Category: Contemporary Fiction

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?

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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.

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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.

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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?!

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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!

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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 26

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

Blogging, Contemporary Fiction, Flowers 28

Holy Moly. Bookworms!

Do you remember that reading slump I was whining about last week? It is so freaking BUSTED. I finished reading The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway all of 10 minutes ago and I am positively agog. Like… If this book were a dude, my husband might have something to worry about. All these things I love were wrapped up in this dainty little package and WHERE is my fainting couch?! I do believe I have the vapors!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was sent a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It’s a good thing I’ve written more balanced reviews of books from publishers in the past, or you’d never believe I hadn’t been bribed. Apologies for the forthcoming unbridled enthusiasm. 

IMG_2911Gal is a 36 year old biology teacher. She has spent her life battling kidney disease and undergone two transplants. Her current bout of dialysis has been going on 8 years. When she isn’t having her blood filtered by machines or desperately trying to get her students to study, she breeds roses. Ordinary gardening just won’t do for this budding horticulturalist. She creates her own breeds of roses by cross pollinating and making hideously stinky batches of specialty fertilizer. She lives alone, as she’s never dated, and enjoys her life of solitude. One day, out of the blue, her 15 year old niece Riley is unceremoniously dropped into Gal’s life. What follows is a story of emotional restructuring, growing together, and, um, the de-thorning of souls. Or something. I’m waxing poetic because it’s just too much!

I’ve explained my love of flowers to you before. In case you somehow missed it, check out my review of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh or my excitement for this year’s planting season. When I was a senior in high school I got a job in a flower shop. I’d always liked flowers well enough. I mean, who doesn’t? But over the course of two summers and some holiday seasons (college breaks and the like) I fell HARD for horticulture. I am fairly useless at the artistry of arranging, but nothing thrills me more than fresh blooms. Combining my love of flowers with my love of reading is a heady mixture, but the best part about this book for me was learning so much about rose breeding.

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All art eludes me, floral arranging to photography. Still. You must admit the orange roses are stunning in the hands of my bridesmaids.

I suppose that won’t strike YOU as terribly funny, because you don’t, in fact, live in my head. My middle name is Rose, but roses themselves have never been my favorite. I think the biggest reason is that I like to root for the underdog. Roses are just so… Done. Even my unartistic self could put together a vased arrangement of red roses. Yawn. They’re beautiful, but I’ve always felt they get too much of the spotlight. In fact, my bridal bouquet had not a single rose in it. My bridesmaids’ bouquets had roses in them, because OMG those Chelsea orange roses were just impossibly gorgeous, but still. I was stingy with them. Perhaps if I’d realized all that goes into cross breeding these suckers, I’d have been a little more open to the awesomeness of the rose!

It’s not just the flowers, though. Margaret Dilloway crafted a gorgeous narrative. Flaky family members, chronic illnesses, and Gal’s unyielding academic integrity enveloped my from the first pages. I was already completely hooked and loving this story. Then? Then she went and threw a penguin into the mix! I very nearly threw down the book and shrieked with utter delight. Ms. Dilloway, your rose vines have grown all up around my snarky little heart. Please excuse me now as I start thrusting copies of this book into the hands of unsuspecting strangers.

Bookworms, have you ever encountered a book that felt like it was written just for you? How do you feel about roses? What book would you use to accost random pedestrians? Talk to me, wormy worms! (But stay off my roses. Because you will RUIN them with your worm juices! Don’t act like you weren’t planning on inviting the aphids to your feast. I know you…)

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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…

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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?

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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.

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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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