Thursday, February 27, 2014

Paris, My Sweet - Amy Thomas

Paris, My Sweet
Amy Thomas

Amy Thomas is a blogger just like us! Okay, maybe not just like us. For one, her job got her a one way ticket to Paris! In Paris, My Sweet she recounts her many adventures with Parisian streets, customs and eateries, all while breaking things down into very sweet food based chapters. It's like your french lessons without all the unpronounceable words and snobby teacher! 

Paris, My Sweet has a lot going on. First there's Amy and her huge personality. While she excels at describing her expat adventures her stories usually come down to one thing - Paris or New York? That's really what sold this memoir for me. Don't get me wrong, chapters dedicated to breads , candies and cookies were what drew me in. At my heart I am a foodie! But what made Amy's story so easy to relate to what the duality of her life. Is she the chic Parisian or the sophisticated New Yorker? Can she fit in with her new coworkers and her old friends?  Granted I'm a ten years younger than Miss Thomas during her expat years, but she speaks volumes about the feelings of the single, adventurous girl. The lists of bakeries at the end of every chapter might have also appealed to my inner list maker. Seriously, food plus occasional talk of Louis Vuitton? I'm sold.

My love for all the mentions of cup cakes, fresh baked baguettes and Grench landmark's was able to distract me from the fact that while there were a lot of little adventures happening in Amy's life, there wasn't a whole lot of growth. That's my only real issue with Paris, My Sweet and it almost doesn't feel fair to bring it up. I'm not hear to judge (at least not on this personal of a level) and I'd never want a storybook ending made up just for the sense of closure. In the end things just felt a little anti climatic. Maybe at another time in my life I could appreciate that. There's definitely an art in living things in flux. It's entirely possible that my almost 25 year old self needed more closure than life can actually provide.

Do you all remember back to last month when I found a mason jar and stuffed it with book titles? Well this was my first TBR Jar read. I think it was a huge success. I definitely wouldn't have pulled this charming memoir off my shelf in the middle of January of my own accord.  Now if could just stop buying books I could be on a real roll!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Why It Doesn't Matter That JK Rowling is Still Writing.

Today I read this article that basically says that JK Rowling should stop publishing adult novels because it makes it harder for first time authors to get read.
Now, ignoring the opening where she openly bashes adults who have read Harry Potter for their own personal pleasure without having read the books (or even seen the movies) as a deeply flawed statement all on it’s own, this woman, Lynn Shepherd makes a few very basic assumptions that don’t hold true to the lightest of scrutinizes. 
For starters she assumes that readers will only read a book because of a big name, and that’s why she’s targeting Rowling. Now it’s true that there are some readers, I like to think of them as Once a Year readers, who will only pick up the latest Stephen King, or Dan Brown, or whatever the sleeper hit of the summer ends up being. They want to be in the know but they aren’t readers, at least they’re not readers who are on the lookout for anything else. They’re a market that non-blockbuster authors are never going to tap because they’re just not interested. They want the flash and big name and the guarantee that there’s a community around this book that they can become a part of. There’s nothing wrong with this. They just aren't going to change their habits. They came in for one book, they left with that book. They're done until the next big hit comes out. So yeah, they might come and buy Casual Vacancy or Cuckoo's Calling, but they were never going to buy anything else. If they found the display empty they would leave empty handed. I hope I am making my point here because It is one I really don't think Ms. Shepherd understands. 
But does that sound like the whole reading community? No. Sure publishers would love if everyone sold like Rowling, but they don't, but that doesn't mean that a market doesn't exist. Which brings me to the reader readers. You know them, the ones (like myself) who are always carrying a book and always on the lookout for the next amazing story. Sure they might read King, Green or Rowling, but they’ll also delve deeper into the shelves. They’ll use what they loved about The Fault in Our Stars to find other books that are similar, and use author recommendations to find other writers with a similar style. These are the readers you can sell too, and guess what, they still want to buy books. They'll browse shelves and troll goodreads lists. They can be picky, but it's only because they know what they like. These readers go through dozens of books a year.  They're the people who will walk by the display of the latest YA series and purse the actual shelves. They are the people who will find that lone book. 

Basically what I'm trying, albeit longwindedly, to say is that If you write a good book someone will find it. It's not fair to blame lack of success on another author existing. If Rowling and company just stopped writing it doesn't bring you more readers, it just leaves the general public with less. So Lynn Shepherd can calm down, I'm not one of the ones who'll attack you over your ridiculous statement on Harry Potter (right now. Don't check facebook.) but your not giving anyone, least of all your future readers, any credit. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

There's a Season

I do everything in seasons. The music I listen to is dependent on temperature and the films I crave depend on how late the sun is up. For instance I only watch serious movies in the winter and I like ones set in far away places in the spring. Even my television habits are seasonal - fantasy (Doctor Who, Merlin) when it's cold, sitcoms in the summer, dramas in the fall. I don't do this intentionally, it's just how my mind works.  I have actually said "this is winter music" to a friend and had them look at me like I was insane. I've come to embrace this part of myself.

So if all my other methods of cultural consumption are cyclical then it should come as no surprise that my reading habits are exactly the same.The spring is all about new releases and books set in far away places. When the grass gets green and the flowers pop up I want to read about Paris, or China, crap I'll even read about Oklahoma, just give me something that isn't middle America. Summer inevitably leads to a very passionate one sided affair with historical fiction. The War of the Roses, the French Revolution, World War II, I'm sold on all of them. Fall makes me studious, maybe because I miss school, maybe because I always have associated dead leaves and early sunsets with classics, modern or otherwise.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It's most certainly winter. Judging from all the snow outside it'll still be winter for awhile. Winter draws me to two very distinct genres - young adult fiction and memoirs. While in years past I've fallen head over heels for David Mitchell, Stephen Fry, Tina Fey, really any comedian or interesting person, that's not really the point i'm trying to make here. I'm here to talk about my relationship with Young Adult fiction.

When I was in the YA target demographic I was reading Hemingway, Heller and Hugo. If you think that sounds pretentious you should know that's exactly what teenage me was going for. I wanted high brow, I wanted adult, I wanted to be well read and mature and often times forced myself through books I really didn't enjoy just so I could say I'd read them. The only time I really read YA fiction in high school was my yearly (even then) reading of Harry Potter. Now that I'm comfortably in my mid twenties I'm opting for things i want to read, and not for things that I should read. The result is A marathon reading of Hunger Games in 2012, Beautiful Creatures in 2013 and Divergent this year.

My lack of experience with young adult fiction and the general attitude I had towards it in my young and bratty years has meant that I rarely skim the surface of what's actually happening in the genre. I hear about big blockbusters and see the most reviewed books on my blog roll, but I rarely spend more than a few seconds in YA section of Barnes and Noble. I've read John Green and Marcus Zusak, but I can find them on the shelves at Target. While I stay on the side of the mainstream there is something YA has done for me. Inevitably every winter when I'm feeling sad, cold and unmotivated it shouts at me to come read. And read I do. I shout through these books like candy and I consume them till my mind is too full of words to continue. Then I set down the unread books that I've invested in (*cough* Delirium *cough*) and hide them away till next year.

I love what YA is. I wish I had the stamina and the excitement to delve deep into all of it's stories, dystopian to romantic, but alas I have many things to read. I have a Jar full of all the books I own that I have not touched and now is not the time to lament my less than fair treatment of a genre. In truth I love anything that get's people reading. I may not have been inclined to read Twilight but I always appreciated what Stephenie Meyer's had done for a whole generation of new readers. The same goes for Dan Brown, and E.L. James. I want people to read and I don't care how they start. 

So I'm sorry I've neglected you, Young Adult Fiction. You're a good seed. I think you've got oddles of personality and all the potential in the world. We should totally get lunch, I'm free till the end of March 20th. Then I gotta start reading about Paris and flowers. Much Love,
Does anyone else read in seasons or have a good YA recommendation? Let me know!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh

You may know Allie Brosh from her successful blog Hyperbole and a Half. If you're not familiar with her work you should check it out. Really, I don't know what you're waiting for. Her book by the same name is half classic content, like this story about getting drugged at the dentist or this one about cake, and half new material. Just like her blog Allie's book is filled with the same hilarious cartoons and painfully honest prose. It's not a lie to call it laugh out loud funny. This was the first physical book I read this year and it felt like having the best parts of the internet lying in my lap.

I mean it when I say laugh out loud. I laughed. My dog looked at me funny. He judged me. It was a moment. If you're a fan of Allie's blog already it's definitely worth the investment to get her book. Even if you're not familiar with her work (which begs the question why didn't you click the link up top? What are you doing? Do you hate laughing?!) I cannot recommend Allie's book enough. Her stories are varied enough that even if you're not a huge fan of one, the next one will probably be something you can relate to.

So what are you waiting for? It's cold. The sky's gray. Don't you want something to brighten up this unending winter?

Friday, February 7, 2014

January in Review

Hello! Remember January? I hope you do. It was only a week ago. January was a lot of things. It was cold, It was snowy. It was long. January was so long guys.


The only thing that made the subzero temperatures and feet of snow worth it were the books I fell into. I was lucky enough to find a new favorite series and some really hilarious reads to make being snowed in for days tolerable. Really, without these awesome books I'd have gone crazy as soon as I had finished all the Wes Anderson movies I got for Christmas.

January 2014
Books Read: 7
1. The Dinner - Koch
2. Divergent - Roth
3. Insurgent - Roth
4. Allegiant - Roth
5. Hyperbole and a Half - Brosh
6. Paris, My Sweet - Thomas
7. No One Belongs Here More Than You - July

American Authors: 4
European: 1
African: 0
South American: 0
Asian:  0

Male: 1 Female: 4

New Releases: 0

Jar Books: 1

Challenge Books: 2

The only thing I really accomplished this month was finishing more books than I did in the last four months of 2013 combined. I did an awful job of reading outside of my comfort zone. White American's are my bread and butter (not that this is a shocking statement, I think a lot of people find this to be true) but it was one of my 2014 goals to read authors from other places. Hopefully in February I can sneak in another Continent. Despite all those leering zero's I still feel like I had a really good start to 2014 and I'm excited to see what bookish things the rest of the year brings.

Did you read anything amazing in January? Leave me some recommendations in the comments!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Allegiant - Veronica Roth

 Veronica Roth

Chicago's secret is out - there is something outside the city of factions, well, now factionless factions, and the Divergent's could help them.  With the factionless leader, and Four's mother, Evelyn doubling down  her efforts to control the city and keep everyone inside it's boarders Tris and Four must join with the a new resistance group, the Allegiant, to get out of the city. Once out everything changes, but they do finally learn the truth, and the real definition of that word that has defined them since they were 16 - Divergent.

I haven't been shy about my feelings on this series. I love it. I love Tris. I love Four. I love the world Veronica Roth created. Allegiant tried to test that love. It's not that it's a bad book, it's really not. The problem lies in the number of changes that are all happening at once. The biggest of these changes is that  half the book is narrated from Four's perspective. It's a  necessary change to get a full picture of what's happening but it's still a bit jarring, especially since Tris and Four's thoughts are so similar. Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who's head you're inside.  It would have been nice to see some of the differences in their personality, because they come across as so distinct in Divergent and Insurgent.
The change in perspective can be irritatig but what really threw me was all the new settings. Most of the book takes place in what was once O'Hare airport and the surrounding area, and everything about it is so different from Roth's dystopian Chicago that it's hard to believe they could coexist so close to one another. Again this is a necessary change, the outside would is important to the story and without it we would never find out the real purpose of the factions, or the divergents, or really anything. It's just what I like to call "Mockingjay syndrome", where everything changes and you as a reader have to fight to keep in the present with the story and not think "god I missed when it was just (the hunger games, the factions, classes at Hogwarts.)"
My only other issue was with the pacing. There was an awful lot of long winded exposition and huge periods where very little was happening. Even the journey's into the fringe territory wasn't exciting. Allegiant just didn't feel as fleshed out as the rest of the series. 
At the end of everything I really was pleased with Allegiant. I know it doesn't seem like it but I'm hard on this book because I had such high expectations. I may have the most issues with Allegiant as a stand alone book but it was the story that Veronica Roth needed to close out her series. I especially appriciate that it didn't have a sugarcoated happy ending. This was a society at war and it makes sense that there were major casualties. George R.R. Martin would be proud of of Mrs Roth. She certainly doesn't pull any punches. 

Side note: If you cry over your kindle for an hour it'll still work the next day. Nice!