Category: Contemporary Fiction

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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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…)

somedaymaybe

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.

LaurenGraham4

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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