Month: April 2016

Describe yourself in a word & keep your frenemies close

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I recently received and read an ARC of Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty.

rich & pretty

I enjoyed reading this novel, but ultimately, don’t know that I am actually a fan of it. The writing is fairly good. The characters are well crafted, the manner in which those characters act and the dialogue between them is realistic, resulting in a feeling of authenticity while reading.

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All the feels. #reading

Yet, much like reality, the book ended, and I felt as though the novel’s action and dialogue had been meandering and ultimately, without any purpose. A book does not need a lesson or a moral to impart to the reader, but this book felt more like an unfinished exploration of an idea. Which is better – to be rich, or to be pretty? What if there were a pair of best girl friends, with one defined by one of these traits, the other defined by the other?

rich vs. pretty

Apparently, what would happen is the two friends would be like most good friends, and slightly misunderstand, and slightly envy, the other, while continuing to love that other friend. Which is great (yay, friendship!)… but, ultimately, when the novel ends, the ultimate meaning appears to be: We all have our hardships, but hardships are a lot easier to bear when you have A LOT of money. In addition, I find it difficult to believe that both of these women do not possess quite a bit of money, since they can both afford to live in New York, where even a shitty apartment is going to be expensive on a single budget, and have the ability to save up to buy designer handbags.

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#realtalk

I suppose if you are in the mood for a beach read that is not necessarily well written, but is written beautifully, that takes place in a world that feels very white, rich, and privileged, then this book might be a good fit for you. It is certainly not a book that I regret reading; I simply regret that the promise offered by the dialogue, characterization, and word choice was not ultimately delivered with respect to plot.

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So cute, and yet, so sad. My metaphor for this novel, which was so close, and yet, so far, from being great. #disappointment

For those who have read Rich and Pretty, what were your thoughts? Did you like it more than I? Did you like it less? If you haven’t read Rich and Pretty, are you looking forward to its’ release? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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This or That:

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It’s another installment of This or That, questions proffered by the lovely Rae, some of which I choose to answer.

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Today I want to know……

Do you (currently) read historical fiction?


By currently, I mean have you read it within the past year or so.

This question gave me pause, because at first, I wasn’t sure.

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Bambi!

I know, elephant. I know. #hangshead

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I tend to be interested by the ideas that are represented by historical fiction, yet am often unsatisfied with the manner in which those ideas are written and/or carried out by the author. There is a delicate balance between researching to give a story authenticity, and adding details in a rote manner that feels didactic.

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EXPOSITION! It ALL feels like EXPOSITION!

Yet, upon reviewing my Goodreads feed, I came to the conclusion that yes, I have read historical fiction during the past year. Before I delve into further detail, let me clarify, that when I use the term “historical fiction” within this blog post, I am referring to books that are set in a period of time prior to the period in which the author wrote that book. For example, Inherent Vice was published (and presumably written within the approximate time of) 2009, but takes place in the ’60s. Books written about a time that is now historical past but was the author’s contemporary time period are not included in the following listing (feel free to order your own copy, should any titles pique your interest, by clicking on the graphics below, which link to Amazon (or support your local bookstore by ordering it from an indie!)):

June – This novel has two timelines. One in the near-present, the other occurring in the ’50s. Very enjoyable, in that juicy, small town, family saga way. This novel does not come out until May 31, but I recommend pre-ordering if you’re craving a way to start your summer off right.

Alias Grace – A Margaret Atwood novelized version of the person Grace Marks, and an attempt to get at the true crime story that resulted in her imprisonment at the tender age of 16 for a crime she may or may not have committed. The truth, we will never know, but Atwood spins an interesting tale. A bit of stream-of-consciousness storytelling, so if you are extremely averse to such narrative tactics, avoid this book. Otherwise, give it a try. I rather enjoyed it.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – A murder-mystery occurring in the ’50s, narrated by the wonderfully precocious Flavia de Luce. I adored this novel, and highly recommend either a read or a re-read, stat.

Inherent Vice – Another mystery novel, this one occurring in the hippy-dippy ’60s. Chill with Doc Sportello, man, in a world created by Thomas Pynchon that is an inherently good read.

The Night Circus – While popular opinion disagrees with me, I was not a huge fan of this novel that takes place during the nineteenth century. The writing smacks of Tim Burton sans soul, including a romance storyline between two people who barely spend any time together. I am certainly in the minority, but this novel full of characters performing magical feats never quite reaches the level of magic that should be delivered in its writing.

The Forgotten Room – This book not only has 3 different timelines, it was also written by 3 different, accomplished writers. A bit of romantic fluff, to be honest, but well written and entertaining romantic fluff. I highly recommend if you like romance books.

Wildflower Crown – A novel with princesses and horses, with fighting and faeries and adult women who look like children. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but many will not. (Read my review, linked in the title, for further information if you would like to make an informed decision.)

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard – Much of this novel revolves around two young women living in Hollywood, friends and roommates, during the filming of Gone with the Wind. This book was so interesting. I kept expecting it to veer into the maudlin and predictable, yet it somehow nobly abstained. I highly, highly recommend this novel. It is the best kind of chick lit.

Eternity – Unlike the previous novel I just discussed, this book is some of the worst kind of chick lit. It started out in a fairly interesting vein, but petered out, and in the end, I’m not really sure why I even finished. I did finish, so it’s not unreadable? I wouldn’t recommend this novel unless you are an avid fan of predictable romances.

Those are the historical novels I have read during the past year, and looking back on them, I realize the past 365 days has been a good time for historical novels. In general, I enjoyed most of these novels, which I was not expecting when I initially set out to write this blog post. What about you? Historical novels – yes or no? Do you disagree with any of my opinions laid out in this post? Please comment below!

Accidents

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I recently picked up a mystery novel entitled The Accidental Alchemist (An Accidental Alchemist Mystery) from the library, and it was… okay. It is one of those middling, not too terrible, not super great mystery novels, of which there are an abundance. Something that interested me about this novel is that the author lives in the Bay Area, and her novel takes place in Portland (insert hippy and/or hipster jokes here).

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And all of those hipster/hippy jokes are essentially valid. The “accidental” part of the title comes from the protagonist accidentally making herself immortal in a desperate attempt to save her brother (which failed). This novel is heavy on the plot, but light on the actual mystery. Full of explication and… vegan recipes.

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I know, cow – I was confused, too.

Yes, you read me right. This novel is chock full of vegan recipes. I’m fairly certain there is more discussion of cooking than dead bodies & figuring out who killed them. Although there’s also a gargoyle mystery going on that stretches credulity a bit too far, but is fun, so who cares, right?

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#fun

The novel is often unintentionally hilarious. For example, if gets the police entirely wrong:

1

wish I ran into a cop that polite after I had been speeding.

The author fairly obviously personally vents a few times:

2

…and the high school teacher cares about the use of the word “crap?”

3Not even “shit,” which, let’s face it, is one of the more benign curse words. “Crap.”

#facepalm

Not entirely unenjoyable, and if you’re a fan of mysteries that are light on the actual mystery but still heavy on plot, you should probably give it a try.

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It’s a mystery where the mystery is in this mystery novel…

What was the last great mystery novel that you read?

This or That: Morning or Evening Reading?

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Today, I discovered This or That, and wanted to add my two cents to the debate Rae started on Monday:

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So today I want to know if you ….

Read in the morning

OR 

At night 

OR

(yes I’m being nice and adding another option) In the middle of the day

Here’s the catch (you knew it was coming): You cannot say “it depends” pick the one that is most likely to occur based off of your current schedule.

First of all, kudos to Rae for not allowing the use of “it depends,” because let’s face it – most things in life could be answered that way.

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#shrewd

Now, drum roll please:

Bambis Answer

I prefer reading at night.

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Goodnight, moon…

My mind is generally fairly active during the day. So active, in fact, that it can be difficult to slow it down. Reading is a relaxing activity that helps me concentrate my thoughts on the fictional (I almost never read non-fiction books) exploits of fictional characters, and thereby soothe myself to sleep.

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Reading – saving lives, saving slumber.

What about you? Morning or night?

Cities & Swordfights

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I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Tell the Wind and Fire via Netgalley.

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Luck is the operative word in that prior sentence. Reader, I wasn’t initially even sure I wanted to read it. I requested it on an impulse, because a younger, more naive me used to enjoy reading Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog posts. I requested it expecting to be disappointed, because I didn’t particularly like the title, and because I loved the idea behind Unspoken, but had not been as enamored with its actual written self as I had hoped. I am gladly disappointed in my expectation to be disappointed; a cat licking stolen cream from its paws with satisfaction and delight. You should read this book.
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A bit of dystopian fiction, Brennan has created a world in which magic is a fact, the characters peopling it manage to be symbolic and realistic at the same time, and the knowledge of what people are capable can be both heartwarming and devastating, by turns. Inspired by A Tale of Two Cities, Brennan has created an entertaining read that, at the same time, should make you think. Brennan is not just basing her own novel off a work filled with literary machinations such as metaphor, character development, etc – it is clear that while her work is inspired and based off of a famous and well-known novel, her work is filled with metaphors and symbolism all its own. Her work is relevant as more than an homage to Dickens; her work manages to rise above the Dickens classic, to become its’ own story – one which, quite frankly, can be enjoyed whether you have read A Tale of Two Cities or not.
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Brennan wrote a fantasy book I enjoyed, though fantasy is not generally a genre I favor. She wrote a story including a love triangle that at least somewhat transcends the general story that includes a love triangle. She wrote about the power to create change and speak up even when it seems that the both of these actions are just well-meant yet ultimately meaningless phrases. I cannot rave about this book enough. Pre-order it, read it, buy it for your friends. This book definitely receives 5 out of 5 bowls of delicious spaghetti.
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Those are my thoughts! Share some of yours – what was the last book you weren’t expecting to like that ended up surprising you?

June is a Great Month & a Great Book

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Remember how excited you used to feel in June, as the sun shone through the window, and you studied for final exams because summer vacation was right around the corner? That excitement is exactly what you should feel for June, a novel written by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore.

daydreamJune is a well-written novel that revolves around a character aptly named June. The novel alters between two different timelines, in which themes of love, family, friendship, secrets, and honesty are explored in a way that is entertaining, well written, and truthful.

Rather than tell you more about how much I enjoyed this book, I thought I would show you by sharing some of my favorite quotes from the book.

Personification of a house:

1

Delight:

2

Marriage in the ’50s:

3

Respect:

4

I love this – no wishy-washy, hand-wringing. Kiss when you feel like it (as long as the other person’s into it):

5

Romance –

6

To sum up this post, I really, really liked this book. I might pick up a physical copy at the bookstore to read it again, and I think you should read it. What about you – any recommendations? What’s the last book you read that you really enjoyed, and think all of your friends should read?