Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: May 2017

May has officially come to a close, and with it brings the end of my Junior year. Because this month was spent studying for finals and my written driving test, and the end of the school year in general, I wasn't able to read as much as I would have liked. Even so, I read a couple  of great books and was able to visit some pretty special places as well. 

BOOKS I'VE READ

Eighteen Years by Madisen Kuhn

I discovered this book a few months ago, and my original plan had been to buy it as a birthday present to myself this coming October (18th birthday, Eighteen Years, it makes sense...), but then I realized I have very little self control when it comes to books and bought it about five months early.

Whoops.

Still, this book is beautiful. It's poetry, so I read it very quickly, but it's still one of the most beautiful collections of poetry I own. It's very honest and vulnerable, and it was able to put words to the many things I've been feeling in the last month. I highly, highly, highly recommend reading this book or at least following the author on Instagram (@madisenkuhn). 

The Essential Neruda edited by Mark Eisner

For my Spanish II class this semester, we had to do a project where we did at least two things that worked with Spanish vocabulary, reading Spanish, writing Spanish, or doing something related to Spanish culture. I chose to write a research paper and read this book of poetry. I've never included a book I've read for school in one of these, but I loved this so much I had to. Since this was the bilingual version, the left side was in the original Spanish and the right side was translated into English. What I found while reading it is that Spanish poetry has a way of expressing what I'm feeling better than English poetry. I'm really sure why, but it does. I'd definitely recommend reading poetry in another language to see if it has the same affect on you. 

PLACES I'VE LOVED

My First Junior/Senior Banquet

Technically this picture was taken by my brother in my backyard before I left because all the pictures I got of the actual place are with other people and I wasn't sure if they'd be okay with having a picture of them up here. Still, the Junior/Senior banquet was one of my favorite parts of this month. I got to wear a dress that made me feel like Cinderella, take lots of my pictures with some of my favorite people, and just have a really great night before the craziness of finals started. 

Hidden Falls, CA

The weekend before finals hit and graduation weekend, one of my best friends and I took a Saturday afternoon and went hiking. We talked about everything from current stresses to our future plans, and I think we definitely grew closer than we already had. Over the past month, I've had many good moments in days, but few good days. This day that I spent in nature with one of my favorite people was a good day

 

May was a whirlwind. For me, it happened in a blink of an eye due to so much happening in such a short amount of time. Now that it's June, I hope you are all close to having a period of time where you can relax or at least breathe a little easier. Hopefully you can all have a month filled with good books, good people, and good memories. 

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: April 2017

"Books I've Read & Places I've Loved" is a series where I talk about, yup, the books I've read and the places I've loved in a particular month (my titling skills are exquisite as we all know ;-)). 

GUYS!! APRIL IS OVER!! This month was INSANE. Many people in my family had birthdays, my school had our Les Mis performances and our music tour, and I managed to do some traveling (mostly the music tour...) and read a couple of books along the way! Needless to say, this month felt long, but it was also wonderful, and I'm very thankful for everything that happened. 

BOOKS I'VE READ

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

This is a book that had been on my reading list for a while. I bought it MONTHS ago, and started it a while back as well. One night this month when I didn't have any homework, I read the first four parts (out of five), and then finished it the next morning. For anyone is isn't aware, Malala Yousafzai is the girl who was shot by the Taliban after speaking out about the right for education. Miraculously, she survived. She is the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize, which she was awarded in 2014 alongside Kailash Satyarthi. She is now 19 and still fighting for the right for education. I couldn't help but underline the majority of this book, simply because it is so honest and heartbreaking yet hopeful and inspiring at the same time. I thought I would include some of my favorite quotes:

"At night, our fear is strong... but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again." (pg. 65, ch. 10)

"'Isn't it a miracle you all happened to be here when Malala was shot?" my father said. "It is my belief that God sends the solution first and the problem later," replied Dr. Javid." (pg. 161, ch. 31)

""Truth will always triumph over falsehood." (pg. 164, ch. 31)

"What I'm finding is that we have much more in common than we have different, and every day we learn something new from one another." (pg. 181, ch. 33)

 

No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Is it possible that the majority of my reading list this year has been poetry? Yes. Sarah Kay has been one of my favorite poets ever since I watched her TEDTalk and she performed "If I Should Have a Daughter," which has remained one of my favorite poems ever since. I had spent the last three trips to bookstores looking for this book, but alas, had not been able to find it. I was, however, able to find it on Amazon, and then found it in my Easter basket. My own way to explain this book is that it makes you feel emotions much more than you normally do. Some of my favorite poems from it are "Love Poem #137," "The First Poem in the Imaginary Book," "Montauk,"  "Brother," and "The Type." This is a book to savor. 

Mosquitoland by David Arnold

I don't even know where to begin with this book. The story is vivid, inviting, and easy to get lost in. The writing is witty, intelligent, and has an uncanny resembles to the voice of my best friend. The whole time I was reading, I couldn't help but see myself in the main character as well as who I wish I was. This book has earned a place on my list of favorite books not just because I loved the writing and the story, but because of the way it made me feel. Books like To Kill A Mockingbird and A Separate Peace are some of my favorite books because they make me feel more than other books do, and Mosquitoland did the same thing. 

PLACES I'VE LOVED

Los Angeles, CA

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love LA. I have since I was little, and even though I've never been exactly sure of why, I know that I'm always very happy while in this city. My school had it's music tour last week, and this picture was taken at Knottsberry Farm, where we performed on the Thursday. 

Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles

Technically, I'm breaking a rule by showing this picture, but if we all stay quiet about it I think it's okay ;-). On the Saturday night of the tour, we all had the opportunity to see Into The Woods, which was one of my favorite things about the five days I was away. Until Saturday, I didn't know anything about it, so I was very excited. The show was funny, made me think, and the songs have been stuck in my head ever since. 

The Middle of Nowhere, CA

What else happened this month? Let me think... Oh that's right! Our bus overheated and we were stranded for four hours! Good times, good times. I'm writing another bus all about that day in particular, so I'm not including too many details right now, but I will say that even though being stuck for a long time wasn't ideal, it has actually become one of my favorite memories. 

That's it! Happy May, everybody! Enjoy the rest of your month :-) 

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: March 2017

"Books I've Read & Places I've Loved" is a series where I talk about, yup, the books I've read and the places I've loved in a particular month (my titling skills are exquisite as we all know ;-)). 

Ahhh, March. The month of spring, rain, and St. Patrick's Day. For me, this was also the month of book reports on Pride & Prejudice, quizzes on the periodic table, and road trips to Portland, Oregon. I hope you all had a fantastic month, and I also hope you're excited for April (I know I am, although the first week is going to be insanely busy with the Les Mis performances). Anyways, without further ado, here are the books I read and the places I loved this month:

BOOKS I'VE READ

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Remember how last year I pretty much just read the Harry Potter series? This year seems to be the year I'll be reading this entire quintet. I've had the series since I was around eleven or twelve, but they've sat on my bookshelf ever since. I'd only made it to the end of the second chapter, and I have no idea why I never continued reading. I'm glad I finally finished it, because I can see now that I missed out on a lot. The dialogue is beautiful, the story is captivating, and it got me into the habit of reading before I got to sleep rather than be on my phone until 1:00 a.m. (yes that's late for me...). 

PLACES I'VE LOVED

Crepes & Burgers

I mean, the name itself should tell you how excited I was for this place to open. Ever since I moved, this place has been in the process of being built and then in the process of opening. Every time my mom and I would drive past, we'd try to look in the windows to see how they were coming along. So when it FINALLY opened, we... waited a month and a half before we went. Despite the wait, it was definitely a fun experience. If you were wondering, my mom and I got burgers (vegetarian ones), and my grandparents both got crepes. Next time I have a feeling it will switch. And yes, I said next time because this place was amazing and I can't wait to go back. 

 

Portland, Oregon

Since my mom and I had different spring breaks this year, we only had time for a long weekend trip up north to Portland, Oregon. Despite the short amount of time that we had, we managed to fit a LOT into the few days. We went to Powell's City of Books (more on this later), the Portland Art Museum (where we spent a rather alarming amount of time looking for the Impressionism), and went on a lovely and education coffee tour with one of my mom's friends from college. The picture above was taken while we were walking back to our hotel. Anyone who knows me will know that I LOVE brick buildings (it's become an obsession, really), so I was already happy to see the building. But when I saw that there was a painting on it, I had to take a picture as well. As I wrote on my Instagram post about it: "There's something about this that I love, but I'm not quite sure what it is. I think that's the point of art, though. It's supposed to make you feel something, even if you don't know what that something is." 

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: February 2017

"Books I've Read & Places I've Loved" is a series where I talk about, yup, the books I've read and the places I've loved in a particular month (my titling skills are exquisite as we all know ;-)). 

We've made it to the end of February! If your month was anything like mine, it wasn't necessarily busy, but it felt long. This is around the time of year where I tend to feel stuck and want to do something new and exciting. I went through the typical period of wanting to cut my hair, but instead of deciding against it I just went ahead and did it and now I have roughly seven inches less of hair than I did at the beginning of the month. Even though this month felt extremely long, I was able to find some ways to make it feel exciting through the books I read and the unordinary places that I visited. I hope you all had a great February, and that March will be wonderful as well!

BOOKS I'VE READ:

milk and honey by rupi kaur

After writing my last poem, I went looking for some poetry collections to read to gather some more inspiration. I wasn't able to relate to everything that is written about in this book, but I still found it extraordinary. Sometimes extraordinarily heartbreaking, but still extraordinary. One of my favorite poems is one called "grounded" and it reads: "most importantly love/ like it's the only thing you know how/ at the end of the day all this/ means nothing/ this page/ where you're sitting/ your degree/ your job/ the money/ nothing even matters/ except love and human connection/ who you loved/ and how deeply you loved them/ how you touched the people around you/ and how much you gave them" This book is split into four chapters: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. The last chapter was definitely my favorite, but I found my self underlining phrases all the way through. I highly, highly, highly recommend it. 

Rainbow in the Cloud: The Wisdom and Spirit of Maya Angelou

This little book is a collection of quotes from Maya Angelou's essays, poems, books, and interviews. It's not long, only a little over 100 pages. I read in on a Tuesday evening when I didn't have much homework and was feeling a little anxious and just a little off. I've had this book since I was fourteen, but had only read the first section. I'm guessing I stopped reading it around the time I moved and never picked up again until now, two moves later. Over half of it is now underlined, and there are small green post-it notes scattered around the pages to mark quotes I loved to much to only underline. I have a feeling that this will be a book that I will often return to. 

PLACES I'VE LOVED:

A Nursery Somewhere I'd Never Heard Of

This nursery was soooo wonderful to visit. I love flowers, and being surrounded by them on every side was really lovely. Being there made me want to buy all the seeds and start my own garden, but then I remembered that I'm not the best gardener and may end up killing all the plants in the process, so I decided against it. It was still so nice to be around flowers and the coy fish in a small pond were pretty cool too. 

The Petco Near My House

So... I didn't get a picture, but this place was most definitely a favorite of mine this month. One of my best friends came to visit me last week, and while she was here we walked to the Starbucks near my house, and then across the street to the Petco. We walked around looking for fish, which we unfortunately did not find. Eventually, I bought some guinea pig treats (because why not), and then we talked to the cashier for a few minutes. She was really nice, too. It was a simple place, and it's a simple story, but it all really made my night. 

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: January 2017

"Books I've Read & Places I've Loved" is a series that I'm starting where I talk about, yup, the books I've read and the places I've loved in a particular month (my titling skills are exquisite as we all know ;-)). 

This month started out fairly slow, and constantly picked up speed as it continued. Not only did I have finals and research papers due, but I also went to Nebraska for a college tour. I hope you all had a wonderful month, and hopefully February will be amazing for all of you!

BOOKS I'VE READ

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

For a quick backstory, you should know that this wasn't the first time I've read this book. Actually, make that attempted to read. When I was around twelve, I was given a box of books for my birthday (the dream!), and this book happened to be in it. A couple years later, I was going through all my books deciding which ones I wanted to keep and which ones I figured would be appreciated more in other places. This book ended up being given away, and a few months ago I began to regret it. In my AP Language class, we read an essay by Sherman Alexie, and I loved it. When I realized that this was the same author who wrote "that book I gave away a few years ago," I went searching to find it again. About two months ago, I found it and picked it up. 

Sorry for the long introduction, but I think it's a pretty cool story! Onto the book, though, I'm glad I picked it up again because I really loved it! It's about a thirteen-year-old boy who is half Indian and half white. The book is written in diary form (which is one of my favorite ways to read books!), and goes through his experiences as he tries to find a place in either of his two worlds. 

 

PLACES I'VE LOVED

Lincoln, Nebraska

As some of you know, I am a Junior in high school. This not only means that I have to take Chemistry (I'm counting down the days until I'm done...), but it also means that I am beginning to look into colleges. Luckily, my school gives us a certain number of days off to go look at colleges, and I went on one of the trips between the 26th-29th of this month (a more detailed description is either already posted or will be shortly). I may not like cold weather or flying in planes very much, but I loved the trip. Getting to go to a new state with some of my friends was an experience I won't soon forget, and meeting with theater and English department directors is something I won't soon forget! The picture above is me in the Nebraska State Capitol, which has an exquisite library that I never wanted to leave. 

Books I've Read & Places I've Loved: December 2016

"Books I've Read & Places I've Loved" is a series that I'm starting where I talk about, yup, the books I've read and the places I've loved in a particular month (my titling skills are exquisite as we all know ;-)). We're starting with December, which I hope was a wonderful month for all of you filled with peace and happiness. 

This month was a whirlwind. Apart from decorating for Christmas and preparing for my school's Christmas concert, I had classes to go to, tests to take, essays to write, and friends to see. Throughout all of this, I managed to read ONE book (that wasn't for school, I read a couple others but they were for classes) as well as fall in love with some not-so-everyday places. 

BOOKS I'VE READ

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Earlier this year I was watching random movie trailers on youtube when I came across a trailer for a movie called "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," and thought it looked good but felt it would be better as a book. When I found out it was originally a book, I went looking for it to read. Oddly enough, however, I kept passing it by every time I went to a bookstore and it happened to be there. There was always another book that looked better or I completely forgot that I wanted to read this one. Finally, the last time I was at a Barne's and Noble, I saw this on its own little shelf, and passed by it a good three times before picking it up. It still took me a while to actually start reading it (school and stuff), but once I started, I finished it in about three days. It has been compared to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, which I actually really liked, but I think this book stands on its own. It's funny and sweet and I would actually compare it to Paper Towns (also by John Green) before TFIOS. All in all, I really enjoyed this book. Not only was it funny and sweet, but I found it touching in a way that YA books rarely seem to be (at least in my opinion). 

PLACES I'VE LOVED

 

Some-Christmas-Tree-Place-in-Northern-California

When my grandparents needed to get their Christmas tree, they enlisted the help of me, my mom, and my brother to look for it (as they always do), and we ended up at a place that greatly resembles the one I used to go to when I was little. I know this picture doesn't have any trees in it, but it's the clearest shot I could get, and besides, who doesn't love fairy light reindeer?! I love this place not only for the Christmas trees, hot chocolate, and fairy light reindeer, but also for the beautiful sense of nostalgia I got when I was there. 

 

Cal Expo: Winter Wonderland

I know I've already shared this picture at the end of my essay on looking for the good, but I loved this place so much it had to make another appearance. This picture was taken from atop a ferris wheel and from this height you could see all the lights in all of their twinkly glory. I loved this place because of the people I was with when I was there. Friendships were made deeper, and bonds were made stronger. Although, as I've said, this night began with feelings of trepidation, it ended with smiles and a mind filled with memories sure to last for many years to come. 

_________________________

Although this would usually be where I would end these, I wanted to quickly say that since this will be my last post of 2016, I wish you all a very happy New Year! I know that 2016 was rough for many of us, and 2017 may be looking dreary, but I hope you can all join me in wishing for happiness in the new year. May we all not only find ways to make this world a better place, but find ways to bring happiness into the lives of those around us. Thank you to everyone who has been reading what I've been writing, and I will see you in the new year! 

Xoxo,

Claira