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

The Martian
Andy Weir
Progress: 31/369 pages
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. 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

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, 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!

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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!

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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!

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Blur (Review)

Blur - Steven James

(Minor disclaimer: It’s been…more than a year since I finished this book. My memory is fuzzy, but I took notes on the book and have my various status updates online to help me remember my exact feelings about this book. I gave it its rating when I first finished it, so that at least is accurate.)


I had high hopes for this when I first began. The prologue captivated me, and I’m a sucker for young adult mysteries—and ever since Thin Space by Jody Casella, I have been captivated by the possibilities of ghost stories and how much they can surprise me. This is what I expected heading into Blur, especially after such a promising beginning. However, my expectations soon began to unravel (much like Daniel’s grip on reality, actually), and I found myself less and less enthusiastic the farther I delved into the story—exactly the opposite of what should happen when reading a mystery.


I do believe James is capable of writing a captivating story, and the basic elements are there; the execution here is what becomes foggy, and the details weigh down the story’s ability to truly succeed. The main character, Daniel, was just too perfect, and there were issues with the plot of the story that never resolved. I did enjoy trying to figure out the mystery, but at the same time, there were several “plot twists” I was able to guess early in the story, which disappointed me at the end.


An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. (And again, I’m so sorry it’s taken so long. You saw the publication date was 2014, right?)


(Read the rest on my blog!)

Brave New World (Review)

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Going into this, I was basically fearing 1984 all over again—I’d been extremely disappointed by Orwell’s novel (though I loved Animal Farm when I first read it), and I was slightly terrified that Brave New World would end up exactly the same way. For the most past, it kept me more interested, although the plot itself was still rather underdeveloped. There was a huge push on political question and answer in the ending chapters, which annoyed and interested me at the same time, and I couldn’t really find anyone to sympathize with or relate to. The world building was amazing, and the writing was interesting, but as a whole, it failed to make me care about the characters or succeed in telling a real story. I think it’s worth a read if you have the time, or have been curious about this particularly famous novel, but it’s not a must-read in my book.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

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Reviews to Come

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley Blur - Steven James Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling, Stephen Fry Coin Heist - Elisa Ludwig East of Eden - John Steinbeck The Choice - Nicholas Sparks The Fine Art of Truth or Dare - Melissa Jensen Who I Kissed - Janet Gurtler Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahame-Smith The Fill-In Boyfriend - Kasie West

Well, 2015 was kind of a bust as far as reviewable books goes.


Don't let the read count fool you: I read about twelve books for one class in one semester at the beginning of the year, which were all YA/middle grade. I read about five or six books roughly for each English class I take, and multiply that by three and a half semesters in 2015, about three classes each semester with that kind of reading load. I read a lot in 2015. But somehow, I ended up with only about seventeen or so books I felt like I could actually review.


I read a lot of classics, things I'd been wanting to get to for awhile and finally got to read in class, as well as some young adult stuff for some more genre-specific classes I took. I read more than anyone else I know in school right now, and although it's been tough to read for fun and I've had to take a major break from reviewing in the past year, it wasn't because I wasn't reading. But I had to jump from book to book so quickly that I could hardly process enough to want to write a review for what I read, and it seemed so haphazard to only write reviews for a handful of them.


So I decided to scrap all the books I read for class last year and write reviews when I eventually reread them--on my own time. There are lots of books I read for class that I'll want to revisit (like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, for instance), and others I probably won't ever attempt again (like The Bone People). And although it means that my "read count" for challenges both here and on GoodReads make it seem like I barely made a dent in my 70 book goal, I think I easily read that many books in 2015, although it won't show in my reviews.


I am making a goal for 2016 to be better. I'm going to be super busy for awhile, at least through this semester (which ends at the end of February). I'm in a musical, I'm a vice president in a club, I'm a part-time employee, I'm helping to judge a book award, and I'm a straight-A student. I turned twenty-one yesterday, so my new years' resolutions usually hold a heavier weight for me because I'm also looking toward a new year of my life, and another kind of fresh start. I'm saddened by the fact that my love for reading has become more work than pleasure, so I'm determined to make sure I read at least one chapter of something not for school each day so I can keep up with my passion and the books I've accumulated. It's probably best for me to set small goals, especially because I recently went on a book buying binge, and now I can look forward to 2016 by reading books I've put on hold a long time. 


So, here's to the new year! I'll be reading more (although I set a more reasonable pleasure goal at 30 for this year--even my summer break will be shorter than usual, and I'll have graduated by Halloween), and I'll be getting to books I've wanted for read for a long time. I've started Fellowship of the Ring over again because Tolkien just makes me downright happy, but I'm getting new stuff in as well. All in all, I'm excited for what 2016 and being twenty-one brings me. Above are the first ten reviews I'll be writing for stuff I read in 2015 (for fun). 


Thanks for all your patience this year, and here's to progress!


Dollhouse (Review)

Dollhouse - Anya Allyn

Okay, you’ll have to cut me a little slack because it’s been awhile (read: just over a year) since I read this book, so unfortunately, my review won’t be terribly detailed. It’s a little fitting, though, because this book was practically the definition of vague—I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of keeping track of the scenery and all that while I was reading, but by the end, I had realized I had absolutely no idea what this dollhouse looked like inside, except for maybe a room or two. The premise was interesting in and of itself, but the novel introduced so many mysterious concepts without answering any questions that it was hard to stay focused. On top of that, there was just awkward dialogue and a love triangle that seemed there to create drama more than develop the characters, so all in all, I wasn’t a huge fan of this book. It ended on a cliffhanger, but I’m not really dying to read the next book.


An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


What I Liked: Spoilers!

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Fires of Invention - J. Scott Savage

Okay, I pushed through the last hundred pages so I could finish today. I only had one more real complaint about this whole book, and that's that Trenton is so quick to believe he's been found out. There were probably at least four or five times that someone alluded to perhaps knowing what he was up to, and he practically breaks down and tells them everything. For instance, his parents are like, "You've been sneaking around with a girl." OMG, they know about Kallista! "*smiling broadly* Let's have her over for dinner!" OMG, they're going to grill Kallista about our secret plans! "Don't you have a girlfriend?" Oh... they don't know anything.


Same thing happens with Angus a few times. "I KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING." HOW??!!!! "DON'T THINK YOU'LL GET HER TO LIKE YOU." Why would I be trying to get Kallista to like me?? Maybe I should ask him that out loud. "WTF, who's Kallista, I'm talking about Simoni, wait, who IS Kallista, should I be concerned about this?" SHOOT I MISUNDERSTOOD EVERYTHING, REWIND, REWIND.


Anyway. Sometimes it was frustrating to watch Trenton almost give himself away so many times because he constantly jumped to conclusions. If I were him and doing a bunch of illegal crap, I would probably respond to accusations like these with something like, "What did you find out?" instead of "HOW IN THE WORLD DID YOU FIGURE OUT MY SECRET PLANS?!?!?" You know. It's better sneaking.


All in all, pretty solid and enjoyable, all things considered. It sets up the series pretty nicely (although the ending seemed a little too nicely packaged).