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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Book Review: The Sun is Also a Star

“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.” 
― Nicola Yoon, The Sun Is Also a Star

Book Title: The Sun is Also a Star
Author: Nicola Yoon
Publication Date: 2016
Genres: Young Adult Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.19 Stars
My Rating: 4 Stars

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

1. Diversity! The part that stuck with me the most how diverse these characters were. I don't often read works from POC authors (although it was one of my goals to incorporate more diversity into my reading choices this year), and when I do, I find the plot often feels forced, or the book focuses on historical events. Yes, absolutely, we need to go back and inform people about the POC accomplishments in history, but that shouldn't be the only story written.

2. A love story. This was, in fact, a millennial love story. Girl who is on the brink of being deported spends the day trying to avoid leaving the country (and her life) behind. Boy who is pressured by his parents to be a good student has to come to terms that he may not want to live up to his parent's expectations. They meet and have this quirky relationship in the course of a day.

3. So cheesy, and a bit stereotypical. There were points in the book that felt forced... the author occasionally fell into tropes rather than creating real, well-rounded characters. It was a bit expected and sometimes completely obvious. But... I didn't mind it so much. I saw the purpose and I was able to look past some of the cliches.

4. Sidenote. Hands-down, the best parts of the book were the sidenotes. Every couple of chapters, the author would give us some historical facts on a random plant or animal that the characters were talking about. Or she would expand on a random character that the main characters met in passing. Or she would expand on the idea of love or music. And these were the best parts! It was a pleasant surprise to get a bit of side story in the midst of this crazy plot.

It was a fun read, especially if you're looking for a light-hearted, modern-day romance, and it allows for diversity to be incorporated in a very real, honest way.

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.” 

“We have big, beautiful brains. We invent things that fly. Fly. We write poetry. You probably hate poetry, but it’s hard to argue with ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate’ in terms of sheer beauty. We are capable of big lives. A big history. Why settle? Why choose the practical thing, the mundane thing? We are born to dream and make the things we dream about.” 

“Growing up and seeing your parents' flaws is like losing your religion. I don't believe in God anymore. I don't believe in my father either.”

“People just want to believe. Otherwise they would have to admit that life is just a random series of good and bad things that happen until one day you die.” 

“I think all the good parts of us are connected on some level. The part that shares the last double chocolate chip cookie or donates to charity or gives a dollar to a street musician or becomes a candy striper or cries at Apple commercials or says I love you or I forgive you. I think that's God. God is the connection of the very best parts of us.” 

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.