How to Prepare for a New Semester & My Note-taking System!

A new semester can seem really intimidating and daunting. You are starting new classes with professors you may not be familiar with, you have a whole new schedule, and your assignments are different and probably more challenging than ever before.

Preparing yourself ahead of time can make the entire experience so much easier, and it definitely helps to set you off on the right foot!

I thought today I would share with you all how I prepare for a new semester, as I get ready for my junior year of college!

Also, this can apply to any age, but the tips may just have to be reworked a bit to suit your needs!

*Another note- obviously this semester is a bit different for most of us, as we are in the middle of a pandemic, but the way I prepare (whether it be for online or on campus classes) is the same!

Step 1: Buy your stationery and books

The first thing that I do to prepare is get all of the supplies I need! I feel like once I have all of my school supplies, I’m officially in the back to school season, and I can prepare myself mentally.

First and foremost, this includes a planner for me (basically the most important supply). I will have a more in-depth post about my planning system going up soon, but having a planner is integral to my organization for school. In addition, you want to get any notebooks, textbooks, pencils/pens, erasers, etc. that you need.

I like getting this all ahead of time because then I feel like the most options are available. I know a lot of people recommend waiting before buying your books in case your professor tells you that you don’t actually need it(which is a valid tip). However, I found that if I waited too long, I could not find used editions of the books I needed because they were already sold out. Most places that I buy used books from allow me to return them for a certain period of time, so I’m not worried about getting books I don’t need. Obviously, this is up to you and what you decide you want to do with buying your books! If you buy them as e-books, for example, you can wait on that!

Step 2: Create a weekly time table (schedule)

Every semester, I create a spread in my bullet journal (or on a piece of paper/your phone) with the days of the week written at the top and times going down the bottom. I write down what classes I have at what times, and add in any weekly events such as club meetings, jobs, etc. This way, I know how much free time I have, when the best days are to study, when I can hang out with friends, etc.

On this time table, I also like to block off time that is just for me. Meaning, I do not set any meetings, events, ANYTHING during that time. I use it to relax, stay at home, and catch up on anything that I want to.

Step 3: Write out all of your assignments & due dates

As soon as I get my syllabi for each class, I write out the assignments & their due dates in my planner. I know this seems tedious, but as the semester goes on and you get busier, you may forget about an assignment. If it’s already in your planner, there’s a greater chance you’ll remember about it!

Also, sometimes professors won’t remind you that an assignment is due, they just expect you to hand it in on the day of. This can be incredibly stressful, so just do it & write it all down! Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later.

Step 4: Figure out a time management & studying plan

This is super important in my opinion! Figuring out when and how you are going to study can really save you a lot of time once classes start. In the time table I mentioned earlier, you can block out specific days/times that you want to study, and make sure that you actually follow it each week. Or, you can create a plan for each class depending on the subject matter and how much time you want to dedicate to it each week/day. Either way, having a set plan can really make your life easier.

Also, knowing what study method works best for you (i.e. flash cards, quizzes, study groups, etc.) is important. You don’t want to find out the day before a big exam that you can’t seem to learn something because you’re trying to use flash cards when that just doesn’t work for you. It ends up being a waste of your time!

Everyone studies in different ways, so learning this early on is crucial to success!

Step 5: Relax and Refresh

Finally, the week before I go back to school, I try not to overwhelm myself with too much. Obviously there is a lot to do to prepare, especially if you are moving for college.

However, the semester itself is going to get hectic and stressful already, so don’t try to cram in too many last minute things in this final week (or at least the few days leading up to the first day).

Instead, give yourself time to relax and unwind!

Also, it’s a good idea to fix your sleeping schedule (I know, it’s easier said than done), and do some self-care.


My Note-taking System:

It took me a long time to find a college note-taking system that works for me, if I’m going to be honest. I think I wrote a post last year where I went through a really long and complicated process. It was way too much work and it was not sustainable AT ALL.

I have definitely narrowed down the process and made it much simpler for myself, and I definitely think it’s what I’m going to use for the rest of my academic life.

First off, I ditched my 5 subject notebooks. Honestly, it felt like such a waste of paper. In some classes, yes, I was taking a lot of notes and the pages were going to good use. However, in some classes, I only had to take notes maybe once or twice a month. This is what college is like in a nutshell. So the majority of that classes section was empty, and after the semester was over, I had so much leftover paper that wasn’t ever going to be used. It was so so wasteful. Plus, I usually take 6 classes a semester (and in the Spring I’m going to be taking 7), so 5 subjects just isn’t enough either.

Instead, I now use one composition book for all of my classes. Yep. Just one.

I only use this compostion book for lecture notes, by the way! Which means this is where I write my messy notes during class, while the professor is speaking (or lecturing), and I don’t worry about making the notes neat or pretty.

On the first page of the notebook, I create a key with all of my classes, and I designate one color pen/highlighter to it.

When I take notes for that class, I start on a blank page and write the class name and lesson/unit at the top. This way, I can easily flip through my notes and look for one certain color that pertains to that class. This may seem a bit chaotic, but it works really well for me.

Then, after each class, I review my notes by rewriting them. I type my notes, and I don’t use any fancy processing system- just plain and simple Word! I tried using OneNote in the past to make my notes look nice and neat, but it doesn’t really allow you to print out your notes properly, and I found myself copying and pasting all of the information to a Word document instead. So, now I just stick to Word.

When I type up my notes, I always start with the lesson number or unit name at the top, and I rewrite the professor’s ideas into my own words. I also make sure I keep the important stuff that may be on tests, and lose anything that I don’t really need to know. Basically, I just make sense of the quick, messy notes I took during class and make them more readable in a typed format- almost like I’m creating a study guide. Then, when I have a test coming up, I can print out these notes, highlight them, write on them, etc.

I try to do all of my rewriting the same day as the lecture if I can, but no more than 4 days later. Otherwise, some of the things I write down might not make sense cause I’ll forget what they mean.

That’s it for my notes! I really don’t do anything fancy as far as color coding or anything else goes, aside from separating my classes by color.

I hope this post was useful (and that it made sense) for you! If you have any questions about anything I talked about, please feel free to ask!

What are some back to school essentials for you?

Thought Collective #1 – Getting Out of a Slump

I have been thinking a lot about my content online recently and what value my posts serve. Not just on this blog, but on Instagram and Twitter as well. I want my platforms to provide value of some kind and be a space that I am proud of.

In full transparency, I had an entirely different post planned to go up today, but I felt like it was so meaningless and I didn’t feel confident in posting it. Which is sort of where this post idea came from.

I feel like I have been writing a lot of posts this year where my heart is not entirely in them, but I knew that other people would be interested in them or they followed some trend, so I wrote them anyway. And that put me in a big rut. I haven’t been feeling motivated or inspired at all. There were even a few days where I considered just deleting my blog entirely.

But then I spent some time thinking it over and reminding myself why I started this blog. It is a creative outlet. A place to express myself. A safe space to share my thoughts and find others with similar interests. And I don’t want to lose that.

Essay GIF - Find on GIFER

However, I do want to start sharing more of my thoughts on here—my ramblings, the things that I am passionate about.

This is how the thought collective was born. This is a new series I’m doing, probably about once a month (maybe more, maybe less), where I just write about whatever topic is on my mind that week.

I hope that at least some of you will find this interesting or useful! Don’t worry, though, my book content is not going anywhere! I just need a bit of a bigger space here. And if there’s any topic you want me to write about, please feel free to comment or message me on any of my social media accounts :)


Now, onto the topic of today’s post- pulling yourself out of a slump!

During quarantine, I put a lot of pressure on myself to do, do, do. I thought to myself that if I have all of this time at home, I have to use it to accomplish everything and anything I ever wanted to do but kept putting off.

At first, this was great. I worked on a new novel, I started research for my undergrad thesis, I read more than ever before. On top of this, I started running and working out daily, baking, and taking on other projects (an internship for one).

This was a really toxic mindset, though. I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago, when I tried to have a relaxing Sunday, but all I could think about were the tasks I had on my to-do list. I wasn’t enjoying reading anymore because it felt like I was only doing it to be ‘productive’, I couldn’t sit still long enough to watch a movie or even tv show because my mind was on other things, and I was constantly exhausted.

I’ve finally burnt myself out. Since the first of August, I have had no desire to wake up in the mornings and work on any of the goals I had set for myself. I would wake up, try to be productive, and then end up scrolling through social media or watching Youtube videos for hours.

I am slowly working my way out of this creative (& life) slump, which I talked a bit about on Instagram. There, I also shared some of the ways that I get myself out of this sort of feeling, so I’m going to elaborate more on those now!

Take a Break

The first thing to do is to give yourself a break. It was so hard for myself to accept that this was what I needed, if I’m being honest. I’m awful at taking breaks, and I can’t do it for very long. But this time around, I took a week-long break. That is probably the longest I’ve gone without being productive in years.

Your body needs time to rest and recover, though. And it’s so important! Not only is it a good time to refresh your mind and maybe consume some content that inspires you, but it can also improve your physical well-being, too.

**By the way—don’t wait until you’ve burned yourself out to take a pause. It is good to do so often!!

Change Your Routines

Change can be scary. But it is oftentimes exactly what we need. I tried out a new morning routine in July which involved me waking up extremely early and getting work done from the minute I got up until about noon. I quickly realized that this did not work for me at all.

So, I’ve reinvented my routine, and I made it much more suitable to my needs. I now get to sleep in more, I get a bit of work done, but I also have a slow, peaceful morning. And it is so nice! I can definitely do an entire post about my morning routine, as well, because it is something that I find is essential to a productive day!

Create Freely

One thing that I love doing when I’m in a rut is allow myself to create… ANYTHING. This is something I do just for me. I want to talk more about this in a future thought collective post, but I’ve realized that with having any sort of social media platform, there is a pressure to post everything you do. I share a lot of my days online through my Instagram stories, and I like creating things to share with others. However, you don’t have to post everything you create. Some things can (and should) be just for you!

I like to do this by painting or art journaling. Most of the time, the things I create are imperfect. They are messy. But they make me happy! That is all that is important here. Allow yourself to do something without the fear of failure or the pressure of critique’s from others! It is such a therapeutic thing to do. Trust me!

Write Out Your Thoughts/Feelings

The next step for me is journaling. Now, I try to journal everyday, but I usually just do morning pages where I write out anything that comes to my mind or I talk about my previous day, just to get my creative juices flowing.

But, when I’m in a rut, I like to specifically write about why I’m feeling the way I am. This journaling is much more intentional, and it takes more time, but it can really help you figure out the root of your slump.

Here are some prompts/questions to get you started:

  • What am I feeling right now?
  • What is currently upsetting me?
  • What are three things I am grateful for?
  • What distractions are hindering my productivity and how can I eliminate them?
  • What does my dream life look like?

Revisit & Revise Your Goals

Finally, I think frequently reading over your goals can be super motivating! However, sometimes you may look at them and realize that they are no longer things you want to focus on right now. And that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to take off some of your goals or revise them to better fit your current needs.

I’m very competitive with myself, so I push myself to achieve goals even if I no longer care about them, which just isn’t productive. I’m learning to be okay with letting go of my goals, even if I don’t always achieve them! This is such a vital lesson to learn.

The most important point of reworking your goals is making sure you are making them realistic but challenging. And prioritize the things that are most important to you!

That is all I have for you guys today! I know this was a long and rambly post, but I hope you got something good out of it. If you have any other tips for getting out a rut, feel free to share them in the comments!

Also, remember that what works for me may not work for you! It’s all about trial and error because everyone has different experiences. If you do try any of these, let me know how they went :)

I’ll see you all on Thursday (with another post I am very excited about)!

Folklore Book Tag

I have not stopped listening to Folklore since it came out. And listen. I was never a huge TS fan. I’ve always enjoyed her music, but I wouldn’t consider myself part of the fandom or anything. Then, Lover came out, and so many people on my Twitter timeline were talking about it. Naturally, I listened to it, and I fell in love with so many of the songs.

But, folklore??? This is a whole new level of perfection, and I think it may be one of my favorite albums of all time (and definitely Taylor’s best). I’m in it now. I’m part of the fandom, okay? Y’all converted me.

I know this post is a little late, but I had other posts to get up first, so I apologize. But it’s never too late to gush about these songs, so it’s fine.

I was tagged by Ruby, who is such a light! Thank you so much for the tag 🥰 And thank you to Isla, who created it!! I am in love with it and all of the questions!

The Rules:

  • Link to the original creator: Ilsa A Whisper Of Ink
  • Tag at least 3 people. 
  • Declare the rules and list of prompts in your post
  • Thank whoever tagged you and link to their post.

The Questions:

*I tried picking books that I don’t talk about too often for this tag, too!

the 1 // a book with an ending that left you speechless

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Wow, this book was phenomenal! I just talked about it in my July wrap-up, but it truly was amazing. The entire book left me speechless, to be quite honest. I had no idea where the story was going, and it really took me by surprise in the best way possible. I’m not going to go into details because you absolutely should pick it up for yourself! And you can read it along with the Unfriendly Black Hotties Book Club because it’s their August pick!

cardigan // a book that makes you feel happy and sad all at once

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: This book is definitely a favorite of mine, and I will be re-visiting it soon. It tells lots of great stories and is filled with adventure.

But the entire book is really sad throughout, which is why this is the perfect answer to this question! I’m sure you’ve heard lots about this book before, but if you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should!

the last great american dynasty // a book with a fascinating and well-told story

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson: I don’t talk about this series enough to be honest! But it was so interesting, and the whole thing left me wanting more. It is crafted really well, and I think it is one of the best YA mysteries out there.

The entire series was great, too, which is hard to find in books! I usually end up really disliking at least one book, but that was not the case at all here. Each one really added to the story and it wrapped up nicely.

exile // a book you wish you hadn’t read

Sociable by Rebecca Harrington: There are a lot of books I could have chosen for this one, so I’m just going with my latest 1 star read.

This was an ARC I received quite a while ago, but I just finally read it last month (oops). I could have saved some time by not reading it, I can say that for sure.

my tears ricochet // a book that made you cry uncontrollably 

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman: This is a book about a girl dealing with the grief of losing her sister, and if that isn’t enough to make you cry, I don’t know what will.

I was honestly in tears for the majority of the book. The writing was also so beautiful, and I really love this author.

mirrorball // a book that feels like it was written just for you

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: I know I said I was trying to pick books that I don’t talk about a lot for this tag, but I just couldn’t not mention this book! The entire time I was reading this book, I really felt like I was in a trance. I adored every single thing about it, and the whole book is really an ode to storytelling. It made me fall in love with writing even more.

seven // a childhood book that makes you feel nostalgic

Judy Moody Books by Megan McDonald: I thought about my answer to this one for a while because I have a lot of childhood favorites (The Magic Treehouse, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Junie B. Jones, A Series of Unfortunate Events, etc.).

But my official pick is the Judy Moody series! I loved so many of these books, and I can picture a few of them on my shelves so clearly. It just warms my heart when I think about these books (and yes, I’ve seen the movie). The two pictured above are definitely my favorites!

august // a book that reminds you of summer

The Last Summer of the Garrett Girls by Jessica Spotswood: I read this book a few years ago, and I adored it! It has ‘summer’ in the title, so obviously it is the perfect choice!

It was fun to follow the lives of four siblings because not many books do that. I need to pick up more by Jessica Spotswood because this book was a really great read!

this is me trying // a book that deals with loneliness & sadness 

How to Make Friends with the Dark by Kathleen Glasgow: This book was so heartbreaking but beautiful. I listened to the audiobook, and the whole time I was so immersed in this story.

It is definitely a book about loneliness and grief and friendship and pain. Also, the cover is really stunning.

Illicit affairs // a book that gave you a book hangover

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: This book was just SO. GOOD. I think I might have even loved it more than THUG, which is hard to believe! I read it fairly soon after it came out I believe, and I still think about it to this day!

I don’t know how Angie will top either of her two books, but I know she will, which is incredible to me.

invisible string // a book that came into your life at the exact right time

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone: I read this book when I was about 14 I think, and it really changed my world. It was the first time I saw myself represented in a book (OCD), and I related to the main character so much. I also think it’s what got me into poetry, and I will forever be thankful for that because poetry changed my life for the better. This book holds such a special place in my heart!

mad woman // a book with a female character you adore

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson: I LOVE LIZ LIGHTY SO MUCH AND I ALWAYS WILL. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

epiphany// a book that was haunting

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: This was a phenomenal read and it really had a haunting vibe to it! It takes place in a smart house, and the twists and turns make it a super chilling read- which is one of my favorite types of stories! It was a really well done retelling of a classic, too!

betty // a book couple that fills you with yearning

The Diviners by Libba Bray: There were many couples in this series that I adored, but I’m going to point out one specifically that made my heart soar!

Mini spoiler- Proceed at your own risk!I completely loved Memphis and Theta together!! They made me so happy, and it was just so wholesome. I was so glad that Theta had found someone who cared for her so much, especially after the toxic/abusive relationship she had left.

peace // a book character you’d die for because you love them so much

The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett: The main characters in this book, Theodora & Huck, completely stole my heart! They were both such amazing characters. I say this every time I talk about Jenn Bennett, but she really does write the best characters. They are so well fleshed out, and I feel like I really know them!

hoax // a book that you thought you were going to love but didn’t

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman: This book was a huge disappointment for me because I was expecting to love it, but it fell so flat 😭 I was hoping for a relatable main character plus a fun romance, and this was just…not that at all. There was no character development, and the romance was lacking completely.

I tag anyone who loves Folklore and wants to do this tag! It was such a fun one :)

Let me know what you thought of my answers & tell me what your favorite song (or songs, I know it’s hard to choose) is from the album!

August TBR 2020

Welcome to another TBR post! This month, just like last month, my TBR is going to be quite short. That is for a couple of reasons. First, I plan on reading some of my longer books this month, which means that I won’t be able to read as many books. Second, I want to slow down my reading a bit to focus on some other things, especially since I’m going back to school in a month. I’ve already read around 80 books this year, which is really great, but there’s no need for me to read so fast, so I want to take it slow for now!

Anyway, let’s just get into the books!

Just Friends by Dyan Sheldon

This is my e-book pick from my TBR jar for the month! I honestly don’t know what to expect from it, and I have no idea what it’s about, but it’s been on my TBR for a long time now. I’m looking forward to finally knocking it off of my list.

If I’m being real truthful, though, I don’t really have too much interest in reading this one, and I have a feeling I won’t like it. I want to at least give it a try, though.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

I got this book on libby finally- which means I absolutely must read it this month! It’ll probably be one of the first books I read, actually. I’m really excited about it, and I’ve heard some great things.

I’ve really missed reading about Nikolai, even though I didn’t really love him as much as everyone else seems to. Maybe this book will make me care for him a bit more?? I don’t know, we’ll see!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Yes, I’ve decided to make this month the one that I conquer this book. I realized that I’m going back to school in September, and I don’t want to read this book there, surrounded by my housemates, because they’ll then witness me sobbing for hours straight (which I’m expecting to do from this book). So, to avoid that, I figured I should probably get to it now!

That way, I can cry from the comfort of my own home. I am worried about this book because of it’s size, too. It’s so long and intimidating, but apparently I’m forcing myself to get over that fear this month.

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Everyone has been yelling at me to read this book and finish the trilogy! I hear ya, and I’m going to do just that!! I was able to get the audiobook of this one, which means it should hopefully be a decently fast read. I honestly can’t remember how the last book ended, so I’m going to have to read an online recap before then, but I really have loved the first two books. Maybe this one will be my favorite!

What books are on your TBR for the month? Have you read any of the ones I’m planning to? Tell me all of your thoughts in the comments, I want to know!

The Black Madonna of Derby Review // Blog Tour

Hello and welcome to my surprise bonus post for the week! Today I am so excited to be doing a blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources for The Black Madonna of Derby by Joanna Czechowska*. Thank you so much to Rachel for having me on :)

*All opinions are my own!

Synopsis:

During and after the Second World War, 200,000 Poles were given leave to remain in the UK as thanks for their help during the conflict-this book is a fictional account of just one of those families.Set during the 1960s and1970s,The Black Madonna of Derby traces the story of the Baran family living in a provincial town in England. Their seemingly ordinary existence hides secrets of past betrayal, madness, and tragedy.

The story focuses on three generations: the elderly grandmother whose proud Polish patriotism hides dark events from the past that affect the present, the mother whose tries to meld her past life in war-torn Poland and Germany with her new life in England and the granddaughter who lives a double life culturally and linguistically-Polish at home and English outside.

The swinging sixties in London is vividly recreated, as is the hardship of life under communism in thePoland of that time. This book is unique in that there are no other novels dealing with the story of second generation Poles in the UK. It is a story that deserves to be told, a story of a group of people who have had little attention in the literature. Listen to what they have to say.

Review:

I don’t usually gravitate toward historical works, but when I saw that this one was about a Polish family, I knew I had to check it out! As someone whose entire family was born in Poland, and who attended Polish school for 12 or so years, I definitely wanted to read about that perspective because I actually haven’t read any fiction books with Polish main characters (that I know of).

Immediately, there was so much that I recognized. From the food, to the Polish words, to the kids attending Polish school, among other things! I also loved that it was a multigenerational story, and so we got to see a bit of everyone’s history. It was so fascinating to learn!

One fault that I had with the book was that it took me a little while to get into. There were a lot of characters to keep track of, and I was getting a bit confused here and there. However, about an hour into the audiobook, I finally felt comfortable with everyone, and could differentiate the storylines.

Once I was fully immersed in this story, I did not want to put it down. I related to each of the characters in different ways, and it almost felt like I was a part of their family myself. This book was filled with tons of twists and turns- there were a lot of things that I didn’t see coming. This story was so layered and filled with history and pain and hurt.

It was honestly one of the most emotional reads of the year for me, and I will be thinking about it for a really long time, I can already tell!

My only other issue was with the narrator- I felt like she didn’t really do the book justice, as it felt a little too bland at times that should have been read with more enthusiasm. Also, some of her pronunciation of the Polish words or names wasn’t too great, so I wish that a Polish narrator had been chosen.

Final Thoughts:

This book truly deserves a piece of my heart and will be living in my mind rent free. I loved it.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

If you want to purchase the book for yourself, you can do so here!

What is your nationality or ethnicity? Have you ever read any books with characters with the same background as you?

A Surprisingly Good Reading Month? // July Wrap-Up 2020

Hello everyone! If you recall my July TBR, I created a super short list of books for myself to read because I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of reading done this month. Somehow, I ended up reading 10 books, though!

5 stars

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: This was my first read of the month, and I definitely started off on a good note! Toni Morrison just has such an incredible writing style. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and I definitely want to read more of her work.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: I picked this up because I was seeing it all over bookstagram, and when I read the synopsis, it seemed so intriguing. The synopsis just doesn’t fully cover what this book is about. I was not prepared for the rollercoaster that it was, and it blew my expectations out of the water. It was such a great read. Also, I know there were some issues with the Reading Rush and them dismissing this book (which was their book club pick), so I want to really stress how great this book is, and please, pick it up if you haven’t already!
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I finally read this book! I also watched the movie this month, and let me tell you- both were so incredible. I understand all of the hype for the movie now, and I think I might watch it again soon!

4 stars

  • The King of Crows by Libba Bray: I’ve talked about the Diviners series quite a lot recently, as I finally read it this year. I’m so sad that I’m done with the whole series now. This final book was not my favorite of the four, but I think it was a good ending to this world. If you haven’t yet read The Diviners, and it’s been on your TBR as long as it had been on mine, I definitely say you should pick it up ASAP. It was such a magical and fun story, and I didn’t want it to end.

3 stars

  • The Great Gatsby Graphic Novel Adaptation illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, so thank you! Unfortunately, I was expecting a little more from it, though. It’s hard for me to judge it because I don’t have a huge knowledge of graphic novels, but I think if you hadn’t ever read The Great Gatsby novel, this version of the story would be very confusing. It was just missing some plot points in between to make the story flow better. I did love the illustrations, though!
  • Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: I’ve talked about this book and my feelings a lot already, so all I’ll say is this did not live up to the hype for me. I was expecting to be blown away…and I just wasn’t. It wasn’t a bad book, but it just wasn’t really for me.
  • 1984 by George Orwell: I finally read this classic that has been on my TBR for AGES!! It was a good read. I definitely think it covers so many important topics, and it left me thinking about the current state of the world. It was good, just not a new favorite!
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney: This book has been talked about a LOT all over booktube, Instagram, and Twitter, especially with the show coming out. I have to say, I didn’t think it was that incredible. But, I’m watching the show right now, and I think I actually like it more than the book (which is hard to believe, ahahaha).

2 stars

  • The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman: This book has really high ratings on Goodreads, and I was really excited to pick this up. Unfortunately, I just had a lot of issues with the way it was handled. Overall, the racism was just never really resolved, and the main character was very selfish in terms of how things played out. I just didn’t feel great about it. But I really liked the love interest and wanted to hear more from his perspective, which I think would have improved this story for me.

1 star

Tell me about your reading month! How many books did you read? Did you find any favorites? I’d love to know!

And let me know if you’ve read any of the ones I did, and what your thoughts were on them!

The Highest Rated Books I’ve Read (According to Goodreads) & My Thoughts

Hello!

For today’s post, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my Goodreads shelves to see what the highest rated books are that I’ve read. I want to compare those ratings to my own ratings, and see if they match up!

I went to my read shelf on Goodreads and ordered it by average rating, starting with the highest! I took the first ten, and now I’m going to see how they compare!

I want to preface this by saying I skipped over the poetry collections (mainly because they were like the first 5 books or so), and I’m not including books by JKR (I no longer want to support her on this platform, not that I ever really have, but still).

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo- 4.60

My rating- 5 stars

I think it makes a lot of sense for this book to be at the top because it’s the second in a duology. People who read Crooked Kingdom are mostly people who read and enjoyed Six of Crows, so it makes sense for it to have a higher rating.

I definitely enjoyed Crooked Kingdom a lot more than Six of Crows. I think this deserves its place at the top!

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody- 4.55

My rating- 5 stars

I recently read this book and I talked about it in a wrap-up already, but I really did love this book. It helped me out with the structure of my outline, and it completely changed the way I view stories now, in the best way possible.

Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon- 4.55

My rating- 5 stars

So far, all of these ratings match up with my own opinions really well. As many of you know, I read and LOVED this book, which actually comes out today, the day this post is up! If you haven’t already, check out my review because I share all of my feelings there. I really did love this book, though!

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi- 4.54

My rating- 4 stars

This was a really great non-fiction that recounts the history of racism and slavery in the United States. It was a super valuable read for me, and I gave it a high rating! The reason it wasn’t a 5 for me was because I felt like there were some parts that were a little too info-dumpy, and could have been condensed a bit.

Becoming by Michelle Obama- 4.54

My rating- 5 stars

Michelle Obama is one of my favorite people on this planet, and I feel like the majority of the world agrees that she’s incredible. Her memoir is definitely one of my favorites, and I highly recommend picking it up! Her having a high rating is very well-deserved.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas- 4.52

My rating- 5 stars

Angie Thomas is obviously up on this list, and rightfully so. There was no possible way I could give The Hate U Give anything less than 5 stars, and I’m honestly surprised this one isn’t at the top of this list. Either way, it is a phenomenal piece of art, and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta- 4.51

My rating- 4 stars

This is a novel told in verse and it was so so beautiful. I read it in one day, I believe, because I couldn’t stop listening to it. If you are looking to get more into novels in verse, I suggest picking it up. I gave it 4 stars because I felt like there were some scenes that could have been expanded on a bit more, but overall it was a fantastic read.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens- 4.48

My rating- 3 stars

We finally have one slightly controversial opinion. I just read Where the Crawdads Sing, and if I’m being completely honest, I did not enjoy it all too much. I found it to be quite boring and not as exciting as everyone made it seem to be.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing was really great, but I just didn’t care for the plot or the characters at all. I personally do not understand why so many people hype it up.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo- 4.45

My rating- 4 stars

I already talked about this earlier with Crooked Kingdom, but I definitely preferred the second book over Six of Crows. I enjoyed SoC, but for the majority of the book, I was sort of confused by it. I kept getting lost by which character was who, and I honestly didn’t know what was happening until the end of the book.

However, I enjoyed Crooked Kingdom a lot more because I was familiar with the cast and I could actually follow along with the story from the beginning!

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson- 4.45

My rating- 5 stars

We are ending with yet again, a great book. This is a memoir, and I listened to the audiobook, which really brought this story to life for me. I absolutely adored it, and I am hoping to buy a copy for my collection as soon as possible!

If I’m being completely honest, I thought this post would be more interesting because I thought my opinions would be more controversial. However, it seems like my opinions of the books matches the general readerships opinions. These are some well-deserved highly rated books!

Tell me, what did you think of some of these? Are there any that you think shouldn’t have such a high rating?

The Stuck at Home Book Tag

It’s been… a long time since I’ve done any sort of official tag post (aside from the Mid Year Freakout). I love doing tags, though, I really do. They are so much fun and I get to talk about things that I normally don’t talk about!

Today, I wanted to do the stuck at home book tag, even though I’m a little late (BUT it’s the perfect opportunity to remind you to please continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands, etc.! This virus isn’t over yet!) because I was tagged to do it by Juli from Kozy Words! I am so excited— and thank you Juli!!

The Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Answer all the questions down below
  • Link back to the creator: Ellyn @ Allonsythornraxx
  • Nominate 5+ bloggers you’d like to know more about, to do this tag

The Questions

What are you currently reading?

This is definitely not going to be accurate by the time this post goes up, but I’m currently reading The King of Crows by Libba Bray—meaning I’m FINALLY finishing The Diviners series!! I’m not very far into it as of now, but I am really excited to see how this story ends. I have been waiting months for my hold to come in from Libby, and now that I have it, I am going to devour it!

What’s your favorite “can’t leave the house” activity?

At the beginning of self-isolation, my favorite activity was hiking and baking. I was going on hikes pretty much daily. My dad, sister, and I would explore all of the parks and trails near us that we’ve never been to (we just moved here a little less than a year ago), and it was such a great experience. I was getting more fresh air than ever before, and I was feeling my best. Unfortunately, it is now usually too hot to go during the day, and no one in my family would wake up early enough to go with me in the mornings. So, now I mainly go on runs around my neighborhood or at the nearest track by me.

I also love baking, but that’s something that I’ve been doing less of once again. I think I just got bored of it after a while (oops 🙈) because I was making the same few recipes. I have to try out something new soon. Speaking of baking, I did a whole post where I tried different recipes from books, so check it out!

A book you’ve been meaning to read forever?

Umm… my entire TBR. There are honestly too many to name, so I’m not even going to try.

An intimidating book on your TBR?

Right now, I’m most intimidated by A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. I want to finish this series before the summer ends, but I keep putting it off. The book is just so long. Plus, I read the first two as audiobooks, so having to read the final one physically is worrying me a little bit.

I also have an entire post that just went up on Tuesday about books that I am intimidated by, so check that out, too!

Top 3 priority books on your TBR?

  • The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
  • A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Recommend a short book!

I can’t recommend just one because I’ve read quite a few that I LOVED recently, so here’s another list:

  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recommend a long book!

This book isn’t really that long (498 pages), but I don’t read a lot of tomes. I’m going to recommend The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern because it’s one of my favorite (if not #1 favorite) books of all time.

Something you’d love to do while stuck at home?

I would love to start working more on my undergraduate honors thesis for school. I want to start the planning, researching, and early development of it because it would get me ahead once classes start in the Fall! I’ve already done a bit of outlining and research, but my goal for August is to do even more.

What do you plan on reading next?

Next on my TBR as of now is Sociable by Rebecca Harrington!

The Tags

I don’t like tagging people anymore but if you want to do this post, consider yourself tagged!

Are any of these answers the same as yours? Let me know! And tell me how you feel about any of the books I mentioned :)

Mid Month Writing Update

As many of you know, I am currently participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, which is a month-long writing challenge where you choose a word-count goal and try to complete it by the end of July.

My goal for this Camp NaNo was only 15,000 words because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself or make myself stressed out by it. Things are actually going really well so far, and we are only halfway through the month!

I am so happy to say that as of now, I am nearly at my goal. I just hit 10,000 words today! In total, my manuscript is almost at 30k words, which is exactly where I wanted to be as of now.

I thought that for this post, I would answer some of your writing questions (which I asked for on Instagram & Twitter), so let’s get into those!

What is my brainstorming/outlining process like?

I got a couple of questions related to my pre-writing process, so I wanted to start with this! My ideas come usually start with one single plot point, and then comes the main character (I think, “What sort of person would get themselves into this situation?”).

From there, I create an outline. For my current work in progress, I followed the Save the Cat! Writes a Novel method, which is basically a series of 15 beats (or plot points). I HIGHLY recommend trying out this method, especially if you struggle with the structure of your stories.

My outlines are always a couple of pages long at least. I’ve had one project where the outline was, like, six pages long. I am definitely a plotter. I like to know where my novel is going before I start writing it, but I know that this doesn’t work for everyone.

However, I will say, usually about halfway through, the story takes a couple of different turns, and I stray from my original outline. At this point, I go back and fix my outline to match where the story is going.

What is my writing routine?

I definitely prefer to write in the mornings. For Camp NaNo, I have been trying to wake up around 5 am, then I meditate and stretch, before writing until 6:30 or 7:00. This is not the only time I write. In fact, there have been quite a few days where I was too tired in the morning, so I didn’t write until the afternoon or evening.

I want to develop a stricter writing routine, though, because I think consistency when drafting helps to get you into the mood and correct mindset for writing.

I tend to write in sprints, between 15-25 minutes long, with 5-15 minute breaks in between.

How do you develop your characters and get to know them?

This is a really fun question, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really know? I usually focus all of my attention on my main character, meaning the protagonist. I start by figuring out what they want, what they actually need, and what is standing in their way (more in a tangible way- money, an evil villain, geography, etc.). I also think of what their fatal flaw is- the thing in themselves that stands in their way.

From there, I write out their physical features, and assign them personality traits and interests. I also spend an ungodly amount of time picking their names, as this is the most important part of their character to me. I need to get it just right.

I also give them a bit of a back story- where do they live, who are their friends, where is their family from, etc.

I do a much simpler version of this for the supporting characters, mainly just describing their features and personality.

I think that the best way for me to get to know my character is just to keep writing them. The longer they spend on the page, the better I know them and how they will act. As far as developing them, I think that if you have a solid structure for your story, that should come naturally! Overtime, the obstacles and challenges your main character faces should shape them in some way, and overall change their attitudes and beliefs.

Character Aesthetic: Best Friend

Here is a little aesthetic I created for one of my characters. I’m not going to share too much else about her, but I think this fits her really well!

I hope this post gave you a bit of an insight into me and my writing! If you want to get more updates, I post them on Instagram and Twitter, so be sure to follow me on there.

If you’re participating in Camp NaNo, please let me know how it’s going for you (& good luck with the second half of the month- you got this!).

Anyway, I will see you all in my next post!

Books That Intimidate Me

I have a bookish fear, and that is a fear of long books. I don’t know why, but just seeing them on my shelves stresses me out, and I tend to put them off for a really long time.

Today I thought I would share a list of some of the books on my TBR that are really intimidating to me. If you’ve read and enjoyed them, please let me know! I need all of th encouragement I can get to finally pick these up.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

A Little Life

I just purchased this book recently, and I knew it was going to be a long one. But now that it’s actually in my hands, I am terrified of it. I feel like it will take me a really long time to read, and that is stressing me out.

Luckily, this is one I know that almost everybody loves (despite it being a really sad read), so that is giving me some hope hahaha!

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina

Just hearing the name of this book truly gives me nightmares. Not only is it nearly 1000 pages, but it’s also one of those classics that everyone loves. Do you know how intimidating that is?? I feel like the English minor in me HAS to read and love this one.

I mean, the Goodreads synopsis calls it “the world’s greatest novel.” That is a lot of pressure for me. But, in all seriousness, I do think I will enjoy this one!

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

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I’ve recently been seeing many people talk about this book, though it has been popular for quite some time now. I’m mostly just intimidated by this one because of its size, but also because of the fact that it is classified as a horror novel.

I’m not one to be spooked too easily by scary books or movies (in fact horror is one of my favorite movie genres), but I do know that quite a few people have said this one has kept them up at night!

Dig. by A.S. King

Dig AS King

A.S. King is one of those authors whose work I know I will love, I just haven’t picked up  yet. I think the reason this one intimidates me is because a lot of bookish people I look up to give this one super high praise.

To most people, this would sound like a good thing, but I am afraid that I won’t love it as much as they do. Which would make me question my entire existence (not to be dramatic or anything).

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Ninth House

This book has been on my TBR since before it was released last year. I’ve owned it since pretty much the first month it came out, but I haven’t yet picked it up because of the mixed reviews it has received.

Some people love it, while others completely hate it. I obviously want to be one of the people who loves it, but that is never guaranteed. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy, but who knows?

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Light

Finally, the last book on this list is here because not only is it the last book in a trilogy, but it is also the longest one. Reading the last book of a series you’re enjoying is always a little worrying because it can either make or break the entire series for you.

I thought the first two books were great, but what if I hate this one? Then this will be my last impression of the whole thing!! I’ll feel like I wasted my time if I am not satisfied by the ending. But, if I love it, it will make the entire read worth it!

let's chat

What are some books that intimidate you and why? Please let me know in the comments!

Jessica