Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: Eligible

“There’s a belief that to take care of someone else, or to let someone else take care of you—that both are inherently unfeminist. I don’t agree. There’s no shame in devoting yourself to another person, as long as he devotes himself to you in return.” 
― Curtis Sittenfeld, Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice

Book Title: Eligible
Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Publication Date: 2013
Genres: Adult Fiction, Retellings, Chick Lit
Goodreads Rating: 3.64 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

1. I regret not picking this up sooner. Two of my friends (on two separate occasions) recommended this book to me. Both of these friends LOVE Pride and Prejudice. And I just... don't. Not to say that I didn't enjoy the book or the story, but I'm not a huge Austen fan (bring on the rotten tomatoes, I deserve them). So when my two friends recommended this book to me, I figured it was more a sentiment of them loving P&P and less because the book was good. So I let it sit on my bookshelf for weeks (months? oops, sorry Steph) and put it off. However, after a heavy binging of our most recent book club book, and all of our furniture being moved out of our house for floor work, I was stuck with no books except this one, so I finally picked it up. And it took me completely by surprise.

2. Amp up the modern. This book was adorable, and hilarious, and a completely modern take on P&P. While P&P is characteristic of it's time, Eligible took the story line and put it in a modern setting, with a bit of casual sex, some IVF, feminist icons, and a bit of transgender and multicultural characters (all of which Mrs. Bennet is frantically opposed to, of course). The characters stay true to P&P while taking on the characteristics of people living in this century.

3. Don't read the bad reviews. It is important to note that these are modern day characters. They sleep around a bit. They go on reality shows. They Google-stalk their love interests. So many of the bad reviews on Goodreads come from people who are just APPALLED by the bad behavior displayed by Austen's characters. Um... these girls are in their late-30s and they live in 2013. I'm ok with a bit of bad behavior because they are grown-ass women who aren't afraid to admit their mistakes.

4. But seriously, this was such a fun book. The writing was hilarious. The author did such a good job of keeping every word relevant and putting the characters in situations that brought out the best of their character. I fell in love with Darcy just a bit more in this book than I ever did in P&P, and Liz Bennet is now on my list of favorite literary women. I was laughing at loud at some points, which doesn't happen often. I wanted to keep picking up this book, and it kept me up way past my bedtime last night.

If you are looking for an entertaining light read (and don't mind a bit of sacrilege when it comes to Pride and Prejudice), this is the book for you!

“Time seemed, as it always does in adulthood after a particular stretch has concluded, no matter how ponderous or unpleasant the stretch was to endure, to have passed quickly indeed.” 

“Such compliments--they were thrilling but almost impossible to absorb in this quantity, at this pace. It was like she was being pelted with magnificent hail, and she wished she could save the individual stones to examine later, but they'd exist with such potency only now, in this moment.” 

“Sometimes it amazes me how much these defining parts of our lives hinge on chance.” 

“He seemed simultaneously like a stranger and someone she knew extremely well; there was either an enormous amount to say or nothing at all.” 

“'There's no better investment than your cleavage.' Charlotte smirked. 'I believe they teach that in business school.'” 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: The Problem with Forever

“It was all about trying, and that was what I would do. I would try.” 
― Jennifer L. Armentrout, The Problem with Forever

Book Title: The Problem with Forever
Author: Jennifer Armentrout
Publication Date: 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.02 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

1. Ok so I just finished this book. My reviews are never to be trusted when I'm still all up in my feels about a book. FAIR WARNING. I've read this book every moment of my spare time for the last two days. Not because I was super into the book or particularly enjoying it even, but because I was determined to finish it before book club tonight.

2. Wait, so you didn't enjoy it? Nope. I really didn't. In fact, even 150 pages in, I was still fairly certain this would be one of those books that I hate, despite everyone else loving it. But then... something switched. Sure, it was like 300 pages into the book. But all of a sudden, I saw the point to all the rambling and short, choppy sentences, and annoying characterization.

3. Oh man, Mallory. So Mallory had a pretty terrible childhood, and this whole book was about her journey to overcome those hardships. In short, Mallory is STRONG AS HELL *Kimmy Schmidt style*. Being in her brain from a first person point of view was challenging throughout the book, especially in the beginning. Mallory was nearly mute, and the author chose to portray this in her writing, which led to a lot of ........... and a lot of short, choppy sentences. But, as the book progressed, Mallory progressed, and the writing got more fluid and more descriptive and it was like Mallory was literally unfolding in front of me, which, hello, is a brilliant writing tactic. Mallory played the victim throughout almost the whole book, even though she was making these brave choices and putting herself out there, which made me want to shake her a bit because she was way stronger than she realized. And I didn't really love her and Rider's relationship until all of a sudden I SAW WHY THEY WERE TOGETHER.

4. Ok, chill out. Sorry. I warned you that I'm still all in my feels about this book. But honestly. Amazing character development, super interesting plot lines (once you make it into the book). Normally, a book that I couldn't get into until halfway through would not leave me recommending it to anyone, but this book seriously turned it around and gave me all the (mostly happy) tears.

5. So what does book club think? Well, I'm writing this BEFORE book club because I had to get my feelings out, which is so nice because I haven't had a book make me feel like this in a while. 

This book took a minute for me to get into, but once I saw the purpose behind the author's choices, I fell hard for Mallory and her people.

“I'm scared of everything,” I admitted, voice hushed. “Everything. My biggest fear is that I'll be like this forever.” 

“But... but home should be more than that,” I told him now. “Life... it should be more than that.” 
He brushes his lips across my cheek.
"It should be, but it's not for everyone. You know that.” 

“Forever was knowing moments of weakness didn't equate to an eternity of them.”

“The past never went away and it was not designed to do so. 
It would always be there, and it should be acknowledged.”

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January Wrap-Up

This month has been long and exhausting, but it has also been one of the best Januarys I have had in recent memory. I've been making an effort to be more intentional... choosing things that will bring me happiness, letting go of the things that bring me down, and making an effort to spend more time on reflection. While all things political have brought me down (down... down... down...), I've been counteracting that with things that uplift me and make my spirit sing (like watching my students in a play or cheering on my favorite cheerleaders at competition). Here's to a good start to 2017.

January in One Word: Renewal

My Favorite Memories in January 2017:
  • A lazy New Year's day after a long New Year's eve
  • Finding new and better ways to help my sanity
  • Getting into my new Bullet Journal and journaling every day for the entire month of January!
  • Bringing my cheerleaders to SCA Nationals and placing second
  • Listening to some of the most influential women leaders march on Washington
  • A long, slow, productive week while most of my students were on college tours
  • Movie dates and play dates and fun with friends
  • Finding new podcasts to entertain, enlighten, and distract me from the treadmill
  • Weekends filled with friends and family before tax season consumes our lives
Books I Read this Month: 
  • The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan (Review)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (Review)
  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  • Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (Review)
Articles from Around the Web:
    3 Things I'm Looking Forward to in February:
    • My very first Mardi Gras Ball!
    • Another book club wedding to celebrate
    • A week off for Mardi Gras, where I can hopefully put our house back together
    Favorite Quote from a Book I Read this Month:

    “As soon as my log-in sequence completed, a window popped up on my display, informing me that today was an election day. Now that I was eighteen, I could vote, in both the OASIS elections and the elections for U.S. government officials. I didn’t bother with the latter, because I didn’t see the point. The once-great country into which I’d been born now resembled its former self in name only. It didn’t matter who was in charge. Those people were rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and everyone knew it. Besides, now that everyone could vote from home, via the OASIS, the only people who could get elected were movie stars, reality TV personalities, or radical televangelists.”
    ― Ernest Cline, Ready Player One

    Tuesday, January 31, 2017

    Top Ten Tuesday: Books You've Never Heard Of

    I had fallen off the bandwagon a bit when it came to this blog, but one of my favorite features that I have done in the past is contributing to The Broke and The Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday. It gets me really thinking about the books I've read in the past. This prompt, in particular, was challenging to me, but I decided to link up some books you may have never heard of, but some that definitely deserve your attention. These are books that aren't mainstream, aren't TV shows or movies, aren't best sellers, but are great reads.

    Monday, January 30, 2017

    Book Review: Complicit

    “There are some dreams you can't wake up from. Ever. These are called nightmares.” 
    ― Stephanie Kuehn, Complicit

    Book Title: Complicit
    Author: Stephanie Kuehn
    Publication Date: 2014
    Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller
    Goodreads Rating: 3.66 Stars
    My Rating: 4 Stars

    Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

    But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

    Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. 

    Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

    1. Check another one off bookshelf. Just going to take a quick moment to pat myself on the back. I have so many books on my bookshelf that have been collecting dust, waiting to be read, and I am determined to read all of these books this year. This book.. I have no idea how I got it, who got it for me, or how it ended up on my bookshelf, but I'll take it.

    2. Bad Reviews? I'm a sucker for Goodreads. Before picking up a book, I look it up on Goodreads.. check out the reviews, see if any of my friends or book bloggers that I follow have read it, what they have to say about it. So of course, before reading Complicit, I jumped on Goodreads and saw that Jamie, from The Perpetual Page-Turner, had read this book and rated it 1 star. Whomp whomp. I wasn't going to let that distract me from my goal (see point 1...), and I figured since the book was short, I'd at least give it a try. I'm glad I did.

    3. Don't listen to them! I honestly enjoyed this book. It was a quick read, but it held my attention for the entire time I was reading (which, lately, is a feat). Yes, there were some issues with the way the book jumped around in timeline, with the character of Cate, and with the predictability of the twist, but the writing was excellent and it was suspenseful enough for me to stay up until 11 last night reading. Jamie's character was chilling and the process of trying to watch him figure out what was up with him was intriguing. AND THE ENDING THOUGH.

    4. The ENDING. Ok, obviously I can't say much on this point, but I will say this: despite the fact that I predicted what had happened with Jamie to cause his issues, I had NO IDEA the book would end the way it did. It was heartbreaking and bone-chilling and just really good. If you read it at all, read it until the end.

    This book was more predictable than I would have liked, but it didn't detract from the good writing and bone-chilling ending.

    “There are some dreams you do wake up from, only to find you can't remember them at all. But that doesn't mean these dreams don't matter... These are dream that hold our most private of truths. These are the dreams that destinies are made of.” 

    “Real crazy is about taking something good and spoiling it.” 

    "For every truth best left a lie."