Monday, June 30, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is probably one of the best books I've ever read.

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my sophomore year of high school. And it was amazing. I loved it when I read it then. But almost 10 years have passed, and my book club decided to read it, so I sat down Thursday and read it all over again.  And I think I loved it even more this time.

There's basically three parts to this story: the first and main part is the childhood of the main character Jean Louise "Scout" Finch. This book was originally published in 1960, but it was set during the 1930s. Scout is a hell of a main character to come out of that time combination. She's sassy and relentless. She's damn near fearless. And she is exactly the opposite of what good society considers a little lady to be. The second part of the story is the tale of Scout's neighbor Boo Radley. He's a shut-in who has become more or less a town legend. Nobody has seen him in years, and when Dill--Scout's friend who is staying in town for the summers-- finds out about him, Dill just wants to get him to come out. Dill latches onto the idea with all the vigor of youth, and no adults can persuade them otherwise. Finally, the third story is a trial which Scout's father is working as a defense lawyer. 

Lee intertwines these stories magnificently, and I have a hard time finding flaws in the story telling at all. My only irritation is that Scout frequently gets angry when her brother calls her a "girl" -- which is more of a product of the time, and my own continued irritation that being a girl is a bad thing than anything else.

I would recommend this to everyone. If for some reason, this wasn't required reading at your high school, pick it up, Even if it was required reading, give it another read. It's such a powerful novel.

Favorite Quotes: Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.
[B]efore I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself.
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too.
He told me havin' a gun around's an invitation to somebody to shoot you.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Ten Tiny Breaths by K. A. Tucker was a delightful, quick read. I enjoyed Tucker's character development and writing style quite a bit.

The main character Kacey is relateable and not perpetually annoying, although sometimes Tucker overfocuses on what Kacey's thinking. It can seem a little obviously first person if that makes sense. The love interest, Trent, could use a little bit more development, I think, although he does stand independently.

The relationship had a pretty decent build-up, but the end wrapped up a bit too quickly for my tastes.

Overall, it's a great addition to the New Adult genre.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

How do you consume something without contributing to something else?

Hello Lovelies!

So it's another installment of YA Rants, where I talk about things that drive me nutso in the book community.

Today, I want to talk about consuming without contributing. Now, I know you might be thinking that I'm going to go into a lecture about giving back and not just taking information in but also expelling some type of creative force. But actually, I want to know the reverse. How do you read something without giving money/popularity to it? Or I guess, how far do you go in boycotting something?

So let me get down to the nitty gritty of this post. There's this company called Full Fathom Five. It's run by James Frey (Yes that James Frey. The one behind A Million Little Pieces.) Basically it's a Young Adult packaging company. There's a great article by NY Mag explaining the situation here. And there's a great blogpost by Debby about why she's boycotting Full Fathom Five books here.  I suggest you read those really quick before you continue. It'll help make the rest of this make more sense. Seriously. I'll just wait here.

You ready?

Okay. So some of the titles being released by the company actually look really good ( I think No One Else Can Have You looks amazing and Dorothy Must Die looks pretty decent for instance.) But I in no way want to contribute to this company. So how do you get around this problem?

I can't buy the books. That gives money to the company. I can't rent them from the library because then it gives the library the idea that they should have it in stock because it's popular (which means the library has to buy copies of the book which means the company gets money.). I can't illegally download it (first because it's probably not available. Secondly because if I do and they see the statistics for that it'll make the book seem more popular, making them think that they're doing a swell job with their company.) So how do I consume the content without supporting the company?

And then on a second level, Harper is the company publishing these books. Should I stop supporting Harper as well? And if I stop supporting Harper should I also stop supporting Harper Collins, their parent company? How far should I go in making my displeasure known?

Here's a list of Harper titles I have on my shelves to read right now:
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
How to Read Literature Like a Professor For Kids by Thomas C. Foster
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Here's a list of Harper Collins titles I have on my shelves to read right now (Just the one! I was surprised):
The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon

Here's a list of other Harper Collins books I have on my shelves through their other imprints:
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (HarperSanFrancisco)
How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Strohmeyer (Balzer+Bray)
The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (HarperTorch)
Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani (HarperTeen)
Gone by Michael Grant (HarperTeen)
Conrad's Fate by Diana Wynne Jones (Greenwillow Book)
Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson (HarperTeen)
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (Balzer+Bray)
Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn (HarperTempest)
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (HarperVoyager)
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb (ReganBooks)
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Walden Pond Press)
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (HarperTrophy)
Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie (HarperPaperbacks)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperTorch)
Losing It by Cora Carmack (William Morrow)
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick (Balzer+Bray)

I think I'll probably read all these because these are books I have already physically purchased (or in a couple cases borrowed), so there isn't really anything I can do about it now. And I'm really really excited to read some of these books! So what do I do in the future? Do I boycott just Full Fathom Five titles? Do I boycott Harper books as well because they're publishing Full Fathom Five titles? Do I boycott all HarperCollins imprints because they're all part of the same major company? I've been thinking about this a lot lately and I haven't come up with an answer. So let me know what you think in comments!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton is a very interesting short story. I finished it yesterday, and even after mulling it over for a full 24 hours, I'm not sure how I felt about it.

On the one hand, the atmosphere was well described. I was sitting outside in the sun, but I could picture the harsh yet beautiful New England winter setting. And hey, unrequited, disastrous love stories are sort of my thing.

But on the other hand, this is so much Ethan's story. Like I wasn't even sure if his love was reciprocated until like 10 pages from the end. So I don't know that I would necessarily call it a love story at all. I didn't necessarily dislike the novel, I just really didn't like it either.

Anyway, I read it for my book club, and I'm interested to see what type of conversation we have about it.

Favorite Quote: "It was intoxicating to find such magic in his clumsy words, and he longed to try new ways of using it."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hello Lovelies!! I'm back with another Top Ten Tuesday, as always hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is Top Ten Books to be Read This Summer. So in no particular order:

What about you, lovelies? Have you read any of these? Are any of these on your to-read list? Let me know in the comments!

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare is the third installment in the Mortal Instruments series. I could definitely tell that this was supposed to be the end of the series. A lot of the "major" moments were ruined for me because I knew there were three more books coming.

It took me about 130 pages or so to get into this book. Partly it might have been because I read the last book about a year ago, so I was a little shaky on how things ended. But then it started to pick up and coalesce. Really only to come crashing down about a hundred pages after that.

I called the plot "twist" basically immediately. And I told my friend that and she was like No, you can't have! It'll be so surprising! And I was like, maybe I'm wrong? But I also kept yelling at the characters constantly: You're an idiot! Of course that's not right! Duhhhhhhhhhhhh.  I don't really like stories that I can predict right away. I like to be able to ponder it out. Or if I do predict it, I like to be mislead if even for a moment into thinking what I had predicted was wrong. So I was let down in that respect.

Also ~~~spoilers~~~~  I hate unnecessary character deaths. And like there's a really really unnecessary one in this book. So that was just irritating to me. I didn't feel emotionally distraught because I just went straight to rage monster.

Overall, I plan to keep reading this series, but I don't rush to recommend it to people. I'd say it's good for people who like slow building story lines and a variety of creatures in their fluffy reads.

Prequel/Sequel Challenge Points: 54 points + 2 = 56 points!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Color Purple by Alice Walker is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful tale of love and loss. It's about finding yourself when you think you've hit the lowest point possible.

I kind of can't explain how much I liked this book. The summary doesn't make it sound like it'd be my cup of tea, and I know it's a classic, but sometimes classics have endured for stupid reasons. The Color Purple is not one of those classics. It's beautiful and wonderful and I wish I could reach through my computer screen and make everyone read it.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys epistolary novels with immense character development.

Favorite Quotes (This is basically just going to be the whole book, sorry):
"But I don't know how to fight. All I know how to do is stay alive."
"I make myself wood. I say to myself, Celie, you a tree. That's how come I know trees fear man."
"I dream of murder, she say, I dream of murder sleep or wake."
"Because the black is so black the eye is simply dazzled, and then there is the shining that seems to come, really, from moonlight, it is so luminous, but their skin glows even in the sun."
"You somebody to Nettie, she say. And she be pissed if you change on her while she on her way home."
"Oh, Celie, unbelief is a terrible thing. And so is the hurt we cause others unknowingly."
"Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?"
"Every time I conjure up a rock, I throw it."
"Why any woman give a shit what people think is a mystery to me."
"I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ast. And that in wondering bout the big things and asting bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, he say, the more I love."

Monday, June 9, 2014

I wanted to love The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, but mostly I just felt ambivalent (and a little angry).

I'll be the first to admit that I read it because Rowling wrote it. In fact, the reason it took me so long to read is because I didn't think the story itself sounded that enthralling, but come on, she created Harry Potter!! Of course, I'll love something she writes. Ehhh, maybe not.

First of all, The Casual Vacancy starts really slow. Like glacial speed. Even 150 pages in, I was hoping it would pick up. Then there are the characters. If I was going to make any allusions to Harry Potter in the review of the book, it'd be this: The town of Pagford is full of Vernon Dursleys. It's like the worst place on earth.  I hope there isn't actually a Pagford (it's okay, I just checked and there isn't. Bless Google) because if there was no one would be able to live there. Frankly, part of the reason I kept reading was because I wanted these characters to have some justice brought down upon them. Like generally speaking, I don't read books where everyone has the "real life" exception. I want bad guys brought down and good guys rewarded. I don't want subversion of fairy tales and folk tales, I want the enactment of them. And I think wishing for a character's retribution is a horrible reason to keep reading something.

By the end of the book, I was mildly caught up in the character's lives, but mostly (as I just mentioned) because I wanted them to be punished. And I was disappointed by the ending. Even though all the characters have some amount of closure, I didn't find it gratifying personally.

So I guess I would suggest this book to people who enjoy character studies without much action. I wouldn't suggest it to Potter lovers and I wouldn't suggest it to people who think they should read it for Rowlings' sake. It the summary doesn't grab you, don't grab the book.

Favorite Quotes:
"You must accept the reality of other people. You think that reality is up for negotiation, that we think it's whatever you say it is. You must accept that we are as real as you are; you must accept that you are not God."
"He never seemed to grasp the immense mutability of human nature, nor to appreciate that behind every nondescript face lay a wild and unique hinterland like his own."
"But who could bear to know which stars were already dead [...] could anybody stand to know that they all were?"

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is exactly the type of adorable book you want to read but never ever find yourself in. I mean, the premise of the book is that a man falls in love with a woman by reading her emails. Admittedly, he isn't entirely a creepy stalker--he does it because it's his job, but he begins to cross some lines fairly early on.

This is the third (and final until July 8th!) of Rowell's books I've devoured in a single sitting, so maybe I was predisposed to love it, but you guys, I loved it. Like I don't necessarily want someone reading all my emails (or texts since this is 2014 and no longer 1999 and emails are rarely used outside of businesses anymore), but if someone were to fall in love with me from reading all my blog posts, I'd be a little flattered and delighted.

I love how real Rowell's characters are. That's something I mentioned in my review of Fangirl and my review of Eleanor & Park. She writes people really really well. I can't think of a single character in any of her books where I've thought, eh that's not really a person--that's an idea. Attachments is no exception. Even though it's a love story where the people don't meet to start it off, it still felt real.

I would recommend this to people looking for good romances with character development. This is a book about how one person can make you want to be a better (or at least different) person.

Favorite Quotes (there's a bajillion of them, sorry!!):
"Money is a cruel thing. It's the thing that stands between you and the things you want and the people you love."
"No one I ever wanted to kiss wanted to kiss a fat girl."
"Nobody marries their first love. First love is just that. First. It's implied that something else will follow."
"She thought about how much space he took up in the world."
"Wasn't hitting bottom the thing you had to do to knock some sense into yourself? Wasn't hitting bottom the thing that showed you which way was up?"

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thinkings on the "John Green Thing"

Hello Lovelies!

First, let me start by saying that I love John Green. He definitely falls into my favorite author category, and he's fantastic person. He is definitely 100% not at fault for the things that other people write and/or say about him. He frequently represents himself much better than he's given credit for.

So I'm not really talking about John Green when I'm talking about the "John Green Thing". Instead, I'm talking about the plethora of articles that have come out with the release of The Fault in Our Stars (both originally as a book and then most recently as a film) which advocate John Green as a savior of young adult fiction and the best thing since sliced bread.

I was thinking about that this morning because of the tweets which Maureen Johnson released. Maureen Johnson is a pro tweeter and also a fantastic young adult author. She frequently tweets about the inherent misogyny in the young adult world--things that we're so used to that we hardly even notice.

And it got me thinking because she mentioned that critics cling to Twilight which most people agree is maybe not the most sane example of a relationship but y'know what, it would have never even blipped if so many people hadn't liked it in the first place. There are going to be "bad" books that do well. Most of the time, they'll do well because they are relateable in some way.  But we can't keep clinging to so-called "bad" books which do well.

You know what else has done well, historically? Awesome books written by women.In fact, the majority of young adult dystopian or fantasy novels which have done well in the recent past have been written by women. Let me list a few for you here: First of all, the major one, Harry Potter (written by J.K. Rowling who was told by her agent that she should go by her initals because young boys wouldn't want to read a book written by a woman). Then there's The Hunger Games (written by Suzanne Collins) and Divergent (written by Veronica Roth).

It is disheartening to see critics focus on the male writers in a predominantly female writer genre. But I believe it's a side effect of the old "boy books" versus "girl books" debate. It's okay for people to enjoy a story about love from a girl's point of view (a typical plot for girl books) if it's written by a man.

Maureen Johnson suggests imagining all TFIOS articles as if TFIOS was written by a woman. I'd like to try the default of imaging all books are written by a woman. I kind of like that view point too. In a separate but related note, I've also been trying really hard to refer to all authors in the same manner. I've noticed people are more likely to use the first name of a female author than the first name of a male author: i.e. Tolkien's writings are great, good old J.K has released another title.

So what do you think lovelies? If you've made it this far, drop me a comment on what you think about the whole ordeal.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Hello Lovelies!! It's a very special Top Ten Tuesday because it's also my 100th post!! Woohoo!! Honestly this is probably the longest I've stuck with a hobby so I'm pretty excited about this milestone. So The Broke and the Bookish's topic this week is..

I went with books that I own but haven't read yet which I would like to take to a beach (if I could get to one, hahaha, Montana is a landlocked state). 

So that's my list! It's heavy on contemporary fiction novels because summer brings that out in me. I read more contemporary fiction in summer than any other time. I'm not sure why but it just seems right. 

What books would you bring to the beach, lovelies??

Let me know in the comments!