Monday, May 31, 2010

May is the cruelest month

Being an elementary school teacher can give me a case of the mean reds at any time of year but May is the worst. There is too much going on, too much to do, too many nights & weekends spent in my classroom, and too much pollen in the air. Also too much chocolate consumed.

But it is now Memorial Day and happily the end of May. I still have to write report cards and do a fair number of unpleasant end of the year tasks but it is less soul defeating because there are only 9 school days left.  I can do anything for 9 days!

Which leads me to this post of laziness. I've been reading over the past month I just don't want to stop and think and write about most of it at this point so here is my wrap up:

This was a fast paced & suspenseful romance novel with a mystery thrown in for good  measure. It was a good stress reliever.

I enjoyed all of these books on writing and they were easy to read little bits at a time while I was so busy with everything else. I liked The Writer's Idea Book and Pen on Fire the best.

I can't bring myself to post the covers for the next two books I read seeing as they feature burly Scottish men in kilts. But I did enjoy reading Lucy Monroe's Moon Awakening and Moon Craving. They were a clever mix of werewolf supernatural stuff with historical Scotland stuff. They were light and fun to read. These would join Be My Baby in the stress relieving category.

This is a book I loved! It is a hilarious semi-spoof of all the supernatural teen books out there and I had so much fun reading it. I was honestly laughing while reading and I can't wait to read the next one in the series. After I finished it I checked out Rachel Hawkins' blog which was pretty entertaining too.

Being pretty much antisocial I don't like developing relationships with bookstore employees. It's one of the reasons I love buying books online so much, it's why I love the self-checkout machine at the library, it's why I alternate going to Barnes & Noble or Borders so nobody gets too familiar. I just have no desire to talk books with the store people. They try to recommend things when they see what I'm buying and I shoot them down when I tell them I've already read whatever they are hawking at me. They keep trying. It gets embarrassing and turns into a conversation about how I must read so fast and aren't I lucky. I end up feeling like a stuck up rhymes with witch. Which leads me to Franny & Zooey.

There is a teeny tiny independent bookstore near my school that I hardly ever go to because they don't stock a lot, they have a cat that makes me sneeze, and it is so small that you are forced to interact with the 1 employee. I was buying some really random books (cozy mysteries, The Carrie Diaries, a few romance novels, etc)  that I did not want to talk about at all with this lady so I threw Franny & Zooey on top to confuse her. Which worked out well for me too since I really liked this book. I liked enough to give it its own post in the upcoming future.

 I adore Jennifer Echols so I was super excited that this sequel to The Boys Next Door was finally out! I loved it! I think there should be a new YA sub-category for romantic realistic fiction that features beaches (or lakes), summer activities (wake boarding or going to summer houses or lifeguarding, etc), and having crushes on boys you grew up with who are also your older brother's friends. One of my other favorite YA books, The Summer I Turned Pretty, fits in nicely too.

I think this could be like how there are a bunch of different vampire or werewolf YA titles or how the Harlequin rack at Walmart features 10 different books with titles created from Mad Libs that you know all have the same plot (The [Greek or Italian or Russian or sometimes even Sicilian] [Tycoon or CEO or Executive or Millionaire or even better Billionaire's] Virgin Bride. I also love the Harlequin titles that all feature doctors and their lovahs. How do I get the job crafting those titles? I want it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Tryst, Elswyth Thane

"Sabrina had never picked a lock in her life, but it was done every day in books. She tiptoed along the carpeted upper passage and whisked around the corner to the second flight of stairs leading to the top floor of the house. Gripped tightly in one hand she carried her burglar tools- nail scissors with curved points, a button-hook, and some wire hairpins stolen from Aunt Effie's dressing-table." p.3

I loved this opening paragraph. I was instantly sucked in and had to know why Sabrina was out picking locks.

I wish I could remember which book list I saw this one recommended on so I could back and see what other lovely books I've been missing out on for my whole life! I got this copy from the library and it had been rebound in blank boards sometime in the past 71 years so I had no hints from cover art or jacket copy where this story was going. And I'm so glad I was able to read it with no glimmer of what was to come. I don't think I would have been quite so enthralled if I had already known the truth about Hilary's situation. That moment in the middle of the book was so stunning to me. Maybe I'm just a horrible guesser but I wasn't sure where the story would be going right up until the last pages. And, oh, the ending! I was crying but in such a happy, content way.

There's been so much fuss about supernatural romances written for teens over the past few years and I have definitely enjoyed my share (Hello, Twilight!) but this one is on such a higher plane. I think about Caitlin Flanagan describing her earlier reading life:

"...never have I had such an intense relationship with books as when I was a young girl. I raged inside them and lived a double emotional life (half real girl, half inhabitant of a distant world)."
 That is how I felt when I read Tryst. And I wonder how I would have felt if this book had fallen into my hands at age 12 instead of 28. If I was a librarian I would be foisting this on all the Twihard tweens I could find.

I loved that so much of Hilary and Sabrina's romance is developed through their shared love of books; Sabrina getting to know Hilary through his boyhood library, their mutual rereading of Kipling's Kim, and I love Sabrina's bookish questions for Hilary:

"Most of them were well worn, and looked very traveled. There were odd stains and injuries to their bindings. Some of them appeared to be have been chewed by mice or beetles. Some had got wet. It was hardly possible for books which had remained all their lives at Nuns Farthing to look like that unless he had slung them round the garden and dropped them in the bath.

If he came back that would be one of the first questions she would ask him- What have you done to your poor books?" p.26
At any rate I loved it. I need to find my own copy now and I am alternating between wanting desperately to find more of Elswyth Thane's novels to read and being really afraid they won't live up to my high expectations at this point.

The real thing that I keep wondering about is this:  are there more books like this out there? Tryst was perfect for me and, greedy and impatient reader that I am, my thoughts have turned to finding more books like this one. And I don't know how to find them. At this point I'll settle for rereading. And renting this:

Tryst Review
Amazon Reviews

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Carrie Diaries, Candice Bushnell

Monday was one of the worst days at school in a long time so I ended up having a self-pity fueled trip to the nail salon. While I forcing myself to relaxI read an excerpt of this book in Teen Vogue. I can honestly say I would not have bought this one if I hadn't read the excerpt first. I've only ever seen Sex & the City episodes in the past few years thanks to reruns on cable so I am by no means an expert or a super fan. But I did enjoy reading about teen Carrie.

My favorite part of the whole book came in that first chapter:
"Not that I think I'm so talented or anything, but for once in my life, I was hoping I was." p.3

I also loved this:
"I'm thinking that you probably won't like me because I've never been to Europe and I'm not sophisticated enough. "Have you ever been to Paris?" I ask.
"Sure," he says. "Haven't you?"
"Not really."
"That sounds like being a little bit pregnant. You either have been or you haven't."
"I haven't been there in person. That doesn't mean I haven't been there in my mind." p.94

I so relate to both of those quotes. The hoping you really are good enough at something and the being to Paris in your mind thing. I was reading a review of Weetzie Bat on jezebel the other day and the writer mentioned never wanting to go to Los Angeles because it could never live up to the LA Weetzie lived in and I'm starting to feel that way about Paris... except I would still go if I had the chance! But in some ways I do feel like I've already been there at least in my mind.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I especially loved the last section of the book when Carrie started writing her articles about high school. And I loved that she didn't take Lali back. Maybe I am not forgiving enough but Lali was a horrible, horrible friend. There is just no excuse for her behavior and I loved that Sebastien was his same loser self with her as well. I also really liked the last page with Samantha picking up the phone. It's making me want to read volume 2 now!

And I personally really loved the cover art with the whole homage to Stephen Sprouse. It has interesting textures that give it an almost trompe l'oeil effect.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Body Finder, Kimberly Derting

This book freaked me out late last night! I finished reading it around 1am and was convinced I was hearing creepy noises. Of course, I needed to soothe myself by trekking out to the kitchen to scavenge for hershey's kisses before I could go to sleep in peace.

I loved the romantic story line in this book. Jay is the embodiment of the perfect teen boyfriend fantasy: best friends since childhood, neighbors, conveniently turned attractive over the summer, adorably romantic & protective... my favorite parts of this book were the sections with Jay & Violet.

The suspense in this book was so intense. I appreciated that the crimes were not graphically described but it was definitely enough to scare me. I am really glad that there are more books planned in this series. More Jay & Violet!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How I Write: Secrets of a Successful Author, Janet Evanovich

I love Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and have always thought she seems like a very down to earth and fun person. My most recent book buying binge centered around books about writing so I couldn't resist adding this one to the pile and I'm glad I did.

This is a very straight forward, clear, and helpful book with tips and hints for all facets of writing. It also made me want to reread some Stephanie Plum and for Stephanie to commit to one of her gentlemen friends!

Fine, I'll Go Online!: The Hollywood Publicist's Guide to Successful Internet Dating

I think that I have convinced myself that the act of reading these dating self-help books will somehow count as me making an effort in the world of dating without me actually having to talk to real, living people. I can tell myself that I am getting out there without even leaving my house. It's a great plan!

I think I just need to get mentally prepared for the thought of actually going online and this book was a very optimistic and realistic guide to trying online dating. I liked Leslie Oren's tips for writing your profile and the tips for the first few emails as well. I just need to baby step my way into actually signing up somewhere.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Facing East: a Pilgrim's Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy, Frederica Matthewes-Green

Every time I find myself daydreaming of going back to school to study something expensive, time consuming, dilettantish, that is completely unrelated to my career leading to no secure alternate career I always try to slap myself in the face with some advice I read once:

"I just think it would be fun to spend a few years in grad school."
"Remember...If you have a burning passion for Victorian poetry, you can probably satisfy this passion by yourself. Force yourself to read a few dozen academic books before deciding to dedicate your life to a subject. That is what one does in graduate school anyway. Most learning is unsupervised, independent, and onerous. Why pay or work according to an institutional timetable unless one needs an academic credential?"
-Thomas H. Benton, "So You Want to Go to Grad School?", Chronicle of Higher Education

So in the spirit of attempting to not become a grad student doing something like this (cause I'm sure they're looking to fill their quota of Mormon girls) I have a stack of books to make myself read starting with this one. I'm also going to read Lewis's Reflections of the Psalms, Joan Chittister's The Liturgical Year, and the Oxford History of Christian Worship.... we'll see how that goes in reality.

I really enjoyed Facing East. I want to get my own copy. It is definitely something I would like to reread and refer to. I was familiar with Frederica Matthewes-Green's writing in various articles I had come across and I enjoy her style. It was also fun to read this account of a new congregation being created while having the luxury of googling them to find out how things have turned out for them in the past 15 years or so since she was writing this.


"The first generation is lit with a flame, but its task is to box that flame. The second generation is the curator of the museum-exhibit of its parents' passion. The third generation wonders where the fire went and longs for revival. So it goes, inevitably I suppose, and I don't see any way to prevent it. We have to box the flame; we have to build a church." p.42

"We are bowing before an image. In Protestant eyes, this is dangerous stuff."
look up Shusaku Endo's The Silence p.47

"Help, help, someone is trying to bring beans into the house..." p.54

"In Orthodoxy I'm always singing, 'I've got my Vespers in the morning and my Matins at night." p.58

"READER: What caused thee, O Judas, to betray the Savior? Did he set thee aside from the disciples?
PEOPLE: Did he deny thee the gift of healing?
READER: Did he take supper with the others and send thee away from the table?
PEOPLE: Did he wash the feet of the rest and pass thee by?
READER: Of how much goodness hast thou become forgetful?" p.63
I love that last line. It reminds me of "here's my heart, o take and seal it"

"In this drama we are moving from darkness to light very gradually; in a few moments we will be mourning again. It is a distinct departure from my experience as a Protestant...." I like the entire paragraph that follow this. p.71

I want to look up so many of the hymns mentioned, including this one:
"Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand,
Ponder nothing earthly-minded, for with blessing in his hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand" p.75

"It's an odd gap between that small vignette of fear and retreat and all that came next: the Apostles' relentless courage unto death, unascribable to mere fond memories of a really nice dead guy; the preaching of the Gospel across the Mediterranean bowl, the persecutions and martyrdom, the establishment and rise of the Church, and finally the disintegration of Christendom in these times, perhaps a prelude to full-circle persecution and martyrdom. But at one mesmerizing  moment, the news of Christ's resurrection was held by a handful of women who were too scared to tell anyone. But tell they did, and the story went on unreeling, and now we are standing outside in the windy dawn, on a shabby street in a little town, half a world away and two thousand years later." p.84

Another hymn to look up:
"Before dawn the myrrh bearing women..." p.86

Look up: Howard Finster p.95, Hikari Oe p.137, bread for Artoklasia p.163, St. Euphrosynus, Romanian Christmas carol mentioning apple trees at the gates of heaven p.174

"I didn't know how much I didn't know; I didn't realize that most of what I needed to learn wouldn't be found already lodged inside my smug little heart." p.115

"To think that there were people who actually died for this faith I hold so comfortably, and I barely know their names." p. 169

And after all that typing I am only half way through all my little flagged sections. Needless to say this book gave me a lot to think about as well as several different "rabbit trails" to head down. I'll add more when I am in another typing sort of mood.

It's Not Summer Without You, Jenny Han

I have been waiting to read this book ever since I heard there would be a followup to The Summer I Turned Pretty. I was actually pretty surprised to learn there would be a sequel since it doesn't seem to happen with realistic fiction YA's as much as with the supernatural ones. But I was a very excited kind of surprised because I love, love, loved The Summer I Turned Pretty.

Where to start with my gushing? I love Belly. I love Jeremiah & Conrad & their fierce mom & even annoying older brother Stephen & especially sweet Susannah & not to mention how much I love the beach they get to spend their summers at. Last year's installment sent me into prolonged  and involved fantasies of a beach house vacation for several months to no avail. At least this time I expected to be obsessed with summer vacations spent at the seaside. I want to go to there!

This book surprised me. I thought I had a handle on where things were headed with Belly's love life at the end of the first book and well, I was wrong. As I was reading this plot twist was making me mad but by the time I finished (and after rereading book 1) I realized that this was exactly how Conrad would behave because in the end he is kind of a jerk. A jerk that is sensitive and still a good person in his way but definitely not the hero on a pedestal that Belly had created in her mind. And that is the problem. I was swooning and rooting for the Conrad Belly had imagined and he doesn't really exist.

I liked that sections of this book were in Jeremiah's point of view as well. It would have been interesting to hear from Conrad as well but then again that might have swung my sympathies back in his favor which would have left me in an even bigger knot of nerves about how this series will end. I like my happy endings so I am a little stressed imagining where the 3rd book will take things.

This book made me tear up in several places as well. The storyline with Susannah was so tender and bittersweet. I am so impressed with Jenny Han's writing to have a story that is romantic and beachy (in a good way, of course) but still has some big issues handled seriously as well.

I loved this book and I loved rereading The Summer I Turned Pretty. I'm just mad that I have to teach school for 6 more weeks and deal with a bunch of unpleasantness before I can begin my own summer. I need a beachhouse! Or maybe more realistically just a subscription to Coastal Living.

Julia Quinn Roundup

I've been reading over the past week or so but with no desire to record anything at all. I continued to love Julia Quinn's fabulous Bridgerton series and made it to Book #8 as quite a happy reader. I love that each book (as each Bridgerton) was unique and different but at the same type reliably entertaining with a satisfying happy ending. Reading these books brought out my inner BSC fangirl. Just like I knew I could trust Ann M. Martin's comforting consistency, I loved knowing what to expect in terms of the setting and background characters in these stories. And I continue to adore the pretty UK covers which have been arriving in my mailbox one at a time over the past few days. I'm just sad that there are no more Bridgertons left to read about.

Blog Template by