Monday, September 8, 2014

August in Review

I'm going to ask you guys a favor. Can we pretend that it hasn't been a full week since August ended? September has been CRAZY so far. I knew you all would understand.

But this blog is about books, and how I spent the last month of summer reading so much it's a wonder I didn't strain my eyes.

As a month I've never been a fan of August. Here in Michigan it's hot and humid. Everyone tries to fit in every single summer activity possible in those last 31 days. However this year the weather was mild. I read outside a ton because it was rarely above 80. Of course I did other things too. There were family get togethers and friends birthdays.

Oh, and for the first time since I was back in middle school I started classes in August. That's right, I started my masters in Library Science this month! That's kind of why September has been so crazy. I'm balancing work and school and trying to still find time to read and occasionally write.

So if blog posts are few and far between in the next couple of months don't fret, I'm still around, just trying to find the right balance between book blogger and library student.

Books Read:
34. Cat's Cradle - Vonnegut
35. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling
36. Because (b/c) - Riippi
37. Friendship - Gould
38.Isla and the Happily Ever After - Perkins
39. Cinder - Meyer
40. Scarlet - Meyer

American Authors: 5
African: 0
South American: 0

Male:2  Female:4

New Releases:1

Jar Books: 0  (I need a better system for picking TBR Jar books. I've been in the middle of a Diaz book for two months.)

Seven books in a month isn't too shabby, especially since I basically read Isla twice because I loved it so much and couldn't get it out of my head. August was a great month for reading, though. I absolutely loved ISla and the Happily Ever After and despite some mixed feelings on Cinder, i tore through Scarlet right after and am working my way through Cress now.

I'm still reading a ton of female authors but another month has pasted without me reading anything outside of my national comfort zone. That is something I really should work on with the rest of this year.

So goodbye summer, hello sweaters and pumpkins and cider!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss
Stephenie Perkins

Things were going great for Anna Oliphant. She has her best friend, a job and a crush that very well may turn into something more. Then her parents decide to ship her off to the School of America in Paris for her senior year and her whole life is sent into chaos. Now she has to find a way to survive in her own personal city of stress, but when she finds a group of friends, complete with the strangely perfect Etienne St. Clair, things might finally start looking up.

Reading Anna and the French Kiss is like biting into a fresh macaroon on a perfect spring day. Everything about it is sweet, emotional and full of life. It's like eating ice cream in bet while watching an old Audrey Hepburn movie (I'm thinking Sabrina.) It's easily the sweetest thing I've read all year.

I loved the world Perkins created. It was boarding school for the teens of the twenty teens. Anna's feelings and actions are believable and relateable. She's a girl on the verge of adulthood who is ripped away from everything she knows. The way she flounders around Paris is charming.  Most importantly, though, is that Anna isn't perfect. neither is Etienne, who so many girls have since swooned over.  In a book that is so perfectly fluffy it would be easy to write cardboard cut out characters with superficial feelings and unmotivated actions. I'm grateful that that we're given two fleshed out who feel like they could be real.

Honestly I have nothing bad to say about Anna and the French Kiss. I picked it up when I was in a reading slump and managed to get a serious sunburn because I forgot what it was like to be that engrossed by a story (and I wasn't wearing sun screen.) There are still a few weeks of summer. Go read this book, and then pick up Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After (which comes out today!)
You won't regret it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read*
*well maybe I want to read them, like someday, in the future, when I have more time and zero other books

1. This is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper
Somehow I own this despite the fact that the premise sounds completely blah to me. Admittedly the trailer for the film looks good and since seeing it I've moved my mysterious hardback from it's place on my contemporary shelf to my actual TBR pile. However a trailer is what made me speed read Gone Girl and that was an experience I really don't want to relive. I know they won't be similar, but I think I still need more convincing than a possibly good upcoming movie.

2. Cinder - Marissa Meyer
I've seen a lot about the Lunar Chronicles and most of it has been positive. Only Cinder came out the year my obsession with fairytale retellings started to fade. I've never been into sci fi. Cyborgs don't interest me. Still I bought a paperback copy of Cinder last week and have been eying it suspiciously since. This year I've experimented with plenty of genres and themes that I never thought I'd enjoy. Out of everything on this list I think this is the one I'm most likely to read.

3. Emma - Jane Austen
At times this blog becomes a love letter to Pride and Prejudice. Unfortunately I haven't had the same luck with Jane Austen's other novels. Sense and Sensibility gives me a headache and Northanger Abbey felt heavy handed. However two thinks happened in the last week that made me reevaluate my desire to read Emma. 1. I finished my Harry Potter audiobooks and in the process discovered that I have Emma on tape and 2. I started Emma Approved. Now Emma Approved makes me actually want to read Emma. The first chapter of the audiobook leaves much to be desired. You see my problem?  

4. The Maze Runner - James Dashner
 This is another case of "Everyone is talking about it and there's a movie coming." I've only heard good things but I just can't force myself to read it.

5. The Vacationer - Emma Straub
I put The Vacationers on my Summer TBR (and my birthday list) and now I can barely remember why. It still sounds good but it's subject is very much one I'd like to read by the pool in nice, 85 degree weather. That's weather we haven't seen in Michigan this summer. Actually it hasn't felt like summer at all. Without that summery feeling I'm not sure I want to read The Vacationers.

6.White Teeth - Zadie Smith
I can't get into Zadie Smith. I wish I could. I've heard her refereed to as Queen Z, the best of her generation and countless other amazing things. I bought book after book of hers thinking that I'd finally be able to get past the first hundred pages and see what everyone else saw. Only now I own most of her bibliography and have read the first third of a handful of her books. White Teeth is one of the few that I own and haven't tried. I'm actually a little worried to. It's by far her best known and most praised work.

7.The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith
I read Cookoo's Calling and enjoyed it, I guess. It was good as far as crime/mystery novels go. I just don't know how invested I want to be in this world of Privet Investigators. The Silkworm does sound interesting though. In the end this comes down to genre. I'm so rarely in the mood for a good mystery and right now, especially since Silkworm is only out in hardback (and I'm morally opposed to buying the ebook for my kindle) I won't be getting to this one any time soon, if ever.

8. The rest of John Green's catalog (TFIOS, Paper Towns, Will Grayson Will Grayson)
 I didn't hate Looking for Alaska. I didn't love it either. I enjoyed it about as much as I need to to read more Green. The I tried an Abundance of Katherines and whatever enjoyment I got from his writing withered away. It's not that I hink The Fault in Our Stars or any of his other books don't have the potential to be enjoyable, I just don't currently see a reason to read more by an author who has left me disappointed twice already.

9. Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer Bradley
I appreciate epic fantasy from afar. While things like Lord of the Rings never interested me, Mists of Avalon seemed right up my ally. I love Authrian legend. Morgan le Fay is cool. I got way too into Merlin when it was on. Overall I should have read this five times over. Except it's long. That's a lame excuse, but for me anything over 800 pages becomes a commitment. This is one I'm just not ready to make.

10. Room - Emma Donoghue
I bought a copy of Room when I was in Toronto (it was in the Canadian lit section) and decide that this would be the year that I tackled Emma Donoghue's intense novel. It's sat on my TBR pile since April. I've moved it higher on the list but then bought more books to avoid reading it, which is stupid because my house is full of books I haven't read. It's the subject matter that worries me with Room. I'm sure when I pick it up it'll be a 'can't put it down' type of experience, but how upset will it make me? I guess I don't know when I'll be ready to subject myself to it.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell
Cather and Wren (get it?) were inseparable, well they were, then they went to college. Then Wren cut her hair and started parting while Cath(er) was left to figure out social protocol. Things like finding the cafeteria intimidate her and she finds it easier to stay locked up in her dorm, and inside her own head, with nothing but the fanfiction she writes for company.  College is a time for new experiences though, and when she starts to make friends with Reagan and her ex boyfriend Levi things finally start to look up. Now it's up to Cath to have the courage to be brave and jump head on into life if she ever wants a chance at being happy.

Fangirl should be required reading for first year college students. Admittedly I was never as bad as Cath but I definitely remember the anxious about little things like the dorm cafeteria and new classes. That really is what is so great about Fangirl. It deals with real feelings and so rarely get seen in media. Introverts get the short straw when it comes to represenation. They're awkward or strange or just erriley quiet. Here we get to see inside Cath's head, and let me tell you Rainbow Rowell gives the reader a full, fleshed out character.

Characters are actually Rowell's strong suit. She understands them. Even secondary characters feel real. No one is one dimensional. It would have been easy to make Levi perfect or Reagan harsh but they're just shades of those things. Even Wren, who we don't see much in the first two thirds of the book, could be seen as just a party girl but Cath (and Rowell) makes sure we know she is so much more.

All in all I don't have anything bad to say about Fangirl. I finished it and was immediately sad because I'll never get to read it for the first time again. I actually thought about rereading it right then and there. When I read Eleanor and Park I thought Rainbow Rowell was good, but maybe over hyped. Now I can honestly say that I'm part of that hype wagon.

Oh, did I mention the fan fiction? Yeah. Cath writes fan fiction for Simon Snow series. That's where the fangirling comes from. She loves Simon like I love Harry Potter (actually Cath wins that fight hands down). But these snipets of Fic and real series intersect the chapters, and they're each  brilliant!

It's not often that I can't organize my thoughts about a book.  As you hopefully know I like to give real reason for why I liked, or in cases, didn't like a novel. This review was a struggle for me because all I could think of was the warm fuzzy feeling I got when I read it. That might say more than all my other paragraphs combined.

Friday, August 1, 2014

July in Review

July! July!
Okay now that I'm done with the Decemberist references, July was a long month. I've never known time to move so slow. It also happens to be Birthday month. Mine was last weekend, and three of my friends also have July birthdays. That means I ate lots of sweets and sang many refrains of "Happy Birthday." 

Other than that nothing exciting happened. I didn't go anywhere. No one visited me. I don't have anything major planned until the end of August when I start my masters in library science. I do have a tan. I guess that is something.
Next month I'll have more to report, but I am very happy to say goodbye to this seemingly eternal July.

Books Read:
28. Landline - Rowell
29. 1Q84 - Murakami
30.Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Rowling
31. Gone Girl - Flynn
32. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - Rowling
33. Shadow and Bone -Bardugo

American Authors: 3
African: 0
South American: 0
Asian:  1

Male:1  Female:5

New Releases:1

Jar Books: 0

This month I took a step back from new releases, which is kind of remarkable since I was basically living for the release of Landline, which I obviously did read (in a day. I cried. it wasn't pretty. A review is forthcoming) and love. I also finally managed to finish 1Q84, and honestly if that had been the only thing I finished in July I would have been proud. I chipped away at it for well over a month. My friends got tired of hearing me talk about little people and two moons. 

Overall I'm really happy with all I read in the last 31 days. There are months where I substitute reading for my social life but July was the first time in a long time where I found a good balance. I swam and read and saw friends and genearly participated in summer activities. I look forward to what August will bring in both my reading life and my soon to be scholarly life. Hopefully they'll overlap in a fun way! After all I'm not studying library and information science for nothing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 Books To Read in Your Mid-Twenties

Saturday was my 25th Birthday. Even typing that feels like a milestone. Perhaps (read: most likely) I am making too big a deal of the whole quarter of a century thing. Regardless time moves forward and there is nothing you, I or Dumbledore can do to stop it. Since there's no changing this whole aging thing I might as well embrace it to the fullest, and for me that means with books!

I figure there are five types of books you should find in your early to mid twenties. They're the ones that are going to make you think, grab your heart and give you googley eyes. They'll be your friends when real life drama gets to be too much. They'll stay up for you when everyone else has an early alarm. More importantly, they are different for everyone. Instead of giving you all five books that I thought were essential to my twenties (so far) I wanted to give you all a chance to come up with some of your own.

Now here are the five kinds of books you have to read in your mid twenties!

A Book for All Ages
 The Little Prince
Antonie de Saint-Exupery
The Little Prince is, in it's essences, a children's book. Once you dive into it's pages, however, it becomes so much more. I got it for Christmas one year and read it in a single sitting. I couldn't figure out why I was sad the rest of the day. Really The Little Prince has more to say to adults than it does to children. It's about loss, and the nature of relationships and how we perceive ourselves and those around us.  
That's what makes it a book for all ages. I would have gotten something completely different out of The Little Prince had my parents read it to me when I was tiny. I would have felt different had I read it in high school.
Other Options : Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Ella Enchanted, 

A Look Into Someone Else's Life
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
David Sedaris
The ages between 20 and 25 are a mixed bag. There are new apartments, new friends, jobs that you hate, jobs that you maybe like but don't pay enough. Then there are all the bad decisions, the late nights and the petty arguments. Sometimes it's hard to see beyond the small bubble that is your world. That's why you need a book like this, one that looks into someone else's existence and makes you realize "okay, maybe I can handle this whole life thing."
For me that book was When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Sure sometimes life was hard, but David Sedaris reminded me that it could be ridiculous and funny too. It made me want to live like my time was worth writing about. 
Other Options: Just Kids, Sleepwalk with Me, I was Told There'd Be Cake

A Book for the Road 
American Gods
Neil Gaiman
There isn't a better time for a road trip. You have as few responsibilities as you're ever going to have. You're still young. Wanderlust is a real thing. But money....Yeah, that whole money thing can really ruin a lot of dreams. That's why these books like this are so important. I might not be able to drop everything and travel for months at a time, but I can read about people who have, and sometimes that's even better. 
That was my experience with American Gods. I read it over a summer where I did little traveling and my world seemed very small. It was like a breath of fresh air every time I got to join Shadow on his adventures. More than anything it reminded me that those adventures could be had here, in middle America, and not just in the Europe or California, as so much many stories would like you to believe. 
Other Options: On The Road, You Shall Know Our Velocity

A Book to get You Out of Your Comfort Zone  
The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
One of the best things about your mid twenties is that you get to shape your own tastes. You've found a favorite wine, a go to meal, and probably a genre of book that you gravitate too. There's nothing wrong with comfort, or falling in love with historical fiction or fantasy or paranormal young adult fiction. It's just that now is the time to remember there is so much more out there!
For me I was all about contemporary literary fiction. I wanted to read to to about David Foster Wallace and Foer. I devoured Tartt. My shelves read like a whose who of the great minds of the last five years. Actually, they still do. Going to a liberal arts school had made me pretentiousl
For me, getting out of my comfort zone meant abandoning books that you'd find reviews for in The New Yorker. I picked up the Night Circus. It reminded me of the books I loved when I was younger. It broke away my prejudices against other worldy novels. More than anything it gave me reason to explore other genres. 
Other Options: Depends on your comfort zone really, Could be a Sartre novel or something like The Time Traveler's Wife. Try new things!
A Classic  
Pride and Prejudice 
Jane Austen
The classics you read in your mid twenties are special. No one is making you read them. You chose them because they sounded interesting. You don't have to write papers on them. There aren't professors lecturing about symbolism. Maybe it's a modern classic like Life of Pi, or you finally decide it's time to read the Odyssey? You finally get to feel like your in on some sort of secret. These novels aren't dry. At least not when you're enjoying them. They're still full of life and lessons, and to think that ten years ago you would never have learned them because of a deep relationship with sparknotes.
I didn't get to Pride in Prejudice until I was old enough to drink. I read it as much for pleasure as I did for class credit. It made me realize that Austen and Elliot didn't have to mean nap time. All of the classics I've read since are thanks to Elizabeth Bennett.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Detroit: An American Autopsy - Charlie LeDuff

Detroit: An American Autopsy
Charlie LeDuff

It's no secret that golden age of Henry Ford and Motown is past. No place knows that better than Detroit. It's a city that's fallen far, that's riddled with corruption and poverty, and is now in a state of bankruptcy. There's more to Detroit, though, it's got a pull, and that pull brought journalist Charlie LeDuff home.

I don't often read nonfiction. I'd love to be the kind of person that does, who finds subjects interesting and then picks up book after book on them. But since I'm not it took a book about Detroit, the major city nearest my hometown, to get me to give nonfiction a go.

Detroit the book, much like the city, isn't what one expects. Charlie LeDuff  has deep roots here, and he strives to tell a deep, full story. It's a goal that he mostly achieves. Autopsy is as gritty as it's title would suggest. There are tales of corrupt politicians and unsavory citizens. There are stories of people and entire neighborhoods that are down on their luck. LeDuff did the legwork and he has a lot of love for America's largest failing city. What this book really captures is a feeling of hope through decay, but it stops right there. As a reader you're left with the impression that everyone has resigned themselves to the way things are.

There is almost no talk of the goodness that's left in the city. The New York times did a piece on Detroit this past week and they came out far more even. Sure there is a lot of bad happening in America's auto capital, but there are a lot of people gunning for change, and with a little momentum things could really start looking up. My only complaint about this book is that this side of the city is missing. LeDuff presents Detroit just as his title suggests, like a corpse that has nothing left to say. That's just not the story I'm seeing from where I live.