Eligible? Or Unworthy?


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via npr.org

The buzz surrounding the recent release of Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield was deafening. After reading all about the internet’s anticipation, I caught on. Another modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice sounded all right. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries was awesome. I was decidedly excited about this new adaptation.

As I read through the first four chapters my excitement faded. And the minute I read the words, “hate sex” as dialogue from Liz Bennet’s mouth, the hope I had dimmed to a mere flicker. I nursed that flicker though. Maybe it would get better. It didn’t.

The problem wasn’t the sex or unusual situations. The problem was that Ms. Sittenfield changed the characters so much that they barely resemble the original. Liz isn’t playful and witty. She’s sarcastic and defensive. She isn’t graceful in any way. She goes out of her way to antagonize Darcy whenever possible. And the worst part is that she’s introduced as being in an affair with a married man. Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet had strong morals and character. This version doesn’t hold up.

Darcy isn’t proud but sexy, serious and responsible, or dignified in any way.. He’s awkward and seems relatively okay with being used. When she suggests they have hate sex, he goes along (SO UN-DARCY). We’re all used to him bungling the whole affair between them with his first proposal, but here we see him doing so because he doesn’t communicate well and then decides it isn’t worth salvaging until he sees her again. Mr. Bennet seemingly hates all his daughters, including Liz. These are my favorite characters from the original and it was disappointing to see them so portrayed.

I will say, Mrs. Bennet, Jane, and (to a point) Lydia were pretty spot-on. And I actually enjoyed Mary’s little epilogue. But the good parts of the book were drowned out by the over-vulgarization of every point. It was like she wanted to make it as crass as possible to shock the reader. It worked. I was shocked.

It’s not all bad, but if you are looking for a modern retelling that captures the spirit and character of the original, look elsewhere. Ms. Sittenfield copied the basic plot and nothing more.

 

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Kitchen Magic is My Favorite


 

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I love this cover. I love everything about this cover. I want to live and breathe it. I want my house to look like this cover and I want to buy this book just so I can have the cover on my shelf with all its beauty.

The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee was pretty good. It’s the story of a woman from Texas who moves to New York. She’s just gotten divorced and it seems like a typical story of renewal. However, Portia is special. She has what is referred to in her family as “The Knowing.” She knows what food people will need and can cook it perfectly. It’s kitchen magic.

Magical realism as a genre has a tendency to lean toward the kitchen, because cooking is a kind of magic all its own. I love these kind of books. However, I felt a little deceived with The Glass Kitchen  because it is advertised as a book about sisters, and it’s not. It’s a book about Portia and a little girl named Ariel. Her sisters are certainly apart of the story, but it’s about Portia and her love life and her self-discovery. And Ariel and her self-discovery. So I was disappointed at the lack of sisterhood.

Portia’s love life is a little strange. She has a very intense affair with the man upstairs, who hires her as a cook, and ends up being a liar and emotionally unavailable. In the end, he comes to his senses and begs her to return to his life. Which she does, naturally. I wasn’t his biggest fan, but it wasn’t the worst love story I’ve ever read.

Ariel’s story was interesting and the unexpected part of the story. She’s a smart 12-year-old who acts as a sort of undercover sleuth to discover parts of her mom’s past (her mom is dead). She conspires to get her dad and Portia together (and does it pretty damn well) and manages to conquer her fear of cars. She deals with her sister’s attitude and her dad’s negligence pretty well and is a trooper over all. Her story has the plot twist, not Portia’s.

There have been a few reviews that said they didn’t like the back and forth between Portia’s point of view and Ariel’s point of view, but I actually liked it. It was refreshing to go from teenage angst to adult angst. You didn’t have to deal with too much of one type of drama.

Overall, I’d rate this as a quick jolt of sugar. Nothing like dark chocolate, but maybe like Sour Patch Kids. Or a soda. Nice, refreshing even, but nothing to write home about.

(Linda Francis Lee is no Sarah Addison Allen.)

A Cure for Loneliness?


I started reading this book recently: The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction by Adam S. McHugh. It was a recommendation in Simply Tuesdays by Emily P. Freeman.

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Simply Tuesdays was a good book. It didn’t hand me an overwhelming amount of new information. I knew most of what she told me. However, it was a book that caused me to re-evaluate areas of my life and it took me months to finish it. She referenced the listening book multiple times and there was something in me that said, “YOU NEED THAT.” Maybe it was the Holy Spirit.

So I bought it. But, like the true rebel I am, I didn’t read it. It just sat on my kindle for a while. Chilling. Waiting for me to get around to it.

Today, I started reading it while I was waiting at the bank. I always bring a book to the bank because transferring money takes a few hours (not joking). And as I sat in the lobby, I felt my soul take a breath and thought, “This is what I’ve needed for a while. This book.”

This doesn’t happen to me often. I don’t often feel such an intense emotional need for a book besides the Bible and like, Jane Austen. So I’ve been reading it throughout my day, in-between classes, during meals. And I’ve wanted to cry multiple times and I’m only in chapter one.

The main quote that has gotten me is about why we fail to listen. One of the reasons he lists is loneliness.

We’re lonely. Mother Teresa called loneliness the leprosy of the Western world, maybe even more devastating than Calcutta poverty. Loneliness drives to talk about ourselves to excess and to turn conversations toward ourselves. It makes us grasp on to others, thinking their role is to meet our needs, and it shrinks the space we have in our souls for welcoming others in. That loneliness would keep us from listening, and others from listening to us, is a tragedy, because being listened to is one of the great assurances in this universe that we are not alone.

To be an unprofessional writer: Like, wow.

I can’t stop thinking about this idea. Loneliness is driving me to obsess about myself. To be needy and demand that others listen and it is preventing true fellowship. How do I rid myself of this disease? By listening. Listening to God, listening to others. By stopping, creating intentional space to breathe and just listen.

I’ll leave you with this:

Our longings for intimacy will not be satisfied through one-way conversations and interactions that feel like competitions. Our desire to be transformed will not be met through giving voice to all the noise in our souls. Our identities will not be discovered in finding our own voice independent of others, but in helping others find their voices.

That’s my job as a writer. To help others find their voice. It requires me to stop talking and listen. James knew what he was talking about: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19, NIV). It’s becoming a theme in my life. I like it.

Now, go read this book, because it’s really good. Right now. Go. Stop reading this and get it already! Now!

Me Before You


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I had heard soooo much about this book. I knew I was going to have to read it eventually, but I put it off for as long as possible. But finally, I started it. And I couldn’t put it down. It grabbed hold of me, primarily because Lou (the MC) was quirky and marvelous. And our hero, Will, was heartbreaking. Here’s the summary from Amazon:

They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

I will tell you that I was so shocked and unhappy at the ending that I ruined it for several people (Sorry Em). I thought it was a meaningful, beautiful love story. But I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone. Or that I’ll read another JoJo Moyes book, because I’m so angry.

I was resolved not to write a review, because I’m still not sure how I feel. But I figured that’s worth telling you too. Here’s a book that messed me up. I don’t know if you should read it.

The Others Quartet


 

The Others Series

Well, Anne Bishop is my homegirl. I love her books and buy pretty much everything she writes because I’m guaranteed to love it (except for Ephemera, I pretend it doesn’t exist and you should too). After I finished reading the Black Jewels series, I couldn’t handle the emotional turmoil of another series designed to RIP OUT MY HEART, but I finally made my way to the Others. And I was in love (and lucky because there was only one book missing from the series). I finished them in the winter of this past year and waited with bated breath for March and the final chapter. I wasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the summary from Amazon (from Marked In Flesh):

For centuries, the Others and humans have lived side by side in uneasy peace. But when humankind oversteps its bounds, the Others will have to decide how much humanity they’re willing to tolerate—both within themselves and within their community…
 
Since the Others allied themselves with the cassandra sangue, the fragile yet powerful human blood prophets who were being exploited by their own kind, the delicate dynamic between humans and Others changed. Some, like Simon Wolfgard, wolf shifter and leader of the Lakeside Courtyard, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn, see the new, closer companionship as beneficial—both personally and practically.

But not everyone is convinced. A group of radical humans is seeking to usurp land through a series of violent attacks on the Others. What they don’t realize is that there are older and more dangerous forces than shifters and vampires protecting the land that belongs to the Others—and those forces are willing to do whatever is necessary to protect what is theirs…

I love the dynamic between the blood prophets and the wolves. The wolves see them as pups, people who need special care to enter the world, because the cassandra sangue have never dealt with the world the way others have. They were locked up for most of their existence. It’s always fascinating to see how Meg is learning new things and how she clings to the other-ness of the terra indigine (the Others). I also love the lack of sex in this series. The Black Jewels revolved around it and it could be a little stifling at times. This series is about an innocent girl and as such doesn’t have any of the seedier elements. It was refreshing.

I don’t like the shifts to different points of view. Whenever it switched over to the police I was instantly bored. There was too much information being thrown at you to recover quickly from the shifts and they weren’t long enough to allow me to adjust well. I would often skip over certain parts because I figured it wasn’t that important. Meg and Simon are the important people. Focusing on them, especially in the last book, would have been better (in my humble opinion).

Even with the tedious bits, the final book kept me on my toes. I’m hoping for some extras later, but I’m satisfied with how the story ended. And, let me just say, WEREWOLVES. I love any wolf shifter stories. Go, read them, love them.

 

 

 

Classic Love Poems


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Okay guys, last year Richard Armitage recorded 23 minutes worth of love poetry for Audible. It’s free. WHY HAVE I WAITED THIS LONG? Richard Armitage is, of course, the perfect narrator, but these are the perfect poems. Full of longing and love and beauty. Below is the description of them and if you don’t want a twenty minute audiobook of them, I think you’re crazy.

For anyone who’s in love – or hopes to be – what greater celebration could there be than to hear the world’s greatest love poetry read lovingly by Richard Armitage? With 15 poems by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and more, Classic Love Poems is a listening treat for Valentine’s Day – or any day.

Included in this collection are:

  • “How do I love thee?” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  • “Sonnet 116” by William Shakespeare
  • “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “To Be One with Each Other” by George Eliot
  • “Maud” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  • “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell
  • “Bright Star” by John Keats
  • “Love’s Philosophy” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
  • “Meeting at Night” by Robert Browning
  • “The Dream” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” by Christopher Marlowe
  • “I carry your heart” by e. e. cummings
  • “She Walks in Beauty” by Lord Byron
  • “Give All to Love” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

I mean really. Do yourself a favor and get it. Take a half hour, lie on the floor and listen to love poems. It’ll do your heart some good. There is beauty in the world.

The Opposite of Loneliness


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I was perusing Adulting books on Amazon. Yup. It’s a genre. I was glancing through Real Simple’s book, one actually titled Adulting, and a few others when the bright yellow jacket on the cover caught my eye and I found myself reading the introduction to The Opposite of Loneliness. It broke my heart.

Marina Keegan was 22 when her boyfriend fell asleep at the wheel and crashed their car on their way to meet her parents right after her graduation from Yale. She died. She won a TON of awards and was published in the New Yorker because she’s just that good of a writer. Her friends, parents, and one Yale professor put together the work that made up this book of essays and short stories. It gripped me from page one and I read through them all in a little less than two days.

opposite-of-loneliness-quote1The essay with the same title as the book was my favorite, because it reminded me that my hopes and dreams are still tangible, still there. Some people are blessed with their ability to capture emotion on the page, and she was definitely one of them. I’m not sure if the book would have had such a profound affect on me if I hadn’t known the fate of the author, to be honest. To read all that potential and to know that it was forever gone was so heart-wrenching and depressing and…strangely exhilarating.

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Marina wrote because it took ahold of her. She wrote because she loved stories and language. She wrote because she didn’t believe she was too young to affect change in those around her. I’m afraid, but Marina wasn’t and I’ve stolen some of her courage by reading what she wrote. This is a book for anyone who is young and feels alone. This is for mothers and fathers who want to know how our generation feels. This is for graduates, for those who never made it to college, for those who want to know what I feel about America today. I didn’t agree all the time, but her snide observations are mine too. And I loved hearing someone voice what I thought.

I’m so sad that Marina never got to write more, but I won’t squander my time. I want to write the way she did. I want to live courageously and be remembered for my words.

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Bitten: A Comparison


So this is strictly to compare and contrast the book Bitten by Kelley Armstrong to the Canadian TV show Bitten based on same. If you haven’t read the book and want to then don’t read this. There are major spoilers.

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From left to right: Logan, Clay, ELENA, Jeremy, Nick

I watched Bitten when the first season popped up on Netflix and fell in love. It’s a forbidden love story about werewolves. I’m a sucker for werewolf stories (I actually have one in my arsenal to write). I think that werewolves are the sexiest monsters out there and this show proved it. Elena is the only female werewolf because typically wolves are born, not bitten and the gene is only passed through men. Elena is bitten by her former lover Clay, the Alpha (Jeremy)’s son. The Pack is basically the werewolf mafia. Elena left the Pack and is living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip when the story starts. She only changes when absolutely necessary and tries to keep the wolves at bay. It’s an interesting premise and I was sucked in immediately by the dramatic dialogue in the show. When I finally read the book I discovered the show writers took lines straight from the book. Which was awesome. But slowly I began to appreciate the differences between the show and the book, starting with the relationship between her and Clay.

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In the show there is epic music and a build up of tension between Elena and Clay. In the book there is none of that. The tension slams into you in the third chapter. It was kind of a relief. There’s a lot of angst in the show about who she should be with. There’s a little of that in the book, but most of it is denial. We all know who she’s gonna end up with from the third chapter. She allows herself to be manipulated by Clay. She justifies it and claims it isn’t cheating on Philip. Really, it sounds like she’s trying to justify cheating on Clay. They act like a couple the whole book. The show is much more about the back and forth, WHO WILL SHE CHOOSE? drama. I appreciated the lack of that and more of the inward struggle she has.

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The other big difference is that Logan is the first to die. In the show, Logan is Elena’s BFF and werewolf shrink. In the book she is looking forward to seeing him, but he has ONE LINE before he ends up dead. Since he’s a whiner and all around drama queen in the show, I liked that he died first. It was a relief. The show takes us down a completely different story line, where his girlfriend, Rachel ends up preggers with his werewolf son. It’s kind of awful. Also, Antonio dies in the show. It’s very dramatic and sad (I cried) but he managed to tell Nick his mother’s name before fading away and that leads to a plot line in season 2. Which was cool. HE NEVER DIES IN THE BOOK. I was sooooo happy, because Antonio is AWESOME.

One thing I will say about the show is that most of the characters (with the exception of Elena and Jeremy) are true to how they are portrayed in the book. Jeremy in the show is very outwardly loving and compassionate and in the book that’s all inside. At the end of the book Elena realizes that she chose Philip because he was like Jeremy. It’s a big moment for her. Elena herself is less conflicted than she is in the show. She’s also way more of a badass than the TV version.

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Who is this? Malcolm is a footnote in the book and become the grand conspirator in the show. WTF? Like, why is he even there? THIS IS RIDICULOUS.

The biggest difference is that the TV show tries to put all the confusion into one giant conspiracy. It makes it less about the characters and more about the plot and that is truly sad. It has Elena forgiving Clay not because she realizes he actually saved her life when he bit her (because in the book she knows what happened the whole time), but because she realizes she isn’t actually human anymore and accepts the fact that she’s a violent person. It isn’t Clay’s fault or her werewolf self. It’s her and she accepts herself. It’s pretty great.

I loved the show and reading the book kind of destroyed that, but it will always have a special place in my heart (and I’m still freakishly excited about the third season). I don’t know if the second book will be good, but I think I’ll read it and find out how the show bastardizes that one. Ha.

Best Books of 2015


Maybe this is a bit late, but I decided to do a top ten list of the books I read in 2015, because while I read a lot, there were only a few that were worth recommending.

Books of 2015

These are in no particular order:

  1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I enjoyed this classic soo0 much. Always read classics.
  2. Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue In History by Antonio Mendez and Mike Baglio. This book was ridiculously awesome and taught me a lot about my country. If you haven’t read it yet, do it. And, no, watching the movie doesn’t count.
  3. Abigail Adams by Woody Holton. Abigail Adams has always been a hero of mine, but I respect her way more now. In a time when women didn’t have many rights, she decided that she would change that. She’s one of the first women to write a will (because legally anything she owned was actually her husband’s). She’s the coolest and Woody Holton did a great job showing her flaws as well as her attributes.
  4. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. This is only the first volume and I am anxious to get my hands on the second. The art is good. The stories are captivating, and it’s one of those books I could walk away from and come back to, which I appreciated.
  5. Written In Red, Murder of Crows, and Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop. This series has captivated me. I’m in love, but I can’t say that I have any character crushes. It’s a first. The next book comes out in March and I can hardly wait.
  6. The Body Book by Cameron Diaz. Cameron made it easy to talk about the body and I understand some things about myself better now. I like the honesty and the pictures.
  7. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. I waited for this for so long and it didn’t disappoint. This was my favorite SAA book and I love it.
  8. Sweep In Peace by Ilona Andrews. I love this series. I hope there’s another one.
  9. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. I liked this book, however, I didn’t like the sequel, A Local Habitation. I’m wary about reading the third.
  10. The Lost Art of Learning by Dorothy L. Sayers. This is basically an essay, but absolutely brilliant and important.

So there you have it. My top ten from 2015.

Dragons Realm


Prepare yourself for a very harsh critique of this book.

There’s a very good reason I read this entire book (ordinarily I would have stopped after the first few chapters). God wanted me to know what Raina would look like with no/minimal editing. (Note: Raina is my book) I’m not joking.

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The cover is gorgeous. The premise is awesome. The writing is terrible.

This book was bad because the characters weren’t flushed out, the plot was weak, and the writer was (presumably) lazy.

I am a lazy writer.

But I want to write a GOOD book. Somewhere, deep in Dragons Realm was a BRILLIANT premise. This could have been another Black Jewels trilogy or Kushiel’s Dart. That’s how much potential it had. It could have redefined “dragons” for scores of readers.

But the characters are static and one-dimensional. Nothing really happens because the characters don’t change. The dialogue is boring and repetitive. And the ending is shit.

It sounds cruel, I know. But it makes me angry that such a good idea was taken in hand by someone who didn’t do it justice. That being said, this book is a bestseller on Amazon. So a brilliant idea can have rewards. But the writing…oh the writing. It’s painful.

I will not do that to my brilliant idea. It’s the best I’ve ever had and I want it to be GREAT, so I have to put the work in.

Thanks Dragons Realm for being horrid. Now I know what to avoid.

Vampires. In Chicago.


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I read the first book of the Chicagoland Vampire series when I was in college. Vampire novels aren’t really my thing. I’m more of a werewolf girl. The first one, Some Girls Bite, was good. I liked it. But I couldn’t handle the suspense of my life so I quickly looked up the summary of the last book in the series and discovered SPOILERS. It upset me so much that I couldn’t continue reading the series at the time. It didn’t help that the hero, Ethan, made me want to crawl in a hole and despair of ever finding a man who believed in equality for men and women.

After some tragedy and culture shock issues, I picked up this series again and am trying to read straight through the series. Chloe Neill, the author, has written more of the books and I was surprised by some of the unexpected plot twists. The last book comes out some time next year.

Our story starts with Some Girls Bite, where Merit, our fearless heroine, is attacked on campus and turned into a vampire by Ethan, head of House Cadogan. Vampires came into the public not that long ago so there isn’t the hush hush secrecy that there is in some novels. I like the openness of it. Sometimes it seems impossible to be able for these vampiric worlds to exist without people finding out. This series doesn’t have those obvious issues.

Merit is a what many people would refer to as a “strong female character”. She knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself. She’s also insecure and a bit bitchy. She understands me.

Naturally there is some sort of sexual tension between Merit and Ethan, because what kind of vampire series would it be without an obvious love interest? What you don’t foresee is the on-again-off-again drama of their relationship. Everyone falls in love with Merit (I mean, I’ll be honest, I’M in love with Merit, so I see the appeal), but she always goes back to Ethan. Ethan, in my humble opinion, is a self-righteous prick. Merit’s presence in his life is a stabilizer and he becomes more like a normal person as the series goes on. Their relationship is maybe my least favorite in the series.

Why read it then? I can hear you asking. I’ll tell you. Mallory and Jeff. Mallory is Merit’s best friend. She finds out in the first books that she’s a sorceress. She also finds the love of her life, Catcher, in the first book. She seems super one dimensional. Until the fifth book when she goes all evil on everyone and turns to black magic.Then she becomes this fascinating character who proves that the badass best friend is sometimes literally a badass. Merit and Mallory’s relationship changes a lot and I love it.

Jeff is a were…something. I’m not going to ruin the surprise because you don’t find out until a few books in. He’s my favorite. Probably because he’s not a vampire. He’s the comedic relief, but also the boy wonder and I appreciate him for all he is.

So…moral of the story: This is a good series. But there are elements that are cliche and cheesy. There are chauvinistic parts. There are feminist parts. It’s a mixed bag. But I like it and am glad that I revisited it. The best part is that it takes place in Chicago. The familiar landmarks make it a mini-vacation for me, and thus, irresistible.