Recent Reads: Seating Arrangements, Home Front, and The Girl Who Played With Fire

seating arrangements, home front, the girl who played with fire

Seating Arrangements (Maggie Shipstead): For some reason, I tend to read a ton of books like this – books where a group of over-privileged, dysfunctional white people gather at some idyllic New England setting (always on the water) for a big event (typically a wedding) that reveals just how screwed up they all are. Given that, it’s clear I like the genre – but I didn’t like this book very much. The story is told through the perspectives of various family members but especially focuses on the patriarch, Winn, who is one of the most pathetic and out-of-touch characters I’ve encountered recently. The focus on Winn ruined the book for me; had Shipstead developed some of the book’s more likeable figures instead, I think I would have enjoyed this more.

Home Front (Kristin Hannah): If you ask me, Kristin Hannah is the new Jodi Picoult – she writes books that are incredible readable, that you can’t put down, and that you still nonetheless realize are a bit heavy-handed and cliche. Home Front, about a female helicopter pilot who is deployed to Iraq, felt a bit like Army Wives to me – that is, cliched and something that would appear on Lifetime (okay, I’ve never actually seen Army Wives, but this is what I’d imagine the show is like). I admit that I did tear up at multiple points, but overall I thought the book slipped into corniness too often. I’ve also noticed that Hannah’s stories tend to feature certain recurring characteristics: broken relationships between spouses, uber-bratty teenage daughters, and letters from loved ones received after their death. This doesn’t make Hannah’s books bad, per se, but I feel like she should try for a bit more creativity rather than falling back on the same devices.

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Stieg Larsson): This book started out really slowly; I’d say the first 200 pages or so were rather uneventful. For instance: did we really need to hear so much about Lisbeth’s solo travels, particularly given that they didn’t have much relevance to the main plot line? However, once the central mystery was revealed, the story kicked into gear and the book became difficult to put down. The Girl Who Played with Fire was also fascinating in its reveal of Salander’s past, helping explain why she is the peculiar way she is. Overall, the book was uneven, but the exciting latter half made it a pretty good read.

(Reading 27 new-to-me books is part of my 27 for 27 list. These are books #10-12. Look here for books #1-3, #4-6, and #7-9)

All images via Goodreads

Recent Reads: On Chesil Beach, The Art of Fielding, and The Newlyweds

It’s summertime (for grad students, at least), and that means I finally have time to read for pleasure once again, which is a glorious feeling. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading lately:

on chesil beach, the art of fielding, the newlyweds

On Chesil Beach (Ian McEwan): This was a strange little novel; it’s just over 200 pages and I’ve owned it for years but never managed to read it despite its brevity. The book takes place over the course of one night – the main characters’ wedding night – with flashbacks to how they met. To get through this book, you have to resign yourself to the fact that it’s not about a plot (nothing much really happens), but more about creating a sketch of the two main characters, of their emotions and quirks and inexperience. Overall, I kept getting the sense that I was supposed to find the book much more profound than I actually did. In fact, the only part that struck me as particularly thought-provoking came on the last page of the book, with this line: “This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.” That’s good stuff. The rest of the novel? Not so much.

The Art of Fielding (Chad Harbach): At one point last summer, seemingly all of my friends were reading this book (and raving about it). Needless to say, I had high expectations going in, and this is the rare book that met them. I was a bit hesitant that this would be too much of a “baseball book” for me, but it’s not at all – yes, baseball is a huge part of the story, but the book seems to use it more as a metaphor for life in general, which I liked. The book tells the story of five people – three baseball players, the school president, and his daughter – at a small liberal arts college is Wisconsin. Harbach creates five well-defined and memorable characters, and I was totally rooting for all of them, messed up though they were. I also loved the novel’s ending, which is becoming something of a rarity for me these days; it wasn’t wrapped up perfectly neat and tidy, but the resolution was quite satisfying.

The Newlyweds (Nell Freudenberger): This novel tells the story of Amina and George, who meet online and wind up marrying, with Amina emigrating from Bangladesh to Rochester, New York to be with him. Having just taken a course on immigration law, I was distracted the entire time I was reading this novel – I kept thinking about everything I’d learned from class about citizenship and visa requirements (cough, cough, law nerd). In any case, I was initially fascinated by the strangeness of George and Amina’s relationship and by Amina’s attempts to adjust to life in the US. I finished the entire book in a day, unable to stop reading because I had to know what would happen next. Ultimately, however, I was disappointed – Amina became increasingly unlikeable, and the novel seemed largely unresolved at the end. I couldn’t help but think there was so much more story Freudenberger could have told about the fate of George and Amina’s marriage.

(Reading 27 new-to-me books is part of my 27 for 27 list. These are books #7-9. Look here for books #1-3 and #4-6)

All images via Goodreads

Recent Reads: Sweet Tooth, Winter Garden, Firefly Lane

I made it one of my goals this year to read 27 books (for my 27th year…get it? So deep), and I’m currently about two books behind the pace I need to keep. However, the end of the semester is in sight (thank god), so hopefully I’m about to become a reading machine (of non-legal books) once more. Anyway, here’s a look at books four, five, and six:

sweet tooth, winter garden, firefly lane

Sweet Tooth (Ian McEwan): I’ve read lots of McEwan’s work, and he has a style that I find distinct – and that I enjoy – but that I struggle to describe. Maybe it’s that, even when describing mundane events, the prose is so smooth and detailed that I can easily become engrossed in it? I’m not sure, but I do like his writing. And I liked Sweet Tooth, although the I found much of the book slow moving and I felt like many of the references to events in 1970s England were matters I couldn’t fully appreciate or understand. This book was a slow burn, but I especially liked the last chapter which, through a neat narrative trick, makes you rethink much of what came before.

Winter Garden (Kristin Hannah): This book tells the story of two daughters learning about their mother, Anya’s, past in Russia. It strongly reminded me of another book I read recently, The Storyteller, in that both novels revolve around an elderly woman telling her descendants a horrific story about surviving an atrocity during WW2 (here, the Siege of Leningrad; in The Storyteller, the Holocaust). And as with The Storyteller, I found the historical portion of the novel much more compelling than the novel’s present; even though it’s difficult to read about the conditions in Leningrad, you won’t be able to put the book down. I was ready to declare that I loved this book until I got to the very ending…there’s a “twist” that seems unnecessary. The book should have ended a few pages earlier, with the conclusion of Anya’s story and her reconciliation with her two daughters. The development that follows is ridiculous and cheapens the story’s power.

Firefly Lane (Kristin Hannah): After reading two Kristin Hannah books back-to-back, I can definitely say I liked Winter Garden much better than this one. The problem I had with Firefly Lane was that it’s a story about two best friends, and one of them is extremely unlikeable. It’s hard to enjoy a story where you find one of the main characters to be selfish, insensitive, and just annoying. This book also reminded me a lot of Judy Bloom’s Summer Sisters – two best friends, one “good” and one “bad,” and a guy who seems to love both of them at different times. However, Summer Sisters was much better executed and more compelling; this novel seems lacking in comparison. Firefly Lane is an easy read, and it’s entertaining enough, but I didn’t like it much.

(Reading 27 new-to-me books is part of my 27 for 27 list. These are books #4-6. Find books #1-3 here.)

All images via Goodreads

Recent Reads: Gone Girl, The Midwife, and The Storyteller

gone girl, midwife, storyteller

Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn): This was the most addictive book I had read in a LONG time (probably since I speed-read through the Hunger Games trilogy a few years back). It’s also a deeply unsettling but meticulous psychological portrait of a marriage and two very (VERY) messed up people. And even though I was expecting some twist, was looking for the clues, was sure all was not what it seemed, when it finally happened – when the other shoe dropped midway through the book – it still shocked me and blew me away. Fantastic read.

The Midwife (Jennifer Worth): After Call the Midwife became one of my favorite television shows last fall, reading the book on which it was based was a natural next step. What’s fascinating about this book is that Worth is writing about a time that was really not so long ago – 1950s London – and yet the world she describes seems completely foreign. Reading about the job of the midwives and the impoverished yet colorful community in which they worked is totally fascinating. Worth has written two other books about her experiences as a midwife, and now I want to read those too.

The Storyteller (Jodi Picoult): Like Gone Girl, this is one of those books that you can’t put down – I was completely enthralled. The story is a gripping one; I especially found the portions of it told by Minka, a Holocaust survivor, to be the engrossing (and, though it might go without saying, the most haunting). Because it’s a Jodi Picoult novel, there was naturally a twist at the end, and because I knew it was a Jodi Picoult novel, I was anticipating the twist and actually figured it out pretty quickly. Between that predictability and between the novel’s rather abrupt ending (I wanted to find out more about what happened to Sage and Leo!), I can’t fully love this book. It was really good, but not quite great.

(Reading 27 new-to-me books is part of my 27 for 27 list. These are books #1-3)

(Images via Good Reads)

Summer Reading Roundup (August)

My summer of reading wrapped up this month (here’s what I read in June and July). I ended up reading a total of nine books, which isn’t bad considering that I probably read two books over the course of the entire previous year. My goal is to keep this up over the coming months…but we will see how that shakes out, given a little thing called “law school.” In any case, here’s what I read in August:

Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes: Frances Mayes is one of my favorite travel writers – she makes you want to drop everything and move to Tuscany. Her writing is utterly charming. I love how she makes everyday details – cooking pasta, gardening, shopping for linens – seem extraordinary. I also got a kick out of her chapter on Sicily, having visited there myself last summer. I loved that she expressed some of the same things I had thought too (though, of course, far more eloquently than I).

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann: I read the reviews for this book and then bought it a few days later because it seemed like a must read. This was definitely a page turner, and the story developed into something I didn’t quite expect; the book jacket suggested it was the story of friendship over time, but it turned out to be a more complicated psychological drama. Klaussmann is amazing at creating a sense of time and place – the details she includes make you feel like you are there, spending summer on Martha’s Vineyard. And I loved the way she switched between the perspectives of different characters, slowly revealing answers as she went along.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This story drew me in from the start and, after I was finished, I decided this is the best book I have read in a long while. Morgenstern does a terrific job of writing with a tone that conveys the magic and mystery of a circus; her descriptions were wonderfully detailed and beautiful. She truly conjures up a world that feels magical. I also thought the love story between Celia and Marco, two magicians trained since childhood to duel against each other, was beautifully written. My one (minor) complaint: the world of the circus is shrouded in mystery, and while this adds a distinctive quality to the book, it also meant the ending was a tad vaguer than I would have liked. Other than that, this novel was brilliant.

What did you read this summer?

(Image sources: Kobo Books, Caroline Bookbinder, and Good Reads)

Summer Reading Roundup (July)

My summer of reading is progressing quite nicely and, this month, I kept up my theme from June of reading a diverse selection of books. This month’s books included: a culinary memoir of an American expat in Paris, an historical novel set in 17th-century Netherlands, and a modern classic of Russian literature. Here’s what I read:

The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz: I love David Lebovitz’s blog, so I was excited to finally read his book – and it was as wonderful as I expected. I enjoyed his anecdotes about the quirks of Parisian life, and I cannot wait to try some of the recipes that are sprinkled throughout this book. This is one of those books I simultaneously had to keep reading and yet dreaded reading fast because I didn’t want it to end. Very good, and very funny.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier: This book has literally been on my “to read” list for years and now I can cross it off – and I’m glad I finally read it. It’s an understated and quiet novel, yet I could not put it down. It’s totally compelling. Griet, the protagonist, is fascinating – the way she seems like an average girl, just a quiet servant, and then you figure out how complex she is. Also, the book’s last sentence killed me; it was pitch perfect (trust me on this, but don’t skip ahead to the end just to check it out).

Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov: Another book that has long been on my “to read” list. In a nutshell, the novel’s premise is: the Devil comes to Stalin-era Moscow; chaos ensues. Intriguing, right? Though I read the introduction and footnotes, I feel like I would have appreciated this story more if I had a stronger grasp of Soviet history, particularly under Stalin. In fact, sometimes I felt like everything I was reading was one gigantic metaphor, yet I couldn’t always put my finger on what it was a metaphor for. Nonetheless, this was such an original, witty, and humorous story and my paragraph write-up can in no way do it justice.

What are you reading this summer?

(Image sources: The Sweet Life in Paris, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Master and Margarita)

Summer Reading Roundup (June)

One of my goals for this summer? Read, like a lot. I’m doing pretty well so far. This month, my book selection was diverse, to say the least: a comedic memoir, a work of historical non-fiction, and a fictional story of romance. Here’s what I read in the month of June:

Bossypants by Tina Fey: A quick and easy read. It was funny, but I expected…more, somehow? I love Tina Fey, but I didn’t love this book as much as I was sure I would. What I did love, though, were her anecdotes about working on SNL – for instance, how the sketch where she and Amy Poehler play Sarah Palin and Hilary Clinton came together. Fascinating stuff.

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff: I love reading books about historical women in power (think Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette, etc), so that’s why I picked this up. It’s fascinating to learn about how Cleopatra’s image was shaped by the men who wrote about her after her death, largely to satisfy their own political agendas. Also, as a history nerd, I found it fascinating how the author approached constructing Cleopatra’s history when so much of the source material needed is either missing, incomplete, or clearly biased.

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan: This is a love story, told through dictionary entries. It sounds gimmicky, but it’s beautifully done and was my favorite book this month. It’s also interesting to try to piece together the whole story through these fragments and scraps. This is the kind of book where I pause and read a sentence over again several times because it’s just so on point. And for the record, my favorite entries were halcyon, ineffable, and punctuate.

(Images via Babble, Washington Independent Review of Books, and Macmillan)

Book Review(s): A Song of Ice and Fire

(Image via Game Informer)

I have never been a fan of fantasy tales, or medieval epics, or swordfighting and war stories, or any of that jazz. But, last year, when I was still traveling for work, I’d find myself hanging out in hotels quite a bit. And the beauty of (good) hotels is that they have HBO for free, and you can watch all the awesome shows that you’re too cheap to pay for. And that, my friends, is how I got hooked on Game of Thrones.

I’m generally one of those “you should always read the book before you see the movie (or TV show)” people. So, after watching Season 1, I decided I needed to read the books (there are five of them, currently, with two more on the way). I started with book one last August, and I read it and book two fairly quickly (or, as quickly as one can read an 800 or 900-page novel). Then I started book three, and I started school along with it, and my pace slowed considerably. Then, I got to book four sometime around October, and it took me until this April to finish it. And, this week, I finished book five.

Basically, this series became my Mt. Everest of books. The books are not particularly challenging to read (although there are a TON of characters to keep track of), but I guess life and school and other things just got in the way. So, almost a year after I began reading it, I thought I’d talk about the whole series. Five books is a lot to cover, so rather than writing out long paragraphs, here are some scattered thoughts:

  • Book Three (A Storm of Swords) was my favorite, by far. Without spoiling things (because, trust me, you don’t want to know in advance), this book is crazy. Off the top of my head, I can think of five major characters who die. I mean, shit just goes bananas so quickly. Often, when I watch TV shows or read books, I feel like certain characters are “safe” (for instance – Harry, Hermione, and Ron were never going to die). But with Game of Thrones, you seriously don’t know, and book three is emblematic of that.
  • I briefly mentioned this in my intro, but I had a hard time with the ever-expanding cast of characters, particularly in book four. I don’t know if it’s because I read that one over the span of many months or if it’s because so many random Martells and Greyjoys pop up, but that book was a struggle-fest. I had to flip back and forth to the maps and character charts so frequently.
  • There are certain point of view characters who I love, and others who I simply have to suffer through. For example – Bran. Seriously, wake me up when his chapter is over. (Oddly enough, though, I love Bran on the TV series – the little kid they have playing him is awesome). I also tend to find Dany’s chapters tedious. I mean, she’s been wandering in the desert forever. Come on over to Westeros, girlfriend!
  • I don’t really like the one-off prologues and epilogues – maybe I’m missing something, but they never add that much to the story for me. Mostly, they add another layer of confusion, as I’m always trying to figure out who the heck the people in them are.
  • It’s interesting to see how the TV show changes your perception of the books, and vice versa. For example, in the books, the character of Robb didn’t make much of an impact on me, probably because he doesn’t get his own POV chapters (also: why is this the case? It has always bothered me). But, in the TV show, I root for him a lot. He has much more of a presence in the show (and, let’s face it, the actor who plays him is awfully nice to look at).
  • The character I find most fascinating (though I don’t necessarily like him the best) is Theon Greyjoy. He’s done some terrible stuff, but mostly I feel bad for him. I feel like he just wants somebody – anybody! – to love him. I mean, he knows he doesn’t really fit in with the Iron Islanders anymore, but at the same time, he will never be a Stark. He’s just lost, and I find that sad.
  • These books always start slowly, and then around page 700 (seriously), they become riveting. It sounds like a lot of reading to do, I know, but I find the payoff worth it (perhaps with the exception of book four, which didn’t really go anywhere, in my opinion).

I could probably go on for a lot longer (this series is incredibly intricate), but those were my main takeaways from this very long reading odyssey. Overall, I’m surprised that I enjoy the books so much, given that I have never particularly cared for the genre. But, to me, they simply represent good writing and good storytelling – and they transcend any preconceived notions of the fantasy genre you may have.

Have you read the series, or do you just watch the show? And when the heck is Winds of Winter going to be released?

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Have you heard about Fifty Shades of Grey? It has apparently sold millions of copies and is soon to be made into a movie, but I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of the book. In fact, I only found out about it because I saw an article on Entertainment Weekly saying it was a pop culture phenomenon, apparently sweeping the nation. Clearly, my little corner of the nation remains unswept, as I had no clue as to the existence of such a “phenomenon.”

If only I had remained blissfully unaware. But, I figured, everyone’s reading this book – time to see what all the fuss is about, right? I wish I hadn’t.

This book is appalling. That’s a bold statement, right? But it bothered me on so many levels (for a good summary of these levels, check out this article from Vulture. Pretty accurate, I’d say). I don’t know what I found more disturbing – how flat-out awful the book was, or the how so many people seem to love it. Honestly, I’m fairly sure it’s the latter, but I’m in a much better position to judge the book itself so I’ll try to stick with that.

The most obvious problem is that the writing is terrible. This book started out as fan fiction (and, more specifically, Twilight fan fiction – which should have deterred me, I know), and it’s clear it was not subjected to a particularly rigorous editing process. The repetitive word choices and corny dialogue are terribly distracting. This compilation of its most ridiculous lines is great, but I’ll also add this one to the mix: “I take a moment to admire the pretty. Oh my, he’s hot in leather.” Seriously? If you speak like this, we are no longer friends. Also, if anyone I knew ever referred to her “inner goddess,” I would slap her.

Perhaps you could forgive the less-than-stellar writing if the plot and characters were solid. But the book fails there too – particularly with the characters, who are surely some of the most awful people you will encounter in a novel, ever.

Anastasia has no personality and no interests outside of Christian (oh, wait – every now and then, she makes a super obvious reference to British literature. Oh, Ana, you smart!). Seriously, you might think a girl who was graduating from college would have a lot going on – she’d be nervous about moving into the “real world,” excited about moving to a new city, and concerned about finding a job and generally figuring out where her life was going. But Ana? Nope, she doesn’t appear to care about any of this – she spends 100% of her time obsessing over Christian. Because, you know, he looks good in leather.

Christian, at least, is given some nuance – there are hints of why he might be the way he is (and the way he is, for the record? Incredibly controlling. Like, track-the-location-of-your-phone-and-follow-you-to-a-random-bar-controlling). In my opinion, however, his past isn’t enough to make me forgive his present, though it does make it somewhat more understandable. NB: It also mildly disturbs me that women seem to see Christian as some sort of romantic hero, who they could fix with their love. Nope, he’s just an asshole – you can’t change him.

I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoyed this book (because it does kinda suck you in; it’s a page-turner), but I really don’t understand the appeal of the series. I was so angered by the first book that I cannot imagine purchasing the next two (similarly to how I read the first Twilight novel and immediately vowed “never again!”). I googled the last two books and read summaries, so now I know what happens, and that’s plenty for me.

The whole thing sort of makes me sad for our culture in general – is this what women are looking for in a relationship? Are these the type of people we really aspire to be? Do people truly believe that people act and talk like this in the real world? And, most importantly, since when did Twilight fan fiction become legitimately publishable?

P.S. My recommendation? Skip the book and watch this video instead. Ellen is the best.

30 Day Book Challenge in One Day (I’m That Good)

I saw this 30 day book challenge floating around the interwebs and thought it sounded like fun. However, dragging it out for over 30 days (and finding enough substance for each prompt to fill 30 posts) did not sound so fun. So, I condensed it a bit. Or, a lot. Whatever. Voila!

Day 01 – Best book you read last year:

Does it make me sound like a crazy teenager to say the Hunger Games trilogy? I hope not, because that’s definitely my answer.

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times:

When I like a book, I tend to re-read it frequently, so there are many of these – all the Harry Potter books, A Year in Provence, Summer Sisters, and many more.

Day 03 – Your favorite series:

Harry Potter. Obvi. Next question.

Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series:

Close call, but probably Goblet of Fire. I think it’s because this seems to be the book where they all start growing up, and the stakes get raised a TON with the resurrection of Voldemort. Also, I think the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball are so fun.

Day 05 – A book that makes you happy:

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle. It’s easy to read, and all his stories are so delightful. Definitely the ultimate travel fantasy.

Day 06 – A book that makes you sad:

There are many. For one, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro – so chilling. Also, Cold Mountain. Man, that ending is crushing. Whyyyy, after all that time, did that have to happen? And, this will sound silly, but…The Polar Express. It always makes me sad when he loses that damn bell (stupid hole in his pocket!). And, I remember as a child being disturbed that the boy was the only one in his family who was a true believer.

Day 07 – Most underrated book:

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. And, please, do not watch the movie version of this before you read the book. In fact, do not watch it ever. Nicholas Cage + terrible Italian accent + attempts at emoting = disastrous.

Day 08 – Most overrated book:

I don’t know if this is technically overrated since I think many people would probably agree that it’s terrible writing, but the Da Vinci Code. That damn book was everywhere for awhile, and it annoyed me so much. Also, Beloved. Is it sacrilegious to say that I just. don’t. get. this. book.? Also, part 2, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Also, part 3, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Too pretentious.

Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving:

To me, Russian literature does not exactly scream “fun,” but I loved both Eugene Onegin and Crime and Punishment. In fact, taking a Russian lit class and reading those two novels is what really made me a fan of Russian authors circa the 19th century (which also sounds pretentious, but I’m owning it).

Day 10 – Favorite classic book:

Obvious choices, but either Pride and Prejudice or Little Women. Both so, so good.

Day 11 – A book you hated:

Twilight, Twilight, Twilight. I felt offended that I spent money buying this book (lesson learned: patronize your local library). I actually laughed out loud on several occasions while reading it, and let me tell you – it’s not because Stephanie Meyer is a brilliant humorist (sidenote: do you remember when Stephen King said she couldn’t write worth a damn? My hero.)

Okay, Twilight was obvious. Other books that really disappointed me? A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – both of the protagonists were so unlikable that I couldn’t have cared less when Catherine Barkley died at the end. Also, as previously mentioned, Beloved by Toni Morrison. Ugh, ugh, ugh. It’s really gross to try to write a coherent paper about a book that you just cannot stand, as I had to do with Beloved during high school. And finally, Saturday by Ian McEwan. I think McEwan is a fantastic writer generally (see: Atonement. Stunning book.), but I really hated this one. And the protagonist is such a creeper.

Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore:

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The night before my junior year of high school started, I stayed up until like 3 am reading it. I thought it would end up being an all-time favorite, but I’ve never read it again. And, the more I think about it, the more it creeps me out. You know what scene I’m talking about, right?

Day 13 – Your favorite writer:

Oh so many, but you know who I’m going with? David Sedaris. He never fails to make me laugh, and sometimes you just need to laugh.

Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer:

Me Talk Pretty One Day. I love all this books, but I think this is Sedaris at his best. I love when he talks about learning French and his life in Paris.

Day 15 – Favorite male character:

Seems like an obvious answer, but I have to go with Mr. Darcy. Hot damn.

Day 16 – Favorite female character:

Hermione. Elizabeth Bennet. Abilene from the Help. All strong, smart women.

Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book

Not sure this is my favorite book, but one of my favorite quotations ever is from Corelli’s Mandolin: “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being “in love,” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”

Day 18 – A book that disappointed you:

This also feels sacrilegious, but The Great Gatsby. I liked it, but I had built it up in my head so much that it was bound to disappoint. I just didn’t love it the way I thought I would.

Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie:

In general, Hollywood always gets it wrong. But two times it got it right? Pride and Prejudice (both the BBC version and the newer one with Keira Knightley). And, I really love Under the Tuscan Sun. It is NOTHING like the book (other than the fact that it happens to take place in Tuscany), but it’s a delightful movie.

Day 20 – Favorite romance book:

One Day. This is also a good segue from question 19, as I’m still weeping over the way Hollywood butchered this story. Anne Hathaway’s “British” accent continues to haunt my nightmares.

Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood:

Any American Girl Book, but especially the Molly stories.

Day 22 – Favorite book you own:

Probably the entire Harry Potter series. This whole post is basically an ode to my enduring love for Harry Potter.

Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t:

Yikes, there are so many. But, to name a few? War and Peace, Lolita, and Master and Margarita have been high on my list for awhile now.

Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read:

On Beauty by Zadie Smith. White Teeth was the one that got all the critical acclaim, but I enjoyed On Beauty much more. It’s a hidden gem.

Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most:

Bridget Jones, in the sense that I feel like I need to get my shit together. Sloane Crosley (who’s not a character, I know), also in the sense that I feel like I need to get my shit together. Beth from Little Women, in that I’m always the quiet one (though hopefully I don’t die from scarlet fever). Hermione, in that sometimes I might be a know-it-all (although, of course, I am ultimately lovable and brave). Now where’s my Ron?

Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something

I don’t know if it changed my opinion about one specific thing, but a book that changed how I looked at life in general was Faster: The Acceleration of Just About Everything by James Gleick. The basic gist of the book is examining how we’re trying to do everything in our lives faster nowadays, but asking: to what effect? Where is it getting us? Now, I think about this idea often as I go through normal things in my daily life. There are two examples that Gleick gives that I always think about: pushing the “door close” button on an elevator (which apparently doesn’t make the door close any faster, but which people – including myself – do anyway) and microwaving something for 33 seconds rather than 30 because it’s quicker to punch “3” twice rather than punching “3” and then “0” (this is something I never did but, ironically, started doing after I read the book).

Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending:

My Sister’s Keeper. It comes out of nowhere and just guts you. Also, you can add this book to the list of ones that Hollywood butchered by COMPLETELY changing the ending from the book. And also, by casting Cameron Diaz.

Day 28 – Favorite title:

100 Years of Solitude. So evocative. And man, I love that book.

Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked:

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. This got a lot of bad reviews, but I actually found it pretty good. I didn’t really enjoy all the musings on her own relationship (a little too self-involved, but that seems to be a hallmark of her writing). However, I loved her research on what marriage means in other cultures and how it has evolved over time. So fascinating.

Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time:

I honestly don’t know if I have an all time favorite; I think different books are good for different moods. It might be the entire Harry Potter series. It might be Little Women, or Pride and Prejudice, or Corelli’s Mandolin, or A Year in Provence, or 100 Years of Solitude, or Me Talk Pretty One Day. All excellent.