Stories & Characters That Stick With You – A Playlist 


*Sighs dramatically* 

You guys, I’m going through some terrible ACOMAF (A Court Of Mist And Fury) withdrawal. I’m talking like, the book hangover to kick all book hangovers to the curb. Despite reading so many awesome books to finish out last year, and quite a few great ones so far this year, none of those books have kept me so invested in their stories and their characters, as well as cause me to think so fondly about it, quite like this series has. I tried to read and get into Sarah J. Maas’ other series, ‘Throne Of Glass’ after finishing up ACOMAF, but it just didn’t do it for me. It didn’t pull me in like ACOTAR and ACOMAF did. Maybe it’s because ACOTAR gave me such a book high. Or maybe it’s because I was technically late to the ‘Throne Of Glass’ party, but I just wasn’t as invested in the story or the characters as I would have liked to be. 

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Bookriot.com: Librarians Don’t Read All Day

Ain’t that the Truth!

I thought this piece on Bookriot today was so spot on about working in a library. As someone who does work in a public library, I can attest to what the writer is saying here when she says she could fill a book with how many times people ask her if all she does at work is read all day. Today, libraries are so much more than places to just come and read. Yes, it is filled with as many books as one can get their hands on, but it’s also a place where people come to use the computer for children’s programs, tutoring, clubs and organizations, schoolwork, job opportunities, or simply because their printer stopped working. The library is a good place to work if you love books, but if you think that’s what you’ll be doing all day while you’re standing/sitting behind a desk, think again. Check this out if you’d like! Bookriot is also a great site filled with book recommendations, author profiles and interviews, and even giveaways!

I also wrote a couple weeks ago about what my experience has been like working in a library in response to another Bookriot post about being a librarian.

Review: Thanks for the Trouble

Last week I finished reading ‘Thanks for the Trouble’ by Tommy Wallach. The story is about a teenage boy named Parker Santè. Parker likes to skip school and hang out in hotels. He spends his time there observing the guests at the hotels, sitting alone with his notebook. However, Parker isn’t so much as observing their wealthy lifestyles in envy as he is  scoping out their pockets and purses to steal. As Parker sits in the hotel lobby, he notices a girl nearby, sitting alone. And she has silver hair and a huge wad of cash by her side. Parker immediately begins writing a story about her and her beautiful silver hair. It’s also good to mention that Parker hasn’t spoken in five years, since his father died. Since then he hasn’t wanted to speak. Especially not since he stopped going to speech therapy, which in turn aided in Parker losing his ability to speak. Instead ,Parker fills his notebooks with responses to people’s questions and answers. 

When the silver haired girls leaves her table, Parker immediately notices she forgets her wad of cash. Hit with a dilemma to either take the cash and run, or wait for the beautiful silver haired girl to return for her money, and a chance to maybe get to know her, Parker decides on the first. What ensues over the next few days of Parker’s life is more than he could have imagined. The silver haired girl turns out to be a young woman named Zelda. Zelda has lived a pretty broad life. With enough experiences to fill a stack of Parker’s notebooks. 

When Zelda returns to the table she confronts Parker about taking her money. From there they converse about why each other is at the hotel alone in the middle of a random afternoon in October. When Zelda reveals to Parker her plans for her wad of cash and what she plans on doing with herself after the money is gone, Parker is perplexed by what he hears. To halt Zelda’s decisions, Parker agrees to let Zelda feel like a teenager again in exchange for Parker to apply to college. Their next few days together are short but open up new possibilities and means to an end for both of them. 

I don’t want to spoil anything about this book because it was just so lovely. It read and flowed like a Wes Anderson film, whose films are my FAVORITE, by the way. The way the characters were developed was very Wes-like. At the end is a hidden lesson and wise takeaway. Please read this gem. If books could be like indie films, this one would be like one very much. 

My review: 4/5 stars. 

Review: We Were liars

Hello there! Okay, this review is late, because I literally finished ‘We Were Liars’  by E. Lockhart, A WEEK AGO TODAY, BUT, last week I was in a meh mood, still am, if I’m being totally honest, but I knew I should at least take those meh feelings and use them to write something. Alright, enough rambling. I need to talk about this book because OH MY GOD.

I did enjoy reading this. The chapters were short and sweet, but laden with loads of story. But I will be honest in saying that there were a few things that bugged me. So the story is told through the point of view of a preppy, wealthy seventeen year old girl named Cadence. The story  opens up with Cadence reminiscing about the summer of her fifteenth year. Something happened to her, and she doesn’t quite remember what that is. The only thing she lets us know in the beginning is that one night, during that summer, Cadence wakes up on the beach alone.

Throughout the novel, Cadence goes back and forth between summers current and past. She tells of spending her childhood summers at her grandparent’s summer beach homes on the island of Beechwood in Windmere. For some reason they have three beach houses which is like, MUST BE NICE, but also, how would you not feel small like a piece of furniture, barely used knowing you have 3 beach houses to occupy? (That’s just me) Well, Cadence comes from a pretty wealthy family so that’s why.

Cadence lives in Vermont with her mother. Her father left them a year before. Cadence spent her all of her childhood summers with her cousins Johnny, Mirren, their younger siblings, and Johnny’s friend, Gat, whom comes along with Johnny the summer of their eighth year and returned every summer since. The flashbacks to these early childhood summers reminded me of my summers growing up, spent at the local pool with my cousins and sisters or spending a week at my aunt’s mother in law’s lake house.  Those summers will forever be engrained in my brain because at the time I thought they would go on forever. It always seemed that the closeness of our relationships with one another would stay the same way forever. Sadly, they haven’t and it’s something I wish for and reminisce every day.

Okay, back to the book. Cadence takes a liking to Gat over the years. When they’re fourteen, Gat and Cadence kiss for the first time even though Gat has a girlfriend back home in New York. I really liked Gat. He’s a very honest character and he didn’t shy away from talking about the truth. One day Cadence’s grandfather sees Gat and Cadence kissing in the attic and he tells Gat “to watch out for his head on the way down the steps”. Gat realizes he is saying this because Cadence is the oldest of the family and she is the one to inherit the money and estates, something her mother reminds Cadence of constantly throughout the novel. Cadence assumes he means the low ceiling, but Gat knows what he really meant: “stay away from my privleged, white, granddaughter you poor, Indian boy!” (this part made me angry and was the straw the broke the camel’s back in terms of my dislike of the grandfather in this story)

Another thing I liked about Gat was that even though Cadence was pretty clueless about what her grandfather said to Gat in that moment, Gat knew that her grandfather didn’t really enjoy him being there and he tells Cadence later in the novel that she doesn’t know him or about his life back home in New York. They’re from different worlds, and she needed to understand that who he is on the island is not who he is in New York. Cadence takes time to process what he says and she eventually confronts her grandfather about this which I loved.

I did like Cadence’s character a lot because she come to the realization that she is a member of a very privileged white family. There’s a moment where she decides to give away a lot of her things, partly because her mom hates when she does so, and also because she realized that she has so much and that not every teen her age is in her position. The feeling of realzing who she is from a privleged standpoint and not wanting to turn out like her mother and family is an inducement for what happens towards the end of the story.

Cadence suffers from bad migraines due to a brain injury. Cadence spends the present summer back on the island. Only half the time she spends it in bed taking painkillers and trying to remember why things are different from they used to be. Her mother and aunts spend every day drinking and fighting over the houses and her grandparent’s things. Her grandfather can’t seem to remember her name. He keeps calling her “Mirren” as if Mirren weren’t there too. I don’t want to spoil anything in the novel. But I will say that a few things are not as they seem. And the ending is kind of twisty. All in all, I’ll give it a 4/5 stars.

The writing was good. The only part that annoyed me a bit was how Cadence talked to and about her cousins and Gat. It was too polished and refined for a seventeen year old girl in my opinion. However, I did enjoy this and it is a good, quick read, especially for the lat spring/summertime. I reccomend it if you like tories that make you think and twists at the end.

Brooklyn Review


I know this review is a tad late, but such is life. I finished reading ‘Brooklyn’ by Colm Tóibín last week and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having seen the movie prior to reading it, I was familiar with the story and feel that the movie followed the book very well. If anything the movie inspired me to read the book since there are some added events that aren’t in the movie, which is typical for most book to film adaptations.

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Happy 100th, Beverly Cleary!

Yesterday, April 11th 2016, marked the 100th birthday of a renowned and most beloved author, Beverly Cleary. What a milestone! Although she retired from writing in 1999, Beverly Cleary’s books still continue to draw kids into the magnificent world of reading. From the “Ramona Quimby” and “Henry Huggins” series to “Ralph S. Mouse”, Beverly Cleary has written more than 40 books, respectively.

Cleary’s books were the first chapter books I not only delightfully devoured, but recall reading through on my  very own. Until I discovered Mrs. Cleary’s  literary universe, the only chapter books I was experienced to were the ones my mother would read to my sisters and I during school nights at our kitchen table. When I first discovered Ramona Quimby, I was 8 years old and stumbled upon a ‘Ramona Quimby’ 4-book box set after receiving our monthly Scholastic Magazine one day in third grade. After begging my mother to allow me order the box set I couldn’t wait for it arrive. And when it did, I immediately dove in and found a friend and fellow younger sibling connection in Ramona Quimby. I read and re-read about the adventures of Ramona and her journey through 3rd grade as well as her life in a middle-class suburban family. Ramona may have been a third grader, but when I read about her coming home from school to a family stressed out about their financial situation like mine often was, I felt like I had gained a sister in a way. Romans was a kid, sure, but she saw the realities of life and Beverly Cleary never wrote those realities out or sugar coated them. She let them be as they were. And it poses the question that, maybe  reading about Ramona’s third grade level, albeit still highly relevant anxieties, was the first outlet I had for dealing with my own undiagnosed anxiety at the time.

When I think of Ramona I tend to think about an instance that occurs in “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” when Ramona, previously told she is a nuisance by her teacher, feels sick in class, but she’s  afraid of being exactly what her teacher deemed her to be. Instead she decided not to say anything, and then the inevitable occurs and Ramona vomits in the middle of class, for all to see. Although I thankfully, never had that experience in school, I do remember being afraid to raise my hand in class for almost anything, I remember the anxious feeling that I was an “annoying student”. Beverly Cleary didn’t just write embarrassing and sticky situations for Ramona and then leave her to experience them, shrug it off and go on with her life. She also wrote about the after effects of those situations, like Ramona lying in bed at night after throwing up in class that afternoon, replaying the events over and over in her mind. (Which I still do quite often, even if they’ve occurred TEN YEARS AGO) What I mean to say is, Beverly Cleary wrote about a lot of things kids experience in grade school and she wasn’t afraid of covering all the bases. Kids have embarrassing moments, but they don’t get over them or reach a resolution at the end of the day like a character would in a sitcom. They live through it and learn from it and as a young reader, you did too, just like Ramona.

Among those connections to Ramona as previously mentioned, another was how Ramona grew up with a big sister like I did, named Beezus, who wasn’t afraid to tell Ramona like it is. She let Ramona know when she was being annoying or bratty or funny, like many siblings do. (Looking back, I’m pretty grateful for this because it saved me from wearing a plethora of tacky outfits growing up) Ramona and I were so similar, that I almost felt like Beverly Cleary took a look at my life and wrote a book about it. Ramona wanted to be like her big sister Beezus and her friends, I had similar yearnings as well.

Beverly Cleary will forever be an inspiration to me and to anyone else whose childhood was defined and captured by her stories. *raises glass of pink champagne* Happy birthday, Mrs. Cleary. Here’s to you and to many, many more years of your beautiful presence and influence on behalf of me and all the  Beverly Cleary readers both young and old, out there!

If you’re interested in learning more about Beverly Cleary, check out her website which includes information about her life, career, and books. While you’re at it, check out an interview on PBS.org titled “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Beverly Cleary” , that includes some interesting facts like how she struggled with reading as a child and how a young boy from Yakima, Washington inspired her to write one her most famous characters. *Another notable article is this one from the New York Times 

 

What Kind of Reader are You?

Bookriot is one of my favorite websites for all things books. They’re always up to date with the latest releases and never shy away from shouting out some of the classics, weekly. Today they posted about the different kinds of readers determined by some of the characters from Parks and Recreation. I’m a cross between a Leslie, an Ann, and a Donna. How about you? Take a read and see for yourself! Book Riot

 

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Do We Really Read Our Audiobooks? 

I have a complicated relationship with audiobooks. I’ve only started listening to them recently. And although I find them enjoyable, I can’t help but feel a bit lazy when I do so. But how can that feeling of laziness be attributed to something that makes reading more accessible to those who not only have reading disabilities, such as dyslexia, but also those who are blind? Audiobooks have come a long way, from tapes to now digital MP3’s, they really offer an experience to reading that can make you feel like you’re almost in a movie, smack dab in the middle of the action. Not to mention some great narrators from celebrities to even the author’s themselves. (Ex. Like actor and comedian Aziz Ansari does in his book of relationship essays Modern Romance)  I’ve always been one to cheer anyone on who is reading. I don’t care what you’re reading, you’re reading! And that in and of itself, is wonderful. But personally, when I listen to audiobooks, I find myself hit with the question of am I really reading? Am I listening to the words and picturing in my head the rising and falling actions? Am I invested in the characters? What about my Goodreads Challenge? Does it count if I didn’t “read” the book? All of these questions are the reason why I have a weird relationship with audiobooks. To me I find it better to focus on the story if I’m holding either a book or my Kindle in my hands. There’s something about holding a book and feeling like you’re ready to go on an adventure. And maybe if you listen to audiobooks often you experience that same feeling whilst on a long road trip. I guess the phrase “To each their own” really applies here. I think I need to open up my mind to audiobooks and not be so quick to assume I won’t be able to place myself in the story as easily as I can with a book. I’m going to keep trying and keep reading or, listening. I think I needed to write this blog post so I could gather and sort out my feelings on audiobooks once and for all. So if you enjoy audiobooks, keep listening! You are reading. If you’ve never tried listening to one, I strongly reccommend giving them a try. And who knows? You might find yourself getting lost in the story! 

 

Book Guilt

 It’s time we’ve had this discussion. 

A discussion about book guilt.

We’ve all had it, we all feel it, we all wish it didn’t hang over our heads like a dark, angry cloud or run through our minds like an annoying task on our mental to-do lists that doesn’t seem to get checked off.

How many times do you find yourself reading a book that you enjoy, yet you can’t help feeling like you just want to get it finished? So, you try to convince yourself that if you just finish said book in a certain amount of days or hours, that you’ll feel more accomplished as opposed to if you took your time and said “Screw it! I’ll finish it when I finish it!”.

Or maybe you’re talking books with a friend and they ask you what book you’re reading, and you reply with an over exaggerated reason why you’re enjoying it, but not really enjoying it because it’s actually killing you inside to finish  it, making you a big, fat liar? I don’t know how many times I’ve beat myself up after telling people I enjoyed a book when I really didn’t. And the worst part is, usually when I do that, I’ll recommend the book to them. Almost as if to say “Here! Take this book that I told you I loved, but I actually hated and cannot stand to see ever again!  Maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I did!”(I wish I could say this, because it would actually be the truth) Instead I light up my eyes and say, “I LOVED IT SO MUCH, you should read it!”

The truth is, it’s okay to not like a book you’re reading. It’s okay to put it down if it’s not pulling you in. Sometimes covers can be deceiving, much like our sometimes phony praise for the books we can’t seem to get through. If you’ve truly loved every book you’ve ever read, then congratulations, you’re a robot. It’s time we stopped putting ourselves down when we give up on a book. It’s all the more reason to find another we’ll actually enjoy! 

Book guilt comes in many forms. Another form of book guilt I often find myself dealing with, is reading more than one book at a time. There’s nothing wrong with reading two books or three or ten books or even twenty! That’s great! Go you! Some readers have a difficult time putting their minds into more than one book, while others just crave a change of setting or tone and need to escape one book for another for a while. 

What I’m trying to say is, book guilt is real and it’s everywhere and it’s OKAY and it’s not something to hide or feel ashamed about feeling. 

From now on I’m going to pledge to not feel guilty if a book is taking me forty days and forty nights to read. If I’m enjoying it and my mind turns off all other things when reading it, that’s all that matters, really. And go ahead, read another book on the side, the other book won’t know, IT’S A BOOK! (This is also the only instance in life where cheating is deemed acceptable)

Good luck, and happy reading!

An Ode’ to ‘Wishbone’

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It’s funny to think that a Television show on the PBS network in the 1990’s would be considered one of the driving forces for my childhood literary habits, but here we are.  I love to read. (You’re probably thinking, obviously, Irene, you made this book blog) However, whenever I think back to the times of my childhood when my mother tried to get me to read the “Great Literary Classics”, I remember mentally rolling my eyes and being filled with so much anxiety, pressure, and dread to read these books and enjoy them because I was 6/7 years old and I had to make my mother proud!

Enter ‘Wishbone’:

Growing up in my early years, my family didn’t have cable television. We had free, basic cable and the only station that I sat myself in front of the TV for hours on end was PBS. My options were  among, but not limited to: Arthur, Dragon Tales,  Mister Rogers, Barney and Friends and Wishbone. The first time I ever saw ‘Wishbone’ I remember thinking, “This is it! This is my gateway to not actually reading these boring books my mom wants me to read! What better than a show about a dog or a REAL, LIVE, TALKING dog no less, whose episode titles were titles of classic literature mixed with dog puns! (i.e. The Prince and a PAWper) To me, a dog dressing up as the famous literary characters my mom kept rambling about and being thrust into the pages of the story was my problem solved. (This wasn’t my exact thought, but you get the idea)

With Wishbone I could sail a boat on the Mississippi with Tom Sawyer, fall asleep for 20 years as Rip Van Winkle, and relate the heroic and brave story of Joan of Arc to the badass side-story of Sam, the best friend of Wishbone’s owner, Joe, who became the only girl on the boy’s high school basketball team. Wishbone told these classic literary tales in their true form. Sure, he was a talking dog interacting with humans from the past, but the stories never strayed from their source. I loved Wishbone SO MUCH, that I read the Wishbone easy-to-read chapter books. I also remember receiving Wishbone computer picture print-outs from this boy that went to my church, for no reason other than because he knew I loved Wishbone. I was OBSESSED. I was even Wishbone for Halloween. And I will tell you, that was my FAVORITE costume I ever wore. Even though half the kids in my first grade class didn’t even know who Wishbone was,  I WORKED IT ANYWAY.

So here’s to you, Wishbone, whose real name was actually Soccer. I know you’ve probably passed on by now, but it is because of you and PBS (IMDB) that I love reading and know enough about classic literature to write a one whole paragraph summary of classics from ‘Robin Hood’ to ‘Don Quixote’

Here’s a funny take on how the pitch for the Television series could have, but probably actually went by writer Abbey Fenbert for The-Toast.net The Pitch Meeting for ‘Wishbone’

*Here’s an embarrassing albeit memorable photo of me in my Wishbone costume circa 1999 tumblr_o45fnn3hMi1qailg9o1_1280.jpg

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