Category: Coming of Age

Sep 23

Banned Books Week 2013: Eleanor and Park?!?!

Banned Books, Coming of Age, Family, Young Adult Fiction 61

Hey Bookworms!

It’s time to celebrate Banned Books Week. Every year the national book community sets aside a week to celebrate FREEDOM!!! (I hope you imagined me bellowing that a la William Wallace in Braveheart because that is how it sounds in my head.) There are few things that raise my hackles the way banning books does. Of all the crazy shiznit that goes down in The Handmaid’s Talewhat has always bothered me the MOST is the prohibition of women reading.

The American Library Association doesn't want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

The American Library Association doesn’t want you to ban books either. (Image courtesy BannedBooksWeek.org)

Books are banned and challenged by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. They’re banned by governments for spreading subversive ideas. They’re banned by religions for containing content they find offensive. Lately though, the groups that seems to be getting the most press for trying to ban books are parental groups.

Most of the time, I try to keep my nose out of the Mommy Wars or any debates on parenting. Sure, I have opinions, but as I do not yet have any progeny, it seems ill advised to wade into those waters. HOWEVER… Some yahoos in Minnesota tried to have Eleanor and Parkthe brilliant coming of age novel penned by the ridiculously talented Rainbow Rowell, banned from their schools’ reading lists.

Yep. This is happening right this minute. A group of parents in the Anoka-Hennepin school district has chosen to wage a war against my beloved E&P. If you feel like raising your blood pressure, you can go ahead and take a look at their list of complaints on the Parents Action League website. What’s got these parents all riled up? Profanity mostly. Because, you know. Middle and High School aged children have never heard a bad word. They’re certainly not using them either (GASP.) Also, it’s chock full of “crude and sexually charged material.” Sure. For a book where no actual sex takes place. Hand holding is described in all its intensity. The characters in this novel never graduate beyond some making out and minor groping! But of COURSE normal teenagers wouldn’t know anything about THAT either. 

eandp

In fairness, I wouldn’t recommend reading Eleanor & Park to a young elementary school student, but we’re talking about teenagers. I’ve been a teenager. They’re a heck of a lot smarter than groups like Parents Action League ever give them credit for. I’d think parents would be stoked at the idea that their kid was assigned a book in school that they ACTUALLY wanted to read. Dismissing the messages presented in Eleanor and Park based on concerns over naughty words and heavy petting is a ginormous mistake. There’s so GOOD to be had in E&P!!! It addresses bullying, abusive home situations, first love, body image, being different, and GYM CLASS. I’m positively flabbergasted that anyone could object to this book, it has ALL THE LESSONS!

Of course, the Parents Action League also promotes an aggressively anti-gay agenda, so I shouldn’t be surprised by any of this… My only hope here is that the kids in this district decide to rebel against their parents. I came of age when “explicit lyrics” labels began being posted on the outside of CDs (remember CDs, guys?!) All those warning labels did was make it easier for me to decide what album to buy next. Explicit lyrics meant the album was going to be edgy and cool and everything rock was supposed to be. I can only pray that teenagers do as they’ve done for centuries and come to the same conclusion about Eleanor & Park. 

So, Bookworms. I suppose it’s stupid to ask if you agree with me about Eleanor & Park specifically, because differing opinions obviously won’t sway my beliefs. However. I am curious. How much say do you think it is appropriate for parents to have in the curriculum assigned to their children? We’re talking public school here. Weigh in y’all. What do you think?

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Sep 09

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Young Adult Fiction 28

Greetings, Bookworms!

Last week I talked about how much I enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth, and in true Katie fashion, I began the second book IMMEDIATELY after finishing the first. I’ve been completely sucked into this world, so Insurgent and I got along juuuuuust fine.

insurgentI said the other day that the second book in a trilogy is often sacrificed as the Jan Brady of books. (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!) There were quite a few of you Bookworms who mentioned that Insurgent was a disappointment to you, but I didn’t have any problems with it. Since it’s downright impossible to discuss the second book in the triology without spoiling the first, I’m going to go ahead and issue a big fat SPOILER ALERT!

When we left Chicago, the wicked Jeanine, leader of Erudite, had turned Dauntless into a faction of zombie mind controlled soldiers. She had them attack Abnegation and murder a bunch of important government leaders. Because Tris is Divergent, she wasn’t susceptible to the computer chip implant and… Neither was her new boyfriend Four! A little convenient perhaps, but I love their little romance so I’m cool with the dual Divergence.

After a whole lot of heartbreak, the deaths of Tris’s parents, and the reappearance of Tobias’s (AKA Four) abusive jerkface father, Marcus, our small band of refugees hops a train out of town to Amity’s compound. Amity! We haven’t heard much from them yet, so getting to see their compound and some of the questionable tactics they employ to keep the peace was pretty sweet. Eventually they head out of Amity to discover that once the Dauntless army came out of their trance, they split in half: one half bunking with the Candor crew and the other sticking with their Erudite brain masters. Families are torn apart. And in between all of this? Tris keeps taking stupid risks and putting herself in danger, which TOTALLY pisses off Tobias. Trouble in paradise, but at least, thank HEAVEN, NO LOVE TRIANGLE!

So there’s a big fat WAR going on. A war of the factions, a war in the city. The freaking FACTIONLESS threaten to rise from the ashes! People return from the dead. I mean, all bets are off. It’s insanity. We’re left with a ginormous cliffhanger at the end of this book. And I’m all…

Needless to say, I have SUPER high expectations for Allegiant which is due out October 22. I wish I’d waited a bit longer to start the series so I didn’t have to SUFFER in ANTICIPATION like this! Gah! Anybody out there in this boat with me?!

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Sep 05

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Coming of Age, Dystopian, Fantasy, Frightening, Young Adult Fiction 61

Hey There Bookworms,

I have been putting off reading Veronica Roth’s Divergent for quite a while now. I really enjoy a good YA dystopia, but the market has been rather saturated with them lately. After reading and not loving Ally Condie’s Matched series, I was skeptical to try again… It’s a darn good thing I did, because right now the Divergent series only ranks below The Hunger Games in my personal ranking of YA dystopias. I KNOW!

Divergent hc c(2)

Alright. We begin in what I can only assume is a post apocalyptic Chicago. Lake Michigan has dried into marshland, and a mere sliver of the city is inhabited. The rest is in ruins. (I enjoyed this book all the more because I’m familiar with the major landmarks and buildings in the Windy City. I grew up in the Chicago burbs, and while I won’t call myself a native,I know Navy Pier from Millenium Park and the Sears Tower from the Hancock building. “Willis” Tower my foot.)

Anyway. The new civilization inhabiting Chicago is split into five major factions. The factions are sort of like fraternities and sororities on steroids. They each value a different virtue above all else. I imagine that Roth named her factions specifically to expand teenage vocabularies (for which I salute her!) Erudite values knowledge, Candor values truth, Abnegation values selflessness, Amity values kindness, and Dauntless values bravery.

Beatrice Prior has just turned 16. She was raised in Abnegation, the, uh Amish equivalent in this society. Not really Amish, I guess, but they’re very modest and focus on the needs of others before themselves. They’re big on feeding the poor and service. A very nice faction, on the whole, but they are discouraged from looking in mirrors and their lives are really regimented. Beatrice, like all the the 16 year olds in the community, is on the precipice of a huge decision. She is about to choose her faction. Being born in Abnegation doesn’t mean she has to stay there. Each student is given an aptitude test to determine where they are best suited, but they have the option to choose a different faction.

The students get to choose where they will go, but they’re not guaranteed acceptance. They have to go through a training and initiation phase, and not everyone makes it. Those who don’t are cast out to live among the “factionless.” The factionless work menial jobs and live in poverty, so it behooves the students to do their best to choose wisely. The problem Beatrice is facing is that her aptitude test was inconclusive. She has to embrace ONE faction, but her test results indicate that she’s got an aptitude for THREE. She’s considered “Divergent” as a result and that is a dangerous thing to be. DUN DUN DUN!

I don’t want to talk too much about this book, because it’s hard to discuss without getting super spoiler happy. I like this book too much to spoil it! Roth does some awesome world building in this novel. Her dystopian Chicago is well drawn and disturbingly lifelike. I love the implications of the faction system. I think it offers some good lessons on the gray areas of life and the importance of seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

After having read this book, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in a faction! Much in the way I dubbed myself a Ravenclaw after reading Harry Potter, I’ve done a lot of thinking about what faction I’d have landed in. I’m so confused! They’re all so flawed, but they’ve all got good qualities too. So far, the only two I’ve been able to rule out are Dauntless (because I’m a giant chicken) and Candor (because even though I suck at lying, I think living in an environment of CONSTANT brutal honesty would be REALLY bad for my overly sensitive self.) This leaves me with Erudite, but I don’t know if I could even go there because despite my inherent bookwormy nerdiness, they’re SUPER science-y folk, and that’s never been my academic forte. I think I’d flunk at Abnegation, because I rather like mirrors and though I’d like to be selfless, I know I’m not that perfect. I suppose I’d chill in Amity, because they grow stuff (I like to garden) and they’re all about being nice to each other… Then again… Maybe I’m Divergent between Erudite, Amity, and Abnegation. I’m all kinds of complicated.

What faction do you think YOU would land in, Bookworms? Where do you see yourself fitting in?

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Sep 03

Classic and Contemporary: School Stuff (Top Ten Tuesday)

Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction 34

Hola, Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday, but since yesterday was a holiday (at least in the US) it’s basically a Monday. To combat the blues, we’re gonna get a little listy. The ladies of The Broke and the Bookish have come up with a fantastic topic for today. We could take this two ways: pair contemporary books with classics OR list out 10 books that we think should be required reading in school. I’m going to take it half and half. Ready?

toptentuesday

Classic and Contemporary: The Perfect Pairings

1. The Odyssey by Homer with The Penelopiad by Margaret AtwoodThe Odyssey by Homer (or at the very least, excerpts of it) is required reading for tons of high school students. Everybody heard about Odysseus and his epic journey, but what about poor Penelope who is stuck on the homefront fighting off suitors? Margaret Atwood tackled the story from her perspective, and it’s very cool to see the retelling of a classic in such a way.

2. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath with Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar is a largely autobiographical novel about a young woman who despite her youth, talent, and beauty is suffering from a mental breakdown. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir of a woman who spent time in a mental institution following her own suicide attempt and crippling depression. Two tales of mental illness with a very personal bent, one classic, one more contemporary. Both powerful.

bell jar

3. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson with World War Z by Max Brooks. You like monsters and end of the world scenarios? Try either of these! I am Legend deals with a vampire takeover, and World War Z is about the zombie apocalypse. Both are awesome and will probably give you nightmares (if you’re like me.)

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen with Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding. This pairing is a lot of fun. Bridget Jones is a not so subtle homage to Jane Austen’s classic. It’s full of witty little asides and silly tributes. It’s also about finding love with people who initially annoy the crap out of you. Good times all around.

5. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The non-fiction classic account of a Jewish girl and her family living in hiding from the Nazis during World War II pairs well with Markus Zusak’s fictionalized version of life for dissenting German citizens under the Nazi regime. Both heart wrenching and fantastic.

The-Book-Thief

Why Didnt’t They Assign Me This High School?

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is one of my all time favorite dystopias, and so enthralling I couldn’t put it down. It’s full of important lessons and stuff, I don’t see why spending a thousand pages on Moby Dick was so critical…

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. They may teach this in school, but they didn’t teach it in my school. Actually, I’m lying a little bit. The scene with the Christmas tree was in several of my English textbooks, but never the whole thing. And the whole thing rules!

3. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. This book was awesome, for starters. I think it would be good for kids to read for a couple of reasons. First, all the cranky for no good reason kids (like myself) might realize that their lives totally DON’T suck. Second, if the abuse that is presented in this book is discussed in the classroom, perhaps kids who are suffering would be encouraged to ask for help. At least, I’d hope for that.

glass castle

4. The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. This is a great book, and it discusses the difficulties of people of Asian decent living in the US during World War II. It focused on the Japanese internment camps, but ALL people of Asian decent suffered as a result. The Japanese internment camps have been swept under the rug, and it’s an important lesson for kids to learn that their government sometimes does stupid things. Maybe they’ll pay more attention to what goes on around them?

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m of the opinion that if a kid ends up actually enjoying assigned reading, they might decide to read more in their spare time. What better way to get kids to dig a book than dishing up some teen angst? Teen angst that, while at this point in time is still out of touch, is more accessible than The Catcher in the Rye. Even better, read them both!

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Aug 27

Hiya! Top Ten Sidekicks!

Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 46

Happy Tuesday, Bookworms!

It’s a beautiful day for a list, don’t you think?! The fabulous ladies at The Broke and the Bookish have come up with a fantastic concept for today’s list. We’re talking about our favorite secondary characters in books. I’ve always believed that if I were in a movie or a book, I’d be the quirky best friend and not the romantic lead, so sidekicks have a special place in my heart. Let’s count down some of the best, shall we?!

toptentuesday

1. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter by JK Rowling. It is super hard to choose a favorite “secondary” character from Harry Potter, because there are so many that I love. You might even be able to argue that Hermione isn’t a “secondary” character because she’s a big deal. Whatever. The books don’t have her name on the cover, she’s awesome, and it’s my blog. Yay Hermione!

2. Young Ian from The Outlander Novels by Diana GabaldonThe youngest son of Ian and Jenny Murray is just a firecracker. Whatever shenanigans he gets himself into (and Ian is big on the shenanigans) you can’t help but love him.

3. Fermin from The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. Who doesn’t love Fermin? The outrageous homeless man turned bookseller had an endless supply of amusing stories as well as an endless supply of mysterious skills. Also, though he’s a slender fellow, he has a seemingly endless stomach capacity. Who doesn’t love a ham sandwich?

the-shadow-of-the-wind-by-carlos-ruiz-zafon4. Horace from Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I don’t know what it is, but a dude with a big growth on his face makes my underdog radar go off. He also kicked butt at cards and took that banty rooster Walt down a few pegs every time they played gin rummy.

5. Chiron (the Centaur) from Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. What’s not to love about a freaking centaur?! He tutors Achilles and Patroclus in the arts of war and medicine… Plus he doesn’t make a big deal about their man love blossoming on his mountain. Pretty cool guy-horse, that Chiron.

6. Toby from Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I absolutely adored Toby, Finn’s “secret” lover. Oh Toby. It made me SO SAD that Finn’s family didn’t accept his life with Toby. The reasons were complicated, but it broke my heart. When he lost Finn, Toby had nobody left. I LOVED the relationship he forged with June. Gah. The whole thing is making me tear up again!

tellthewolvesimhome

7. Cinna from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Katniss’s stylist in the Capitol proved that not everyone in the Capitol was heartless. I was really excited to see Lennie Kravitz cast in the movie, because he was pretty darn fantastic. I kind of wish Cinna would make me a dress with pyrotechnic capabilities…

8. Gavroche from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I flipping love this feisty little street urchin. He is well versed in the Parisian underworld and he freaking LIVES in an ELEPHANT statue. Swagger.

9. The Artful Dodger from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Speaking of street urchins, The Artful Dodger was London’s answer to Gavroche. A plucky young pickpocket, ‘The Artful’ was  one of the few in Fagin’s gang who had a good heart.

10. M from Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Ah yes, the Mercutio to R’s Romeo. He’s one of the few zombies that can articulate… after a fashion. They’re brain eating, grunting, bachelor zombie buddies. I found him amusing.

What about you, Bookworms? Who are some of your favorite secondary characters? Do you prefer underdogs and weirdos or are you more a fan of the logical sidekicks?

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Aug 09

Peter Pan Brings Out My Inner Cynical Grown Up

Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Fairy Tales, Fantasy 46

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

Have you ever noticed that stories you knew as a child take on a very different meaning as you grow up? I was struck with just such a conundrum this week as I read (for the first time) Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. That’s not to say I wasn’t familiar with the adventures of the one and only Peter Pan. Far from it.

We didn’t own the Disney version of Peter Pan– this is probably due to the fact that Disney randomly pulls movies off the shelves for periods of time and it wasn’t available when I was in my prime Pan years. We did, however, own a VHS recording of the glorious 1960 production of Peter Pan the musical starring Mary Martin. I watched it often, which is kind of weird, because it always creeped me out a bit. I was particularly bothered by the cake Captain Hook tried to lure the Lost Boys into eating, because despite the sinister green frosting, I was certain “so damp and rich a cake” would be delicious. (Even if it was poisoned.) I hoped that in reading the book, my brain could conjure up the magic of Neverland better than a full grown woman playing a 10 year old boy…

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

This is the Peter Pan I grew up with. Realistic, no? (Source)

Magic my brain could not conjure, but creepiness? Creepiness came through in spades. First. Barrie kept emphasizing that Peter Pan still had all his baby teeth, though he was about 10 years old. That would look really weird, you know? Kids start losing teeth between the ages of 4 and 7… A normal 10 year old would have regular teeth. The idea of Peter wandering around Neverland with teeny tiny chicklets all up in his mug seriously bothered me.

I realize the play was originally written in 1904, so expecting cultural sensitivity is a little unfair of me. However, I’m pretty sure Native Americans don’t relish being referred to as “redskins” or “savages” even in whimsical children’s literature. The book didn’t give a particularly flattering portrayal of females either. Tinkerbell was a serious biz-nitch, and the mermaids were nasty wasty skunks. All Wendy ever wanted to do- even in NEVERLAND- was play mother to a troop of boys. Why couldn’t WENDY go out and have the adventures? Why was she always doing laundry?!

And that Peter Pan? I’ve heard of Peter Pan syndrome- it’s applied to men who refuse to grow up and won’t commit to a relationship. Basically they’re pretty big douchebags. However. The name of this syndrome is even  more appropriate than I realized, because Peter was kind of an ass. Seriously. Peter Pan is a rather cultish figure, if you think about it. He entices children to run away with him. He’s so completely invested in the illusion that he literally cannot tell if he and the Lost Boys are consuming real food or just pretending. (Which means he starves them half the time. Bad form, Peter!) He gets the boys into deadly confrontations with the “redskins” and pirates. Deadly, yo. These little boys are slaughtering people. What the what? Adventures, indeed! Hmph.

Peter Pan, JM Barrie 2

 

Now that I’ve eviscerated a timeless children’s classic, do I have anything nice to say? Sure. Nana was awesome. Any dog that can play nursemaid is a-okay in my book. I also rather enjoyed that Mr. Darling chose to punish himself after the children ran off by living in Nana’s kennel. That was amusing. And Smee. There’s something utterly charming about a pirate that has no idea how darn cute he is. I don’t know why, but Peter and Wendy just didn’t engage my childish wonder the way I’d hoped it would. (Although Hook, the 90s remake of Peter Pan starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman? THAT is a good time right there. I hate myself for liking a movie better than a book, but there it is. Please don’t shun me.)

What’s the moral of the tale of Katie and Peter Pan? Always go into classic children’s literature expecting it to be darker and creepier than you remember. I’m always able to remember this when heading into traditional fairy tales, but I suppose I should amend my theory to include any books with fairies as characters as well. Second star to the right and straight on till morning, Bookworms.

Have any of you ever revisited a childhood story and found it stranger than you recall? Tell me I’m not alone here!

 

 

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Aug 08

Everything You Never Knew You Wanted To Know: A Bookish Q&A

Blogging, Book Club, Children's Fiction, Classics, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, E-Readers, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Humor 43

Hey Bookworms!

What’s this? Why it’s a survey about books! Why am I doing this? I may or may not be slightly behind in my reading. Plus, I like to change things up from time to time. So, I’d like to thank Rory at Fourth Street Review for inspiring Sarah of Sarah Says Read to complete this survey… I’d also like to thank Sarah for posting it so that I’d have something to jabber about today. My blog friends are the coolest.

Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

The octopus is a bookmark I got from a friend. Delightful, no?

Plus, my bookmark totally matched.

Your Favorite Book Cover:

I don’t think I can really claim to have a “favorite book cover.” Cover art usually isn’t something I get all swoony over. However, I really dug the cover of FangirlI’m in a coral and turquoise phase right now. Which leads me to this particular turmoil:

Katie: I really love coral and turquoise

Inner Snarky Voice: Oh really? You love coral and turquoise? Maybe you should move to Miami in the 80s and see if The Golden Girls need another roommate.

Katie: Ouch, Inner Snarky Voice. But kudos on working The Golden Girls into a blog post. Bea Arthur would be proud.

What are you reading right now?

I am currently ping ponging between Peter and Wendy by JM Barrie and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Luis Zafron. (Fellowship of the Worms pick, you guys! Although, a little housekeeping. Instead of tackling this on Monday the 12th, we’ll be doing it on Thursday the 15th. The blogoversary is on Monday and I’ve got a SWEET giveaway I want to do.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

Oh goodness, I’ve got quite a stack. It’ll just depend on how the mood strikes me when it’s time to pick up the next one.

What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to? 

Oh yes. These too.

Oh yes. These too.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Yeah, they’re all classics. I need to fill in the holes left by my education.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/ lounge right now?

We don’t get any magazines. Is that weird? And if we did, they wouldn’t be in our bathrooms. We wouldn’t want our reading material to be flagged, now would we?

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

That’s a bit of a sticky question, now isn’t it? There’s plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of books that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have merit. To somebody. Somewhere. Who has terrible taste… Nah. Really, I can’t think of one. I’m going to abstain.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like?

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I just can’t. I don’t understand what all the hoopla was about. I’m either not smart enough or not cool enough to appreciate it. Probably a little bit of both. But. Meh.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. (Sarah and I concur on this one!) Seriously, I do recommend this to just about everyone because it’s got a little something for everyone. Sci-Fi? Historical Fiction? Romance? Naked Time? Trauma? Family Relationships? Practical applications of leeches? I’m telling you. Ev. Ry. Thing. And it’s completely amazeballs. So there’s that too,

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser... (Source)

Mmmm. Jamie Fraser… (Source)

What are your three favourite poems?

I don’t read a whole lot of poetry. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it, it’s just that… If poetry were music it would be classical. I prefer my music to have guitars and lyrics. That said, Emily Dickinson is my homegirl.

Where do you usually get your books?

Most of the time I order titles for my Kindle from Amazon. I do occasionally get books via NetGalley, and the library, of course.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

None that I remember. I do recall climbing trees a lot and wanting to drag a book up there with me, but a tree limb isn’t a comfortable lounging situation for more than a few minutes. Even a 10 year old backside could tell you that.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo.

Gratuitous cute childhood photo. I am like 3 or 4 here. Not 10. Late bloomer I was, but not THIS late.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?

I stayed up way too late finishing Fangirl last week. What can I say? I HAD TO KNOW THINGS.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Sometimes when I take those “have you read this” quizzes and they list “the collected works” of someone, I’ll go ahead and mark it if I’ve read  a handful of their stuff. No, I have not read ALL of Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe or Oscar Wilde. It seems unfair to have to have read the ENTIRE catalog to get credit. Humph.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I barely notice covers these days thanks to my digital predilections. I have, however, bought plenty of books just because they were on sale. I’m a sucker for a bargain bin.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

When I was really small, we had this book about an owl. I remember it had a dark purple cover. No idea what it was called, but that was a frequent bedtime request. Once I could read to myself, I dearly loved pretty much anything by Beverly Cleary.

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos...

MORE gratuitous cute childhood photos…

What book changed your life?

Changed my life? That’s a tall order, now isn’t it? I don’t know that it changed my life, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret soothed my tortured tween soul in ways nothing else could have.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

I’ve always loved Alice’s famous line “Curiouser and curiouser.” Because she was always messing up her words. Much like Amy in Little Women. I have a fondness for reaching beyond one’s vocabulary…

Who are your top five favourite authors?

Tough call but… Diana Gabaldon, JK Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, Jojo Moyes, and Margaret Atwood. Aaaaand basically the only thing any of them have in common is that they’re female. Which is unintentional, but whatever. High five to my literary ladies!

What book has no one heard about but should read?

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald. Yes, it was an Oprah’s book club pick, but it’s one that’s sort of been glossed over. I don’t hear much about it and it’s one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read.

What books are you an ‘evangelist’ for?

Uhhh… I kind of hate the term “evangelist” because it has negative religious connotations for me. Although, since we’re on the topic of religion, let’s talk about ladies and their roles in it. How’s about The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood? All awesome.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book.

My brother got a Broadway musical, and all I got was this (awesome) book. Nobody bought me a technicolor dreamcoat.

What are your favourite books by a first time author?

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. Go read this right now. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

What is your favourite classic book?

That is a tough call, because I love me some classics. Probably Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

Five other notable mentions?

Notable classics I actually enjoyed? Sure. Tess of the D’urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Right. Now I’m supposed to tag people or something? Well I’m not doing that. But if you’re a blogger and you need a topic one day, I recommend this survey. Fun times, I tell you. Fun times. 

Anybody have anything to add to this list of goodness? Another question to me to answer? Your own answer to some of these? Talk to me, Bookworms!

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Aug 06

Give Me More! Insatiable Fandom on Top Ten Tuesday

Banned Books, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 70

How goes it, Bookworms?

It’s Tuesday, so it’s time to get my list on. The lovely ladies of The Broke and The Bookish have a fabulous topic for us this week. What are the top ten stand alone books that you wish had sequels? Heaven knows I’ve got more than a few of these. Here goes!

toptentuesday1. Harry Potter by JK Rowling. I know, okay? I KNOW there are 7 books. That doesn’t mean I don’t want more! I would read a wizard phone book if JK Rowling published one! I realize she wouldn’t publish such a thing, as wizards don’t use phones (remember that time Ron called it a “felly-tone?”) I could read 8 zillion Harry Potter books. Is it realistic that she could have kept up the quality if she’d kept the series going longer? I don’t know. I respect her right to have stopped when she did, you know, as long as she respects my right to pine for my lost world of magic… Pine, pine, PINE!

2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I would be fascinated to know how Charlie’s recovery goes. I’d be very interested to see how his high school and even college careers went. Being a genius and being psychologically scarred often make for the best characters.

3. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. MINI SPOILER!!! What does Park DO when he gets that post card?! In my imagination, they end up together, with impressive careers, surrounded by redheaded Asian babies. My imagination is a Lifetime Original Movie.

I listened to a discman on the bus... Because I went to high school in the 90s.

4. Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Yes, I have read Scarlett, the authorized sequel to Gone With The Wind. I didn’t hate it or anything, but I really would have liked for Margaret Mitchell to tell me what became of Scarlett. Scarlett was like an apology for all of Ms. O’Hara-Hamilton-Kennedy-Butler’s crappy behavior… While I am a sucker for a happy ending, I’m not sure Scarlett really deserved one, or that Mitchell would have approved of her getting one. Sadly, Margaret Mitchell was unable to do so since she was hit by a car and died far too young. We shall never truly know Scarlett’s fate.

5. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I would like to know what becomes of Louisa. What she does with her windfall, what she decides to study, and how her love life pans out… I’m interested. I loved that girl.

Me-Before-You-Cover_

6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I wasn’t thrilled with the situation Abilene was stuck in at the end of the book. I like to imagine her branching out in her writing and breaking barriers and being awesome… I also want to know how Skeeter manages in the big city. Seriously, how much fun are fish out of water stories anyway? Girl from Jackson taking on NYC? These are things I’d like to know.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know there are scads of books that have carried on with Elizabeth and Darcy’s story. Those do not interest me. What interests me is how Jane Austen would have envisioned their happily ever after. What shenanigans Lydia and Wickham might have managed to get into. The number of times Elizabeth forced Darcy to jump in ponds so she could watch him surface in his white shirt…

8. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I’d be interested to see how the rescued school boys readjusted to “civilized” life after the tribal chaos that went down on that island. Would Ralph ever recover?

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9. Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I need more June! I want to know what becomes of Greta and her career. I want to know more about Toby’s life with Finn. I just want more, I want all of it, and I want it served up in a fancy Russian teapot. Is that too much to ask?!

10. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I’m worried about the little boy. I know he’s as safe as he can be, but what I really want to know is if they’ll find a way to grow food and figure out how to sustain human life again… You know, other than just EATING PEOPLE and/or running and hiding from marauding bands of cannibals. I’m rather desperate to know that a recovery is possible, because this book was so bleak! Actually, no. McCarthy would probably make it worse. In my ending they grow things, and the air clears, and the cannibals die off. There are butterflies and unicorns! I need a little optimism or I’ll drown in sorrow, Cormac! DROWN IN SORROW!!!

So Bookworms. What do you think? What do you want more of? What book’s loose ends would you like tied up? What characters can you not get enough of?

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Aug 05

Rainbow Rowell, I'm Your Fangirl!

Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 44

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.*

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Jul 19

Who Do You Love, When You Come Undone? (She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb)

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Psychological 49

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

I’m seriously looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow. I stayed up way too late several nights this week reading She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I’m a jumble of confused emotion about this one, so I’m going to try and untangle my feelings and re-ravel my psyche. Ready?

This book has a whole lot going on. There are family issues, still births, miscarriages, rape, parental conflict, mental hospitals, extensive therapy, suicide attempts, Catholic school, stalking, abusive romantic entanglements, homosexuality, bullying, ostracism, death, loss, grief, illness, (takes a deeeeeeeeeeep breath) and obesity.

shescomeundone

There’s a large segment of the book where Dolores, our protagonist, is severely overweight. I know what you’re thinking! “Katie has a hard time reading about obesity, it’s her book kryptonite!” That’s true. For whatever reason, I’m especially emotional when reading about extremely overweight characters. So often authors get caught up in graphic physical descriptions of obesity. I don’t care how realistic the prose, long descriptive passages always strike me as insensitive and make me want to cry. I HAVE ISSUES. I was pleasantly surprised by Lamb’s approach. He wasn’t oozing syrupy sympathy, but he wasn’t cruelly descriptive either. Instead of directly discussing Dolores’s size, the reader is allowed to absorb her situation by the way other characters react to her. Dolores has a number of heart wrenching encounters, one that culminates in her attempted suicide…

Can I just get on a soap box for a second? Being large is TOUGH. Whatever the factors cause a person to become obese and whatever your opinions on personal responsibility, there is no excuse for being MEAN. It’s like society believes (at least theoretically) in the golden rule, except when it comes to fat people. That’s all I’m going to say. I’ll get ranty and weepy if I continue. If everyone in the world would just try a little bit every day to not be an asshole? Maybe unicorns wouldn’t be so frightened to reveal their existence.

At the very end of the book, Dolores is listening to “Come Undone” on the radio. Lamb never specifies an artist, but I had Duran Duran stuck in my head while reading this. Certain songs just BELONG with certain books, you know?! Alright, I’ve gotten off topic again. I liked this book, I didn’t love it. It kind of exhausted me with the trauma upon tragedy upon cruelty, but it was a good solid read. I’d have no qualms recommending it to someone who was into psychology, traumatic life experiences, or family drama.

Has anybody else read this one? What did you think? Do you have a kryptonite topic?

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