Monday, July 29, 2013

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (5) - Matthew Dicks

If I really, really like a book I find myself still thinking like the narrator after I've finished their story. Which sounds crazy, but I'm an actor, remember? I loved the narrator, Budo, and I devoured this book fast enough that he totally got into my head.

Budo is Max’s imaginary friend. He’s real, but invisible to everyone but Max, and the other imaginary friends he meets. But he has his own emotions, his own thoughts, he can even leave the house and go on his own adventures. He is also the oldest imaginary friend he’s ever met, because Max needs him more than other kids.

I loved this book. It was beautiful and arresting, I loved the characters and I simply couldn’t put this book down.

Budo is obsessed with death. Mostly his own death, because if Max ever stops believing in him, Budo will die. He will fade away until he disappears completely. The novel revolves around this idea, of reality, and of death. Budo is lucky because he can walk through doors, and Max lets him roam around the school. Budo has his own best friend, an imaginary girl named Graham. Budo is also lucky that he looks so much more human than some imaginary friends: such as Puppy, the dim-witted imaginary friend of a kindergartener, Wooly, who looks a lot like Flat Stanley and can’t walk, or Klute, who looks like a bobble head. It is sweet, and funny, and sad, and beautiful.

There is also a thrilling bit after Max gets kidnapped and Budo has to figure out how to save him before Max is taken away forever.

This book has been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which I also loved and remember reading in approximately one sitting. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Walk Across the Sun (4)

"If thou has not seen the devil, look at thine own self." -A Walk Across the Sun

I’m not going to lie, I wrote a review of this book with 100 pages to go and came thisclose to putting this book down and walking away. I’ll make sure it’s in here somewhere if you want to listen to a weird rant. I whined to my roommates about how I just wanted to walk away from the book. I had a snack. I sat down. And after three more pages I was riveted. Like, don’t-move-a-muscle-except-to-wipe-away-your-tears riveted.

Here’s my initial reaction: (100 pages to go)

This book was interesting but the writing felt very pedestrian after reading Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her. It felt long. I mean, I read Game of Thrones in a week. This felt long. I semi-lost interest two-thirds of the way through but kept plodding along because I couldn’t just abandon it. I got it from the library. I have to give it back. I have no problem abandoning books I actually own, which is weird now that I think of it. Shouldn’t I care more about the books I actually spent money on? Well, sure, but I got it for $3 at Half-Priced Books, so it’s not a complete loss.

A Walk Across the Sun is the tale of two sisters, Ahalya and Sita Ghai, orphaned after a tsunami in their native India and sold into the sex trade; and the man, Thomas Clarke who is trying to rescue them and fix his marriage. Chapters flip between Ahalya, Sita, and Thomas' perspectives with a slightly distorted timeline that left me a bit confused. I’m not dumb enough to be confused about if the current chapter happened before or after the previous chapter. I didn't get confused during Game of Thrones, did I? (No, I didn't) George R. R. Martin is the master at weaving all of those plot lines together, and he has approximately 1 billion characters to keep track of. Across continents. Get it together, Corban. 

The biggest problem with A Walk Across the Sun  was that I couldn’t feel what the characters were feeling. I felt more empathy towards Yunior*, and we all know how I felt about him. In fact, I care more about Cersei Lannister** then I do about these characters, and I hate Cersei way more than Yunior. The only character I’ve hated more than Cersei was Professor Umbridge*** and at least she got what was coming to her. More or less.

What I did like was that Addison explained the world to me. My last cross-cultural excursion made me feel relatively confused since I didn’t understand several of the words on each page, but Addison explained everything to me very concisely. At least he didn’t make me feel stupid.

It didn’t suck. But there are probably better books out there. Let me know if you need help finding one. I’ve found like 20 I want to read while procrastinating finishing this one. I may also just be ADD about how many books I want to read and not letting myself fully immerse myself in the story of the book. Perhaps if I had tried to savour this book instead of devour it, I would have liked it better.

After the last 100 pages
Yes, there was almost a hundred pages in the middle that were Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix painful. Yes, that probably means it was a bit too long. But the end was perfect. I cried. I won’t tell you if they were happy tears or sad tears or both but I like crying over books because I’m a masochist.

I’m so glad I didn’t give up on it.

*This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz – beautiful prose, horrible main character. Kind of like Cersei.

**Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin - get with the program. It will only take you between four months & two years to get through all five books, judging by the length of times it has taken me my two roommates. My friend Liz read the first book in 2 days, but she's crazy. It took me four months to get through A Feast for Crows alone, because of Cersei’s chapters. Stay strong my friends, it gets better.

***Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, J.K. Rowling - it is unforgivable that you did not know that. You just crucio-ed my heart.  And you don’t even know what that means

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half available for pre-order!

I hope this is the cover*.

Should this be exciting? I don't know, I LIKE to have things to look forward to. Gives life some extra pizzazz, yes?

Anywho, if you've been living under a rock for the past couple years and don't know, Hyperbole and a Half is an online comic with long-form stories sprinkled with adorable comics, mostly featuring crazy things that have happened to the comic, Allie Brosh. I love it. She doesn't post all that often, but it's always epic. Her last post was one of the most beautiful and funny things I've ever read, about her last year battling depression. I cried, and laughed, and my heart grew three sizes that day.

October 29, 2013. Be prepared world. Be prepared.
I just pre-ordered mine. It's currently #2 on the Amazon Bestseller list. Second only to, you guessed it The Cuckoo's Calling.

Speaking of which, like I mentioned, I like to be excited about things. I like anticipation. I like to plan things out. I am really upset that J. K. Rowling has had a book out for half a year and I just found out. I'm busy Jo. I can't read your book, I have a stack 7 high. But I want to.

In case you're keeping score, They solved the mystery of the anonymous tweet (probably). Apparently one of Jo's lawyer's wife's best friends is the culprit. Not any of her kids. I'm disappointed. So is Jo, ""I had assumed that I could expect total confidentiality from Russells, a reputable professional firm and I feel very angry that my trust turned out to be misplaced." 

*it's not.

Monday, July 15, 2013

This is How You Lose Her (3.5)

“And that's when I know it's over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it's the end.” - This is How You Lose Her

Well, this is one of those books that makes me feel like I’m either an idiot or a terrible person. I liked it but I didn’t love it. And the more I think about it, the less I like it.

This is How You Lose Her is the story of Yunior, his family, and his pathetic attempt at a love story. I didn’t find Yunior relatable for most of the novel. And while most of the novel is from his perspective, there are some random chapters in the middle from other characters’ perspective, and I’m not sure how they fit into the story. Those chapters were lovely, and when we went back to Yunior’s story for the end of the novel it was a bit of a disappointment.
“She's sensitive, too. Takes to hurt the way water takes to paper.” -- This is How You Lose Her

like this, but better.

Now I didn’t actually hate the novel as much as it's about to sound like I did. Diaz’s prose is beautiful. The short story in the middle of a Latina washwoman trying to make her way in America was lovely.

Her lover, Ramόn, has a wife who won’t move to America. He talks of buying a house where they can live together but is still writing home to the wife. That relationship is foreign to me, why keep a wife while you’re really with another woman? But at the same time I can understand it, a cross-continent divorce is probably difficult, and culturally may not be something Ramόn views as an option. At least they are honest with each other.

Yunior's story is less palatable. Yunior is devastated when the love of his life leaves him. She leaves him because she finds out he has cheated on her with over fifty different women. Call me a feminist (please), but I have no pity for him. And I barely feel like he learned his lesson. He couldn’t get over her and took to running, which gave him plantar fasciitis so he had to quit, which lead to yoga, which lead to a bad back and blah blah blah his life is so hard. 

His friends think his actions are entirely reasonable. His married friend knocks up a girl back in the Dominican Republic. And I think it was supposed to be sweet how excited he was to have a son, but I was a little more concerned about his wife and daughter back home

Call me a feminist, but I just couldn't like these men. 

As a complete aside: I just checked the holds I need to go pick up. I have five books to go get. whoops. I PANICKED when I finished my last book because I "only" had three books from the library. ONE of which was the second in a series and came before the first in the series (whoops) the SECOND is a Philippa Gregory and I didn't suspend my hold fast enough because I like Philippa Gregory. She's like my go-to author every time I have time to read because she generally has an amount of researched historical facts, which makes me feel smart, and it's about women and usually about who their in love with which is satisfying. But Philippa is no Jo, I do not have to read every book she's ever written. She's just kind of where I go when I don't know what to read. 

But I'm only 1/3 of the way through the Third I feel like I have a long way to go. Picking up 5 books seems like a lot. Especially since I have 2 2/3. 

I have a problem. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

J.K. Rowling has a new book!

Well, I have a stack of books as tall as me that I want to read but it looks like a new one has risen to the top of the list.

Published in April under pseudonym Robert Galbraith and receiving some acclaim, it was recently revealed that J. K. Rowling was in fact the author. She sounds a bit sad that the pseudonym only lasted this long, but apparently there will be a new book in the series next year!

"I had hoped to keep this secret a little longer because being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name." -Jo on being found out

Clearly I was not the first to figure it out. I went to my trusty library and there are already over 100 hold requests on six copies.

Anyone read it before it became famous?

I found the news here after my friend Kristina Horner posted it to her facebook.
Bonus: have a picture of Jo
looking like a Hogwarts teacher

Pottermore article "How J.K. Rowling Was Uncovered as the Author of "The Cuckoo's Calling"
 "The newly released crime novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was believed to be written by ex British Army officer Robert Galbraith until yesterday, when the Sunday Times broke a story that is arguably one of the greatest literary cover-ups ever and a mystery that’s as intriguing as a detective story."

NY Times This Detective Novel’s Story Doesn’t Add Up
"“The Cuckoo’s Calling,” in which a war veteran turned private detective investigates the possibly suspicious suicide of a young model in London, made barely a ripple in the commercial world but received lavish praise. "

According to the NY Times, it was an anonymous Twitter account that first said Jo was the actual author of The Cuckoo's Calling. My money's on one of her kids as an act of rebellion.
Jessica: Mom, buy me a house.

Jo: No honey, my new book isn't selling that well. After Casual Vacancy I may never have another best seller* so we have to make smart investments.
Jessica: Fine
(JESSICA runs upstairs to her room, slams the door, and makes a Twitter account)

Jessica: Now she'll have no excuses.

*I don't actually think this. I also have no idea if her daughter still lives at home. This is a joke. I hope Jessica doesn't get grounded for my lowly accusations. haha. Like J.K.Rowling would ever read my blog. BUT WHO KNOWS, Lynn Cullen liked my review of The Creation of Eve on Goodreads, so I'm basically famous. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty (4.5)

 I thought I was going to hate this book. I literally only got it from the library because it was on the Goodread's Choice list from last year. And I figured I didn't have to finish it if it was as dumb as it sounded. The title, the cover, the author's name (Joshilyn? What is this, 19 and counting?) all annoyed me. The book "is a powerful saga of three generations of women, plagued by hardships and torn by a devastating secret, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of family." (Goodreads book description). Kill me. Please.

But I gave it a chance out of sheer desperation. And it was Gone Girl kind of page turner, but with more likeable characters. I was hooked by page 3. Yes, 15-year-old Mosey Slocumb deserves to be slapped for her teenage use of the English language. But seeing the story from her, her mother Lisa, and grandmother Jenny's points of view was a perfect balance.

Slight spoiler alert (like chapter 3): while building a pool in the backyard they find a dead baby buried under Lisa's favorite willow tree. Here's the's Mosey. No, Mosey isn't some weird ghost we're following around for a third of the book. She's real too, but she's not Lisa's biological daughter.

definitely not 19 & counting

Lisa ran away when she was 15 and Mosey was a few weeks old. Jenny assumed that Lisa had run off with Mosey, but real-Mosey was buried in the backyard and Lisa went on a drug-addled tour of the US and came back with a new Mosey. That is what this book is about. Who is Mosey? How did real Mosey die? Can they keep this secret from the town or are Lisa and Jenny going to be prosecuted for murder?

And did I mention that Lisa had a stroke so she can't actually talk to anyone about what is going on? Her chapters are a rollercoaster through the past, revealing piece by piece what really happened while Mosey and Jenny try to figure everything out on their own.
And yes, Mosey knows she's not real-Mosey, and Jenny knows...but both are trying to hide this information from the other, which leads to...

I'm not telling you that. Go read the book.

upcoming books
I think the biggest problem with this book is that it was billed as fiction and sounded like it was going to be some sort of family bonding story, and I felt like it read more like a mystery. Perhaps if it had been billed as mystery/suspense it would have gotten more attention? 

I liked this book so much I have to restrain myself from binge-reading everything Joshilyn Jackson has ever written. Because I do that, but then I get sick of them and never want to read them again (Dan Brown, prime example. J.K. Rowling only exception). Instead I put a hold on her next book. Which is coming out in November. Which would be super pathetic but I'm actually 7th in line. Six people thought of this before me. I am a failure.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Creation of Eve (4)

I was just in Moon Over Buffalo, which was delightful, but I had 30 pages offstage in Act 2, so I desperately needed a book, but I haven’t been having any luck. Basically, I’ve been going through this phase where I don’t want to read on my Kindle. I know! Quel horreur. I seriously wish there was a way that I could have a physical copy and a Kindle copy of every book. The world would be a better place if books could be ripped like CDs.

the only time Eileen smiled in the entire show

 Anywho, it was Friday, I was about to go to my show, and I had enough time to go to the library, but not enough time to actually think through what I was going to get from the library. I put several things on hold, but none that were physically at the library and I needed something, so I just started walking down the aisles. All I knew was that I wanted a satisfying love story. Like Pride and Prejudice level satisfying but without all the work of reading a classic novel.

I picked up many books before The Creation of Eve. Mostly they were the one’s on display. Nothing sounded good. The Creation of Eve looked pretty. Maybe a little like Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I liked. And printed across bottom-right on the cover were two words: “enormously satisfying” – Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants. Sold.

Sofonisba "Sofi" Anguissola is a student of Michelangelo when she falls in love with Tibero, her fellow student. After they are caught alone together, Sofi runs home, hoping that he will send for her. Instead, the King of Spain invites Sofi to be lady-in-waiting and painting teacher to his third wife, 15-year-old Catherine de Medici. Sofi quickly becomes Catherine's closest friend and sole confidant, and Sofi helps the young queen to learn how to make Felipe happy. Meanwhile, Felipe's sole child Carlos begins to fall in love with the queen. And the queen has her eye on a courtier...

I am a sucker for good historical fiction and what I will call "tasteful romance novels" and this satisfied my need for a love story with real heart. I loved Sofi, I loved the impetuous queen, and I wanted desperately for them to each get everything they wanted.

Lynn Cullen crafted this book well, weaving dramas and flushing out the facts of history into a beautiful story. I wished that the novel had lasted to a more satisfactory ending, as Cullen unfortunately had to stick to the facts, but only the best books leave you wishing that there were more pages to come.

If you like Philippa Gregory, you will LOVE this book. I would compare it most to The Virgin's Lover, because that one felt the most well balanced. I think I have to contain myself from reading everything Lynn Cullen has ever written and burning myself out and never wanting to read her again. 
And if you haven’t read Girlwith a Pearl Earring, go read that too. And The Lady and the Unicorn. Both by Tracy Chevalier. Maybe I just really like books based on paintings. I wonder if there’s one about the Mona Lisa? Oooh, I loved Da Vinci Code.

Has anyone read the new Dan Brown? Should I bother? Or is it as bad as The Lost Symbol (#3)? Anyone?