Thalia @ Pictures in the Words

I'm Thalia! I run a book blog called Pictures in the Words and I hope to be an editor for YA fiction. I'm a GoodReads refugee!



Currently Reading

Stand-Off (Winger)
Andrew Smith, Sam Bosma
Progress: 105/401 pages
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter
Progress: 193/432 pages
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J.K. Rowling
Progress: 43/766 pages
The Children of Húrin
J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien
Progress: 313/313 pages
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
J.K. Rowling
Progress: 70/636 pages
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
J.K. Rowling
Progress: 320/320 pages
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
J.K. Rowling
Progress: 251/251 pages
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
J.K. Rowling, Mary GrandPré
Progress: 264/309 pages
The Unwritten Rule
Elizabeth Scott
Progress: 210/210 pages

105 of 401 (26%)

Stand-Off (Winger) - Andrew Smith, Sam Bosma

Holy cow. It's been awhile since I read Winger, and I worried that maybe I would have outgrown Ryan Dean's absurd narration. Note: I have outgrown nothing, and he still has me laughing out loud.


Andrew Smith has created such a unique character with Ryan Dean, and I am so thrilled to find the changes in his character since the events of Winger. I've already laughed out loud AND cried (within about five minutes of each other), which is always a good sign. I'm so excited to see where this goes and to finally be back into reading!


Red (Review)

Red - Alison Cherry

This is yet another book I initially read about a year and a half ago, but since I remember enjoying it, I decided to reread it so I could review it better. To my relief, despite lower-rated reviews I read from friends, I found that I still enjoyed Red for all its goofiness and craziness.


The second I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I needed to have it. I’ve been dying my hair a coppery red since I was fifteen, and it’s actually astounding how many people feel slightly betrayed when they discover that I’m not actually a redhead. I’ve had “real” redheads poke fun at me, and while I don’t care if people know I dye my hair, I sometimes feel a little bit like a liar when someone (especially strangers) compliment my hair color. My reaction is always to say, “Thanks, I dye it,” like I want them to know I can’t take credit for it.


That could be why I enjoyed Red so much, despite its immaturity and its flaws. I usually don’t go for books that can’t convince me to believe in its world, but fortunately I found that Cherry convinced me quite easily that Scarletville is a real place, and the people there are really kind of messed up. Felicity is a perfect narrator for the novel because she changes the most, and she’s not intentionally cruel but just kind of clueless. Felicity learning that her hair color—and everyone else’s, too—doesn’t matter is a perfect metaphor for the insignificant differences we all have that we can get hung up on.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

read more »

The Fill-in Boyfriend (Review)

The Fill-In Boyfriend - Kasie West

When I first read this in 2015, it was the only book I gave five stars that year. Admittedly, I wasn’t reading as much as I would have liked, and I’ve been in a hardcore reading slump since then, but still—one five star book is a little disappointing. I never wrote the review because things got in the way and I didn’t make time, but as I started looking back on my experience with this book, I started to worry that maybe I didn’t like it as much as I’d remembered. Maybe it was just the kind of book I needed at the time. Maybe it wasn’t all that great after all, and I was looking at it through rose-colored lenses.


That worry resulted in me picking it up again today to see how I really felt about it. And guess what? I loved it just as much as I did the first time! I read it (again) in one sitting, and I fell in love (again) with the characters and their stories. This is my first encounter with Kasie West, and I’d always been meaning to read so many of her books, but The Fill-in Boyfriend really sold me on absolutely everything. It is the perfect summer read—heck, it’s the perfect it’s-still-winter-even-though-it-should-be-spring-now read, too. It is the perfect chick-lit romance without shoving insta-love or cheesiness down your throat. I highly, highly, highly recommend it, and I’m so grateful that it will always be on my shelf for those days when I just need to escape reality and dive into something satisfying.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

read more »

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Review)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith

This is another book I finished about a year and a half ago, so my review will be rather short and to the point (as three-star reviews tend to be anyway).


Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was certainly the odd read, and not at all what I expected. I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which was also written by Grahame-Smith, but Abraham Lincoln proved to be incredibly different. It still had all the quirky gore and fight scenes, but with the uninspiring narration of a biography.


I am not very good at suspending my disbelief when the author doesn’t 100% convince me certain things are possible in the world they have created. Anyone who knows me knows I love fantasy and other unrealistic fiction, but you’ve got to get me to believe in your world before I can let myself enjoy something. Grahame-Smith’s world here is very much our ordinary world, except it includes vampires. This is fine, but I get stuck at the biography-but-still-a-narrative concept presented in this particular book. The book’s synopsis tells us that Grahame-Smith supposedly discovered The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, which explains passages of this book that are directly quoted from Lincoln in that diary. It does not, however, explain any of the perfect dialogue exchanged between characters throughout the book. It would have succeeded much more in its believability had it just been written like a narrative, without pretending to be a biography. The dialogue brings me completely out of the story because I am constantly reminded that there is no way the author of any biography could know exact conversations that happened between people hundreds of years ago.


Aside from this, though, the rest of it does sell you on its genre (biography), and I really would have enjoyed it much more without so much dialogue. I still felt emotionally attached to a lot of the characters, especially Lincoln’s family, and it was cool to see a “secret” side of history. I find conspiracy theories fascinating, and this felt very similar to that. I do generally enjoy Grahame-Smith’s writing (since I loved one of his other books), but this one wasn’t all that memorable for me and I would probably by-pass it when recommending books to someone.


There is only one other thing that made this impossible for me to believe, but since it’s a huge spoiler, it is going under a “read more” tab!


read more »

Who I Kissed (Review)

Who I Kissed - Janet Gurtler

This is another book that I finished approximately a year and a half ago, and I have exactly two status updates for it on Booklikes… This review will be short and to-the-point (as three-star reviews tend to be anyway).


On the plus side, I thought this was an interesting storyline that raises some awareness for kids with allergies. Eating a peanut butter sandwich and then kissing someone are not two events I would ever connect, and Gurtler brings the details together in a way that fits nicely. Sam’s family really made this enjoyable to me, and I always appreciate when parents or other family members take the spotlight sometimes in books (family usually ends up on the back burner in YA, unfortunately). Sam’s dad and her aunt helped her grow and find peace, which I appreciated.


(Spoilers ahead!)


read more »

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare (Review)

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare - Melissa Jensen

(This is what it looks like when I graduate from college and I finally come off hiatus with my reviews!)


Anyway, so it’s been about a year and a half since I finished this book, which is shameful, I know. Unfortunately, my notes while reading this were not spectacular, so I will not be going into a lot of detail with my review here. I did enjoy The Fine Art of Truth or Dare, but I suppose one of the tests of how good a book is is how much you can recall its story and characters long after it’s over. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare has not really kept its place in my head very clearly, which is one of the reasons I didn’t give it a perfect rating. It was fairly average in storyline and character development, so it’s easily forgettable. (To be honest, I don’t remember the “truth or dare” part of this at all, which does not bode well for the memorability of this story.)


The Fine Art of Truth or Dare is about a girl named Ella who is obsessed with an old artist named Edward Willing—and I do mean obsessed. Although I completely understand her fascination with a long-dead artist, it took up way too much of the plot. I felt like more time was spent on uncovering the true life of Edward Willing than on Ella’s budding relationship with Alex. It’s not that I thought it made Ella unrealistic or I didn’t think it was interesting—I’d been going through similar experiences with one of my long-dead idols, Edgar Allan Poe, discovering his life was not quite the dramatic tragedy I’d wanted it to be—but it didn’t have a place in this particular story. It made it terribly difficult to root for the main couple of the novel when so much time was spent away from the characters’ interactions together.


That being said, I obviously still enjoyed the book quite a bit, and I think I would read it again someday. Ella’s friends, Sadie and Frankie, are so wonderfully written, and I found myself relating much more to Sadie than Ella, hahah. Ella’s self-consciousness and fears about liking someone who seems so far above her will be relatable to many teenagers who have felt inadequate while having a crush. The whole narration was certainly much better than many young adult novels out there right now, and it’s good if you’re looking for something light-hearted, but done fairly well.


See the full thing on my blog!

193 of 432 (45%)

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien,  Christopher Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter

It is actually shameful how long it's taken me to read only this much of Tolkien's letters. In my defense, my last semester of school was crazy, and I have about a million sticky notes in this because I used so much of it for my essay. I stopped having time to read it when I started writing my thesis, and then when I graduated, I was just like, "I NEED A BREAK FROM READING," and haven't touched just about anything since...


For those who don't know (I'm assuming most of you), I wrote my senior thesis on The Lord of the Rings because I'm a nerd. Usually, the English department of my school wouldn't allow a thesis on something that hasn't really broken into the classical literature mold (dumb scholars have a hard time accepting fantasy as great literature, even now), but my teachers also knew me well enough to see that I was passionate about Tolkien in a way that I could craft a unique, critical thesis of his work and make it academic.


(I did awesome, by the way, ya'll can read it if you want.)


ANYWAY, The Letters of JRR Tolkien was my greatest asset to writing this paper, and the more I read from Tolkien about crafting The Lord of the Rings, the more I love it and him and everything he accomplished. I truly believe Tolkien is a genius for this work, and my heart breaks a little bit every time I meet someone who hasn't read (or even seen) The Lord of the Rings because you're seriously missing out on one of the greatest stories in English literature.


I'm currently in the middle of a letter to Peter Hastings, who criticized Tolkien for playing God too much in his work by allowing things that God (as Catholics believe) does not do in reality. I think the whole world could do with a lesson from Tolkien about not allowing ridiculous accusations from people to bother him. This response of his is incredibly long, and he addresses everything so perfectly, but in the end, he never sent it because "it seemed to be taking myself too importantly."


Also, I found out what happened to the Ent-wives, which I literally never knew. Apparently they were all either killed or enslaved by Sauron, and the remaining Ent-wives moved West, only to be taken captive by the people in those lands. They eventually fell asleep as prisoners and never woke up (just like the Ents that Treebeard says have forgotten what they truly are). So in case you need some morbidity in your life, every fruit tree you see is just an enslaved Ent-wife...

I'm Back! (Does this Feel like Deja Vu?)

For real, though, how many posts do I have about being "back," and I never actually returned?




(Most likely.)


The thing is that I really miss reading. I haven't finished a single book since I graduated college even though I've had oodles of time. Other things have been keeping me occupied, but looking back, I can't pinpoint any of those things. Is being an adult the feeling that sitting down to read for an hour is somehow wasting time?? 


Anyway, I am trying my hardest to jump back on my reading bandwagon. I feel like I've missed SO MUCH in the reading world. I found out that one of my favorite books ever, Winger by Andrew Smith, has a SEQUEL that I never knew of, and I borrowed a copy from my boss/church lady. I'm really hoping this will push me back into reading. I burned myself out on all my Tolkien research, and as much as I love him dearly, I need a break from Letters


So here's the update on me!


I have a new job as a tutor in a school district in Oregon. It is, so far, only two days a week, but I'm hoping to be hired at a second school soon. I love tutoring, and even though I tire of the "Do you want to be a teacher?" question (English tutor/English degree--NO, I do not want to be a teacher), I enjoy what I do. Talking with students about what I love to read has also inspired me to try to get back into reviewing.


I am also doing Weight Watchers. It's harder to admit that here than I thought it would be (even though I know next to nobody will read this). As Thalia, I've done a good job of leaving my problems at the door, and my self-image regarding my weight is one of those things. As Thalia, faceless and essentially nameless, I've been able to pretend that I am whatever weight I want to be. Weight is not part of my reviewing (except on a few occasions when I've read books about weight issues). So there it is.


But, hey, don't cry for me, Argentina! I am SO happy on this program, SO happy with my progress, and I feel more confident than I have in years. I've been going since Jan. 4th, and I'm already down 14.6lbs, so you could say I'm feeling pretty good. Of course, I still have about a hundred pounds to go, but I'm taking it one day at a time. I'm telling you guys because it might factor into my mindset when it comes to reading now, and hey, maybe you care about who I am outside of what I like to read.


Anyway, things are slow for now, and becoming physically healthy makes me want to start working my brain again, too, and reading/reviewing really does that for me! I need to catch up on a lot of reviews for books I finished awhile ago, but I'm starting up my blog again, starting up BookLikes, and starting up GoodReads. I love it here, of course, but the truth is that nothing so far can compete with GoodReads when it comes to cataloguing. The reviewing politics drove me away from everything in the first place, and I can't keep up anymore.


(Side note: I hope politics doesn't stop me from enjoying books, too. It is not a secret that I'm a conservative Mormon on the internet, and well, sometimes that makes me feel like a black sheep. I will continue, as I always have, to keep my blog/reviews politics-free.) 

43 of 766 (6%)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  - J.K. Rowling

I made it to the fifth Harry Potter book!


This is indeed my first time reading Order of the Phoenix, and I'll admit I remember next to nothing from the film... So this is finally like a new experience for me, and I won't be anticipating much, which will be great. I know a lot of people hate this movie, but I like the book so far. Harry finally has some realistic emotions, and I'm excited to see the effect Cedric's death has on Harry throughout the rest of the books. 


Harry is still at home for now, but it's been eventful! What is happening with Aunt Petunia?? 


The Choice (Review)

The Choice - Nicholas Sparks

This is the eleventh Nicholas Sparks book I’ve read, and I haven’t yet gotten through all the ones I own. I keep hoping I’ll pick up another gem like A Walk to Remember, but that hasn’t quite happened yet. Usually, I despise the characters in these books, so it was actually a pleasant surprise to be able to stand both Gabby and Travis, our love interests. However, neither of them had any major flaws, which is irritating, and I’ve gotten over my high school fantasy of love at first sight—the notion is no longer romantic or dreamy, just unrealistic and boring. Unfortunately, this book isn’t really what is pretends to be. It’s not a love story about how Gabby and Travis come together through their struggles and difficulties—that’s about half the book, and everything else is spent on completely different events. As a result, I ended up being bored by the story and unimpressed with the way things played out.


(It's a two star book for me. I forgot to rate the book before I wrote the review, so it's not showing up on this post.)


What I Liked: Spoilers!

read more »

East of Eden (Review)

East of Eden - John Steinbeck

I had been afraid that, when I didn’t like Of Mice and Men, I was doomed to dislike Steinbeck, one of the supposedly greatest writers of the twentieth century. Then, I was pulled in the opposite direction when I fell in love with The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. I needed something else to determine what I actually thought about his work and his writing. East of Eden was that for me.


So here we are, and I think I’ve finally figured it out—I like Steinbeck! More than like—I think he has a magnificent way with words, and I’m invested in his stories and characters. This book was a monster in terms of its size (my copy was more than seven hundred pages), but I was never once bored or uninterested in what was happening with the characters. It jumped around, but came together in such a way that brought absolutely everything together seamlessly. I only had two real complaints about this book, and one of those is that I felt the Eden/biblical metaphor could have been extended and more pronounced than it was, but overall, this book pulled me out of my awful reading slump and finally gave me something decent to enjoy.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

read more »

Coin Heist (Review)

Coin Heist - Elisa Ludwig

It’s been roughly a year and a half since I read this book. That being said, I give mad props to book bloggers who manage to juggle their blogging responsibilities while maintaining good grades in their classes because I had absolutely no time to manage my blog during school. However, I have now graduated from college with a degree in English and creative writing, and I’m ready to start catching up!


However, lots of my reviews for books I read a long time ago (like this one) simply aren’t going to be very detailed… That’s my fault for having put these off for so long, and not writing reviews when I finish a book, like I used to. So instead of my usually detailed “What I Liked/What I Didn’t Like” sections, I’m going to give a basic overview of why I rated this book the way I did (since I, unfortunately, can’t remember enough to make a pros and cons list).


Coin Heist started out okay enough for me, although the four points of view made it difficult for me to engage in the narrative. One thing that I’ve found especially difficult for writers of multiple-POV novels is making the characters’ voices different enough that it’s believable. Unfortunately, Ludwig did not succeed in creating those distinctions for me, and the characters all blurred and muddled together in a way they shouldn’t have for how “diverse” they were supposed to be.


In addition, the concept of teenagers robbing a bank has the taste of “lame teenage movie” for me because there’s no good way for it to end. Either the characters have to decide not to go through with their plan (since promoting robbery to teenagers isn’t a great idea) or something will happen that they need go through with their plans in order to stop something bad from happening (even though they’ve changed their minds). And then if that happens, they will either barely escape, or they will be caught by security guards who let them go because they didn’t mean any harm anymore. This is almost exactly how Coin Heist ended, with a few more details specific to the plot of the novel (what with the school’s financial situation and everything). It was like there was no way to impress me as a reader because the ending had been determined by the basic plot idea.


While nothing stood out to me so much as to make me hate this book, it also failed to shine as an impressive novel because the characters were lackluster and one-dimensional, and there was absolutely no surprise or suspense in the plot at all. I wish I could have enjoyed it more (and I wish I could have written a better review… a year and a half ago), but it needed more suspense and color to make it stand out.




The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien

Well, what the frick??


This book was an emotional nightmare... I mean, I learned a lot of great things, and I absolutely love everything about the Middle-earth universe, but... frick, man!


On the plus side, I am pursing the seven deadly sins/seven virtues in Tolkien's characters. There was a lot of the traditional pride cycle in Turin's character here, and I want to see what I can find when I look at other Tolkien characters in Middle-earth. Then I could argue that Tolkien succeeded in creating his own mythology for England because mythology is usually tied to religion, and this would create a firm tie to religion, etc. 


Wish me luck!

(And bring me some tissues...)

66 of 313 (21%)

The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien

"But upon all whom you love my thought shall weight as a cloud of Doom, and it shall bring them down into darkness and despair. Wherever they go, evil shall arise. Whenever they speak, their words shall bring ill counsel. Whatsoever they do shall turn against them. They shall die without hope, cursing both life and death."




Sometimes, I feel like I know a lot about Lord of the Rings, and in my arrogance, I feel like a little bit like an expert. However, the more I learn about Tolkien's world, the more I realize I know basically nothing. 


Middle-earth's lore and legend is SO DETAILED. It's so precise, so seamless, and I can't even comprehend the depth of Tolkien's genius. Additionally, as someone who is religious, I keep seeing crazy parallels to Christianity that are so perfect. 


I'm still searching for my thesis, but I've been playing with the idea of east vs. west because that has been a consistent theme through both Lord of the Rings and this. East is the direction of danger, fear, and adventure, while safety, protection, and divinity lie in the West. This is a pretty good reflection of orientalism in literature, but I don't know what it means yet. 



13 of 313 (4%)

The Children of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien



So I've been gone for a long time, I know, but I am back for a little bit. I'm going to be playing catch up for sure once I graduate college (in October!!!), but until then, I have a senior paper to think about, and a killer thesis to find.


I want desperately to write about Tolkien, so I have been reading a lot of Tolkien. However, on the recommendation of a friend, I am taking a break in my reread of the trilogy (just finished Two Towers) to read The Children of Hurin because he thinks it'll have more connections to classic tragedy that I can follow to form a solid thesis. 


This is the first time in awhile that I've read new Tolkien because 1) I don't have a lot of time to read outside of class, and 2) when I do read Tolkien, I go back to what I know, but I am incredibly excited right now. 


In order to keep more detailed notes on my thoughts, you might see a lot of updates from me as I read this book, which will be a huge difference from the gap of silence there has been from me for the last two years, hahah. But here we go!

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Review)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - J.K. Rowling

When my friend Chris discovered I’d thrown in the towel on the Harry Potter books years ago, there was a whirlwind of disbelief. And, long story short, I went home for the summer with a copy of his book in my duffle bag and a promise to actually read the whole series, even if it was just to say that I had. So, here you go, Chris. I finished the first book! (Which you know happened a long time ago, but here’s the long overdue review.)


The thing is, I just didn’t enjoy the books that I did read. I tried when I was fourteen or fifteen, and the writing just didn’t do it for me. I love the movies to death, so it’s not the story or the characters that turned me away from the books; I’m just very particular about writing style. It’s always terrified me a little to go back to them—because Harry Potter is very dear to a lot of people, and, to be honest, I was slightly afraid that if I didn’t like it and wrote a less-than-glowing review, I might get bombarded. But I’m just going to hold my breath and hit the “post” button anyway and let the chips fall where they may. And while it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it, I’m still not totally sold—though I’m aware that it’s supposed to be a children’s story and (hopefully) Rowling’s writing matures in the later books.


The first book, for me, was okay. I wasn’t necessarily hooked, but it wasn’t bad either. I do think they’ll get better as I go, which I’m looking forward to, and I’m glad I finally went back to it, even if just to satisfy the completionist in me.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

read more »