What I’m Reading: July to November

Since one of my goals for the year is to read 26 books (that’s one book every two weeks for those of you playing along at home), I thought it might be fun to share some of the books I’m reading and liking with the internet.

I think this is round four.  I’ve lost count.  I finally got myself an Amazon account and I subsequently feel like a much more grown up human.  One of my first purchases was a Kindle which I’ve been LOVING.  I’m devouring books at a crazy rate with this thing.  I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think there something to do with not quite comprehending how much I’ve read on the electronic format.  Not knowing how far I’ve gone makes it easier for me to plow ahead.

Out of Oz by Gregory McGuire
The fantastical conclusion to the Wicked series, follows the journey of Rain, the granddaughter of Elphaba, more commonly known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Since we last saw the Land of Oz, the conflict with Munchkinland has grown into the beginnings of a full blown war. Rain joins the not-so-merry band of The Clock of the Time Dragon, and begins growing up on the road. Along the way we run into familiar characters such as Brr, more commonly known as the Cowardly Lion; Candle and Liir, Rain’s parents; Dorthy, the strange girl from Kan-sis; and eventually, Tip, a character new to the Wicked series, but recognizable to fans of the Oz-verse.
Just like the others in the series, Out of Oz is a complex book full of unexpected turns and a new way of looking at the traditional Oz-ian legend. It recalls on your knowledge of the three former books in the series as well as testing your memory of the Oz books you read as a child. As always, the Land of Oz is filled with strong characters and gorgeous settings. As the final book in the series, it does not disappoint.

The Shack by William Young
This book was heavy. There were a lot of good thoughts and a lot of hard ideas to think on wrapped in a narrative that was both supernatural and a little bit loopy. A lot of people think this book is the be all end all of explaining a lot of spiritual things (or at least, that was what I was thinking heading into it), but I wasn’t overwhelmed by it as much as I was expecting to be. It was good. It’s not a desert island book though.

Uglies by Scott Westerfield
I read this entire book in a day. Insane. To be honest though, I’m not surprised by that one bit. I’ve been meaning to pick this up for years, and it was the first book purchased on my Kindle. I loved pretty much everything about his book. Adventure, Utopian society, and YA romance. Pretty much perfection. My only qualm with it being that it took this long for me to pick it up. I feel like it would have been much more impactful when I was 16. I’m not sure that it was published when I was 16 precisely, but even a few years closer to Tally’s age it would have hit closer.

Daisy and the Pirates by JT Allen
This is more of a short story that I read for one of my internships, but I’m including it because it’s fantastic and it can be bought on Amazon.  It’s a Kindle-only book, but absolutely worth it if you have a Kindle.
It’s a little bit Swiss Family Robinson, where Daisy and her family are on a boat that gets taken over by pirates and wind up shipwrecked on an island, find pirate gold, and have to somehow take said pirates down.  Of course Daisy manages most of it on her own because YA and adults are stupid, but that aside, it was a really quick, really fun read.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I love this book. So much. I was drawn to it at first by it’s title alone. I am a fangirl, but the idea of fangirls and specifically of fandom and fanfiction isn’t really acknowledged in media. Which is fine with me, but it was striking to see something acknowledging it at all. Secondly, I found out recently that it started as a NaNoWriMo novel. Can anyone say awesome? Because I can.
Besides the clear love of fandom, this is also a very real story. It follows a freshmen in college as she works through college, relationships, life, and fandom. She’s a famous fanfic author which I love. Not gonna lie, I kind of want to be Cather.

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A little bit slimmer on the reviews this round because a lot of what I’ve been reading is scripts that I’m not allowed to talk about.  Or maybe I am.  Honestly, I’m not sure, but to be on the safe side I’ll not.  Besides, I would rather save this space for prose books that everyone can buy as opposed to insider movies that wont be out to the general public for years if they ever make it past the production phase at all.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Any recommendations for me?

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What I’m Reading: March to May

Since one of my goals for the year is to read 26 books (that’s one book every two weeks for those of you playing along at home), I thought it might be fun to share some of the books I’m reading and liking with the internet.

This is round two, and I’ve gone through another 6 books.  I’m sort of impressed with my progress.  Lately I’ve found myself reading for hours on end.  I keep looking for the midpoint, the next round of plot development, something to up the stakes.  I keep remembering that books don’t have the same structure as television does.

1984 by George Orwell
Written during the beginning of the cold war, 1984 portrays a society where everything is regulated and the only emotion is hate.  Big Brother, the ruling power that may or may not actually exist, controls the past the present and the future, with his minions updating the records every time something changes so that the history books say that things were always as they are.
I don’t really know what my opinion on this book is other than finally understanding the references to it.  I’m happy to now be one of the enlightened, but other than that I have no strong feelings for of against it.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Of savages and class societies, Brave New World examines how the introduction of one “savage” impacts others in the society.  In a world of birth control and mass consumption, we see the flaws of the system resulting in a writer, the savage, and the savage’s keeper being given a choice: stay where they are or be sent away where no one will see them again.
It’s a classic, and I enjoyed it.  It get’s pretty deep, and sheds light on the world in which is was written as much as the possibilities still to come in the world we live in today.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Leviathan and John Green
Once again with my love of Young Adult literature   This one is written from the point of view of two guys both named Will Grayson, and the perspective flip flops between them.  While I liked the story, one of the Will Graysons seemed to think in one of my pet peeves (where everything is lowercase even when things should be uppercase. like the beginnings of sentences and the word i) which made it hard to concentrate at first.

Long Drive Home by Will Allison
This is the beginning of my reading novels meant for actual adults (beyond the classics).  Written as a father’s confession to his daughter about how he and her mother broke up, it’s a touching, yet sad story of the end of a marriage due to a series of mistakes and half truths.  A quick read, and a touching story.

Love is the Higher Law by David Leviathan
Upon seeing the cover of this book I immediately checked it out.  It’s about three kids and their memories of 9/11, and the friendship they began because of the events following the attacks.  It’s a topic that’s very close to my heart and with the recent attacks on Boston, all the more real.  Again, this book is told from shifting perspectives, and in the best way possible.

Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close
A book about women and their love lives.  This book has so many characters it makes my head spin a little.  They are all somehow connected to the main three, Isabella, Lauren, and Mary, who all live in New York and are trying to find happiness in their jobs and in their love lives.  It chronicles them watching as friends get married and they are bridesmaids again and again.  The large cast of characters was a little disorienting at times, but overall I really loved this book.

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I seem to be making much quicker work of 26 books than I thought I would.  I suppose I was in a state of inertia where I hadn’t read anything for so long that I didn’t know if I would be able to continue, but now that I’ve started I can’t seem to stop.  Have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Any recommendations for me?

What I’m Reading: January to March

Since one of my goals for the year is to read 26 books (that’s one book every two weeks for those of you playing along at home), I thought it might be fun to share some of the books I’m reading and liking with the internet.  So far I’ve finished six so far which I’m pretty happy with, and I’ve also gotten a few more in the works.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
This one is sort of an ‘untold story’.  A fictionalized account of the life of Alice of Alice in Wonderland fame.  I’m not sure how much of it is true (and to me it doesn’t make much of a difference), but it follows young Alice begging for the book to be written and then the repercussions throughout her life.  I’m a nut for both historical fiction and grown up versions of children’s stories, so this one was a win/win for me.  Fantastically well written, I would recommend this one to anyone who fondly remembers Alice.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I have been an avid VlogBrothers subscriber for a while now, but hadn’t read any of John Green’s book until The Fault In Our Stars came out last year.  I loved it and knew immediately that I would have to read his others.  Looking for Alaska is about a guy at boarding school getting to know a girl named Alaska who–nope, not giving it away.  Just read it.  It’s awesome.

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith
A book my sister gave me for Christmas, Glaciers is a novel following the musings of a young woman.  What it lacks in plot it makes up for in beautiful prose.  You get to know Isabelle, her present and her past, as she recalls memories of growing up in Alaska.  Glaciers is a great book, but it certainly is not for everyone.

Messenger and Son by Lois Lowry
These two go together and are the continuation of the universe established in The Giver and Gathering Blue, books I read a long time ago when I was a kid.  Both look into the world of the village that Jonas sees at the end of The Giver.  Time has past and Jonas, is now the leader of the village.  He helps Matty, a messenger between the village and outsiders to use his gift to heal the wounds of the town.

Later in Son, Claire, a young woman from the community where The Giver began, tells her side of the story as the birthmother of Gabe.  The book follows her journey to find Gabe and runs into characters new and familiar in the process.

I would recommend both of these books.  While they are aimed towards young adults (remember my love of them?), they both, along with their companions The Giver and Gather Blue pose lots of good questions to readers of any age.  In fact, I almost think that I got more out of them this time around than I did when I had first read their predecessors.  Reading these was like returning to an old friend, a true joy.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kind of a “and now for something completely different” moment right here.  Mindy Kaling was, of course, one of the writers of The Office, and currently the creator and star of her own show, The Mindy Project.  The book is a memoir (I guess?  I’m not really sure about the definition of these things) of her childhood and her quest to be a writer/actress on stage or screen.  It covers up to and partially including her time at The Office.  Just like she is on screen, Mindy is entertaining and engaging on a page.  And funny.  Of course funny.  But you already knew that much, right?  Recommended to anyone who enjoyed Bossypants by Tina Fey.

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I am still reading, though somewhat less lately, I expect to have another review post in a month or two.  In the meantime, have you read any of these?  What did you think?  Any recommendations for me?

The Fine Line Between A Young Adult and Me

Jessie Willcox Smith's illustration of Alice s...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my newly acquired free time, I have been reading constantly.  I’m surprising myself even, by reading more than I am watching television.  I have finished five books since the start of the new year, and am set into a sixth.

The interesting part though, is the books that I’ve been choosing.  Out of the five finished, three have been young adult books, and a fourth was a rehash of sorts of Alice in Wonderland.  Clearly I have a type.  On one side I feel this needs no explanation   What’s not to like?  But all the same I want to share my exuberance for this genre with you.

Besides being short, well-written, and easy to read–at least from a college level’s perspective–young adult novels have a lot going for them.  They often deal with big themes that are still just as scary as a “grown up” as they are for kids.  Things like self-discovery and knowledge, love and loss.  As a teenager I wished these things would happen to me.  Now, I’m glad that most of them didn’t.

Books have a way of highlighting and heightening the good times that I remember from my own past.  Characters in books were not bogged down by things like math homework and chores.  Or at least, if they were they didn’t seem to take over a character’s life.  Books remind me of the times that I like to remember; an idealized version of my childhood and teen years in which I spent hours at friends houses and the only homework that needed doing was the fun parts.

Furthermore, I find the books that I’m finding or returning to are by the same authors I read as a kid.  Their voices and writing styles are quietly familiar.  Sometimes, they are loudly recalling the books I read as a kid (as is the case of Son, the final in a quartet by Lois Lowry).  Other times they are simply a similar feel (I never read John Green’s books as a kid, but love them now).

Whatever the reason, I will happily continue to read books “below my reading level” as long as they interest me.  While I am glad to read more grown up books, I see no reason to stop reading my current favorites as well.  Besides, the fiction section of the library is huge!  How am I going to find stuff I like in that monstrosity?