Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Hilarious and Spooky:: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Rory is jazzed to be starting at boarding school in London. I mean, who wouldn't be? Despite the difficult academics and endless field hockey practices, vivacious Rory loves her new school and living in a new city. However, starting with the day of her arrival, a series of murders break out around London. Each murder is in the style of Jack the Ripper. When Rory sees a man the night of one of murder, she becomes the only witness. Yet, her roommate was standing beside her and didn't see the man. More and more Rory realizes she is seeing people that no one else can. Is Rory going crazy or is something more sinister at work?

The best way I can describe this book is Anna and French Kiss meets Sherlock. It starts out as basic "girl goes to boarding school in Europe" story. Reading it you are caught up in her classes and roommate and boys, that ever so slowly you don't know that the story is slowly turning into a supernatural murder mystery. This is good for me, since I'm not a huge supernatural/mystery person, so I really enjoyed the way Johnson brought these too genres together.

I've always been a fan of Maureen Johnson's writing style. If you haven't read 13 Little Blue Envelopes
you are missing out on one of my favorite travel stories. The Name of the Star was just as candid and fun, but also hilarious. Rory comes from a small town in Louisiana with uncle who has eight freezer and a cousin who does "Angel Healing Therapy." Sometimes I felt that Rory got too ridiculous, which hurt the believability of the book, but all in all her character was really fun and an interesting narrator.
My only other complaint is that I really like Jazza and Jerome's characters and I was kinda sad they pushed aside for the majority of the second half. There is supposed to be a sequel, so maybe they will make a come back then.

All in all, the story was gripping, but enjoyable. I feel like it is hard to write to make someone laugh in a story about gruesome Jack the Ripper murders, but Rory's narration made it all come together perfectly.

Perfect if you loved:: Anna and the French Kiss (especially the boarding school aspect), Sherlock (the murder mystery part), House of Anubis (it was a TV show on Nickelodeon a few years ago about kids in a British boarding school solving mysteries, so basically the same thing)
Rating (out of 30):: 19

Monday, May 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday:: The Top Ten Books for Dancers

The Broke and Bookish run this weekly meme where bloggers post their top ten in any category!

Fun Fact: I love ballet
This week was a "freebie." Since this blog is just getting started (on blogspot at least), I figured this would be a good time to get to know me. And one thing about me is that I LOVE dance, especially ballet! So I decided to do a list about that. I'm not a huge fan of dance books that are only about girls dealing with EDs or only about girls who are seduced by older man, so this list has none of those! Here are my favorites:

1- Bunheads by Sophie Flack- This book such a real and raw look at the world of ballet. It's written by a former NYCB corp member, so it captures the joys and struggles of life in the corp. This book inspired me to start writing about my experience in dance. I'm forever glad I found this book!
2- En Pointe by Lora Glover- Written in prose, this book is a lovely story about trying your hardest to achieve dreams and learning how to live when they don't come true.
3, 4, and 5- Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, and Theater Shoes by Noel Stratfield- These are the only three "shoe books" I've read, but I really loved them as kid. They are about family and performing and are beautiful.
6- The Royal Ballet School Diaries by Alexandra Moss- These are definitely for a younger audience. I read them when I was in 6th grade and even then, they were a little young for me. However, they are the reason I fell in love with ballet and they definitely make ballet feel magical.
7- Margot Fonteyn: An Autobiography- She's a ballet legend, the prima of all primas. Reading her story is forever interesting. Her account of being a ballet dancer during WWII inspired me to write a story for my fiction writing class (I got an A- which was huge for my professor).
8- Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Dorian Cirrone- What happens to a dancer when she doesn't have the body type and never will? This is a story of humor and courage- and one of the most difficult parts of ballet.
9- The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman- Two dancing sister and the move that changes their world. Not as dance related as the others, but it's still there.
10- Girl in Motion by Miriam Wenger-Landis- This isn't my favorite ballet book, but if you liked Bunhead or Dance Academy (my favorite Austrialian teen drama tv show), you might enjoy this too. It's a young girl at NYC's best dance school trying to find her way in the ever competitive world of dance.

I still feel like I'm missing some important ones, but I can't think of what they are! Oh no! Leave me comments about your favorite ballet books and maybe I'll think of the ones I missed!

Actually Adorkable:: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I'm up at my cottage for Memorial Weekend, which means lots of beach time and lots of beach reading! This is the second book I've finished this weekend, and I'm 133 pages into my third.

Starting her freshman year at the University of Nebraska could not be worse for Cath. Her twin sister, Wren, has deserted her for party girl roommate. Her father, still troubled after their mother left them years before, is taking the sudden loneliness hard. She can't connect with her roommate, who is constantly going out with different boys. The only thing that gives Cath joy is writing Simon Snow (basically Harry Potter) fanfiction. Her most recent fic has thousands upon thousands of readers and she has fans from around the world. That's all a girl needs in life, right?

I found this book while walking around the local B&N and I stopped to read it for twenty minutes and was hooked. So I went to the library the next day and checked it out. I got really into it quickly, as the story is so approachable. The voice is so true teens/college kids that it really jumps from the page. Perhaps in 5 years this story will feel dated, but now it feels so real. 

In some ways, Cath reminded me of myself when I was a college freshman- a little bit scared and awkward (who isn't), but a little bit judgmental too. In the way almost all college kids do, she finds a way to overcome this, which was relatable and reassuring. Her experience though has something relatable for everyone- whether you like fanfiction, farming, family drama, ect. There are so many points of entry into this story, so it has a broad appeal to readers. Rowell does a great job of giving Cath a well rounded life- she has a very fleshed out family, friend, and boy life. I like how the plot moved. Things seemed really bleak in the beginning, but things kept getting better for her throughout the book, with still keeping a sense of drama. I really liked Levi. I'm not one to fall for the "tall, dark, and handsome"stereotype that you find in most YA, so I loved him for being the opposite of that!

There were only a few things that I didn't like. The third person narration made me feel a little too distant from Cath. I think the story would have been much stronger in first person. It was hard to always tell if the narrator was using "style indirect" or was just a witty narrator. I also didn't always believe that Cath was 18 and in college. Most the time, she seemed mature, but other times she seemed vastly immature. There is a scene where she turns a piece of fanfiction into her Fiction Writing professor and is upset and angry when her prof calls her out for plagiarism. It seemed silly to me that a girl who got into an upper level Fiction Writing class as a freshman would consider that acceptable. 

I definitely recommend this book. It's a good balance of cute and heavy, and the sort of book that really makes you care about the characters.

Perfect If You Loved:: Just One Day (especially if you liked her college bits), fanfiction or being part of fandom in general
Rating (Out of 30):: 23

Have you read Fangirl? What did you think?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Perfect Follow Up:: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Jake Barnes is in love with Lady Brett Ashley, as are all of his friends. Jake, more an observer than contender for Brett's love, narrates the journeythat he and his expatriate friends make from Paris, France to Pamploma, Spain to watch the bull fights. The novel tells of both the hijinks and the horrors that occur when several men are in love with the same woman.

I find it hard to review classics- how am I supposed to review something written by someone almost a hundred years ago and with so much influence? I guess I'll try! I think that reading classics are so much fun because there is so much stuff out there to support your reading- from Sparknotes to critical essays- so that you make sure you get the most of your experience (so take advantage of cool resources, even if you are reading the classics not for school). I'm working really hard to try to start reading classics outside of my English major classes.

I really liked Hemingway's style of writing. I'd never read anything by him before and I found his writing really digestible. If you want to start reading classics on your own, Hemingway is a great place to start. His writing is so clear- you never get lost or can't understand what is happening. I always felt like he took you to the places he wrote about. When Jake was in Paris, it really felt like you were there, which a lot of authors can't do well. His dialogue is really dynamic too. It really jumps off the page, which makes it quick to read.

Plotwise- I really enjoyed reading if after finishing The Paris Wife. He wrote it during the time when McLain's book takes place, so it is easy to see the correlation between real events and the events of the book. At first it was hard to tell the difference between all of Jake's friends, but by the end, I felt like I knew they all pretty well. I'm not very keen on bullfighting at all, so I got bored/disgusted during the bull fighting scenes. Despite this, the scenes of dialogues and the dynamic relationships that were shown in the book made up for it.

Perfect if you loved:: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (he helped Hemingway edit this), The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (it was the perfect follow up), generally anything taking place during the 1920's in Europe

No Ratings for Classics :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Friendship Books

The Broke and Bookish run this weekly meme where bloggers post their top ten in any category! This week's theme was books about friendship!

  1. Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales- This book is the ideal friendship book. Violet and Katie have been friends for a really long time and go to the same competitive, private school- but have very different personalities. Their ups and downs are so relatable!
  2. 3 Willows by Ann Brashares- Everyone has those friends who used to be super close in elementary school, but grew apart as they got older. This book is about the summer that brings three old friends back together again.
  3. The Year My Sister Got Lucky by Aimee Friedman- Sometimes your sister can also be your best friend, so what does that mean when you move and your sister becomes the most popular girl in school?
  4. Viola in Reel Life by Adriana Trigiani- Getting left at a boarding school while your parents shoot documentaries can be a drag, but Viola ends up meeting some of the coolest roommates that make her life better and become her best friends.
  5. The Casson Family Books by Hilary McKay- (These books will be on every list ever because they are the most perfect books) The Casson Family collects lots of different friends from their neighbor Sarah to ex-bully David to a hippie named Derek. The Casson's friends are all different ages and levels of quirkiness, proving that just about anyone can be their friend.
  6. Paper Towns by John Green- Only really really good friends would skip graduation so that you could track down the girl you've been crushing on forever.
  7. Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass- Three very different kids meet and become unlikely friends during an eclipse
  8. Things Hoped For by Andrew Clements- Proof that you can have a book about a boy and a girl where they just friends! Bobby has a girlfriend, Alicia, so the relationship between Gwen and Bobby is just friendship, which is just as important!
  9. The Saddle Club by Bonnie Bryant- This was one for my favorite as a kid! Three very different girls, all drawn together by their love horses, form the quintessential group of friends.
  10. Harry Potter by JK Rowling- I've seen this on a ton of other lists and lets be honest- Harry, Ron, and Hermione make up one of the best trios to ever exist. You can't not love them!

What are your Top Ten books about friendship? Do you agree with any of mine? 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Behind the Writer:: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

My Summary:: 
When Hadley Richardson spends a summer in Chicago with her friend, she is swept off her feet by Ernest Hemingway. He is intriguing, like no one she has met before- ruggedly outdoorsy, delicately damaged from WWI, and a dedicated writer. After their marriage, they leave for Paris to take on the literary scene. While Ernest begins the writing that will drive his career, Hadley puts everything into becoming the supportive wife and mother. Yet Paris in the 20's, full of the greatest American artists at the time and lots of alcohol, was never the place of traditional domestic bliss. In a place where wild affairs lace cafe culture, heartbreak is inevitable.

My Review::
This book is lovely. It was very easy for me to latch on to Hadley's voice and story. Hadley and Ernest's romance is captivating from the very start. They are vivacious and very much in love. It's because of this that you find yourself rooting for a failing romance. You know from the start they are doomed, after all Hemingway had 4 wives, Hadley being the first. So the ending is no surprise, but that doesn't make it any less heartbreaking (I cried).

I really liked Hadley's voice in the story. It really came to life and captured her charm. She had the cadence of a woman from the 20's and its very obvious that the author put a lot of work into researching Hadley. McLain nails not the just the events and history with accuracy, but it's clear she spent a really long time getting to know the characters through reading their letters and other personal documents. At the same time, Hadley seems such a real and familiar character, it makes the 20's not seem so far away.

My only complaint, as I have a surprising amount of books about Paris, is that I never felt it really took me there. This is a book about people- Hadley and Ernest, as well as their literary friends. The author never went to Paris until after writing novel, so that might have had an effect on the focus on people rather than places.

Perfect If You Loved:: Basically anything by Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises especially), Midnight in Paris
Rating (out of 30):: 24

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

So let's try that again...

I made this blog last summer after I realized that having a book blog on tumblr wasn't very effective. However, I made this blog right before school started, so I never had time actually do anything with it. My school is pretty demanding with two majors and a minor, plus at least one extracurricular a day and a job (which is also blogging)- so there was no way to fit in time to maintain this blog. But now- school is out, so that means lots of time for reading. I really like using a blog a way to record my thoughts on my reading, so I hopefully that is what I'll do!

I thought I'd talk for a sec about the reading I've done this year. Here is a small stack of the books I read this year:

I took three English classes this year (I'm an English major- but I'm also majoring in French and minoring in Education, so I had to take stuff for that too). One was on the literature of India. We read five novels really in depth: Kim, A Passage to India, Midnight's Children, The God of Small Things, and The White Tiger. I took a course called "Thinking With Abbeys" which was based on my favorite TV show, Downton Abbey. We read a ton of books for it- Barford Abbey, Lark Rise to Candleford, The Romance of the Forest, The Monk, Don Juan, The Horrors of Oakendale Abbey, Emma, Northanger Abbey, and lots of snippets from other novels and poems as well. My final class was a course on Fiction Writing. We read a lot of strange, independent novels that all focused walking. I also took a French course on Parisian Literature, where I read a lot of stories about Paris and as well as Irene Nemorosky's novel Suite Fran├žais. I did a tiny bit of pleasure reading where I could, reading Just One Day by Gale Foreman and A Summer in Europe by Marilyn Brant. 

In all, I real at ton this year, but yet I can't wait to start summer reading. I finished my first read of the summer, The Paris Wife by Paula McClain, which I look forward to writing about soon! I just started The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, so hopefully I'll finish that soon as well.