Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Anna and the French Kiss

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton
Publication Date: December 2, 2010
Source/Format: Library book!
Page count: 372
Goodreads & Amazon

I am probably the last book blogger in the universe to have read this book. I don't know what took me so long. It was even a book that I could've read for my Young Adult writing class last semester, but something about the cover, and the name put me off. It sounded too fluffy, too girly, too nothing-I-would-ever-read. I was so wrong.  I regret not picking up this book sooner.

Anna Oliphant, a movie critic wannabe, is in a strained relationship with her father. He is a best-selling author that middle-aged women tend to love, he walked away from her family, and now he is sending her to School of America in Paris (SOAP) for her senior year of high school. Anna doesn't know French, she has no desire to go to Paris, and she's got a boy in Atlanta who she was just starting to like. Basically for her, France sucks.

Until she meets her neighbor, Meredith, and with Meredith comes a gang of other American transplants. Included in the gang is the sort-of-American-sort-of-British Etienne St. Clair. St. Clair is everything: attractive, charming, charismatic, and in a relationship. Insert record scratch. Of course, Anna falls for him, but she also must navigate her feelings for the boy at home, this foreign country, and St. Clair's commitment to his girlfriend.

This book was sooo cute, without ever falling on the too-fluffy side that I was worried about. Stephanie Perkins created such a strong, realistic voice for Anna. She was funny and had her fair share of awkward moments. She also wasn't a cliche, which seems to be really hard to avoid in the YA genre. Anna also had an interesting hobby and sarcasm that made me laugh out loud at certain parts of the book.

Anna and the French Kiss was a pretty quick read for me, though that could have been that I couldn't put it down! I was sucked in from the start and there was enough tension, drama, and swoon-worthy moments to keep me reading this book obsessively. Have I raved enough yet?

Rating: 5 / 5 (who is surprised?)

Would you be mad about spending a year in Paris? Have you read this book?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

To be honest, I don't watch The Office hardly ever, and as excited as I was about The Mindy Project, I never found the time to start watching it. Despite never watching the two shows that Mindy Kaling has become known for, I still find myself saying, "Mindy? I love her!" Why? It could be because we cope the same:
Or, it could be just because she's funny. When I hosted Micaela for my last Featured Reader segment, she was reading her book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and I finally got a copy of it the other day. 

This book was a very fast read. Part of this was because of the amount of lists that Mindy included in the book. In her introductory chapters, her first list is titled 'Alternate Titles for This Book,' and one of those alternate titles was 'The Book That Was Never a Blog.' Because of the lists and accompanying personal opinions, the book did kind of read like a compilation of blog posts. Lucky for me, I love to read blogs! Here is a list of some of my favorite lists:

-Her break down of the amount of ways people can be called overweight/fat/chubby/obese.
-Mindy's favorite eleven moments in comedy.
-The exact level of fame she wants.
-The 'Types of Women in Romantic Comedies Who Are Not Real.'

I loved reading the lists, and her opinions on a lot of these were relatable and hilarious, but it did give the book a slightly disjointed feeling. Between the lists was the tale of her rise to The Office fame (The Mindy Project didn't exist yet!). She describes in detail all of the odd jobs she worked, the success of a play she co-wrote about the bromance between Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, her failed attempt to be an NBC Page, and the meeting that sealed her fate as a writer for The Office, along with funny anecdotes about growing up, and her love life. There is nothing that she shies away from in this book, and if you're curious about anything in the world of Mindy Kaling, this book should touch upon any of those curiosities. 

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? tended to dart from place to place pretty quickly with page breaks and mid-chapter headers, but it didn't stop me from laughing out loud while reading and sealing in my love for her even more. If you enjoyed reading Bossypants by Tina Fey, you'll love this just the same. 

Have you read this? What are some of your favorite comedic memoirs?

Friday, May 10, 2013

New Following Options.

It has come to my attention that the Google Reader thing will be no more as of June 1st. If you follow me on Google Reader, and if you would like to continue following me, I've set up links over on the right side for Bloglovin and Linky. Bloglovin is definitely the prettier of the two, and much easier to navigate, plus there are TONS of blogs on there, so click the link (please!) to keep track of me once June rolls around!

Thank you!

Gendered Book Covers.

This article on the Huffington Post has been going around the past couple of days. Author Maureen Johnson has received countless emails from boys asking if she could release a book with a less-girly cover so he could read it. It's an interesting situation. While I don't think that boys should be judged for reading a cover that's light, and airy, and girly, I do think it's interesting and a little strange that most books written by women come with a sun-spotted, breezy cover meant to catch the eyes of other women, while excluding a male audience. Meanwhile, books written by men are very serious looking and straightforward.

She writes, "A man and a woman can write books about the same subject matter, at the same level of quality, and that woman is simple more likely to get the soft-sell cover with the warm glow and the feeling of smooth jazz blowing off of it."

So Johnson has called for an end to gendered book covers, and proposed a challenge to her followers which she has called Coverflip. The results were funny, eye-opening, and interesting. Here are some flips that caught my attention:

What do you think about the swaps? Do you think there should be an end to gendered book covers? Do you think it's needed? And do you judge books by their covers? 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

DIY: TBR Book Jar!

I have been seeing this little craft all over the place, and it seems like a good way for me to kill my To-Be-Read list a little bit. Every time I am at a loss for what to read next, instead of poring through Goodreads for a million years trying to pick a book, all I have to do is reach into the TBR Jar and voila! Decision easily made. Here are the super simple steps.
Very straight forward. Luckily I'm a jar hoarder so I had quite a few to pick from. But they also sell them at Target and other stores, of course.
Write down that list! For starters, I wrote down all of the books on my book shelf that I have not read yet. I've been meaning to read more books on my shelf but that damn library always reels me in with dozens of books. Also, I have not the time to write down all 700+ books on my Goodreads TBR list. I used some cool shimmery, mermaidesque scrapbook paper. Cool paper looks cool in the jar!
Tedious, but quick! Cut out the strips and then crinkle them so they fill up more space in the jar and look prettier. It's all about aesthetics, after all. Once you've done that...
Yay, you did it! Now the question of "what should I read next?" can be answered so much faster for you. I definitely plan on pulling from this jar every now and then so I can knock out some of the books on my book shelf, and soon I will add some of my Goodreads list so I can also knock some of those out as well.

Do you have a book jar? Want to make one? What are some books waiting to be read on your list?

A bit of a redesign.

How do you like the new look? I've been struggling to find something that feels more 'me' than the notebook pages did, and I think I've got it! Purple is my favorite color, and I am known to rock a lot of polka dots.

Expect to see some more changes coming up. I am officially done with college May 19th, so I'm freaking out about that, but being done will give me tons of time to dedicate to this blog and spread the word of the written word. I'm dying to become more acquainted with the awesome book blogging community that's out there, and start posting a wider range of posts besides book hauls/reviews.

Hope you all are having a wonderful day! I'm about to do a little bookish craft that is super easy and I'll share it here for all of you, of course.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

In Forever by Judy Blume, Katharine meets Michael, a cute boy with golden hair, at a New Years party. Though the two don't hit it off right away, Michael is persistent on getting Katharine to hang out with him, and she is happy to oblige. The two fall down the hole of teenage romance, and become obsessed with each other as teenaged lovers often do. Things seem perfect until their parents decide to send them to opposite places for the summer to test their love for seven weeks.

This book was controversial when it was first published in the early '70's, and there are still a lot of things in the book that could be seen that way. There is incredibly awkward teenaged sex, a character who is questioning their sexual identity, teen pregnancy, drug use, teen drinking (though I believe in that time the drinking age was 18, so we must remember that!), STD's, etc. It is a pretty groundbreaking book, especially since Katharine has a badass grandmother who works for Planned Parenthood and NOW, and she has parents who are open with her about sex and sexuality.

Despite it's controversial subject matter and historical value, there were some things that didn't jive with me in this one. I think Judy Blume wrote this book with a bit of an agenda to show how sex was changing for teens, and how progressive things were becoming, but there were times when it seemed she drifted out of Katharine's voice and into her own to make a subtly preachy statement. Such as, "It's true that we are more open than our parents but that just means we accept sex and talk about it. It doesn't mean we are all jumping into bed together."

I also couldn't connect for having any feelings with most of the characters. Katharine didn't seem to have any other interests besides Michael. It is said that she likes tennis, but it came across as an after thought of "oh, she needs to like something! Oh! I know! Tennis!" As for Michael, he had two interests  and they were skiing, and trying to get Katharine to have sex with him. I got very annoyed with Michael. I understand that teenage boys only have sex on the brain, but DAMN. I couldn't understand why Katharine was so in love with him when all we saw of him was him trying to scheme his way (along with his penis named 'Ralph') into her pants. Then there is Katharine's sister Jamie, who is a sweet thirteen year old girl, but was a genius at way too many things. Things Jamie was brilliant and prodigal at included: embroidery, art, rug hooking, cooking, cake decorating, piano, and more! The characters with the most interesting story lines were not main characters by any means, but mentioned every couple of pages as a reminder that Katharine knew people besides Michael.

Also, this book was in the Teen section of my library, and beside the content of the book, it read like it was for a much younger audience. The font in the book is bigger, and Katharine's first person narrative makes her seem the same age as her thirteen year old sister. A lot of other reviews that I've read had a problem with the the book, but I did not see them as a big distraction. It got me more into the way that the characters in this book speak.

I'm on the fence with the rating of this book. It has a great historical value, and showed the way sex was changing, and also showed it in a strikingly realistic way, but I could not get into any of the characters and didn't feel like I was reading a book for teenagers.

Rating: 3 / 5

Have you read this book? Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

All eyes on Maya.

There's a chunk of fence under the platform of my train stop that is decorated with forever-changing street art. Some weeks the fence pays homage to Spongebob Squarepants, some weeks there are different characters, and sometimes there is just a big graffiti tag. This morning, though, as I was walking up to the train, I was surprised and happy to see that this week's art is dedicated to Maya Angelou. Street art is cool, but it's even cooler when it's inspired by a strong female force in the literary world.

What do you think?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Review: How Should A Person Be? by Sheila Heti

In this semi-autobiographical/semi-fictional novel, Sheila Heti's character, Sheila, has been commissioned by a feminist theatre to write a feminist play. She studied theater in school, and she loves the stage, but when she sits down to really think about what her play is supposed to be, it opens up a whole other can of worms as she questions what it means to be a woman, and even broader, what does it mean to be a human? An artist?

I couldn't help but describe this mildly pretentious book to friends as an updated, female-written Tropic of Cancer. Sheila often falls off into stream of conscious ramblings on her musings of her failed marriage, the sex between her and a new man named Israel, her friendship with an artist named Margeaux, womanhood, and art. A lot of the book is also written in script format as she records her conversations with Margeaux and shop owners.

Despite it's slight pretentiousness and artsy quality, I devoured this book. Though some of the rambling had me skimming over the pages and getting on to what was happening next, a lot of it was really powerful. Some of it I read over and over again, especially when it came to her being with Israel. It was sexy and dirty, and she unabashedly used language that made me cringe and hold my breath at the same time. There were some parts that I couldn't bring myself to care about, and some that I raved over. One of my favorite quotes:

Most people live their entire lives with their clothes on, and even if they wanted to, couldn’t take them off. Then there are those who cannot put them on. They are the ones who live their lives not just as people but as examples of people. They are destined to expose every part of themselves, so the rest of us can know what it means to be a human.

As you can tell, it's a little hard for me to comment on the plot of this book because, like Tropic of Cancer, it covers a lot of bases at once. So while it is hard to give a linear plot play-by-play, the revelations that Sheila comes to makes this book well worth the read. 

Rating: 4 / 5

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Some Quick Sunday Links

A couple of months ago, I read The Time of Quarantine by Katharine Haake. I wrote a review, and it got published on my school's book review website. Click HERE to read it!
You know how when you're reading a book and someone makes a hot plate of food and suddenly nothing sounds better? Like in the "old" books when they make fresh bread and butter and eat vegetables from the garden, or eat sweet desserts at a party, and suddenly your stomach is ROARING? My friend Melissa has started a blog, Cooking the Books, to combine her two loves of cooking and reading. She picks meals or food items from her favorite books, makes them, and shares the recipes! Above is the Turkish Delight she made, inspired by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Good night!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Flashback Friday: Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

When I went home for Spring Break a little over a month ago, I found a box of all of my old favorite books from my childhood. It was exciting to see all of the books that got me into reading in the first place, and I thought about how fun it would be to re-read them and see what they have to offer me now as an adult. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume was not in my box of books, but I have very specific memories of reading it, so when I stumbled across it at a book store in the suburbs that sells books by the pound (!!) I HAD to buy it.

This book freaked me out as a kid. I think I read it around the same age Margaret is in the book, eleven on the cusp of turning twelve, and staring puberty right in the face. It's even become my go-to confession during school ice breakers to admit that this book freaked me out in the beginning stages of my adolescence. Puberty! Growing hairs! Smelly armpits! Menstrual Cycles!

The part that really got my wheels turning the most was the scene in with Margaret and her girlfriends (and the rest of the girls in their class) go to a special assembly to learn about their growing bodies. A woman from a feminine care products company is there to show them how to use sanitary napkins, and the sanitary belt that held it in place. Growing up, I was like "SAY WHAT? A BELT?" It all seemed like so much work. I actually just googled what they look like, because I don't think google existed when I read this book, and basically everyone should google it to see what women had to wear when their monthly came. The best part came when Nancy, Margaret's more mature and ready for womanhood best friend, raises her hand to ask the instructor a question:

Nancy raised her hand and when Gray Suit called on her Nancy said, "How about Tampax?" 
Grey Suit coughed into her hanky and said, "We don't advise internal protection until you are considerably older."

My, how times have changed.

Oh, and let's not forget the exercise that Nancy instructs the girls to do, which I thought was a REAL thing. They move their arms back and forth to push their chest together a little and say, "I must - I must - I must increase my bust!"

It was a lot of fun re-reading this book as an adult. Judy Blume tackled a lot of things for Margaret, because Margaret is not only obsessed with when she will 'fill out' and when her period will come, she's also confused about which religion is best for her and embarks on a journey to find the God she talks to every night. It was fun to read about how Margaret navigated the world of boys, and kept up with her cliquey group of girlfriends. Her voice is honest and bold. Even though some of the information is a little dated, it'd still be a valid novel for young girls to pick up today.

Do you remember reading this book? Any weird experiences with it like mine?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Today's Library Haul

I hate to say it, but for the past couple of days I have been in a reading slump. We've all been there. When reading, for some reason, doesn't seem as appealing as something min-numbing like watching the newest Teen Mom 2 episode, or doing Sudoku. I recently read a very heady book (which I will review soon, of course!), and since then I have needed a couple of days to recover. So today, I went to the library and got some books which will coax me back into reading. I know, a lot of them are 'chick-lit,' but after a reading slump, that's the best kind of reading. You often don't have to work as hard to read it, and it's quick, easy, and fun. Plus, Chicago has been having some nice weather, so I'm hoping to soak in some sun with some of these. I got:

1) Lisa, Bright & Dark by John Neufeld
2) Room by Emma Donoghue
3) The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
4) Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
5) Bergdorf Blondes by Plum Sykes
6) Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
7) Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup
8) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
9) So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson
10) The Pleasure's All Mine by Joan Kelly
11) Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster
12) The Boy Next Door by Meg Cabot
13) The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes
14) John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
15) Delirium by Lauren Oliver
16) The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

And not in the picture is Forever by Judy Bloom which I decided to read first since it seems like a pretty quick and easy one. Now I just wait for my boyfriend to come home and shake his head at the amount of books I got again. Every time he sees my latest HUGE stack of library books, he says, "you know that the library doesn't go anywhere, right?" True, but so many books!

How do you get out of your reading slumps?

Review: Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield

This book has been in my 'to-read' queue for a very, very long time. I used to see Rob Sheffield on all of those awesome VH1 specials like 'I Love the 80's/90's' and the top songs of decades better than this one. Then, randomly, I was in the mood to read something full of music and a little bit of romance, something similar to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and decided the time was now.

Sheffield starts off each chapter with a mix tape track list. The very first mix, one he made in 1993 kicks of the prologue-esque lead in to the book. The next mix? 'Hey Jude' by the Beatles on loop for ninety minutes. Sheffield starts off explaining where his love of mix tapes grew, and all of the different kinds of occasions where a mix tape is needed and appropriate (basically every occasion.) The tapes pick up more and more meaning, especially when he meets his wife, Renee, and then even more so when she reaches her untimely death. Each tape is not just there to display his favorite songs of the time, they're there to tell a story of his growing pains, love, and grief.

The prose between each mix is funny, charming, and heart-wrenching. Within the first couple of pages, the reader knows where the story is going to end up, but that doesn't stop us from reading every story Sheffield had to share that got us to his final moments with Renee and the grief that follows afterwards. I did think that he relied a little too much on quirky descriptors. Renee is described as an Appalachian-girl several times, and at first it gave me a sense of geography and a personality type, but near the fourth time I felt I got the point. However, even though some of her quirks got a little played out, Sheffield really makes us fall for Renee as much as he did. She was unique! Crafty! Talented! Funny!

This book was everything I needed it to be: funny, cute, loaded with (awesome) music, and some heartbreak for good measure. I will definitely be picking up Sheffield's other book sometime in the near future.

Rating: 4 / 5

Have you ever made a mix tape? What were some songs on your favorite one? Or, has anyone read this book? I'd love to hear your thoughts!