Friday, September 19, 2014

Easing My Way into Contemporary Lit

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about what I've been reading lately.  At that point, it was mostly essays, non-fiction, and toying with the idea of a novella.  Unfortunately, things haven't improved with my surroundings.  But I finally got going with some contemporary novels that were and are really doing it for me.  I am a little bit surprised by this because I was really hesitant to read much of anything that wasn't a classic or wasn't a contemporary piece on the Rory Gilmore reading list.  Mostly because I'm picky and I don't want to waste my time with something that just isn't worth it.  I still feel that way, but I don't have such a narrow view on what I should consider picking up.

As I try to trace the evolution of this development, I have hazy thoughts about its beginning.  I think it started with me picking up the latest IT book for the past couple of years.  Whenever a book was super, super hyped, I'd wind up buying a copy, believing that it was going to be really great.  The few times I started reading the book, I felt let down.  A couple of others, I wound up setting in the donate pile without ever cracking the cover.  I beat myself up over this for a while, but I finally accepted it, forgave myself, and moved on.  Because life is too short, especially to be beating yourself up about something you love doing!

Ever the optimist, I kept trying.  I'd still look at the latest IT book, but I wouldn't necessarily knee-jerk buy it.  I'd read the synopsis.  Sometimes I'd wait for the hysteria to die down and try to enjoy the book on my own.  Other times I decided to pass on the book.

However, I've found four contemporary books that I am super, super excited about and have been rotating because I just want to read all of them at the same time.  If I could literally read four books at the same time (like have four monitors to simultaneously watch) I would.  But I have to pick one to focus on each day.

What I Talk about When I Talk about Running by Haruki Murakami  OK--non-fiction, but it's contemporary.  I've written before about wanting to run.  I'm seriously finally going to do it.  I have heard about this book before, but never really got a clear picture of what it was about.  The other day I impulse went to Barnes and Noble to buy this book.  I've read a few chapters and really like all of the correlations between running and writing, which is great because I really want to work on both of them.  Coincidentally, this is also my first Murakami.  It's piqued my interest in his other works, which are contemporary fiction.

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman  When I went in to Barnes and Noble the other day, I picked up a Raymond Chandler book.  Then a bargain book of essays.  Then I saw this one and impulse bought it as well.  I saw the New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year label on the front first.  Then I saw the words "English-language newspaper in Rome" and I had to buy it.  I figured that it was set in comtemporary times based on the chapter titles, but ever since I first saw Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck I've had a thing for English-language newspapers in Rome.  I read the first chapter and love the gritty, deep style of the author's language.  I can't wait to read more.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert  You'll be seeing me mention this book in next week's Top Ten Tuesday...I'm about halfway through.  I bought this book immediately after it came out and it just sat around for a year.  I think that this was finally the right time to read it.  I am falling completely in love with the language and the style.  I think Gilbert has done something great here with this sweeping epic story.  Alma is a very interesting and inspiring character as well.  The secondary characters are also very strong, detailed, and interesting.  I cannot wait to see where this one goes and hopefully I can find the time to finish this weekend!

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom  I haven't gotten the chance to pick up this one yet.  But I am really looking forward to starting.  It's about two sisters in the 1940s.  They travel to Hollywood.  New York is involved.  I LOVE reading about or studying these two places at this time.  And who doesn't love a good girl power adventure?  The cover is gorgeous.  If I weren't so embroiled in the Gilbert, I'd be all over this.

I am so happy that I finally decided to step out of my comfort zone and try all of these amazingly interesting books.  I hate to think of what all I might have missed out on.  That's not to say that I am abandoning my classics, but right now I need language that is not so dense as that of the nineteenth century or prior.

Any good contemporary literature that you want to recommend?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jamie Reviews Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Published: September 2014 - Penguin
How I Got This Book: BEA
Why I Read This Book: I knew it was related to The Bell Jar & Sylvia Plath's work which I LOVE.
Rating: 3 stars..maybe 3.5 stars.

Add it to your to-be-read-list! // Buy it! 

I talked more personally about this book on my blog, The Perpetual Page-Turner, and how The Bell Jar was important to me and about how this kind of took me back to a time in my life that was hard. So if you want to read THAT...go here! But I wanted to actually let you know more what I thought about it here!

What I Liked:

1. The plot -- it was super interesting! A girl whose boyfriend dies and she isn't handling it well at all gets sent to a special school with other kids who have some issues and needs therapy. She gets put into this mysterious English class that is super hard to get into and nobody even KNOWS how you get picked to be in it. They study the works of Sylvia Plath the whole semester and are given a journal they HAVE to write in. And what happens with the journal I'm not telling you! I was VERY much engaged and interested!

2. So quoteable: I can't tell you how many dog-ears I made with just really great lines or passages. The writing was pretty solid and it was very thought-provoking!

3. I thought I had this book's number but NOPE -- I thought I knew the trajectory of the story pretty much and let me tell took me for a bit of a ride. I didn't see something coming and how it was revealed and built-up to was SMART.

4. Some of the characters and their stories were intriguing!  I really liked our main character and some of the friends she made. I LOVED how their group came together and supported each other. I wish we would have seen a LITTLE more of the teacher because she intrigued me a whole lot.

What I Didn't Like:

1. The pacing wasn't consistent -- there were times I was racing to read this and there were other times it just was DRAGGING and DRAGGING. Too much in some places, not enough in others.

2. Way too "this is the message/lesson" -- This was a really thought-provoking novel! However, it felt almost as the author didn't quite trust the reader to glean some of the important things out of it. At the end it was super THIS IS THE MESSAGE and I felt like it was dumping it all out there to make sure I got it. Which I did.

3. Sometimes I felt we were being TOLD stuff rather than shown --  There were certain areas where I think I was supposed to feel more but instead I felt like it was just being told to me and I was like okay so this is happening. Like instead of FEELING changed attitudes and hearts..I was just told that there were changes.

Overall, Belzhar was enjoyable and engaging. It wasn't always consistent but at its highs it was GREAT. It felt unique and I loved how thought-provoking it was. In certain ways I think this could have been better but I did like it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ten Authors We've Only Read One Book From & NEED To Read More!

For future Top Ten Tuesday topics & info on how to participate, click here!


Jamie says:

 1. Leila Sales -- I LOVED This Song Will Save Your Life and have yet to read her backlist which FOR SHAME, self!

2. Nina LaCour -- I read Everything Leads To You this year and I SERIOUSLY need to check out her other books!!

Jana says:

3.  Kiera Cass -- I enjoyed The Selection quite a bit, and now I need to get myself to read the others in the series!

4. Maria V. Snyder -- I loved Poison Study, but never finished the series or read any of her others! I've heard such great things about them, so I really need to get on that.

Lori says:

5.  F. Scott Fitzgerald -- The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite novels.  I own most of his other stuff and have even started reading a couple, but just haven't finished any.

6.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- Technically I've read two novel by him, but he had such a large list of novels, novellas, and stories to his name that I need to read more.

Daisy says:

7. Guy Gavriel Kay -- I LOVED Tigana, it was epic and beautiful and I really need to read more by Guy Gavriel Kay to see if it's just as awesome.

8. Jessi Kirby -- Golden was such an unexpected love for me and I can't wait to see what else she can do!

9. Tahereh Mafi -- I can't believe I've only read Shatter Me! I do own the other two books in the series, so I'll be sure to remedy this!

10. Veronica Rossi -- Same goes for Veronica Rossi, I ADORED Under the Never Sky and PERRY! And I can't believe I haven't read the other books in the series!

If you've read any of these authors let us know what books we should read next of theirs!!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Daisy's Mini-Review of Hexed by Michelle Krys

Title/Author: Hexed (The Witch Hunter #1) by Michelle Krys
Publisher/Date published: Delacorte Press, June 10th 2014
How I got this book: received it from the publisher through NetGalley

Goodreads summary: If high school is all about social status, Indigo Blackwood has it made. Sure, her quirky mom owns an occult shop, and a nerd just won’t stop trying to be her friend, but Indie is a popular cheerleader with a football-star boyfriend and a social circle powerful enough to ruin everyone at school. Who wouldn’t want to be her?

Then a guy dies right before her eyes. And the dusty old family Bible her mom is freakishly possessive of is stolen. But it’s when a frustratingly sexy stranger named Bishop enters Indie’s world that she learns her destiny involves a lot more than pom-poms and parties. If she doesn’t get the Bible back, every witch on the planet will die. And that’s seriously bad news for Indie, because according to Bishop, she’s a witch too.

Suddenly forced into a centuries-old war between witches and sorcerers, Indie’s about to uncover the many dark truths about her life—and a future unlike any she ever imagined on top of the cheer pyramid.

So, to be honest, I kinda had to skim through the book again before writing this review, because it's been about 3 months since I read it and aside from knowing that I was kinda bored by it, I was drawing a bit of a blank. Which is not a good sign on itself.
Which is why this review will be short and maybe not really sweet, but oh well.

Basically, I really didn't connect to Indigo, she's shallow and kind of a pushover and just not my kind of girl at all. Also, she has this weird frenemy thing going on with her 'best friend' Bianca, who is most definitely not a nice girl. Indigo seemed more interested in climbing the social ladder and her date than anything and it was a bit annoying. And ugh, here boyfriend is a douche and the new love interest isn't much better, he's got this snobby doucheness going on that really rubbed me the wrong way. I mean, this is what he says to her:
“Just don’t do that anymore,” he says, gesturing to my tear-tracked face. “It’s terribly unattractive, and I do hate to be seen with unattractive girls. Bad for the reputation, you know?"

Just ugh.

It was pretty fast-paced and a lot seemed to happen, but for a book about witches, there's not a lot of witchcraft going on and I like my witchcraft in your face over the top there, but that's just a personal preference. The main problem I had with Hexed is that I wasn't invested in the story, I didn't really care about what happened to Indigo and the only character I liked was Paige, cause she seemed to be the only one who possessed a bit of common sense. I was hoping for it to get better, but I was just a bit bored and it didn't get past the 'meh' point for me.

My rating: 2 stars

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Broke and Bookish Book Haul for 8/31 - 9/13

Daisy's Book Haul

Because I have to get up today at (what feels like) the crack of dawn to leave for my mom's to celebrate her birthday, I'm leaving you with this picture and am failing to include the links and all my feels because I just don't have the time. (Well, except for a shout out to Heir of Fire because I LOVED IT!!! SO MANY FEELINGS! Review has gone up on my personal blog already) (It's more fangirling than a review to be honest)

This book haul was brought to you by my wallet and Debby who is a good friend and handed me Mortal Danger after she read it herself :)

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

How September 11th affected books

I was in the middle of another review when I realized what day this review would be posted on. September 11th. Anywhere you go there are reminders. Online. Newspapers. Fliers in the mail. That got me thinking, what else has been affected? I sat looking at my book shelves for a while, then I realized how much even books have changed. The first example that came to mind was one of my favorite book series, “So You Want To Be A Wizard”. The series recently was updated and republished. (The first book was published over 20 years ago, but only a few years pass from the first book to the most recent). In the original version the main character is on a train in NYC and makes a comment about the World Trade Center, and how many people are in the building and in Manhattan itself. In the new version she instead comments on the hole in the New York skyline.

Other books that have been published since that take place in NYC take more time to mention Ground Zero. Depending on when it was written it'll talk about the clean up, others talk about the construction of the new World Trade Center.

Of course the other change is that of the reader. It's always something of a shock when you come across a book that casually mentions the twin towers, you remember again what is missing.

What about you? Have you noticed changes in books you've read? Tell me about it in the comments!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Julia Reviews Evernight by Kristen Callihan

Title/Author: Evernight by Kristen Callihan
Publisher/Year Published: August 2014 by Forever
How I got this book: I was provided with a Netgalley book in return for an honest review
Why I read this book: I really love this series. 
Rating: 5 stars

The Darkest London series is one of my favorite series out there. It’s got everything: steampunk, romance, paranormal, an overarching plot, and characters that practically leap off the page and into my imagination. The latest book in this series, Evernight, is no exception.

Evernight picks up a year after the events of Shadowdance. Our lead characters, Holly Evernight and William Thorne, both had things happen to them in Shadowdance that effect their actions in the book greatly. So that said, I wouldn’t recommend jumping into this series with this book. And since I love this series so much and want people to read it without being spoiled, I am going to be vague about the particulars. So let's just take a peek at the characters.

First we have Holly, the intelligent inventor working with the supernatural agency in London. She creates some wickedly awesome inventions. We've seen her pop up in the series before, notably in the last book where she was forced to use her mechanical brain for evil. That whole ordeal has affected her and it carries over into this book in what I think is a realistic portal of how someone could react to traumatic events. She is very literal and speaks her mind without a second thought, a good a bad thing. She meets up with William Thorne when he tries to kill her.

Thorne is a demon known for their savoring of lust and life (and blood). He is the complete opposite of Holly: very devil-may-care, sarcastic and has worked for the enemy. They are stuck together because his heart is metal and causing an adverse reaction with the rest of his body. Holly can control metal and thus can help him keep things under control. She reluctantly pairs up with him so he can help figure out who is trying to kill her. It's a mutual trade that turns into something more.

They mix just as well as oil and water, and it is entirely believable and awesome. I love opposites attract stories. The plot is super interesting and expands on the story that is currently unfolding with this series. But like I said I don’t want to talk too much about that. Take it from me. If you are reading this series, the story just sucks you in and picks you up right where you left off with it.

One thing that I think Ms. Callihan does well is keeping her characters consistent. Frequently in series that I read, secondary characters become the heroes in their own stories. I've seen it happen so many times where a lovable secondary character that you are super excited is getting their own book, completely changes characterization when becoming the hero or heroine. It annoys the hell out of me. This series does not do this at all. Everything is consistent and I love it! The character's are still the ones you know and love (or hate) but you just get to see more of them and more of why they are the way they are. You don't backtrack on their characterization either. Things build. In my mind, this is what marks this as a great series. The characters just blossom in my mind.

One downside though is keeping track of the overall plot across books as well as of the supernaturals, their powers, who runs them, etc. It gets a little frustrating at times when I can’t remember something that I know I've read somewhere. It’d be nice if there was an online reference or something to just boost my memory.

Overall though, I really like this series, and Evernight is a wonderful continuation. It doesn't stand alone though so I would recommend starting at the beginning instead (or maybe at least reading Winterblaze and Shadowdance). The characters are wonderful, their chemistry is amazing and hot, and it’s a book that is easy to lose yourself in.

I've reviewed this whole series: Firelight, Moonglow, Winterblaze, and Shadowdance
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