A BOOK : You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

I’ve been trying to get back to writing for myself, and that involves responding to books I’ve read. I’ve started posting reviews on my Goodreads page, but I really miss posting things on here.

So.  Here we go again!

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You Will Know Me is an unstable book where you don’t know what the heck is going on– you just know *something* is. I liked Devon as a character– she’s the daughter of our narrator and is on her way to be in the Olympics. I liked that the story wasn’t told from Devon’s perspective, but of her mother. Her mother with all of these questions about her husband and the guilt of not being a perfect specimen for bother her kids. As a result we slowly got to see peaks into Devon– her real thoughts– as she is moving from kid to teenager, all the while dealing with this suffocating amount of pressure.

Drew was super creepy by the way!! I feel like he and Mr. Watts needed to spend more time together so they could take turns making wise, cryptic comments to one another.

There were a lot of things explored in this, almost making me want to read it again even though I have a ton of other stuff to read. If I were to read it, I would read it slower this time. Savoring the characters and their relationships and really trying to see them. My weakness with reading psychological suspense books is I get so focused on the plot– figuring out the who and why and the how, that I have a hard time slowing down to focus on everything else that is happening. And a lot is happening in this!

Read this now if you want…

-a psychological suspense
-you liked the unstable feeling The Girl on the Train gave you (if you read it) -a book with a hardcore awesomely interesting female character
-you want to see the darker side of gymnastics

Add this to your To Read shelf on Goodreads

A BOOK : A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman

I think if you were to ask me what my favorite book I read this year was, I might have to say it was A Man Called Ove. I listened to the audio, and I have to say. If you decide you’re going to read this go for the audio if you can, if only because at the beginning of different chapters it starts with, “A man called Ove….” and for some reason that line repeated again and again throughout the book just drives home all of the charm this story had.

Because my goodness, is it charming.

It’s charming yet heartbreaking and at times goofy and heart warming, but still. So, so, so heartbreaking.

Basically A Man Called Ove is about a curmudgeon-y old man who lost his wife and now doesn’t want to live himself. He likes his systems and he likes his schedules and he likes his orderliness and he likes his rules, and so every day his days follow the same patterns. He does his morning neighborhood patrol and then essentially tries to end his life. Except. Life keeps getting in the way, as things in his neighborhood get a little nutty and of course, as Mr. Uber Controlling Neighbor he butts in or is forced into dilemmas whether he likes it or not.

While most of the story line exists in the present, it flashes into Ove’s past– his relationship with his father and growing up and how he met his wife. Ove is just such an endearing character. He sees a problem, he fixes it. He’s stubborn and certainly is very oblivious. He angers way too quickly, and I’m sure he would be someone I would be hesitant to interact with in real life, but in the end he has this soft core and tries to do good and has this humble way about life and work.

I’m trying to figure out what it was about this story I liked so much. I guess, to me it was oddly comforting. It feels like as close to a fairy tale as real life can get. There are all of the hardships and disappointments, but at the end of the day life keeps moving providing alongside the broken hearts moments of joy and healing and light.

Add it to your Goodreads TBR shelf HERE

Warning: the book does discuss suicide, so if this is a triggering topic you might want to tread carefully. If you want to learn more specifics so you can decide to read or not read, just let me know and I can let you know more details.

A BOOK : The First Bad Man by Miranda July

Do you want to go on a trip?

Yes?

READ THE FIRST BAD MAN by Miranda July.

It will certainly take you on a ride.

I think Miranda July is one of my favorite authors because she focuses on the messy, awkward, gross, and strange moments in life.

In this book we have one of the most unique characters ever, Cheryl. Cheryl has kind of structured this weird life around herself. She lives in a house that came with a homeless gardener that she can’t find the ability to fire, but doesn’t want to be there when he’s there so she tries to leave the house before 7am when he arrives to avoid him and just drive around for 3 hours. She realized as a way to not accumulate dirty dishes she would only have one plate, one cup, and one set of silverware so she would have to immediately wash her current dishware. When she was little she met this young baby named Kubelko Bondy that she bonded with, and now she keeps seeing him reborn in different babies.

I could go on and on about her– she is this tangible living breathing mess of a person that has created this unrealistic view of the world that has filtered out onto the way she interacts with daily life.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the plot. It’s essentially driven by Cheryl and her reintroduction to becoming a functioning human being again once her orderly life is thrown into disorder at the arrival of a house guest. All the while you’re wondering, what could Cheryl possibly do next?

I just re-read what I wrote, and it sounds like I didn’t like the book at all which is far from the truth. I am about 95% positive that I just have never read a book like this, which makes it a whole different experience. A fun experience and funny experience and yes, I did actually write “WHAT THE HECK” in the margin of my copy, but it’s just this incredible insight into a very interesting person.

This is strangely sexy in some parts, EXTRAORDINARILY NOT sexy in many other parts and just full of humans being humans and finding meaning where there isn’t meaning,and all the way through she is just so dang poetic and hilarious.

ALSO. My favorite part of July’s writing is how often she’ll have just these great chunks of writing.

Two favorites:

“I kept my arms around him and he looked at me and I looked at him and he looked at me and I knew that he loves me more than his mother and father and that in some very real permanent way he belonged to me. Because I was only nine it wasn’t clear if he belonged to me as a child or as a spouse, but it didn’t matter. I felt myself rising up to the challenge of heartache.”

“Then I realized that we all think we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before we ask someone to love us. It is a kind of undressing.”

“When things really flow, my days become dreamlike, no edges anywhere, none of the snags and snafus that life is so famous for. After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, as if I don’t exist.”

“But my voice was too quiet, it didn’t leave my head.”

So! Add it to you Goodreads TBR HERE!

If you haven’t read her set of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You I definitely suggest it if any part of my rambling peaked your interest in July. It’s a good starter to her writing, especially if you aren’t looking for quite as many WTF moments.

A BOOK : One More Thing by B.J. Novak

18007533One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
by B.J. Novak

B.J. Novak’s One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories is an endlessly entertaining, surprisingly sensitive, and startlingly original debut collection that signals the arrival of a welcome new voice in American fiction.

Across a dazzling range of subjects, themes, tones, and narrative voices, Novak’s assured prose and expansive imagination introduce readers to people, places, and premises that are hilarious, insightful, provocative, and moving-often at the same time.

Finding inspiration in questions from the nature of perfection to the icing on carrot cake, from the deeply familiar to the intoxicatingly imaginative,One More Thing finds its heart in the most human of phenomena: love, fear, family, ambition, and the inner stirring for the one elusive element that might make a person complete. The stories in this collection are like nothing else, but they have one thing in common: they share the playful humor, deep heart, inquisitive mind, and altogether electrifying spirit of a writer with a fierce devotion to the entertainment of the reader.

Cover image and summary from Goodreads.com

I am going to start this off by saying if you decide to read this book, please, please, please, please go for the audio. It’s probably not that big of a deal if you don’t, but I am just completely smitten by this audio book. It’s read largely by B.J. Novak with a few extra guests (there’s a long list,  but the ones that have remained on the tip of my brain include Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, Emma Thompson, and Katy Perry(?!)). While the guests are fun, it’s truly B.J. Novak’s voice that won me over. His delivery is fan.tas.tic.

While not actually that long, there are a whole bunch of very different stories of different lengths, depth, and style jam-packed into this little beauty. Because of that there is time for everything– for super short poignant micro-stories that hit you over the head, to long drawn out stories where you’re not exactly sure where everything is going but you might be enjoying the ride.

Novak also has a really good understanding of the literary canon and literature as a whole, and I don’t know exactly why, but that just struck such a positive chord in my book. I think it’s partly because to me it shows that he isn’t writing a book just to write a book. My projection onto him is that he has grounding in literature, and wants to join the conversation, rather than just make an easy buck or write a book just because he can. This is just me playing pretend though, who knows how accurate that statement is :).

 Some particular favorites (these aren’t the actual titles):

“Dark Matter”
The one about Frosted Flakes
The date with the warlord
The first robot to have feelings
The John Grisham one

I think one of the reasons why I am so moony over this collection, is because of how Novak uses the element surprise and he make you think (Would you sleep with a warlord? Why or why not?). There were times when I was expecting a big revelation, but then the story just dropped. There were times when I was thinking the story was supposed to be more surface level funny, but then suddenly Novak makes some surprisingly astute observation, or at least leads you to make one of your own.

Basically, Novak really knows how to tell a story.

If words/phrases like: “smarmy bastard,” “a glint in his eye,” and, “mischievous” strike your fancy, definitely pick up One More Thing. Just a warning- if you’re going to listen to the audio there is a pretty good amount of swearing.

Check it out!

 

A BOOK: The Marriage Plot

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The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides
Published 2011

It’s the early 1980s. In American colleges, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. As Madeleine studies the age-old motivations of the human heart, real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead – charismatic loner and college Darwinist – suddenly turns up in a seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old friend Mitchell Grammaticus – who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange – resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they have learned. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can’t escape the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.

Summary and photo from Goodreads.com

At the time I am writing this post I have just finished reading The Marriage Plot and all I can say is WHEW. Not in a good or bad way, but EXHAUSTED way.

First half of the book? I absolutely loved. Completely loved. It is every English major’s or literature lover’s dream– I loved hearing about Madeleine’s paper on what is called the marriage plot (it is a reference to 19th century plot lines) and the snippets of conversations she would have in her classes. A lot of it went over my head, but I still found it interesting. Juxtaposing her own relationship issues while being a woman in 1980’s against those of a woman in the 1800’s was clever and framed the novel very well. There are snippets of so much in this– spirituality, love, feminism, mental disorders– that are incredibly wise and poignant. But then at about half way through the book, I don’t know what happened; I just lost interest. Eugenides is good with words, there is no doubt about that, but I had a very hard time sustaining my involvement with the characters.

With that being said, I love the ending. I absolutely love the last page so much. It makes me happy and it just… yea. But I had to work to get to it. Honestly, Eugenides sums up how I feel about his novel inside of his novel (I took out a few words in the first sentence to prevent spoilers):

“The experience…was like reading certain difficult books. It was like plowing through late James, or the pages about agrarian reform in Anna Karenina, until you suddenly got to a good part again, which kept on getting better and better until you were so enthralled that you were almost grateful for the previous dull stretch because it increased your eventual pleasure” (346).  That was my reading experience mainly starting halfway through the book. A lot of ups and down.

So if you are looking for a smart novel set in college or just after college? I definitely suggest picking this one up. Also, if you are into academics or literature if only for the name dropping. If you are not looking for something that is very involved, I would suggest holding off for a little bit or try Eugenides other works (I haven’t read them, but I have heard good things).

Things for you to do:
-Add this to your to-be-read shelf on Goodreads.com
-Watch a video of getbookish talk about  The Marriage Plot. She ended up loving it and after listening to her it makes me feel like I missed something. Ha! (Link sends you to YouTube- she starts talking  about it specifically at 1:20)

Thank you for reading!

4/95 books to read
This is part of my reading pursuits I mentioned in this blog post.

Great Books

I particularly liked this question Kristin Cashore answered in a Q&A over at The New York Times:

What makes a great young adult book — as opposed to a great book for full-fledged adults? 

The fact that at the moment the distinction is being made, a young adult, as opposed to an adult, is the one reading it. In other words, I don’t entirely believe in the distinction. A great book is a great book, and it’s impossible to say what part of a person is going to connect to it. Age and experience aren’t always among the most relevant factors.

Read more HERE

 

It’s Friday I’m in Book Love (1)

I’m starting a new thing based off of The Cure’s song “Friday I’m in Love” where every Friday I share something I love about books, whether it be a quote or something I just love about books and writing (or both!).  Feel free to pitch in with things you love!

(pinkbubblemonster.tumblr.com)

“Anna Arkadyevna read and understood; but it was distasteful to her to read, that is, to follow the reflection of other people’s lives. She had too great desire to live herself. If she read that the heroine of the novel was nursing a sick man, she longed to move with noiseless steps about the room of a sick man; if she read of a member of Parliament making a speech, she longed to be delivering the speech; if she read of how Lady Mary had ridden after the hounds, and had provoked her sister-in-law and had surprised every one by her boldness, she too wished to be doing the same. But there was no chance of doing anything”

Anna Karenina

I love it when you’re reading and then you realize, “that’s me.  I feel/act/think the exact same way and hope/dream of the same exact things.”  Back when I read Anna Karenina I read the above I remember being taken slightly aback- you mean, someone feels that way too?? It’s always wonderful when you find those thoughts you’ve never really aired before echoed from a source you weren’t expecting it to come from.

Books have such a fantastic power to them.  They have the ability to enchant, woo, sway, absorb, enlighten… I realize I’m probably preaching to the choir here if you’re reading my blog (what with the name of it and whatnot), but man.  Sometimes I just feel so lucky.  I’m so grateful for so many talented writers and I’m so grateful for being in a position with an incredible amount of access to such writers.

Man, it’s Friday and I’m in love:).