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the search for my favorite book

I like to think I know myself very well as a reader. I like to think I have an intuitive instinct when choosing books. I read a variety of things, and I like to think I can enjoy any genre if I'm up for it. But despite what I might think, I am not a book wizard by any standard. I can't pull the perfect book out of thin air, but whenever I pick up a new book to read, I always expect it to become a new favorite. I never decide to read books I know I'll hate just for fun (I've heard of people who do this... just why?). But unfortunately, despite my efforts to only read books I know I will love, it doesn't always work out the way I expect, and I frequently end up disappointed.

When I was younger it seemed like every other book I was able to finish somehow made the cut to my list of favorites. Back when I was reading things like The Lord of the Rings, Watership Down, A Wrinkle in Time, Ella Enchanted, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. But as I've grown older and more mature in my reading, and as I've read more and more books, it has become increasingly harder for me to find books that I can enthusiastically recommend to others as new all time favorites. I've read a lot of books I like and that I definitely think other people would like as well, I've just noticed that it's becoming difficult for books to break through and completely blow me away.

In the past several months I have read a lot more than I have in a long long time. I'm excited and passionate about reading again. However, none of the many many books I've read recently have lingered in my mind or have changed the way I think or process things. None have left me wrecked and desperately wanting more. I've enjoyed most of them and I'm glad I've read them, but there was no spark and no WOW reaction as I finished them.

I'm constantly comparing and ranking everything I read against my old favorites. Sometimes I worry that I might never find another book that will make me feel the same as others have made me feel. It's sad and discouraging at times. But for some reason or other I keep reading. I keep adding new books to my TBR. I keep following new authors.
I keep searching for new favorites because I know that they're out there somewhere. You never know when a book you pick up will surprise you and teach you something new and blow your mind. I'm on a continuing search for a new favorite book. It's a search that never ends, even after I find one. But that's what I love about reading.

Book Review | Life After Life

| goodreads |
Imagine a book that is one part Downton Abbey and one part Groundhog Day (or Before I Fall. or any story where you are reliving the same things over and over again) and that is what sort of book Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is.
This story is as charming as it is haunting as it follows Ursula Todd and the many lives she lives. Every time Ursula dies, since she was first born in 1910 as a stillborn, her life begins again, like death is nothing more than a reset button for her.

It's a really interesting and thought provoking read. It's astonishing to see how extremely different Ursula's lives are one after the other. This book makes you think deeply about how each tiny choice you make or experience you have can affect who you are and who you will eventually become.

The writing was absolutely breathtaking! Kate Atkinson's style was unlike anything I've ever read. It envelopes you and pulls you in. I also really really loved the atmosphere she created with the time period, jumping between the two World Wars in an English setting. Throughout all of Ursula's lives, the reader is able to see the war through the eyes of so many people, which is what I liked the most about this book.

There are so so many characters that come in and out of all of Ursula's stories, and they are all important in some shape or form. I especially found Sylvie and Teddy to be interesting, and I wanted to delve deeper into who they were and what was happening to them. I felt like in the end a lot of questions about several characters were left a little open ended.

While I did enjoy this book for the most part, it did fall flat in some ways for me. The main thing was that it is an extremely slow read. I don't usually mind slow reads, but this book dragged on and on and on in some areas. It was very weak plot-wise. There was no grand adventure or mission or discovery that was guiding the story. You're literally just reading about Ursula's different lives over and over and over again. The writing kept me going, but I couldn't help but want a little more, especially since I love books that have a rich and detailed plot.

I found Ursula's character to be frustrating at times. She was extremely naïve about a lot of things which led to very bad situations (major trigger warnings for abuse with this one). Overall I didn't feel as interested in Ursula as I was with other characters in the book as I was reading.

The biggest problem I had, however, was the ending. It just sort of ended. I wanted more closure. I wanted to know if Ursula would ever die peacefully and normally, or if she would finally come to realize the fact that her life is an endless cycle.

I wanted this book to become a new favorite. I loved the premise, the writing was absolutely phenomenal, and it is definitely a perfect cozy rainy-day read. I just had a couple of problems with it personally that I would've changed.
“What if we had a chance to do it again and again, until we finally did get it right? Wouldn't that be wonderful?” 
― Kate AtkinsonLife After Life

the skies I'm under

I wish I could say I have learned to love the skies I'm under. But that would be a lie. It's so hard to be content with the place where I am now when my heart aches and moans for more.

Always stuck in the monotonous pattern of work and sleep and wishing to break from it all. 
Pouring over photographs on travel blogs and in books, wondering if they do the world justice. 
Studying my French, worrying that I might never get the chance to use it.
Watching from a distance as friends, family, and acquaintances take spontaneous vacations and cross-country road trips in the peak of summer.
When there are countries upon countries full of people I haven't met.
When I know there are so many mountains and jungles and deserts and oceans I haven't seen.
When I am so small and when this world is so so big.
And when God is even bigger, yet for some reason unknown to me He keeps me here.  

It's been hard for me to understand why I am where I am. But I'm trying and trusting.

"but who's going to be tsar then?"

| goodreads |
I could probably qualify as an honorary historian of the Romanov family. I have studied their fascinating story for many years merely out of my own curiosity. I have watched documentaries and I've read many books and articles about the family and their heartbreaking assassination in 1918.
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie is considered to be a classic among people who study the Romanov family, and I knew that I needed to read it someday in order to satisfy more of my unquenchable interest in the Romanovs.

This book surprised me. It was different than how I expected it to be. Based on the title, I was expecting this book to mainly document the relationship and lives of Nicholas and Alix, but there was so so so much more.

It was so incredibly, astonishingly rich in historical detail. I was nerding out a lot more than I probably should have as I was connecting the political dots together during the chapters on World War I. This is the type of book that you have no choice but to give your full attention to so that you don't lose track of who is related to who and what all was going on during this time in history.

However, this book does also focus a lot on the lives of Nicholas and Alix, as it promises. When I was finished reading, I felt as if I knew Nicholas and Alexandra intimately. I think it's easy for people studying history to forget that they were just human beings like everyone else. They made mistakes,  they had feelings, and people they cared about. I felt like I especially understood Nicholas and who he was as a tsar far better after I read this book than I did before.
Reading Nicholas and Alexandra made me think about history in a different way. It helped me understand Nicholas, Alix, Alexis, Rasputin, and the Bolshevik revolutionaries more.

Another aspect that surprised me about this account of the Romanov family is the amount of detail it went into Alexis and his battle with hemophilia. Everyone knows now that the tsarevich struggled throughout his whole life with hemophilia, inherited from his mother, but I had never really thought about how heartbreaking it was, and how Alexis' disease played a role in changing the course of history for Russia and the world.

It wrecks me to think that the tragic deaths of the Romanov family really happened, but they did. History is real. And it's crazy to think how every little thing is connected and how history has shaped the way the world is today.
Nicholas and Alexandra is a beautifully written testament to the Romanovs, in the hopes that their story won't ever be forgotten.
“I have a secret conviction," [Nicholas] once told one of his ministers, "that I am destined for a terrible trial, that I shall not receive my reward on this earth” 
― Robert K. MassieNicholas and Alexandra
because this song kept playing over and over in my head as I was reading