Category: Contemporary Fiction

Aug 23

Damn the Man! Save the Empire… Falls! (Empire Falls by Richard Russo)

Blogging, Contemporary Fiction 31

What’s Shaking, Bookworms?

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I get a lot of book recommendations from my awesome readers, other bloggers, and folks I know in real life. It might, however, surprise you to know that SOMETIMES I actually listen! Why, just last week I was reading the newly certified awesome blog, Fourth Street Review, when Rory more or less told me that I absolutely had to read Empire Falls by Richard Russo. (Okay, she may just have listed it in a Top Ten Tuesday post. Whatever. I took it to heart.)

Richard Russo is one of those big name authors that for whatever reason I’d never read. I blame the fact that there are 80 bazillion books in existence. Anywho, after I read Rory’s post, I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to see if it was available on my local library’s digital site. Lo and behold, it was there, and there was NO WAIT LIST (which in itself is a miraculous occurrence.) I took it as a sign and dove in that very evening.

Empirefallsbookcover Empire Falls tells the tale of a small industrial town in Maine. Though it once flourished with textile mills and manufacturing, the town has fallen on hard times. The wealthy family that owned the mills, the Whitings, are still around and pulling the strings of the town’s dwindling population. Miles Roby, our protagonist, runs Empire Falls’s premiere (and only) diner, the Empire Grill. A whole cast of quirky small town characters fills the pages of this book (as well as the tables of the Empire Grill) with their foibles and antics.

I’m quite certain that I’m only making this association because there aren’t a whole lot of books set in Maine, but Empire Falls put me in mind of Stephen King’s Under the Dome in some ways. It was set in Maine, for starters. Then there was the unassuming fry cook main character (Miles in Empire Falls, Barbie in Under the Dome.) Plus, we even had a nasty father son bad apple team going on in Empire Falls in the form of crooked cop Jimmy Minty and his punk of a son Zach, which mirrored Big Jim and Junior… Only in a more realistic and less super villain context. (Mad props to Russo for crafting so many well rounded characters!)

In fact, Empire Falls began as such a slice of New England life tale, I was waiting for the dome to come down… Or really, for anything to happen. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the extended exposition. It was very well done, the characters had dimension, motivation, and feeling. Even Max Roby, Miles’s alcoholic layabout father had a certain charm about him. I found myself trying to figure out where to focus… The mysterious teen boy? The priest with dementia who kept trying to hear confessions? (The Father Tom and Max Roby dynamic duo cracked me up!) Or should I have been paying attention to the goings on of the Whiting family? The potential paternity scandal? How Horace kept kicking Walt’s butt at Gin Rummy?

Source: pixiv.net

Source: pixiv.net

For about 80 percent of the book, I felt like I was waiting and waiting for something to happen. And then? HULK SMASH! Everything kind of blew up and went nuts in Empire Falls. I mean, nobody turned GREEN or anything (though it would have been an amusing touch) but there’d been a long buildup of anger and frustration and whatnot that just had to get out.

I really enjoyed Empire Falls, but it has my emotions all a-twitter. I adored the characterization, and Russo really captured the essence of a once bustling town abandoned by its factories. I do think the ending might have been a touch over-the-top, but in my opinion, it had enough whimsy to counterbalance to the melodrama. All in all? I’d say you should give this one a read.

Have any of you Bookworms read Empire Falls? What did you think? The internet tells me there was also a movie made- anybody seen it? How does it hold up? Does anybody turn green, perchance? No? Well. Probably for the best. Just look at what happened to poor Elphaba. No one mourns the wicked.

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Aug 12

Happy Blogiversary to Me!

Blogging, Classics, Contemporary Fiction 37

Howdy Bookworms!

Today is a day of celebration. That’s right. One year ago today I published my very first blog post. It’s been a fabulous, fun journey and I’m SO GRATEFUL to you, my readers, for, well, reading my nonsense. Huzzah!

Because a birthday is nothing without presents, I’m doing a giveaway! I’ve had some tricks up my sleeve since BlogHer. While I was in the land of swag, I did not forget my faithful little bookworms! First things first. While at BlogHer I was afforded the opportunity to see a new movie called AustenlandI can’t tell you if it was any good or not, because due to things running behind schedule (cough cough Queen Latifah) I arrived once the film was already 20 minutes in. However! The ladies running the booth felt for my plight (they obviously had your best interest at heart as well.) They allowed me to take home this BEAUTIFUL t-shirt, for the dedicated Austenites among us.

It's a size large, and perfect for surfacing from lakes.

It’s a size large, and perfect for surfacing from lakes, ponds, and other domestic bodies of water.

But that’s not all! You’ll also win these kickass pins showing your undying adoration for Rainbow Rowell! Fangirl and Eleanor and Park could be emblazoned on your breast from here to eternity. I know, can hardly contain yourself at this point…

rowellbuttons

Seriously, how cool are those?! I also managed to snag y’all a copy of the super sweet Walking Dead novelization. It talks about that sneakiest of sneaks, the Governor. You know I can’t get enough zombie lore and gore!

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You will also receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Oh you didn’t hear that? I said, YOU ALSO GET A $25 AMAZON GIFT CARD!!! And an official Words for Worms bookmark (I had too many printed, okay? You read. You need bookmarks. Don’t lie.)

So, how do you win this amazing prize package of awesomeness?!?! Be a US resident. I’m so very sorry to my super amazing international readers, but shipping, you know? Here’s how to enter:

1. “Like” Words for Worms on Facebook (if you already like me, FREE entry for you!) https://www.facebook.com/WordsForWorms

2. Follow me on Twitter! @KatieBelle1121 (Again, if you already follow, FREE ENTRY!) 

3. Share this contest with your Facebook friends! (Be sure to tag Words for Worms so I can see it!)

4. Tweet about the contest (Be sure to include my Twitter handle so I can count it!)

5. Leave an awesome comment on this blog telling me your favorite Words for Worms post! (I know, it’s completely self serving, but I’m curious, and there’s only so much that can be written on the evils of coleslaw.)

This can be YOURS! Along with $25 to spend at Amazon!!!

This can be YOURS! Along with $25 to spend at Amazon!!!

I will announce a winner on Monday, August 19th. Good luck!

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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?

200px-LordOfTheFliesBookCover

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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Jul 16

Coming Out From Under the Dome

Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian, Psychological, Supernatural 36

Howdy, Bookworms!

Exciting news today: I survived the DomeAlong! I have some thoughts to share on the second half of the book soooo… SPOILER ALERT!!! (I’m not kidding, it’s like ALL the SPOILERS.) You’ve been warned. Ready?

Under the Dome lengthwise

When we last spoke, I was getting frustrated with the one dimensional bad guys (who were just the evilest of evil) and the fact that the good guys couldn’t catch a break. They had also alluded to the fact that the Dome was probably caused by aliens, so I wasn’t too surprised to learn that was indeed the case. This book had an astonishingly high body count, so I’m just going to write out some tidbits and illustrate my reactions with gifs.

Let’s talk bad guys. I think the most satisfying revenge-y deaths were Georgia and Frank. The fact that Sammy got even a teeny bit of revenge for the hideous gang rape she suffered (even though she then killed herself…) pleased me. Not sure what that says about me as a human. Then Junior. Evil, brain tumored Junior. He came by his wickedness honestly, being the offspring of Big Jim Rennie, but Junior was killed in the heat of battle as he tried to mow Barbie down in a jail cell. Luckily for Barbie, Junior’s tumor was getting really bad and his aim was crap. That and the little band coming to break Barbie out of jail arrived just in time. I might have preferred to see Junior drawn and quartered, but I suppose being shot by a good guy helped curve a little bit of my revenge lust…

The good guys who rescued Barbie (and Rusty, because he managed to get himself arrested, too) decide to hide out near where they discovered the device producing the dome. Turns out the Dome was indeed the plaything of aliens. Plaything being the operative word. King was a bit heavy handed in drawing the comparison to ants being burnt under a magnifying glass, but the effect was pretty creepy. The people were trapped in a town that was self destructing by adolescent ne’er-do-well aliens. It reminded me of this old Twilight Zone episode where a ballerina, bagpiper, clown, and a couple other people are mysteriously trapped in a room. At the end it turns out that they’re TOYS in a donation bin.

Preach it, Cam. (Source)

Preach it, Cam. (Source)

Meanwhile, remember that meth lab on the outskirts of town? The drug addled Chef (who was, coincidentally, married to Sammy Bushey, gang rape victim, Bratz doll torturer, occasional lover of Junior’s second murder victim, and mother of Little Walter) has gone COMPLETELY off his rocker and starts threatening anybody who comes near his lil slice o’ heaven with machine guns. Andy Sanders (the first town selectman) decides to try and off himself but chickens out. He’s heard about Chef and his machine guns and goes out to visit (hoping he’ll be killed so he doesn’t have to do it himself. You know. Sin and all.) Instead of meeting his maker, Andy is introduced to the joys of meth and becomes Chef’s disciple. Greeeeat right? Well, the two of those yahoos smoke themselves into oblivion, which would be innocuous enough, if they weren’t also hell-bent on bringing about the End of Days. Do you know much about meth labs? They’re full of outrageously explosive chemicals and sometimes blow up unprovoked. If you’re The Chef and you’ve already lost your marbles, you think it’s a good idea to wire the whole place with dynamite, just to help things along.

So that happens. And since the Dome is really bad about air exchange, anybody who isn’t vaporized immediately succumbs to the oppressive fumes shortly thereafter, with a couple exceptions. The good guys who were hiding out on the ridge manage to get to the dome and have the military set up super industrial fans to push a little bit of fresh air through. The kid who shot his eye out at the very beginning of the book (because Ralphie’s mom was RIGHT, dangit!) had a brother who managed to hide in the cellar under a pile of potatoes and breathe some oxygen his dead grandfather had left in the house. And yes, Big Jim Rennie, cockroach that he is, manages to get himself and his newly minted “son,” Carter (who happened to also be a rapist, though Big Jim isn’t one to fixate on such trivialities) into the town’s old fallout shelter. After he kills Carter (who, in fairness, was trying to kill Big Jim,) I was beginning to get super pissed that Big Jim would survive. Then, I kind of hoped that he WOULD survive, because he’d be forced to face the music for all his evil deeds. Needless to say I was a little annoyed when he was taken out by a heart attack. No answering for his crimes except (hopefully) eternal damnation?

So the good guys eventually manage to get out of the Dome… By appealing to the punk-ass alien kids who are holding them hostage. This part sort of reminded me of the end of Ender’s Game (so I guess, SPOILER ALERT again.) The alien kids thought that it was all a game, they didn’t think people had feelings or whatever. It was a sadistic little game, just like kids burning ants with a magnifying glass, or giant bug-like aliens attempting to exterminate the indigenous species of planet Earth because they didn’t understand that humans were in fact intelligent beings. (I can’t really blame the poor buggers for that one, sometimes we ARE pretty dense.) Anyhow. Julia manages to convince one little alien kid to lift the Dome, and like 10 people get out. Out of 2,000. Not great odds, but it’s Stephen King, you know?

What I don’t understand is why they didn’t try the psychic begging angle before. Like… Julia’s final encounter with the aliens wasn’t the FIRST they’d had- why didn’t it occur to anyone to try to throw their brain waves and beg for mercy? They could have gotten out, Big Jim could have had a big public airing of his misdeeds and been punished appropriately, and the Chef wouldn’t have had the opportunity to kill basically everyone because his meth brain thought he was doing God’s work. I mean… Really?

Amy and I are not pleased. (Source)

Amy and I are not pleased. (Source)

So, um yeah. I don’t think Under the Dome was King’s best effort. I mean, it’s fine, I guess, but it’s not The Stand. It’s more like… The Stand… Light. Just 10 calories. Not Stand-ish enough. I have heard that a lot of people looooove this book, so I’m feeling a little Debbie Downer-ish here. Has anybody else read Under the Dome? What’s your take on it?

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Jul 15

Between You and Me… Was Not My Favorite.

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction 22

Hey Bookworms,

It’s Monday, and that stinks. Weekends > Weekdays. That’s just math right there. We’re not here to talk about math, though. We are here to talk about BOOKS! I recently finished reading Between You and Me by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. This was the duo that brought us The Nanny Diarieswhich I enjoyed, so I was excited when NetGalley offered me a review copy of this title. Full Disclosure: I was given a review copy of this book through NetGalley by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My nose grows when I lie, because I’m actually Pinocchio writing under a pseudonym. Alright. That was a lie. But the rest of this review? Not so much. 

Between_You_and_Me_ppk_cover1

This book starts out with a young Logan Wade. She’s in her 20s, living in NYC, working a stressful job, and dealing with a douchey boyfriend. When she gets a call out of the blue from her long lost (and incredibly famous) cousin’s assistant, she jumps at the chance to spend a weekend in Los Angeles in the lap of luxury. One thing leads to another, and suddenly Logan finds herself in the assistant position for her pop star cousin. That’s when things start to get a little crazy…

I don’t think it helped my opinion of this book that I read this immediately after finishing Angela’s AshesIt’s hard to feel a whole lot of sympathy for a millionaire having a meltdown when the starvation of children is fresh in your mind. The whole premise of this book (though the authors took pains to say that it was a work of fiction and in no way based on real people) appeared to be a thinly veiled account of the fall of Britney Spears (with the occasional Lindsay Lohan moment.) Also, Logan’s love interest works for an actor who bears a striking resemblance to Matthew McConaughey (right down to the refusal to use deodorant.)

The Nanny Diaries gave a unique glimpse into the lives of the obnoxiously wealthy and the way their family lives worked. This book, on the other hand, read like a sympathetic tabloid. How tragic it was that Kelsey’s parents were controlling and abusive. How her alcoholic father traumatized her childhood. How her parents sponged off her fortune. How her desperation for love threw her into a hasty marriage and mad dash to motherhood. How there seemed to be NOBODY she could trust. Her desire for down home Oklahoma normalcy. Her public demise and her father’s conservatorship. It just felt like I’d heard the story a million times before. I found it was trite, predictable, and melodramatic. McLauglin and Kraus have proven they have the chops to produce an original story- I don’t understand why they chose to borrow so heavily from the tabloids to write this book.

She's so lucky, she's a star... (Source)

She’s so lucky, she’s a star… (Source)

I know, you guys. Harsh words. However. Just because I didn’t like this book, doesn’t mean you won’t. If you have a sincere interest in the circumstances that could lead pop stars and actresses to self destruct, you might appreciate this work. There are some funny moments, particularly in the quirks of entourages and celebrities. Being among the “normal folk,” it’s hard for us to understand how difficult the spotlight can be, or just how much work goes into maintaining such an image. Is E! True Hollywood Story still on? If you liked that show, and haven’t turned all jaded and cranky like me, this could be your new favorite book.

Between You and Me brings up a lot of dirt on tabloid culture. Do you keep up with celebrity news and gossip? Do you think that by living in the public eye, celebrities should expect invasions of privacy? Is it all part of the package, or should the paparazzi back the heck off ? Tell me about it.

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Jul 02

Intimidation: Top Ten Tuesday

Classics, Contemporary Fiction 100

Hi Ho Bookworms!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is going to be great fun. Let’s face it- we’ve all got some books that we’re a little intimidated by. The ladies at The Broke and The Bookish, those clever vixens, have asked us to spill our guts… So? I’m spilling!

toptentuesday1. EVERYTHING by Hakuri Murakami. I tried reading 1Q84 once and I didn’t finish it. I feel like a boob for not trying again because all I ever hear is how ah-mazing Murakami is. Then again, I’m not really big on magical realism, so I’m nervous. I don’t want to finish a book by an author everyone loves and end up hating it.

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Okay, I’ll be honest. This isn’t high on my TBR list, but it’s like the epitome of literature. You’ve got some serious street cred if you can say you have read War and Peace, you know?

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I know! It’s been on my Shelf of Shame since FOREVER and yet? I’m still nervous to tackle it. It’s a big book and I’ve heard so many awesome things about it, I’m frightened to start it and fail.

montecristo4. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron. I’ve not read this but I keep hearing a lot of hype from other book bloggers. I trust their opinions but I’m afraid I won’t be cool enough to “get it!”

5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I’ve heard this described as the ultimate hipster novel, which makes me a little nervous. It’s one of those books that’s got enough cultural significance that I probably *should* read it, but it’s REALLY long and if I’m not going to love it, I don’t want to make the time investment.

6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I really want to love this one. It’s on every list of classics basically ever. I’ve heard all kinds of amazing things and I worry I won’t appreciate it properly.

JohnSteinbeck_TheGrapesOfWrath

7. Middlemarch by George Eliot. This is beginning to sound like a broken record. But this book is LONG. The only other George Eliot I’ve read is Silas Marner and while I liked it, it was teeny weeny. I’m not sure I could handle such a chunkster in that lovely yet difficult language.

8. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. This was mentioned prominently in The Thirteenth Tale (Fellowship of the Worms pick #1) along with Jane Eyre (which I ADORE.) Mentioning anything in the same breath as a favorite makes it tough to guard yourself against disappointment. Plus, again, classic.

womaninwhite

9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I don’t have a ton of interest in this book. But PEER PRESSURE.  I feel like a banana head for not even trying it,  but… Magical realism… Again. Not my favorite. I just get confused and can’t figure out what’s really happening and what’s imaginary and… I don’t know. Plus, I think a tiger would eat a penguin. That makes me suspicious of tigers.

10. The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. This book makes me a little uneasy. I’m VERY intimidated by it because it’s about a morbidly obese woman. I don’t know why, but I have a really hard time reading about obese people. I always feel like the language is unsympathetic, even when it intends to be. For whatever reason, it’s my Achilles heel. Some people can’t read about certain types of abuse, some can’t handle animal cruelty, others shy away from the Holocaust. Obesity is my kryptonite.

What about you, Bookworms? What books intimidate you? Do you plan on showing them who’s boss with some acid indigestion tablets?!

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Jun 28

Hey! I've Read That! (A Confession Friday Game)

Blogging, Classics, Confession Friday, Contemporary Fiction, Dystopian, Pretentious 89

Howdy Bookworms!

So the other day I was skulking around the blogosphere as I am wont to do. I came across a list on Book Riot (HERE is the post by Jeff O’Neal) of 100 books that would make you “well read.” He had a set of criteria including cultural significance, familiarity with the classics of western literature, etc.  There was a big blow up in the comment section about what constitutes being well-read; what was included, what wasn’t, and so on and so forth. Then a bunch of people started FLIPPING OUT because 50 Shades of Gray was on the list. Say what you will about 50 Shades (and I had PLENTY to say… HERE if you’re interested) but it got a lot of people to read a book who wouldn’t ordinarily read a book. Would it be better if those people had picked up something with fewer grammatical errors? Probably. But if people choose a book, ANY BOOK, over another form of entertainment for even a little while? I consider that a win.

Sarah over at Sarah Says Read talked a little bit more about this (and inspired me to rip off her post… I mean… Borrow her idea and credit her properly.) Jen at The Relentless Reader and Rory from Fourth Street Review weighed in as well! (Can I go off topic and mention how much I love having a bookworm blog pal named Rory? My inner Gilmore Girls enthusiast is beyond thrilled by this.) Now, I’m not going to dissect the Book Riot criteria because I’m kind of lazy. Book Riot has a big old comment section, so if you’re interested, I suggest you check out the spirited discussion there. In my happy little corner of the internet, in lieu of  potential over analyzation, we play, “Hey, I’ve Read That!” One of my favorite things to do in a bookstore is to peruse and mentally point out stuff I’ve read (or point it out to whomever I’ve conned into shopping with me…) So. I’m going to gauge my “well read” status according to the Book Riot 100. Ready???

This is my smug face. I was making it because I made my "nephew" Jack fall asleep when he was being a crankypants.

This is my smug face. I was making it because I made my “nephew” Jack fall asleep when he was being a crankypants. He’s wearing a Sonic Youth onesie because he’s badass.

So here’s the list, in alphabetical order: (Stuff that’s marked out like so? That means I’ve read it!)

  1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton My Thoughts
  4. All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria Remarque
  5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Klay  by Michael Chabon
  6. American Pastoral by Philip Roth
  7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  8. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  9. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  10. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  11. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  12. Beowulf
  13. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak My Thoughts
  14. Brave New World by Alduos Huxley My Thoughts
  15. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz My Thoughts
  16. The Call of the Wild  by Jack London
  17. Candide by Voltaire
  18. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  19. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (Got this for Christmas. Currently residing on Shelf of Shame)
  20. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  21. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  22. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  23. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  24. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
  25. The Complete Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
  26. The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor 
  27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  28. Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  29. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  30. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  31. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  32. Dream of Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin
  33. Dune by Frank Herbert
  34. Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
  35. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  36. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green My Thoughts
  37. Faust by Goethe
  38. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  39. Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  40. The Golden Bowl by Henry James
  41. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  42. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn My Thoughts
  43. The Gospels (I’m familiar with the Gospels, but I’ve never read them as like, literature, so I’m not counting it!)
  44. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  45. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  46. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  47. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood My Thoughts
  49. Harry Potter & The Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  50. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (Hanging out on the Shelf of Shame)
  51. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  52. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  53. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien My Thoughts
  54. House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
  55. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  56. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  57. if on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino
  58. The Iliad by Homer
  59. The Inferno by Dante
  60. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  61. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  62. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
  63. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  64. The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  65. The Little Prince by Antoine  de Saint-Exepury
  66. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov My Thoughts
  67. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  68. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Started this. Failed. Lives on the Shelf of Shame. In good company.)
  69. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  71. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  72. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  73. The Odyssey by Homer
  74. Oedipus, King by Sophocles
  75. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  76. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  77. The Pentateuch
  78. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  79. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  80. The Road by Cormac McCarthy My Thoughts
  81. Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare
  82. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  83. Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut
  84. The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  85. The Stand by Stephen King My Thoughts
  86. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  87. Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
  88. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  89. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  90. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  91. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  92. Ulysses by James Joyce
  93. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  94. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  95. Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee
  96. Watchmen by Alan Moore
  97. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
  98. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte My Thoughts
  99. 1984 by George Orwell
  100. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James My Thoughts

My total? 49 books. I’d like to give myself extra credit for completing several of the series where only the first book was mentioned. I’d also like points for having read something by one of these authors, just not the title listed (Steinbeck, Woolf, Rushdie, Joyce, James, Rand- I’m looking at you!) Unfortunately, as I stated earlier, I have no desire to rewrite these rules, I just wanted to play the game. So. How’d you do, Bookworms? I’m feeling a little blue for clocking in at less than half of these titles. Anyone there with me?

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