but most of it involves textbooks, not my fiction of choice.

I recently received an advanced copy of Chris Hauty’s new thriller, Savage Road, which releases early next year. I’ve been reading that as much as possible, and I’m already in love with the plot and main character. She’s so badass. I will be sure to keep you updated as I progress through the story, and when I finish, to let you know if I suggest it.

Leave a comment and let me know what you’re currently reading.

5 Books on My TBR List

With the stress of the election, and the fact that I’m currently sick and prefer to sleep the day away, I admitted have not been reading as much as I would like to. That means I do not currently have a book review for you.

But fear not! Because I’ve put together a short to-be-read list instead.

These are all books I hope to read in the near future. When exactly will that be? I’m not positive. But hopefully soon, since some have been lingering on my list for years.

1. Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

After finishing Dune and Dune Messiah, continuing the series is a no-brainer. The storyline is simply amazing. The characters are superb.

What surprises me most about the series is that I enjoy it despite it being classified as a sci-fi fantasy. I typically shy away from science fiction. Historically, I haven’t exactly loved the books I’ve read from the genre. In addition, fantasy isn’t usually my favorite. So the fact that I enjoyed Dune at all is enough of a miracle to keep reading.

2. The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Ah yes, Percy Jackson. Yet another series which I have begun and failed to finish. I can’t even remember the last time I read a series all the way through. I think I was a read-three-books-and-drop-the-series kind of gal straight out of the womb.

But this time, I vow to finish the “dam” series. Get it? The Titan’s Curse joke?

So, I’m posting this to hold myself accountable. Feel free to yell at me if I haven’t picked it up by the end of the year.

3. Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare

Do I know this is absolutely going to scare the living hell out of me? Sure. Am I going to miss a week of sleep due to the lingering fear that a clown is somehow going to catch me in a cornfield? Sure. Am I going to read it anyway? Probably.

At this point, I’m banking on the fact that I’ve watched both It films and survived to tell the story. If I can watch those, I can read this, right? Who knows? But I’m so intrigued I have to at least give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?

4. How to Destroy America in Three Easy Steps by Ben Shapiro

Listen, Ben Shapiro and I have had our differences. I won’t deny it. But if anybody thinks that will stop me from reading his superbly written books, they’re dead wrong.

I recently read The Right Side of History and was absolutely blown away by his writing. Honestly, it’s fantastic and not at all what I was expecting. I know he’s intelligent and well-spoken, but that doesn’t always translate to the page for everyone. Fortunately for him, it does.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I’ve heard this is one of the classics that is actually superb, so I am making a point to work it into my reading agenda. I’m not much for books that were written forever ago. I typically go for those that were penned in the more recent past, like Dune. This also doesn’t fit very well into the genres I most enjoy.

But I feel like it’s important to occasionally step out of the bookish world you know and love, in order to explore something new that you might end up loving just as much, or even more.

Comment and let me know a book or two that are on your to-be-read list!

Dear Dune, Stop Making Me Cry

No, seriously. Dune Messiah hurt my feelings.

And I thought Dune was sad? Its sequel was a punch in the heart. Yet I liked it—a lot.

I would give it somewhere between three-and-a-half and four stars. Maybe three-and-three-quarters? That’s an irritatingly specific rating. Yikes.

To start with the good news, I finally really felt a connection with Chani. I liked her in the first book but, at the same time, she was sort of just there. I felt for her so much more this time around. Also, I’ve completely changed my mind on Zendaya being cast in her role. I had no idea if I was going to like that casting choice, but I actually think she might end up being one of the best choices in all of Dune.

The second part of this story that I particularly love is Paul. Again, there was just something about the character development in the sequel that made me feel a deeper connection to him. Don’t get me wrong. There was never a point within the first book where I did not feel a strong compulsion to give the guy a hug. I always loved him. I just have a better understanding of his character now.

Another aspect of the Dune Chronicles, as a whole, is that I actually do enjoy the relationship between Paul and Chani. I want to vomit over about 99% of fictional relationships, so this is a real step in the right direction for me. Am I becoming a…normal member of society that enjoys other people’s love for one another…? What a crazy thought!

Now onto the sadness and devastation.

This story just broke me. There’s the fact that the foreword set me up to be sad. It literally mentioned that many people didn’t react well to the sequel because it doesn’t have a happy ending. And, of course, my first thought was crap, but then again I’ve come this far; I have to read it.

Unfortunately for me, not only did it have a devastating ending, but it had a mildly upsetting beginning, and a moderately depressing middle. Many a tear was shed.

In Messiah’s defence, it isn’t a story where the sadness creeps up on you unexpectedly. I can say that much for it. I saw it coming from miles and miles away. That didn’t really make it sting less, but at least I wasn’t surprised.

Despite how bleak this review sounds, I really did love this book. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and so worth reading after its predecessor. Even though the first two books definitely don’t make up the whole Dune series, Messiah makes the story feel complete. Everything comes full circle.

Obviously, I’m very divided on this book, so you’ll have to use your own discretion when deciding whether you want to bawl your eyes out or not.

Seriously, I didn’t hate it though! I’m just the tiniest bit bitter and sad. But having the ability to evoke such emotion signals a fantastic author, doesn’t it?

Finally Fall Book Tag

More like finally doing this book tag. I mean gosh, it’s already snowed at my house! I better hurry up and do this before I run out of time.

Thank you to Cherelle the Bibliophile for the tag! I love how welcoming the book blogging community is. You’re all so great!

I don’t really know who to tag, so if you have a blog and you haven’t done this yet, please consider yourself tagged!

Now onto the good stuff…

IN FALL, THE AIR IS CRISP AND CLEAR: NAME A BOOK WITH A VIVID SETTING.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I read this book forever ago for an English class—I believe it was middle school—and I absolutely adored it. The world in which it takes place is fascinating. The black-and-white versus color perspectives of the story are incredibly creative.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t somewhere I would want to live. But it was such a great read in an entirely intriguing setting.

NATURE IS BEAUTIFUL… BUT ALSO DYING: NAME A BOOK THAT IS BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, BUT ALSO DEALS WITH A HEAVY TOPIC LIKE LOSS OR GRIEF.

Night by Elie Wiesel

I’m not much for sad stories, but I do remember reading Night back in middle school. It literally broke my heart. I still think about it. Often.

Despite how much I don’t like reading depressing books, this one was undoubtedly worth it. The holocaust is a topic about which I firmly believe we need to continue to educate ourselves.

FALL IS BACK TO SCHOOL SEASON: SHARE A NON-FICTION BOOK THAT TAUGHT YOU SOMETHING NEW.

The Right Side of History by Ben Shapiro

Ironic how I’m using this book under a category that deals with school… But I learned so much from it! Far beyond modern political stances, Shapiro spoke deeply about the ways in which religion and Western philosophy shaped the world as we know it. And it was deep, as in textbook-level deep, but I loved it. I learned so much about the ways in which different forces in the world work together.

IN ORDER TO KEEP WARM, IT’S GOOD TO SPEND SOME TIME WITH THE PEOPLE WE LOVE: NAME A FICTIONAL FAMILY/HOUSEHOLD/FRIEND-GROUP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO BE PART OF.

The Half Theft by Brooke Nelson (aka me, duh)

I promise I’m not about to lapse into self-promo, so hear me out. I wrote this book in such a way that I did what I had never seen another author do: create a friend group that I actually loved.

Charlie is just perfect and such a dork. And Maeve, the love of my life who makes me feel better about how clumsy I am. And…well, I won’t spoil anyone else for you.

FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR SOME STORYTELLING BY THE FIRESIDE: SHARE A BOOK WHEREIN SOMEONE IS TELLING A STORY.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts at least a couple times, I adore these books. And the narration is one of the best parts!

They are so unique in the sense that they are told from the perspective of Lemony Snicket, a man who is documenting the Baudelaire children’s case in hopes of helping them reach safety.

THE NIGHTS ARE GETTING DARKER: SHARE A DARK, CREEPY READ.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Scary books are a big no for me! I’m not built for that.

That being said, The Woman in the Window is a thriller that I found super creepy and fun. For anyone who isn’t a fan of actual scary books, but loves a good mystery, I would highly recommend this. It was nicely paced and a fairly easy read.

The writing is simply superb.

THE DAYS ARE GETTING COLDER: NAME A SHORT, HEARTWARMING READ THAT COULD WARM UP SOMEBODY’S COLD AND RAINY DAY.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This is one of the very few times I am actually going to say you need to read this! Especially if you’re a Christian, since the series is an extended metaphor for the Bible.

The stories are so heartwarming and beautiful. I really cannot believe it took me until 2020 to read this series. It’s only been sitting on my shelf for ages!

FALL RETURNS EVERY YEAR: NAME AN OLD FAVOURITE THAT YOU’D LIKE TO RETURN TO SOON.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Shoutout to my mom who, back when I was in middle school and I ordered this book from the library, kept returning it without my knowledge because she thought the plot sounded morbid. See, parents? That’s what you do if you don’t like a book. You don’t ban it. You repeatedly return it on your kids.

Fast forward to now, she’s just as big a fan as me!

FALL IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR COZY READING NIGHTS: SHARE YOUR FAVOURITE COZY READING “ACCESSORIES”!

My cats! Do they count? I would say my dog, but all he does it lick the pages, which is hardly helpful. My cats, on the other hand, are content to fall asleep on my lap or, on their more difficult days, fight on top of the pages.

Have you read any of the books on my list? What are your thoughts?

Saviors, Slayers, and Strong Women

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! In case you haven’t come upon one of these posts in the past, they are just a fun way to look at our current reading experiences.

The three Ws are:

  • What is the last book I read?
  • What book am I currently reading?
  • What do I think I will read next?

What is the last book I read?

The last book I read was Dune: Messiah by Frank Herbert. I have such mixed feelings about this book, especially after reading its predecessor, Dune. I will say I did enjoy this book, just maybe not as much as the first.

It was good, and now that I’m done, I am definitely happy that I read it. It was just so depressing to read though. The fact that Paul is able to read into the future added such a layer of sadness to this story. Not to be dramatic but honestly, I just kind of sat around wanting to cry a lot of the time while I was reading Messiah.

But, on the other hand, the writing! What a fantastic author Frank Herbert is. He has a truly one-of-a-kind method of drawing the reader into the fantastic world that is his imagination.

What book am I currently reading?

What an absolutely strange and wonderful book! Since the start, I have been just a little confused about what is happening. But not the type of confusion that makes me want to give up and quit reading. More like the type of confusion that makes me want to read even more.

I find the main character, along with the rest of the cast, thoroughly enjoyable so far. That isn’t usually the case for me, so I am quite pleasantly surprised. Evelyn gives me the same kind of vibes as Lucy Gray from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

My favorite aspect of this book is its uniqueness. I truly have never read something like it, yet I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that is so different. This is definitely a book that I will be writing a review on. I already have so much to say, and I’ve hardly begun!

What do I think I will read next?

My birthday was last week and among the lovely gifts I was given was Candace Owens’ new book! Like almost every other bookworm, I have a TBR list longer than I am tall, so I have quite a few other books I had planned on reading before starting this.

However, I’m super excited to begin Blackout as soon as possible. Candace is one of the few political commentators I have followed on social media for years, and I find pretty much everything she has to say fascinating. She’s such a strong, intelligent woman!

So, I have to apologize to the rest of my to-be-reads, because Candace just shoved them all aside. I can’t wait to get started and see what I think of this!

What book(s) are you currently reading?

Does Dune Live Up to the Hype?

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I hate to begin a review by revealing my indecision but here we are. This book is a solid four-and-a-half stars for me. I’ve had the hardest time trying to decide which rating I want to give to this story, but we’ll leave it at four-and-a-half for now in favor of being decisive.

So what did this book do right? So, so much.

  • Dynamic characters

Where to begin? I love the characters of Dune from the bottom of my heart. First there is Paul Atreides, the main character. I typically don’t care for main characters, as they tend to all mesh into the same strong and mighty category, but he is an exception. What’s even rarer for me is to like a main character who is only fifteen for the majority of the story. Yet he is written in such a lovable way I can’t help but sympathize with him and his otherworldly problems.

His mother, Jessica, is also high up on the list of characters I like. Again, it isn’t common for me to love the main “strong female character,” as they typically end up being carbon copies of one another. Jessica, however, is nothing like what I’ve seen before. She is a complex, multifaceted character that can’t possibly be described in just one way or another. She constantly surprised me, and my love for her never waned throughout the story.

As anyone who knows anything about me already has guessed, I couldn’t make a list of my favorite Dune characters without Gurney Halleck: the man to end all other men, the Dune universe love of my life. What can I say? He plays music at random, sometimes inappropriate times throughout the book. He quotes the Bible. He knows how to expertly wield a knife. What is there not to love? Nothing. There is nothing not to love.

  • Compelling story

I genuinely cared what happened, and that’s saying something. What I like most about the story is its constant movement. It isn’t a stagnant plot that leaves me wanting to skim the rest of the book. It keeps moving. There’s plenty of action.

We transition from place to place and character to character, meaning that even if one particular part starts to get a little boring, chances are you’ll be moving on to a more interesting scenario in just a few pages.

  • Point of view

Third person omniscient usually isn’t my favorite point of view from which to read. When the narrator can look into everyone’s thoughts and speak about them all in turn, I typically find that I’m trying to process too much information at once. Oddly, though, I felt it was perfect for this book. I didn’t feel confused but, rather, more connected to each of the characters.

In books with a smaller cast, where just a few characters spend a lot of time together, I find it more beneficial to have learn just one person’s thoughts, either through first person or third person limited. The character whose perspective is used can typically tell who is feeling what, rendering it unnecessary to know everyone’s thoughts.

Fortunately, Dune is not one of those short-character-list books. It has a rather gigantic number of characters the readers needs to pay careful attention to. That makes it perfect for third person omniscient, as it allowed me to learn about each of the important characters through their own thoughts. It also worked to heighten the suspense: having multiple characters feel vaguely guilty will obviously make me want to read more!

So, does Dune live up to the hype? In my opinion, absolutely!

If you’re a fan of fantasy, science fiction themes, action-packed storylines, and complex characters, this is, indeed, the story for you.

Seeing as I just finished its sequel, Dune Messiah, be sure to look out for my review on that one very soon as well!

The Dune Trailer Has Emotionally Unraveled Me

I finished the first book in the Dune series just a couple months ago. A solid four star story for me. And I heard just yesterday morning, the long-awaited trailer was on it’s way.

My first reaction? Bury my face in my hands and do a little deep breathing.

I’d waited patiently—so very patiently—for this moment. And when it did come, it was well worth the wait.

The second Paul showed up on the screen, the actual tears came.

I knew Timothée Chalamet was cast in the role. I’ve seen photos, but actually watching him in the trailer was something of an otherworldly experience. He is going to make a fantastic Paul. I just know it.

Then came Gurney Halleck.

If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written about Dune—or if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to listen to me go on and on about it in person—you’ll already know I love Halleck with my whole heart. Though we hardly got to see him in the trailer, I continue to believe Josh Brolin was the perfect casting choice. He has the exact amount of tough-guy and potentially-philosophical-music-loving-guy energy for the role to fit him like a glove.

I am still undecided on the casting choice of Zendaya as Chani, but I’m willing to give it a go.

There must be some reason for their choice that I haven’t yet picked up on. Plus, I have no idea who I would actually choose for the role if the casting decision were in my hands. I never seemed to develop deep feelings for Chani while reading the book. She’s sweet. She’s kind. She’s strong. But for some reason, I didn’t quite connect with her like I did the others.

The rest of the cast is just flawless.

There’s no other word in the English language strong enough to describe just how much I adore the casting decisions for this film. For the most part, there’s not a single other person I could have pictured in their role.

Dave Bautista as Beast Rabban? Amazing. He’s so spooky!

Oscar Isaac as Leto Atreides? Excellent.

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica? A stroke of genius.

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho? Couldn’t have cast him better myself.

The page to screen translation of the characters is just plain incredible.

Not only do they look perfect—and believe me, they do. But the more I ponder it, the more their acting styles fit as well. What a terribly difficult job, having to cast the actors for such a beloved story—and what a beautiful execution. I am beyond ecstatic to see them in action when the film is finally released.

Now, of course, I also took a look at everything happening beyond the characters, though it was quite the task to take my eyes off of them.

Arrakis looks incredible! The perfect unsettling, hardly inhabitable desert planet. I’m almost tempted to take a trip there myself.

The armies, the fires, the landscape, the ethereal quality of the entire story. It’s flawless, exactly how I imagined it—maybe even a little more vivid than it originally appeared in my imagination.

There’s something about seeing the characters I’ve read about and loved—the story I’ve read and loved—just sitting there on my television screen. Right in front of me.

It just makes it feel so real.