Category: Contemporary Fiction

Apr 22

Someday, Someday, Maybe, I'll Be As Cool As Lauren Graham

Chick Lit, Contemporary Fiction, Humor, television 56

Happy Monday, Bookworms!

I just finished reading Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lorelai Gilmore Lauren Graham. Why yes, this is a novel written by an actress. A novel. Not a memoir, not a cookbook, not a lifestyle tome. A novel. And you know something? It’s pretty good!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I am a ginormous Gilmore Girls fan. Like, I own all 7 seasons on DVD, and I sincerely hope that Luke & Lorelai ended up having twins just like Lorelai dreamed that once time before she and Luke were ever an item… Lauren Graham is the actress behind Lorelai Gilmore. I adored the characters on the show, obviously, but I once saw a little behind-the-scenes feature where Amy Sherman Palladino (head writer) mentioned that Lauren Graham got the majority of the pop culture/literary references that were written into the script. You guys, this was a SMART show. Fast paced witty banter referencing Norman Mailer and Pushkin and the Nag Hammadi documents? You’ve got to have some brains to appreciate the brilliance of it all. Which is exactly what Lauren Graham has. Did you know she has a degree in English Literature from Barnard? Barnard is a seven sisters school, which were the Ivy League equivalents for women before women were allowed to attend Ivy League schools… AND she got into college BEFORE she was famous (not that you aren’t brilliant, Natalie Portman, but I’m sure your acting chops didn’t hurt your application to Harvard…)

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I know what you’re thinking. “Yes, Katie. We know. You’re a Lauren Graham fan girl. But tell me about the damn book already!” The most cliche advice writers get is to “write what you know.” It seems that Lauren Graham did just that. Someday, Someday, Maybe is about a struggling actress named Franny Banks in New York City. Franny pays her bills by waiting tables in a comedy club, but she dreams of being a working actress. She shares an apartment in Brooklyn with her BFF Jane and their roommate Dan, attends acting classes, and battles both her her curly hair and her intense desire to consume mass quantities of cheese puffs. (I love me some cheese puffs, and I love Franny for her weakness.)

Franny gave herself an arbitrary 3 year timeline to succeed as an actress, and when we meet her, she is a mere 6 months away from her success deadline. Her backup plan is to move to Chicago and get back together with her college boyfriend who is about to graduate from law school. Franny LOVES to act, but she faces an uphill battle. Franny, despite her penchant for cheese puffs, is a healthy woman. She runs regularly and wears a size 8. Unfortunately, a size 8 in a world of size 2’s isn’t ideal. And her unruly curls? (This part feels VERY authentic- I think Ms. Graham did battle with her curls on auditions too.) The best part about Franny, though, is that her awkward antics tend to be her most charming feature. Falling out of her chair and potentially flashing the audience? Callbacks. Screws up a scene? Ends up making out with a hottie. Gets flustered and comes out with a bizarre laugh? She gets a part.

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I pictured Franny looking like Lauren Graham circa 1995. Plus a scrunchie.

This was a great way to shake off the shadow on my psyche left by Amity & Sorrow. This book takes chick lit to a fun, witty place, and it does this without relying on email or text message humor (because it’s 1995!) Occasionally I crack up when she talks about banks of pay phones, because PAY PHONES. And scrunchies. And FAX machines. The nostalgia is a tasty sauce on top of this delicious bite of chick lit. If you’re looking for something light and fluffy without being vapid and shallow? Someday, Someday, Maybe is the book for you!

Full Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I’m really bad at lying, so you shouldn’t be worried about me compromising my integrity or anything. 

Let’s be ridiculous and squealy shall we? How happy are you when you find out your favorite celebs really ARE smart and interesting and probably aren’t rude to their assistants?!

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Apr 19

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley… And Katie's Phobias

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Psychological, Religion 43

Have you heard the good news, Bookworms?

Have I ever told you about my intense, paralyzing fear of religious cults? The Children of the Corn is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. I have absolutely no intention of ever reading the book, because that would be giving the creepy preacher kid permission inhabit and chew up my soul. When I saw that I’d been pre-approved for Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley on Netgalley (yes, boys and girls, that means I got another free book!) I was concerned, but like the proverbial curious cat, I couldn’t stop myself from giving it a whirl.

Amity & Sorrow is a novel about a woman named Amaranth who escapes a polygamous religious cult with her two daughters. Her elder daughter is named Sorrow, and believes herself a vessel of holiness and a prophet. Her younger daughter, Amity, is a 12 year old girl who is trying to make sense of her life’s upheaval.

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Their wrists are strapped together because Sorrow has had too much of the metaphorical kool-aid and is a flight risk…

A little about this cult. This is NOT a fundamentalist Mormon sect, thought that’s certainly what I typically associate with polygamy and prairie dresses.  It appears the patriarch Zachariah originally hailed from such a society, and he’s borrowing some of their traditions to create his own little world. Most notable is that instead of this being a community, it is a SINGLE family (if you’re interested in some fiction about a fundamentalist Mormon sect, check out The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff .) Zachariah is the ONLY husband in a community of FIFTY wives and twenty seven children. There are no elders, organization, or other men (over the age of 16.) Every time Zachariah takes on a new wife, every wife watches him ceremonially consummate his union with the new wife (this part reminded me of The Handmaid’s Tale.) Now. I am all for freedom of religion. But making your 49 wives watch you get busy with the new one? That can’t be good for anyone. The cops get wind that in addition to the many. many wives, there is something untoward going on with one or more of the underage children. (SPOILER ALERT- there is.) But polygamy isn’t Zachariah’s only passion. He’s also CONVINCED that doomsday is nigh. When the authorities close in? The temple goes up in flames.

BUT! Amaranth escapes the flames with her daughters in tow. Unfortunately, she totals their getaway car in the middle of the Oklahoma panhandle and has to throw herself on the mercy of an unsuspecting farmer. Sure, it will be difficult for them to adjust, but they’ll be okay now, right? A farm’s a good spot for people who are used to an agrarian lifestyle to rebuilt their lives, right? Maybe it would have been, if Sorrow wasn’t so FREAKING CRAZY. That cult and her father did a NUMBER on her and she’s just not stable. Not even a little. She is manipulative and cruel and violent and a bit of a pyromaniac.

Sorrow is a Firestarter, but unlike Drew Barrymore, she needs to use matches (laaaame.)

Sorrow is a Firestarter, but unlike Drew Barrymore, she needs to use matches (laaaame.) Source

Amaranth is an emotional mess because once she’s removed from the cult she sees just how horrifically it has affected her daughters. My dear sweet anti-cult LORD, the girls CANNOT READ! (This also reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Offred is smart enough not to like it…) It doesn’t really help Sorrow’s decent into madness that her mother decides to spend some quality naked time with Bradley the kindly farmer, but nothing short of intense psychotherapy and psychotropic drugs could really have helped Sorrow.

Sound crazy? It is! It was a tough read for me, subject matter wise, because, cults are my personal phobia (that and swimming in fish infested water…) The story sucks you in, and it certainly got to me. I gasped aloud at several points, much like a coached live studio audience at a sitcom taping (do they do casting calls for audience members? Because I’m REALLY good at the gasp, and the giggle. I’d even throw in a catcall if the need arose…) I understood the characters’ motivations, even if I wanted to inject them with tranquilizers have them committed. I don’t know that I would recommend this to everybody, because it’s got a lot of disturbing elements, but the crowd that enjoys tales of psychological trauma will eat this up. You want something to get under your skin? Amity & Sorrow just might me the book for you!

(PSA: It could seriously upset people who have suffered physically or psychologically at the hands of an oppressive religious group, and it’s probably NOT a good idea for survivors of rape and/or incest.)

So, Bookworms. I am very interested in hearing about YOUR phobias so I don’t feel all vulnerable and whatnot. Share with me. What are some of your greatest fears?

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Apr 09

Once Upon A Time, Before Words For Worms… (Top Ten Tuesday- The Prequel)

Blogging, Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Dystopian, Family, Friendship, Frightening, Humor, Memoirs, Psychological, Top Ten Tuesday 64

Good Day Bookworms!

It’s Tuesday, which can mean quite a number of things… What it means on this blog, however, is that we make LISTS. That’s right, it’s time for Top Ten Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish! This week’s topic is the top ten books I read before I was a blogger. Here’s the thing. A lot of stuff I’ve blogged about, I read before I was a blogger. I learned to read when I was like 5 or 6… And I’ve only been blogging since August… That’s a whole LIFE of reading outside of the blogosphere. I’ve tried to narrow today’s list down to ten books that haven’t gotten a whole lot of attention on my blog… I feel like I’m screaming Outlander and Gone With The Wind and Song of Achilles every week, so I’m trying to feature some of the lesser known heroes of my bookshelf.

toptentuesday1. Stones From The River by Ursula Hegi. If you liked The Book Thief, you will love Stones From The River. It’s about a woman named Trudi who has the bad luck to have been born a dwarf in what would become Nazi Germany. Spoiler Alert: Both books involve books, resisting the regime, and hiding Jewish people at great personal risk. It’s a fantastic read and I highly recommend it!

2. Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve. Anita Shreve wrote an entire series of books set at the same beach house throughout different points in history. I don’t know if I should really call them a series, though they are all obviously entwined. The characters and situations are all so different, only the landscape ties them together. Anyway, Fortune’s Rocks is set in the early 1900s (I wanted to say “turn of the century” but the stupid HANDS OF TIME just keep on ticking and that phrase is no longer useful to me!) There’s a young girl, an older man, and the kind of scandal you’d expect from a young girl getting involved with an older man (who happens to be a “fine” “upstanding” married doctor with children.) This is BY FAR my favorite Anita Shreve title, so you should probably read it.

3. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. This book was given to me by one of my dearest friends (who happens to have just recently graduated from veterinary school. Can we all give Dr. Erin a big CONGRATS, Words for Worms Style?) Dr. Erin gave me this book on my 19th or 20th birthday (I cannot remember, I am very, very old.) Sedaris’s humor is quirky and irreverent and bizarre and wonderful. My personal copy may look a wee bit worse for the wear, but it’s one of the books I practically beat people with until they agree to read it. (That may or may not be why it’s a wee bit worse for the wear…)

The Easter Bunny doesn't leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I know. I KNOW!

The Easter Bunny doesn’t leave chocolate for French children. Church bells that fly in from Rome do. I share David Sedaris’s WTF?! on that one!

4. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. Okay, maybe I’ve discussed some of these titles before, but dangit, they’re awesome! I read this for a literature class in college and was astounded to find myself with a taste for eel and sticky rice and a host of other Chinese dishes that I’d never eaten nor cared to taste. The mark of badass prose? Making exotic food sound appealing to a girl with a bland palate. High five, Amy Tan!

5. Fall On Your Knees by Anne Marie MacDonald. I know some of you out there shy away from anything bearing an Oprah sticker, but trust me on this one. It’s practically a Greek tragedy, except that the characters are Lebanese and Canadian. Really amazing, disturbing stuff, and it’s stuck with me for years. Side bonus? The title always gets “Oh Holy Night” stuck in my head, which is among the most beautiful Christmas carols (which has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the book, it’s just the way my brain works.)

6. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is a YA title, but it deals with THE TOUGH STUFF. Basically? The main character is date raped at a party just before she starts high school. She calls the police who come to bust up the party and is treated as a pariah. Everyone knows she was the narc, but nobody knows WHY. She never reports the rape, but has to attend school with her rapist. The emotional aftermath is raw and real and frightening. It’s a great book, but if you’ve got some of your own personal demons on this subject, you may want to skip this one.

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad...

Kristin Stewart starred in a movie version, but since brooding an morose is her default expression, it might not be too bad…

7. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Awww yeah. Dystopia time. The premise of this book is that society has begun to breed human clones in order to harvest their organs for the greater good of the population. This novel takes you inside the lives of these clones. It’s a little bit science fiction, a little bit dystopian, and a whole lot of ethical conundrum rolled into a tasty little package.

8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. This book tells the story of an intersex individual from a Greek family that immigrated to the US. Thanks to a genetic mutation, the narrator is raised believing she is a female until hormonal changes at puberty eventually lead to the discovery that she is biologically male… Sort of. It’s a fascinating look at a medical condition I was never aware of, and the impact gender can have on one’s psyche and family unit. If you can read this book without empathizing the crap out of Callie/Cal, I’m concerned about the size of your grinchy heart.

9. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. When Susie Salmon is brutally raped and murdered by her creepy neighbor, she continues to keep track of her family from the “other side.” Yes, this book starts out with a horrific tragedy, and it’s not easy to read. That’s really not a spoiler at all, because it’s at the very beginning of the book. The meat of this book is watching how her family deals with the tragedy. It also goes to show that the BEST murder weapon is, in fact, an icicle (which is NOT, by the way, the weapon that is used on Susie.)

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I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie… I get grouchy when they stray too far from the book. That said, Stanley Tucci is one creepy creepster. ::Shivers::

10. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood. This is one of Atwood’s lesser known novels. It never gets the accolades of The Blind Assassin or Alias Grace but I thought it was fantastic. It’s about a psychopathic woman who makes it her life’s mission to destroy all of her “friends'” love lives. It taught me a great many things, not the least of which being that one can give oneself scurvy by being bulimic. As if we needed ANOTHER reason eating disorders are horrible. Now you know you can get swarthy pirate conditions. Not cute, y’all.

So, Bookworms. I know that a lot of you aren’t bloggers, let alone book-specific bloggers, but I like to think that this top ten list is more of a memory lane sort of theme. What are some of the best books you’ve read in the not so recent past?

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Apr 08

The Curious Incident of the Suburban Baby Shower

Audio Books, Contemporary Fiction, Family, Mystery, Psychological 28

Hello My Bookworms,

I’ve had a busy weekend! I took a road trip back to my old stomping grounds to help my mom throw a baby shower for my sister. Now, I have a number of honorary nieces and nephews, and I love them all dearly. However, this will be my first go at biological Aunt-hood so it’s a pretty big deal. A couple of cool things happened (in addition to having a little visit with the one and only Quirky Chrissy.)

My Aunt Margie lives in Texas, which is far away from Illinois (I say this because I have no concept of the distance between Sydney and Melbourne, and some of my readers are in Australia. I’m being geographically sensitive.) She couldn’t make it to the shower. However, she mailed a gift, and I KNOW she must have been thinking of me when she picked out this bad boy:

Aunt Margie will be this baby's Great Aunt. She is cool. I am obviously cool. And penguins? The coolest.

Aunt Margie will be this baby’s Great Aunt. She is cool. I am obviously cool. And penguins? The coolest.

That was pretty amazing. A family friend got my future nephew a penguin path toy that blows bubbles, which is fantastic. BUT! Aunt Katie got a bath toy, too! Remember me discussing my punny cousin Adam? Well. Being 13 he was much too cool to come to the baby shower (which I totally gave him crap for, but I’m still really nice and sent him some cake.) HOWEVER, his little sister Dana was in attendance. I have somehow convinced these children that I am cool (please don’t tell them otherwise.) Dana brought me THIS:

I love this kid. Not just because she brings me presents. She's a cool kid. She also has these AMAZING freckles which are beyond adorable.

I love this kid. Not just because she brings me presents. She’s a rocking kid. She also has these AMAZING freckles that are beyond adorable.

I am plum tuckered out. The good news is that I don’t mind road trips- road trips mean audio books! This trip’s selection was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. I have been meaning to read this book for years and for whatever reason I hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m a little annoyed with myself that it took so long, because this book was SO GOOD!

Christopher Boone is a 15 year old boy. His exact diagnosis is never given, but it is clear the he has some form of Autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Christopher narrates the story. He explains in very clear language exactly how the world appears to him and why he reacts certain ways to certain situations. Christopher’s story begins one night while he’s taking an evening walk past his neighbor’s house. He discovers the neighbor’s dog, Wellington, has been murdered.

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When the neighbor discovers Christopher holding her dog’s body, she calls the police. After a difficult trip to the police station (the police officer couldn’t have known of Christopher’s violent reactions to touches) Christopher begins to fixate on solving the mystery of Wellington’s demise. It’s awfully tough to be a detective when speaking to a stranger terrifies you. When an unexpected touch can leave you on the floor covering your ears and moaning for hours to regain your composure. When seeing four yellow cars in a row can send you into an emotional tailspin.

At first, I was concerned that I was missing something because the audio book kept jumping around with chapters. I was concerned there were full chapters of diagrams or illustrations I was missing… However. Christopher explains a bit later that he’s chosen the chapter numbers because they are prime numbers. In order. He’s very good at “maths” (because British people make “math” plural.) I loved the sensation of being inside Christopher’s brain. The way that nuance and facial expression are foreign to him. Can you imagine how confusing it would be living in a world that just didn’t understand how your brain worked? In some ways I could relate to Christopher’s anxieties. Being in crowded public places can get under my skin, and changes in my environment have been known to rattle me. While my anxieties may be considered on the neurotic side of “normal,” poor Christopher’s reactions are far more intense. I’m going to be SO GOOD and not fill this review with spoilers, but I think you should read it. The audio book version was fantastic, I really dug the accents!

Tell me Bookworms, have any of you read this? What did you think?

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Mar 07

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore: A Whimsical DaVinci Code?

Contemporary Fiction, Mystery 35

Salvate, Bookworms!

That was a greeting in Latin… In honor of creepy secret societies everywhere, The Others, and, uh, Catholicism prior to Vatican II. I just read Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Spoiler Alert: there’s Latin in it!

penumbraA little synopsis for you: Clay is a recently unemployed design school graduate in desperate need of a job. While wandering the streets of San Fransisco one afternoon, Clay stumbles upon a odd little bookstore with a “help wanted” sign. Mr. Penumbra is an eccentric old man and the proprietor of an impossibly narrow three story book store. (One of my favorite things about this book was the description of the sliding ladders. I would LOVE to live in a ginormous house someday with a dedicated library that had sliding ladders!)

Clay is hired and soon realizes that there is no way this book store can stay afloat with the sales figures he’s running. There’s also the business of the oddball patrons who are mostly highly eccentric characters that show up at all hours of the night… Rather than purchasing books, they’re all borrowing from a mysterious collection huddled at the back of the store.

Around this time Clay starts dating a girl who works at Google named Kat Potente. Kat is brilliant and quirky, owning a dozen of the very same t-shirt so she need not fret about her wardrobe. Once Clay discloses some of his insights into the mysterious bookstore, Kat jumps on board with his adventure. Somewhere between the Gertizsoon font and a museum about knitting, Clay, Kat, and his buddy Neel set about uncovering a 500 year old mystery. (I’d like to mention that I loved the way Google’s headquarters were portrayed in this book. It was really fun to compare the fictionally enhanced Google to the way Microsoft was portrayed in Where’d You Go Bernadette.)

Without getting excessively spoiler-ish, this book involves uncovering the mysteries of a secret society. It actually reminded me a LOT of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code (I don’t really care what the literati has to say, I thoroughly enjoyed The DaVinci Code, for reals.) What differentiates this from The DaVinci Code is the whimsy. This book deals with mysteries surrounding a 500 year old publisher and a bunch of bookish weirdos. No matter what their secrets hold, they’re not as potentially earth shattering to civilization as discovering that one of the world’s major religions is based on intentionally misleading information. This allows Sloane’s secret society an element of comedy and charm that the danger and melodrama of The DaVinci Code cannot achieve.

I really enjoyed this book. I found it to be a quick read and it held my interest. In celebration of this work, I started googling to find the Geritzsoon font that was, according to the book, very common and pre-loaded into most computers. Yeah. Griffo Gertiszoon, our mysterious ancient font designer? Fiction. I must admit I was quite disappointed. I like it when my conspiracy books are less easily debunked. All in all though? Still totally worth the read. Knowing the Griffo Gertizsoon is not a real person won’t hamper your enjoyment of the book at all. Look at me! I’m GROWING with not SPOILING everything. SOMEBODY GIVE ME A COOKIE!

So. Bookworms. Mysteries. Do you dig them? Do you despise them? Don’t you want a house with sliding ladders?! (You do. Don’t bother lying.) Tell me about it!

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Feb 12

Top Ten Tuesday: The Language of Romance

Classics, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Tear Jerkers, Time Travel, Top Ten Tuesday 37

Hola, Gusanos de Libros!

I just spoke SPANISH. Badly probably. Whatever. Today is Tuesday which means… TOP TEN TUESDAY with The Broke and The Bookish!

TTT3W

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, today’s theme is, appropriately, Top Ten Romances (ooh la la!) <— See that?! FRENCH! Without further ado, I shall list for you the Top Ten Greatest Romances in the History of Literature… And Time Eternal. (I have a flair for the dramatic.)

1. Jamie and Claire of Diana Gabaldon’s impossibly wonderful Outlander series. If this were a contest, they’d have out romanced everyone else on this list because no time warp, monarchy, bodily attack, war, illness, or kidnapping can conquer them! (They are remarkably difficult to kill off, I must admit.)

2. Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It’s a truth universally acknowledged that this is one of the greatest love stories ever written. It’s like the loose premise for 90% of romantic comedies for a REASON, people!

3. Gus and Hazel of John Green’s The Fault in Our StarsGo ahead. Try to read this story about teen love and cancer and not cry. I dare you!

fault in our stars

4. Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger from (obviously) JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. You know you were transported back to your high school days when Ron didn’t ask Hermione to the Yule Ball. You know you loved their breakup and reunion in The Deathly Hallows. You know you completely dug every millisecond of their happily ever after. Hermione, the idol of every bookish girl. Ron, the ultimate underdog. It’s a thing of beauty.

5. Jane Eyre & Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane EyreYes. I KNOW Mr. Rochester kept his crazy wife in the attic. I KNOW he was an attempted bigamist. But I also KNOW that he loved Jane, and she had a big enough heart to forgive him… Eventually. Talk about overcoming obstacles y’all. I bet you never had to deal with a crazy wife in the attic!

6. Achilles and Patroclus of Madeline Miller’s Song of AchillesThere was so much beauty in the love story of Achilles and Patroclus! Achilles’ mean ass sea nymph mother didn’t approve of his loving another dude, but that didn’t stop them. My heart shattered into millions of pieces at the end of this book (that’s so not a spoiler, it’s Greek mythology y’all.) Great romance. Seriously.

song of achilles

7. Jacob and Marlena of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants. Marlena was married to the violent and mentally ill August, so for a time, she and Jacob admired each other at arm’s length. August’s violent behavior drives Marlena out of his arms and into Jacob’s. The only thing that could make this romance better would be a murder mystery where the perpetrator was an elephant. Oh, wait…

8. Henry and Claire of Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. Be still my heart! How can you compete with love that transcends time?!?! How? You can only beat it if your love ALSO transcends time, plus a bunch of other crazy circumstances (cough cough Outlander.) So basically? This is awesome.

9. Bridget and Mark of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’ Diary. A (very) thinly veiled homage to Pride and Prejudice, Bridget’s awkwardness is impossibly endearing. Every girl who has ever been single and/or done something embarrassing can relate. Every man who has ever worn bumblebee socks at the behest of his overbearing mother can also relate. I’m not sure that last part happens that often, but still.

10. Celia and Marco from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night CircusMarco and Celia aren’t just star-crossed lovers, they’re MAGICALLY star crossed lovers. They’re locked into a battle neither of them chose. Little do they know, as their love progresses, that the only end to their “feud” is that one of them must perish. Ah! It is so sad! And yet, it is so magical. It conjures up all the lovey feelings one can feel!

night circus

So, Ratas de Biblioteca (PORTUGUESE!), what are some of your favorite romances? Hearts and candies and flowers and sappiness! Tell me all about it!

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Jan 25

Still Alice by Lisa Genova: A Letter To Science

Contemporary Fiction, Personal, Psychological, Tear Jerkers 39

Dear Science,

I just finished reading Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Are you familiar with the work? No? You are Science, after all, I can’t expect you to keep up with literature. I’ll give you a brief synopsis:

Alice Howland is a respected professor of linguistics and cognition at Harvard. When she begins to forget things, she believes she’s going through menopause or stressed. After a couple of harrowing experiences, Alice goes to visit her doctor. Her diagnosis is something she’d never have expected. At the age of 50, Alice is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

still alice

As you are well aware, Science, Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that typically affects the elderly. Alice is a sprightly fifty years old. Fifty isn’t even retirement age! Well, it isn’t retirement age unless you’re really really lucky… Or independently wealthy. You can relate, can’t you Science? What with all the grants you have to beg for? Seriously, how is a person supposed to deal with that kind of diagnosis? How does a spouse react to that news? How can children cope with their parents not recognizing them? It’s unfathomable to me, but so is calculus… Perhaps you’ll understand better.

I think Genova did a beautiful job portraying the emotions Alice feels as things begin to slip away from her memory. I love the way the family’s reactions are written as well. The people felt so REAL. The whole narrative was very genuine and thought provoking. And, well, let’s face it, a bit of a tear jerker. (Yes, Science. I think this would squeeze even YOUR muscular ventricles.)

Tissues aren't a bad idea if you plan to read this...

Unfortunately, Alice’s Alzheimer’s doesn’t just steal her memory and break her family’s hearts. It has a genetic component. Each of Alice’s children have a 50/50 chance of inheriting the early onset Alzheimer’s. This revelation just opens up ANOTHER whole can of ethical worms. The advances in genetic testing are miraculous, but are there any advantages to knowing that you’re destined to succumb to a virtually untreatable illness? I know I shouldn’t be asking rhetorical questions of you, Science, but since I don’t expect an answer, I can’t see the harm.

Now that I’m feeling all the feels and pondering the ethics of genetic testing, I’m going to go ahead and hit below the belt with an extra dosage of sad face. Dementia sucks the big one no matter how old you are when it hits. I don’t want to get all sob story on you, but my Grandma had dementia. I didn’t witness much of my Grandma’s decline first hand, but I DID make sure that she got a crap ton of greeting cards. (You’re WELCOME, postal service!) It would be a big fat lie to tell you that I knew the pain of having her not recognize me or that I had to calm her panic in the middle of the night when she didn’t know where she was. I really didn’t know how bad things had gotten until she was gone, and “dementia” was always the word being tossed about because “Alzheimer’s” was too frightening. Reading this book was a revelation to me- I felt like I finally understood what she must have gone through… THAT is really what turned on the water works.

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Psst. Science, if you’re not too busy, could you explain to Jim that I will not, in fact, shrink to Grandma size in my old age? I honestly don’t think she was ever very tall to begin with…

Here’s my plea to you, Science. There are other Grandmas out there. Let’s get to fixing this crappy disease now, okay? I know, Science. You’re very busy. Hypotheses don’t prove themselves, and there are lots and lots of diseases that need curing. I’m sure you’ll get around to revealing your secrets in your own good time. Until then, I, and the rest of the world, will be waiting. Impatiently.

Yours,

Katie

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Dec 13

Sad Desk Salad: A Selection For Mandy's Blogger Book Club

Blogging, Book Club, Contemporary Fiction, Humor, Personal, Women's Studies 21

Hello Bookworms! I’m super excited about today’s blog post. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in Mandy’s Blogger Book Club. Have you met The Well Read Wife? She’s kind of a big deal in the world of book bloggers, and she’s really nice. I mean, she bought 20 copies of Jessica Grose’s Sad Desk Salad and sent them out to strangers from the internet out of the goodness of her heart! Can we all just take a moment to shower some love on Mandy for being awesome and sending me a free book? (Applause!)The only rule of Mandy’s Blogger Book Club? Blog about the book. I know! I already DO THAT, right?

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Let’s talk about the book, shall we? Sad Desk Salad is a novel about a career blogger. Alex is 25 years old and working for a popular women’s website called Chick Habit. Alex lives in Manhattan with her boyfriend Peter. She works from home, rarely changes out of a grungy black muumuu, and has been sucked into the black hole of internet drama. When she receives an anonymous tip containing incriminating footage of the daughter of a prominent parenting author turned politician, Alex has to wrestle with her morals in posting the footage. She has to deal with the consequences of going public… Or not. To add to the bubbling stew of chaos, a hate blog has popped up attacking Alex and the rest of the Chick Habit staff. She has to deal with all of this while her relationship with Peter hits a rough patch and her friendships are put to the test. I’m having anxiety just writing that all out. Reading this book was rather intense for me.

It’s been a while since I read a book that I could not put down. I typically get most of my reading done in bed before my brain turns off for the night. When I start getting tired, I go to sleep. Makes sense, yes? Needless to say, I spent two rather sleepy days at the office this week. It’s okay, because, you know. Coffee.

I really enjoyed this book. It was sort of like The Devil Wears Prada meets… all of my own personal neuroses about blogging. (Jessica Grose can see into your MIND, people!) Alex gets completely absorbed into her own digital world. She has this insane demanding boss, Moira, who, while not being nearly as nuts as the boss in Prada expects her staff to be glued to their laptops at all times. Just reading about the frantic pace at which the “Chickies” are required to write causes my blood pressure to rise.

A little something about me. I have a “grown up” job. 8-5, Monday through Friday, I can be found in my office, at my desk, surrounded by an army of wind-up penguins. I work with numbers (I’m crazy good at algebra. But only basic algebra.) On the rare occasions where I’ve worked from home, I’ve hated it. When I’m at the office, it’s not a big deal if I have to run to the bathroom or take a break to dog shame Dakota. When I’m at home with my only connection being digital, I feel chained to the desk. Moira expects Alex to be at her beck and call, so Alex rarely takes even 10 minutes to shower. I cannot tell you how many times during the reading of this book I BEGGED Alex to shower. Oh, the humanity! And that muumuu? Don’t get me started. But, being high strung like I am, I completely GET Alex’s drive to do well at work.

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I adore this cover art. I also adore the concept. A “sad desk salad” is the lame lunch of wilted greens and grilled chicken that every last office working female has consumed at some point in her life.

But Alex’s work? Oye. I’ve never been so happy that my blog is just a hobby. Bloggers tend to learn the hard way that everyone’s a critic. Heck, I’m probably an author’s worst nightmare. Who do I think I AM dissecting people’s work on the internet?! And yet, here I am- writing my thoughts, making bad jokes, misinterpreting symbolism all over the damn place. I haven’t had much experience with negative commenters, but MAN does it sting. Alex struggles with that. She struggles with commenters attacking her work, and often, her personally. When she’s upset and tries to discuss her boundaries with Moira, she’s told to “grow a pair.” (Can I just take this opportunity to thank the universe that my bosses are far more likely to give me a hug when I’m upset than to tell me to “grow a pair?” Because wow.)

Alex gets so sucked into the digital drama that she forgets all the important REAL stuff in her life. Like eating food not obtained in a rush from the local bodega. Like having actual conversations with her life partner. Like basic hygiene and laundry. When threatened by a hate blogger with exposure from her past, she absolutely panics. She begins to get suspicious of her friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. She’s just exposed someone’s dirty laundry, what’s to prevent someone from exposing hers? (And no, I’m not talking about the black muumuu, but DAMN girl, laundromats exist in big cities, don’t they?)

If I had to put Sad Desk Salad into a category, I’d call it smart chick lit. It’s not Shakespeare, but I’m not smart enough to read Shakespeare anyway. I think most of you bookworms would enjoy this book. Certainly, these isn’t a blogger among us who couldn’t relate to some of these situations. I encourage you to give it a whirl, and be sure to let me know how you like it. I know I’ll never look at my own “sad desk salads” the same way again! Thanks for the great pick, Mandy!

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Dec 12

Haul Out The Holly: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

Contemporary Fiction, Family, Friendship, Humor 16

Ho ho ho, my little Bookworms! (I know not all of you celebrate Christmas, so on behalf of humanity, I apologize for you having to deal with this craziness every December. However… Saying “ho ho ho” is humorous on a number of levels, so I’m standing by my greeting.)

I’ve mentioned before that I love Fannie Flagg. It’s sort of a guilty pleasure thing, because I am fully aware that her novels aren’t highbrow literary fanciness. That said, they offer warm fuzzy feelings I haven’t found in anyone else’s work. Plus, southern charm is so darn whimsical, I can’t help myself. Soooo, when I saw that Fannie Flagg wrote a Christmas novel, I was all over it.

The book in question is called A Redbird Christmas. There’s this middle aged man who lives in Chicago. He’s told by his doctor he’s basically going to die because his lungs suck and his innards are broken and that he needs to move someplace warm so he doesn’t die like today. The guy’s name is Oswald. It’s Oswald because that name was the next on the list at the orphanage where he was deposited as a baby in a basket inexplicably containing a can of Campbell’s soup. Because the nuns had a sense of humor, they named him Oswald Campbell. (I just looked it up- there IS in fact a Saint Oswald. I was about to complain about a Catholic orphanage having a list of baby names that weren’t saints, but there are a LOT of saints… Even an Oswald, apparently.)

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Anyway, Oswald is given this random brochure for a health resort in Lost River, Alabama. Sadly, the health resort no longer exists, but he’s given reasonable room and board by one of the residents, so he decides to make the move. In typical Flagg fashion, there is a lot of southern cuteness to be had in this novel. There are neurotic old women who dye their hair crazy colors. The town’s mail is all delivered via boat since all the homes are located on piers along the river. The town’s only grocery store is run by an eccentric man who allows a crippled cardinal free reign over his store. (This part made me cringe a little. I don’t care how many tricks you can teach a bird, there is no teaching a bird not to poop on the produce. Not cool.)

One day a little girl shows up. There are people who live “back in the woods” who are basically transient and terrible at taking care of their children. (No “trailer trash” stereotypes here or anything. Oh, wait…) The little girl in question is named Patsy. She’s been abandoned by her father and stuck with a stepmother who doesn’t want her. She’s got a birth defect that causes a pronounced limp, and her sweet vulnerable little girlness charms the whole darn town. When the stepmother decides to skip town and doesn’t want to take Patsy, Frances (one of Lost River’s most prominent ladies) jumps at the opportunity to raise the little girl. Patsy, no surprise, bonds with Jack (the bird) and sweet loveliness ensues.

Frances takes Patsy to a doctor to see about getting her leg fixed- it’ll require an expensive series of surgeries and a lot of emotional support. The town really bands together to raise the money to help Patsy, but nobody can get through to the little girl like that darn bird. Unfortunately, birds don’t have a super long life expectancy. So… Well, I’m not going to get into all the spoilers. If you’re even remotely interested in this sort of word candy, I don’t want to ruin it for you. (Be sure to floss! Novels this level of sweetness are sure to cause cavities.)

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Hi! I’m Jack. I’m the Redbird of Happiness! (And feces)

To be quite honest, this wasn’t my favorite Fannie Flagg offering. I didn’t get wrapped up in the lives of the characters the way I did in some of her other books. Since I wasn’t expecting it to be the greatest book I’d ever read, and it still warmed my snarky little heart, I’ll say it was alright. It won’t stick with you, but it won’t make you want to gouge your eyes out either. Probably. Unless you really hate birds, Alabama, Christmas, and sugar. Then don’t read this at all. Not even a word of it. If you’re interested in a holiday read that’s sweeter than southern style sweet tea (seriously, you might get diabetes from this novel) give this a shot (of insulin. Oooooh I’m punny today!)

Do any of you Bookworms out there have a favorite holiday read? I’d love to add to my seasonal reading collection!

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Dec 04

Top Ten Tuesday: Santa Baby

Blogging, Classics, Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 33

Hello Bookworms! It’s Tuesday again, and thus time for another Top Ten list! Thanks to the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish, I shall never again have writer’s block on a Tuesday! Without further ado:

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The Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Getting From Santa

1. Coming Home by Rosamunde Pilcher. I know it seems like I’m always saying “Sounds good, I’ll add it to my list!” Sometimes I actually listen to people! Lauren over at Filing Jointly…Finally has recommended this book to me… twice. Sure, she once dug a shallow grave for a bird using a sterling silver spoon… I still trust her judgement on books.

2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I love historical fiction, and I’m particularly enthralled by the Tudors. It’s pretty rare that historical fiction gets such great reviews, so I’m pretty stoked to check this out.

3. Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. It’s a continuation of the Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn saga. I want to go to there.

4. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. I’m currently on super secret nerd probation until I read these books. New Year’s resolution, methinks.

5. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. This is a classic and I haven’t read it. For this I am ashamed.

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6. Matched by Allie Conde. Truth be told, YA isn’t typically my cup of tea. I read it from time to time, but my adoration is nothing compared to the YA book blogging community. However, Karen at Sassymonkey Reads recommended it to me after seeing my commentary on THE PILLS in The Giver series. Look at me, taking advice again!

7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for like 7 years. I always give it careful consideration and then pick a different book. 2013 will be the year! (Maybe.)

8. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue. My readers are awesome, have I mentioned that? Turns out one of  them went to school with Emma Donoghue- how crazy is that?! She’s a blogger too! She lives on the internet HERE and she thinks Slammerkin rocks. It’s like 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon. Only with Emma Donoghue. And bacon. Let’s throw that in there because it’s tasty.

9. River God by Wilbur Smith. My very dearest friend from childhood has promised me, and I quote, “literary orgasm.” From this book. Why do I trust her? I don’t know, really. She once screwed up my home highlights so badly that we had to go back to the drugstore at 2 am to get a second box of hair dye… She introduced me to Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett way too young, but dagnabit, she’s got good taste in books. River God is historical fiction, so odds are good that I’ll like it.

10. Santa, baby, what I really want… Are gift cards. Amazon, if you please. My kindle and I keep charging things to my credit card. It would be nice if that stopped, at least for a little while.

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