Category: Contemporary Fiction

Jun 27

Tell The Wolves I'm Home. No, Seriously. Tell Them.

Art, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Tear Jerkers 43

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I don’t use the term “favorite” often when it comes to books, because it’s too difficult. All sorts of books have all sorts of great reasons to love them. However,  Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt tugged at all the right heartstrings for me. Dare I say that this may just land on my list of FAVORITES? Oh, I dare. And now I’m going to gush all over the internet. Ready?

tellthewolvesimhome

It’s 1987. June and her sister Greta are posing while their Uncle Finn paints their portrait. The girls spend every Sunday at their uncle’s apartment in the city while he paints. (Oh I should clarify. “The City” in this instance means NYC. “The City” if I use it generally means Chicago. People who grow up in the suburbs of major cities tend to refer to the major cities simply as “The City.” I confused the bejeesus out of one of my book club pals by not clarifying my usage once. It was pretty funny.)

Sadly, these portrait sessions are some of the last hours the girls will spend with their uncle, because he is dying of AIDS. Like I told you earlier. It’s 1987. The AIDS crisis is blowing up. There is no treatment- AZT isn’t even available yet. At this point in time, AIDS is a death sentence, and a quick one to boot. June is exceptionally close with Finn. She spends more time with him than Greta does- they have pretty much the coolest uncle-niece relationship ever. Greta has no trouble making friends whereas June’s favorite activity is to wander in the woods pretending she’s in the Middle Ages. (Right there, June had my heart. We had a little wooded area near our house when I was growing up. Wandering around while pretending to be in another time? Been there.) Finn took June under his wing and gave her an outlet for all her eccentricities, and some sweet boots.

With no antiviral medications, AZT, or drug cocktails, Finn isn’t long for this world. At his funeral, June notices a man lingering outside the funeral home. Greta tells her that the man is responsible for Finn’s death. That he maliciously gave Finn AIDS. A few days later, June receives a mysterious package with a note from a man named Toby. The package contains her Uncle Finn’s beautiful Russian teapot. The note from Toby begs June to meet him.

Fun fact, I collect teapots. Now I desperately want a magical Russian teapot like Finn's!

Fun fact, I collect teapots. Now I desperately want a magical Russian teapot like Finn’s!

June soon realizes that she’s not the only person torn to pieces by Finn’s death. Her friendship with Toby introduces her to facets of Finn she never knew- a whole segment of his life that was kept from her at her mother’s behest. The sibling relationships in this book are painful, but so REAL. Greta and June have this antagonistic love-hate thing going on that really resonated with me. Plus, we eventually learn some of the history behind Finn’s relationship with his sister. Even it was a dick move to  refuse to allow her children to have any interaction with Finn’s life partner, I still sympathized with June & Greta’s mom.  That’s good writing. Flawed characters acting like REAL people are some of my absolute favorites. Seems to me that most of the time people are just trying to do the best they can, it’s just that pesky humanity business goes and gets in the way.

The thing that struck me most about this book was the historical context. By the time I was old enough to have any real understanding of HIV/AIDS, people were pretty well aware of how the disease was spread. There is a scene in the novel where Greta’s mother catches her using Finn’s lip balm and has a bit of a meltdown. At one point June is ashamed to be fearful of getting a kiss from her uncle. Heck, even in the late 90s some of that paranoia remained. When I was in high school, I recall my health teacher saying that he might shake the hand of a person known to be infected with HIV… But he’d immediately wash his hands very, very well. Ten years AFTER this book took place, there were people who refused to listen to the scientific evidence… And they were allowed to pass that attitude on to young teens.

Thanks, Liz. My sentiments exactly. Source

Thanks, Liz. My sentiments exactly. Source

This book isn’t about science or virology. It’s about love, loss, and forgiveness. It’s a coming of age tale where June learns that things aren’t always what they seem. My words feel clumsy and I’m not doing this book any justice. Just trust me and read it, okay?! You won’t be sorry.

Alright Bookworms. I need to know. Anybody out there have an awesome relationship with an extended family member? I want to hear about it! Let’s share the love for our eccentric aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, shall we? (I hope someday my Squishy has such stories to tell about me!)

He already things I'm nuts.

He already thinks I’m nuts.

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Jun 24

Dome Along: We're Half Way There!

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening, Psychological, Supernatural 44

Hidey Ho, Bookworms!

Remember how I said I’d joined a read along for Stephen King’s Under the Dome through Coffee and a Book Chick? I’m about half way through the book right now and I thought I’d give you a little synopsis of my feelings…

Under the Dome lengthwise

So. There’s this town called Chester’s Mill. It’s in Maine because that is Stephen King’s thing. One day these invisible walls go up all over town. People crash their cars into it. Planes crash. Limbs are severed. Woodchucks are bisected… And Katie reveals spoilers, probably. (Skip this bad boy if you want to know nothing.)

I was pretty upset about the woodchuck, I've got to admit. (Image Source)

I was pretty upset about the woodchuck, I’ve got to admit. (Image Source)

So this dome thing goes down. Nobody can get in, nobody can get out. Chester’s Mill is completely cut off from the world, save cell phones and sporadic internet coverage. Maybe this isolation wouldn’t be so bad if anybody had any idea who or what caused it. It’s a big fat mystery and people inside that bubble? They’re kind of freaking out. Not that I blame them.

Also, the town is full of big evil meanies. Big Jim Rennie is the bad dude in chief, and he’s so freaking evil he’s practically a cartoon character. I don’t know how he’s not constantly twirling a mustache and/or petting a cat. His son, creatively named Junior isn’t any prize either. He has violent tendencies and an undiagnosed brain tumor. Given his parentage, I doubt the brain tumor is responsible for the homicidal tendencies so much as his father’s super wicked DNA.

Sort of like these two... only less amusing. Source

Sort of like these two… only less amusing. Source

So Big Jim is rotten to the core and he’s in power. He assembles a gang of Junior’s douchey friends to be police officers. Big Jim is ALSO a “devout” Christian (you know, if you ignore the whole Ten Commandments bit…) There are a lot of dirty dealings going on in Chester’s Mill, and now that the Dome has fallen, the threat that they’ll come to light has increased… Not in the least because he has STOLEN all the propane tanks in town to power the METH LAB he’s been running because he’s so damn evil. His pastor was totally in on it too. Not making Christianity look good, these two.

You know when you’re reading Stephen King there are going to be bad guys. I’m a little frustrated with this because the bad guys have NO DIMENSION. Like… In The Stand. Yes, Randall Flagg was basically the devil incarnate… At least he was actually supernatural. But his minions? It’s hard to blame the Trashcan Man for being all crazy… I mean, his brain is broken. And the guy Flagg rescued from the prison? Sure he’s no saint, but his badness had layers. None of these people have layers. They’re all just rotten to the core and horrible and GAH!

Oh and the good guys? They are dropping like flies. False arrests and murders and douchebaggery of all sorts. The good guys better catch a break soon, or I don’t know if I’m going to be able to hang in there for the last 500-600 pages. Oh yeah. So the government thinks that there’s probably aliens involved. Maybe that’s why Big Jim is so evil? And his gang of jerks? Pod people? Can I hope for that? Because I’m LOSING FAITH IN HUMANITY here, people!

Who am I kidding? We ALL know it's gonna be Aliens.

Who am I kidding? We ALL know it’s gonna be Aliens.

I need a pep talk, here, fellow Dome Along-ers! Will the good guys ever get anywhere? Will an alien show up and LASER Big Jim Rennie? Will people stop being stupid? Will they break the damn dome? I am to the point where I can only read this on the treadmill because I get so grouchy at it. Someone tell me there’s something good on the horizon. Pretty please?

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Jun 20

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship, Psychological, Romance, Tear Jerkers, Travel 42

Good Day Bookworms!

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

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

Me-Before-You-Cover_

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jun 18

Summertime, and the Reading is Easy (Top Ten Tuesday)

Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday 48

Howdy Bookworms!

In case you hadn’t noticed, it is summer! Well. It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere at least. Australia just blows my mind with the opposite seasons. And the awesome marsupials. (I want to visit you, Australia. I am not good at being a tourist, but I think I love you.) Aaaanyway. Today is TUESDAY! So. The Broke and The Bookish have asked me to give y’all a list of the Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR list. Right now I’ve got a big old stack to tackle, so let’s do this thing!

TTT3W1. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It’s the very first book we are reading for The Fellowship of the Worms and I am SO EXCITED! I know that once I finish it I’m going to have a hard time not talking about it immediately, so I’m trying to restrain myself. I’ve heard good things from a few of the participants already. I can’t wait! Eeeep!

2. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman. We are reading this for BOTH of my IRL book clubs this summer and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been on my radar for a while and it’s set in Australia! I didn’t even realize when I started this post and went on my marsupial tangent that there would be an Australia book on this list. I love it when the universe does things like that.

3. The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hangarne. I have this waiting for me thanks to NetGalley. I’ve seen a lot of great reviews on this one so I’m pretty stoked to read it. Josh Hangarne is actually a book blogger (cool right?!) His life story is crazy interesting though. He has Tourette’s and is a body builder and a bunch of other stuff I don’t know about yet because I haven’t read the book. I’ll be sure to fill you in!

worldsstrongestlibrarian

4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I have to hurry up and read this one because it’s on my kindle and it’s a library loan, but I’m really excited about this one, too. It was recommended to me by a fellow Bookworm (none other than the winner of the Name That Book Club contest, Ashley!) I’ve seen it floating around the blogosphere, too, always with rave reviews.

5. Under The Dome by Stephen King. I’m actually just about at the midway point on this one. I’m reading it for Coffee and a Book Chick’s summer read along. It’s been different for me because I don’t normally read more than one book at a time, but I’ve taken to reading this while I’m on the treadmill. Since I’m currently busy being VERY ANGRY with some of the characters, it’s best to read while I’m getting some aggression out!

6. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. There’s a funny story behind this one. You know I like Tracy Chevalier. I’ve mentioned that enough times and even wrote a full review of her latest novel, The Last Runaway. My pal Lillian over at It’s A Dome Life hosted a little game. She’s an artist, but sometimes her paintings don’t turn out the way she planned. She’s got this horse painting that she’s always hated and asked her readers to turn it into a meme. I told her it needed a horn, because “fillies dig unicorns.” Then she made this hysterical meme and I was all “I need to put this on my blog! I need a book about a unicorn, damnit!” And thus, this title was added to my TBR list.

Nothing like laughing at your own jokes, but seriously. This kills me!

Nothing like laughing at your own jokes, but seriously. This kills me!

7. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I loved Eleanor & Park so much, I obviously need to read more. RAINBOW! I LOVE YOU!

8. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I know. It’s not new or anything, but I haven’t read it, it was on sale, and now it’s just languishing on my kindle along with…

9. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb. Same story. Acclaimed book. Sale price. Katie, being distracted by shiny new things, has thus far not attempted to read it.

10. More stuff by Jennifer Crusie. I really liked Bet Me and I just found a bundle of 4 Crusie books for under 10 bucks on Amazon for my kindle. These are great palate cleansers and a nice escape from some of my more intense reading. I don’t know what I’ll read first, but does it really matter?

That’s my list. What do you have on your radar, Bookworms?

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Jun 10

I'll See Your Romance Novel and Raise You a Chicken Marsala (Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie)

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Trashy Romance Novels 45

Woah! It’s Monday!

Ain’t that a kick in the teeth? It is for me, because I had last week off to staycation. It should come as no surprise that I spent many of my gloriously unencumbered hours devouring books. Oh yes. And visiting my nephew. He’s brand new and cuter than a son of a gun. Gratuitous Auntie photo!

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It's sticking.)

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It’s sticking.)

I’m not really here to write about my Squishy. I’m here to talk about a book! I’ve mentioned that I enjoy a little romance novel from time to time, right? One of my Certified Awesome compadres, Sarah of Sarah Says Read recommends Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie with a fair amount of frequency on her Top Ten Tuesday lists. Given her penchant for OutlanderI trust her taste in the romance department, so I decided to give it a shot.

Bet Me is the tale of an unlikely romance. Minerva Dobbs (who is second only to Minerva McGonagall on the list of Minervas who rock) is an actuary. She’s 33, not especially thin, and a rabid Elvis Prestley fan. One night she’s out at a bar with her girlfriends. Shortly after being dumped by her douchebag boyfriend David, she overhears David making a bet with a studly gent that he won’t be able to get the matronly Min in bed within a month.

Min may not be a fashion plate, but the girl is smart, and she’s got her pride. To spite her newly ex boyfriend, she takes Calvin (AKA the beastly dreamboat) up on his offer for dinner. Cal is successful and astonishingly good looking. Since Min knows he’s only with her to win a bet, she allows herself to let her guard down. She is honest, pithy, and has delightful taste in shoes (If you can rock a sandal with a goldfish on it? Get down with your bad self.) Calvin is not used to being so challenged by his lady loves and finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.

betme

You guys. For a romance novel? I really liked this! I liked that it was unconventional. Yes, Minerva does get the “makeover” that’s so common in these tales. HOWEVER. Cal tells her that she dresses like she hates her body. Which is true. And I think that’s a trap a TON of curvy ladies fall into. Really, any woman who isn’t completely thrilled with her body can fall into this trap, no matter what size she wears. Confidence is what’s preached, not dieting, and that’s refreshing.

Also refreshing? This book was NOT just a series of bedroom escapades. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those sorts of books, but sometimes lingering looks and a handful of smoldering kisses are just as effective. I mean, HELLO, everyone loves Pride and Prejudice because it’s so swoony, and there’s nothing even remotely hanky panky like that goes on in Austenland. True, it is a little bit cheesy. It has some decidedly Julia Roberts movie undertones. But it’s charming enough that it makes up for the cheese factor. This would be a fabulous summer beach read! (Fair warning, you will really want chicken marsala and donuts after/during reading this. Worth it.)

So, Bookworms. Romance novels. Yay or Nay? Do you ever tread into these waters? Do you like a little romance or are you completely put off by the silliness that so often accompanies it? Do tell.

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Jun 10

I’ll See Your Romance Novel and Raise You a Chicken Marsala (Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie)

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Trashy Romance Novels 45

Woah! It’s Monday!

Ain’t that a kick in the teeth? It is for me, because I had last week off to staycation. It should come as no surprise that I spent many of my gloriously unencumbered hours devouring books. Oh yes. And visiting my nephew. He’s brand new and cuter than a son of a gun. Gratuitous Auntie photo!

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It's sticking.)

I shall call him Squishy and he shall be mine. And he shall be my Squishy. (Seriously. I nicknamed my nephew Squishy. It’s sticking.)

I’m not really here to write about my Squishy. I’m here to talk about a book! I’ve mentioned that I enjoy a little romance novel from time to time, right? One of my Certified Awesome compadres, Sarah of Sarah Says Read recommends Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie with a fair amount of frequency on her Top Ten Tuesday lists. Given her penchant for OutlanderI trust her taste in the romance department, so I decided to give it a shot.

Bet Me is the tale of an unlikely romance. Minerva Dobbs (who is second only to Minerva McGonagall on the list of Minervas who rock) is an actuary. She’s 33, not especially thin, and a rabid Elvis Prestley fan. One night she’s out at a bar with her girlfriends. Shortly after being dumped by her douchebag boyfriend David, she overhears David making a bet with a studly gent that he won’t be able to get the matronly Min in bed within a month.

Min may not be a fashion plate, but the girl is smart, and she’s got her pride. To spite her newly ex boyfriend, she takes Calvin (AKA the beastly dreamboat) up on his offer for dinner. Cal is successful and astonishingly good looking. Since Min knows he’s only with her to win a bet, she allows herself to let her guard down. She is honest, pithy, and has delightful taste in shoes (If you can rock a sandal with a goldfish on it? Get down with your bad self.) Calvin is not used to being so challenged by his lady loves and finds himself unexpectedly attracted to her.

betme

You guys. For a romance novel? I really liked this! I liked that it was unconventional. Yes, Minerva does get the “makeover” that’s so common in these tales. HOWEVER. Cal tells her that she dresses like she hates her body. Which is true. And I think that’s a trap a TON of curvy ladies fall into. Really, any woman who isn’t completely thrilled with her body can fall into this trap, no matter what size she wears. Confidence is what’s preached, not dieting, and that’s refreshing.

Also refreshing? This book was NOT just a series of bedroom escapades. I don’t necessarily have a problem with those sorts of books, but sometimes lingering looks and a handful of smoldering kisses are just as effective. I mean, HELLO, everyone loves Pride and Prejudice because it’s so swoony, and there’s nothing even remotely hanky panky like that goes on in Austenland. True, it is a little bit cheesy. It has some decidedly Julia Roberts movie undertones. But it’s charming enough that it makes up for the cheese factor. This would be a fabulous summer beach read! (Fair warning, you will really want chicken marsala and donuts after/during reading this. Worth it.)

So, Bookworms. Romance novels. Yay or Nay? Do you ever tread into these waters? Do you like a little romance or are you completely put off by the silliness that so often accompanies it? Do tell.

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Jun 04

Top Ten Tuesday TRAVELS!

Book Club, Children's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Fantasy, Time Travel, Travel 42

G’Day Bookworms!

It’s time for another edition of Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and the Bookish! Today’s topic features books with a travel element. This should be fun. Shall we?

TTT3W1.Where’d You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This book rocked for a number of reasons. Quippy sarcasm, ridiculous situations, clever forays into the seedy underbelly of suburbia. My absolute favorite part of this novel? The trip to Antarctica. What would you expect of a self professed penguin enthusiast?

2. Saving Fish From Drowning by Amy Tan. The Griswolds have got nothing on THIS vacation’s crazy turn of events. A group of American tourists tries to travel down the Burma Road and ends up being held captive by a local tribe led by child soldiers believed to have mystical powers. It’s a very cool book, but you may want to stay in your country of origin after reading this bad boy…

3. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. Hemingway and his first wife Hadley move to Paris during the Jazz Age. Earnest is is search of inspiration, Hadley is in search of a pleasant life. Though they live in Paris, they’re able to do so cheaply thanks to the slow recovery of European economies after WWI. The Hemingways galavant all over Europe spending time in Spain for the bullfights and ski holidays in the Alps. For as “poor” as they’re supposed to be, their travel schedule reveals none of the supposed hardship.

pariswife

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The whole doggone series is travel-tastic. From Scotland to France to a rickety boat taking them to the Caribbean and the American colonies, Jamie, Claire, and the gang never stay in one place for long. Plus, TIME TRAVEL absolutely counts as traveling. YOU pass through a rock and head back two centuries and try to tell me it’s no big deal.

5. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris. Sedaris takes you along on his travel adventures in this hilarious essay collection. Mugged in Honolulu? Check. Suffering at the hands of a lost passport sticker? Check. Appreciate the sterile disinfectant style of Japan? Checkity check! All sorts of countries, all sorts of weirdness. David Sedaris is my kind of crazy.

6. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. A road trip out of Kentucky leads Taylor into a strange set of circumstances that land her with a toddler. Taylor and the child continue to travel and make their way to Arizona, where they establish a life for themselves. Life changing cross country road trips. They’re the stuff great books are made of!

7. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. Travel in the traditional sense? There’s some of that. But when Lyra and Will start ripping holes and traveling between dimensions? Awww yeah. Travel-saurus-rex.

8. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. You don’t just travel in this book. You travel to OTHER PLANETS! Intergallactic!

9. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Chase the legend of Dracula from Amsterdam to Istanbul to Budapest to Romania to Bulgaria to… Epic crazy travel, vampire lore, and a side of spooky. It’s good times.

10. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. TIME TRAVEL! That is all.

What about you, my globetrotting Bookworms? What are some of your favorite travel tomes?

*If you haven’t done so already, there’s STILL TIME to enter the contest to NAME THAT BOOK CLUB!

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May 27

Dome Along: Katie Joins The Party

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening 23

Happy Memorial Day, Bookworms!

I hope all the Bookworms out there in the USA enjoy Memorial Day with all due reverence to our lost veterans. The only appropriate way to honor them is by enjoying a barbecue, so, you know. Be patriotic. Eat too much. Get the goosebumps when you hear “I’m Proud to be an American” on the radio. For everyone outside of the states, sorry you have to work today. That sucks.

Since I’m off today, I thought I’d talk a little bit about peer pressure. You know you watched cheesy after school specials and/or Lifetime Original Movies warning teenagers of the dangers of peer pressure. Just say no! Hugs not drugs! Drinking will cause you to knock your two front teeth out! What they never tell you is that peer pressure isn’t always bad. Take for instance, Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. She may have mentioned to me that all the cool kids were joining a read-a-long this summer and that it might be a good idea for me to join them. I lasted about 5 minutes before deciding that she was right and I needed to read more Stephen King. Enter:

Under the Dome lengthwise

This bad boy is hosted by Natalie at Coffee and a Book Chick (which is another book blog and downright delightful.) The format is pretty unstructured, which is sweet, because things with too many rules annoy me. Basically? I’m going to read Stephen King’s Under The Dome with moral support. Then I’m going to talk about it. Pretty cool right? Since the mini series is coming out soon, it’s perfect timing.

I’m normally pretty leery of Stephen King, because of how I’m a giant chicken. Seriously. I read Bag of Bones as a teenager, and it creeped me out so badly, I couldn’t look at refrigerator magnets for weeks! It took me a good 10 years to get up the courage to try reading The Stand, and I ended up LOVING it. I decided that I could read King, I just needed to steer clear of the especially ghostly and/or demonic titles. A few months back I read 11/22/63 and while I didn’t love it as much as The Stand, it was pretty great. I’m a sucker for time travel. I read the synopsis for Under The Dome, and it sounded like it was more in the vein of “society has been dealt a really weird blow” rather than “DEMONS ARE COMING TO EAT YOUR SOUL, KATIE!!!!!” I may have a false sense of security here. Only time will tell.

I’m looking forward to trying out this whole read-a-long concept. I’m typically a one book at a time kind of gal, but there’s such a HUGE volume of things I want to read that I have a hard time committing to a behemoth of a book like this. I’m hoping I can tackle this bad boy in bite sized pieces while keeping up with the rest of my TBR list. I’ll keep you all apprised of my progress.

Anybody interested in joining?! Check out the details HERE. Already been Under the Dome? Send me words of comfort and/or warning!

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May 24

Perfectly Imperfect: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship 39

Happy Friday, Bookworms!

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

the-imperfectionist

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

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

Generate your own nonsense HERE

Generate your own nonsense HERE

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

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

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May 14

The Tough Stuff: Top Ten Tuesday

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening, Memoirs, Non Fiction, Psychological, Tear Jerkers, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 59

Hola Bookworms,

Today is another Tuesday, and another GLORIOUS list, the topic of which was provided by The Broke and The Bookish. Today’s topic is to list out books that deal with difficult subject matter, and the ones I’m choosing are all kind of a downer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t BRILLIANT books, because they are. It just means that they’re emotionally draining, so, you know, don’t read them all in a row.

TTT3W1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is amazing, but such a tough read. Speak is about a girl entering high school. She is date raped at a party, and while she calls the police to break up the party, she can’t bring herself to tell the authorities what happened to her. She starts her high school career as the narc who ruined the best party of the summer all while dealing with the emotional hurricane of attending school with her rapist. It’s a rough read, but really worth it. I highly recommend it.

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Race and incest and violent relationships and homosexuality and secrets and lies and children and turning gender roles upside down… It’s pretty amazing. It’s exceptionally powerful because it’s written in an epistolary format in a regional dialect. Try to get through it without crying. I dare you.

3. Room by Emma Donoghue. This choice seems even more appropriate now given the news coming out of Cleveland of the three women held captive in a home for a decade. Room is about a young woman who is abducted from her college campus parking lot. She is locked in an inescapable sound-proof shed and regularly raped by her captor. Eventually these systematic rapes result in a successful pregnancy and she raises her little boy, Jack, in this shed. Jack is five and he narrates the book. I think this was a brilliant choice on Donoghue’s part, because hearing this horror story through the eyes of “Ma” would probably have been too much to bear. The innocent goggles of a child make things tragic and yet, in a way, hopeful.

Don't let the colorful cover fool you, this is NOT for the faint of heart.

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Teenagers with cancer! Watching mere children face down their own mortality won’t tear at your very soul or anything. Young love cut tragically short by disease won’t make you bawl your eyes out. Living with a debilitating illness that is slowly eating your body from the inside when you should be out shopping for prom dresses and going through your angsty phase in giant baggy pants won’t mar your psyche! So heartbreaking. So good.

5. Smoke Over Birkenau by Liana Millu. Talk about the tough stuff. It simply does not get any “tougher” than books about the Holocaust. There are a lot of books on the subject, and I’ve read a number of heart wrenching personal accounts. It’s difficult to pick just one, but since I really have to pace myself on reading these (so I don’t get overwhelmed by humanity’s ability to inflict horror on itself for incredibly stupid reasons) I thought it might be overkill to fill this list with Holocaust books.

6. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Whooo boy this one’s a doozie. Depressed teenagers. Eating disorders. Young love denied. Unbelievable acts of violence. Dealing with the aftermath. This is a draining read, but it’s really well done. Sure, it feels a bit like you’re being stabbed in the heart with a dull spoon, but it’s a good pain. It’s NOT a true story, thank God. At least you can tell yourself that when you’re sobbing into your pillow…

everylastone

7. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I don’t care how open and honest and cool you are with your kids. It is awkward as heck to discuss periods with your prepubescent daughter (this, coming of course, from a former prepubescent daughter. The thought of having this conversation with my own offspring makes me preemptively uncomfortable.) Thank GOD for Judy Blume. Thank GOD for this book. That GOD it existed when I was 12. Margaret made all the late bloomers out there feel less alone. Thank you, Judy Blume, for being awesome.

8. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Yeah, it’s tough to be a teenager, Margaret, but it’s even tougher to be an adult with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As you follow Alice’s mental decline you feel her frustrations and her anguish, as well as her moments of hope and triumph. It’s a beautifully rendered story, and it will make you keenly aware of your own precarious mental state. You may want to order a lot of fish oil caplets or whatever antioxidant thingies they have on the market today that are supposed to help keep your brain going strong to old age and beyond…

still alice

9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What would you do if the most basic part of your identity, your biological gender, were called into question? Our protagonist is raised as a female but due to a gene mutation, she’s biologically male… At least, mostly. A coming of age story with the added bonus of some sweet historical fiction elements plus all the psychological turmoil that goes on when a person doesn’t fall neatly into a gender category. Powerful.

10. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Forget everything you saw in that movie. I don’t care if it won Angelina Jolie an Oscar, the book was MUCH better. It’s Susanna Kaysen’s true life account of her time in a mental hospital. I read this a long time ago, but there was one part that seriously resonated with me. Kaysen described her descent into crippling depression as the world slowing down and time crawling by. She said that there were two ways to go crazy- for everything to slow down or for everything to speed up. I’ve always thought that if I ever needed to be institutionalized, it would be due to the super fast worst-case-scenario in flashes of horror kind of crazy, at which point my brain would completely short circuit and the slow would set it. It probably says a little too much about me and my mental state that I’ve given this so much thought, but you know. I’m bad at lying.

So Bookworms, tell me. What are your top picks for books that deal with the tough stuff? I’m all ears (at least until my psychotic break, but I think we’ve got some time.)

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