16

BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:53 AM in , , , , , , , ,
This month's selection was Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.  And if you haven't read it, then careful, because my review is chock full of spoilers.  Though once you've read the summary, there's not really much left to spoil.  This is one of those books that's more about the journey than the destination, since you're aware from the beginning how it's all going to end.

I didn't love it. It felt self-indulgent, and it made me feel like a jerk for not caring that much about Hannah. I did like Clay a lot, but I thought what Hannah did to him, and Mr. Porter, and even Tony, was ridiculously cruel, especially while she was indulging herself by encouraging so much negative attention.

And I'm sorry, sometimes a haircut is just a haircut. It is not always a cry for help. Everyone gets split ends.  I was planning on getting a haircut this month actually.  (NOTE TO MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY: I'm doing okay, I promise.) If that was really her one big gesture to the world that they should be nicer to her because she was suffering from depression, then I don't think she was trying very hard. And it didn't even really seem like she was depressed. Instead, it seemed almost like she was empowered by the negativity of it all, so she constantly sought it out. (Not that what the other people did was okay, at all. But for heaven's sake, she could have reported things to the police or someone at school: peeping Tom, the car accident, the rape. This particular crowd would likely start to avoid her. They didn't strike me as super motivated bullies.)

See? I told you it made me feel like a jerk. It was just that Hannah was so incredibly passive throughout the entire thing that I couldn't help but get frustrated with her. Obviously, these tapes are her revenge/justification, but I feel like the way she was treated at school probably had a lot to do with that attitude. If the only thing she responds to is negative attention, and she consistently places herself with people that she knows will provide that, and she never ever seeks out anyone pleasant, then she is, in a way, sowing what she reaps. She herself never reaches out to a single person. She never makes an attempt to help Jessica. She never even really clears up what went on with Alex (and what the hell happened at that coffee shop that Jessica attacked her and left a fingernail in her forehead (??) and no one else seemed to notice? Why didn't someone call the cops or something? That was bizarre.) She never even approached Jessica herself, that was the guidance counselor's doing. She never sought out anyone else who was wandering around looking as friendless as she supposedly felt. It's not like she noticed Skye. Even with Clay, he sought her out at the party, he was the one who tried to talk to her at work.

It's just that, in order for the book to work, it had to deal with a big subject like suicide or rape. And that just left me with the same feeling that I usually got in writing classes, that the writer is talking about the subject that's the "deepest" in order to earn literary merit, rather than saying anything new. Yes, the message that you should speak up and talk to other people, especially ones you like or ones you notice might be having a hard time, is good. And I approve of that. But it all just seems really artificial, and I think that can be really dangerous when you're talking about an issue like this.

I should probably admit I have my own issues surrounding suicides, and those people left behind, because I feel like I'm certainly coming across like a cold-hearted snake or whatever. And those are probably informing my reading of this. But in the end, I guess the point is that I didn't really care for the book. It's not one I'll read again, though I did appreciate the way Clay's character was constructed from a writing standpoint. It was really easy to sympathize with him without him really doing much of anything at all, which is interesting. Little things, like his Mom bringing him the tapes and giving him cash to buy a milkshake, just really underscored how young and vulnerable he is, which I thought was well done.  Though I did think it was slightly strange that apparently two of his girlfriends (the only two girls we're told about that he likes, even) were suffering in such a way.  That seems like a really specific type, especially since we don't know much about either girl beyond her warning signs.

Anyway, I didn't love this, but the rest of the book club did.  Feel free to check out their reviews on their blogs:

http://karlanellenbach-lastword.blogspot.com/
patriciablount.wordpress.com
http://kellybreakey.blogspot.com/
http://vanessapnoble.wordpress.com/

Next month: Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Natural Born Charmer. Which I'm psyched about, since I'm a big SEP fan.  Spoiler Alert: I've already read it, and it's adorable!

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8

BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:37 AM in , , , , , ,
This month's selection was Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.  I didn't read it.  I didn't even start it.  I had good intentions since I've missed out on several of the last few books, which I do intend to catch up on, but once my book club started reading it and the incredibly "meh" reactions started pouring in... I had a hard time finding the motivation to pick the book up.  I'm already operating from the disadvantage of having a hard time reading a book that's been recommended to me over one that I choose, which I believe I've mentioned as a weird personal issue before.

So instead, here's a few of the books I've read in the last month (beginning on 12/20), all of which I'd be happy to discuss: Sarah Mayberry's The Best Laid Plans (because a friend on GoodReads really seems impressed with her), Eloisa James's Storming The Castle and The Lady Most Likely (with Julia Quinn and Connie Brockway), Meg Cabot's Jinx and Twilight (Mediator Series #6) (because I LOVE her blog and realized I don't read enough of her books), Lora Leigh's The Breed Next Door, Ava Gray's Skin Heat, Jo Davis's Ride The Fire, Kait Nolan's Forsaken By Shadow, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Domestic Magic, Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants (I really wanted to read this one before the movie came out), Amanda Hocking's Ascend (Trylle Trilogy #3), Marjorie M. Liu's A Wild Light (Hunter Kiss Series #3), Susan Elizabeth Phillips' Call Me Irresistible, and Karen Marie Moning's Shadowfever (Fever Series #5).

As you can see, my preferred method of procrastinating is reading.  And the more I procrastinate, the more I read.

But next month's book is 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which I actually do want to read, so I hope I'll be better about doing my homework.  Cross your fingers for me!  I'd appreciate it.

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9

MIA...Oops

Hey, guys.

So it's been pointed out to me that I haven't blogged since October.  Honestly, I haven't written much of anything since October, including tweets, which has made me feel a bit guilty, but not guilty enough to find the time to continue blogging more regularly.  But I'm finally feeling like things are back under control, so I think it's time to return to blogging spontaneously and irregularly, just like in the good old days.  So here's what you missed, in picture form:

I went to my cousin's wedding in Atlanta, which was a fun whirlwind of two days of cross-country travel.  I don't think I slept at all the entire time, since I hadn't seen most of the family in attendance in almost ten years.  The highlight was definitely getting to meet (finally!) my little cousins though.  They are ridiculously adorable.  And now I know for sure that the rumors are true and I'm not the only girl anymore.  It only took 21 years, but the wait was worth it.  (P.S. I didn't do my hair, a very nice, but overworked girl did it.  So I'm not responsible for the slightly lopsided dome thing.)  Incidentally, these are the last pictures of me with glasses, since five days later I had LASIK surgery done.

LASIK, by the way, is both cooler than I expected it to be, but also required more extensive recovery time than I had thought.  It really is surgery.  On your eyeballs.  Lasers or not, there's recuperating that needs to happen, and it takes three months for them to be fully healed.  Which means that I can finally rub at my eyes when they get tired in four days!  Yay!  That has been torture.  What has not been torture is the fact that I have 20/15 vision.  20/10 if I squint slightly.  THAT PART IS AWESOME.

Halloween was fun because it was the first day I was allowed to wear makeup again.  Of course, I had to kind of rejigger my costume a bit since the construction was bananas and it was impossible to put it on without tearing it a bit.  Apparently I wasn't the only one with that complaint, though, and the Disney store was cool enough to give me a refund.  Although they also promised some store credit that never came.  But allow me to give you this cautionary tale: as cute as the live-action Alice costume looks in pictures?  It is NOT worth it.  I mean, the underskirt is actually made of that paper fabric from which vacuum cleaner bags are made.  That is the kind of quality materials were talking about here.  Also, even wearing that, it is still possible to see your underpants, so...you know, caveat emptor and all that. 

And finally, Christmas!  Which is also known as THE HAPPIEST TIME OF YEAR in kitty land:


There was not a single present, drop of water, or blade of pine that they didn't lick, I don't think.  They heart Christmas with a sort of single-minded intensity that's terrifying, but also admirable in its commitment and focus.  So that was exciting.  But I started a new tradition this year of making a bunch of ornaments -- I invited friends over to help -- and it might be my new favorite Christmas tradition:


Check out that awesome rendition of Bonecrusher that my BFF Liz made for me.  You can't see it, but she also gave him a butt bow.  So awesome.

So what's new with all of you guys?  I hope the holidays treated you well.  Do you happen to remember where I left all of my writing motivation, by any chance?  Thanks, if so!  I've been looking for it everywhere.

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11

BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Beauty by Robin McKinley

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 5:00 AM in , , , , , , ,
So the official book for October's reading was my responsibility, and, you guys?  I almost caved under the pressure.  I do not like choosing books for other people unless I know them REALLY REALLY well.  That means the only people I don't majorly stress over when I'm asked to recommend books are my mom and my best friend.  That's it.  And "don't majorly stress over" can be translated into "I'm only mildly anxious."  And since all of you are readers, I'm sure you know how often people assume that all books are equal opportunity good, and that you, as a reader, must know which ones are the good ones and can share that secret with them so that they don't have to waste their time or something, sorting through all the other books until they stumble across those gems.  In other words: I get lots of requests to recommend stuff.   And it is total torture.

In my opinion, books are like presents. Everyone likes a good present, right?  The classics are usually like those educational presents that your great aunt gets you for Christmas.  I mean, yeah, it's probably good for you, and you'll likely end up appreciating the learning experience or whatever, but they're rarely truly fun. Science fiction is like those tech gifts that always end up on those magazine lists adamantly declaring that they're the must-have for men, despite the fact that there's no reason women wouldn't like them too (and often do), whether it's a GPS or Anne McCaffrey's The Ship Who Searched (the lovely story about a delightful young girl who grows up to become a spaceship).  And romance novels therefore have to be the generic "girl" gifts of nice smelling soaps, either bland, nice enough, and ubiquitous, like a Danielle Steele novel, or delightfully, unexpectedly rich, the fancy chocolate of "girl" gifts: J.D. Robb.  I'm going to go with J.D. Robb over Nora for the fancy chocolate because I think Eve and Roarke are just as likely to appeal to guys as Godiva is.  The key is picking what you know that specific person will appreciate and making sure you label all the boxes correctly.  I mean, your brother is probably less likely to appreciate that Mary Engelbreit pressure cooker, and your mom likely won't get as much use out of that book on So Gross! facts, you know?

So, back to the book club, and the daunting task of choosing something for everyone to read.  Of course everyone reassured me multiple times that this is about expanding our horizons and you should never try to pick something that everyone will like, and that you should just try to choose something that you think everyone should be exposed to, and of course I promptly ignored that advice because what is this, school?  This is supposed to be fun.  I was all set to choose Robin D. Owens' Heart Fate when one club member mentioned that she doesn't enjoy reading any graphic love scenes, so I double checked, and the love scenes were a touch more graphic than I remember, so I nixed that idea.  Though it's a delightful book, for anyone who really likes a slightly different romance novel, with some unexpected depth to the story.  That particular series is fun, though you don't have to read them all to get what's going on, but that book in particular stood out for me.

So now that you guys all have context for why I chose what I chose, and since reading is all about context, I felt compelled to share.  You're welcome. 

I chose Beauty by Robin McKinley, which no one else had read, and which I reread at least once a year.  This is the book I choose whenever I need some comforting, or snuggling under the blankets on a rainy Saturday morning, and it's just really well done. It's lyrical and lovely, and immerses you immediately into the world and pacing of the fairy tale. She has a gift for writing animals, and making the magic in an atmosphere fairly shimmer off a page, and I love her for it. She doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but sometimes the basics done really well can be even more enjoyable, and she nails the rhythm of old-fashioned storytelling so well that even when she writes completely original works (like the absolutely delightful The Blue Sword), you can almost swear you've heard the story years ago, candles flickering beside your bedside, as your mother told it to you while playing with your hair until you fell asleep.  I also like that because this book is called Beauty, and not Beauty and the Beast, we get a more well-rounded look at Beauty herself, and the life she leads that made her the person she is, until she stumbles into magic and quietly breaks a curse.  I thought the real magic should come through during the love story section, and it does. That helps make that part of the book feel more special, more magical, and more complete in the transformation from where she was (boring "plain" Honour, normal girl with normal hard knocks) to where she ends up (magical in-love "Beauty," fairy tale princess). The contrast works for me.  I liked that we get to spend so much time with her, really understanding where she comes from and how she, specifically, fits as The Beast's love interest. I just loved the down-to-earth-ness of her, the contrasts of her life, the eventual magic, the sistery-goodness of the early parts of the book (I only have a brother so they can dwell on how awesome it is to have a sister all the livelong day, as far as I'm concerned), and the seriously great animal characterizations (Greatheart fangirl in the house!).

Normally slower pacing annoys the crap out of me, but when McKinley uses it, it feels less like it's about being slow and more like it's about style--especially since this story is about the telling, and not particularly about the plot. We're all familiar with the basics before the story even starts, and there's no real surprises here.  I personally find it really relaxing, since it adds to the otherwordly fairy-tale-ness of it all for me, by just kind of immersing me in the experience of the story.  Basically, this book is like getting into a really hot jacuzzi. You kind of ease into it slowly, and each muscle relaxes as you do--but you can't just plop down and feel more relaxed. It's the process of doing it that gets you where you want to end up.

Have you guys read it?  What do you think?

Or if you'd prefer to see what the rest of the book club thought, feel free to visit them:

http://karlanellenbach-lastword.blogspot.com/

http://kellybreakey.blogspot.com/
http://vanessapnoble.wordpress.com/

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7

It's My Birthday!

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 8:34 AM in , , ,
Hi! It's my birthday, so I have a very busy day planned, which includes fun things like shopping, books, movies, manicures, makeup, killer unicorns, happily taking a day off work, going out to dinner with my mom, and closing out the day with some awesome Vampire Diaries flashback action!  I believe this is referred to as a perfect day.  And I am psyched.

But I'm also still a little unsure about how I'd like to celebrate it with friends.  Should I make everyone come with me to paint some pottery?  But that gets expensive and then you have to go back to pick up your masterpiece.  I can't do anything at my house, since my best friend is allergic to my kitties.  Should I make everyone go to the park and ride the carousel and sit at a picnic table and eat cake?  But then you're opening yourself up to be subjected to wandering mariachi bands (no, I'm not sure why they solicit people at the park for money, but it is very awkward to tell them that you're uninterested and make them go away.).  I'm leaning the most towards having everybody meet up for brunch at this nice restaurant that overlooks the valley, where you can sit for hours outside (or inside, but why would you?) eating delicious buffet foods (served with champagne!  That way you know it's fancy.), which is also a little expensive, but has the added bonus of being time-flexible, which is a serious plus in a terrible traffic town like this. 

So I'd like to solicit your opinions.  What's the most fun birthday party you've ever attended, either your own or a friend's?

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5

BOOK HUNGRY: A Twitter Book Club -- Gods In Alabama

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 2:00 AM in , , , , , ,
I'd like to welcome you guys to the second official Book Hungry: A Twitter Book Club blog entry.  September's book was Cynthia's pick:


GODS IN ALABAMA by Joshilyn Jackson!

I have to admit that I was curious about this one since I won a copy of BACKSEAT SAINTS in a contest (yes, I entered a contest for a book I knew nothing about mostly because I am competitive and LOVE winning, but also because I heart books), and at the time, Cynthia gushed about how much she loves Joshilyn Jackson's work, and that GODS IN ALABAMA was not to be missed.

I thought the book was really well done, too.  The rhythm of the writing, and the sounds of the setting, it's all so vivid that you're almost immediately immersed into Arlene's world.  I haven't been to Alabama in 15 years, or Georgia in at least 6, and yet I could practically feel the heat and smell the kudzu of the South, you know?  Also, cicadas are seriously gross--like, so, so yucky, and this reminded me once again, vividly, about why I hate them so much.

The other thing that Jackson excels at is characterization.  I thought Burr was terrific and sweet if at times wrongheaded, and Lena was hilarious, and sometimes so painfully honest that I was uncomfortable and wanted her to quit sharing.  I thought Florence was such a strong character that it's impossible not to like her, even though we're privy to her mild racism and multiple animal killings.  It's written in such a way that it's supposed to be horrific, but Florence's steel shines through her magnolia so frequently that it's hard not to relate to her, and the challenges she faces--she refuses to be pitied.  Clarice, who so easily could've been a cliche, was lovely.  It's completely understandable why she's Lena's favorite cousin.  And Arlene's first crush is sometimes so completely charming that the sweetness and the awkwardness of everything should be painful, but somehow isn't (no worries though, creepy awkward pain abounds--the book is definitely not all sweetness and light).  The only character who kinda felt cartoonish to me was Rose Mae, especially modern-day Rose Mae, but it didn't impact my appreciation for the writing in any particular way.  I felt awful for the young Arlene and her disturbing fantasies, but I appreciated that the twists in the story were just as slippery as Lena's way of thinking, and how Lena developed into the sort of person she is in modern-day Chicago becomes clearer with each additional detail we learn of young Arlene's past.

This is very much a book you'd find on the Fiction shelf, rather than the Romance and YA sections which are where I usually kick it, but sometimes it's fun to branch out and take a breather from my usual fare.  I find I don't usually engage emotionally with more literary novels, but I do readily slip into my more distant analytical cap and can analyze the text and appreciate the construction of the work, and it usually gives me some fresh perspective on something I'm writing as well, since it's harder for me to slip back out of that pattern of thinking.  And this book really is very well done.  Jackson describes it rather perfectly as "Southern fiction seasoned with a dash of literary murder mystery," and if that sounds like the sort of thing that appeals to you, I think you'll definitely appreciate this book.

If you'd like to see what the rest of the club thought:

http://karlanellenbach-lastword.blogspot.com/
http://kellybreakey.blogspot.com/
http://vanessapnoble.wordpress.com/

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3

Random Quotes and Contest Entry

Posted by Elizabeth Ryann on 10:28 PM in ,
While looking something else up, I randomly stumbled across some fairy quotes, and they tickled me so much I feel compelled to share them with everyone else:

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."- Albert Einstein

“The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money.” - David Richerby

I hardly think Evie will mind me sharing those, which brings me to the second part of this catch-all post.  My entry for Kiersten White's contest!  I left my entry to the last minute because I am a procrastinator, not because I didn't want to give even more people a heads up.  I solemnly swear. (And P.S. If you haven't read this yet, you're missing out.  It's sweetly adorable and charmingly delightful, and I just want to hug it.  So sometimes I do.)  

Paranormalcy has been super busy at my house, and here is the pictorial evidence:

Paranormalcy enjoys a late-night snack!

Paranormalcy makes new friends!  Aww.
Paranormalcy travels the world! Because...well, work is work and it needs doing.
Seriously.  Paranormalcy makes lots of friends and is terribly popular all of the time.
But most importantly, Paranormalcy has her picture taken with a cute pink camera!  Yay!  

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