Monday, April 24, 2017

Book Review: "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott

Yeah, I know.  It is a little ridiculous that I hadn't read this before now.  But at least I have finally rectified that situation.  I do remember having an abridged illustrated edition of this story when I was a child... but all I ever remembered was that Beth got sick and Dad came home.

Obviously there is much more than that to the story.  It is the story of the March sisters:  Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.  They each have their own distinct personalities which work together for the family.  The book opens at Christmas with Marmee as Father is off fighting in the war.  They are not a wealthy family, but they are happy and loving.  The book covers the next 15 or so years of their lives - proposals, marriages, death, and more.

It is a sweet story, and I see why it is considered appropriate for younger audiences (though I think the page count would be a turn off).  It is a little preachy in parts and is overly sweet and full of happy endings, but it was written for children so I get it.  For me, I did find it quite adorable and I was enamored with the writing.  It is quite a beauty of a novel, and I'm glad I finally read it.  My parting thoughts:  I can't tell you how sad Beth made me and also I still think Jo and Laurie should have gotten together.  So now maybe I'll watch the movie.  I've been told the one with Winona Ryder is good?

Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott
Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004.  First Published 1868.
489 pages
Source:  Purchased


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Book Review: "84, Charing Cross Road" by Helene Hanff

This book came recommended by a co-worker, and I thank her so much for it.  She kept gushing and gushing about it, so I finally picked it up and gave it a shot.

I nearly read it in one night, even after I got home late closing the library.  I had to make an effort to leave a little for the next day.  Granted, it is a very short book, but still.  Effort.

This is probably the most charming and delightful book I have ever read!  It is the correspondence between Helene, the author in New York, and the bookseller at Marks & Co in London over a 20 year span of time.  She adores out of print, second hand books which just so happens to be this shop's specialty.  She developed a relationship with Frank, the bookseller over the years which expanded to include the others at the shop as well as his family.

And it's all because of and about books.

I absolutely love this book!  I have already requested the sequel to this as well as another book she's written that sounds like it's more about books.  I also hear that there is a very good movie that came out of this book as well... I may track that down as well.  But I needed to share this book with you just in case you had been missing out as I was.

84, Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff
Penguin, 1970
97 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, April 17, 2017

Book Review: "Men Explain Things to Me" by Rebecca Solnit

This book is a collection of essays that revolve around the theme of feminism and inequality and each looks at it through a different lens.  I thought it would stick more to the ideas presented in the title essay, which looks at mansplaining and silencing women's voices as a mechanism to allow for sexual violence within our human culture.  But it goes in different ways and all have different tones, which wasn't exactly what I was expecting.  I did appreciate the different perspectives presented.

I didn't really get into all of the essays.  They are all from 2009-2014, and some repeat examples or anecdotes that I either knew about from my own memory or had no clear idea of the topic.  I think if I'd read them when they were first written/published, I would have gotten more out of it.  But I was a little confused.  Also, there was an essay that talks about Virginia Woolf and one quote in particular along with another book I haven't read.  (I really don't know much about Woolf and what I've read, I didn't particularly enjoy.)  So I made my way a bit into that essay and then skipped the rest.  Woolf scholars might love that essay or not, I don't know, but I left it.

I did like the essay that talks about marriage equality and how it forces equality in all marriages - same sex or different sexes alike just because of the way it has redefined how two people come into a marriage.  No longer is the historical idea of 'man takes wife' accurate, which is pretty awesome. The final essay called "Pandora's Box and the Volunteer Police Force" was also fantastic.  It talks about how like Pandora, once the ideas of women's rights and LGBTQ rights are out there in the collective conscience - no one can just put those ideas back into the box.  It's out there forever and I love the use of that metaphor.

Note:  the link below is to an updated version of the book with two new essays.  This is not the edition I read, but I would think it is the one you'd prefer if you'd like to read this!

Men Explain Things to Me
by Rebecca Solnit
Haymarket Books, 2014
130 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Book Review: "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

This is all you need to know about this book:  Go get it and read it as soon as you possibly can.

That's it.  This book is everything.  It is exactly what we as a nation, we as Americans need right now.  Want to know more?

Sixteen year old Starr Carter finds herself in a car with her best friend Khalil Harris.  They are pulled over, and every though they had done nothing wrong, even though Khalil was unarmed, the cop shot Khalil three times in the back, killing him.  Starr is the lone witness, and we see how this incident affects her, her family, her friends, her neighborhood.... everyone.  Because Khalil matters.

I probably should tell you more about the book.  But I'm not going to.  Read it yourself.  Yes, there are tons of things I could tell you about the characters, the pacing, the emotions, the everything else in the story.  It's about as perfect as it can be.  OK, fine.

Starr is such a wonderful character.  She is smart, kind, funny, and fierce.  She has the best parents, and great relationship with her boyfriend (who is white).  Gunshots and gangbangers are not unusual in her neighborhood, but she sees and loves all the good it has to offer her.  Even before what happened to Khalil happened, she has been noticing subtle racist things that have been said or done in her mostly white private school.  She processes these and finds her voice in the aftermath, and she has a great, strong voice.  I'm just going to stop here.  There is no way I can do this book the justice it deserves.

This is a book that needs to be on every book list, on every library shelf, everywhere.

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Balzer + Bray, 2017
464 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, April 10, 2017

Book Review: "Scrappy Little Nobody" by Anna Kendrick

I love Anna Kendrick.  I think she's a great actress, both in comedic roles and more serious roles and I think she has a great singing voice.  She seems fun and normal and I was instantly curious when I'd heard she had written a memoir.

After reading Scrappy Little Nobody, I still think all of the same things about her.  I think she may be a little overly self-deprecating at times...  and I love how well-read she is, in a casual way.  She's very talented and crass and comes off pretty honest.  I didn't realize that she got her start on Broadway as a child, even earning a Tony nomination.  I also didn't realize she grew up in Maine.  She keeps appropriate things private - like, you're not going to find out about recent things in her love life, or things like that which is as it should be.  You will get to find out about some behind the scenes stories about Twilight, and things George Clooney said or did while filming Up in the Air, and so on which is fun.  You will also hear about what really happens backstage at award shows, and how earning an Oscar nomination does not translate to immediate financial security.

This is an interesting point in life for someone to write a memoir.  She's certainly not at the end of her career by any stretch of the imagination, but she has accomplished quite a bit already.  She's at the point where she just might start feeling like a grown up (but don't tell her that).  I have heard that the audio version is fantastic as Kendrick does her own narration, and that is always a bonus for in my book.

Scrappy Little Nobody
by Anna Kendrick
Touchstone, 2016
275 pages
Source:  Library


Saturday, April 8, 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is Coming!!

Mark your calendars - the next Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon is coming Saturday, April 29th!  Sign up as a reader here.

Just in case you're not aware - Dewey's Readathon is the best readathon around.  Thousands of readers around the world set aside an entire 24 hour period to read.  It happens twice a year, and I look forward to it always.

So you're on board?  GREAT!  So we've got 3 weeks to get ready.  Yes, this is an event that requires a little bit of preparation and the time to get started is now.

First, if you are a heavy library user like me, it is time to use your hold requests and collect up the books you'd like in your possession on the big day.  My library lets me check out books for 3 weeks at a time, so I will need to renew a couple that I already have, but that's okay.  If you are concerned about your TBR pile, start sorting through it to pull out options for the readathon.  Every reader is different, of course, but I tend to prefer lighter romances, graphic novels, and maybe one heavier book to round out my options.  Trust me, you are going to want a specific pile to choose from because when you start to get tired, you don't want to face your full TBR pile.  It's just too much at that point.  Don't forget about audiobooks too!

Second, snacks and meals.  Plan your food wisely.  You don't want to spend time cooking a big dinner, or figuring out what you want to eat.  I typically do a crockpot dinner or delivery.  Both are very easy.  Snacks are equally important.  You are going to want things to pick at that will give you energy, especially in those late hours.  Also - drinks!  Water is always important for hydration... but don't forget about tea or coffee, juice, and other fun drinks to keep you going.

Third, reading space.  Where are you planning to read?  What will be going on around you?  I typically stick to my couch or bed.  But the bed is dangerous during readathon, as I will absolutely fall asleep right away.  So I make sure my corner of the couch is set up with everything I need... including quiet.  I try to have things planned for my kids so that I'm not called up to entertain them.  They know the drill, and I admit it is much easier now that they are older!

Fourth, updates?  I will work on my "Master Post" here on the blog.  This is where I'll do official updates every 4 hours throughout the readathon.  I'll update on books I'm reading, finished, or put aside.  I'll do a running page count, quick thoughts on books, what's happening in my house and how I'm feeling.  BUT, I'll do more frequent checkins on Twitter and Litsy.

Fifth - HAVE FUN!  That is what it is all about.  See you at the readathon!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Graphic Novel Review: "March Trilogy" by Rep. John Lewis

I have just finished reading all three books in Rep. John Lewis's March trilogy and WOW.  This story of the Civil Rights Movement, told from one of its leaders, is incredibly powerful.  Not just the story itself, but the visual aspects in this way of sharing the story is overwhelming in a good way.  I went through so many emotions - fear for the safety of the peaceful protesters, anger at the the white men who refused to grant these Black citizens their full rights and chose violence against them, to hope during scenes of Mr. Lewis at President Obama's Inauguration.

Thank you to Mr. Lewis for telling his story.  He was involved with the first protests against segregation at lunch counters and movie theaters.  He was there in Washington D.C. fighting for the Civil Rights Amendment.  He marched in Selma, Alabama and marched to Montgomery.  Oh, and there were so many speeches and meetings along the way.  We also see some of his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and Malcolm X.

I am so glad that these books exist and are so accessible to young people as well as adults.  I learned a lot about the Civil Rights Movement, and in an impactful manner.  I was a great student in middle and high school, but my classes in American History barely touched on this part of our history.  Yeah, I remember the cool slide show my teacher put together with Don MacLean's "American Pie", but I didn't feel it the way I do through the images and words in these books.  And the thing is... a lot of what the racist opposition says in these books is still being said by other white men in power today.  It is sickening how far we've come and how far we still need to go.

March Books 1, 2, and 3
by John Lewis
Top Shelf, 2013, 2015, 2016
121 pages, 179 pages, 246 pages
Source:  Library


Monday, April 3, 2017

Book Review: "By Your Side" by Kasie West

I generally love Kasie West's books.  They are typically guaranteed light YA contemporary romance books that always put me in a good mood.  So imagine my surprise when I read this book and found myself saying WTF? over and over.

The general premise is that Autumn is accidentally locked in the library for a long weekend.  So is "troublemaker" Dax.  As they get to know each other, they open up and start feeling a connection.  But Autumn has an almost-boyfriend and Dax has secrets to keep.  So what happens when they get out of the library and head back into reality?

First of all, who the hell gets locked inside a library for a weekend?  Are there seriously no phones on any desks, no building code regulated fire doors to get you outside?  No motion detectors for the security alarm?  This really irked me.  Granted, before I started working at my library, there was a man who got himself locked in on purpose - but was discovered not too long after by the motion detectors as he went to open a fire door to have a cigarette.  Point being - while he was locked in, he had no problem opening an outside door when he needed to.

Other plot holes include (but not limited to): no explanation as to how or where Autumn got more medication when she got home as we know it was in her bag in her friend's car; I don't know anyone's basement ceiling that is high enough to lift a teen over another's shoulders; a person cannot track another person down using forwarding addresses at the post office.  Another annoyance:  the supposed love triangle.  It was too forced and made Autumn look incredibly dumb for playing into it.

I really wish that the characters were developed more too.  Other than a sketch of Dax's backstory, he has no real personality.  I didn't fall for him at all.  I didn't fall for the other guy either...  he was much more of an arrogant alpha jerk.  I was really kind of hoping that he was in a gay relationship with his best friend, so that his personality could be written off as a cover, but that didn't happen.

I appreciated the depiction of Autumn's anxiety disorder.  I just wish it wasn't her entire character trait.  It was used as a plot device to move her story along, and I think that people with anxiety are more than just their anxiety.

So, yeah, I'm pretty disappointed in this book.

By Your Side
by Kasie West
Harper Teen, 2017
342 pages
Source:  Library


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Adventures in my TBR Bookcase

It was time to update my Classics Club list.  That's what started this.  I started taking books off the list that I don't really want to read anymore.  I realized that I needed to check my TBR bookcase for books I've added but hadn't made it to the list yet.

Oh boy.

Next thing you know, I'm surrounded by piles of books.  Now that I don't mind.  But I was rediscovering books that I had completely forgotten about!  I also found a bunch (a bag full) of books that I no longer have any interest in reading.  So that bag is off to the library...  and I'm left with still too many books to fit on the book case.  179 books to be exact.  Because I'm pretty good about donating books I've read, I think that it is possible I have more books on my TBR bookcase than on my Read Bookcase.

In the end though, I'm glad I spent the time doing this.  It was great to remember the books I already have to read, and now my Classics Club list is ready to go.  Also, the library is getting another 30ish books donated when I go to work on Monday.  Wins all around!
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