Saturday, August 12, 2017

I've Moved!

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Book Review: The Circle

“You sit at a desk twelve hours a day and you have nothing to show for it except some numbers that won't exist or be remembered in a week. You're leaving no evidence you lived. There's no proof.”  
― Dave Eggers, The Circle

Book Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Publication Date: 2013
Genres: Adult Fiction, Sci-Fi
Goodreads Rating: 3.46 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. 

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. 

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

1. I'm shook. This story has me shook. It feels strange and wrong to even be typing this right now, to be sharing this with the world, to be garnering likes and comments from this post. The world that Eggers created in this book is so close to home -- too close to home.

2. This main character. I have a loyalty to the main characters of books, especially if it's not omniscient writing. We, as readers, have a tendency to trust the main characters of books and rely on them to tell us the truth of the story. So when Mae starts her descent into the world of The Circle and, realistically, falls into this cult of a company, I looked for her redemption. When will she see the light? When will she wake up from this craziness? When will she see what Mercer and her parents and, later in the book, Annie and Kalden are all telling her? When will she save the day?

3. Mae, as a character. Honestly, Mae is a bit of a fluff character. She stands as a vessel for others to fill, without any real original thought or motive. The moment she starts experiencing real feelings, she runs back to her desk and immerses herself in the virtual world that is social media.

4. Which is why this hits hard. I see this in myself and the people around me. Feelings get too real? Run to Facebook for a bit. Life is hard? Scroll through Instagram and watch cat videos. And that is why this book shook me. The writing was good, but not great. The character development was meh. But the world, and the commentary that Eggers makes about our reliance on technology... that's what shook me. (And made me give this book 4 stars.)

This book serves as a cautionary tale for when it becomes to easy to associate likes with real life.

“You know how you finish a bag of chips and you hate yourself? You know you’ve done nothing good for yourself. That’s the same feeling, and you know it is, after some digital binge. You feel wasted and hollow and diminished.” 

“Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know- they'd trade it all to know they've been seen, and acknowledged, that they might even be remembered. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment.” 

“I mean, all this stuff you're involved in, it's all gossip. It's people talking about each other behind their backs. That's the vast majority of this social media, all these reviews, all these comments. Your tools have elevated gossip, hearsay and conjecture to the level of valid, mainstream communication. And besides that, it's fucking dorky.”

“This was a new skill she'd acquired, the ability to look, to the outside world, utterly serene and even cheerful, while, in her skull, all was chaos.” 

“It occurred to her, in a moment of sudden clarity, that what had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external- it wasn't danger to herself or the constant calamity of other people and their problems. It was internal: it was subjective: it was not knowing.” 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Review: The Love Interest

“I don't exist to teach her a lesson, and it irks me that she thinks labelling me is okay now. Like, by liking guys, I automatically take on that role in her life. That I'm suddenly a supporting character in her story rather than the hero of my own.” 
― Cale Dietrich, The Love Interest

Book Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Publication Date: 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, LGBTQ+
Goodreads Rating: 3.22 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

1. Ok well. Let's address the elephant in the room. That cover... is awful. If I were looking in a bookstore, there is no way in hell I'd pick up this book. Lucky for me, this was one of my Book of the Month choices, and I read the synopsis before I really looked at the cover.

2. Sci-Fi? Fantasy? Nope. It's YA, and it took me a minute to figure out if it was a Sci-Fi/Fantasy type book, but nope. Just secret corporations doing super shady shit, which, hello, welcome to 2017. The fact that everything was SO PLAUSIBLE while also being so terrifying really drew me in from the first chapter. I really actually liked the main character (which is good, since it's first person point of view), and I wanted to know more about this life he was living.

3. Diversity! I don't generally read LGBTQ+ books. Not because I avoid them, but because they are not really prevalent in my circle of reading friends. However, in the interests of reading more diversely, I'm glad I took a chance on this book. I don't feel like I'm spoiling much by telling you it's LGBTQ+. It's pretty obvious from, like, the second chapter and there are quite a few twists in this book that really took me for a spin later on in the novel.

4. Is this the best book ever? No. It's super cheesy sometimes, super obvious sometimes, and I rolled my eyes on more than one occasion. But I'm trying to overcome some book snobbery here and remind myself that not all reading has to be literary masterpieces, and apparently, this book was just what I needed to pull myself out of the book-blahness that I was experiencing. It was so nice to be swept up immediately in the story, and I'm so glad I gave this book a chance.

This novel swept me up from page one, and, while it sometimes crossed into cheesy-YA, it was a quick read that kept me guessing the whole time.

“His use of the word 'she' makes me flinch. He said it so confidently, like I would only ever want to kiss girls. I know that's not the case, and that wanting to kiss another boy is perfectly normal, but he doesn't seem to know that. What am I supposed to do, contradict him and make this a big thing? I could never do that because I'm a Love Interest, but the fact that he didn't even give me the option to be gay makes me want to throw something at him.” 

"These books helped me get through some pretty terrible stuff, and it's only now that I'm out that I've realized how attached to them I am. They're all a part of me."

“I guess I thought I was straight just because everyone treated me like I was, and no one ever gave me a chance to think otherwise.”

"'People don't have to save the world to be good,' says Trevor. 'John Green gets that, and I do too. All you have to be is honest and kind, and then you're good.'"

"The boy looking back at me isn't me. He's an idealized version of myself, what I wished for whenever I felt ugly or unlovable. It's myself through the lens of someone who loves me."

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I Joined a Club

For my birthday, my mom wanted to get me a new purse. Don't get me wrong; I like purses. I'm just not big on spending a ton of money on a really nice purse that I will get tired of in a month and/or will end up ripping to shreds because I don't treat it like the hundreds-dollar purse it is.

Nice sentiment, mom, but if you're going to spend some money on me, I'd rather it in book form.

So I did some research, and I ran across the Book of the Month Club! It's a subscription service that delivers a book to your door every month. That's it. No fuss, no gimmicks, no spending $50 a month to get a billion bookmarks and merchandise I'll throw away anyway.

I've fallen into an awful reading slump the last couple of months... I blame that mostly on Jeromy being done with tax season, the sun being up until 8:30, and a what-feels-never-ending list of house improvements for us to work on before the summer gets too hot. So, although my first book came in April, I'm just getting around to opening the box and digging in to my first book choice!

I'll save my thoughts on it for a review later, but I was so excited to open this package and see a mini-coloring book, a few color pencils, and a note from the BOTM judge who chose this book for April. It was a small treat to get in a $10 package! I'm looking forward to my year of Book of the Month, and I hope I'm filling my shelves with some must-reads!

The link to the Book of the Month website is a referral link, meaning I get a small credit on my account for anyone who subscribes using that link!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

My Favorite Goodreads Hack!

First off: Are you on Goodreads?! It is one of my favorite social media platforms, because, of course, it centers around books. I love peaking at what my friends are reading and finding book recommendations based on what I've already read. Plus, they have a yearly challenge that is my favorite challenge to meet every year.

So if you aren't on it yet, go ahead and join. I'll wait right here.

I've had two problems with Goodreads since I started. The first problem was that I couldn't mark rereads on the website. If I read the book multiple times (which I love to do), I couldn't accurately show how often I've read the book. In February, Goodreads fixed this problem!

Now, I'm going to tell you how to solve the second problem I have. It is not difficult to fix, and I'm probably not the first person to realize how this works, but I only discovered it a few days ago and it's too good not to share.

So my other biggest problem is that once I moved a book to Read, I couldn't take it off my list completely. I wanted to keep track of books that I've started but didn't finish, and the only way to do that was keep them in Read and put them in a separate list labelled did-not-finish.

But, because I am the most OCD, it bugged me that my Read list wasn't accurate, and worse, that I was getting book recommendations based on these books I didn't like enough to finish.


There's a nifty tool that Goodreads has built in to their bookshelf feature that will allow you to remove books from your Read list completely to mark as Didn't Finish.

First, go to Goodreads and click My Books at the top.

Once you get there, look on the sidebar where you see all of your bookshelves. Click on Edit.

That will bring you to a list of all of your bookshelves. If you don't already have a list titled "Attempted to Read" or "Didn't Finish" or "HATEHATEHATE", make one now!

Then click on the box labelled Exclusive next to that bookshelf.

By clicking this button, you are lumping this Attempted to Read bookshelf with the Read, Currently Reading, and To Read bookshelves. This exclusive button means that a book can only be in one of these categories.

Thus, when you add a book to Attempted to Read, it takes it out of Read! PROBLEMS SOLVED.