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Kissing in America

3 Jul

KISSING IN AMERICA by Margo Rabb (Amazon) (Goodreads) was so, so, SO much more than I had hoped or expected. It’s probably not even fair to say I had hopes — I don’t remember which list I saw it on or why I decided to request it from the library and even once I had it at home, I put it off because cover didn’t especially draw me in. Thinking back, the “I loved it” blurb from Elizabeth Gilbert was a bit of a “huh” and should have been a tip off that this was something really, really special. So if you didn’t already get the TLDR, the point is: it is EXCELLENT. Highly recommend.

As I’ve done with previous “reviews” (these are definitely not reviews, they’re more like stream-of-consciousness commentaries) of books, below are some of my favorite quotes from the book mashed up with my musings on why I liked this or that so much and how it made me feel.

  • I don’t generally like poetry but the lines and excerpts made me *feel* things, and tempt me to actually go read some. Each section includes a bit of poetry, and each chapter title *feels* like poetry, though most are phrases or prose from that actual chapter. I just can’t emphasize enough how much I am NOT a poetry person, but how by the middle of reading this novel, the poetry really started to affect me… particularly the snippets that Will and Eva started including in their letters to each other.
  • “[My mother] would’ve preferred odd piercings, full-body tattoos, or even shoplifting to what I did. I feel in love with romance novels” (4). HA. Skipping ahead a little bit, I love this explanation for why Eva likes romance novels (and I think it gets at part of why I love reading fiction/YA/contemporary so much too): “I loved romances because when you opened the first page, you knew the story would end well. Your heart wouldn’t be broken. I loved that security, that guaranteed love. Sure, a minor, usually unlikable character might drop dead from typhus or consumption or starve to death in the brig, but bad things were only temporary in these books. By the end, the hero and heroine would be ecstatically in love, enormously happy. / In real life, you never knew the ending. I hated that” (51-52). Me too Eva, me too. And then at the very end of the book (SPOILERS!) — this broke my heart: “It didn’t make sense. I thought: we’re not in a romance novel. The words fell into my head. In a romance novel, if a person said, Sometimes people meet at the wrong time on page 50, then they’d still get married by page 250. They’d still have their happy ending” (335). – Heartbreak.
  • “…sometimes I glance in the window and see them. Girls and their dads doing the tiniest most boring things like sharing chicken wings (and I don’t even like chicken wings), and I watch them through the window, wanting to soak up all this fatherness, this luxurious fatherness they don’t even appreciate. Usually they’re not even talking to their dads, they’re texting or playing a video game in their laps. Don’t they know? I want to shake them. Don’t they know how lucky they are to sit in the KFC with their fathers?” (20) That one shot straight to the heart… a reminder to be thankful, and one of many passages that really raised volumes of empathy and pain on behalf of Eva. And spoiler, but the ugly cries really started flowing during that last conversation between Eva and her mom: Eva: “‘We never talk about him.’ ‘Who?’ ‘Daddy.'” (373) – UGLY CRIES EVERYWHERE. And here’s another one: “My mom said ‘I love you’ every night… like an item on a to-do list. My dad used to say it with a soft voice and a kiss to the head, and I told my mom that once: ‘Daddy said I love you differently.’ She looked stricken. She told me she had a headache and she went to bed.” (25) While I felt for Eva, I actually also empathized a lot with her mom… who really sucked at dealing with her grief from her daughter’s perspective, but clearly also had a lot of issues and Margo (can I just call her Margo? the author) built her character with her a lot of layers and complexity, like a real person, to the point where I sympathized with her. Who am I to judge this woman for how the loss of the love of her life breaks and shatters her? Who’s to say I’d do any better?
  • On a lighter note: the nicknames that Annie and Eva and Will come up with for the stuff and adults in their life are hilarious — Jerkface for Will’s dad, Benign Fungus for Larry, even Crapphone for her not-smartphone cellphone… maybe to some it’s cheesy, but to me, it seems authenticly teenager.
  • I love Annie! I love that she’s quirky and a genius and most of all that she’s a REAL, steadfast friend… who is in some ways an Asian stereotype genius daughter, but also one who has to deal with the embarrassment of her family’s humble beginnings and her sisters NOT being the typical Asian AP kids. She’s also a SUPER straight talker–when Eva drafts a text message and hems and haws about the wording, Annie says: “Send it or I’m going to kill you” (69) – what a friend! And then even in the more serious times, the best friends are the ones that even when you mess up, they’ll be there. “I lay next to her on the bed. We were quiet for a long time as we stared at the ceiling, just as we had all over the country. There’s a thing in poetry called the caesura–a pause between words, a silence. I thought: That’s what real friendship is, too. Someone you can be quiet with. Someone who understands your mistakes and forgives you” (365).
  • I had no idea this would be a road trip story and I LOVEEEEE road trip stories! (Shout out to Morgan Matson, who writes the best road trip stories). While not necessarily the point or focus, you can see how each stop (and getting out of their hometown) opens their eyes and brings on new revelations.
  • Larry, while the Benign Fungus (snicker), was surprisingly insightful about all of their worries about leaving New York: “Some people would think it’s odd that New Yorkers are this worried about leaving the city. Most people are afraid when they come to New York City” (135). And you know what, as a potential stepfather character, he seemed pretty harmless and, well, yes, benign.
  • Aunt Jackie, oh what a fun character too! How she handled her fiance cheating on her at age 28: “Janet got a partial refund on the reception hall and the caterer, and she returned all the gifts. The dress was not returnable. It had been shredded and sent to Sam in a cardboard box.” (155) and how she started showing the girls gonorrhea pictures, I seriously spit out laughing. Annie’s response: “I’m staying a virgin until I die. Did you see that eyeball?” (160). But, I also love that even as a teen, Eva can read her aunt: “…it occurred to me that Janet was afraid. She was afraid of germs and diseases and sex and heartbreak, of her broken engagement, her old messy love.” (162) and even this: “I often thought Janet would be happy if she could round up all boys and men and corral them into a man zoo, where they’d be caged, allowed a few visitors, and have scraps of meat flung at them every few hours” (228) HA.
  • First of all, cowboy romances sound hilariously awesome. Second of all, real life cowboys and ranch living sounds even more awesome — like when Janet asks about an alarm system on the ranch, “Irma pointed across the hallway railing toward the open living room, at the shotgun hanging above the fireplace” (223) – heehee, wild wild west.
    *The depiction of adult romance thru Eva’s mom and Larry, and Larry’s mom and her series of husbands, and even Will’s parents struggles… they were so refreshingly REAL and sometimes uncomfortably so, but in a way that felt authentic.
  • Amen to Lulu’s response to Annie’s question: “‘Is there any problem that can’t be solved with a book?’ ‘Nope,’ Lulu said, and smiled.” (279)
  • And last but not least, Will. Spoilers! I didn’t love him (you could tell he was kind of flighty, despite mostly being a good guy) but I mostly love him as a device for Eva to grow and feel and realize the differences between real life and her beloved romance novels. He was ultimately a catalyst, setting in motion so, so much more for her.

Isla and the Happily Ever After

5 Oct

I really don’t consider myself a book blogger, but when I find myself overflowing with fuzzy feelings after a great book (and have the necessary time), I suppose I will occasionally blog about books.

ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER was a no-brainer 5-star/2014-favorites type of book. I didn’t expect it to be quite this good, though I knew I’d like it based on the first two in the series, but MAN. SO good! Thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it — and seriously hit the spot.

Like I’ve done with the few other book review type posts, I wanted to jot down thoughts and especially the quotes that I loved. But for some reason, I found myself adding more commentary to the quotes than usual. So, if you’ve read it, you’ll hopefully remember and join me in my enthusiasm… and if you haven’t read it yet–I’d hold off. The quotes aren’t organized in a way that’s conducive to introducing someone to the story or characters or anything — they’re more me remembering moments I felt things, and the lines that stuck out.

  • “Ohmygod what the hell did I do last night?????????” (12) — Chapter One felt a little interesting, and Chapter Two simultaneously cracked me up and gave more clarity on how to understand what I’d just read (Stephanie Perkins, I see what you did there…).
  • Note that I was having too much fun to stop and think about grabbing post-its to flag all the wonderful words and phrases I loved for the first hundred pages… which clearly means I’m going to need to read it again.
  • And I also clearly need to re-read ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS because I had NO idea that St. Clair was taller than her! Did we know this from ANNA??? From ISLA – Josh talking to Isla: “’You know my friend St. Clair?’ he says after a few minutes. ‘He’s only a few inches taller than you, and his girlfriend, Anna? She’s taller than he is.’” (101) As a taller girl (I’m 5’10” and sometimes 5’11”…), I do lament that there are very few stories of taller girl + shorter guy. I think this happens less frequently than almost any other type of couple… like, with age discrepancies, or ethnic/racial differences, or whatever. HEIGHT!
  • Kurt and Josh’s first happy interaction: “Josh clutches his chest in agony as Kurt explodes into loud belly laughter. My heart might burst from happiness.” (107) I love that her two favorite-est people getting along is what brings her true happiness, especially in light of understanding how two of her previous friendships/relationships ultimately ended because of her friendship with Kurt.
  • Isla and Josh, on their first “date” in Paris:
    “’You know what I like about you?’ I ask, after a few minutes.
    ‘My dynamite moves on the dance floor.’” (131)

    SO unexpected, I think I snorted out loud. I love my heroes witty. And I didn’t even know Josh was witty! And maybe he wasn’t — maybe him being around Isla both makes him wordvomit or them being together brings out new parts of his personality we otherwise wouldn’t have been introduced to.

    Josh reminded me a bit of Levi, from FANGIRL, with his sense of humor and sarcasm, though definitely not as bubbly and positive. If anything, they’re opposites in the way they interact with the world—but I see similarities in how they interact with their significant girl-others. How I remember Levi is this interesting blend of St. Clair’s charisma and Josh’s thoughtfulness.

    Like later, later on in the book, when St. Clair and the gang join the party (which, to be honest, did not feel like a party at the time I read it because I was so deep in Isla’s heartbroken state – but let’s be real, it was a party!) the way he carries himself is so fun, and hilarious. “St. Clair clears his throat. ‘My fiancé and I are headed out for a celebratory dessert. I’d ask you all to join us, but I don’t want you there.’” (315) Charming! Effortlessly oozing charisma, and charming. Lucky Anna.

  • I would pay good money to see the mural Josh painted – and I love, love, love his reaction to her reaction: “’Thank you,’ he says. ‘That was the best reaction that anyone has ever given me. For anything.’” (139)
  • Can someone please create and coordinate a trip to Paris, and then Barcelona? One where we visit the same sites, and maybe mix in a little JUST ONE DAY/JUST ONE YEAR? I’d pay to see that too. Why not combine it with a recreation of Josh’s mural? At THE Treehouse? PLEASE. and Thank You.
  • In Barcelona: “I can’t believe that adults get to do this every day. And I don’t even mean sex, though it’s wonderful, but things like this. Brushing our teeth at the same sink. Do adults realize how lucky they are? Or do they forget that these small moments are actually small miracles? I don’t want to ever forget.” (178)
  • Josh: “’St. Clair can persuade anyone to do anything. He’s like, drowning in charisma. It’s so unfair to the rest of us.’
    ‘Eh,’ I say. ‘He’s okay.’
    Josh pauses. And then I hear a smile in his voice. ‘This must be how you felt when I told you that you’re hotter than your sisters.’” (178)
    WHAT A LOVELY MOMENT. Stephanie Perkins! How do you come up with these things?! (Duh, you’re a writer, and an awesome one at that. These things obviously come to you in your sleep.)
  • And I’m pretty sure editors do not choose font sizes, margin width, and paper in order to make sure certain words or phrases appear at the top (or bottom) of any given page, but CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW the “Uh, no. Not at the moment.” (206) Is at the very. Bottom. Of. The. Page?! Convenient, right?! It could only have been made more convenient if it was on the bottom of the right page, and you had to turn the page to read whatever came next.

    My jaw literally dropped, and stayed dropped for quite a bit of time. I knew there had to be a logical explanation, but I was infuriated on Isla’s behalf, and am glad she was equally infuriated with Josh.

    For context – Josh is being interviewed and is asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” and then responds like so:
    “He pauses before giving another modest laugh. ‘Uh, no. Not at the moment.’ (206)

  • Reading about Isla reading and experiencing Josh’s graphic novel… I feel like I experienced it with her. “It took guts to draw these things. It’s a different kind of excruciating to read about them.” (218) and then, of course, Rashmi. “She’s pretty and smart and sarcastic. And I hate her.” (218).
  • I kind of love the portrayals of the adults in this story. While of course Josh’s parents have their faults (they are human, after all, who are dealing with very high-pressured lives), the adults are quite reasonable, and I love that. Take, for instance, the interaction between the head of school and Josh:

    “’For a certain kind of person, high school will always be brutal,’ the head says. ‘The best advice that I can give you is to figure out what comes next, and work toward that.’” (221) WHAT GREAT ADVICE!

    The banter between Isla and her parents is also sweet – like when Isla’s mom is comforting her before the big gala: “’His father will love you. His mother will learn to love you. You’re intelligent, charming, and kind.’ ‘Of course you think that.’ ‘I would never describe your younger sister as charming.’ That gets me to crack a smile.” (240)

    And even the very brief encounter we have with Kurt’s parents, I love. “Kurt’s parents refuse to let me call them Mr. and Mrs. Bacon, because they refuse to believe that they’re old.” (267) I kind of want to borrow this philosophy when we have children. Please. It’s a genius idea.

    And then Scott (Kurt’s dad): “’Did he hurt you?’ Scott undergoes a Hulk-like transformation, which looks peculiar on his strung-out ex-rocker body. ‘Yes!’ Scott’s body completes the Hulk transformation. ‘No.’ I sob hysterically. ‘Emotionally.’” (268)

  • During their separation: “How did my parents live before texting? Before the internet? I’m used to knowing things and all of this unknowing is driving me mad.” (235) — Taking away their face-to-face and even digital interaction is such a powerful device because the readers of this book (a large chunk of them, any way—myself included!) have never had to carry on a relationship without at least one or the other. The angst of writing letters or waiting weeks and weeks to catch a glimpse or exchange a few lines—that’s the stuff of the classic romance novels we’ve read and swoon over—and now, Stephanie Perkins makes it relevant to us, with Isla.
  • And lastly, can I just say, THANK GOODNESS someone decided to give these books new and improved covers. The title treatment, the colors, the fonts, and that beautiful rose emblem/logo/motif — perfection. Even before I understood the significance of the roses, I thought they were gorgeous — and obviously appreciate them even more now. Great book marketing makes me so happy — and now I want to buy all three books to have them make my bookshelves that much more beautiful.

Harriet the Spy

4 Oct

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One of the few book blogs I follow, The Midnight Garden, chooses one classic Middle Grade/Young Adult book a month to read and then discuss. I’ve read a few lovely books with them so far this year: THE LUCKIEST GIRL (by Beverly Cleary) and A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (by Betty Smith), but September’s book (HARRIET THE SPY) seriously takes the cake.

HARRIET THE SPY is a book I could have sworn I’d read when I was younger, but upon re-reading, realized I didn’t remember *anything* in it–so maybe I never actually read it. Regardless, I was totally charmed by the second page, and proceeded to sticky-note every other page for about 100 pages or so because it was just that good.

The quote on page 2 that I loved:

Harriet is a CHARACTER. She’s precocious, clearly intelligent, a little socially awkward, and brutally honest, both with herself (in her spy notebook — in all caps) and others. There’s a lot of discussion about how she’s not a “nice” girl but let’s be real–girls aren’t nice! Or at least, most kids aren’t when they’re not pretending to say or do the right thing.

This isn’t a recap by any means, but a place for me to drop all my favorite quotes… and to ruminate on the parts that stood out to me. Like, how Harriet was so, so attached to Ole Golly, her nurse (aka nanny), and how Ole Golly knew her better than her parents did, always saying (or not saying) the right thing to make Harriet feel heard, loved, or comforted. I love the relationship as a reader, but as a (Lord willing) one-day parent, it makes me all the more uneasy with the idea of having full-time childcare… I want to be the one who knows my kid best, who knows what to say to get them to take dancing lessons, who can read their moods, and who can take away their flashlight when they try to read under the covers. I get that in some families it’s not an option (because both parents need to work) but in the case of Harriet’s family (and many others)–it’s not necessary! <end soapbox>

Without further adieu–some of my favorite quotes. Which, ironically enough, have very little overlap with the most popular quotes on Goodreads.

  • “Then Harriet did what she always did when she was supposed to be asleep. She got out her flashlight, put the book she was currently reading under the covers, and read happily until Ole Golly came in and took the flashlight away as she did every night.” (25) – I wonder if I had read this as a kid… and then proceeded to do it every night!
  • Harriet to the cook: “Ole Golly says find out everything you can cause life is hard enough even if you know a lot” (37)
  • Harriet to the cook: “I do not go out to PLAY, I go out to WORK!” (39) – I love how seriously she takes herself!
  • Sport to Harriet, about his dad: “Writers don’t care what they eat. They just care what you think of them” (49)
  • “’I hate money,’ Harriet said.
    ‘Well, you’d jolly well like it if you didn’t have any,’ Sport said arrogantly. Harriet considered this. It was true. She’d never had to think about it.” (51)
  • “I GUESS IT’S NOT MONEY THAT MAKES PEOPLE DULL. THERE IS A LOT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT THIS THING OF BEING DULL. I BETTER FIND OUT BECAUSE I MIGHT BE IT.” (57) – this made me chuckle
  • Harriet and Ole Golly: “’What’s a high-pressure job?’ ‘It means he’s not allowed to do exactly what he wants with the job, and what he is allowed to do he isn’t given enough time to do it in.’” (62) – SUCH a good, timeless, simple explanation of this. Crazy how the idea of a high-pressure job applied then, and applies now.
  • “I’M GLAD I’M NOT PERFECT–I’D BE BORED TO DEATH.” (68)
  • Harriet’s parents: “’Boy, that Miss Golly is magic, sheer magic. I wonder where we’d be without her?’” (88)
  • “LIFE IS A GREAT MYSTERY. IS EVERYBODY A DIFFERENT PERSON WHEN THEY ARE WITH SOMEBODY ELSE? OLE GOLLY HAS NEVER BEEN THIS WAY. I WONDER IF PEOPLE ACT LIKE THIS WHEN THEY GET MARRIED? HOW COULD SHE GET MARRIED? WOULD MR. WALDENSTEIN COME TO LIVE WITH US THEN? THEY COULD PUT THEIR CHILD IN MY ROOM IF THEY WANTED TO. I WOULDN’T MIND. I DON’T THINK. UNLESS IT WAS A VERY NOSY CHILD WHO TRIED TO READ MY NOTEBOOKS. THEN I WOULD SMASH IT.” (97) – another laugh out loud moment. Oh Harriet. I love the strange progression of her thoughts.
  • Ole Golly to Harriet: “Tears won’t bring me back. Remember that. Tears never bring anything back. Life is a struggle and a good spy gets in there and fights. Remember that. No nonsense.” (132)
  • “The customers stood around like frozen food.” (160) – For some reason, I liked this metaphor/use of imagery a lot.
  • “SHE ALWAYS SAID THAT PEOPLE WHO TRY TO CONTROL PEOPLE AND CHANGE PEOPLES’ HABITS ARE THE ONES THAT MAKE ALL THE TROUBLE. IF YOU DON’T LIKE SOMEBODY, WALK AWAY, SHE SAID, BUT DON’T TRY AND MAKE THEM LIKE YOU.” (226) – Ole Golly is the smartest woman I’ve ever known. And I’m guilty of this so often.
  • Harriet and her mother: “’What do you do?’ ‘A lot of unseen, unappreciated things’” (233)  – The plight of the SAHM

If you read it, let me know! Would love to chat about it more.

What I’m Reading

26 Sep

AND WITH THIS POST, I am totally up-to-date on what I’ve been reading the past few months! Easier said than done.

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  • The Fifth Wave (Amazon) (Rick Yancey) – Sci-fi… skimmed it. From the small sampling of books I’ve read or tried to read, I think I’m less likely to enjoy a book if it’s written by a male author. Just an observation worth sharing.
  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Amazon) (April Genevieve Tucholke) – You know, the story itself was okay. The main character frustrated me a little by her naivete but I still enjoyed it… but… the ending? DRIVES ME NUTS. I hate when I find out that it’s “Book #1” in a series when I was expecting a resolution. Ugh. Book #1s should have a resolution!
  • The Spectacular Now (Amazon) (Tim Tharp) – Underwhelmed. I really wanted to see the movie, and now I’m still curious, but less so. Didn’t love the narrative voice (male author, again!) and didn’t love the ending, but can see how it’d make a good movie.
  • Fingerprints of You (Amazon) (Kristen-Paige Madonia) – Simple, sweet, mother-daughter tale… finding-yourself, etc. Liked, didn’t love.
  • Warm Bodies (Amazon) (Isaac Marion) – Better than I hoped, but not great. Just watched the movie trailer and like how they applied the humor of the novel. Zombie love story, but not exactly…
  • Reconstructing Amelia (Amazon) (Kimberly McCreight) – Another adult novel I picked up because of all the sales and press. I actually liked this BETTER than GONE GIRL which I know everyone loved and was a huge blockbuster (does that word apply to books too?). The ending and the final twist weren’t entire surprises (I feel like it’s been done before, to an extent), but I did like all the little twists and turns along the way. And oof, the heart of her mother…
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible (Amazon) (Austin Grossman) – Started, because it was well-regarded in the world of fantasy/sci-fi, but couldn’t finish it. Never got into comic books, so shouldn’t have been surprised that I didn’t love a book that was essentially a spin-off of the comic world.

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  • Something Strange and Deadly (Amazon) / A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Amazon) (Susan Dennard) – Yet ANOTHER trilogy with a female heroine. Should that be a drama? YA paranormal trilogy with strong female heroine and multiple love interests? This one is set in earlier America, with a twist of zombies and magic (and some science), but still entertaining. I guess the formula works!
  • A Really Awesome Mess (Amazon) (Trish Cook) – REALLY liked this. Takes place in an … what do you call it… alternative care facility? Kind of like rehab for teenagers, who come together with a motley of issues. The two main characters struggle with anger/feeling loved (boy) and eating disorders/feeling loved (girl). Unexpectedly funny with a lot of sass, big thumbs up.
  • The Name of the Wind (Amazon) / The Wise Man’s Fear (Amazon) (Patrick Rothfuss) – And the grand finale… Patrick Rothfuss. Oh, Patrick Rothfuss. I won’t say that these are MORE fun than the Game of Thrones series because I know that’d raise havoc… but I will say that they are of the same caliber. Set in similar worlds, but I like that these focus on ONE character (Kvothe) and it is a coming-of-age story, just that of an extraordinarily clever, smart, observant, resourceful, powerful, and talented … arcanist? Not sure what we should call him. SO SO SO SO SO good. Gave both 5 stars, which I don’t very often on Goodreads… but high fantasy seriously at it’s best. Cannot wait for the third book, though I’ll probably have to wait ages given it’s apparently not done being written yet!

What I’m Reading

26 Sep

More books! More books! Seriously, never-ending pile of  books. I wonder if I’ll get bored of reading… that’d be weird.

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  • Why We Broke Up (Amazon) (Daniel Handler) – Not only did I really like the story (totally thought it had a female author), I loved the illustrations (it’s kind of like a graphic novel in that sense). Heartbreak… but shouldn’t have been surprised because of the title, duh.
  • Maine (Amazon) / Commencement (Amazon) (J. Courtney Sullivan) – You hear about this author a lot, but realized she’s not exactly my cup of tea. She’s what you would call a feminist novelist (I think) so there’s a lot of women in her novels… and all the drama that comes with it. MAINE is about a family of women (oh the dynamics…) and COMMENCEMENT is about 4 girls who become friends in college at an all girl’s college. Going to try to read her newest one (THE ENGAGEMENTS) but may not continue reading any of her future works.
  • Feed (Amazon) / Deadline (Amazon) / Blackout (Amazon) (Mira Grant) – FUN! Zombie/political novels set in the future. They’re pretty long, which kind of scared me off, but once I really got into them, super super fun. These are more adult-targeted, so less ooey gooey fun and less breezy and more science and all that, but I liked them.
  • Fire With Fire (Amazon) / Burn for Burn (Amazon) (Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian) – After the PRETTY series, was excited to read these two (plus, AWESOME cover art!). Story of 3 girls who become friends under unusual circumstances, and then the fallout of their scheming. Didn’t catch or initially love the sci-fi turn of the story, but am curious how it’ll resolve all the various conflicts in book 3.

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  • Sheltering Rain (Amazon) / Windfallen (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – More Jojo Moyes 🙂 As previously mentioned, her older works felt a little more formulaic but still enjoyed them. Am SUPER looking forward to her new  book (THE GIRL YOU LEFT BEHIND) with the gorgeous cover art.
  • On the Jellicoe Road (Amazon) (Melina Marchetta) – One of my favorite book blogger websites mentioned this book as one of their writers’ absolute favorites, so I had to read. Can see why they liked it, but was a little too quirky for me.

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  • Austenland (Amazon) /Midnight in Austenland (Amazon) (Shannon Hale) – SO FUN. I knew AUSTENLAND was made into a movie, but didn’t have expectations going into it and love love loved the first book (and was pleasantly surprised by the second book as well). Clever, witty, feel-good. Recommend.
  • Nantucket Blue (Amazon) (Leila Howland) – Another one of those easy-breezy summer books, which I enjoyed.
  • Sweet Tooth (Amazon) (Ian McEwan) – Thought I might like it after seeing all the press, but couldn’t even skim through to the end… and once I saw the spoilers online about the rest of it, was so happy I stopped. Ugh.
  • Big Brother (Amazon) (Lionel Shriver) – Another book around weight… really inspired (is that the right word?) by her involvement in her brother’s life, but didn’t love the way it affected her life and family… and then at the very end, couldn’t handle the ending. Could not.

What I’m Reading

25 Sep

I’m still super behind on remembering everything I’ve read, but there were some great ones in this batch… just you wait!

  • If I Stay (Amazon) / Where She Went (Amazon) (Gayle Forman) – I’ve been hearing about Gayle Forman’s writing for a long time but finally delved in with these two — the first is ethereal and tragic (big car accident) and is mostly her (not quite dead) thinking about the implications of “staying” or “leaving”… it’s pretty sad. And “Where She Went” addresses the aftermath of her decision. Didn’t love book 2, but like that it resolves a lot of really realistic issues.
  • Just One Day (Amazon) (Gayle Forman) – This book took the beautiful, thoughtful prose I liked in IF I STAY but took away some of the paranormal/tragedy and set the story in Paris. Love. Love. Love. Am DYING to read book two (JUST ONE YEAR) which comes out in early October. I really liked how she didn’t end the book in the place you might expect a similar book to do so.
  • The Heiresses (Amazon) (Allison Rushby) – Had low expectations for this one, but reminded me that I really enjoy historical fiction and I love the (broken but beautiful) relationships between sisters. I also think I’ve always had some kind of fascination with twins/triplets (Sweet Valley High, anyone?) and the protagonists are triplets 🙂

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  • Uglies (Amazon) / Pretties (Amazon) / Extras (Amazon) / Specials (Amazon) (Scott Westerfeld) – The UGLIES series is one of the most famous and “foundational” (i.e. early) paranormal/sci-fi/dystopian YA series from a few years back. Finally picked them up and while I wasn’t blown away (I think the novelty has worn off and newer, better authors have emerged), they were still fun and I read them up.

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  • 45 Pounds (Amazon) (K.A. Barson) – This was a WONDERFUL book. I think because I grew up chubby (until about middle school), I’ve always been a little preoccupied by my weight, what I eat, and the emotional turmoil that comes with it. I love the juxtaposition of the protagonist and her mom, the inner struggles she faces as well as what she learns about her family… and the motivation for her changes, ahhhh I love. So good.
  • Me Before You (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – Can I just tell you? SUCH. A. GOOD. BOOK. SO. GOOD. I had never heard of Jojo Moyes before this book started getting really amazing press, but I also ado-red the cover typography/design (the power of a good cover!). I started it late in the night and never intended to finish it, but literally couldn’t stop reading it until like 4 or 5am and I was bawling… straight up pile of tissues next to me (and growing). SO GOOD. Please read!
  • The Last Letter From Your Lover (Amazon) (Jojo Moyes) – Instantly requested more books from Jojo Moyes from the library and this was the most recent one that they had — I think most of her previous works were more like this, where there are two love stories set in different historical settings (one contemporary, one historical) and somehow they connect. Very entertaining reads that tug at the heart strings… though (SPOILER ALERT) it breaks. my. heart. when the love stories aren’t wrapped up “happily ever after” in the “older” context. UGH. HEARTBREAK.
  • Still Star-Crossed (Amazon) (Melinda Taub) – Another GREAT book! (Was on a roll that week!) I haven’t read a ton of Shakespeare spin-off type stories, but this was one that really worked for me. It’s a spin off of ROMEO & JULIET and gives life (with a made up backstory) to two side characters in the original series. So fun. Reminded me a little bit of THE RED TENT just in the way it took a smaller character and gave it a LOT of life, taking advantage of the framework in the original. Fun.
  • My Life Next Door (Amazon) (Huntley Fitzpatrick) – Simple, predictable story, but sweet.
  • Heads in Beds (Amazon) (Jacob Tomsky) – This is actually a totally different type of book — HEADS IN BEDS is an “expose” type nonfiction around the hotel industry, in the same way that KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL exposed some of the secrets of what it’s like to work in the restaurant industry. Especially as B & I have been traveling more in the past year, I was ashamed to read about tipping and how I should have been tipping a lot more than I was… and immediately applied some of the things from this book when I went to Portland in August and was happy to make the bell-person unexpectedly surprised 🙂 READ THIS if you travel!
  • Fifteenth Summer (Amazon) / Sixteenth Summer (Amazon) (Michelle Dalton) – I’m kind of embarrassed to talk about these books and why I picked them up… but… basically, I was at my aunt’s and saw them on my cousin’s shelf… and read them. Sigh. My cousin is 12 years younger than me. EEEEE. hahahaha, but the books were fun and breezy and easy. Still so weird to acknowledge I’m reading the same books as her!

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  • The Summer I Turned Pretty (Amazon) / It’s Not Summer Without You (Amazon) / We’ll Always Have Summer (Amazon) (Jenny Han) – A friend had read the PRETTY trilogy and I was in the mood for an easy-breezy fun read, which these were. All 3 books together = 1 Korean drama. And the main character’s nickname is Belly. Yes, like our dog. HA! Still fun.
  • Invisibility (Amazon) (Andrea Cremer) – A strange premise (invisible boy, only one girl can see him) and the implications. Expected more of an EVERY DAY type story, but then it went more fantasy/sci-fi, which picked up the pace.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette (Amazon) (Maria Semple) – This one got a LOT of attention in the press, and understandably so. Pokes a lot of fun at a certain type of parent (set in Seattle) but I didn’t love, love, love it. Fun, though.
  • Throne of Glass (Amazon) (Sarah J Maas) – YA fantasy fiction with a strong heroine… in fact, an assassin. Graceling-esque, but stronger and a little scarier. Enjoyed and looking forward to book 2 (which *just* came out).

What I’m Reading

25 Sep

As is the theme of all my blog posts today, I AM BEHIND. ACK.

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  • What Should A Person Be? (Amazon) (Sheila Heti) – Started and literally could not keep reading. DNF. It’s kind of liberating when I find myself confident that I just don’t want to finish a book… more time for others! Wee!
  • The Magicians (Amazon) / The Magician King (Amazon) (Lev Grossman) – Amazing. Known as the  “Harry Potter for adults” and it really is, in every sense of the word. The stories and the fantasy and the magic are more adult, the characters and their dilemmas are more adult, even though they start as older high school students as they begin their “coming of age” in some ways. Felt like the first was better than the second, but perhaps that’s because a little part of me died when (SPOILER ALERT) A died. At least a little part of me. And a lot of me could care less about Julia, who takes on a bigger role in book 2, somewhat strangely.
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (Amazon) (Jennifer E. Smith) – Short, simple, somewhat predictable, but still so satisfying.
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Amazon) / The Crown of Embers (Amazon) (Rae Carson) – Yet another amazing fantasy-esque trilogy with a strong female character who has special abilities/powers/etc and discovers them on her own. I hate, but love how the author introduces the love interests and how they’re handled — tastefully, though I predicted how it would twist in book 2. Excited for the 3rd!
  • The Brides of Rollrock Island (Amazon) (Margo Lanagan) – Ethereal, rambling (but clearly thought out) and hard to grasp initially, but once I got my bearings straight, it was such a hauntingly beautiful written novel. My first (I think) sea-creature-esque fantasy novel.

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  • Eleanor & Park (audiobook, Amazon) – Listening to the Eleanor & Park audiobook was my first audiobook ever… and it was awesome. I loved that I could “read” while I cooked or cleaned, and because I’ve read it before, it was okay that sometimes I couldn’t hear every word, though at other times I sat in front of my computer, attention rapt. The narrators were so, so good and the way they said things and the way I listened to the story highlighted different moments or nuances that I hadn’t always noticed in reading the actual book. Two thumbs way, way, up.
  • Boy Nobody (Amazon) (Allen Zadoff) – The writing was really bland, though the story intriguing. Really not much more to say. It does remind me that I should start a shelf on Goodreads for books I skimmed, but finished.
  • Gorgeous (Amazon) (Paul Rudnick) – Super strange concept (at least in a novel) with a strange touch of the magical/paranormal (which I totally didn’t expect), but deftly written with so many chuckles and smirks that it was sweet in the end.
  • The Testing (Amazon) (Joelle Charbonneau) – Okay, so I think the marketers or designers for this book did a bad job because I was really reluctant to read The Testing, until I started reading it. The cover made me think it would be kind of dark and masculine… but it was actually a female protagonist with a lot of heart. Low expectations -> high reward. Can’t wait for the second one.

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  • Before I Fall (Amazon) (Lauren Oliver) – Lauren Oliver also wrote the DELIRIUM trilogy, so was curious about her first big novel. The premise is a Groundhog Day-esque story where a girl dies and then relives the last day of her life over and over again, attempting to change elements of how it turns out. I loved seeing the character grow and change and develop over and over again, being thwarted sometimes and succeeding in others. Reminded me a bit of the movie Sliding Doors.
  • Born Wicked (Amazon) / Star Cursed (Amazon) (Jessica Spotswood) – Yet another trilogy, but more of a historical fantasy with a trio of witch sisters at its core. The usual political machinations drive me nuts, but I love the dynamic between the sisters and the tension of “prophecies” that have to be fulfilled in some way increase the anticipation for Book 3.