April 30, 2012

I Think You've Got MBS*

Crossed by Ally Condie

Release Date: November 2011
Publisher: Penguin | Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 367 pages
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book
Series: Matched #2

Word of Warning: If you haven't read the first book, you might want to skip this review!

Sum It Up
At the end of Matched, Cassia makes the decision to pursue Ky. When Crossed picks up, she's spent some time in a work camp and has yet to hear any word of Ky. She makes her way to the Outer Provinces and finds that Ky has escaped the Society. He's now wandering the treacherous canyons and trying to survive. Although she's chasing after Ky, surprises from Xander leave her with more questions that have no answers. Narrated from both Cassia's and Ky's point of view, this book finds them on the edge of Society and facing the promise of a rebellion.

By Its Cover: Breaking Free
On the cover of the first book, Cassia was safely inside the green glass bubble. For the second, she's clearly breaking loose. I'm not in love with these covers, but I look that they give you an idea of Cassia's relationship with the Society.

Amen, Sister Friend: You're Boring Me
I just really didn't feel connected to Cassia in this book. While I thought I would enjoy the alternating viewpoints, it actually wasn't my favorite. I thought it was kind of hard to distinguish between the two sometimes, which contributed to my feeling of not really connecting with Cassia. I didn't dislike her - I just found her a little bit boring in this one.

Literary Love: Going in Circles
I expected that the love triangle would kind of disappear in this book since it seemed pretty clear that Cassia had chosen Ky at the end of the first book. Unfortunately, things aren't really over with Xander. I say unfortunately, not because I didn't like Xander, but because I just needed the girl to make up her mind already! Cassia and Ky barely missed each other and then were so close the entire time they were in the canyons, and I just felt like the love/relationship aspect of the book was dragging a little.

Word Nerd: A Little Lacking
I think this new world in Crossed, the canyons, felt a little less developed than in the first book. I sort of understood what was going on with the farmers and the rebellion, but it still seems a little vague to me. It was like I didn't completely absorb the importance and impact of that aspect of the story. The writing was still enjoyable, but the book just felt like it dragged on. I didn't feel compelled to get to the ending. However, I still want to read the third! I certainly think there's a chance it will get more interesting once they're back in the Society.

Also, poetry played a pretty significant role in the book. I'm not sure why, but that started to get on my nerves. I understand that the Society has taken books and words away from them, but I don't think I'd be just sitting there thinking about poetry if I'm on the run and being pursued by people who want me dead. I think that added to the feeling that this book was moving too slowly, which was really unfortunate!

So Quotable
"And it is strange that absence can feel like presence. A missing so complete that if it were to go away, I would turn around, stunned, to see that the room is empty after all, when before it at least had something, if not him."

"But loving lets you look, and look, and look again. You notice the back of a hand, the turn of a head, the way of a walk. When you first love, you look blind and you see it all as the glorious, beloved whole, or a beautiful sum of beautiful parts. But when you see the one you love as pieces, as whys - why he walks like this, why he closes his eyes like that - you can love those parts, too, and it's a love at once more complicated and more complete."

Bottom Line: Suffers From MBS
If you can't already tell, I wasn't in love with this book. It wasn't terrible but it wasn't amazing either. It just fell more in the middle, and left me feeling kind of so/so. There were a few too many "coincidences" for my liking, and I was left with more questions than answers at the end. I'll still be reading the third, and I have hope that the story will pick back up in the final installment.

*Middle Book Syndrome

April 29, 2012

So Quotable: Patricia McCormick

Source
"Trying to remember, I have learned, is like trying to clutch a handful of fog. Trying to forget, like trying to hold back the monsoon."
          ―  Patricia McCormick, Sold

You're All Mine, Robespierre

Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart

Release Date: December 2010
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 225 pages
Series: Ruby Oliver #4
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book

Sum It Up
Following the end of her junior year, Ruby is finally at a god place in her life. She's in love with her real live boyfriend, Noel... or she would if he'd just call her back. In the span of one summer, it seems that he's turned into a pod-robot, and Ruby doesn't understand why.

Her mom's gone off the deep end, her dad's wallowing in Cheetos, Hutch has gone to Paris, Gideon shows up shirtless and that doesn't even include her friend problems.

She's been writing to her favorite pygmy goat, Robespierre, but he's been no help at all.

Amen, Sister Friend: Three Cheers for Ruby!
Ruby's a little crazy and a lot neurotic, but she's also incredible charming. It was such a joy to see her grow up, and I would honestly want to be her friend. There were moments that I wanted to shake her a little bit because I didn't really agree with all of her decisions. But, at the same time, I was proud of her for making up her mind and choosing her own path. So, at the close of this series, I'll say: amen, sister friend!

Literary Love: Get a Clue, Noel!
In all three books leading up to this one, I really liked Noel. I kept hoping they'd get together, and then it was really disappointed when they finally did. Why? Because Noel just screwed everything up! I won't spoil the ending for you, but I didn't one hundred agree with Ruby's decision. But it was hers to make, and I was glad that she made up her mind. The Nice Guy vs. Bad Boy debate was interesting, especially since it often comes up in YA books (and occasionally in real life).

Word Nerd: She's All Grown Up
I think Ruby has started to mature in this book, and her voice has gotten a little older and less cutesy. I'm still really impressed with Lockhart's ability to write a realistic and relatable contemporary teenager.

Extra, Extra: Crazy Mom
Ruby's mom has always been a little odd, but she goes totally crazy in this book! As a performance artist, she's always been over the top and eccentric, but it's a little too much in the final book. I think Ruby's trying so hard to find the answers, and her mom's wacky behavior really doesn't help.

Extra, Extra: Dear Robespierre
The letters to the pygmy goat at the zoo were my absolute, downright favorite part of this book! Hilarious! Endearing! Adorable! Can you tell I loved Robespierre?

Extra, Extra: Dr. Z
Let's not forget Ruby's therapist, Dr. Z. She's played a role in all the books, but I feel like I've got to give her credit as the books draw to a close. I loved that she encourages Ruby to find her own answers, work through her issues and mature as gracefully as possible. I'm also glad she laughs at, and occasionally uses, Ruby's slang.

So Quotable
Roo: You feel popular now?
Meghan: Sure.
Roo: But I'm a complete roly-poly. Being friends with me is like the opposite  of popularity.
Meghan: Get over it, Roo. If you have friends who actually like you, you're popular enough.

Bottom Line: This Can't Be Goodbye!
Ruby's had to deal with sucky friends, crazy parents, overwhelming panic attacks and confusing boys. Don't forget the boys. I really enjoyed the Ruby Oliver books, and I'm glad I got to read about someone like her. The ending wasn't exactly what I would have wished for her, but that's okay. I still think it was an absolute delight to get to know her!

April 27, 2012

Can I Adopt a Pygmy Goat?

The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon—and me, Ruby Oliver by E. Lockhart

Release Date: July 2009
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 248 pages
Series: Ruby Oliver #3
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book

Sum It Up
Ruby is back from winter break, and she's had thirty-seven weeks in the state of Noboyfriend. Her panic attacks aren't getting any better and her love life is even worse. She's getting notes from Noel, frogs from Jackson, cooking help from Gideon and brownies from Finn. On top of all that, she's trying to run a bake sale, discovering heavy metal hair band therapy, defending pygmy goats and being Noel's bodyguard. Can you tell Ruby's having a jam-packed semester?

By Its Cover: What Happened To The Marshmallow?
You should check out the cover with the marshmallow on it!  I think there's a pattern here... Can you tell that I prefer the older covers for these books?

Amen, Sister Friend: I Love You, Roo!
I want to be Ruby's friend for so many reasons, and one of the biggest is that I want to show her what it's like to have someone be a good friend. She's had some really crappy friendships and relationships, but she's still got a good attitude about everything. Of all three books, I think I liked Ruby the most in this one. She's finally coming into her own and learning to stand up for herself. I wish I knew Ruby in real life!

Literary Love: Boys, Boys, Boys
Noel. Gideon. Jackson. Angelo. Finn. Hutch. Goodness gracious, Ruby, I can barely keep up! In truth, Ruby's really got eyes for Noel. He's funny, charming, and cool enough to hang out with everyone. He writes her funny notes and leaves them in her cubby. And, you know, the classroom kissing wasn't bad either...

Word Nerd: We've Been Over This Before!
The thing about the writing that really stood out for me in this book was Ruby's slang phrases. Let's take a look at a few:
  • Reginald - Her word for the grieving process
  • Mocha Latte - AKA adolescence/puberty
  • Roly-Poly - a social outcast, previously referred to as a leper
  • Muffin - a boy who is okay, kind of cute, but really nothing to get worked up about 
The writing is definitely one of my favorite things about these books - Ruby sounds like a realistic teenager. She's hilarious, over analyzes everything, 

Extra, Extra: The Zoo
I absolutely loved learning more about Ruby's job at the zoo, especially her love for a certain pygmy goat. It was fun seeing her get to do something that she obviously cared about, and I much preferred the zoo over the shoe store. Smelly feet? Ick! Animal poop? Also gross, but probably better in the long run.

Extra, Extra: Bake Sale
Ruby's running Baby CHUBS, a bake sale, and that was a really fun aspect of this book. I loved seeing Ruby stand up for herself and become invested in something. She 

So Quotable
"Of course we scolded [our dog, Polka-dot]. We said "No, Polka-dot!" and tied him on the dock if he was farting. Maybe we even slapped his nose once in a while. But we told him we were mad and then we forgave him. Because our attitude was generally: Polka-dot is good. Polka-dot is loved. If Polka-dot is a huge pain to live with once in a while, we'll deal with it, because the good outweighs the bad. I wanted a friend who felt about me the way my family felt about Polka-dot."

Bottom Line: BFF By Now
I already loved Ruby, but it was so fun getting to see a new side of her. This was such a fun read, and I think more people should get to know Ms. Oliver. She's funny, sweet and can make a list like no one else. 

April 25, 2012

Ruby Oliver, Your Business is My Business



Release Date: September 2006
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 224 pages
Series: Ruby Oliver #2
Source & Format: Library; Hardcover
Amazon | Goodreads

Sum It Up
It's the start of a new year, but things haven't changed that much. Ruby's still not speaking to Kim and Cricket. She's patched things up - kind of - with Nora. She's got two news friends, but she's not convinced they can ever replace the ones she's lost. She's still meeting with her therapist, Dr. Z, and trying to figure out what's going on with Jackson.

A new job and new friends still can't fix all of Ruby's problems. That's up to her.

By Its Cover: Give Me the Penguin!
This cover is fine, but not great. I think I prefer the cover I got from the library with the penguin figurine on it. That captured the quirkiness of Ruby perfectly!

Amen, Sister Friend: Hey Girl!
Ruby's got the same funny voice as she did in the first. She sounds like a real teenager, complete with her own kind of slang. She can be kind of snarky, but she isn't mean. She's insecure, but she has moments of complete confidence. She's been hurt by her friends, but she still finds new ones. She's confused and questions herself, but she makes decisions and does what she wants. I'd totally be her friend!

Literary Love: He's a Charmer!
Remember what I said about the first book? Well, I still pretty much feel exactly the same way: Jackson (ugh!) and Noel (hmm...). To try to remain spoiler free, I'll just keep it at that.

Word Nerd: More of the Same
Ruby is still her funny, straightforward and teenager self. Lockhart has done it again! I think I enjoyed this book even more than the first. The books are clever and engaging! In fact, I finished this in one evening and wished I'd slowed down a little to just savor it!

Extra, Extra: Movie Trivia
Ruby is a movie fiend! That girl is stuffed to the brim with all kinds of movie knowledge, and I was so impressed! I thought I was a movie fan, but she totally takes the cake. I loved how she used moved to support points that she was trying to make about real life. I wrote a few down that I either hadn't seen or had forgotten about and need a refresher. These were definitely my favorite of all the footnotes!

Extra, Extra: The Boy Book Excerpts
I loved the excerpts from "The Boy Books." Some of them were absolutely spot-on (hello chapter about talking to a boy on the phone), and others just made me laugh. I also totally related to having a fun friend project because I totally would have wanted to do something like this with my friends in high school! It also made you more aware of what she'd lost when her friends rejected her.

So Quotable
"I see Kim, and there is still an ache for the kind of friends we used to be. Because I don't have that with anyone, the way I did with her. And maybe I never will.

Maybe friendships aren't like that when we get older.

But the Kim ache is dull. Not a surge of immediate panicky pain and anger like it used to be. It's an ache for what happened in the past, not what's happening now.

I can live with it.

And I do."

*I actually chose this quote because it made me tear up. Why? Because I had a friendship that totally fell apart and this was how I felt about her for a while afterwards. It just hit me because it so perfectly captured exactly how I felt that it seemed as if I could have written it. I'm glad I read this book for that quote alone.

Bottom Line: Fans of the First Will Love the Second
Chances are, if you liked the first Ruby Oliver novel, you'll be a fan of the second! Ruby's back with more of the same antics, and she's got the same lovable voice and relatable attitude. I think everyone can relate at least a little bit to her rejection and friendship struggles... and if you can't, Lockhart writes in a way that will make you feel like you do.

April 24, 2012

Off The Page & Into My Heart

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

I really loved this week's list, but I tried to take my own spin on it with my list. Rather than posting a list of my favorite characters with no explanation (boring) or with an explanation (too long!), I've named each character (and their book origin) along with one of my favorite quotes from them. Hope you enjoy!

Top Ten All-Time* Favorite Characters in Books
* I don't know if these are actually my "all time" favorites because I'm too fickle to commit to that...


1. Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: "There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me."


2. Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series: “I've loved you ever since the day you broke your slate over my head.” 


3. Anne Shirley from the Anne of Green Gables series: "There's such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I'm such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn't be half so interesting."


4. Fred & George Weasley from the Harry Potter series: "I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid - we know we're called Gred and Forge."


5. Abileen Clark from The Help: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."


6. Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games series: "Remember, we're madly in love, so it's all right to kiss me anytime you feel like it."


7. Sara Crewe from The Little Princess: "If I am a princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the time when no one knows it."


8. Death (and really Liesel!) from The Book Thief: "I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race-that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant."


9. Josephine March from Little Women: "I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle, something heroic or wonderful that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all some day. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream."


10. Captain Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion: "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you."

Would any of these characters make your list? Did I make any glaring oversights in leaving someone off?

April 23, 2012

No Frogless Days with Ruby Oliver



Release Date: 2005
Publisher: Random House | Delacorte
Pages: 229 pages
Series: Ruby Oliver #1
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book

Sum It Up (from Goodreads)
Fifteen-year-old Ruby has had ten really bad days. She's lost her boyfriend, her best friend and all her other friends are choosing sides. She's had more than a few boy problems. Not only that, but she's starting to have panic attacks. Losing a lacrosse game, failing a math test, hurting someone's feelings, becoming a social outcast and have really mean things written about her? Yep, that's happened too.

What's a girl to do? If you're Ruby Oliver, your parents will obviously send you straight to shrink to convince themselves you won't be a shut-in all your life. Several appointments later, Ruby's made a boyfriend list and the consequences extend further than Ruby ever could have imagined.

By Its Cover: Whatever happened to the ceramic frog?
I read this on my Kindle, so the cover didn't really matter. However, I think I might prefer the previous cover of this book rather than the new version.  I kind of liked the quirkiness of the frog cover... I don't have anything against this cover, it's just kinda blah. But whatever.

Amen, Sister Friend: I Love You, Ruby Oliver
Ruby Oliver is one heck of a list writer. That girl can make lists - and overanalyze - with the best of them. I loved that the book was written from Ruby's perspective because she's down-to-earth, funny and just so dang relatable. I thought Lockhart did a great job of capturing her voice, and I loved getting to know her.

Even though she had moments of total teen girl syndrome, I still want to be her friend. She's doing the best she can navigating through high school. You'll root for her, shake your head when she's stupid and want to stick up for her and defend her against all the mean girls.

Literary Love: Lots of Lists, Not Much Swooning
There really isn't that much to talk about in terms of romance. For a book that's all about a list of boys, there isn't too much love stuff going on. I hated Jackson (ugh!) and was intrigued by Noel (hmm...), and that's about the gist of it!

Word Nerd: Analytical & Witty
Lockhart's dialogue, as I've already mentioned, is spot-on. Ruby's high school experience is both hilarious, relatable and occasionally painful. I was really drawn in to the story and loved Ruby's voice. I loved that Lockhart was able to make her witty and sharp, but she's never mean at the expense of others.

Extra, Extra: Houseboat
Ruby and her parents live on a houseboat. How fun is that?! Actually, it's probably not fun at all... but it made for some really funny reading!

Extra, Extra: Lists
I love me some lists, so I adored Ruby's use of them. She is one major list maker! I liked that the entire book was in the format of a list because it made for a really interesting and unique story structure. 

Extra, Extra: Footnotes
Ruby is also obsessed with footnotes, and you'll find them interspersed throughout every chapter. I really loved this aspect! However, I didn't love them on my Kindle. Each footnote was a link to the end of each chapter, and it was really hard to actually skip to the footnotes. It was a total pain trying to do it on the Kindle! It's not that hard to flip forward a few pages in a book, but it's a little bit challenging on an e-book. Just a word of warning!

So Quotable
"When encountered in groups, the human boy, as our serious documentation proves, is one of the greatest conversational inhibitors known to the female kind. There's nothing to talk to them about! They're jerks when they're with their friends. It's so weird. Scientists are baffled."

"Muffin: nice, pleasing, but ordinary. A perfectly fine baked good - but nothing to get too excited about. Not as festive as cake. Not as glamorous as a croissant. Not as scrumptious as a cookie."

Bottom Line: Lots of Fun!
I really enjoyed the first book in the Ruby Oliver series, and I was reaching for the second book as soon as I finished. Ruby was a realistic teenager, and I enjoyed getting to know her. It's a fun, easy read with interesting thoughts and advice on friends, boys and growing up. 

April 22, 2012

So Quotable: Paula McLain

Untitled
Source
"Books could be an incredible adventure. I stayed under my blanket and barely moved, and no one would have guessed how my mind raced and my heart soared with stories."
          ― Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

April 20, 2012

Lakshmi Stole My Heart

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Release Date: September 2006
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 263
Source & Format: Library; Kindle e-book

Sum It Up
Lakshmi is an innocent and joyful thirteen-year-old girl. She lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Even though her family is poor, she is able to find joy in simple pleasures. When a devastating monsoon washes away all that remains of her family's crops, her stepfather tells her that she must take a job to support her family... never mind that he is drinking and gambling away what little they have.

She's introduced to a glamorous stranger who tells her that she'll find her a job as a maid in the city. Sad to leave her family but glad she'll be able to help, Lakshmi travels to India and arrives at the "Happiness House." Hopeful and eager, she is soon faced with a harsh and bitter reality: she has been sold into prostitution.

Trapped in a nightmare she cannot escape, she lives by her mother's words, "Simply to endure is to triumph." As she forms friendships and contemplates her bleak future, she is faced with a huge decision - can she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?

By Its Cover: Simple & Eye-Catching
I love the bright yellow cover with the simple faded design. It's an eye-catching cover, and the image of the young girl wrapped in a head scarf hints at what's inside. I just love that the girl looks delicate and yet strong - that very much defines Lakshmi. The small, one-word title says everything necessary about what you're about to read. 

Amen, Sister Friend: She's a Survivor
I absolutely loved Lakshmi - her point of view, her sweet and simple joy, her despair and her strength of character. She may be a fictional character, but she represents numerous real girls who are enduring this unspeakable tragedy every day. Reading it from her perspective made the story feel all that more real. It came alive, and I felt so connected to her journey. More than anything, Lakshmi made my heart break. To read about the loss of her innocence made me want to crawl inside the book, wrap my arms around her and take her somewhere safe. 

Word Nerd: Lyrical & Poetic
The book isn't really divided in to chapters - it's more like vignettes. Lakshmi recounts short snippets from her life, and each one is only about a page or two. The brevity of each vignette, combined with the writing, gave this book a lyrical quality. Because it's written in free verse, this book was incredibly poetic. It was a much quicker read than I expected, but I was totally wrapped up in Lakshmi's world.

This book deals with a pretty important issue in a sensitive way. I wondered how the prostitution would be handled, and I was really impressed with the way McCormick included it. I'll let you read it for yourself, but I guarantee you that you'll have tears in your eyes and feel your heart breaking if you consider that this is still happening in the world today.

Extra, Extra: Baby Goat
I've never wanted to own a goat until I read this book. In the very beginning of the book, while Lakshmi was still in her village, I was a little bit in love with her pet goat. Read the book, and you'll see why!

Extra, Extra: Research
It was very evident that author Patricia McCormick had done her research. Before writing Sold, she traveled to Nepal and India to interview families who sell their children - some intentionally, some unwittingly - and children who have been sold. More than 400,000 children are currently in bondage, and 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families every year. McCormick's research on the subject informs the story, which is what makes the book feel so real. 

So Quotable
"Inside the bundle Ama packed for me are: my bowl, my hairbrush, the notebook my teacher gave me for being the number one girl in school, and my bedroll. Inside my head I carry: my baby goat, my baby brother, my ama's face, our family's future. My bundle is light. My burden is heavy."

"Trying to remember, I have learned, is like trying to clutch a handful of fog. Trying to forget, like trying to hold back the monsoon."

Bottom Line: Devoured It In One Sitting
The story's realism, combined with its stunning storytelling, had me glued to the page. Even though I knew each turn would bring more heartbreak, I was absolutely enraptured. I highly recommend this book - it will get inside your head and your heart.

April 19, 2012

Welcome to the World of Wealth & Excess

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Release Date: April 1925
Pages: 180 pages
Source & Format: Purchased; Paperback

Sum It Up
A bunch of rich people during the Jazz Age. In a sentence, that's probably all you need to know about this book. But because I won't leave you hanging like that, I'll give you a little more scoop. Narrator Nick Carraway introduces us to quite a few characters - his wealth neighbor Jay Gatsby, his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, and Daisy's friend Jordan. This is novel about some of the most enduring obsessions: money, beauty, greed and glory. And it strikes a cautionary note as you read about Gatsby's rise and eventual fall from grace.

Five years before novel opens, Gatsby meets Daisy and falls in love. She's a legendary beauty, and he's just a poor officer. When Gatsby is sent overseas, Daisy marries the rich but cruel Tom Buchanan. Following her marriage, Gatsby devotes himself to pursuing wealth - and ultimately the pursuit of Daisy. But chasing an ideal has its consequences, as Gatsby soon learns.

By Its Cover: Hey There Flapper Girl!
I hated the cover of the edition I read, but I got it for $2 in the bargain bin so I guess I can't complain too much. However, if I had paid full price for it, I would totally have picked this gorgeous cover. First, I'm in love with the vintage black and white photo. You immediately know you're headed to the roaring twenties. I also love the typography - it's bold and perfectly fits that twenties feel. 

Amen, Sister Friend: I'd Rather Admire You From Afar
I'm going to be honest, I would not want to be friends with Nick. He seemed like a total bore. But, I have no complaints about him as a narrator. I thought it was interesting to hear things from his perspective, as opposed to Gatsby or Daisy. That certainly would have given the book a completely different feel! Nick comes across as a bit of an outsider, but I think there's supposed to be an element of disconnect to this novel. In a way, you're viewing the wealth and ostentation as a third party. You're experiencing things as Nick does, which gives you the perfect view of events as they unfold. There's a slight element of mystery because you connect the dots as he does, but it makes for a really good read.

Would I want to be friends with Daisy? Honestly, she would totally be the most beautiful and popular girl in school. And even if I wanted to be her friend, I know that I wouldn't stand a chance. I don't think she'd be likely to give me the time of day. If she did, she'd probably act a little condescending about it anyway. I think she means well though. The self-absorbed attitude is probably the result of a life where everything came easy for her. Sure, she isn't actually married to the ideal husband. But for some reason I didn't feel super sympathetic towards her. I'm not sure she's really got the gumption or wherewithal to stand on her own two feet, which makes her the kind of person I'd love to watch from afar but not necessarily befriend.

As for Gatsby, I'd just want to be invited to his parties. I know he's only got eyes for Daisy, so I'd be content to shimmy to fabulous band and sip on his expensive drinks... possibly trying to catch the eye of some handsome partygoer. Gatsby would be elusive, an enigma, and I'm just fine with that.

Literary Love: I Don't Know That I'd Call It Love
Gatsby has been pining for Daisy for five years, which I suppose is meant to be romantic and swoony. I mean, he did push himself so hard and earn his riches to prove himself to her. However, it felt a little like obsession. And I wondered perhaps if he'd lost sight of Daisy and replaced her with an ideal. I think she became like an object in his mind, and he might have forgotten that she was still just flesh and blood at the end of the day. I don't know, maybe there was more romance than I recognized. I just felt like I was reading about the pursuit of something that doesn't quite live up to what you imagine it to be.

I know that it's somewhat of a tragic love story, but I don't know that I really believed in the authenticity of the love. I think it probably started off as love and became more of an obsession at some point along the way.

Word Nerd: Spare & Elegant 
I don't know what I could say about Fitzgerald's writing that hasn't already been said ten times over. It is, of course, a work of art. It's a slim book, but Fitzgerald manages to pack an entire plot and some incredibly developed characters into it. I mean, he wasn't wasting any words.

I'm actually reading something by Charles Dickens right now, and it's interesting how different the two writers are. They've both mastered the creation of intricate and intriguing characters, but Fitzgerald definitely gets right to the heart of things. Dickens, on the other hand, takes ten pages to say what Fitzgerald says in two sentences.

It's actually a pretty quick read, and so worth it. There's definitely a reason this one is a classic!

Extra, Extra: Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous
I love reading about rich people. All that decadence and excess makes for a very escapist read.... except Fitzgerald's characters are very human. The aren't necessarily stereotypical wealthy people. Gatsby is driven and haunted by his past. Daisy is chained to a cheating husband. With all that wealth, you know there's bound to be loose morals. Crime, adultery, greed and murder are pretty much required when you're reading about this era. And Fitzgerald doesn't disappoint!

So Quotable
"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart."

"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Bottom Line: There's a Reason it's a Classic
I am glad I finally read The Great Gatsby, and I can't believe I hadn't read it before! It's definitely a classic for a reason. However, I can't say this is one of my favorite books. I enjoyed it and appreciated it for its beauty, but it wouldn't be the book I'd turn to any time soon for a re-read. It's a book I think everyone should read at least once in there lifetime, and I can see why so many people adore it. I'm probably more on the fence in terms of my ultimate feelings about it. I think people should read it, but I don't know that everyone will love it. I loved the escape of it, as well as its tragic conclusion, so I'm happy I put it on my list!

April 17, 2012

I Accept Tips... & I Give Them, Too!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

I am SO excited about this week's topic because I'm still a new blogger myself! Although I've had some type of a blog for a few years now, I'm very new to the book blogging community. It's the first time I've had a blog that I love and want to spend time on. So, I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's tips. But I'm also going to share a few tips - both things that have helped me and things I've noticed about successful bloggers!

Source
Top Ten Tips for New Bloggers

1. Be Yourself
You've got to have this little cheesy phrase on the list... because it's true! The best tip I can give and the most attractive quality in any blogger is someone who is true to themselves. They read what they like, they write in their own voice, they develop their own content... You get the picture.

I am instantly attracted to a blog where I feel like I know something about the person behind it. If your blog makes me feel like I know you, you're doing a good job about being yourself!

2. Comment!
Comments make you feel good, right? It's proof that someone not only read what you wrote, but they also took the time to tell you what they thought about it. As a new blogger, I get excited for each and every comment that I receive. So, why wouldn't you want to make someone else feel that way? 

I don't comment on other people's blogs because I want them to come check out mine. I get why people do that. But I comment because I honestly what that blogger to know that I read and enjoyed/agreed-with/disagreed-with/love/wished-I'd-written that post. Yes, leaving comments will often get you comments, but that shouldn't be your motivation for commenting because it's usually really obvious that's all you want. I also try to leave comments that actually say something. I strive to leave the kind of comments that people look forward to reading.

3. Don't Do It Unless You Love It
This may sound like a weird tip, but it's an honest one. If you don't love reading and books, don't blog about them. If you don't like writing, then maybe a blog isn't the best venue for you to express that love. Will you enjoy every single minute of blogging? Heck no! But if you don't love it starting off, you won't love it when it takes even more work.

Go into blogging for the right reasons, and that's NOT to get free stuff. Your blog should come from a place of loving books and wanting to share that with others. If you don't have that love, maybe book blogging isn't for you. Would you want to keep your blog, even if you knew you'd only ever have like 5 readers? I could have have any more readers, and I'd still want to have this blog because I love it.

4. Make Friends
What was one of the best things about going to summer camp? Making new friends! The one bad thing about working at a real job and getting into a routine is that it can be hard to meet new people. I spend a lot of my time either at work or with my husband, so I don't necessarily have a ton of time to make friends outside of people I already know or work with.

One of the best things about blogging is having the opportunity to make friends all over the world. Another great thing? You've already got stuff to talk about - BOOKS! And then you can find other interests that you have in common, and your friendship can grow from there...

5. Read What You Like
People have an awful lot of opinions on what defines quality literature and what books are worth your time. You know what I have to say about that? Read whatever the heck you want!

Does that mean you shouldn't stretch yourself? Not at all. Does that mean you shouldn't try new genres? Nope. But I think you should try them only if you want to! If you read what you like, you'll be passionate about what you're reading and you'll be excited to share that with others. I'm not saying you'll like everything you read - but read the books that remind you of why you love reading.

6. Don't Get Caught in the Comparison Trap
I think this can be a huge issue, especially for new bloggers. When you're a new blogger, you've got a pretty small audience... but you've probably decided to become a blogger because of another blog. If you're anything like me, you fell in love with the book blogging community before you ever joined it.

Because of that, you probably follow quite a few establish blogs. The only bad thing about following really established blogs? It can be easy to start comparing your blog to theirs. Don't do it! Resist the urge to fall into the comparison trap! That doesn't mean you shouldn't strive to build your blog, and it doesn't mean you can't learn from the bloggers you admire. But it does mean that you shouldn't compare yourselves to them. Chances are, they've been doing it a lot longer than you have. And what builds a blog following? Consistency over time.

7. Blog Design Matters
I was just talking about this on Twitter the other day, but I think it bears repeating. There are few things that bother be more about some blogs than their design. I don't think everyone needs to have professional help to have an attractive and appealing blog design.

I have a really hard time falling in love with a blog if it's poorly designed and has way too much going on in the sidebars. I love sidebars, and I think some things should always appear on your sidebar (archive, search, subscription options, etc.). And I think there's even a place for other things if you so desire them. However, I think some sidebars need editing.

Look at your blog with a critical eye every few months. Ask yourself:
  • Is everything up-to-date?
  • Is it easy to navigate? 
  • Is it readable?
  • Is there anything that isn't necessary that you could remove?
  • Is there something missing that you need to add?
No matter how good your blog content is, people won't be able to focus on it if something about the blog design makes it hard to focus on or enjoy the content.

8. Learn a Little HTML
I don't think you have to know everything there is to know about HTML to run a good blog. In fact, you barely even need to know anything these days because Blogger/Wordpress makes it so easy. However, I do think you need to know enough to make simple changes and updates.

For example, Blogger doesn't always format my posts correctly. Sometimes there are extra spaces or things aren't lining up the right way. Those are the moments when knowing a little bit of HTML is invaluable.

You don't have to know everything, but know enough to make minor edits. And if you don't know how to do something, Google it! I've learned how to do many things just by Googling it and following simple step-by-step directions. Beyond that, you can always ask someone who knows!

9. Create Original Content
I've found a lot of blogs that seem to rely on memes for the majority of their content. Don't get me wrong, I love memes (hello, Top Ten Tuesday!). But, I would offer some caution: choose one or two memes that are the most interesting/appealing to you. Don't try to do everything.

And if you do choose to participate in a meme, make your contribution meaningful. I hate when I'm visiting other blogs that are participating in memes, and it seems like they only participated to get blog traffic and visitors. Participate only if you actually have something to say! Just don't rely on those to provide you with all the content for your blog.

My absolute favorite blogs are the ones that have original content. Original content shows me that you have a unique voice and have something worth sharing. Work on creating original content, and I guarantee people will be attracted to your blog!

10. Use Social Media
Here's a final tip to round out my list: get on social media! I think social media is a great way to get your blog content out to a larger audience, but that's not why it made my list. I cannot say enough about the potential to make friends and start conversations using social media. For example, I have been able to talk to some hilarious ladies on Twitter - and I'm starting to make new friends that I never would have been able to make just through blog comments. Not only that, but I've developed an even deeper appreciation for those people's blogs because of the conversations we've had on social media.
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