September 2014 archive

Review: In Real Life

In Real Life: Love, Lies & Identity in the Digital Age, by Nev Schulman

Jacki’s Thoughts: Let’s just get one thing out of the way: I have fallen down MANY an internet rabbit hole involving catfish. Before they had that “official” name, I remember reading about situations where people would fake cancer, make up whole networks of people to gain friends, get sympathy and swindle them out of  money. The idea of “catfishing” is specifically romantic, which is different but still SO FASCINATING. And if you guys haven’t watched the documentary The Woman Who Wasn’t There, don’t even finish this review. Pull up Netflix and watch it. Holy cow.

We haven’t had cable in something like 8 or 9 years, but I have caught just a handful of episodes of this while at my mother in law’s house, and like Nev pointed out in the book the first reaction most people (including me) have is, “What is wrong with these people?!” Because… seriously. The part that I don’t fully understand about catfishing is that you have to know going into it that nothing good will come from lying about your whole life or your whole appearance. Even if someone does become important to you, you can NEVER MEET THEM!

I was excited to read this book because really what I was hoping for was a million catfishing stories and all the dirt behind them. The most interesting one was, it turns out, Nev’s own catfish story. The lady who tricked him made up an extended family, talked to his mom on the phone, made up some extremely bold lies and then after she was called out on it, SHE DID IT AGAIN TO HIM. You guys. It’s so insane.

And that part? The part about actual catfish stories? Off the charts interesting. But there was a problem: And that problem was that, although I’m not yet 30, there were several references to age that pointed to the fact that ol’ Nev (who I think is a year or two older than me) sees me as an old, old lady. It was laughable, really. I know that MTV is a network that targets teenagers, but from the description, I thought this would be a book that was more applicable across the board.

Toward the end, I have to be honest, I was skimming. Nev has undergone, in the last 6 or 7 years, a transformation that he is rightfully proud of. He has become less of a prick and more open and accepting of people. Also, he *gasp* deleted his Facebook. What a brave man. He then wrote the last half of this book, just glowing and shouting from a mountaintop about how great his journey has been and how you too can bee like him!! Eek.

One part made me almost angry. He was talking about his documentary and how afterwards there were some negative reviews. He had a moment where he realized that these critics were just jealous because they have not yet been able to realize their dreams and seeing something that dream-fulfilling made them reconsider their lives. After that dawned on him, he could read negative reviews without feeling angry. Uh, wut? Maybe they just actually didn’t like it? And their job is to write reviews? No? They must be jealous of your amazing life.

I gave this three stars on Goodreads because I was pretty torn. The actual information on catfishing: wildly interesting. The pep talks: cringeworthy. The picture of Nev buck naked with a deer head over his manly-bits: I can’t even talk about it.

Review: Everything Leads to You

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

From Goodreads: A wunderkind young set designer, Emi has already started to find her way in the competitive Hollywood film world.

Emi is a film buff and a true romantic, but her real-life relationships are a mess. She has desperately gone back to the same girl too many times to mention. But then a mysterious letter from a silver screen legend leads Emi to Ava. Ava is unlike anyone Emi has ever met. She has a tumultuous, not-so-glamorous past, and lives an unconventional life. She’s enigmatic…. She’s beautiful. And she is about to expand Emi’s understanding of family, acceptance, and true romance.

Jennie’s Thoughts: This book is straight-up beautiful. Hollywood glamor and gorgeous writing and a sweet and tender love story. Emi has an almost-out-of-the-real-world job designing sets on actual films, which might seem like a turn-off but instead it’s a art meets dreams meets a world most of us never get the chance to see. And Emi loves it, and that passion and heart flow off the pages.

There is a mystery that unfolds within the pages and it is sad but beautiful to follow. This isn’t a novel that has shock after shock in a blinding way, but rather a string of choices that become a story. The characters stole the show (ha, see what I did there?) for me. I fell for Emi right away, but Ava was a slower burn. But I was cheering for her the whole time. And the message of friendship in this story was SO heartwarming for me. Real friendships, that aren’t perfect but aren’t full of Mean Girls either.

Basically, read this. It’s beautiful and gorgeous and inspired me to be a better writer. One of my favorite books this year!

Special Edition: Bookish Gifts preview

(also known as THREE MONTHS UNTIL CHRISTMAS)

So, I can hear you groaning now. What in the world am I doing, planning Christmas gifts in September?!? Well, I totally agree with you…except this is the schedule of holidays at my house:

Thanksgiving on Thursday 11/27, my birthday on Monday 12/1, Little Man’s party on 12/6, ballet recital 12/13-14, Christmas, New Year’s, Little Lady’s birthday mid-January.  As you can see, my kids are screwed as far as birthday spectaculars are concerned, simply because there’s just too much going on with the holidays.

Anyway. It gets so hectic that I try to have everything mapped out no later than November 1st- and if I have gifts on hand by then, even better.

This year, IHO my girl’s newly developed reading skills, I have ordered her this stationary:

We will also be putting a bean bag chair in her reading nook- She has an entire closet devoted to books, but it could use some coziness!

I’m also considering buying her this Amelia Bedelia set.

amelia

Please don’t think I’m neglecting the other members of the household, though…For the (nearly) 2-year-old, I’ll be looking for any and all books that have TRUCKS and TRACTORS because those are the only ones he has interest in. Stereotypical? Yes. Do I care? not if it means he’s interested in a book.

I’m especially digging on this one…no pun intended. I think he’ll love it.

construction

 

 

For the hubs, I’ve been stalking his Amazon wishlist   listening for clues to determine what bookish gifts he wants. he reads a lot, but he reads about a lot of things that just don’t interest me, so I have to really work at finding that perfect gift for him. He already owns a book on the plague, the French revolution, and the Byzantine empire, so…. I’m fresh out of ideas if you wanna toss any my way.

and finally….for ME! These are the bookish gifts on my wishlist:

(Oscar Wilde-inspired diffuser from Paddywax)

paperback

(“Paperback” Cologne spray from Demeter)

bookbrick

 

Bricks painted to look like books, to be used as bookends, natch. (Okay, I’m actually going to just DIY this, but maybe you wanna make it for someone you love, too!)

 

Share your bookish gifts! Anything on your wishlist, or on your go-to bookish gift list???

Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week!  I love this week each year because not only is it fascinating to see which books have been banned over the years, but it also just makes for some great book conversations. I was lucky to grow up in a house where my reading was never restricted.  I started reading adult fiction in the 5th grade.  My parents were always supportive of my reading, and I believe that having full access to books has made me the reader I am today.

I knew I wanted to write something in regards to banned books, but I was a little stuck on what I wanted to say.  I finally decided that I’d like to share with you some of my favorite books that happen to have been banned or challenged for one reason or another.  These titles have all had a significant impact on me, and it hurts my heart a bit to imagine my life without them.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman — This trilogy is astounding.  It is the YA trilogy to end all YA tilogies and came out long before YA trilogies were a thing.  An absolutely breathtaking fantasy dealing with the clash of science and religion.  Just typing these words has me thinking I’ll be rereading these again shortly.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath — Oh how I love this book.  My copy is worn from years of reading and rereading.  Plath has a remarkable way of connecting with her readers.  Esther Greenwood is one of my all-time favorite literary characters.  This book is heavy and full of sadness, but beautifully written.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou — I think this is one of the most gut-wrenching books ever written.  The fact that it’s Angelou’s autobiography adds to it’s heartbreak.  This book taught me a lot about the ugliness in the world.  It also taught me how to overcome it.

Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison — I didn’t want you to think that all banned books were serious tomes.  Need to laugh so hard you get an ab workout?  This is the book for you.  Hysterical.

The Witches by Roald Dahl — The most delightfully spooky book from my childhood and one I can’t wait to read aloud with my girls.  Roald Dahl is everything that is wonderful about children’s literature.

There are many, many other great reads that have been banned or challenged over the years.  These are just a few of my personal favorites.  What are your favorite banned books?

Review: How We Learn

How We Learn, by Benedict Carey

I really love learning about the brain. I was getting ready this morning and thinking about what I was going to write in this review… and I got totally overwhelmed with how amazing that is. My brain was doing about 900 different things at once- I was standing up, drying my hair, looking in the mirror, listening for the kids outside the door, breathing, heart beating, thinking about what I was going to write- meaning, remembering the things that I read a week ago and judging how I felt about that and then putting it into words, all the while planning my day in the back of my head and dreaming about a chai latte.

THAT IS AMAZING, RIGHT?!

All that to say, when I saw this book I was immediately interested. I love that stuff. And, you guys, I don’t want to sound harsh because there really was some good stuff here… but I think that the title is a bit misleading. It would have been more aptly titled How We Memorize. And I wouldn’t have picked that book up.

I would say the entire first half of this book were about memorization tests, and like I said, there were bits here that were really interesting and if I were still in classes, would be things I put into practice (studying in different environments, incremental learning, yadda yadda) but as far as really learning? Not rote memorization? I feel like that was touched on briefly in the end and that was it.

I feel like the author really researched well, I thought that the writing was smooth and easy to glide right through. I even thought that there were nuggets here that I took away especially in relation to how kids learn and their little brains develop. And if you are trying to memorize something? This is your book. There is a ton here about filling your brain with non-word syllables in long strings, but that’s not my thing as much. A decent informative read, but not exactly what I was looking for.

This book was provided by Random House, but all opinions are mine! 

Review: The Rules of Scoundrels

The Rules of Scoundrels by Sarah MacLean

From Goodreads for A Rouge By Any Other Name: A decade ago, the Marquess of Bourne was cast from society with nothing but his title. Now a partner in London’s most exclusive gaming hell, the cold, ruthless Bourne will do whatever it takes to regain his inheritance—including marrying perfect, proper Lady Penelope Marbury.

A broken engagement and years of disappointing courtships have left Penelope with little interest in a quiet, comfortable marriage, and a longing for something more. How lucky that her new husband has access to such unexplored pleasures.

Bourne may be a prince of London’s underworld, but he vows to keep Penelope untouched by its wickedness—a challenge indeed as the lady discovers her own desires, and her willingness to wager anything for them… even her heart.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I’ve read the first three in this series (the fourth coming out later this year) and I LOVE it. It is the perfect combination of my love for smoochy stories and historical fiction. And, witty banter and strong women and fascinating stories.

Penelope was hilarious and so fun to root for. Bourne was dark and dangerous and The Fallen Angel was so well-written and imaginative, I wanted to travel back in time!

I’m pretty new to the historical romance genre, and now I’m gobbling up them left and right. I bought the first of this series at a used library book sale a year or so ago, and after finishing it I immediately put the next two books on hold at the library. I couldn’t get enough of these couples, and the amazing London underworld as Maclean writes it. Fascinating!

I’m about the only WSR reviewer that really loves romance novels, but I bet there are some of you readers that enjoy them too. Any other historical fiction recommendations for me?

Review: Bellweather Rhapsody

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

From Goodreads: A high school music festival goes awry when a young prodigy disappears from a hotel room that was the site of a famous murder/suicide fifteen years earlier, in a whip-smart novel sparkling with the dark and giddy pop culture pleasures of The Shining, Agatha Christie, and Glee.

Jenny’s thoughts: The blurb sounds great, right? What it doesn’t mention is that you spend half the book being introduced to far too many characters before the plot starts moving. I picked this book to launch my week-long vacation at the beach, and slogging through the first half totally killed my vacation-reading mojo. “But the second half was great, right?” you ask. Meh, is all I have to say. Aside from this book being crowded with characters, it was also hard to believe as a murder mystery. A 14-year-old is found hanging, her body goes missing, and only one person cares – spoiler alert: It’s not the missing/dead girl’s mother. Then no one entertains the idea of the hotel being haunted. This novel wasn’t dark, but it was obnoxious. It was dramatic in the way you would expect when you’re snowed in at a hotel with stereotypical arts students/instructors for a weekend. No one is responsible, and everyone is concerned with their own spectacular/terrible lives. There isn’t much time left in 2014 for me to turn around this year in reading. I’ve had more books let me down than I prefer, and I’m pretty over it.

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