Saturday, September 29, 2012

the chaperone

In the summer of 1922, Wichita housewife Cora spends a month in New York City playing the chaperone to 15-year-old Louise Brooks (who, of course, will go on to become a very famous silent film star). Louise will be taking dance classes, and Cora wishes to learn more about her past (she spent a small piece of her childhood in an orphanage in New York). 

The story revolves around Cora, with Louise flitting in and out. So if you're looking for a book about Louise Brooks, this probably isn't the book for you. Only a couple of scenes really focus on her and her life. However, Cora's story is very interesting in its own right. Her seemingly perfect life (handsome husband, twin boys headed to college in the fall) is more complicated than she initially reveals. Unfortunately, as the story went on it began to feel very heavy handed. Historical details are thrown in just for the sake of educating the reader (instead of seamlessly integrated into the plot). Life lessons are blatant and spelled out clearly, with Cora noting each revelation as it happens. The changes in society and ideas about morality and family are also clearly detailed, as if the author just couldn't trust the reader to understand the story without explanation. 

Finally, it continues on for at least 50 pages more than it should. The end of the trip to New York would have been the perfect time to end the book, maybe with a quick flash forward epilogue. Instead, we labor through the characters' lives up until the end (in the section after NYC, we travel slowly from 1922 all the way through 1970). It felt like the author just loved her characters too much and wanted to show her readers exactly how the rest of their lives went, which was not necessary. We don't need to know how many grandchildren Cora ends up with, all the highs and lows of Louise Brooks's career, how WWII affects the family, when Cora's husband dies, when Cora herself dies . . . Much too much!

But I loved learning about Louise Brooks (even if I had to see her as a fictional character) and reading about the 1920s in New York. Cora's childhood and young adulthood was very interesting to read about and I was fully prepared to give this 4 stars until I reached those chapters of blatant exposition and realization (and the excessive post-New York chapters). Not a bad read.

TITLE: The Chaperone
AUTHOR: Laura Moriarty
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2012
DATE FINISHED: 29 September 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. Interesting, but too heavy handed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

downton's back!

Downton's back!

In the UK, that is. But also for us stealthy, impatient Americans watching the third season online months before it's set to premiere in the United States (in March, I think?).

I've written about Downton Abbey before and that post is my second most-viewed post on this whole blog, so I'm gonna go ahead and assume that at least a few of you share my enthusiasm for this old-fashioned English soap opera. If you don't and you have no idea what I'm talking about, I highly encourage you to check out that previous post, which is full of explanation and pictures. It even features a book review (The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes) and two parody videos.

I would love to chat about the two episodes out so far from season 3 (which is set in the Roaring 20s, by the way), but it doesn't seem right when it's not showing in the U.S. right now. So until it comes to PBS this winter, my lips are sealed. I will, however, leave you with a few photos . . .

Congrats to Maggie Smith for her Emmy win!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

ttt: unfinished series

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is top ten unfinished series. I'm not sure how to rank unfinished series (#1 is the series I most want to finish? #1 is the series I would rather eat than finish?), so these aren't in any true order. I just included all of the unfinished series I have under my belt, excluding the crazy big series we all read as kids. You know, Nancy Drew, Dear America, Sweet Valley Twins, The Boxcar Children. Did anyone ever read ALL of the books in one of those series? If you did, please comment below. I'm incredibly impressed.

Top Ten Unfinished Series

1. The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)* by Stieg Larsson. 2/3 finished.
  • Why unfinished? Just taking a break really. I'll get to the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest soon.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. 1/3 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I only read #1 a month ago. And while I enjoyed it, I think I'm good. Maybe I'll get around to reading the others someday, maybe not.

3. The Shadow of the Wind* by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. 1/3 finished.
  • Why unfinished? Anyone else unaware that the The Shadow of the Wind is a part of a series of sorts? I only learned this a few months ago and it blew my mind. I loved SOTW when I read it years ago, but I had no idea The Angel's Game, Zafon's next book, was connected to it. That was followed by The Prisoner of Heaven this year. From what I've heard, they are all stand-alone novels, but very connected. I've had The Angel's Game on my shelf for years and with my new knowledge that it's all a series, I hope to get to it very soon.

4. Wideacre* by Philippa Gregory. 1/3 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I just forgot about it, I suppose. Wideacre was a crazy, crazy book but still very entertaining, and hopefully I'll get to the sequels soon.

5. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. 1/3 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I just really disliked it. See my Goodreads review for more explanation.

6. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. 2/4 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I read the first two largely so that I could understand what this whole craze what about and have an educated idea of how to argue for/against them. After two books, I think I got the general idea.

7. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. 2/5 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I really enjoyed the first book and the second was good too, but I just got distracted, I guess. I don't think I'll read the rest of the series, but I have scanned through plot summaries to find out what happened to the characters, which shows I was fairly invested in the books.

8. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. 3/10 finished.
  • Why unfinished? Another great series I began as a kid and abandoned due to distraction. The first book was the best, but I enjoyed the others. I won't be finishing these, but I would certainly recommend them to preteen/teen girls.

9. The Giver by Lois Lowry. 1/4 finished (the 4th is due out next year).
  • Why unfinished? We read The Giver in my 6th grade English class. It was very good, but there were other things I wanted to read more than the sequels.

10. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. 1/2 finished.
  • Why unfinished? It just wasn't my favorite.

11. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. 1/4 finished.
  • Why unfinished? We read The Hobbit in my 7th grade English class and I found it very boring. No desire to read the others in the series, though I do find the movies entertaining (albeit confusing and complicated). I'll definitely be seeing the movie adaption when it comes out this December.

12. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. 1/13 finished.
  • Why unfinished? I was too old to truly appreciate this series, I think. I read the first as a teenager and enjoyed it, but never got around to the others. If I'd been a kid during their great popularity, I think I would have loved them.

* I intend to finish all starred series.

Monday, September 24, 2012

the fault in our stars (with pics!)

UPDATE: Check out the trailer for the movie adaptation here!

I normally stray away from YA books and cancer books are even worse (so much crying and heartbreak and drama . . .), but I really enjoyed this. It's been getting rave reviews for months now and I can see why. The story is simple and reads quickly, but the characters will stick with me a long, long time.

Hazel is a 16-year-old girl with cancer. At one of the youth support group meetings her mother pushes her to attend, she meets Augustus Waters, a 17-year-old boy in remission. He only has one leg (the other was removed due to his osteosarcoma), but he's gorgeous and incredibly charming. Hazel is hesitant to get to know him (she hasn't been very social of late, due to her health), but Augustus is so eager and earnest, she lets him into her life. They fall in love, of course, but what can you expect? Of course their story is a sad one. In a book about kids with cancer, it'd be unrealistic for the story not to be sad. But it's still so, so good. It's not at all the sappy, melodramatic "cancer book" you might imagine (Hazel herself remarks at one point that she hates "cancer books"). Humor permeates throughout, even in some of the serious bits, and the romance is sweet and believable. I also loved the realistic hobbies of these teens: Hazel is known to watch marathon sessions of ANTM (America's Next Top Model) and Augustus is often found playing video games with his friend Isaac (who also has cancer). It's easy to connect with such relatable characters.

My only problems with the book were when it veered away from that very realistic portrait of teenagers. Augustus's metaphorical cigarette was a bit much (the argument could definitely be made that he is a Manic Pixie Dream Boy) and occasionally his speech was too mature (I can't imagine a 17-year-old non-writer writing "My thoughts are stars I can't fathom into constellations," though that is a nice line). Also, the whole trip to Amsterdam and the subsequent meeting with Hazel's favorite author, Mr. Van Houten, were kinda crazy. But you know what? It's a YA book and I bet if I'd read this when I was 15, I wouldn't have cared at all about the unbelievability of it. I would have been completely charmed. 

This is now one of my favorite YA books and when I hear about teens diagnosed with cancer, I will always think of Augustus and Hazel. 

Very much recommended.

TITLE: The Fault in Our Stars
AUTHOR: John Green
PUBLICATION DATE: 10 January 2012
DATE FINISHED: 20 September 2012
VERDICT: 4/5 stars. Fantastic read.

When I really like a fictional character, I always look on Google and DeviantArt to see if someone has drawn/painted a picture of the character. It's great to see different artists' interpretations (especially if the book is not a movie, so actors have no effect on the facial details). After finishing The Fault in Our Stars, I was pleased to find a lot of great drawings of Augustus and Hazel. Here are my favorites:





Thursday, September 20, 2012

a book hangover

This is how I'm feeling since finishing John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. I'm not a YA reader and I definitely steer away from tearjerker stories, so I am a little surprised at how affected I've felt since finishing the book. It was very, very good and I'll definitely try to get a review up in the next day or two. It's not a perfect 5-star read for me (I reserve 5-stars for my favorite, favorite books), but it came pretty close, I'll say. I just can't get Hazel and Augustus out of my head.

Do you ever feel like you have a book hangover? It's always especially weird if I finish a book in a public place, I think, and I feel like I've had this big moment while everyone around me is going about their lives. The power of books!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

sacré bleu: a comedy d'art

Summary from Amazon: It is the color of the Virgin Mary's cloak, a dazzling pigment desired by artists, an exquisite hue infused with danger, adventure, and perhaps even the supernatural. It is . . . Sacré Bleu. In July 1890, Vincent van Gogh went into a cornfield and shot himself. Or did he? Why would an artist at the height of his creative powers attempt to take his own life . . . and then walk a mile to a doctor's house for help? Who was the crooked little "color man" Vincent had claimed was stalking him across France? And why had the painter recently become deathly afraid of a certain shade of blue? These are just a few of the questions confronting Vincent's friends—baker-turned-painter Lucien Lessard and bon vivant Henri Toulouse-Lautrec—who vow to discover the truth about van Gogh's untimely death. Their quest will lead them on a surreal odyssey and brothel-crawl deep into the art world of late nineteenth-century Paris. Oh lá lá, quelle surprise, and zut alors! A delectable confection of intrigue, passion, and art history—with cancan girls, baguettes, and fine French cognac thrown in for good measure—Sacré Bleu is another masterpiece of wit and wonder from the one, the only, Christopher Moore.

I really wanted to love this and I suspected that I might. So many elements of the subject matter appeal to me: Paris, Montmartre, the 1890s, the Impressionists, a love story. I also wanted to read something by Christopher Moore, who has been recommended to me by a number of people. 

I did like the book, but I can't say that I loved it. First of all, I really didn't find it funny. Just a few bits humored me (not enough to laugh out loud), and lots of the jokes fell completely flat. Especially the repeated penis jokes. They just weren't funny to me at all. And when your book is called A Comedy d'Art, it really should be funny. Luckily, I've read in a lot of reviews that this is Moore's least funny book and that it's just very different from his other books in general. So I definitely won't be judging his merit as an author on Sacré Bleu

Now that all that's out of the way, here are some things I liked and didn't like about the book:

- The setting (1890s Montmartre, Paris, France).
- The blue type (just blue enough to be noticed, never affecting readability).
- The color photographs of paintings mentioned (invaluable in a book like this!).
- A lot of the characters (Lucien especially, but also Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissarro, Renoir, etc.).
- The ending (too many books end in a lackluster or frustrating way, but this one was nearly perfect).
- Moore's explanation at the end of what he made up and what actually happened.

- The love story, sometimes. Highlight here for spoiler! I couldn't get behind Bleu as a heroine or love interest. She's done too much bad for Lucien to truly forgive her. 
 - Some of the jumping around (the story isn't linear and sometimes it got frustrating).
- The story. Whoa! Big one, I know. But while the idea of a magical blue paint appealed to me, I didn't like the explanation and history behind it. Highlight here for spoiler! It took much too long for us to learn why the Colorman and Bleu used the paint. And for immortality? That just didn't cut it for me. The Colorman's life is so unsatisfying, I don't know why he would want to live forever. And the fact that they had to destroy the glorious paintings was just too painful to read about. I think Moore could have come up with a better explanation for the paint . . . Like if the Colorman was a suave, handsome young man living a life of fun and women, and the blue paint was like a drug for the artists and inspired/helped them to paint wonderfully. But the cost of painting so wonderfully was that their bodies would waste away. So instead of the Colorman gaining strength from destroying the paintings, he would gain strength from destroying/killing the artists . . . I just didn't like the explanation behind the paint and when the whole book is riding on that, it's hard to like the story. That is why the book was such a struggle for me. I got bored a lot and frustrated that all these elements I liked (setting, characters) were revolving around a story I wasn't drawn into or convinced of, combined with attempted humor I didn't find funny.

So while the ending tempted me to say I give this book 3.5 stars, I have to stick with 3. I loved some aspects and I really disliked others.

TITLE: Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art
AUTHOR: Christopher Moore
DATE FINISHED: 18 September 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

on the road (an update)

Since I wrote a whole post last week about cringeworthy books and said I planned to read the most cringe-inducing book of the bunch (according to the article), On the Road by Jack Kerouac, I thought I should do an update.

I said I was going to read it now, while I'm still young, since most readers seem to agree that the prime age for On the Road is your early twenties. But . . . I'm sorry to say that I bowed out early. I've been trying very hard this year to stick to my promise to myself that I won't waste time reading books I'm not enjoying. And I wasn't enjoying On the Road

I made it to page 50 and I didn't hate it, but I just didn't like it enough to read the whole thing. There isn't a true plot (which I knew going in) and I had a hard time relating to the characters. It feels a lot like a journal in its writing style and, like a journal, it isn't always interesting to people who aren't the author. Lots of "I went here . . . I saw these people . . . We did this . . . We did that . . . Then I went here . . . Bob was there . . ." 

I wasn't cringing, but it's definitely not my sort of book. And as they say, life's too short for bad* books!

Have you abandoned any books this year? Do you abandon books at all? I never used to, but I'm trying to now. It's difficult! I always want to give authors the full length of their books to convince me they're enjoyable.

*And by bad, I mean unenjoyable to me. I would never declare On the Road to be a bad book.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ttt: books that make you think

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is top ten books that make you think. Like many participants, I'm sure, most of the books that popped into my head first were science fiction, speculative fiction, and dystopian novels. And nonfiction, of course, but I tried to limit those choices because they almost felt like cheating. Nonfiction books are often written purely to make you think. But it's a great novel that not only entertains, but sparks discussion about life and the world around us.

SPOILERS: If you haven't read the books I list and don't want anything spoiled, don't read the "What It Made Me Think About" sections. The keywords I list give away major plot points.

Top Ten Books That Make You Think

1. Revolutionary Road (by Richard Yates)

What It Made Me Think About: Suburban Life, Parenthood, Unexpected Pregnancy, Dreams.

2. The Defining Decade (by Meg Jay)

What It Made Me Think About: Twenties, Life Timelines, Cohabitation, Job Searching, Money.

3. Never Let Me Go (by Kazuo Ishiguro) (ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITES!)

What It Made Me Think About: Clones, Art, Souls, Organ Donation, Friendship.

4. Eats, Shoots and Leaves (by Lynne Truss)

What It Made Me Think About: Punctuation and Grammar.

5. Brave New World (by Aldous Huxley)

What It Made Me Think About: Sexuality, Drugs, Conditioning, Social Classes.

6. 1984 (by George Orwell)

What It Made Me Think About: History, Big Brother, Torture, Government Power, Deception.

7. The Handmaid's Tale (by Margaret Atwood)

What It Made Me Think About: Societal Roles, Women's Roles, Sex, Government Power.

8. Fahrenheit 451 (by Ray Bradbury)

What It Made Me Think About: Censorship, Books, Media.

9. The Giver (by Lois Lowrey)

What It Made Me Think About: Emotion, Color, Knowledge, Secrets.

10. The God Delusion (Richard Dawkins) (NOTE: I still need to finish this book)

What It Made Me Think About: Religion, Science, Evolution, God, History

Sunday, September 9, 2012

podcasts for readers

I've always hated running. I'd try for awhile, get fed up or exhausted or lazy, and then not try again for months. But this summer I had more free time on my hands than usual and was also more determined than usual (because if so many people can run and enjoy it, why can't I?) and I'm slowly succeeding. It's still a struggle sometimes and my speed is on par with a turtle, but the fact that I've kept it up for about three and a half months makes me proud.

So how did I do it? This is not a fitness blog, so I won't go into the details, but there is one factor worth mentioning. 

Once the temperature dropped to the point where I could bear running outside (rather than running on a treadmill), I did, but listening to music bored me (I had previously been watching TV/movies while running). Listening to the same songs over and over (because there are only so many pump-you-up workout songs out there), I would focus on my body's struggle and become desperate to stop and walk. But luckily, I soon discovered a beautiful thing: the podcast.

If you don't know, podcasts are like radio shows. You can find them in the iTunes store (and probably other places as well) and all of the ones I've listened to have been free. All you have to do is click "Subscribe" and the podcast will pop up in your iTunes library (usually with only the most recent episode available, but you can "Get" all the episodes you want by clicking through).

And I've gotta say, they're fantastic for distraction purposes. Where songs get repetitive and feel like background noise, effective podcasts have me engaged and always thinking. They're the perfect way to make it through my runs. Sometimes I even enjoy them :O

So for anyone else needing something new to listen to at the gym or in the car or wherever else you may be, I thought I'd give recommendations for some bookish podcasts I've been loving lately. Enjoy!


The Basics: Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman (who both work at Random House) have conversations about anything book related: recommendations, critiquing book covers, books-to-movies, the importance of a good title, etc. They obviously have credentials (so you know they know what's what), but the discussions are not an advertisement for their employer. They've just got a lot of interesting things to say.

Recommended Episode: Judging a Book By Its Title (7/17/12)

I couldn't find a logo for Meet the Author, but I did find this. Yes, the kid from Glee wrote a book.


The Basics: iTunes/Apple presents this podcast, which is basically just interviews with authors. They usually begin with a reading and then move on to questions, so they're fairly lengthly. I've only listened to two and they've both been very entertaining. My only critique of this program is that a lot of their authors are not novelists but celebrities (chefs, comedians, musicians, etc.), but that can be cool too.

Recommended Episode: Stephen Colbert (10/26/07)


The Basics: Just what you'd imagine: more interviews with writers. Only this time they're presented by Barnes & Noble and they're usually videos (which doesn't mean you can't listen to them the way you would the others; you just have the added option of watching too). The only downside is that since it's not an audio file, you can't play around with your iPod while you listen. So if I want to check my stopwatch, I have to exit, stop listening, and then start again when I'm done. But it's worth it, of course. They have a lot of great authors in their archives.

Recommended Episode: Chuck Palahniuk (5/4/07)


The Basics: Writers published in the New Yorker read their favorite New Yorker-published stories (not their own, of course). And afterward, they chat with the host, New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman. This podcast is a hit or miss for me. As I've mentioned before, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, so more than half of these stories just don't do anything for me. But the ones that do have been pretty great and introduced me to new writers.

This is one that I would NOT recommend for running. Bit too slow-going for that. Great for long drives though.

Recommended Episode: Joshua Ferris reads George Saunders's Adams (8/10/09)


The Basics: Slate critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner (and frequent guests) discuss anything related to pop culture: music, TV, movies, books, etc. I've listened to episodes on Game of Thrones (the TV show), Downton Abbey, and the lies behind HGTV's House Hunters (which I love regardless, by the way).

Recommended Episode: Who Cares Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? (5/29/12) . . . in which they discuss the difference between literary and genre fiction, among other things.

I hope I've inspired you to check out podcasts or add a new one to your subscription list!

If you want more literary podcast recommendations, check out Leah's post on Books Speak Volumes. She had the same idea as me last week :) I've just added some of her picks to my iPod. Hopefully they'll become new favorites!

And I'm still a newbie to this whole podcast thing, so if you have any recommendations (book-related or not), I would love to hear them! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

writing wisdom from a favorite professor


I've been cleaning up my laptop a bit, trying to delete anything unimportant or unused. And when I found a document with just some bullet points of writing wisdom from my favorite Creative Writing professor, I thought that instead of deleting it (because I hadn't thought to look at it in a year), I would post it here. That way, anyone in need of writing inspiration could benefit as well, and I can get rid of one more unused file on my laptop!

Writing Wisdom

If you feel like your writing’s not good enough, lower your expectations (This one's my favorite, probably because it's so hard for me to do!).

When finishing a story, think about if you want readers looking forward or back.

Have a time limit for writing sessions (30 minutes is good) and don’t stop writing the entire time. This is great for anyone with limited free time (students, full-time employees, basically everyone).

Plan before you start writing, then just write. Don't check facts if they're going to slow you down. Do it later. If you keep interrupting yourself, you can never lose yourself in the writing.

Remember that fiction has a thesis statement too.

Try writing first thing in the morning or late at night, when you’re half asleep. Your mind is looser and you might find yourself writing in a different way.

Always remember that if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ttt: top ten books on my fall to-read list

This week's Top Ten Tuesday on the Broke and the Bookish is top ten books on your fall to-read list. I know I did one of these back in spring for Top Ten Tuesday, but I haven't gone back to check it since I wrote it. Fingers crossed I managed to read some of my choices. And another set of fingers crossed that I didn't roll any choices over to this list for fall!

Top Ten Books On My Fall To-Read List

The Imminent 

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

These are the books that I will be reading. For sure. No doubts (well, unless they're horrible and I decide to quit mid-way). Both are on hold at the library and once they arrive, they'll on deck. 

The Reputable

3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
4. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
5. After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

These are the three I'm most excited for. J.K. Rowling's for obvious reasons (her first book post-Potter! Possibly the most anticipated book in a decade! Is she able to write an entertaining adult novel?!? Who knows!). But Murakami and O'Farrell too. I've read a bit by them (Murakami-1, O'Farrell-2) but nowhere near enough. Can't wait to get my hands on them.

The Movie Stars

6. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
7. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

If not for their upcoming movie counterparts, these two wouldn't be on the top of my list. In fact, I wouldn't have even heard of Cloud Atlas. But in preparation for the movies, I hope to read them both soon.

The Current

8. Arcadia by Lauren Groff
9. The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
10. Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d'Art by Christopher Moore

Released within the last year and garnering wide acclaim, all three have gotten rave reviews from friends and family I trust. Hope they live up to the hype!

The Odd Ones Out

11. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
12. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Not only are they the only nonfiction, they're also falling off the edge of this meant to include only 10 list. It is Top Ten Tuesday, after all. But I couldn't keep them off!

What's on your fall to-read list? And are you excited for fall? Please say yes! I can't wait for chilly days, pulling out the jeans and scarves and jackets, leaves falling, baking with pumpkin, and of course, curling up with a good book :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

cringe-worthy books


A few months ago, I stumbled upon an article on The Awl  that asked "literary-inclined" people an interesting question: Which books make you cringe to remember?

And they weren't asking for books that the readers had always found awful; they were looking for the books that had once seemed cool or smart or beautiful, until the reader one day became disillusioned.

Here are some of the most common answers they received:

Ayn Rand
  • Nominated by Sam Anderson (New York Times Magazine)
  • Nominated by David Grann (The New Yorker)
  • Nominated by Boris Kachka (New York Magazine)
  • Nominated by Maud Newton (The Awl)

Stephen King
  • Nominated by Matthew Gallaway (author)
  • Nominated by Boris Kachka (New York Magazine)

Raymond Carver
  • Nominated by Thessaly La Force (Girl Crush)
  • Nominated by Lizzie Skurnick (That Should Be a Word columnist)

Jack Kerouac's On the Road
  • Nominated by Mark Lotto (GQ)
  • Nominated by C. Max Magee (The Millions)
  • Nominated by David Rakoff (author)
  • Nominated by John Jeremiah Sullivan (author)
  • Nominated by John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars) who wrote:
"I remember my freshman year of college, I briefly dated a junior (not to brag!) and told her that On The Road was my favorite book, and in my opinion the greatest achievement in American literature. 'You'll find that statement embarrassing in a couple years,' she said. I thought she was being so holier than thou, but… yeah."

A few people questioned refused to answer. They wouldn't be who they are without those embarrassing books, they said. Books that were once so important to them cannot be called embarrassing.

That's where I sit, I think. But then I'm still young.

That's why I find this list so interesting. Are the books I love now going to seem embarrassing in the future? Do certain books have an age limit (a point where life experience or skepticism makes the ideas in the novel seem ridiculous)?

Jack Kerouac was the most ragged on author of the bunch, which I found funny. I know a number of people around my age (18-24, let's say) who love Kerouac. Another student in my English Senior Seminar class last year said On the Road was her favorite book and, more than that, was the book that first inspired her to write. But then I also remember a professor saying once that certain books need to be read at the right age to have the best effect. For example, a high schooler reading Catcher in the Rye will likely connect with Holden Caulfield more than a forty-year-old, and thus, enjoy it more. The book's merit seems to sway depending on your age. He said On the Road is a great example and it should be read in the late-teens/early-20s when a rambling road trip with your friends sounds more awesome than stressful.

And that's why I'm picking up On the Road at the library tomorrow. Gotta read it while I'm still young!

Do you have any former book crushes you now find cringe-worthy? What do you think of Jack Kerouac or (the #2 choice) Ayn Rand? I haven't read either of them (yet!).

Sunday, September 2, 2012

city of ash

Outgoing society girl and art patroness Geneva Langley and her husband Nathan are forced to move from Chicago to Seattle because of her scandalous reputation. In Seattle, their lives became entangled with an actress, Beatrice Wilkes, itching to take the leading role at her theatre. Geneva struggles for acceptance in Seattle society, while Beatrice is forced to take on a patron (and basically become a prostitute) to out another backstabbing actress from the lead. And with the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, everything changes and the two women come together in a common goal.

If you overlook the very far-fetched plot and just roll with the unbelievability, this is an entertaining book. I love historical stories and I didn't know anything about the Seattle Fire of 1889, so it was interesting to learn about it as well as the behind-the-scenes lives of theatre workers in the 1880s. The characters were unique and well-rounded for the most part. I liked Sebastian DeWitt and Geneva best. Beatrice and Geneva's plan was far too risky to be believable and I highly doubt it could have all worked so smoothly, but I didn't really care. It was a fun book, like all of Megan Chance's historical fiction. I prefer The Spiritualist and An Inconvenient Wife, but this was good too. Just don't take it too seriously.

TITLE: City of Ash
AUTHOR: Megan Chance
DATE READ: 2 September 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars.
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