‘Cause You Gotta Have Friends: Top Ten Tuesday

Happy Tuesday, Bookworms!

It’s time for our weekly list fix with the ladies of The Broke and the Bookish! This week the book blogosphere has been challenged to come up with our top ten books about friendship. D’awwwwww. Shall we?

friendship

1. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Was there ever such a pair as Ruth and Idgy? One of the greatest friendships in all of literature, truly.

2. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. Because Anne and Diana and accidental drunkenness are the stuff best friends are made of.

3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Friendship can be complicated, particularly when one of the besties is a spy during WWII. Sad. Poignant. Lovely. Read it. (review)

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4. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. Because sometimes burlesque dancing hookers and cross-dressing highwheel bicycle enthusiasts are meant to be together. (review)

5. Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall. Friendship sprouts up in unexpected places. Being nice to people you hire to help around your house isn’t just good karma. It might just introduce you to your new best friend. (review)

6. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. When you go through foot binding together, there’s not much that can tear you apart. (review)

7. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. Nothing brings a group of friends together like a psychopath with her sights set on destroying everyone else’s happiness. Common enemies, FTW!

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8. Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I can’t think of a trio of pals more endearing than Harry, Ron, and Hermione. THEY are the three best friends that anybody could have.

9. Looking for Alaska by John Green. Pudge, the Colonel, Alaska, and their crew make for an odd bunch, but there’s a lot of love there. (review)

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. This stone cold pack of weirdos reminds me of my high school pals. I can’t help it. It’s the quintessential book of my teenage years. (review)

friendship3What say you, bookworms? What are some of your favorite literary friendships?

 

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Dearest Bookworms,

Once upon a time, a publisher emailed me with an offer to review a fractured fairy tale. While Beauty Slept
by Elizabeth Blackwell tells a less Disney-fied version of the classic Sleeping Beauty tale. *I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was threatened with zero poisoned spinning wheels.*

while beauty slept

The story begins with a very old Elise telling the story of her life to her great-granddaughter. Elise started her life being raised on a farm in an unspecified medieval-ish time. Her upbringing is poverty stricken- she’s no stranger to hunger… Or to sharing her bed with younger siblings. One day, THE POX attacks. Blackwell doesn’t specify what type of pox it is, so I googled… I think it’s supposed to be smallpox, but I’m not entirely sure if smallpox can theoretically spread from cows to pigs to humans… (Mira Grant and her scientific explanations have RUINED me for other authors’ fictional plagues… Vague poxes will no longer suffice!)

Anyway. The plague wipes out most of Elise’s family and at 14, she takes a position as a servant in the local castle. That’s what you do, if you’re lucky. At least you get fed at regular intervals. If you’re unlucky, you get stuck hanging out with poxy pigs, and nobody’s got time for that! While at court, Elise rises quickly. She’s soon attending to the queen and later the princess, all under the shadow of some seriously bad blood between the royal family and the king’s wicked, wicked aunt, Millicent.

I enjoyed the grittier version of Sleeping Beauty. I love a good plague, and I like when fairy tale re-tellings don’t rely exclusively on a Prince Charming. Elise, Queen Lenore, and Millicent are no shrinking violets. Strong female characters rock. What didn’t rock quite so much for me was the abundance of insta-love. I know it’s a fairy tale, but sheesh. Love at first sight right and left. sleepingbeauty

I also could have done without the really heavy handed foreshadowing. It’s hard to be surprised by a turn of events or a personality change in a critical character when you’re continuously smacked over the head with phrases like, “if only I’d known what she would become” or “it was the last time they would be happy,” etc. I wanted to shake old lady Elise and tell her to get on with the story already! I think you have to be a broody Victorian to make that sort of thing work.

Overall, this book was alright for me. Nothing to prick my finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel over, but a pleasant enough way to pass the time. If fairy tales are your thing, I recommend taking a trip down fairy tale lane with While Beauty Slept

Tell me, Bookworms. What’s your favorite fairy tale?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Holiday Shopping Words for Worms Style

Hey Bookworms!

I’m skipping another Top Ten Tuesday. Today’s topic is books that I can’t wait for in 2014, and there is BUT ONE: Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon. (Heeeey Diana! Big fan! Jamie and Claire! Ahhhhhhhhh! I can’t wait!)

I’ve still got a list for y’all though, never you fear. I have some incredibly talented friends. Several of them now have their own little shops online where you can purchase their custom wares. Sometimes you’ve got someone on your list that the regular commercial goods just won’t work for. I’ve got your solution. *Full Disclosure: Nobody is paying me a doggone cent for featuring them. They are my ACTUAL friends and I want to share them with you. No ulterior motives up in here.*

1. Crafty Bananas Crochet: I’ve known Jackie since… I don’t know, birth probably? We did girl scouts together and she totally remembers me in giant baggy grunge pants from high school. You know all those amazing little crochet projects on Pinterest? Jackie can make those! She does the cutest hats and scarves and blankets. I mean, MINIONS:

How freaking cute are these?!

How freaking cute are these?!

2. Dome Life Studios: Lillian was one of my first blogging friends, and she is SO amazingly talented. She paints and creates such cool things. You can commission a portrait (COMMISSION A PORTRAIT, GUYS!) for a super reasonable rate, or you can shop her new handmade fun and funky jewelry. She’s got an Etsy store and a Zazzle shop for all your holiday needs. Of course, you can always visit her blog too and check out the latest antics of Tiny-Small, her 3 year old fashionista. I had her paint a portrait of my Gingerbread House and I absolutely ADORE it:

Love it so so so much!

It hangs on the wall in our living room. We’re pretty sure the inside of the Gingerbread House is pleased to know how pretty it is outside.

3. September Soap: I met September in high school, which means she ALSO remembers my grunge phase… High School. Sigh. Anyway, she’s very into the whole natural, organic, no artificial nonsense scene. She’s started a business making soap with all sorts of naturalness and essential oils and such. It’s super super good for your skin, particularly if you’re sensitive to things with a lot of dyes and perfumes. This would be a great gift for the person on your list who’s allergic to all the fun cosmetics in the land. It’s all moisturize-y too. Be gone, winter scale-y skin!

september soap4. Words for Worms Zazzle Shop: Alright, I lied about the ulterior motives.  A little. I’ve got a Zazzle store where you can purchase Words for Worms merch! I know what you’re thinking. “Why would I want a weird blogger’s logo on my stuff?” To which I shall answer: BAM! (The commission on this stuff is tiny, but I know that if I needed a baby shower gift for a fellow bookworm, I’d have jumped at this, so I thought I’d help the world. I’m altruistic and such.)

All the kiddos on my list are getting "future bookworm" onesies.

All the kiddos on my list are getting “Future Bookworm” onesies or “Bookworm in Training” t-shirts. My site isn’t on there, so they aren’t billboards, just cute as heck.

In all seriousness, Bookworms. Check out my artsy/crafty/fabulous friends. I’ll love you forever. I mean, I would have done that anyway, but still. Is it just me, or is anybody else already completely overwhelmed with holiday shopping this year? I shopped for a few hours on Sunday and wanted to weep with the enormity of it all!

Feed Me, Seymour! (Feed by Mira Grant)

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

feedI’ve been having an absolute blast reading all these scary books lately. I kept hearing great things about the Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant- I simply couldn’t stop myself from picking up a copy of Feed.  The Zombie Apocalypse? Been there, done that. This book takes place 30 years post outbreak. Apparently the virus that causes people to rise from the dead was caused by an interaction between two genetically engineered viruses: one that cured cancer, and one that cured the common cold. Everybody has the virus in their system, but it only goes into amplification (read: zombification) when you’re bitten by a zombie… Or die of something else.

Georgia and her brother Shaun run a news blogging site. They spend their days chasing stories, exposing the truth, and poking dead things with sticks. Georgia and Shaun, along with their tech guru Buffy, manage to land a spot on the presidential campaign of a popular Wisconsin senator and are thus rocketed into the big leagues of media. Politics and conspiracies and ZOMBIES, oh my! There was SO MUCH I loved about this book that I’m going to have to get my list on…

1. The Pop Culture References: George is the new Jennifer. I was positively tickled when it was revealed that an entire generation of children were named in honor of George Romero, undisputed king of the zombie film. Apparently Night of the Living Dead became an incredibly useful field guide. I can only assume the spelling of “Shaun” was in reference to Simon Pegg’s hilarious zombie masterpiece, Shaun of the DeadAnd Buffy? She downright OWNS that her nickname is after the iconic and only Vampire Slayer. Also, the thrill seeking dangerous reporter types are referred to as “Irwins.” I can only assume this is a nod at the late great Crocodile Hunter.

Halloween Katoo

What? Le Kattoo likes Halloween as much as the next penguin.

2. Science: I loved the explanation of how the zombie virus came into being, The cures for two of humanity’s main nemeses combine to create the great its great downfall? Ah hubris. I don’t know just how accurate the virology stuff in the book was, but it sounded pretty plausible to this uneducated plebeian. The way it could lie dormant in the bloodstream, the desire to spread, the infection of other mammals… (As I was watching The Walking Dead on Sunday night, I thought for sure the ailing pig was turning zombie. My current theory on that is good old swine flu, but I digress.)

3. Realism: I happen to think that any mass contagion (influenza, smallpox, zombie-virus) would certainly pose a big problem to humanity. HOWEVER. I find it harder to believe that in an age of kevlar, body armor, and advanced weaponry, that the entire world’s infrastructure would crumble. I think the isolation, extensive blood testing, and attempts to prevent the spread of contagion are a more likely scenario… Though perhaps that’s just wishful thinking. In this world I could just stay in my house, order in groceries and mood stabilizers, and avoid anything that might eat me.

I’ve already started the second book in this series- I cannot get enough. I highly recommend this book, and I want to give a shout out to everyone who recommended this to me (including, but not limited to, Charleen from Cheap Thrills. She also wrote a companion post on The Passage for The Fellowship of the Worms this month, and you should go read it.)

Let’s talk about GERMS! Anybody out there gotten their flu shot yet? Anybody already been sick this season? Anybody want to give out their recipe for the world’s best hot toddie so we can all be prepared when the inevitable sniffles hit this winter? Talk to me, Worms!

Rainbow Rowell, I’m Your Fangirl!

Hiya Bookworms!

It’s Monday, but today we’re going to talk about Rainbow Rowell’s new release, so it officially sucks MUCH LESS! Remember last week when I told you all about my BlogHer experience and how the awesome folks at St. Martin’s Press were doling out free books? I saw Fangirlsitting there and tried to appear professional and interesting, while my innards were all a-squiggle. Rainbow Rowell’s new book!!! I basically received this book as swag from the publisher. They were handing out books to tons of people who were never going to write about them on their blogs. I’m going to put it out there as a full disclosure anyway, because I’m SUPER ethical. (So dang ethical I deserve a cape and a headband, y’all.)

As you may recall, my love of Eleanor & Park (review) was intense. I’ve been waiting to read Rowell’s earlier book Attachmentspartially because I was afraid it wouldn’t be able to live up to Eleanor & Park. Luckily, by putting a free copy of Fangirl straight into my crazy hands I was able to overcome the fear and read more Rowell.

FangirlFangirl is about a girl named Cath and her first year away at college. She’s a twin, but her sister Wren has decided that she wants to try striking out on her own a bit. Cath is left to fend for herself, and she drowns her sorrows in fanfiction. In Rowell’s world, there’s a Harry Potter-esque series of books about a boy wizard named Simon Snow. Cath and her sister Wren spent their childhoods obsessing over the characters and became very active in the fandom. In fact, Cath’s fanfiction pieces? They get thousands upon thousands of hits daily. She’s got some serious talent, but can’t seem to break free of the imaginary world someone else created. There’s a lot of love and growing up and universal college experiences in this book. I just freaking LOVED IT.

A couple of things I loved. First. Cath and Wren are identical twins. Their mother was unaware she was having twins, and had only chosen one name, Catherine. Instead of coming up with another name, she just split the one she had in half. Cather and Wren. My Mother-in-Law has been threatening for years that the family is due for a set of twins. While I find twins wonderful and adorable, the idea of dealing with two newborns simultaneously is more than a little daunting. I told my MIL that if I had twins, I’d name them both Seamus, you know, as punishment for making me birth two at once. (That is a true story, but I was obviously joking. Now that I’ve got Rowell’s inspiration, I’d name them Sea and Mus.)

Second. Levi! This character comes into the picture as Cath’s roommate’s ex? boyfriend. He hangs around a LOT, which annoys the snot out of Cath… At first. Levi is a farm boy. He hails from a tiny town in rural Nebraska and majors in Ranch Management (Yes. That IS a thing.) Cath is from Omaha, and while it doesn’t sound very metropolitan to most of the world, it’s as urban as Nebraska gets. I SO had this experience in college! (I was from the Chicago suburbs and went to school in the middle of the state. There were kids who thought that our campus of like 80% white kids was diverse. It was weird.) Anyway. While I was in college, I totally met my very own Levi (minus any romantic undertones.He’s a good friend of my husband and is now married to a really fabulous woman. They have a 2 year old boy who is just about the cutest thing in the world. He loves books!)

The thing about Levi and “Steve” (spontaneous pseudonym) is that they are the kind of guys who would go out of their way to walk you home from the library after dark. The guy you could call to change your tire if you were living alone and didn’t know how to do it yourself (or did know how to do it yourself in theory but would rather have someone who actually knew how to fix cars do it in practice.) Needless to say, I mentally pictured Levi looking exactly like my friend, even if he was a little more rodeo where my friend is more muscle car.

I don’t know if it’s my adoration of Harry Potter that made me relate to the fangirl in Cath… Maybe it was her slightly awkward college experience that got me. Sure, her experience was significantly weirder and worse than mine, but the same way Eleanor & Park captured that high school feeling, Fangirl captured college. The whole learning to detach from your parents thing? The character that reminded me of my pal Steve? The EVERYTHING of it all? So much YES. Rainbow Rowell, I am now your fangirl. If I ever meet you, I’ll be the girl who breaks her leg tripping over her shoelace on the way up to the table where you’re signing books. If you could sign my cast instead of my book, that’d be cool too.

So Bookworms! Obviously, one of the biggest things that stuck out for me in this book was that Levi reminded me of my buddy Steve. Have you ever read a book that had a character that was SO TOTALLY someone you know? Tell me about it!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Good Day Bookworms!

Have you ever paid attention to the stuff you do every day? I’m not talking about the chores or the errands or the work. I’m talking physical stuff. Walking. Climbing stairs. Getting dressed. Bathing. Eating. Driving. Typing. What would you do if you couldn’t do ANY of that for yourself anymore? The thought probably makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me sad. It makes me feel guilty for being able bodied when others may not be, but extremely grateful for my independence.

I don’t typically give this line of thinking much attention, because it bums me out. However, several people recommended this book about a quadriplegic to me and I figured I’d give it a shot.  Somehow Jojo Moyes managed to make Me Before You devastating, uplifting, heart-wrenching, and heart-warming all at the same time. Don’t ask me how she pulled it off. The talents of authors are beyond me, but this one, THIS ONE got to me.

Me-Before-You-Cover_

Louisa Clark is a 28 year old girl living in an English tourist town that features a castle. She has spent several years working in a local cafe and is caught completely off guard one day when she’s told the cafe is going to close. Suddenly, Louisa finds herself out of work in a terrible economy. She has no college education (or, uh, University, as the British would say) and is qualified to do little more than work in a chicken processing plant, which is just exactly as gross as it sounds.

Louisa’s qualifications will allow her to be a “caregiver,” and it is one of the few positions available through the unemployment agency (which is called something different in England but it sounds like roughly the same thing.) She’s sent on an interview with no real idea of what’s in store for her. To her shock (in spite of an embarrassing skirt splitting incident during the interview) she lands a job helping to care for Will Traynor. Will was hit by a motorcycle while crossing a street. A serious mover and shaker in his previous life, Will has been without the use of any of his limbs for over 2 years. As you can imagine, he’s not too happy about it.

Louisa and Will don’t start off especially well, what with his intentionally trying to make her uncomfortable and all, but over time they grow rather fond of each other. Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly (or, at least, as smoothly as possible when catheters, muscle spasms, and infection are par for the course) when Louisa is hit with some dizzying news. I AM NOT GOING TO TELL YOU WHAT IT IS! But. The rest of the book is about Louisa trying to get Will to get out of his grumpy funk and have some adventures. Will is from a very wealthy family and was very successful before his accident, so the fact that he is practically a sommelier and has a penchant for evenings at the symphony come as no surprise. Apparently rich people are very fancy and predictable that way. No mention of cheeses. Pity.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won't seem so inconvenient.

Read this and your next long trek through the parking lot in the rain won’t seem so inconvenient. (SOURCE)

I was not expecting to like this book. I thought it was going to be a complete downer, but, while there are some seriously sad elements, there are also some uplifting bits, and occasionally, it’s downright funny. Me Before You also raises some ethical conundrums that will leave you reeling. I’ve got so many FEELINGS, you guys! I want you to feel them too.

Bookworms, have any of you read Me Before You? What did you think? We can’t really discuss the elephant in the room because of SPOILERS, but we can talk about how much it sucks when people who don’t need it steal the disabled parking spots. That is some nasty karma y’all. I have many, many faults, but I never park in a handicapped space. I also return my shopping cart to the cart corral. Perhaps this will keep me from being reincarnated as a turd. How about you?

Hot Temps and Hot Tempers: Top Ten Tuesday Beach Reads

Howdy Bookworms!

I hope life has been treating you well. Today is Tuesday which means it’s time to make lists! Yaaaaaay! This week’s topic via The Broke and The Bookish is Top Ten Beach reads! It sounds like an easy topic, but I’m kind of at a loss. The thing about Illinois is that it’s landlocked. I can’t just go to the beach. And lakes, even the Great Lakes, are stinky. We also have rivers, which are probably stinkier than lakes. I don’t like swimming in water with fish as a general rule, but I will break my rule when it comes to wading in the OCEAN. WADING, not swimming, mind you. I tried snorkeling when I was like 13 and had a panic attack, so I’m sticking to dry land and chlorinated pools thankyouverymuch. Occasions when I’m near an actual ocean are few and far between, so I’m breaking my “beach” reads into two pieces. Books set on beaches, and books about summertime (when the living’s easy.)

toptentuesday

Top 5 Books Set on the Beach

1. The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I don’t read a whole heck of a lot of books set on beaches. At least, not a whole heck of a lot of books I actually like (cough cough The Best of Us.) I read this a long time ago, but I recall beaches and tributaries and a confused married woman having an affair with a Catholic priest. So. Scandal? Check. Sandals? Check. Beach read. Boom. Nailed it.

2. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. This is sort of set on a beach. I mean, it’s on a Hawaiian island… That also happens to be a leper colony. It’s a pretty good book if a little depressing. Leprosy sucked, especially if you were a surfer and then had your toes fall off. Not cool, man. Not cool.

3. Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. This is my all time favorite Anita Shreve novel. She’s written an entire series of books revolving around one specific beach house. I’ve read several of them (so far) and it’s a really cool life of a house type scenario. Fortune’s Rocks is begins in 1899. In a society bound by convention and old timey bathing costumes, scandalous affairs are bound to pop up between teenaged daughters of the elite and well to do doctors. I mean, those bathing costumes were HAWT.

Try and resist this. I dare you. (Image Source)

Try and resist this. I dare you. (Image Source)

4. Sea Glass by Anita Shreve. This was my second visit to our woebegone beach house. Set in the 1930s, this tale features a newly married couple, Sexton and Honora Beecher. Honora spends her days collecting sea glass while her husband (who turns out to be a bit of a slime ball) sells typewriters. In the nearby town, textile mills have workers laboring under deplorable conditions. McDermott is a sexy Irish mill worker who catches Honora’s eye as the Beechers are drawn into a massive labor dispute. There’s some scandal and plenty of learning to be had.

5. Body Surfing by Anita Shreve. And we’re baaaaaaaaaaaack at the same beach house! Only now it’s modern-ish times and our protagonist is a 29 year old underemployed divorcee and widow named Sydney. A lot of living went into her 29 years, what can she say? Sydney decides to take a job as a private summer tutor for the 18 year old daughter of the Edwards family who summer at (you guessed it) the mythological beach house of Shreve’s imagination. Julie (the daughter in question) has two older brothers and once they arrive, Sydney is plunged into a set of circumstances bound to make her relationship history even MORE interesting. Families are crazy, especially when you pop into one already in progress.

Top 5 Books About Summertime

1. Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg. Fannie Flagg makes me happy with almost everything she writes, but her version of summertime in 1940s Elmwood Springs, Missouri is just a treat. I felt like I was part of the small town and desperately wanted to get a milkshake from the pharmacy soda fountain.

2. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Shush! I can list the same authors over and over again if I want to! Fannie Flagg knows how to do SUMMER, you guys! Ruth and Idgy’s summer before Ruth gets married? Ruth and Idgy at the cafe? The shenanigans of summertime in depression era Alabama?! Makes me want to sit on a porch swing and drink a gallon of lemonade, dang it!

3. Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik. So, this book centers on a neighborhood book club (which is NEARLY as cool as The Fellowship of the Worms, but not quite.) A large part of the story goes on in the summer. Every time I think of this book, it conjures up images of pools and kool-aid stands. Summertime. Charm. These are things I like.

angryhousewives

4. Summer by Edith Wharton. Awww yeah, you didn’t see THAT coming did you? I like Edith. I like her sarcastic take on society. I like Charity Royall’s air of self importance in spite of her humble origins. I like that she works at the library. Sure, she may be naive and begin a love affair with a society fellow looking to slum it for the summer… Summer fun times sometimes lead to springtime babies… So… Be careful, kids.

5. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I know, it’s a little overexposed right now, but I can’t even think about this book without feeling a little sweaty, and I don’t mean that because of the steamy affairs. I mean the blasted temperature. My word, how did anyone survive the summer before air conditioning? Heat rises and people do crazy booze fueled things… Love triangles, feuds, affairs, CHAOS. A good time was had by all… Who didn’t end up dead.

Shakespeare said it best in Romeo & Juliet, “For now, these hot days, is the mad blood stirring.” Benvolio knew what was up. Hot temps lead to hot tempers. Keep cool this summer. Leave the drama to the books! What are YOUR picks for beach reads, Bookworms? Anything awesome that’s set on a beach that I haven’t read but ought to?

Kiss Me, Hardy: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Pssst!

Hey Bookworms. We’re being super secretive today because we’re talking about SPIES. This blog will self destruct in 15 seconds. Not really. I watched way too much Inspector Gadget as a kid. Anywho. I just finished reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and WOAH.

code_name_verity

We begin our tale with a young Scottish woman who has been arrested in Nazi occupied France. She’s totally a spy and had the bad luck to be arrested after looking the wrong way while attempting to cross the street. (Funny story- in London, the streets all have warnings written in BIG YELLOW LETTERS on the pavement telling tourist pedestrians which way to look. Quite thoughtful, really.) Our Scotswoman is being tortured and has agreed to write a detailed confession in order to stave off the torture and buy herself some time before she’s executed.

It is through this confession that we learn her story. Our spy, who we may as well call by her code name, Verity, was recruited for special operations thanks to her exceptional language skills. Verity’s success as a polyglot (speaking English, French, and German) and her fair hair and complexion make her an ideal candidate as a secret operative. A blonde, blue eyed girl could pass for a Nazi, and the best way to undermine an operation is to infiltrate it. (On a side note, are the Scottish especially gifted with languages, or am I getting erroneous impressions thanks to delicious fiction? I mean, Jamie from Outlander spoke like every language ever. And looked good doing it. Mmmmm… Jamie…)

Verity’s BFF is named Maddie. Maddie is a badass lady pilot. World War II opened up a lot of opportunities for women, as such an enormous chunk of the menfolk were fighting. Spies. Pilots. Rosie the Riveter. You know how it is. Sisters stepped up and proved themselves every bit as capable as men. It makes my inner feminist so proud! Maddie and Verity met while serving in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Few things bind a friendship like mortal terror, and few things bring on mortal terror the way air raids do. Being shot at from the air and the intense conversations you have when you think you’re about to die create some serious bonds.

I can’t get too much into the story without revealing spoilers, so I’m going to keep this short. It’s so good I don’t want to spoil it! I will tell you that it reveals a side of women’s history that is rarely explored. It makes you put yourself into impossible situations and wonder how you’d hold up. Could you hack it? Could you make the tough choices? Could you do the unthinkable for your friend? Intense. Awesome. Read it!

So, Bookworms. Tell me. Do you have what it takes to be a spy? Do you think you’d crack under torture? I’m sure I’d make a horrendous spy, and I wouldn’t last a minute without spilling all the beans. Better not apply for a job in the CIA. But what about YOU?!

Perfectly Imperfect: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Let’s do some math, shall we? Assuming that you sleep 8 hours a night (which you should, if at all possible, because sleep is awesome) you spend a third of your life in bed. Let’s say you work full time… An 8 hour shift. That’s another third (approximately, because weekends, but whatever I swear a have a point) of your life at work. A third of your life! You spend just as much of your time with your co-workers as you do with your family, and with Mr. Sandman. Now, now. Don’t go getting all depressed about how mean math is. A lot of life happens in the workplace. Imagine what the walls of your place of employment would say if they could talk (I happen to know what my walls are thinking because I converse with them regularly. I’m obviously NOT talking to myself all day. THAT would be ridiculous.)

the-imperfectionist

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman takes a look a the lives of a newspaper staff over the course of the paper’s lifespan. The newspaper was started to provide an English language news source to expatriates living abroad. While the central office is based in Rome, foreign correspondents are stationed strategically around the globe to offer the inside scoop from the ground level. The newspaper is full of idealistic journalists, fancying themselves muckraking newsmen in the golden age of print journalism. Even though the bulk of this story takes place during the dramatic decline of the industry, you get the feeling that each staff member is trying in their own way to recapture that magic. It calls to mind images of men in suits with press passes tucked into their hatbands and the sounds of typewriters clacking and clanging.

The inner workings of a newspaper can be pretty stressful. Deadlines loom, tempers flare, egos inflate. Inside this pressure cooker, each employee has their own set of issues, traumas, tragedies, and baggage to handle. The Imperfectionists is a novel, but it reads almost like a collection of short stories, each employee getting their own tale. The stories are woven together with vignettes on the history of the newspaper itself and its evolution over the decades. The overly passionate copy editor and the unassuming reporter and the douchebag war correspondent all contribute to this odd little microcosm.

Generate your own nonsense HERE

Generate your own nonsense HERE

The characters all were flawed, but were ultimately pretty likeable in spite of themselves. Rachman performed a delicate balancing act when describing romantic entanglements… He managed to portray all the excitement, passion, and heartbreak the characters experienced without crossing the line into melodrama. I found this book to be a quick read, and I enjoyed the slice of life aspect of each character’s short story. I am solidly in “like” with this book. It didn’t grab my soul and make mincemeat of it, but if it were a person? I’d give it a hearty handshake and buy it a drink. Like an old school news reporter might do.

Bookworms, my dears. I hesitate to ask you this question, but… One of the most entertaining characters in The Imperfectionists is a copy editor who is the ULTIMATE grammar and style Nazi. I shudder to think that I may have committed one of your personal grammatical pet peeves, but what are they? Do abbreviations drive you batty? Do you notice when people use homonyms incorrectly? Do you ever want to reach through your computer screen and edit someone’s Facebook status? Tell me about it!

Reasons Fannie Flagg is my Homegirl: Standing In the Rainbow

How y’all doing, Bookworms?

I took a trip to my hometown recently to spend a little QT with my mom. We had lunch and got mani-pedis to celebrate Mother’s Day. It felt extra indulgent because I’d taken some vacation time and we were galavanting ON A WEEKDAY! As I’ve discussed with you on several occasions, when driving alone, I hate to waste the hours. I have taken to listening to audio books on all solo road trips and find the car time infinitely more tolerable.

On this particular trip, I purchased a copy of Fannie Flagg’s Standing In the Rainbow via iTunes to play on my fancy little phone through a wire thingie to my car’s speaker system. It’s as high tech as you can get while still using wires. I did not realize it AT THE TIME, but it seems the version I downloaded was ABRIDGED. I KNOW! I’m very disappointed in myself for not doing my due diligence, but as is the case any time I visit Elmwood Springs, Missouri, I was enchanted (even if I inadvertently missed out on some of the story…)

standingintherainbow

Fannie Flagg narrated this audio book herself, which I LOVED because southern accents are adorable when you’re talking about small towns in the American south. A little twang is downright endearing. I’ve been to Elmwood Springs, Missouri a couple of times already when reading Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get THeaven and I love the way Flagg incorporates her characters into different stories. They might only show up as a side note, or write a song that becomes someone’s favorite, or host a charming radio show, but the minute I run into a character I’ve heard of before, I feel like I already know them. I was SO pleased to hear so much of the famous Neighbor Dorothy’s story in this book.

Neighbor Dorothy started up a little radio show out of her home in the mid 1940s, and shared recipes, homemaking tips, and hosting a wide variety of musical guests. Neighbor Dorothy’s show, and her cakes, appeared in both Welcome To The World, Baby Girl and Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven, so hearing her story was quite a treat. She was a homemaker, but no pushover. She could bake with the best of them, but she and her former suffragette mother-in-law weren’t about to sit back and watch women pushed out of politics or anywhere else. Dorothy’s gentle personality and her typical refusal to discuss hot button issues made her opinion all the more valuable when she occasionally let it out.

Dorothy’s children, Bobby and Anna Lee go on to lead interesting lives, but nobody’s life is quite as interesting as the introverted daughter of a gospel singer the Smiths take in one summer. Betty Raye Oatman starts out as a painfully shy girl. She is so shy that the idea of traveling with her family’s gospel group sickens her. She is anxious and forced to go on stage and be around people constantly. All the poor girl wants is some peace, quiet, and a place to read (bless her heart.) After a short visit with Dorothy and the Smith family, Betty Raye finds it even harder to go back on the road with her family. This is why it comes as such a surprise when little Betty Raye goes on to marry a mover and a shaker in politics, Hamm Sparks.

I could keep on rambling about Tot Whooten and Aunt Elner and Jimmy Head and Macky and Norma and the impossibly fabulous Cecil Figgs, but I’ll spare you the details. I can’t help it, y’all. Fannie Flagg lifts my spirits in a way nobody else can. I love her quirky characters, I love the Southern charm, I love the whole schtick. When I need a pick me up, she’s my go-to gal.

Now that I’m longing for a simpler time when soda fountains were in pharmacies and bubble gum blowing contests were a thing, I’ll pose this question to you. When Bobby Smith hits middle age, he’s struck by an intense nostalgia for his childhood and the town he’d grown up in. I know I personally get really happy when I find ORIGINAL (and not the new fangled animation style) Care Bears and My Little Pony stickers and whatnot. What are some of your favorite childhood toys and memories?