Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Books of 2013

Total Books Read: 70!
Total Pages Read: 19,041 pages...approximately.

My Favorites:
Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell: One of my new favorite authors! I sobbed reading Eleanor & Park, I related so much to Cath in Fangirl, and just gushed all over the place during Attachments!

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess: If it weren't for one of my classes in college, I would have probably written this book off forever. I am so glad I gave it a chance and persevered through the tricky slang.

After by Amy Efaw: I still shudder from the intensity of this book about a soccer star who hides her pregnancy and is on trial for how she handled her birth.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: Another one I thought I would write off together until one day I somehow gained enough strength to push myself through it. THE LAST LINE STILL GIVES ME CHILLS. So many interesting voices and perspective changes. Truly amazing.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn: The hype is strong with this one...and well deserved! I loved the twists and turns throughout the changing perspectives of a guilty-looking husband and his missing wife.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: The Book Thief was one of my favorite reads last year, and I was anxious to read another one of his books. It didn't disappoint! Beautifully written with extremely lovable characters!

My Least Favorites:
Forrest Gump by Winston Groom: Shocker, right?! I adore the movie (like the rest of the world), and I just didn't understand how they got that beautiful movie from this over-the-top novel.

Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk: Yawn. I feel like Palahniuk outdid himself a couple of years ago. There was a lack of difference between the multiple narrators, and he used shock value for no purpose to the narrative.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max: Gag. It was exactly what I expected it to be. Misogynistic, shameful, frat boy misadventures.

What Changed From Last Year:
Once I graduated college, I sort of strayed away from adult/classic literature and planted my feet into YA. I love reading YA, and eventually would like to go to grad school to be a librarian specializing in childrens/teen lit, but in 2014, I would like to read more adult novels and classics!

This year wasn't that amazing of a reading year for me! I struggled to come up with suggestions for friends, and besides my new love affair with Rainbow Rowell and her books, nothing really stuck to me like some of the books I read last year did. But I still got a lot of really great reading experiences, and enjoyed a lot of the books I read!

Hope you all have a safe and happy New Year! I am beyond ready for 2014!

See you all next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Get Ready For: I Can't Feel My Face by Kris Kidd

I Can't Feel My Face by Kris Kidd
Publisher:  Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Date Available: January 9, 2014
Page Count: 68
Genre: Memoir
Buy your copy on the Createspace website.

**I received a free copy of I Can't Feel My Face from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my thoughts and opinions on this book.**

When I recently read Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, a fairytale-esque story about disillusioned youth leading their own over-the-top lives in Los Angeles, I felt like I was looking at LA through rose-colored glasses. If Weetzie Bat made me look at LA in a pink haze, Kris Kidd makes me look at LA through glasses that don't match my prescription.
This is a cycle. This is routine now. I am the product of a painfully adequate home--picket fences and red doors, and all that shit. I don't need you to show me any ink blotches because I know exactly what I am, and I did this to myself.
In this short collection of personal essays, available in paperback on January 9, 2014 and presented by The Altar Collective, Kidd strips away the glamour, beauty, and dreams that most people think about when they hear 'Los Angeles,' and 'Hollywood,' and instead injects it with drug-addicted youth, feelings of imperfection, and the sense of being displaced in a group of people who are supposed to be your friend.
See, that's the thing about L.A.--When you've mastered the art of feeling lonely in a room full of people, that's when you know. When you have to excuse yourself from polite conversation with people who are two, maybe three, times your age just to hide in a bathroom stall for hours at a time, that's when it really hits you. Once you've snorted a line off of just about every reflective surface in West Hollywood, you just get it. 
Kidd drags us through his life of pool parties and misadventure. He doesn't shy away from sharing snippets of his therapy sessions, where his therapist is always trying to leech out his feelings about his father's suicide. His essays, such as 'Fruit Roll-Ups,' are also relatable to just about everyone, even if they've never snorted a line or been to a Hollywood pool party. In 'Fruit Roll-Ups,' Kidd finds himself with a group of thugs, looking for his next fix. There's a lot we learn about Kidd in this essay. He was a child actor. His first claim-to-fame: a fruit roll-ups commercial. His addictions. No one trusts him. I've never ridden around in a car with drug-slinging men, but the revelation Kidd has about being in a place with people you should not be with is universal. Seeing clearly the lines that divide you from other people is universal. Learning that a vice does not immediately connect you to others is universal.

Each essay is raw, personal, and lays his life out bare in a way that begs for appreciation. I always think there is something to be said about authors who can scrape some of their darkest moments out of themselves and lay them on the page with full honesty. It takes a lot to be as vulnerable as Kidd has made himself in this collection.
"Naw, I call bullshit. This lil' bitch don't look like he could be in a commercial for fruit snacks, or some shit. He's all cracked out."
"Well, I was nine so I was doing a little less coke then."
Phase laughed, and everyone followed suit, including Knight, who reached his fist out for me to pound it. Self-awareness is key.
In memoirs and collections that deal with addiction such as I Can't Feel My Face, I like to see some form of an upswing, or something positive the author has learned from their struggles. This sort of revelation isn't here yet, though I think this book itself stands as a monument of what Kidd has been through. At twenty years old, he's got a lot of time to figure it out, and I'm anxious to read more of his work as time goes by to see how he grows.

Kris Kidd will be reading excerpts from I Can't Feel My Face and signing copies at Gatsby Books in Long Beach, CA on January 9, 2014 at 7-10pm. Stay tuned for an interview with Kris Kidd on this blog closer to the release date!

'Get Ready For' is a new feature on The Lit Girl where I share with you books that have yet to be released...and that you should get ready for!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Bookish Resolutions!

In my non-book blogging life, 2013 has been a rough year for me. My year peaked in May, when I graduated from college with a bachelors degree and honors, and it just kind of went downhill from there. I've suffered a lot of loss--one of my college mentors passed away, a former boss and friend lost his short battle with leukemia, my pup of 15 years passed away, and most recently, the day after Christmas, we received news that our cat has also passed away. I've also not made it to where I wanted to be in terms of my career yet, and writing any sort of fiction has just not been happening for me since graduation.

But, since I'm not a huge fan of dwelling on things forever, all of this has been fuel to make 2014 my year. I'm feeling a little more motivated to take on the things that I've been struggling with since I lost all form of structure when I graduated. The main things I want to focus on is my writing, reading, and this blog. I've really built up this blog a lot in the past year, and am quite proud of it! I have lots of room for improvement. So without further ado, here are my...

1. Try to post two reviews per week. 
2. Write more non-review posts such as 'booksperiences,' discussions, personal reading updates, meme participation, etc. 
3. Read 100 books! This is my Goodreads Challenge for 2014
4. Branch out of my comfort zone. Some genres I would love to read more of: classics, thriller, non-fiction, graphic novels, and romance. 
5. Participate in at least one read-a-long, one challenge, and one book marathon.
6. Start a book club! I love seeing Jamie's posts about her book club...I want that! The Facebook group has been made. Now I just need like...members and a book to start with!
7. Write posts in advance and schedule weekly posts & memes. 
8. Upgrade my blog layout. 
9. Kick some books off of my grossly enormous Goodreads TBR pile...
...that number needs to keep going down instead of up. 
10. Interview more authors and other writerly folks! 
11. Host at least one giveaway. 

It's a lot to live up to, but I think I can do it! I want to bring this blog more and more to life, and try to avoid the blogging slumps that I tend to fall into when I get a little bit busy! 

Some of my personal, non-bookish goals include unplugging more from my phone and the internet, write 1,400+ words per day of fiction, break in my new running shoes, avoid complaining/gossiping, be more positive, do more pilates/yoga, get back into meditation and crystal healing, and be a more motivated leader at my job.  

Has anyone else had a sucktastic 2013? Is anyone else as excited for 2014 as I am?! I'm ready! I've set the bar high for myself, and I'm excited to force myself to live up to it ;) 

Happy New Years, guys!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Very Bookish Christmas

What is it about the holidays that makes them go by so fast? I woke up this morning and couldn't believe that it was all over already! I had an awesome Christmas Eve full of tradition with my family, a great dinner and time catching up with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on Christmas Day, and then yesterday was my annual progressive dinner with my group of best girlfriends. It was a lovely holiday, and I hope you all had an awesome one, too!

This year, more than others, seemed to be an especially bookish Christmas! I got a bunch of books to usher in my two-month library ban, and a lot of other really cute bookish things.

The Writers Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein : my boyfriend got me this really amazing collection of human traits for my writing. It breaks it down into different traits like 'narcissism' and then gives a brief description of what type of behavior a narcissist would carry out, what the childhood/adulthood is like, etc.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb: I wrote about this already in my post about books on my Christmas list. Every book of his that I've read I really loved so I'm triple excited.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka the Goddess aka JK Rowling): Another one I mentioned in my Christmas list post, and another one that I am so freaking excited about.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez : Boyfriend took me to the bookstore to blow the rest of his Christmas budget. Since lately I am mostly drawn to YA, I wanted to go for a classic, and I only hear great things about this one.

The Shining by Stephen King : Another one my boyfriend got for me. I've been dying to read it for the longest time, and I'm obsessed with the movie, so it just seemed like a logical choice...obviously.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis : A friend of mine strongly recommended this series to me, and I also hear great things about this book. Unfortunately the hardcover wasn't immediately available (it has the most beautiful cover EVER) but this one will suffice, I'm sure ;)

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell : This one shouldn't need much of an explanation. I love Rainbow Rowell, and I needed this book!

Then, because my boyfriend is amazing, he created what I am going to call a 'booksperience' for one of the books on my Christmas list. In A Tale for the Time Being, a Japanese teen girl has decided she is going to kill herself, but she does not want to until she documents the life of her century-old, Buddhist nun, great-grandmother. Then, across the ocean, a novelist finds a Hello Kitty lunchbox (hence the lunchbox) which contains remnants of the teen girl's life and drama. My boyfriend stuffed the book into the lunchbox, along with incense that is handmade by Tibetan nuns.

What is life without some great accessories? My mom snagged me the awesome 'I Like Big Books & I Cannot Lie' tote bag from Etsy that I included in my bookish gift guide. It is just as huge and sturdy as I imagined it when I made that post! Since I am reading more on my Kindle now, I wanted a Kindle case to make it a little sturdier in my hand and prevent the slipping that tends to happen since it is so smooth/thin. My grandma hooked it up with the beautiful pink case, and she also got me three cute, tasseled bookmarks, since I wanted something pretty dangling out of my current reads. 

I had an amazing Christmas, and I cannot wait to load my tote with books, and stuff those bookmarks in my pages, and get more mileage out of my Kindle. I'm so grateful for all of these awesome gifts and I'm officially ready for the new year!

What did you all get for the holidays? What were your favorite books you received? 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone!
I hope everyone who celebrates is having a wonderful time with their loved ones! My boyfriend and I traveled from Chicago to my tiny hometown in Northern Michigan and I've been loving every second of it! I reunited with my best girlfriends, decorated the family Christmas tree, consumed a delicious bottle of cranberry wine with my sister, and accompanied my boyfriend on a shopping trip to the bookstore ;) As much as I love Chicago any other day, there's no place like home for the holidays, and I'm so grateful to be able to spend a week with my friends and family. I am also so grateful for all of you readers that make my blogging experience so fun, authors and publishers for keeping my bookshelves fat and happy, and for my love of reading!

I hope everyone is getting lots of good family time in, and lots of reading done! I can't wait to see what everyone gets for Christmas. I already know of four books I've got and I'm officially ready for my two month long library ban. Enjoy your holiday, and I'll see you all in a couple of days!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: 45 Pounds by K.A. Barson

45 Pounds by K.A. Barson
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: July 11, 2013
Page Count: 264
Genre:  Contemporary Young Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Name a diet, any diet, and sixteen-year-old Ann will bet that she has probably tried it. She's battled with weight her whole life, and it doesn't help that she has a perfect size-six mother who is in denial of how big Ann actually is. Then, Ann gets the push that maybe she has always needed: her aunt Jackie is getting married, and she wants Ann to be a bridesmaid. Desperate for a new diet that actually works, Ann orders a diet and exercise plan off of an infomercial and get a job at the pretzel shop in the food court to pay for it. Hoping to lose 45 pounds in just months for her aunt's wedding, Ann goes through the motions of yet another diet, meets a cute boy that she can't stop acting embarrassingly around, and learns some things about herself, and her family.

The summer between middle school and high school, Mom wasn't just a realtor but also my personal chef and trainer--or "food and fitness Nazi," as my friend Cassie called her. Her plan to teach me portion control and endorphin euphoria wound up teaching me how to sneak junk food and fake injury. I gained five pounds. After the full physical and thyroid test Mom insisted on came back normal, she gave up. Or maybe I did. 
I wrote in my review of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, that I also felt like the DUFF in my group of friends, mostly because of my weight. It became something that was always at the back of my mind when I hung out with people thinner than I was. Now it's something I'm pretty okay with, but it was what drew me to 45 Pounds, I felt like I could really relate with Ann, and I did. Ann's struggle with her weight is one that a lot of teen girls face. Where they feel like they are being held back from being cool/popular/prefect because of their size. K.A. Barson did a great job at not only tackling a timely issue of teen weight issues and disordered eating, but heightening the obsession that surrounds it. Ann is always focused on her weight, and how she believes her weight is the reason for confrontations in the book. For instance, at work, their boss notices that a lot of pretzels have been eaten by the staff. When her enemy accuses Ann, their boss is quick to believe her. Ann knows it's not because her co-worker is manipulative, it's because obviously the fat girl would eat all of the pretzels.

Even though I've been doing my S2S exercise DVD every day for the past two weeks, I'm still out of breath. Few things are more embarrassing than being shown up on the dance floor by your four-year-old twin siblings and your sixty-year-old, chain-smoking grandmother. Good thing Gigi's not here, because even she dances better than I do. I scan the room and realize that I am the fattest person it in. The fattest, even though I'm almost the youngest. The fattest. The slowest.
Despite Ann going through a very serious struggle with her weight and body image, she had a quippy voice that made me chuckle several times throughout the novel. There were certain parts where I could tell the author's hand was in the way. This is a phrase often used in the fiction department at my school to indicate where the character or character's voice was overshadowed by the author's own voice. Ann is a sixteen year old girl with aspirations of being popular, yet the references she made were sometimes quite dated. At one point, Ann is going for a job and sings to herself, "burn, baby, burn, calorie inferno!"

Then it hits me. Mom cannot eat a fry. I try to remember the last time I actually saw her have fries or ice cream or anything remotely unhealthy. I can't. I never see her eat junk. She buys it and feeds it to us--but she never eats it herself. What is she afraid of? If it were just about health, she wouldn't buy it for us, right? Is she that afraid of getting fat? Of looking like that woman across the room? Of looking like me?
I really enjoyed a lot of the family dynamic's in 45 Pounds. I liked the voice of Ann's mother, and kind of loathed her for what she puts Ann through regarding her weight and eating, yet there was a great revelation near the end that helped her mom make sense. With what we learn about her mom, we are able to look back at the rest of the book and see better where she is coming from. I also enjoyed her snappy grandmother, and the fact that K.A. Barson included a lesbian wedding!! There were some family dramz that I didn't find very necessary. Ann's stepdad's mom, Regina, comes for a visit, and there is a homophobic exchange between her and Ann's aunt & partner. I thought this conversation seemed tacked on, just to throw in some opposition to gay marriage, because Regina does not appear for the rest of the novel, and the conversation is only mentioned once more very briefly. Ann also has a heartbreaking moment with her real father that didn't ever reach a full conclusion that I thought it, and Ann, needed. I wanted the confrontation! The conflict!

Overall, 45 Pounds was an accurate portrayal of a teen going through issues with her weight and body image. Her sarcastic nature and glib observations were also true to teen voice and there were a lot of interesting family dynamics and characters, however I think Barson stuck her hand in there a little with dated pop-culture references. There were also some unnecessary moments that I think were thrown in for the sake of conflict, or lack thereof.

Have you read 45 Pounds? What did you think? 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Books On My Christmas List

As I get older, the things I put on my Christmas list is always changing. I went from toys as a child, to impractical knick-knacks as a teen, to clothes and apartment needs as a college student. Even though my Christmas list priorities are changing year to year, one thing remains the same: books! I always ask for books. Here are the books that were on my Christmas list this year: 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. I read and was freaked out by Sharp Objects a couple of years ago, and was blown away by the hugely hyped up twists and turns in Gone Girl. A trusted source has told me that this one is even better than Sharp Objects, and I'd like to round out my Gillian Flynn collection and read all of her stuff. I've also had this on hold at the library for MONTHS now, and I can't wait forever!

We Are Water by Wally Lamb : I am a huge fan of Wally Lamb and he is easily one of my favorite authors. I blew through I Know This Much Is True and She's Come Undone in high school, and cried over The Hour I First Believed in college. He creates really deep characters with rich family histories that suck you in and make you a part of them. His latest novel surely won't disappoint, and I need this in my life. 

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell : In October, I read Eleanor & Park, and that was when my love affair with Rainbow Rowell began. That one book was enough for me to trust her for the rest of forever. She could write a book in pig latin and I would probably try to read it. I just started in on Fangirl, and of course I'm loving it, so of course Attachments had to be on my list. It just had to be.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) : This one is just obvious. The whole world knows JK Rowling is basically the Beyonce of books, and I was brought up on Harry Potter like some people are brought up on classic rock and sweet tea. I have yet to read The Casual Vacancy, her first jump into a novel not in the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but I will probably read it during my library dry spell. I've also heard really great reviews of The Cuckoo's Calling so yeah. I need it. 

Night Film by Marisha Pessl : Another hugely hyped book that I feel like I need to have and to hold. The Goodreads description said it is for readers of Stephen King and Gillian Flynn, and while I usually don't follow those types of recommendations, I really love Gillian Flynn's work (obviously) and if this murder mystery about the death of a filmmaker's daughter is anything similar to Flynn, I am sure I will absolutely adore it.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki : Honestly, I don't know too much of what this book is about. I read a really amazing review of it somewhere a while ago, and the cover is so beautiful. A woman comes across a Hello Kitty lunchbox on the shore of the remote island that she lives on. Inside of the lunchbox is the diary of a young girl who plans on committing suicide, but first wants to document the life of her great-grandmother who is a Buddhist nun. This one sounds beautiful, and probably just a little heartbreaking. 

Huzzah! Any of these books would be fabulous reads for my two-month long, self-imposed library ban, and I hope I get at least one or two of them to add to my ever-growing collection. 

What books are on your Christmas list? Which ones are you dying to read?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bookish Gift Guide: What to get for the book lover in your life.

Shopping for a bookworm can be kind of difficult. Chances are, reading and books are the top love affairs in the life of a reader. That being said, it's easy to fall into a cliche'd trap of gifts for the reader in your life. There's always the Barnes & Noble gift card, and the fandom-related bookmark with the least ugly photo printed on it. But there are so many unique gifts that you can put together for your favorite reader. Here are a few that would be on my Christmas list!

1) A cozy blanket! A cozy blanket is essential for reading sessions, especially in these chilly winter months. My blanket of choice (pictured above with my current read) is a hand-knit afghan, perfect for wrapping up in. If you know how to knit/crochet, or know someone who does, get a blanket made in her favorite colors! For a cheaper, less-involved option, a no-sew fleece blanket is also a great choice. Fleece can be bought anywhere, there are lots of patterns/colors to choose from, and fleece is so snuggly!

2. Something fun to mark their page with. I've written before about using the above saucy playing card as my bookmark. If your friend has a sense of humor and wouldn't be embarrassed about one of these slipping out of their book in a public place (which has happened to me dozens of times), get them a deck of cheeky cards. Or, find a newspaper article, photo, or poem that reminds you of them and get it laminated. Much more personal than the aforementioned fandom bookmarks.

3. Their favorite reading drink! If your friend is of legal-drinking age, and is an avid book buyer, chances are they don't have the extra cash to splurge on a six-pack of yummy craft beer or a small bottle of whiskey for hot toddies, or some peppermint schnapps to spice up their hot chocolate. If your friend isn't a big drinker, figure out their favorite tea or coffee and get them a crap ton of it.

4. Something to drink their favorite drink in. I'm obsessed with the above watercolor mug, complete with a Looking for Alaska quote. The same shop also has mugs and other merchandise with other quotes from other John Green novels. Etsy is also ripe with TONS of bookish mugs, cups, and sleeves.

5. A way to wear their favorite books. The above sweatshirt from Out of Print Clothing made it to my own Christmas list this year! The shop also has t-shirts, jewelry, phone cases, tote bags, and pouches the feature book covers for titles such as Madeline, To the Lighthouse, The Great Gatsby, and The Bell Jar.

6. A sturdy tote for hauling their books to and from the library. The tote above is from Etsy. The quote on the front is so true, and the sturdy canvas material sounds just right for carrying what feels like a hundred pounds of books home from the library or book store.

7. A scent to set the mood. This candle is from the Paddywax Library Collection and has hints of absinth (how fitting for a Poe candle) and cardamom. They also have Austen and Dickens-inspired candles. Some libraryish scents are CRAZY EXPENSIVE. The above candle is $24, which is still a little crazy, but better than $100...for a candle. If you're looking to spend less, find a candle with a cozy scent like apple-cinnamon, or anything based on a baked good. And again, Etsy has some reasonably priced library scents. If your friend lives in a dorm or some other situation where open flame is not allowed, go for a wax warmer or oil diffuser.

8. Your favorite books! The avid reader is constantly looking for new books to read and new recommendations. They will surely love trying something new, and it will also give the two of you something to discuss when they finish reading it (just a warning: it may take them a while to get around to it). If you're not much of a reader yourself, look through their Goodreads lists and find books by authors they have loved before, or find book recommendations from their favorite authors via interviews/videos/blog posts!

9. Fancy snacks! Often times, a cold, winter's night spent inside with a book is like a reader's date with themselves. Get them a fancy snack pack to escort them on their journey through the pages! This could include an array of fancy cheeses, crackers, and olives, or the the chocolate-covered-peanut-butter-filled pretzel amazingness from Trader Joe's.

...and that's all I've got for you guys! Do you know of anything that should be added to the list? Readers, what do you put on your Christmas lists?

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's not 'goodbye', Library, it's 'see you later.'

I am addicted to the library.

I live just a five minute walk away from one. I don't always have the cash set aside for buying new books. And my city's library system is AWESOME at sending books from library to library so I can get any book I want at the branch that is so close to me.

Any day that I have off, or any evening that I am left alone while Boyfriend is at school, I trot down to the library and scan the 'new releases' shelf in the YA section. I look over titles and see if any books I've been waiting for have been returned by other readers. I get an arm load in the teen section, avoiding the raised eyebrows from actual teens who are also browsing in the teen section. Then I waddle over to the Adult Fiction shelves, and add on to the arm load that I started developing in the Teen shelves. If I feel like being scholarly, I will also look around in the Non-Fiction sections for funny memoirs, or books about food and relatable health issues.

Then I walk up to the desk, dump my armload of books down, and check out. I usually leave the library with shaking arms, and I am confident that this is the only real workout I give my arms. Then, I race the three-week-long clock to read the books I've checked out before they are due back. But sometimes, if I can't get to them, I can always log into the library website and renew them from home, which forces me to hoard them for as many months as I am allowed. Then, on the same day I return a stack...the process starts again.

But now....it's time to say good bye. Or rather...see you later, to the library.

As you all have noticed from my previous book hauls, I am accumulating quite the exciting collection of books. And that's not even counting the dozens of other books I've been acquiring over the years. I have about ninety-four titles that I own but haven't read. Plus I'm sure I'll be getting more for Christmas. It's time to start giving these books some good attention, and it's near impossible to do that when I keep getting books from the library that have a timestamp on them.

In order to start reading these fabulous books that I keep buying and receiving, I am cutting myself off for the months of January and February! This could be the best or worst decision I've ever made, but on December 31st, and library book stragglers I have will be dumped into the return bin. I'm excited to explore the books that I own, and I wonder if my reading experience will slow down a little knowing that the books on my shelves don't have a looming return date.

How often do you go to the library? Do you also have issues with not reading the books you collect?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Pre-Christmas Book Haul!

Every year, without fail, I get paid on Black Friday. And every year, without fail, that paycheck burns right through my pocket with the OMG AMAZING sales that are everywhere. Sometimes this impulse to shop is to the benefit of others and their Christmas gifts, and sometimes I just have to follow some advice:
It didn't help that this year I discovered Bookoutlet.com on Black Friday, where cheap books became even cheaper. I was also in need of some retail therapy, and snagged six books for under $30, which is a STEAL. Then, Cyber Monday rolled around. I usually don't get too geeked about Cyber Monday, because on most years my shopping budget is blown on Friday. This year, I was able to make room for some EPIC Kindle e-book deals! I've discussed my thoughts on e-readers earlier this year, but I may have to change my mind after scooping up 7 books that I really wanted for under $10. I also feel bad that I received my Kindle as a gift a couple of years ago, and so far all I've really read on it is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Gross. So I bought some really great books to hopefully inspire myself to read on it more often.

Without further chit-chat, here is my Black Friday/Cyber Monday book haul!

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares : I loved the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series in high school, and was intrigued by this standalone by Brashares. A girl named Lucy is trying to attract the attention of a boy named Daniel. When she finally gets to spend time with him, though, she learns he is more complicated than she could've ever imagined. Daniel has "the memory"--the ability to remember past lives, and each life time of his, he has been drawn to Sophia, though in this lifetime, her name is Lucy. This sounds so incredibly interesting!

Losing It by Cora Carmack : I've heard a lot of really great reviews of this book!  Bliss is the last virgin in her group of friends, and she decides to swipe the V-card in the quickest and easiest way she knows how: a one-night stand. But just before the act, she freaks out and leaves him in her bed with a terrible excuse. The morning after, she walks into her first class of her last semester of college and her new professor is painfully familiar -- he is the guy she attempted her one-night stand with.

40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers : Bird seems to have it all. Hot boyfriend, loving parents who are still together, great grades, and an advice column full of Top Tips to help teens gain control of their lives. But then she meets Pete, the resident bad boy, and she can't stay away. The more time she spends with him, the more cracks are uncovered in her relationship, and her parent's marriage doesn't seem so perfect anymore. As corny as I think 'good girl meets bad boy' stories kind of are, I'm intrigued by this story, especially since Bird is a writer!

I Don't Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner : I love books that can make me laugh out loud, and this book has blurbs on the back from Patton Oswalt and Rachel Dratch. If they think this is funny, I trust them. Julie Klausner lays all of her awful dating experiences, and what she learned from them, out on the table in this memoir of her love life.

This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas : Olivia can't believe it when her literary idol picks her as the winner of his creative writing contest. As part of the prize, she gets to attend his class for free at the local university, and she gets to spend one-on-one conference time with him to polish her story for publishable perfection. Then he starts to take things too far with out of class texts, calls, and IMs, and suddenly her time with him does not become the experience she thought it would be.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne : I think the whole world has heard about this book. One boy, stuck on one side of the fence that contains a death camp. Another boy, on the other side of the fence as the son of a man who has a part in what goes on to the other boy. They form a friendship. I have a feeling this one will wreck me.

And now, my Kindle books!

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison : I remember reading this book in high school and dying of laughter. I wanted to re-read and finally finish reading the whole series!

Crash by Nicole Williams : This has been on my Goodreads TBR list for a while now, and of course, I couldn't resist. This is another 'good girl meets bad boy' novel where a ballet dancer with her sights set on Juilliard and then meets the bad boy. Somehow they fall in love and her chances of ballet success could be jeopardized. Dun dun dunnn.

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout : Sigh. There's a lot of hype around this book, the first book in the Lux series. Some people have even said that the books in this series are terrible, but they can't stop reading anyway. And everyone knows how much I love hugely hyped but awful series (See: Twilight, Fifty Shades, Rock Her). A girl gets a hot new neighbor who doesn't seem so hot once he starts talking and turns out being a doucher. But then he shows her that he can freeze time, oh yeah, and he's an alien. He also marks her with something alien that puts her at risk, along with hot alien neighbor and his alien sister, of their intergalactic enemies.

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby Jr. : I love this movie, even though I describe it as being a 'night ruiner.' Harry and Tyrone both have big dreams. Harry wants to open a business with his girlfriend Sara, and Tyrone wants a better life out of the ghetto. To get rich quick, they purchase a large amount of heroin with the intent to sell. Instead, they become addicts of their own product. Meanwhile, Harry's mother has dreams of being on a gameshow, and becomes addicted to diet pills in the process. The movie has stuck with me for years, and I imagine this book is going to be devastating to read...but I can't wait anyway.

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong : Heralded as one of the great feminist pieces of fiction of all time, this is a story about a poet who takes a trip to Vienna with her second husband. While there, she indulges in her fantasies with other men. This book seems ripe with female sexuality and self-discovery, which I can always appreciate. I also have the sequel (I received it a long time ago as a gift without realizing it was the sequel of this one) ready to roll!

The Secret Sisterhood of Heartbreakers by Lynn Weingarten : I am currently obsessed with witches (thanks, American Horror Story!) and this book seems to have a touch of that. Lucy has just been heartbroken by her boyfriend. Three beautiful girls then make her an offer: they can heal her broken heart and let her join their group which is unaffected by heartbreak, but she must get a boy to fall in love with her and break his heart in seven days. Sounds kinda fluffy, but witches... Plus, their magic is derived from the tears of brokenhearted boys. Muahahaha!

Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman : I, like the rest of the world, am obsessed/in love/addicted to the Netflix original series that stemmed from this memoir about a woman's year in a women's prison. I had this book on hold at the library FOR-EV-ER, but it never came, because, like I said, the rest of the world is obsessed with this story and probably wants to read it to. I'm hoping this will hold me over until season 2, and I'm also excited to find the differences between book and show.

Phew, what a haul. I have also devised a plan that will allow me to get to reading the books I own, instead of remaining hooked on library books. I'll tell you guys about that tomorrow.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Where should I start? Did you buy any Black Friday books? 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Page Count: 213.
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Kyra is a thirteen, soon to be fourteen, year old girl living in a gated, secluded, polygamist community ruled by the seemingly omniscient Prophet. Though she lives in a community commanded by God, Kyra has plenty of secrets. Every week she walks to the edge of the community to check out books from the Ironton County Mobile Library, and she hides and reads them in her favorite tree-an act forbidden by the Prophet. And then: there's Joshua. A cute boy she meets in private and who she wishes she could choose for herself. She dreams of someday becoming his first wife, since a man needs three to get into heaven, but her dreams are shattered when she appears in a Prophet's vision. The Prophet declares that she is to be wed in four weeks...to her sixty-year old uncle who already has six wives. Kyra then has to decide if she can force herself to love her uncle in order to stay with her family, or if she would rather attempt an escape to the Satan-filled world outside of the community--a feat that is rarely successful for anyone who dare try escape.

My sins.
A plan. Books. And a boy. 
There's a boy. 
Oh, I am carrying the weight of what I have done. But no one seems to notice. 

I am fascinated by all kinds of weird things, polygamous communities included, and that was what drew me to pick up The Chosen One. Even though these secluded communities give me the creeps in general, I was not expecting this novel to frighten me the way that it did. Prophet Childs, the leader of The Chosen Ones community, was a villain unlike any I've read recently. Prophet Childs gained his title when his father died, and Kyra and her family can remember the 'before' time. They were allowed to read, and the rules were not quite so strict. Their new Prophet is notorious for doling out harsh punishments to men, women, and children alike. He also has the tendency of forcing young girls to marry the old men in the community. Prophet Child's also lives in the most lavish house while the rest of his disciples live in trailers. He also claims to see everything through the eyes of God, given his Prophet status and all, which gave a Big Brother feel to Kyra's narrative as she visits the bookmobile (which sounds awesome, by the way), and meets up with Joshua--a boy her age and who loves her. 

For a minute, I think I might scream every bit of life out of me. But I bite my tongue. 
"The ceremony will still be," Prophet Childs says. 
"I won't do it," I say.
The Prophet looks back out his big window. I wonder how the God Squad will get Joshua out of this building without being seen. Or maybe they don't care who sees what they've done. Of course they don't. Standing here, I remember more than one person paraded down the street for others to see. To teach us all a lesson. Sometimes those people showed up in church meetings. Sometimes we never saw them again. Not a lot of people. Mostly The Chosen Ones do what they are told. But I'm not so sure I can. 

Williams also showed a lot of interesting forms in The Chosen One. In times of high stress for Kyra, the traditional paragraphs melt away and what happens is free form poetry. Fragments of sentences take up whole lines and beautifully show the tense, quick bursts of thought that cross Kyra's mind. In these tense moments, though, Kyra tends to repeat the same thing to herself, along the lines of "I will be a seventh wife. My husband will be fifty years older than me. My husband will be my father's brother." At first, it was a heartbreaking reminder of what her life is threatened to be. After a couple more times though, the repetition lost it's intensity for me and the force behind it fell a little short. 

There's part of me that wants to run out to Dragon Girl. Grab her by her black hair. Throw her on the ground and punch her face in. But what about everyone else? Would I have to smack the cashier who shakes her head after looking at us? Or pinch the woman with her three small children after she hurries them all past? And what about the woman cutting large swaths of material, the way she keeps staring, not even bothering to look away when I meet her eyes. I'd have to beat up this whole town for hurtin Laura, embarrassing my mothers. 

I felt claustrophobic in The Chosen Ones community. There is a fence around the perimeter that keeps everyone out, including reporters who occasionally hound the children for an interview about the polygamous lifestyle within. Prophet Childs has the 'God Squad' on his side, the internal police force that administer punishment to those who don't obey the Prophet and track down those who attempt to escape. Kyra's mother is also having a horrible pregnancy, one that she knows can be eased from the books she has read. However, Prophet Childs is strongly against outside help. Hence the God Squad. As for women who are having awful pregnancies like Kyra's mother? They have sinned and deserve the fate of their babies or themselves. SO SCARY. I felt trapped reading this with Kyra, and feared for Kyra as she worked through her decision of possible escape. 

The Chosen Ones is a suspenseful read full of tension, thanks in part to an evil villain who made me glad that I would never have to be a member of this community. The stakes in Kyra's family are high, and we root for her the whole way to carve out a life that's better for her and her siblings. 

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Review: Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin
Publisher: Running Press
Publication Date: December 6, 2005
Page Count: 224
Genre: Non-fiction, health & dieting
Goodreads & Amazon

It is rare that I pick up a book related to health or dieting and actually read the whole thing. 2014 is just within spitting distance, though, and to say I have let myself go health and body-wise is an understatement. Of course everyone plans on a transformation to go with the start of a new year, and I'm not unlike everyone else. To start research and journey into healthier eating and a better body, I decided to start with Skinny Bitch. A friend of mine in high school read it and decided to go from vegetarian to vegan. It didn't work out--she liked the occasional ice cream bar too much. However, a friend of a friend said that after reading this book, she went from vegetarian to vegan in a snap and has stuck with it ever since. Granted, the book doesn't indicate on the jacket or description that this is a roadmap to becoming a vegan, but that is essentially what it is.

"Don't talk to me until I've had my morning coffee." Uhm...pathetic! Coffee is for pussies. Think about how widely accepted it has become that people need coffee to wake up. You should not need anything to wake up. If you can't wake up without it, it's because you are either addicted to caffeine, sleep deprived, or a generally unhealthy slob. It may seem like the end of the world to give up your daily dose, especially if you rely on Starbucks as a good place to meet men. But it's not heroin, girls, and you'll learn to live without it. 

To describe this book, I would tell people: this book shits on everything I love. Like, actually everything. Coffee? Check. Sugar? Check. CHEESE?! Check. That's not to say though, that their information was invalid. In fact, quite the opposite. It made me second guess my love for everything mentioned above with the scary facts about some of my favorites. Caffeine? Creates an acidic environment in your body that cancer cells are known to love and gives you a slew of stress, digestion problems, and ulcers. Suddenly, the weirdos I encounter who don't drink coffee seem so smart. A lot of the stuff I like to feed myself, I know is not that healthy for me, and Skinny Bitch told me exactly why that is. It was scary and now every time I drink coffee, I say a silent, "I'm sorry" to my organs. 

Now would be a good time to reflect on the old adage, "You are what you eat." This statement in all its simplicity, is brilliant. You are what you eat. You are a human body comprised of organs, blood and guts, and other shit. The food you put into your body works its way through your organs and bloodstream and is actually part of who you are. So every time you put crap in your body, you are crap. 

A major issue that I took with Skinny Bitch was not the way that it took everything I adore in the realm of food and made me scared of it, but it was the tone with which it delivered these facts. "So your junk food has a shelf life of twenty-two years and will probably outlive your fat, sorry ass." "So you do the math: sugar = fat. If you'd drag your cankles to a health food store, you'd find aisle after aisle of "acceptable junk food." Those two quotes were found in just the first chapter and were almost enough to make me put down the book. If it wasn't for the crash-course schooling I was getting on caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and dairy I would've stopped reading. Chances are, especially since the book is not advertised as being a vegan handbook, the person picking up this book, like me, is overweight, looking for a change, and probably calls themselves a whole slew of personal insults. We don't need to be constantly reminded of our fat asses/lumpy thighs/stomach rolls/cankles. The two authors also placed so much emphasis on, "think of how much better you'll feel when you're SKINNY!" "Get some new clothes so you look GREAT when you're SKINNY!" "You will radiate with infectious energy when you're SKINNY." The emphasis on these statements were so strong, that when they threw in the occasional, "but remember, looks aren't everything!" it doesn't sound genuine. They also state how fasting is a great way to lose weight and detoxify your body--which it is if you know how to properly do so. They give vague discussion, and also don't discourage women with a history of disordered eating from fasting, which could be a trigger for those with an ED.

All dairy products contain casein, but cheese has the highest concentration. In fact, cheese contains far more casein than is naturally found in cows' milk. It also has phenylethylamine (PEA), an amphetamine-like chemical. So when we kid around and say, "I am addicted to cheese," it's not a joke--it's true. We are chemically addicted to cheese.

When the author's aren't using insults to address their readers, their conversational tone actually made it very easy to process the information they were handing us and made it fun to read. On top of the in depth analysis of foods that non-vegans commonly eat, there is also a lot of other really helpful things in the book. Near the back, there is a four-week menu plan for those dipping their toes into the waters of veganism. Each meal is listed out with the Skinny Bitch stamp of approval. There is also a section dedicated to things we should avoid if we see them on food labels, and the most helpful thing to me was a list of essential vitamins and the foods we can find them in. Part of the Skinny Bitch 'method' is eliminating toxins from your body, one of those being medication and supplements, so I thought it was important that they told us how to get those nutrients otherwise. 

Skinny Bitch was a great crash course into adopting a vegan lifestyle, and how to eat more consciously.  It has a lot of essential information on vitamins, nutrients, and the eating habits of non-vegans. However, the insulting tone of the book really turned me off to wanting to read anything else by these two authors. I would also be hesitant to recommend this book to everyone based on the potentially triggering segment on fasting and the obsessive focus on being skinny. 

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Do you have any other health or diet related books that you would recommend? 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Review: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Publication Date: December 28, 1998
Page Count: 166.
Genre: Adult, Short Story, Memoir, Humor
Goodreads & Amazon

Last week, the snowy season officially fell upon Chicago and suddenly I felt guilty for still having my Halloween decorations up. My Halloween decorations are still up, but the light snow fall put me in the holiday spirit. I don't believe in putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, so I resorted to the next best thing which was finding a Christmasy book to read. Fate should have it that as chunky snowflakes fell outside of my library, I stumbled across Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris in the stacks. I'm a long-time lover of David Sedaris. I've read a majority of his essay collections and can always count on him to make me laugh-out-loud. This story collection was no exception. In fact, I was crying within the first three pages over a joke about Sallie Mae--not even Christmas related at all! For this review, I've decided to share my Top 5 stories out of the twelve that are featured in this little collection. Here they are in the order in which they appear in the book:

SantaLand Diaries
This was the first story in the book, and introduced us to the spirit of the rest of the collection: witty, sarcastic, dry, slightly twisted, and hilarious. In this essay, formatted like--you guessed it--diary entries, a thirty-something year old David is forced to apply for a job as an elf at a Macy's SantaLand when his dreams of becoming New York's finest writer just isn't turning out. Sedaris shares the dirty ins-and-outs of a green-tighted, yellow-turtlenecked, velvet-vested Elf in SantaLand. From too-true to character Santa's, and predatory elves who pray on single moms, he shares it all.

Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!
In this twisted, cautionary tale, Jocelyn Dunbar is asking for something a little out of the ordinary in her family's annual Christmas greeting card. When her American husband's twenty-two year old Vietnamese daughter, a product of an affair during the war, turns up on the Dunbar's doorstep, the ever-optimistic Jocelyn learns that life can get much worse than she thought. She's already dealt with her daughter marrying a despicable boy and giving birth to a drug-addicted baby. But Khe-Sahn, who typically wears only bikinis, is more than Jocelyn can stand. This story was outrageous and funny in a way that shouldn't have been funny at all. Jocelyn's use of multiple exclamation points and poor-little-me narrative gave me just the idea of what kind of woman she was and it was fabulous.

Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol
A scathing review written by Thaddeus Bristol of local, elementary school holiday plays. I died over this one, and he perhaps says everything and more about what parents are perhaps thinking during a child's dull Christmas play. Thaddeus Bristol hilariously takes things way too seriously, and puts things a little too bluntly, stating that a one-footed student only got the role of Tiny Tim out of sympathy.

Based Upon a True Story
A television executive, known for his brilliance at creating TV dramas and sit-coms, visits a small town church and addresses it's attendees on Christmas Eve, offering all of them rewards that would make their lives incredibly easier. However, in order to receive the reward, they must convince one of their own to sell her story to the television executive so he can make a mini-series of it. Her story is quite unbelievable, and up until now, she has remained silent about her incredible story. It is now up to the locals to get her talking, to the exec only, and for a price.

Christmas Means Giving
This was maybe my favorite story in the whole book because of its outrageousness alone. A family is the richest, most well-to-do family with the most meaningful Christmas greeting card in their community until the Cottinghams move in next door. The Cottinghams start small, renovating their house to be bigger and better than our narrator's family. Our narrator matches each move of his neighbor's, adding extensions to his house, sports fields, display rooms, and theaters. But the Cottinghams cross the line when they steal the annual theme of our narrator's family's Christmas card. Then it is war, with each family one-upping each other in the most over the top ways to prove that their family fully embodies the motto: Christmas Means Giving.

A couple of the stories included in Holidays on Ice weren't as gripping as these first five, but they were entertaining in their own way. Next to the pure craziness within Christmas Means Giving and Season's Greetings, some of the stories simply paled in comparison.

Have you read this collection? What did you think? Do you have any other favorite Christmas reads?

Library Book Haul!

Well, everyone, I did it! I took the plunge and made a YouTube video. I'm still not sure how frequently I will make videos, but despite my awkwardness I would love to do it again! It is something I've been thinking about doing for a little while now, and after a hearty trip to the library the other day, I wanted to do a haul. I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to make my first video! So, here it is! Any pointers for a better video in the future?
Have you read any of these books? Should I get started on any of them right away? What would you like to see in future videos? New review coming soon!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Publication Date: September 2, 2008
Page Count: 289.
Genre: Contemporary Adult
Goodreads & Amazon

Pat People's has just gotten out of the bad place. He swears he was only there for a few months, but his family and friends say things that make it seem like he's been there for years, and he knows that can't be possible. The start of his time in the bad place was also the start of apart time from his wife, Nikki. During his time in the bad place, he started seeing the beauty of silver linings, and worked hard on his fitness to be more physically fit in attempt to get Nikki back. Now that he's out of the bad place, he is still working out for hours a day to remain physically fit, reading classic literature that his mother checks out for him from the library, and is working on being a better Eagles fan so his father will start talking to him again. Then Tiffany, a family friend's young, widowed sister starts following him on his morning runs, and suddenly he is faced with a beautiful woman who understands his mental issues, and has many of them of her own. He is too focused on being reunited with his wife, though, to realize that his silver lining could be right in front of him.

It hurts to look at the clouds, but it also helps, like most things that cause pain. So I need to run, and as my lungs burn and my back rebels with that stabbing knife feeling and my leg muscles harden and the half inch of loose skin around my waist jiggles, I feel as though my penance for the day is being done and that maybe God will be pleased enough to lend me some help, which I think is why He has been showing me interesting clouds for the past week. 

Do any of you ever feel a little twinge of weird guilt whenever you see a movie based on a book before you read the book? That's how it went down with this book, and that's a little bit of how I feel. Luckily, for the sake of this book review, I rarely remember films unless I've seen them twice, and I've only seen this one once. This review will only be about Silver Linings Playbook the book, not the movie. Though I can tell you that I did really enjoy the movie (I am in love with Jennifer Lawrence), and it made me really excited to read the book. It has just taken me a while to get my hands on it at the library because of the huge film-induced popularity surrounding it.

I think it's strange to live in a house with someone you cannot talk to--especially when that someone is your father--and the thought makes me a little sad.

Pat Peoples is such an interesting character and I loved being in his head as I read this novel. He is a former history teacher at the high school where is estranged wife taught english literature. We pick up the story with him finally getting to leave the bad place (a mental institution) with his weepy mother. He is incredibly perceptive, though a lot of people don't expect him to be, which I think could open up quite the dialogue about how people treat those with mental illnesses. He always notices the way people guard their words around him, and the knowing glances that they give each other when he talks about Nikki and his desire to get back together with her. Or the quick hush-hush that fell around his group of family and/or friends when something Not-Pat-Friendly was mentioned. I also enjoyed the fact that he wasn't a reliable narrator at all. He uses heavy exaggeration, and believes truths that we as readers know to be untrue because of the things his family says or doesn't say around him. Even though we don't believe everything he says or believes, we still trust him enough to keep reading his story and wait for him to discover the real truth. The only thing that got me a little bit about Pat was that for a thirty-four year old man, he sounded a little infantile over some things, such as calling the institution "the bad place" and his separation from Nikki "apart time." Intrigued by this, I talked to one of my co-workers who is also a psych major and she says this kind of thing is completely normal. Especially because of how long he was institutionalized, and because of the harmful things he is protecting himself against. So yeah...

I nod and I promise I will report any hallucinations to my mother, but I do not really believe I will hallucinate no matter what type of drugs he gives me, especially since I know he will not be giving me LSD or anything like that. I figure weaker people probably complain about their drugs, but I am not weak and I can control my mind pretty well.

Some parts of the book I did skim over, though, especially a lot of the scenes involving football. This isn't because they were awfully written, just mostly because I dislike football. Before going to the mental hospital, Pat bonded with his younger brother and his father over Philadelphia Eagles football, and now that he is out, he's trying to catch up with season's worth of football. I didn't fully enjoy reading the scenes where they were actually at the games, but I did appreciate the way football was used outside of the stadium. Pat's father is a man who doesn't wear his emotions very well, and now that his son is out of the hospital, he isn't sure how to relate to him, and this just means ignoring Pat. The only time they are able to grow closer is through watching the games together. He is also able to bond with his little brother again, and some of the scenes at the games force Pat to interact with other people who also don't know how to navigate conversation with him now that he has been stamped with a crime and time done in a mental hospital. 

So I'm thinking this is the part of my movie where things appear as if nothing is going to work out. I have to remind myself that all movie characters go through this sort of dark period before they find their happy ending. 

Then of course, there is the semi-love connection between Pat and Tiffany. Tiffany is another great character. She is young and beautiful, and her husband passed away in a tragic accident, leaving her just as damaged as Pat. Pat and Tiffany are introduced at a dinner party hosted by Tiffany's sister, Veronica, who is the wife of Pat's best friend Ronnie. At first, Pat is annoyed by Tiffany, especially when she starts following him wordlessly on his runs every morning, and he can't wait for her to go away. Then, he is coerced to be her partner in a dance contest. He starts spending more and more time with her, and realizes she's not as annoying as he thought. But she's not Nikki, and he has a hard time working his way around apart time with his wife, and the new feelings he has blossoming for Tiffany. 

Silver Linings Playbook was a great read, narrated by one of the most interesting and complex characters I have read in a while. Though I did feel a little left out on the scenes involving Pat attending football games, I liked seeing how it impacted his relationship with those around him, and I really rooted for him to find his silver lining in his life's movie ending.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Review: Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Page Count: 310.
Genre: Contemporary young adult.
Goodreads & Amazon

When Mallory is cleaning out her grandmother's attic in the process of helping her move, she comes across a treasure trove of all things vintage. Cute sundresses, old yearbooks, and notebooks and notebooks full of lists. One list in particular jumps out at Mallory, "Junior Year: Back-to-School Resolutions." The list stands as proof that 1962 was a much simpler year to be a junior in high school. It includes five things:
1. Run for pep squad secretary.
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree.
3. Sew a dress for homecoming.
4. Find a steady.
5. Do something dangerous.
The List also could not come at a better time. Mallory is also at the start of her junior year, and she just found out that the boy she thought was her steady was cheating on her with an internet wife named BubbleYum in an alternate-life game and she has decided to give up technology. With the help of The List, she hopes to capture the essence of a simpler time where boyfriends didn't cheat on their girlfriends with online wives named after gum. But Mallory's quest for all things vintage unearths some family secrets, and brings a cute boy (who is also her ex-boyfriend's cousin) out of the woodwork to be pep squad president, she begins to wonder if going vintage is enough to ease complications of the modern world.

"Adolescence is the same tragedy being performed again and again. The only things that change are the stage props."

As a lover of all things vintage, I was really excited to read Going Vintage. I often wish that things were simpler like they appeared to be in the 50's and 60's, and it would be awesome if people were a little less plugged into their electronics and a little more plugged into each other (that sounds more saucy than I wanted it to, but I'm going to roll with it anyway). That being said, Going Vintage was a little disappointing for me, but that's not to say I didn't like it! The List is Mallory's leaping point into singledom and grabbing her junior year by the horns. She gets rid of some seriously modern day essentials: phone, laptop, and even some of her baseball bobble-head collection. I was excited to see how Mallory would approach the list decades after it was written, but beyond the banning of modern technology and embracing vintage clothing, Mallory didn't jump head first into the list and practically pawned the list items off on other people and relied heavily on her sister and grandmother despite her attempts to find herself and be independent of her ex-boyfriend. After such a fixation on The List, it didn't get completed in a way that I had hoped and expected of someone who was attempting to try something new and different.

But I can't settle on a clear Rumination today. I have to comb through all the doubt and whining, the Why would Jeremy do that? and Will I ever find love again? to The List and what it means. I'm two beignets in when I finally settle my mind on what I really want from The List: understanding. I don't know if I'll figure out what happened with Jeremy, or who I really am, or who my grandma was. But if only one of these questions is answered, it will be a win. 

Even though Mallory's attempt at fully submerging herself in The List and her 1960's obsession, I was in love with her voice and the humor she brought to the book. I found myself laughing out loud at several points throughout the story with her sarcastic quips. Her timing was also great. The sarcasm wasn't laid on too thickly, and she was funny in a way that didn't make me not take her seriously when she was actually feeling emotional and not-so-quippy. 

It was easy for Grandma to live like this because the technology wasn't there to miss. But there's all this networking and connecting floating around me, and I'm not a part of it. No one but Ginnie knows Jeremy sent those flowers or Oliver called my house. Normally I would spend hours dissecting those advancements with my friends. Maybe the communication isn't all real, maybe those online personas are facades, but even if it's 30 percent truth, that's still more than the big fat Zero I was getting now. What was I supposed to do, bike over to my friend's house? Paige lives two miles away. No wonder all those small-town teens used to spend the weekends driving up and down Main Street--it was the only way they could find their friends. 

The characters that Mallory surrounds herself with--some by choice, others by nature--were also very rich and I so enjoyed reading them. Am I allowed to say that I had a total dad-crush on her dad? Greying hair? Glasses? Half-sleeve of tattoos? Antiques for a living? Count me in! Even though her dad sounded crush worthy, he didn't make half as much of an impact as Mallory's mother. I loved her mom. She was that mom. The hot mom who dresses like she knows she's hot but doesn't acknowledge it. She's also the mom that totally gets in everyone's business. It was hilarious for Mallory to notice every time that her mother looked at her with anticipating doe-eyes, waiting to feast on the gossip in her daughters lives. Her mom also harbors a secret that had a hilarious reveal. Then of course, there is the sassy grandmother who was so fabulous I couldn't stand it. She was just as quippy and sassy as Mallory, so it was obviously easy to see where she got it from. I also appreciated Oliver Kimball and his effortless cool and amazing phone etiquette, and Ginnie, Mallory's sister, for her dedication to The List in solidarity with her sister. 

Mallory did not dedicate herself as much to The List as much as I had hoped she would, but her strong voice and eccentric family made Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt a light and enjoyable read.