Monday, June 30, 2014

Top Ten Favorite Classics

Top Ten Classics

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice was the start of my adult reading career. Okay career is a big word. It was the first classic that I read and loved for both it's historical context and the influence it's had on modern society. I expect to see Jane Austen, and especially Pride and Prejudice, on a lot of lists, but that's okay. It's a gateway book. The kind that make people love reading. 
2. The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
 Sometimes you read a book at the right time and your whole world changes. I can't put into words what this book means to me. It lit a fire in me. It made me think about the person I was and the person I wanted to be.  My copy is marked to hell. Entire pages are underlined with different pen colors from different rereads. It's dogeared with a loose spine. It's what love looks like in book form.
3. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy 
I give myself reading projects. As an adult I find I need to have goals, even small ones like reading Leo Tolstoy, to get me through the tough times. Anna Karenina was a goal two years ago. I'm glad I fought through all the unnecessary descriptions of farming and morals. I loved this book so much. I'd watch it in soap opera form!
4. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
Hello I went to high school in America so I've read this book. Okay I didn't actually read The Great Gatsby in high school. I'm glad I didn't though. If I had there would have been a sparknotes tab open while I wrote whatever paper would have been assigned. I was too busy then to appreciate it. Instead one of my best friends bought me a copy of Fitzgerald's masterpiece for Christmas one year and between the trip to the airport and my actual flight home I devoured the entire thing.  
5. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
Catch 22 was another lesson in Sarah's self-guided reading. Only this time I was sixteen and looking for something more than The Chocolate Wars and Huck Finn. Back then I remember thinking I was learning so much from Heller, that maybe I was finally starting to understand the world as a whole. Now I'm not so sure if that was true or not but I did love Yossarian's story. I should give my beat up copy another read.
6. Dead Souls - Nikoali Gogel
 What can I say? I must have a thing for sad dead Russians. Dead Souls is inherently interesting. The first half is a fascinating story, the later is Gogel's decent into madness. What's not to love?
7. Franny and Zooey - JD Salinger
I was 20 when I read Catcher in the Rye. I was too old to relate to Holden but I understood that Salinger was something special. When I picked up Franny and Zooey I found that his star really shines with short stories and the glass family. I want a movie of the Glass's and a TV series. I want radio programs and websites dedicated to fanfiction and fanart. All of which are things Salinger would have vetoed. I still hope that some of his unpublished work will find it's way to the public eye.
8. Romance of a Shop - Amy Levy
Romance of a Shop doesn't get enough love. I had to read it for a Victorian Lit class during college and loved it. It's really progressive and feminist.  Check it out!
9. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
Emily is the only of the Bronte's I can stomach. I love how complex Wuthering Heights is. When I first read it it was nothing like what I expected. I like it when classics do that. I didn't fall in love with Heathcliff, and I didn't identify with Cathy, but I still enjoyed their story and it's one I'm glad has lived on.
10. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Little Prince is one of those stories that stays with you. It's technically a children's book but it's themes are really heavy. Sometimes when I'm feeling really low I reread it and it helps me put my life in perspective. If nothing else it helps to remind me that my feelings are not new or unique. That might sound pessimistic but it makes me feel connected.

I really enjoyed this prompt. The best part about book blogging is writing about books that I love.  Many of these deserve a label more than love. They're the reason I'm the way I am today.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Replacement Life - Boris Fishman

A Replacement Life

Boris Fishman

Slava Gelman doesn't want much. He wants a little separation from his immigrant family and a real byline in the prestigious magazine he works at. All of that gets turned upside down when his beloved grandmother dies and he's forced to reconnect with his roots. When a letter comes a few days too late for his grandmother to apply for funds for her suffering at the hands of the Nazi's Slava must decide if it's worth the risk to forge a few letters if it means he can keep his grandmothers memory alive a little longer.

When I got A Replacement Life in the mail back in March I wasn't sure what to make of it. It sounded like another immigrant story, another sad Jewish protagonist, another half thought out novel. I was so wrong. Within pages I was hooked. Slava and his family feel real. Everything from his slightly stagnant literary career, to two budding relationships rang true.

What really sold me on this novel were the restitution letters. They were Foeresq in their feel. They were a beautifully crafted attempt to reconnect with a loved one and they gave life to what could have been a very gimmick heavy novel.

A Replacement Life is easily one of my favorite books of this year. It's the type of heavy you won't forget for a while. Definitely put it on your summer reading list.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Summer TBR Books

Top Ten Tuesday

Ten Books on my Summer TBR list

1. Landline - Rowell
I've read three Rainbow Rowell books this year. That's her entire bibliography. I've loved every word. When I heard about Landline earlier this month (don't ask me how I managed to avoid it this long) I nearly jumped out of my skin. It's not just that it's another Rowell book that has me jazzed. The premise sounds amazing, and what's more, it's out in under a month!

2. Isla and the Happily Ever After -Perkins
Perkins is another author I've discovered this year, and yes I have devoured both Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door within the last month. Honestly I thought Isla was already out when I started the series. Now I'm sad I have to wait till August to read another amazingly fluffy tale.

3. Gone Girl -  Flynn
This was the big blockbuster book of last summer and yet somehow I still haven't read it. It was actually on my winter and spring TBR list as well. I do actually want to read it. Thankfully summer means lots of time lounging outside, and since i don't know how to lounge without a book I think this will be the season I actually find out what all the Gillian Flynn fuss is all about.

4. IQ84 - Murakami
Every summer I pick a "project" book. One that's long, or supposedly difficult, or just has something that is going to make it my hard to get through. This year it's IQ84. I'm really excited about this one. I've already started it and even though I'm only 60 pages in I'm hooked. What's making it a project is it's length. I opted for the single bound paperback and am lugging around 1150 odd pages of amazing translation. It's not exactly what I'd call a beach read but I'm sure I'll get more than one sunburn from reading this one.

5. The Vacationers  - Sraub
Family vacations are ripe with drama, and that's what The Vacationers sounds like - family drama at it's finest. Seriously that's all I need to want to read this. I'm easy to please sometimes.

6. Friendship - Gould
After reading the blurb of Friendship I wanted to cry. It's not out for  It sounds like an episode of Girls meets real life. Maybe it ends up being one of those "millennial" novels that everyone wants to judge, but I know I'll be reading it.

7. Brideshead Revisited - Waugh 
I usually try to read at least one classic over the summer. The last several years I've been working my way through Jane Austen. Since I've already met my Austen quota this year with Northanger Abbey I think I'll settle comfortably into the 1900's with Waugh. I have a beautiful new copy of Brideshead that I'm looking forward to marking up.

8. This is Where I Leave You - Tropper
A few weeks ago I saw an article talking about the film adaptation of This is Where I Leave You. I recognized the title as being one of the It books of the past few years but sadly didn't know much about it. The cast for the film is stellar and after a little research (and discovering I bought a copy at a used book sale a few years ago) I moved it up my TBR list.

9. I Am Having So Much Fun Without You - Maum
This title's grown on me. Well, it's grown as much as something that I've side-eyed on all of my recent book store trips can. It sounds good. It's an interesting take on a failed relationship. I wish I had more giftcards so I could justify buying it now.

10. Rules of Attraction - Ellis
I'm having a really hard time finishing my latest TBR Jar pull. And by latest I mean the title I selected back in April. It's not even long. I really just need to hanker down and finish this so I can keep working my way through my ever growing jar of unread books.

I'm really excited about this summer. I've got a great mix of old and new, YA, contemporary lit, and classics lined up. What are you excited to read this summer?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2014 (So far!)

Top Ten Books of 2014 thus far

1. Divergent - Roth
I started off the year with the Divergent Series. During one of the worst storms in recent memory I read through all three books. Divergent is the one I'm putting on this list but all three were fantastic.  Divergent was the perfect mix of interesting dystopia and interesting characters. I still find myself thinking about it.
2. Anna and the French Kiss - Perkins
Here's the thing with Anna and the French Kiss. I was blogging when it came out years ago. I dismissed it as YA fluff. I was sort of right. It's young adult, and it is pretty fluffy. But it's also full of great characters and a really great writing. It was not to be dismissed. I still get warm fuzzies thinking about Anna and Etienne. It's no joke.
3. Daughter of Smoke and Bones - Taylor
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Daughter of Smoke and Bones. At the time i didn't know it was a series. I also didn't know it would COMPLETELY TAKE OVER MY LIFE. Please read this book. I've honestly never read anything like it. PS: I really want blue hair now.
4.The Other Language  - Marciano
How often to short story collections make lists like this? Every story in The Other Language is perfectly paced. The characters fleshed out. The settings feel gritty and real. I would gladly live in a world Marciano created.
5. Fangirl - Rowell
This has been the year of Rainbow Rowell. I've read all three of her published novels by this point in  2014 (Landlines comes out next month) and it was easy to pick which to put on this list. Fangirl is amazing. Cather feels like tumblr come to life. There is actual fanfiction in the novel. Levi isn't your typical love interest. There are so many ways that all of these elements could have created a disaster, instead it feels like some of my college days come to life.
6. One More Thing - Novak
BJ Novak isn't the Office temp anymore! His first book, a collection of short stories, is hilarious and  perfect for anyone who identifies as a millennial.
7. A Replacement Life - Fishman 
Fishman's first novel just came out last week. I was lucky enough to get a review copy and have been telling everyone I can about how brilliant this novel is. It feels like Foer got series and, if possible, more introspective. I look forward to seeing this on more lists this year.
8. Paris, My Sweet - Thomas
Paris, My Sweet has grown on me. I wasn't as in love with it when I read it in January. Now I look back on it with sugary goodness. It's all Paris streets, patisseries, and life. You can't ask for much more in a food memoir.
9. Detroit: An American Autopsy - LeDuff
I had a friend visit in March. She'd never been to Michigan so I took her to the Detroit Historic Museum to give her a rundown on the basics. It wasn't long after that I picked up LeDuff's gritty collection about Detroit. I was really stricken by it. My hometown comes up in it's pages, places and stories I've grown up appear everywhere. I finished it in a day. Few things have left me more depressed.
10. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone -Rowling
I'm reading Harry Potter again! I know that this isn't news. I really loved Sorcerers Stone this time through. It's amazing that my favorite character and books can still change after all these years, but maybe that's why I keep coming back to Hogwarts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey
 Jane Austen

Catherine Morland is perfectly ordinary. When she gets the chance to spend a few months in Bath with family friends Mr. and Mrs Allen she jumps at the opportunity. There she meets Isabella Thorpe and her brother John. While John pursues Catherine,  her real interest is in the well read Henry Tilney. When she is invited by Henry and his sister to stay with them at Northanger Abbey Catherine is forced to learn that Gothic novels may not be as true to life as she thought.

Northanger Abbey was my second TBR Jar read of the year. It was definitely a slower read than I had hoped. I love Jane Austen, or at least the idea of Jane Austen. I'm a big fan of Pride and Prejudice but her other works so far have left me less than impressed. Northager Abbey didn't really change my mind. I liked Catherine just fine, bookish main characters tend to get a pass here at Loving Books (shocking, I know) but thinking back that's the only thing I remember about her. Even Henry Tilney, who is quite charming, doesn't really leave a lasting impression.

I did appreciate the tongue and cheek attitude towards Gothic lit, though. Northanger Abbey isn't like Austen's other books, at least not entirely. There's a bit of satire here, it's not huge, but it's enough to make it's point. Jane Austen isn't writing those bleak and dreary novels set in old castles and abbeys with ghosts and ghouls and things that make innocent girls blanch. If anything that's what makes Abbey worth reading, the historic context is much more interesting than Catherine and her safe beau.

If nothing else I'm glad I can say I've officially read half of Austen's bibliography.

Monday, June 2, 2014

May in Review

Since when does May mean summer? It was hot here in Michigan and that meant outdoor activities! Well, sort of. There was a lot of ice cream, bon fires, and of course reading outside. I spent a lot of time with friends! I contused my downward spiral into majesty that is Orphan Black! 

Honestly May felt so long. I didn't have any big events going on and even Memorial Day weekend fell flat. I have a lot of plans coming up in June and I really spent the last five weeks wishing it were later in the year. Now that I look back the month wasn't so bad, just uneventful, and you know what, after what I've seen in 2014 uneventful isn't so bad.

Books Read:
16. Anna and the French Kiss - Stephenie Perkins
17. Attachments - Rainbow Rowell
18. Lola and the Boy Next Door - Stephenie Perkins
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling
20. Daughter of Smoke and Bones - Laini Taylor
21. The Other Languages - Francesca Marciano
22. Days of Blood and Starlight - Laini Taylor

American Authors: 3
European: 2
African: 0
South American: 0
Asian:  0

Male:  Female: 7

New Releases: 1

Jar Books: 0

Challenge Books:1

If nothing else May was a great month for reading. After a few months of struggling to find a balance between reading, life, and sometimes writing everything seemed to click into place within the last 31 days. It helped that I discovered some amazing new authors, fell in love with a new series and found a slew of unused Barnes and Noble giftcards. I didn't even realize I was only reading female authors to just now. Overall I'm really proud of my reading for May. Hopefully June will be just as good.