Month: February 2014

Feb 28

Idiosyncratic Lit List: Shifting Perspectives

Idiosyncratic Lit List 27

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

It’s been a while since I made a list (like, a week or two? Too long, certainly.) I ran across this fantastic post on Book Riot recently. Then I came across this one on The Huffington Post. They are both about how cool it would be to read a book from another character’s perspective, and it’s got my listy juices flowing. Here are some of the books I’d like to read from another character’s perspective (and yeah, I made up titles for them. Because why not?)

idiosyncraticlitlist

1. The Cleverest Witch of Her Age- You guessed right. I’m talking about the Harry Potter  series from Hermione Granger’s perspective. The HP books are so great and iconic that they could be amazing from any number of characters’ points of view, but Hermione holds a special place in my heart. Maybe if JK Rowling gets tired of being Robert Galbraith, she’ll consider it? A girl can dream.

2. Raising O’Hara- There was a point in The Help where one of the characters mentions that nobody asked how Mammy felt about things in Gone with the Wind. I think that would be a fascinating twist! Mammy, the O’Hara’s house slave getting a turn to talk about Scarlett’s doings? How DID she feel about sewing the curtains into a man-catching dress? It could be phenomenal.

3. Toby + Finn: A Love Story: I’d loooove to read Tell the Wolves I’m Home from Toby’s perspective. Finn and Toby’s journey together, his feelings of being kept away from Finn’s family, his heartbreak over losing Finn… TOBY. Oh man. I’d love that.

Somebody write these? Please? (Source)

Somebody write these? Please? (Source)

4. Lowood- Helen Burns was one of my favorite characters in Jane Eyre. I’d like to get an outsider’s perspective on Jane, and who better than her BFF to tell the tale? Of course, she’d only be able to tell a portion of the story, but I think it would rock pretty hard. Plus, who’s to rule out narration from another realm of existence? It’s been done.

5. Serena’s Gildead: The Handmaid’s Tale is one of THE BEST BOOKS EVER. Offred is stuck in this theocratic society where she’s used as breeding stock to produce children for worthy men’s families. Fred, her, uh, husband guy? Had a REAL wife named Serena Joy,  a former televangelist who was none too thrilled with the whole handmaid situation. I want to get an idea of what this society was like from a “priviliged” woman’s point of view. I want to know how her views on religion changed (or didn’t) with the rise of the theocracy. I don’t think Serena Joy got to read either.

What about you, Bookworms? Is there a secondary character’s perspective you’d love to get out of a favorite book? 

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Feb 27

Wilkie in Winter: The Woman in White Epoch 3

Classics 7

Wahoo, Bookworms!

I feel so accomplished, I finished The Woman in White! A classic and a chunkster. Bam. I must extend my gratitude to The Estella Society, because without their read-a-long, I don’t think I would have tackled it. Since I’m talking about the final third of the book, consider this your SPOILER ALERT. Let’s take on these discussion questions!

wilkieinwinter-1024x1024 (1) 1. How do you feel about the way this novel wrapped up? Too clean and tidy? Just right? How about Fosco’s tell-all confession?

Was anybody else a little creeped out that half of Fosco’s confession was a love note to Marian? I guess I should expect such behavior of a villain, but still. I was pleased with the way the novel wrapped up, Fosco’s Marian obsession aside. I like it when the bad guys get their comeuppance. The ending was rather tidy, but I happen to like tidy endings. All that open ended stuff that goes on in the new-fangled books these days usually just leaves me grumpy. Closure. It’s a beautiful thing!

2. Did you feel the characters got what they deserved in the end? Namely, Sir Percival. But also Marian? Fosco?

Sir Percival! I can’t say that I think he deserved to be trapped inside a burning building, but he was evil and he did set the place on fire, so… FOSCO. Oh man. I’m glad that the secret society was the one to take him out, because that meant Walter didn’t have to duel him in some unspecified future. You know Fosco would have cheated. But Marian, sweet Marian. I love her. I wish she could have found some nice autonomous happiness, but I suppose spending your life with family you genuinely love isn’t such a terrible fate.

3. What do you think of Wilkie’s treatment of the ladies? Heather, Amanda, and I all sort of wondered if he was screwing with us at times. The sticks to convention but it also seemed a little tongue-in-cheek at times. Or maybe those are just our contemporary female sensibilities…and wishing.

Ah the ladies. Well, Marian was AWESOME. I’m glad she was such a badass, especially since she went against the grain. It’s unfortunate that she only got to be such a badass because she wasn’t pretty and/or marriagable, but whatever. Laura though. What a ninny! I mean, I KNOW that being locked up in an asylum for weeks being told you aren’t who you think you are could screw a girl up, and she was kind of a wimpy wimperson to begin with, but DAYUM. Childlike damsel in distress much? Wilkie seems to admire and respect Marian infinitely more than Laura, so maybe he was ahead of his time, while still being the product of his time?

4. Wild card! What other issues did you take note of in this epoch?

The secret society! I was happy to see Pesca come back because he took up quite a chunk of real estate at the beginning of the first epoch. I thought it was kind of weird that he came back as a secret society operative, but since he was instrumental in the demise of Fosco I cannot complain. Man. I love to hate that guy!

Bookworms, tell me. When reading older novels, do you ever get frustrated with the way female characters are portrayed? 

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Feb 26

The River of No Return GIVEAWAY

Giveaways, Time Travel 30

Howdy Bookworms!

Remember last spring when I was super stoked about a time travel romance called The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway? You don’t remember? Well, click HERE. I’ll wait. You’re back? Good. You’ll now understand my excitement when I received an email last week from the publisher tipping me off to the release of the PREQUEL to The River of No Return, The Time Tutor. Prequel, sequel, I mean, who can really tell when you spend your time hopping around through time, you know? Now, I’ve yet to read The Time Tutor (as I’ve naturally over-committed myself to reading ALL THE BOOKS) but I’m really excited to tackle it soon.

beeridgway

Why am I writing this post on a book I haven’t read yet? Only because I want to share FREE STUFF with you! The folks at Plume Books/Penguin Random House have graciously offered a copy of the newly-available-in-paperback The River of No Return to one of YOU lucky readers. Enter the giveaway below! *UPDATE* I forgot to mention that this giveaway is for residents of the US and Canada only, by publisher’s request. As in, the publisher is mailing it out and probably dislikes international shipping charges as much as I do. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Feb 25

I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira

Art, Historical Fiction 18

Bonjour Bookworms,

Let’s talk about art. I’m not going to pretend that I understand much art, but I do have a soft spot for the French Impressionists. I got a calendar at the dollar store when I was like 10 and I was all “oooooh pretty!” I’ve been a sucker for Impressionism ever since. I have two Monet poster prints hanging in my office at work. What can I say? I’m a fan. When I saw that I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira got all up in the inner circle of the French Impressionists, I JUMPED at the chance to read it.

ialwayslovedyouFull Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The fact that I’ve been staring at Monet daily for for years to psych myself up was just a bonus.

I Always Loved You focuses on a young Mary Cassatt. She moved to Paris after the American Civil War in order to focus on her painting, but after 10 years she’s feeling disenchanted. Just as she’s about to throw in the towel and moved back into Pennsylvania when she’s introduced to the enigmatic Edgar Degas and his band of misfit painter pals.

Renoir and Manet and Monet, oh my! All the household French Impressionist names are represented in this book with all the behind the scenes glory that only historical fiction can provide. Mary Cassatt is one of the less familiar names among the Impressionist crew, so it was really cool to get a better idea of what she was all about. Heck, I never realized she was an American, given that she is always listed in tandem with the French masters.

This painting is discussed in detail in the book. Check out more of Mary Cassat's work

This painting is discussed in detail in the book. Check out more of Mary Cassatt’s work at www.marycassatt.org or her Artsy page. 

I Always Loved You also provided me with a lovely parallel. One of the books I really dug last year was The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (my review). That novel focused on the life of the model for one of Degas’ most famous works, Little Dancer of Fourteen Years. This novel offered a little peak into Degas’ perspective while working on the sculpture, and it was wonderful. These books compliment each other beautifully.

 Tell me Bookworms. Have you ever met two books that just sort of belong together? 

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

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Feb 24

Fellowship of the Worms Announcement: The House Girl by Tara Conklin

Uncategorized 4

Happy Monday Bookworms!

I know last week I was bemoaning the difficulty of choosing a book for book club, but I’ve gone and confronted my fears! The next installment of The Fellowship of the Worms will take place on Monday, March 31st. We will be discussing (drumroll please…) The House Girl by Tara Conklin!

thehousegirlAbstract from Goodreads:

Virginia, 1852. Seventeen-year-old Josephine Bell decides to run from the failing tobacco farm where she is a slave and nurse to her ailing mistress, the aspiring artist Lu Anne Bell. New York City, 2004. Lina Sparrow, an ambitious first-year associate in an elite law firm, is given a difficult, highly sensitive assignment that could make her career: she must find the “perfect plaintiff” to lead a historic class-action lawsuit worth trillions of dollars in reparations for descendants of American slaves.

It is through her father, the renowned artist Oscar Sparrow, that Lina discovers Josephine Bell and a controversy roiling the art world: are the iconic paintings long ascribed to Lu Anne Bell really the work of her house slave, Josephine? A descendant of Josephine’s would be the perfect face for the reparations lawsuit—if Lina can find one. While following the runaway girl’s faint trail through old letters and plantation records, Lina finds herself questioning her own family history and the secrets that her father has never revealed: How did Lina’s mother die? And why will he never speak about her?

Moving between antebellum Virginia and modern-day New York, this searing, suspenseful and heartbreaking tale of art and history, love and secrets, explores what it means to repair a wrong and asks whether truth is sometimes more important than justice.

As always, I will post discussion questions on Monday, March 31st. You’re welcome to answer the discussion questions in the comments section, or on your own blog. If you have written a review of The House Girl in the past, there will be a link up opportunity. I hope you’ll consider joining us!

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

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Feb 21

That Awkward Moment: Book Club Fail

Book Club 26

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Tonight I’m meeting with my neighborhood book club, which I’ve not-so-cleverly dubbed “My Neighbors are Better than Your Neighbors.” I’m super lucky to have a great group of gals to hang out and talk books with. This month, one of our members (who also happens to be my Girl Scout cookie hookup) chose The Giant’s House: A Romance by Elizabeth McCracken.

thegiant'shouseIn 1950s Cape Cod, small town librarian Peggy Cort feels like she’s passed her expiration date. She’s resigned herself to a small life, when a very large boy walks into it. James Sweatt is 6 foot 2 inches at 11 years old, and nowhere near finished growing. The two strike up the sort of connection only outsiders can truly understand, and their lives are never the same. And there’s maybe kind-of-sort-of some romance, depending on your perspective.

I’ll just come right out and say it: this book wasn’t for me. The prose is perfectly lovely, and to a different reader this book might be fantastic. But for me? Meh. Yes, “meh.” Charleen of Cheap Thrills Book Blog (who is more eloquent than I) wrote a fantastic piece on the merits of using the term “meh” that you should read. (Really, click on it. HERE.) Writing a review of a book that hits you upside the head with all the meh is crazy hard to do. I’m stuck in a gray area of stumbling over words, and it makes me all twitchy.

To be fair, I haven’t spoken to any of the ladies to hear how they felt about the book, other than a couple of vague “this is really depressing” text messages. Knowing them as I do, though, I can’t imagine this is a new favorite for any of them. bookclubflopActually, knowing them as I do, I’d be surprised if many of them even finished this one…

Choosing the book for a book club can be nerve wracking. It’s not just about choosing a “good” or “bad” book, it’s about choosing a good fit for your group. If your book club is really into dystopian YA, busting in with some highbrow literary fiction probably isn’t going to go over too well. Nobody wants to read the same thing all the time, (okay, well *I* don’t want to read the same thing all the time.) That’s part of the beauty of a book club, reading something you might not have picked up on your own. That said, everything new carries ALL THE POSSIBILITIES. You could love it, feel like a giant ball of “meh,” or rage at the heavens that such a piece of literature was ever brought into being.

Because I’m not much of a re-reader, whenever I make a book club selection, I typically go in blind. These days I’ve got a pretty hefty advantage. I read a lot of book blogs, and have a killer group of blogger friends who know my taste well enough to help me make my decisions. But you know something? Sometimes it doesn’t even MATTER that you’ve researched and read reviews and polled your pals. You really don’t know if something is going to work for you (and your book club) until you read the darn thing!

I’m not going to give my Girl-Scout-Cookie-Hookup too much crap for picking a book I didn’t like. Then I’d have to go out and make another friend with a Girl Scout daughter, and I just don’t have the energy to go hunting one down. Not to mention, one of these days IT MIGHT BE ME responsible for the book club bomb. It’s cool, Emily. I still love you!

What about you, Bookworms? Do you feel pressure choosing books for your book clubs? Is my anxiety a reflection of my own inner turmoil or do y’all deal with this too? 

 

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Feb 20

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Coming of Age, Fairy Tales, Friendship 12

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.*

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Feb 18

The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian

Dystopian 22

Howdy Bookworms,

You know how much I love a good dystopian novels, right? ESPECIALLY when they can stand on their own and not foist a trilogy upon me. (This ended well, PLEASE, don’t trilogy me!) A while back I received an email from Penguin (my favorite publisher, for obvious reasons) offering me a copy of The Office of Mercy by Ariel Djanikian in exchange for an honest review. Despite my love of penguins and Penguin, the receipt of a free book has not compromised my integrity. For real, I’m too honest for my own good.

officeofmercy The Office of Mercy had me hooked pretty fast. It’s an undeniable page turner, that’s for darn sure. Natasha Wiley lives in a settlement known as America-Five. About 300 years before this novel takes place, a great “Storm” destroyed the majority of human life on planet Earth. What remained holed up in these elaborate bunkers and got their science on. Since then they’ve been slowly expanding and figuring out ways to clothe, feed, house, and amuse their population. Oh, and they’ve been growing spare organs and attempting to conquer the aging process. Nobody dies in America-Five.

People do, however, still die on the Outside. Natasha works in what is known as The Office of Mercy, her job being to track tribes of Storm survivors, and if they get too close, to kill them. Compassionately. To end their suffering. It’s all very altruistic.

The vast majority of the citizens in America-Five have drunk the kool-aid. There are a handful of conscientious objectors, and though they’re tolerated, they are NOT popular. It’s hard to work in the room where you release the death weapons and not buy into the philosophy, so Natasha is on board…

Until she goes on her first field mission, and she realizes that the tribes people aren’t exactly what the elders have trained her to believe. That’s when all the interesting stuff starts to happen that I can’t TELL you about because it would be SPOILER-Y and this book is too good for me to ruin for you. Ugh. Scruples.

I loved the ethical conundrums put forth by this book and Natasha’s evolution. Plus, all the science-y stuff was pretty rad. I’m a sucker for rooms full of spare human organs, what can I say? If you like dystopian fiction, I highly recommend The Office of Mercy.

Since America-Five is getting close to providing its citizens with immortality (thanks to spare organs and fancy pants medicine) I got to thinking. Even if you were guaranteed health, safety, and a life free of physical suffering, would you want to live forever? 

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

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Feb 17

Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky

Humor, Psychological 15

Greetings, Bookworms!

Have you ever read a book that left you completely bewildered, but kind of happy about it? I just finished Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking by Scott Navicky and I am having a heck of a time putting my feelings into words. Before we get to my rambling, let’s take a break for the FTC Disclosure. I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I must mention that the pitch email I received for this book is probably the best one I’ve ever gotten. CCLaP, Lori deserves a crap ton of credit. Give her a raise or something, she’s doing it right! 

humboldtSince I’m having such a hard time coming up with a description of this book and articulating my feelings, I’m going to resort to comparisons. If A Confederacy of Dunces and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had a moderately dimwitted but incredibly lucky love child, that might come close to Humboldt: Or, The Power of Positive Thinking. Plot-wise they have nothing in common. Feeling-wise, I got the same “what in heaven’s name is going on here?!?!” vibe from all three books.

Let’s move beyond my initial disappointment that this book had nothing to do with penguins (because there are 17 varieties of penguins, Humboldt among them. That is where my mind went first, natch.) Humboldt is a kid with an 8th grade education. He waxes philosophical about soybeans and is perfectly content to live his life with his father on their Ohio farm. He’s got a little Forrest Gump going on, but when the farm is in trouble, Humboldt is shipped off to college to figure out how to save the place. IT DOESN’T MATTER HOW HE GOT IN, JUST GO WITH IT!

(Source)

HUMBOLDT PENGUIN. BOOM.  (Source)

Humboldt is met with a barrage of oddball encounters and chance occurrences. He tends to be wherever the action is, and his utter lack of grasp on every situation is continually interpreted as savvy educational/emotional/business acumen. Humboldt’s inner monologue is kind of like reading drug addled hallucinations, just more wholesome.

My favorite thing about this quirky little book? Crazy cultural references, y’all! Humboldt’s butchering of history, literature, and pop culture phenomena was both hilarious and fascinating. SO MUCH WORD PLAY! Humboldt’s love interest is named Elle en Noise, for crying out loud! (Land of Lincoln, REPRESENT!) I was especially excited to read an entire segment dedicated to the early to mid 1990s Chicago Bulls. I know jack about sports, but I KNOW the Michael Jordan era. I had a mad crush on Steve Kerr.

To sum up this disjointed review, I just don’t even know. But. If you like your reading a little off the wall, Humboldt: Or, the Power of Positive Thinking is your book. Go read it, then come back and talk to me about Fergus. Because man. That guy. Whew!

Alright Bookworms, this is one of the craziest, head scratching-est books I’ve ever read. What are some books that left you slack jawed? 

 

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Feb 14

Lovey Dovey Book Quotes (An Idiosyncratic Lit List)

Idiosyncratic Lit List, Romance 24

Happy Valentine’s Day, Bookworms!

Last year, to celebrate Cupid’s arrow, I wrote Jim a sonnet about McDonald’s. There’s just no way to top that. This year I’m copping out and sharing some of my favorite quotes about love… And no, none of them would be appropriate to put on a wedding program. 

idiosyncraticlitlist

1. “I want to ask you something …Would you marry me? I’m in love with you, so I thought I’d ask.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (My Review)

This is my favorite marriage proposal in literature. Maybe it’s not as swoony as Mr. Darcy’s, but I love it. It’s spontaneous, quirky, and a lady asks a dude. Not every marriage needs an elaborate proposal story. There’s something to be said for the heartfelt and odd.

Oh for heaven's sake, don't look so shocked, Mr. Darcy! (Source)

Oh for heaven’s sake, don’t look so shocked, Mr. Darcy! We can’t all be you. (Source)

2. “He knew why he wanted to kiss her. Because she was beautiful. And before that, because she was kind. And before that, because she was smart and funny. Because she was exactly the right kind of smart and funny. Because he could imagine taking a long trip with her without ever getting bored. Because whenever he saw something new and interesting, or new and ridiculous, he always wondered what she’d have to say about it–how many stars she’d give it and why.”– Attachments by Rainbow Rowell (my review)

I don’t buy into love at first sight, but I fell hard for the idea of love before first sight, thanks to Rainbow Rowell. (I could have filled an entire list with her quotes, but I feel the need to back off since I announced I wanted to have her cloned…) This quote makes me happy because it’s everything you want your mate to think about you; that you’re smart and funny and worthy of long road trips.

3. “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (My Review)

Stop. Go back. Read it again. Let the glory sink in. I don’t really buy into love at first sight. Sure, lust, attraction, what-have-you, but love? This is the best analogy I’ve ever read for my (limited) experience with falling in love. Feelings start and they grow and then BOOM. You’re a goner.

tfios

4. “You don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.”My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

This quote isn’t even about romantic love, but I don’t care. Expecting perfection out of anyone (including yourself) is a recipe for disaster. Loving someone means loving them with all their rough edges.

5. “I will find you,” he whispered in my ear. “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you – then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes… But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest… Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well.”Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Because I’m a sappy sapperson and I can’t get enough time-traipsing-sexy-sentimental-Scottish-man-isms. Jamie + Claire = Lurve!

Well, that’s that. Since we’re playing with quotes here, do any of you have a favorite lovey dovey literary quote? A favorite love song? 

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