Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Publisher: Viking Adult
Publication Date: March 12, 2013 (weirdly, I finished reading this book on March 12, 2014!)
Page Count: 418
Genre: Literary Fiction
Goodreads & Amazon 

On her daily walk along the coast of her Canadian island, Ruth finds a trash bag-wrapped Hello Kitty lunchbox. When she takes it home, and peels it open, she is surprised to find that it contains the diary of a sixteen year old girl named Nao, a stack of letters, and an old watch--all from Tokyo. Ruth decides to take the reading of the diary slow, so she is reading it at about the same rate that the teen wrote it. She becomes obsessed, pulled into Nao's story, especially when she reads that Nao is suicidal, and planning to kill herself as soon as she writes about the life of her 104 year old, Buddhist nun, great-grandmother Jiko. Ruth makes it her mission to find out as much as she can about Nao, specifically whether or not she is still alive, and enlists the help of her gossiping, fellow-islanders to help her decode and translate the diary.  Not only does Ruth worry about Nao, but she takes her story to heart, and thinks about her own culture, status in life, and marriage.
So here I am, at Fifi's Lonely Apron, staring at all these blank pages and asking myself why I'm bothering, when suddenly an amazing idea knocks me over. Ready? Here it is:
I will write down everything I know about Jiko's life in Marcel's book, and when I'm done, I'll just leave it somewhere, and you will find it!How cool is that? It feels like I'm reaching through time to touch you, and now that you've found it, you're reaching back to touch me!
If you ask me, it's fantastically cool and beautiful. It's like a message in a bottle, cast out onto the ocean of time and space. Totally personal, and real, too, right out of old Jiko's and Marcel's prewired world. It's the opposite of a blog. It's an antiblog, because it's meant for only one special person, and that person is you. And if you've read this far, you probably understand what I mean. Do you understand? Do you feel special yet? 
Wow! What an amazing story. I wrote a couple of posts ago about how I was initially worried over how long this book would take me to read, but this book was sooo worth it.  This book covers so much ground and so many things, and once I got sucked into reading it, I could not stop. One of the strongest aspects of this book were the settings. Ruth lives with her husband Oliver on the seemingly remote Cortes Island. She moved there mostly because of her husband, as he spends a lot of time studying the outdoors and planting trees. She spends a lot of time thinking about her old life in Manhattan, one that was full of social activities, and likeminded people that stimulated her and was home to places she loved to visit. On Cortes Island, she is often annoyed by the town gossip, and the way people drop in unannounced. Her living on this island adds to her isolation, especially when a powerful storm thunders in and knocks out the power and her connection to the rest of the world. Maybe it's because Ozeki actually lives on Cortes Island, but I really got a sense for this place and the people that live there.
Everything in the universe is constantly changing, and nothing stays the same, and we must understand how quickly time flows by if we are to wake up and truly live our lives. 
As interesting as Ruth's island was, I was completely entranced by where Nao spends/spent her time. She is a teen girl living in Tokyo, Japan. She writes her diary in a french maid cafe, looking out for creepy men and watching the girls take dates. She visits the electronic parts of town to shop for cute outfits with her neighbor, which feels fast paced and modern. And then she drags us into the dirty parts of her life like school bathrooms and back alleys. We see the coffee and cigarette vending machines, and the impact of technology, costumes, and intricacy that makes up the life of a teen girl in Japan. There is also the perfect serenity of old Jiko's Buddhist temple, and the beauty that it is. I don't even think I can accurately describe all of the places Nao takes us, and how it felt to go on that journey with her.
The way you write ronin is with the character for wave and the character for person, which is pretty much how I feel, like a little wave person floating around on the stormy sea of life. 
This could be somewhat of an unpopular opinion, but as enchanting as Ruth's island was, I was not as entertained by her points-of-view on the novel as I was with Nao's. A Tale For the Time Being alternates between Nao's diary entries, and Ruth's life on the island as she reads through the diary.  There isn't a whole lot happening in her narrative. She does a lot of searching on the internet for details about Nao's life, and thinks a lot about her relationship with her husband Oliver. They fixate a lot of attention to a Japanese crow that has found it's way to their neck of the woods, and Ruth visits with neighbors to get help with translations of the Japanese and French contents of the lunchbox. She also has a lot of memories of her mother, who had Alzheimer's and whom she used to care for. As sad as the disease is, I did not feel that this aspect of her life added anything to the narrative, as most of it happened in memory. There wasn't a lot of connection between her mother and the diary. To put it simply, there just wasn't a whole lot of drama or intrigue happening in Ruth's life.
Jiko says that everything has a spirit, even if it is old and useless, and we must console and honor the things that have served us well. 
Nao's sections in the novel were an exact opposite, even if it was infinitely more heartbreaking. As mentioned before, Nao is a sixteen year old girl who wants to 'graduate from time' after she writes the life of her century-old great-grandmother. She lived the first couple of years of her life in the Silicon Valley in California, and her father was a big-time software developer. But when he loses his job, he must retreat back to Tokyo with his family, and he becomes a shut-in after several failed suicide attempts. Nao not only has to deal with her fathers depressing ways, she also has to deal with an army of bullies at school. When she reaches a breaking point, she is then sent away by her family to live at the Buddhist temple with old Jiko. Jiko was also a strong character, always speaking in mantra's and consistently teaches Nao how to be the best version of herself, and helps her hone her supa-powa!. Nao reflects a lot on life, death, and overcoming the struggles with her father and those who want to hurt her. Her diary entries gave me chills and tears, usually both at the same time, and made me think a lot about recovery and overcoming obstacles. Nao's voice is also super authentic, using words like 'totally' frequently, and she is insanely perceptive to those around her, and the lessons that Jiko tries to instill in her.
And if you decide not to read anymore, hey, no problem, because you're not the one I was waiting for anyway. But if you decide to read on, then guess what? You're my kind of time being and together we'll make magic!
I was slightly disappointed by the outcome of the novel. I don't want to give any spoilers, but I will say it was neither here nor there. Though as old Jiko would say, "here...there..same thing." I thought the ending would be much more than it actually was, and I thought that Ruth's part of the story was building to something much bigger than what actually happened. There was also an interesting magical realism element to the story, where Ruth dreams about Nao's diary. It was a really interesting moment, but given the fact that there was NO magical realism anywhere else within the novel, it came off more confusing than I'm sure Ozeki wanted it to be.

I would read novels and novels from Nao's perspective. It was fresh, vibrant, heartbreaking, and uplifting all wrapped together in a perfect bundle. The finder of her diary, Ruth, wasn't as interesting, but her place in the world was a quaint little pocket of lively characters. I thought we could have done without Ruth's narrative, but maybe someone else will see a bigger purpose for it than I did. It's just so hard to compete with such a strong narrator like Nao, and I don't think Ruth stood a chance. Beautiful read, regardless, and one that will make you think a lot about faith, family, strength, overcoming, and more.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

Have you heard of this one? Are you interested?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Ten Things on My Bookish Bucket List

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish where we share our top ten bookish related things!

1) Have a full collection of Jacqueline Susann novels: It's no secret that I adore Jacqueline Susann. Back when her books came out, they might have been considered 'trash' novels, but I love the 1960's vibes, the romantic drama, etc. Currently, I own three of her novels, a fourth one is on the way, and that leaves two more that I need to own.

2) Get my Goodreads TBR list below 1,000: Currently, my TBR list on Goodreads is 1,195. What?! There will always be a million books I'm dying to read, but I'd like to start tackling books on my TBR list that have been there for years instead of continuously adding onto it.

3) Finish a novel...or seven: I've mentioned before that I have a Bachelor's degree in Fiction Writing so naturally I would love to someday make a living as a novelist. This might take a little while, and will take a major overhaul on my personal habits, but it'll happen someday!

4) Visit every book store in Chicago: This will be quite an undertaking, as there are seemingly hundreds of bookstores in this city, and I tend to be very loyal to a handful of them, but I'd like to see what else is out there!

5) Read every unread book that I own: I cannot remember the actual count anymore, but of the dozens of books I own, about 80% of them are unread. This, of course, is not made any easier by the fact that I am constantly buying and receiving new books to read. So I would like to read the books I own, and read books as I get them!

6) Create a writing schedule: This is bookish, yeah? At least writerly, which turns into bookishness. When I was in school, I definitely had a schedule. I was always writing before class, or after class. I set aside chunks of time in my day, and it is my claim to fame of being able to write ten pages in a 3 hour time block. WHY CAN'T I DO THIS NOW? Once I get a schedule, I'll probably be married to it for life, so that's why this is on my bucket list ;)

7) Turn a story/book of mine into something bigger: With my recent story publication, the publishers told me that an actress from Scandal said my story would make a great short film. Uh, when I heard that I FANGIRLED at work and spend 15 minutes texting everyone I know and squealing. That made me think about how awesome it would be to get the ball rolling on turning a story of mine into a short film or play or full-length novel, and putting my future novel into the right hands to be something bigger than itself as well.

8) Start a book club!: Every time Jamie writes about her book club meetings and get-togethers, I am always so jealous! I've been trying to get the ball rolling on one for a while, but something always falls through, or we can never seem to pick a time to get together, or even a book to read in the first place. I would love to have a solid book club that can get together once in a while, and go on bookish dates, etc. Those of you who have book clubs, how do you pick which book to read? How do you plan your get togethers?

9) Have my own library: My favorite movie growing up was Beauty and the Beast. And we all know that Belle's library was actually the most majestic library ever.
I don't think my future library will ever be multi-leveled with crazy spiral staircases, BUT, I would settle for a nice cozy room, with several full bookshelves and a very comfy couch or chair where I can curl up on rainy days and be surrounded by my favorite things. BONUS POINTS if my library has a fireplace, and bookish-scented candles.

10) Meet more of my favorite authors: I met Markus Zusak and Sapphire last year, and that was fabulous. A couple of the authors I would love to meet are Wally Lamb, JK Rowling, R.L Stein, and Rainbow Rowell. For some reason, I don't go to half as many book signings or author events as I would like to, so I would like to get to much more and make a bigger effort!

What kinds of things are on your bookish bucket list? 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Divergent Movie Thoughts

Last night, boyfriend and I went on a spur of the moment date to see Divergent. For some reason, going to the movies is a very rare occurrence for us. Funnily enough, the last new release movie we saw in theaters together was the first Hunger Games movie, so I guess we just have an intense desire to see dystopian YA film adaptations together. But the verdict? WORTH IT!!!!

I was nervous before seeing it, and at the last minute even asked my dude if he wanted to see The Grand Budapest Hotel instead. A lot of the reviews have been very mixed, and a lot of people felt there were a lot of pieces missing. When I see book-to-movie adaptations, I like to view each one separately, or as companions to one another. This saves on disappointment big time. Each one is a different art, they just walk hand-in-hand together. It's sometimes impossible to get all the small details we love into a feature-length film, because there's usually a crap ton of other stuff going on.

This review might be a little spoilerish, so if you haven't read the book/don't want to be spoiled, please don't read this!
What I Loved: 

1) Chicago/World Building! I loved seeing post-apocalyptic Chicago brought to life. It was super eerie to see the lake gone, and much of the skyscrapers torn to shreds. One of my biggest peeves with the book was that Chicago didn't seem very present. If you've ever visited Chicago, you know that there's definitely a feeling here, and the book didn't convey that. However, seeing the buildings, the trains, the ferris wheel, etc. The city was really brought to life in this world. I also liked seeing all of the factions in action.

2) Female badassery! I read this article before I went to the theater, and it only solidified how important these female characters are to young readers and viewers. Tris shows a lot of growth and determination in the movie. There are lots of weirdly motivating work out montages as Tris tries to build her strength. Her decisions in the movie also seemed really bold. In the book, I didn't think her choices were made with a lot of thought to consequence. The movie better translated her thought process and made her seem more brave. And, the scene with Tris and her mom kicking ass (of course before epic sad feels) gave me chills because it was SO AWESOME to see a mom and daughter taking out all these men.

3) TENSION/ACTION! Holy moly. Much to my boyfriend's disappointment, I am not a fan of action movies at all. Dis movie tho. I could not tear my eyes away. There was so much going on. My heart was pounding the entire time while watching it. I felt anxious for Tris when she was choosing her faction. I felt the awkwardness when she's running with Dauntless for the first time, the thrill of climbing up to the el tracks and jumping on the train. THE SEARS TOWER ZIPLINE? THE NAVY PIER CAPTURE THE FLAG? It was the most thrilling movie I have seen in recent memory. And lets talk about that romantic tension between Four and Tris. I was the weirdo with the awkward smirk on her face every time Four touched or protected her.

4) Four! Truly, I am not into the muscly/fit dude type, but hot damn if Theo James didn't actually make my heart flutter once or four times. When I read the books, I was not fangirling over Four like the rest of the universe, but this movie turned me into a believer. What is it? His boyish good looks? His protective nature? His smoldering intensity?! Then when he showed his tattoo to Tris? Their first kiss?!

5) Made me excited about the series again. When I finished reading Divergent, I was not in a rush to get Insurgent. I placed it on hold at the library, but after waiting for three months, I gave up. Seeing the characters brought to life, and feeling the excitement that the movie gave me, I am buying Insurgent today. Finally.

6) Ansel Elgort's running. Because lets be real, even in moments of pure intensity, his running was awkwardly hilarious.

What I Didn't Fully Love: 
1) A couple of unanswered questions. My boyfriend has never read Divergent, and after the movie he had a lot of questions for me. Unfortunately, I've only read the first book, so I couldn't answer his questions, and I had a few of my own. Some of the elements of the world weren't fully explained. I also thought Erudite's reasoning for taking over Abnegation wasn't fully explained enough. Simply thinking they deserved to be in power was not enough of a reason for me to believe that they would turn a whole faction into a mindless army. I've heard a lot of these questions are better answered in Insurgent though, so I look forward to finding out more!

2) The fear wasn't fully there. In the simulations that Tris, Four, and other members of society go through, they face their fears and tackle them the way a person in their faction would. For Tris, her fears included attacking birds, being trapped in a box of water, and the attempted rape scene from Four. Four also takes Tris into his fears with him to train her on how to respond the way a Dauntless would. Because Tris is divergent, she is able to realize within the simulation that it is fake, and find a way out. This made the fears seem less dire. I would've liked to experience that fear more, but because we are reminded that it isn't real, it doesn't seem as serious to the viewer.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Divergent. I'm super looking forward to getting Insurgent in my little hands today and finding out what happens next. I'm also super ready for the next movie in this installment!

Did you see Divergent? What did you think?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Taking It Slow

Yikes, two weeks since my last update? Not cute. Sorry, everyone! My lack of updates has been a combination of not reading as much, and preparing for something kinda sorta important that I don't want to talk about/jinx, but it sucked up a lot of my time and energy for a couple of days. But I'm back now!

Speaking of not reading as much, I wanted to talk about taking it slow.

Taking it slow as a reader can really be a good thing. Right now, there is a lot of buzz about the upcoming app, Spritz. This app boasts that it can help people read lengthy novels in a matter of hours. Sometimes even less, pushing the reader to read 300+ words per minute. This is cool for people who want to knock out War & Peace at some point in their lifetime, and book reviewers who structure their lives around keeping up with the latest releases and posting timely reviews. Lately, though, I've been enjoying taking it slow as a reader over a blogger. I think about it like this: most authors dedicate so much of their lives to perfecting their stories for us readers to enjoy. They pull their hair out over plot-structure, character building, and word choice. They spend months dealing with rejection and finding a home for their stories. I sometimes actually feel guilty for devouring books so quickly.

I recently finished A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. I chose to read it after my boyfriend told me I should. It was one of those evenings where I couldn't decide what to read next, and was standing in front of my book shelves for 20 minutes. Finally, he said, "read the one with the cool cover, the one I got you for Christmas." I've been dying to read this book since it came out, so I loved his suggestion, but my first thought was: "damn, that's going to take me forever." And forever it did take. Almost two weeks!

Taking it slow as a reader is a beautiful thing. You savor each word, become enthralled by the characters, heartbroken by them, notice the little things within the novel, and really give the novel enough time to work its way into your soul. Taking it slow as a blogger, though, is not always as enchanting. Most bloggers work really hard to make sure their content is always fresh and up-to-date with new content every time their readers come. Why? Because it's 2014, and not only are our attention spans pretty small, we know that if one site isn't going to give us something, we can find the next best thing elsewhere with one quick Google search. We love our readers, and want to keep building connections with them, and know that people out there are really enjoying what we're writing.

A lot of the time I feel the pressure to read very fast, or read shorter, easier to comprehend books that I can crank through and move on so I can get a new review up on here in a timely fashion. I'm also not one of those people who can easily keep up with memes and guest posts and fun features (let's be real, I'm kinda lazy ;), which is why my blog is 90% reviews. And when I take the time to read slow, that means I'm finishing books more slowly, which means my blog doesn't get updated as often which means
Taking it slow for A Tale for the Time Being was a great experience. For the first time in a long time, I was running to find a pen so I could underline passages. It was the first time in a long time that I allowed a book to stop and make me think. A lot of the times when I'm reading books quickly with a review in sight, my thought process becomes more direct. I liked/didn't like these three things. When I was reading A Tale for the Time Being, I thought about stuff beyond what I liked/disliked about the narrative. I thought about bullying, I thought about finding a home, time and how it exists in our world, the connectedness of things, Buddhism, faith, coincidence, community, family. I'm sure there are some people out there who would be able to get all of that out of a quick read, but sadly I'm not one of those people.

Don't even get me started on what reading slower has done to my Goodreads goal of 100 books this year:
Now that I'm reevaluating how I like to read, I may need to adjust that goal to something more realistic. This month I have only read two books. This is something that would normally make me cringe, but currently I'm feeling okay about it.

So what does my newly, readopted reading style mean for this blog? It means I'm really going to have to get creative. Whether it be some sort of check in, or fun posts relating to what I'm reading, I'll figure it out. I have this weekend off of work, so I will be coming up with some ideas (and probably heading to the bookstore again.)

How do you like to read? Are you a speed reader, or do you like to take it slow and savor whats on the page? I'd love to hear!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Open Books Warehouse Haul

In my last post, I kicked off a new feature, Heaven is a Place on Earth, and the first heavenly place I decided to spotlight was the Open Books Warehouse. Not only does it promote literacy programs within the city of Chicago, but they have a wonderful selection of books! So when my tax return came in, I knew that I HAD to go back. Last time, I was able to walk out with only four books. Today, I tried to make it out with as few as possible, because I have the tendency of going WAY overboard in bookstores, but I snagged seven!

In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell: This book title is as long as a mid-2000's pop-punk song title, and given that it is an ARC, it was only $1! I put my feelers out on Facebook a couple of weeks ago for book recommendations, and this was one of them. This magical realism novel is about a married couple who set out to live a more simple life, and things are not as they had hoped.

She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb: Last time I went to the warehouse, I picked up I Know This Much is True, and at this point I think I have a pretty solid Wally Lamb collection that is only missing  maybe one or two of his novels. I read this coming of age novel in high school and remember absolutely loving it. Time has worn down my memory of what exactly happens in this book, so I've been thinking about rereading it very soon, and naturally had to have a copy.

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker: At first intrigued by the lovely floral cover, this book seems like it will sing to my Mad Men-loving heart. Taking place in the 1950's, this is the story of a woman who moves to Wisconsin with her husband and learns that making a marriage work is not as easy as it seems in the magazines. She then becomes obsessed with the history of another family, while trying to support her husband, and be the perfect wife.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: I watched the movie adaptation of this book a few years back and remember trying not to cry in front of all of my classmates. There's family, loss, tragedy, and of course, friendship. I've been wanting to read the book ever since I saw the movie, and Open Books Warehouse had many copies.

Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum: I have had this memoir on my TBR list for along time. At fifteen, Janice Erlbaum left her increasingly dangerous home and took to the streets. With her best friend, she prowls the New York City nightlife and scores drugs and boyfriends, and despite this, still manages to go to high school and participate in the spring musical. Very interested in reading this story of survival!

The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner: I think just about everyone has seen the film adaptation starring Will Smith. Chris Gardner moved to San Francisco for a career in medicine, and the set his sights on high finance. After scoring an entry-level position, he gets caught in a whirlwind of unfortunate circumstances and becomes a working homeless man with his toddler son. Gardner refuses to give up though, and pushes his way out of being homeless to being at the top of the finance game.

Graceland by Chris Abani: There is very little that I know about this book, but I was pulled in by the first few pages that I read in the warehouse while deciding to buy it. 'Graceland' is about Elvis, a Nigerian teen who is an Elvis impersonator hoping to make it out of the ghetto.

I would say that today was definitely a successful trip!

Have you read any of these? Any that I should start with?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Heaven is a Place on Earth: Open Books Warehouse

Heaven is a Place on Earth is a new segment on The Lit Girl where I share with you my favorite bookstores and other bookish places! 

One day I was virtually poking around my neighborhood on google maps, and imagine my shock and surprise when I happened upon a big ol' building that was labeled 'Open Books Warehouse.' Honestly, all I saw was "books" and "warehouse" and knew that whatever it was, I HAD to go there. A warehouse of books! I had actually heard of Open Books a while ago. They are a non-profit organization that sells books, and then uses the funds to promote literacy programs in Chicago and create a community around books! After some research, I discovered that their warehouse is JUST DOWN THE STREET FROM ME, and is where all of the books are processed, sold online, and distributed for book grants. Luckily for me, it is also open to the public as a store! And I mean, knowing that the money I'm spending on books is going towards a bigger picture makes me feel pretty good, too.

It took me a couple of weeks to make it there, but on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I rounded up my friend and we took the short walk to the warehouse. It's in a warehousey part of Pilsen, which would have been a lot more creepy if it was dark outside, and there's not a whole lot happening in that area. But what a GEM the Open Books Warehouse is.

Right when you walk in, you are greeted by that big, lovely wall of books that is pictured above, and there is a table with some newer and popular titles. After our jaws had a chance to drop and we took in the super high warehouse ceilings and looked around at the shelves and shelves of books, we were welcomed by one of the volunteers there. Even though our arrival interrupted her eating of a sandwich, she was super friendly and explained to us the layout of the shelves. Up front, where we were standing, was all non-fiction, and a little further back were the shelves of children's books, and fiction. When she left us, we stood there for a couple more seconds, unsure of where to start before we started gravitating towards BOOKS.

The non-fiction section was a little overwhelming. As you can see, there are books stacked to the ceiling, and as the volunteer explained to us: they are not yet organized. Part of the fun of bookstores, though, is discovering something new. So it was fun to explore the shelves and come across different titles and topics. After a few minutes of looking through non-fiction, we decided to head over to the fiction shelves and tackle those first. The fiction shelves were organized alphabetically, which made a much simpler browsing process, of course. All of the books are used and donated, but despite this, all of the copies they had were in mostly wonderful and practically new condition.

Did I mention that the books intended for grownups are only three dollars?! Because they are. Children's books are only $1, which makes the Open Books Warehouse an especially wonderful place for parents and teachers looking to stock their classrooms. The idea of $3 books is just insane, and I was constantly picking up books, and my arms started getting quite tired. At the end of our trip, I walked away with 4 books.

1. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen: This was recommended to me very passionately by a former co-worker. So when I saw this nearly perfect conditioned copy of it, I snapped it up! 
2. Candy by Kevin Brooks: The friend that went on this shopping excursion with me recommended this one to me in the teen section. I should add that their Young Adult section was not as extensive as their other sections, but there were still a couple of stand alones and members of series. 
3. The Road by Cormac McCarthy: Another nearly perfect copy of a book I have been dying to read. The movie made me cry like a baby, and I've been wanting to read the book ever since!
4. I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb: I've mentioned before how much I love Wally Lamb, and this is one of my favorite books of all time. I knew I had to have it. Because it was $3, and also because I have never seen this cover before! 

Dreamy sigh. Open Books Warehouse is definitely heaven on earth. My tax return is due in any day now, so I am assuming that it won't be long before I'm taking another walk over there and loading up on books! Thank you for being you, Open Books! 

Open Books Warehouse is located at 905 W. 19th St, Chicago, IL and is open Wednesday-Saturday 10am-4pm. They accept credit cards! Their bookstore is located at 213 W Institute Place, Chicago, IL and is open Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sundays noon-6pm. For more information on what Open Books is all about and volunteering opportunities, visit 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February Recap!

February is finally OVER and I am so OVER winter. Chicago has been the worst this winter. I was joking to my mom the other day that at the start of this winter, there was a group of people who were like, "this is Chicago! Get used to it, babies!" And at this point, even those people are finally admitting that this winter has been too long, too cold, and too gross. I have high hopes that March will finally bring some warmer weather that doesn't make me want to curl up and cry.

I've decided that I would like to start doing a monthly recap to go over the books I've read this month, and the non-bookish things that I have been loving that I don't get a chance to really talk about on this blog. I have a lot of interests and things that take up my time outside of reading and books, so this will be my one time in the month to put it all out there!

Favorite Things That Happened in February: 

  • I kicked off my month by seeing Neutral Milk Hotel at the Riviera! This was the first concert I've ever been to by myself and it was so special. I started listening to Neutral Milk Hotel years ago, and they were one of those bands that I thought I would never get a chance to see live. After years of not touring together, they finally did, and I bought my tickets all the way back in August. It was such a special show, like seeing a comet really. And it was an experience I can't even put into words. I am so happy that I got the chance to see them, and hope to see them again this summer at Pitchfork. 
  • My first short fiction story, "If You Only Had a Heart" was published on Connu! If you download the iPhone/iPad app, it will be in the archives. Or you can read it online at this link. I was so proud of myself for having a published piece, and the feedback that I received from family and friends was amazing. One of the editors of Connu also told me that an actress from Scandal read it and thought it would be a great short film! When I read that at work, I had a huge freakout moment and spent a good fifteen minutes jumping up and down. 

  • A customer brought me flowers on Valentine's Day! It was a very big and sweet surprise. I love Valentine's Day and it was a very chaotic day at work, so that made someone bringing flowers even more special! My boyfriend and I went out to dinner at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Pl-zen, and nommed on steak and mushroom risotto and drank my favorite beer. A+ Valentine's Day.

  • Boyfriend and I had a whirlwind date day! We started a trial membership on HowAboutWe and scooped up some dates for last Saturday. Our date day started out at the IKC Dog Show. I used to be obsessed with dogs when I was little, and who doesn't love the movie Best in Show? We had a lot of fun petting the fluffy show dogs, even though I was afraid I was messing up their hair? It probably would have been more fun if we had a dog, since all of the vendors were dog-related, but it was interesting! After the dog show, we headed to Chinatown for lunch, enjoyed some bubble tea, and spent way too much money on Pocky and candy. Then, we went to The Hashbrown, a chili cook off hosted by Spudnik Press. HowAboutWe hooked it up with that date! We tried ten different chili's from ten different non-profit organizations, some delicious desert tamales, and had two cocktails. It was a ton of fun!
  • I've started to master latte art! After being a barista for several years now, I started to put my efforts into learning something new. I'm no where near pro-status yet, but knocking out these two lattes in a row with a leaf made me very happy! 
February Obsessions:
  • Sun Cups! These things are so delicious. Instead of peanut butter, there is sunflower seed butter encased in dark chocolate. At 99 cents for one cup, they're a little more expensive than the standard peanut butter cup, but they are so creamy and delicious. Addicted for sure. 
  • Lush beauty products. I work down the street from a Lush store and I am fully obsessed. I started using their Herbalism face wash, and even though it looks like green play dough and smells like vinegar, it is fabulous. It makes my face so soft, and I love the exfoliating bits of almonds. I am also a big fan of their Seaweed BB and Oat-i-fix face masks.  
  • MAC lipstick. I became a fan a couple of months ago when I started wearing 'Diva.' Then I got into 'Ruby Woo' when I received it for Christmas. I needed a more neutral color though, so I went to my favorite local MAC store and got hooked up with 'Twig.' I love this color because I can wear it on the daily with just about anything!
Favorite TV Shows: 
  • The wait for Portlandia is OVER. I am a big fan of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen separately, so it's even better when they are together. I loved Date Fact-Checker, and died laughing over the couple who got a joint bank account together. Oh, and Kirsten Dunst was in that episode, so everything was golden.
  • To celebrate my first publication, boyfriend and I got HBO so now I can watch all of the episodes of Girls that I want. The Beach House episode was one of the best episodes of the whole series, and sparked a wonderful conversation between my friend and I. 
  • Keeping Up With the Kardashian's. Don't judge me! I thought the Kim and Kanye engagement episode was so sweet! 
Books I Read This Month: 
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard : I enjoyed this story of a girl sent to boarding school after her boyfriend kills himself in their high school library, though I had wished the narrative was handled a little differently. 
  • 40 Things I Want to Tell You by Alice Kuipers : I was hooked by the drama in this novel, but was let down by how much the character strayed from her path, and thought one of the major relationships in the novel lacked chemistry. 
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart : I was lucky enough to get my grubby little hands on this book and I. LOVED. IT. SO. MUCH. I cannot wait for this book to come out and see all of the dialogue it sparks. This one had me sobbing and sobbing. 
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales : This book didn't totally live up to the hype for me. I totally related to the theme of being saved by music and loved some of the songs that were mentioned, but I really did not like our main character Elise. 
  • The F-It List by Julie Halpern : I loved the friendship in this story about a girl fulfilling the tasks on her best friend who is dying of cancer's bucket list. This book also got big thumbs up for handling female sexuality in a healthy way that I've never seen before in YA. 
Current Read: 
  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki! I am loving this book so far. For the first time in a while, I busted out a pencil to underline my favorite passages. It's a huge book though, so it might take me a while to get through it. 
Now that I look at it, February was a pretty stellar month on all fronts! I hope that March can continue on this path of wonderfulness...and I hope that it brings some warm weather, too! The start of March will also force me to get creative with blog posts around here, because my current read is quite a chunk that might take me a little bit to get through. I'm severely behind on my Goodreads goal, but a lot of these books are worth getting behind!

How was your February? What were some of your favorites?