Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Act of Unsupervised Reading - Why Non-bookish Parents Made My Childhood Awesome

A few days ago I was doing my browsing around the internet and I came across this article about books unsuitable for teenagers that they'll read anyway. Patrick Ness describes his childhood reading experience as "blissfully unchaperoned" and I really took that statement to heart.  As someone who's reading experience was pretty much unchaperoned, but none the less encouraged as a child I got into quite a few books that were inappropriate for my age group. In the spirit of the Ness's article I'll list a few for you.

Requiem for a Dream - Selby Jr - You've probably seen the movie (starring Jared Leto and Jennifer Connlley) about a bunch of hard core, and sometimes accidental drug addicts. I came across the book when I had just started high school and was still blissfully ignorant of the terrible parts of the world. This book opened my eyes and my reading habits. It was completely inappropriate to read at such a young age (though probably better at 14 than 10) and am pretty sure if I picked it up now I'd have a hard time feeling any sympathy for the characters. Plus I tried to read another of Selby's novels not to long ago and couldn't get past his trying writing style, which I easily forgave in my younger years.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Thompson - Okay, so I read Requiem and then my next thought was "books about drugs are cool, I should find more" and to Google I went. Now, I'm still about 14 and the very innocent and shy me ends up tearing through several Hunter S Thompson books. It was a crazy experience, and to this day I'm not entirely sure I like Thompson as an author but I'm glad I read what I read.

The Boy Next Door/A Walk to Remember/Countless Romance Novels - I'm not quite 22 and I'm not entirely ashamed to say I went through a romance novel/chick lit phase. If you know me this is a pretty big statement. I'm not ashamed of this phase because I when it happened I was about 11. Yep. Between the ages of 11 and 12 I tore through books about girls in this late 20's working in magazines and looking for Mr. Right but only finding Mr. Only-for-tonight. Sometimes looking back on my habits I'm amazed that my tastes turned so literary, but I'm pretty glad they did.

I also asked some of my friends to come up with some books they think they read at an inappropriately young age.

Kirsten said that she felt 13 was to young for A Handmaidens Tale.

Jasmyn said she was reading Edgar Allen Poe at 9.

Some of my honorable mentions include Les Miserable, Candide and a mound of Historical fiction that got me through my tween years.

What about you? Were you reading King while you were in Elementary school or Kerouac after your babysitter put you to sleep?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Tragedy of Arthur - Phillips

Arthur Phillips
Prague, The Egyptologist, Angelica, The Song is You

The Tragedy of Arthur is complexly simple. In it's essence it is a faux memoir by Arthur Philips detailing his life and how he came to possess a forgotten Shakespeare play about King Arthur. Through the "introduction" to the "play", because there is an actual play at the end of the book, a pretty good one too, you get to see Arthur's complex relationships with his twin lesbian sister Dana, his criminal father and his distant mother.

If you are easily confused by characters sharing the same name you might want to shy away from this fantastic novel. First there is Arthur - the real Arthur, the one who is actually writing this book, but then there is also the alter-Arthur, Arthur's father Arthur and of course King Arthur, who The Tragedy of Arthur is about. If you can get past that then you're golden. Unless you don't like Shakespeare, then I'd strongly suggest moving on to something less Bard like.

The Tragedy of Arthur is a blend of childhood disappointment, hurt pride and forgiveness, but don't worry, it's not heavy like you'd expect. Phillips crafts his faux memoir in a fantastically light way, casting the characters he likes - his sister Dana - in an almost saintlike light and the characters he disproves of  - his father - in a comedic criminal role. Since these are easily the two most important characters is his story (besides fake Arthur, since he's the protagonist and all that jazz) this creates a nice, sublet comedic outlet that boarders between Nabokov and Shakespeare.  At times Phillip's can be a bit long winded, especially when he starts to go on about himself, but he always sites this as the main fault of memoirs, and that sometimes it is unavoidable. Oh, and the play's pretty awesome too.

Overall The Tragedy of Arthur is like a story out of Shakespeare, there is love, loss and laughter, and of course enough drama to keep a reader interested. It's not the best thing I've read all year, but it's definitely in the better half.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Author Love - Literary Hop

I have a few favorite authors. Granted, it doesn't take a lot for me to go on an "Author Marathon" (I tend to read books by the same author back to back to back till I find a flop) but only a few of these marathon authors have earned a spot on my coveted favorites list. I say coveted, I am pretty sure Milan Kundera doesn't care that I a 21 year old American girl is singing his praises, but I can pretend.

It's Thursday. A Literary Hop Thursday to be exact.

Literary Blog Hop
As always, thanks to the ladies at the Blue Bookcase for hosting this fantastic event. 

This week's prompt is:
Talk about one author that you love and why his or her writing is unique. Please be specific

As I was babbling about before, I love quite a few authors but if I have to pick one for this post I'm going to go with Milan Kundera. It was a tough choice but my one of my best friends just started reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being at my request and Kundera is now fresh in my mind. Back in the summer of 09 I was looking for some really fantastic books to sink my teeth into. This was a time before I'd started this blog and the best resource I knew of on the internet was a very nice, but someone limited community on livejournal that compiled reviews and recommendations. I came across some girl talking about The Unbearable Lightness of Being and I went straight to Barnes and Noble to pick it up.  I tore through Unbearable Lightness that day and spent the rest of the summer devouring the likes of The Book of Laughter and ForgettingImmortality, Slowness, The Farewell Waltz and Ignorance.  In the end I didn't end up liking everything Kundera wrote, but I did love his consistency. 

As a writer Kundera focuses on Philosophy in his fiction. I've always found this adds an extra level to his novels. There is the story, then there is the theory he is seeding throughout.  It's not always effective, and it's easy for readers to find his work pretensions, but there are some true gems in his work.  Some of my favorite quotes are from Kundera novels, and if just for that he can remain in my top three.

"People are always shouting they want to create a better future. It's not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past."
"You can't measure the mutual affection of two human beings by the number of words they exchange." 
"Love is the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost." 
Hope everyone is staying dry and safe in this crazy weather!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Throne of Lies

I'm usually a fairly honest person. Mostly. Honest. Okay, sometimes I like to exaggerate, and by sometimes I mean fairly often. It's a flaw. I'm working on it. Okay, I'm not really working on it, but I am aware of it. Now what lead to this weird confession? Well this week's Top Ten Tuesday post is all about books we've lied about reading, and I must admit there are some skeletons in my closet.
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because they are particularly fond of lists over at The Broke and the Bookish. I'm sure they'd love to share your lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten list.

1. Lolita - Nabakov - I've only read half of Lolita. I really wanted to finish it, but it got to the point where I was falling asleep halfway through sentences and wishing horrible deaths upon all of the characters. At that point I decided it was better to put Lolita down than continue down a road that might result in me setting fire to a perfectly harmless book. I tend to tell people I've read Lolita (I did sparknotes the ending) and sometimes count when I'm doing one of those weird facebook "which classics have you read" lists. I guess Nabakov just isn't for me.

2. The Boy Next Door and other chick lit books - Meg Cabot - These are my summer guilty pleasure books, but they're about as close as I'll ever get to reading romance novels. 8th grade a girl use to make fun of me for reading books like this and I guess the I still feels there is a certain stigma attached to them. It doesn't stop me from going back and rereading them every few summers but I do make sure to do it in the privacy of my own backyard.

3. Anna Karenina - Tolstoy - If I tell you a secret promise you won't be disappointed in me? I've never finished a Tolstoy novel. The seconds I've read I've really liked and I have every intention of actually reading Anna Karenina one day. This list isn't great proof of it, but I tend to really like Russian writers and people seem to just assume I've got War & Peace and this memorized or something. I don't. Sorry.

4. The Majority of Things Written by Hemingway - I liked A Farewell to Arms and I finished (with effort) For Whom the Bell Tolls but that's it. Nothing else.  I had a mild Hemingway obsession in high school but it was more of a "wow, that man's kind of a bad ass" obsession and not a "I MUST READ ALL OF THE WORDS HE'S EVER WRITTEN RIGHT THIS SECOND" obsession. People couldn't really tell the difference, though.

5. As I Lay Dying - Faulkner - I was suppose to read this for a class two semesters ago. I got 90 pages in before I just couldn't take it anymore. I took a quick look at the spark notes page and then promptly wrote a five page paper on it anyway.

6. Hard Times - Dickens - Another book I was suppose to read for a class. I wanted to like Hard Times because I liked the rest of the books in my 19th century British Lit class and figured my awesome teacher could make me appreciate Dickens when no one else could. He couldn't. I never finished this book and sat quietly through most of the discussions. It's probably the closest I've come to finishing a work by Dickens though.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bookstock or Booktopia? You decide.

There's this huge book sale going on at a mall by my house. Like, huge. It's called Bookstock and was one of the best parts about coming home this week. I didn't even know it was happening until I went to meet some friends for lunch and found myself surrounded by books! Needless to say I was crazy excited, and came back the next day to browse to my hearts content! 
If I had a camera I would have taken this picture but I didn't. The internet is a wonderful place. 

I ended up with 7 books (2 new hardbacks) for $16 (and then I got some cookbooks, but this isn't that kind of blog).  I'm quite proud of my findings, not just because I got a great collection of books for dirty cheep prices but because I've overcome the part of me that looks down on used books. I use to have a very hard time picking up a book if it had been read by anyone else. I guess I felt like it had already shared it's story with someone and I was getting some sad hand-me-down. Plus I like to underline in my books and would get very frustrated if I had to find a way to distinguish between my notes and some anonymous other persons.  I thought these signs of other people made the books dirty somehow. Maybe they wouldn't handle all of those page turns?  
Of course this wasn't great logic. True sometimes other people's writing is irritating - for instance I have a copy of 1984 that doesn't have a single clean margin and is filled with things like "Winston said this" and "Julia felt that" which isn't insightful and made that copy impossible to read - but there are many cases where there are just cute little notes or resonating phrases underlined, and that's fine. It's gives the book character, just like slightly loose pages and those coffee stains. Half.com is now my friend, and garage sales have hidden gems.  Of course I'd still prefer a pristine new copy straight off Barnes and Nobles shelves, but now that isn't my only option

What about you? Do you have any prejudices against used books? Is there anything that's an absolute deal breaker when you're buying something pre-owned? I'd love to hear what you think! 

In case you're interested here are the books I got!
Everything is Illuminated - Jonathan Safran Foer (a replacement for my missing copy.)
The Magicians - Lev Grossman
The World to Come - Dara Horn
This is Where I Leave You -  Jonathan Tropper

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling

JK Rowling

It should be Harry's seventh year at Hogwarts, but thinks don't always go to plan. Instead Harry, Ron and Hermionie are off on a quest Dumbledore left them to destroy Voldemort once and for all. But are the pieces of Voldemort's soul the only thing they are meant to be searching for? After a year of searching can Harry comes to find the closure he needs, and steps in to take his spot in Wizarding History.

Deathly Hallows is definitely not a children's book. Mortality and virtue are written on every page. From the very beginning something is amiss - Harry won't be heading back to Hogwarts, and the house on Privet drive will no longer be his home.  Emotions run high in this book with death following Harry, Ron and Hermione wherever they go; taking loved pets, protectors and friends and always threatening themselves.

Rowling does a fantastic job of creating tension in this epic finale. Even when the characters them self don't know what is going to happen or where they need to be their feelings for each other and the stress they are under creates a wonderful reading experience that will have you struggling to put this chapter down.
If you liked the rest of the series you're probably going to like Deathly Hallows. It's a great final installment, but you might want to keep some tissues near by.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Midnight Sun - Why There Needs To Be A Rehab For Book Crack

First, a disclaimer:
I am not a fan of Twilight, well at least not a normal fan. I love to hate it. I've tried to read the books but couldn't get past the multitudes of problems everyone else will site.  On the other hand the movies, while absolutely terrible, have given me more joy than I would normally admit in a public setting. I also respect what Stephenie Meyer has done for teenage readers, even if I not-so-secretly wish Neil Gaiman and Marcus Zusak had the same effect. 

Last week I was relaxing in my living room watching the extended edition of Deathly Hallows and trolling around on the internet. In a freakish chain of events (or clicks) I found myself on the Midnight Sun Wikipedia page, and from this page very quickly found myself to the 12 chapters that had leaked back in 2008. Since Meyer had posted them on her site, I decided there could be little harm in reading them.

Now, I've never read Twilight (or any of the other books). I tried once. I couldn't get past the first page. I wanted to. I wanted to know why so many people were freaking out over these books, but in the end I settled for the movie version and did a lot of hysterical laughing whenever R.Pat said spider monkey. I know this isn't fair to the books. I've gotten into heated arguments with people who have seen the Harry Potter movies and never touched a copy of Sorcerer's Stone because I know these people, especially if they liked the movies, are really missing out. I totally understand if you're a Twilight fan and think I'm a big, stinky hypocrite. I accept this label.

It's scenes like this that have me laughing hysterically, as well as running away from the M's at Barnes and Noble.

Reading Midnight Sun was a lot like reading Dan Brown. You're vaguely interested in the story, but the person doing the story telling is irritating you, and then you finish and everything was kind of disappointing. Kind of like going out on an amazing first date to find out that he's actually your half brother. It's started out fun and ended in some form of vomit and horror.  It's the crack of the book world. It's fast to read, bad for your mind and isolates you from other people for long periods of time.

As far as the actual story it wasn't as bad as I expected. True, it's just Twilight from Edward's perspective, but he can run pretty fast, and his thought process revolves around the possibility of mass murder, which is kind of interesting. Really, if you put the cliche writing aside for the first several chapters, Midnight Sun was actually almost enjoyable.

In the beginning all of Edward's thoughts were rational, he wanted to help protect his family and he hated high school. Pretty normal stuff. He would read some minds, was confused about Bella, but everything was fine.  It isn't until he's actually around Bella that the shit starts to hit the fan. He spends an awful lot of time envisioning a mass murder, which would have been much more terrifying if Twilight didn't exist. Really once he gains control and decides he won't kill her it's "Edward is a crazy stalker" time. Really. He follows her around, watches her sleep and is just generally really, really creepy. Edward around Bella is intolerable. It's amazing the rest of the Cullens didn't get together and decide to put him out of his misery.

Since Stephenie Meyer had her little fit after these pages leaked Midnight Sun remains unfinished. Maybe this is a good thing. Edwards perceptive is that of an obsessive stalker who luckily finds the one girl who's into that (or to stupid to know she should GTFO before she dies). Midnight Sun is just a companion piece. Nothing more.

Love you all, even those who love Edward and think Bella's the Bee's knees! Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Exit the Actress - Parmar

Ellen "Nell" Gwyn comes from humble beginnings. Her mother is a drunkard, her sister is a whore and her father is long dead. When Nell decides that she wants a life different from that of her sister she gets a job as an orange girl at the Theatre Royal, changing her life forever. Over the next several years Nell works hard for her place in this beautiful new world and fights for the one things she really wants. Love. 

With Exit the Actress Priya Parmar has done for the Restoration what Phillipa Gregory did for the Tudors. She spins the story of Nell Gwyn, one of Charles II's mistresses in a unique way that had me completely captivated. Nell's diary entry's are personal, and are the main lens through which the reader views this story. She's funny and lighthearted, even when her circumstances should make her otherwise. Her decisiveness and individuality rockets her forward in her career as an actress, and eventually help her earn her place in the King's heart.

While Nell's diary makes up the bulk of Parmar's 446 pages, they are not the only means of storytelling. There are letters from Charles, to and from his sister in France, as well as to and from his mother, giving insight into the workings of the court Nell doesn't get to enter until later in the novel. These letters are more frequent at the beginning of the novel and have nothing to do with Nell. The one thing I would have liked to see more of were letters written after Charles meets her to see the change in his character. There are also newspaper headlines and gossip columns and recipes for home remedies to break up the narrative.

Overall I really enjoyed Exit the Actress. It's set in an interesting era, with an intriguing main character and enough real drama to fill a season of the Tudors. If you're a historical fiction fan you should definitely pick this one up. 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

April in Review

So April has faded into May, which means that A. I graduate in 13 days (that's not terrifying at all, right guys? RIGHT?!) and B. I should probably do a Month in Review post. Since the idea of working on final projects right now makes that sport behind my eyes ache, here is April in Review. As always, I took the template from the lovely Lily at Lily's Bookshelf
On a slightly unrelated note, I love ducks.

Books Read:
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Exit the Actress
Midnight Sun 
Total Number of Books Read This Month: 4

Total Number of Books Read This Year: 15

Most Anticipated: 
Exit the Actress
Biggest Let Down:
Favorite Read:
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Overall Reflection: 

This has been a slow year for me, reading wise. School's been more work that I had originally expected for my last semester as an undergrad and it's definitely effected how much I can read. Regardless, I've been rereading the Harry Potter series for my Fantasy Literature class (in case you haven't been around, it's just a class on Harry Potter, and we get house points, and it's fantastic) and as always, it's amazing. Other than being HP crazed, I read Exit the Actress by Priya Parmar, and loved it. Finally, I stumbled upon the Chapters of Midnight Sun Stephenie Meyer had posted on her site after they leaked. I'm not a twilight fan, unless you count cackling at the movies being a fan, but for some reason I found myself speed reading through it. It was just as bad as I expected, but since I had such low expectations this didn't really upset me. 

I'm working my way through Deathly Hallows right now, and I'm got several ARC's waiting to be read at the top of my To Read pile that I'm super excited to get to. Thanks for sticking around through my posting drought over the past two months! Everything will be back to normal very soon!