Archive | March, 2014

Book Review: Harry Potter y la Orden del Fénix (4/5). Finally finished a year later.

31 Mar

This review will be a little different from my normal ones. If you couldn’t tell from the title, this work was in Spanish which is my second language. I want to talk less about the plot, which I’m hoping most of you know, and more about what it’s like to read in another language.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Harry Potter y la Orden del Fénix by J.K. Rowling. Translated by Gemma Rovira Ortega

Don’t worry, I’ll talk about this in English. Since I graduated with a Spanish degree in May 2012, I haven’t had many changes to use the skill. I had one opportunity while I was at my first job and there are a few people from Mexico in my building now. On occasion I’ll speak Spanish with two of them, but they want to practice their English as much as I do, so those times are limited. Most of my speaking is centered around a conversation group that I attend rarely. I feel a good way for me to practice is to read in Spanish as much as I can.

Because I’m so familiar with the Harry Potter world, reading the series in Spanish is something I though of doing after I graduated. I got through one through four pretty quickly, borrowing them from the library. But somehow, this 900 page behemoth was not deemed ‘child appropriate’ and not ordered for the children’s foreign language section. I huffed and my mom, being the sweet woman she is, surprised me with it as an early Christmas present… in 2012. So I’ve had it for a while. And I’ve been reading it for a while. My Goodreads graph is worthy of note here.

HPProgressSo yes, that does start in September and no it’s not of 2013. This was the book I read a little bit of when I was between books. If I finished a book on Friday and had book club on Monday, I’d read forty pages or so. It was never a priority. As luck would have it, my book club chose a title I read about a year ago and I found myself with some time to read something I wanted to from my personal collection. Crazy, I know. So instead of picking up one I’ve been waiting to crack into, I forced myself to finish this by my birthday, which is today, the day you’re reading this. I finished it on Friday. Epic. Win.

Pushing myself to finish was really hard. For a while in the middle, I was looking up every word I didn’t know. It ended up averaging 2 per page and I would look them up quickly on my iPhone, so it wasn’t a big hassle, but it got tiring. Around page 670, I knew I wouldn’t finish on time and  just kept reading, only bothering to look it up if there were no context clues around. This got me down to a word per chapter. Because I’m so familiar with Harry already, there wasn’t much that I missed and I could guess at most of the weird words (mortífago is the translation for Death Eater).

No matter how much I looked up unfamiliar words, reading this would leave me mentally exhausted. With books in English, I can ready for hours before sleep but with this, my brain would be hurting after twenty minutes. It was a lot more mental capacity than I normally need.

I think the reactions of my coworkers was the best part about reading this. Many of them know I’m a crazy book nerd. I will sit in the atrium during lunch and read while I eat and many of them will stop by and ask what I’m reading. It’s a great conversation starter. Most of them had already asked after this book and recognized it because of how thick it is: 2 and 3/16 inches thick. That might not seem like a lot, but pull out a ruler and measure your book’s binding, then say something. According to Goodreads, this is the longest book I’ve ever read. I had it called ‘weight training’ and a phone book in one week. First they were impressed at it’s size, but when they found out it was in Spanish, at least one flipped out.

I’m very glad that I read this. I have the sixth and seventh books sitting on my shelf and while they’re a much more manageable length, I’m going to put them aside for a while. There are a lot of other titles on my shelf I’d rather get to first. I hope to pick another one up by the end of the year, but that’s no guarantee that I’ll finish it.

Reader, please don’t tell me I’m crazy. Have you ever read something in a language other than your native language? How was the experience for you? Are you glad you did it? Will you do it again? If you speak Spanish, leave me a note and maybe we can practice together!

This book is a classic in my mind. I’ll always love it. 4 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

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My Recent Bookish Quandaries

28 Mar

As the life of a bibliophile progresses, there’s bound to be a few stumbling blocks. I’ve had two recently that I’ll share with you, Reader. Maybe you can sympathize. Or maybe you’ll laugh at me. Either way, you can leave a comment (hint).

My first one was trying to find a gift for my father-in-law. My husband’s family are faint decedents of John Brown, an American abolitionist. When I heard that the winner of the National Book Award was about a young slave boy traveling around with Brown, I knew I wanted to get it for my father-in-law’s birthday. My problem is that I couldn’t remember the title… or the author.

I was that person that ever Barnes & Noble employee hates. I walked up to the customer service desk and said what I’m sure their least favorite words are: “I don’t remember the title but…”

Lucky for him, my ‘but’ wasn’t the color of the cover or what happened in it. I said, “…but it won the National Book Award and has the word ‘bird’ in the title.” <Insert funny look from employee here.> His internal groan became a shrug and he asked me if it was Alice Munro. “No,” I said. “She won the Nobel Prize for literature.” I like to think I re-gained his respect here. He was able to Google the 2013 National Book Award and found James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird on the Award Winner’s shelf. (If this just had a bigger sign, we wouldn’t have had this problem in the first place.) Quandary #1 solved.

My second quandary is something I discovered on Wednesday and I know many of my other bibliophiles have this same issue. Library holds ALWAYS come in all at once!

Library

 

Here’s my hold list. I checked out Cabin Pressure because I saw that The Cuckoo’s Calling by ‘Robert Galbraith’ wasn’t due until 5-April. I needed an audiobook in the meantime. I’ve been waiting for this one since October so you could say I’m a little excited to get it. BUT THEN the library noticed how long the hold list is for And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and finally ordered a second copy of it, moving me very quickly from third to first on the hold list. This was quite unanticipated. I’ll get the copy as soon as it’s ordered, which could be any day now.

So I’m in the early middle of Cabin Pressure and I’m feeling some library pressure to put it aside for these holds because of the waiting lists. I know this isn’t a real problem, like hunger and oppression are real problems, but my OCD bookish side is freaking out.

Reader, have you ever had this problem? Or have you ever been on either end of the “I don’t remember the title but…” question? Leave me a comment and let me know! I can’t be alone in this world!

Until next time, write on!

Virtual Release Party (aka Free Fun Stuff!)

27 Mar

Hey all!

You might remember a few months ago I took part in a cover reveal for Shannon A. Thompson’s new book, Seconds Before Sunrise. After months of waiting, the book finally comes out today! To celebrate, Shannon’s publishing company is having a virtual release party tonight on Facebook and you’re invited! You can join the party here between 7 and 9 Central Time.

I unfortunately will not be able to make it because I’ll be with my Novel Girls, but that means a nice and juicy post for you all early next week.

My apologies for the short post, but I’m less than fifty pages from finishing Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix. I’m a bit distracted.

Congratulations to Shannon on her wonderful accomplishment. Do consider checking her out!

Until next time, write on.

WWW Wednesday, 26-Mar-2014

26 Mar

Being a part of MizB’s WWW Wednesday meme is making me read faster! I want to be able to post about different books each week!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: If you’ve been following me it should be no surprise that I’m still reading Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix by J.K. Rowling. But what will surprise you is that I’m almost done! I’m within 100 pages of the end of this 900 page behemoth and I’m at cruising speed now that they’re at the ministry for the final fight. On audio book I just started Cabin Pressure by Josh Wolk. This is my first comedic book in a while and I love that I’m laughing while driving home from work. It’s a nice way to end my days. On my phone I’m still working through The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. I’m at a snail’s pace here. Maybe it needs more time, but I’m not invested in this one yet and it’s a bit of a struggle.

Recently finished: My review for Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher went up yesterday. I had mixed feelings on this one, please let me know what you thought.

Reading Next: My attempts to read First Reads books have been foiled! My coworker just lent me Life After Life by Kate Atkinson so that’s next on my list. We started an unofficial mini-book club at work and I’m the last one to read this so I better hop to it! Another friend is going to loan me Terra Incognita by Ruth Downie, the sequel to Medicus, which I read in high school. I lent the first one to her and she went out to buy the sequels that I didn’t even know existed! I promise to eventually get to my First Reads book. Finish Harry Potter is step one!

That’s it from me. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and also check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (3/5). Its heart is in the right place

25 Mar

I still don’t know who told me about this book the first time, but I saw it on enough book bloggers lists that I added it to my list. I had really mixed feelings on the book, but I think my subtitle says it all: It’s heart was in the right place, but the book seemed a bit flat to me. I couldn’t really connect to it.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay comes home from high school to find a box addressed to him with no return address label. The box contains seven cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker where she gives the thirteen reasons why she is going to kill herself. Hannah Baker died two weeks before. For the rest of the book, Clay listens to the tapes, waiting to hear his name and what he could have possibly done that would have contributed to Hannah killing herself. There are stories of lies, rumors, betrayal, jealousy, guilt, and rape that all contributed to Hannah’s unhappy time in high school that lead to her death.

Spoilers summary time! Clay waits (quite impatiently) to hear his own name on the tapes. He hears about peeping toms, boys who kissed and told, and friends that were more fake than a purse bought off the sidewalk in NYC. Because of the rumors about her, boys in Hannah’s school think they can take advantage of her and that she’s ‘easy.’ She’s unable to escape the reputation and it spirals downward. Only Clay is able to look past her reputation but Hannah pushes him away. Ultimately, Hannah asks for help but doesn’t find any in the one person she turns to. Clay learns from Hannah’s pain and tries to help someone else he’s afraid needs a friend.

Honestly? I thought Hannah was a very weak character. I’ve read other reviews that said something similar about the book and I agree. I have a very good friend who’s fought with depression and suicidal thoughts as long as I’ve known her and the reasons Hannah gives for wanting to kill herself are chump change in comparison with what my friend’s gone through. Hannah’s depression didn’t seem clinical but rather triggered by a few events; something that could be remedied with time. Instead of getting help with her problems she gave up while knowing there were people who loved her.

Most of the characters in this book fell flat to me. I’ve talked about why Hannah felt contrived, but I think the women in general were very stereotypical and weak. Clay’s mother never asserts her maternal authority when she finds out he’s lying and staying out of the house. Jessica doesn’t believe anything Hannah says and believes her other friends instead. Their female ‘Peer Communications’ teacher can’t even lead a class discussion on suicide effectively. While most of the male characters had terrible negative flaws, there was at least Clay and Tony to redeem them, while the women didn’t have a soul to raise her hand.

Clay was by far my favorite character, though it seems cheap to like the protagonist most. He was a genuinely good guy, no matter what he thought of himself. Hannah saw that in him. His biggest flaw was that he was too passive. He would see something he didn’t agree with and not speak up about it. I liked that Asher used a likable character like Clay to talk about pacifism.

I found it really hard to relate to any of these characters. Hannah portrayed herself as the victim and it was hard for me to feel bad for her because she was so busy feeling bad for herself. The ‘Reasons’ on her tape were all portrayed as bullies, which made them instantly dis-likeable. Clay and Tony were the only characters left that I could sympathize with. Tony had much too small of a part for this, and I still found it hard to connect with Clay for several reasons.

When I was Hannah’s age, I had some similar feelings. I had a break-up with a boy I really thought mattered and that I wanted to be with even after he broke up with me. I lost a lot of friends and felt betrayed by a lot of them. I thought of suicide once or twice. But every time I did, I would think of those people who would miss me, those that cared and would be affected if I were gone. Hannah never had any of these thoughts. I was fortunate and had a few friends where Hannah had none, but I was still able to recognize that it was circumstantial, the way I was feeling, and that when there was another boy or a way out that I could see, things would get better. I almost think that Hannah’s suicide in this book tells kids ‘it’s okay to give up when things are hard. High school is everything and if you can’t figure that out, you’re screwed for the rest of your life.’ That’s not the best message.

I think my favorite part of the book was the last tape, when she goes to talk to her teacher. This is not to say that I really liked that part, but it seemed the most realistic to me. The teacher was scared at the thought of suicide, a reaction a lot of people have. Hannah’s classmates in Peer Communications felt the same way. I really felt bad for Hannah in that scene because she was finally doing what she needed to and she reached out to someone who could help her, but she got nothing in return. Her best (albeit only) attempt failed.

I don’t like that Clay found out Tony had the tapes. I think leaving it that someone had the second set and that they would be released would have been enough and I think pulling Tony mysteriously into the plot was unnecessary. It only served to stretch the page count and add another likeable character. I could have done without him.

I’m glad this book is popular, despite what I’ve said above. It teaches about the effects a suicide can have on other people, the consequences of doing nothing, and one person’s ability to positively affect a person’s life. I wish some of the characters were stronger, but I think Jay Asher’s heart was in the right place when he wrote this. The message is beautiful.

A note on the audio. I read a review that it was hard to tell who was talking at times when reading the text. The audio was a wonderful solution to this. I really recommend it.

Writer’s Takeaway: I liked this way of having two narrators, thought I doubt anyone can ever do it again. Hannah’s stream of consciousness and Clay’s melded together well and it was really cool to read their different reactions to the same thing. I think Asher did a good job of giving them distinct voices as well, which might have been missed reading the text as opposed to the audio.

Conflicted between the writing style and the message, I settled for the middle: 3 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

Related Posts
Interview ~ Jay Asher | Teens Writing for Teens
Interview with Jay Asher, NY Times Bestselling Author of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jamie Blair | Old People Writing for Teens
Review: “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher | Dutch Book Chick
Book Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Eat Your Way Smart
Spoilers: Thirteen reasons Why By Jay Asher | Book Journey

Divergent Movie- Did They Change Too Much?

24 Mar

I saw the Divergent movie Friday night with Nicole and my husband and I’m still not sure what I thought of it. I read the book last month and knew that a film would be different, but I wasn’t sure how different. There were things I thought were very well done, things that were taken out I’m still wondering why, things that changed that didn’t bother me, and there were some changes I couldn’t really wrap my head around. I was hoping to discuss here so we can talk about it and decide what to think.

Things I Thought Were Awesome
My favorite part of the movie (and my husband’s as well) was the zipline. It’s hard to describe in words what a zipline like that would look like, but the visual portrayal was awesome. I loved it.

Eric. I think Jai Courtney was absolutely amazing. When I was reading the book, I pictured Eric as a smaller guy but a huge bully. Courtney’s portrayal of him made my heart clench because he really was scary at times. The image fit his character very well.

Dauntless initiates welcome dinner. I loved that the Dauntless picked all the initiates up and honored them. It was a great way to show that they were connected and had a strong community. With how rushed the other Dauntless scenes had to be, I think this was really good to show.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me
Taking out Ed. I think what Peter does to Tris is enough to develop his character and his attack on Ed doesn’t need to be in the plot for it to still make sense.

The capture the flag scene. They changed the setting from an open field to a tall building, but I could live with it because it looked awesome. Yes, Tris got the flag instead of Christina, but I thought Christina grabbing the flag from in front of Tris was a little out of character and damaged an otherwise healthy relationship between Tris and Christina. I liked that the fight with Molly was during this scene instead of by itself.

Tris wasn’t short. It was mentioned so many times in the book but didn’t develop her character for me. I liked this change.

The actor playing Tobias was almost 30. I was worried before I saw the film, but when I did see it, it worked for me. The ages of Tris and Tobias were stressed so much in the book; she’s 16 and he’s 18. But the film didn’t stress this. We’re never told the age of those in the choosing ceremony and it’s never said that Tobias is two years older than them. So it didn’t matter that Woodley is 22 (+6 years) and James is 29 (+11 years). It still worked.

Dauntless-born initiates. In the book, this other group featured prominently, but the movie only had them in a few scenes. This didn’t really bother me because they don’t come into play much in this book, but I could see missing Uriah being an issue in the second and third books.

Al and Will looked like twins. Maybe this was just me, but the actors looked alike and had very similar haircuts. I would get them mixed up a lot.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why
Tobias being drunk when he’s first nice to Tris. I know this seems small, but I felt like it was the first time she sees him relaxed and I thought it was important that it wasn’t natural for him, it was something he needed alcohol to feel. I understand a teen audience and not wanting to encourage alcohol, but I still think it could have been done easily.

Visitation day. Having her mom visit her during a working day instead of explaining visitation day doesn’t really make sense. My husband pointed out that her mom visiting Tris and not being able to visit Caleb helped further the tension between Abnegation and Erudite, but having her mom show up on a truck doesn’t do this.

Romance between Christina and Will. For those who have read further into the trilogy, this becomes more important because Christina holds a grudge against Tris for killing him. It was there, but very played down in my opinion.

Things That Changed Too Much
Tris’s mother’s death. I understand that dying to protect Tris was still the essence of what happened, but having her run out to protect Tris instead of completely sacrificing herself so Tris could escape didn’t seem like a necessary change to me. It would have taken just as much time to do it the way Roth wrote it, so what’s the point?

The entire scene where Tobias is under a simulation. Okay, what? I lost it in the theater. It was supposed to be just Tris and Tobias and instead there were about 20 Erudite there, Jeannine included, and they’re all fighting Tris. Tobias doesn’t know how to shut down the simulation and they have to give Jeannine an injection to get her to do it. What?! It made sense as an ending, but it wasn’t Roth’s ending at all. There was nothing wrong with Roth’s ending, but this one is completely different. I know why they did it and it pisses me off. They were afraid that the movie would bomb, like the City of Bones movie did and that there wouldn’t be sequels so this had to stand by itself. Okay, I get that, I really do. But I ask, isn’t the largest audience for this movie fans of the book? And how do you think fans of the book felt about changing the ending so drastically? If my opinion can count for anything, we didn’t like it much!

I had a great conversation with some other fans waiting to pee after the movie. (This is what I get for drinking my husband’s Coke.) We ultimately said that if we hadn’t read the books, we would have loved the movie as a stand-alone piece. This was how Nicole felt about it, not having yet read the books. However, being a fan of the written words, it was disappointing. At least it ended on a disappointing note. Kind of a let down.

Reader, I’m dying to know what you think. What did you think of the Divergent movie? Did it change the book too much for you to enjoy? Do you think Insurgent will be made into a film? Was there anything else you would add to my lists?

If you’re feeling like we need more of a conversation, click on over to my Facebook fan page where I started this conversation yesterday and see what others are saying.

Until next time, write on.

72 More Books to Read Before I Die

21 Mar

Many people have been talking about the Amazon list of 100 Books to Read Before You Die and I thought I’d put in my two cents.

Only counting books that I’ve actually read (have held in my hand and looked at each word) or heard on audiobook, I’ve read 27. While it’s more than a lot of people, it’s still underwhelming. A list of these is included at the bottom of this post. On my TBR list, which I have not edited to include any of these books after discovering the list, I have another 4, which would bring me to a total of 31 books. Not even a third of the way there.

Should I feel like I’m not well read? The sub-title of the list is “A bucket-list of books to create a well read life.” So Amazon thinks I’m not well read. Huh. I’ll admit there are a few on this list I should have read, such as Charlotte’s Web and The Handmaid’s Tale. Here I’ll accept blame. But I also haven’t read Moneyball (and to be fair, haven’t seen the movie) because I really don’t care about baseball.

I’m tempted to want to take on this list; add them to my TBR pile and watch them fall one by one. But then I look at the books on my shelf that I’ve been waiting to read for months and years and I realize that I’d much rather read John Irving’s In One Person and enjoy my favorite author that try to fight through The Color of Water, who’s four-word description doesn’t move me at all.

I think I’ll take this list as a slight bump in all books’ potential of being added to my list. I haven’t read The Catcher in the Rye, but if someone else recommends it, I’ll consider adding it to my list.

Truthfully, I’d rather pursue my own list; the 108 books on my Goodreads To-Read list (hint, follow me on Goodreads… hint). Nothing personal to Amazon, but there are a ton of these lists. The blog 101 Books is all about reading the Time’s list and he’s been at it for years. Would I enjoy some of these books? I’m sure I would. Should I read them and find out? Meh.

What are your thoughts, Reader? Do you read books because they’re on a list someone has written of good books? What about award winners; have you been tempted to read something because it won an award? I don’t tend to choose my books based on this and I’m curious how many people do.

Until next time, write on.

Books from the list I have read: 1984, Angela’s Ashes, Born to Run, Catch 22, Fahrenheit 451, Goodnight Moon, Great Expectations, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, In Cold Blood, Little House on the Prairie, Lolita, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Middlesex, Pride & Prejudice, The Book Thief, The Devil in the White City, The Fault in Our Stars, The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings, The Poisionwood Bible, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The World According to Garp, To Kill a Mockingbird, Unbroken, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Things Are

Books on the list I plan to read: Gone Girl, Life After Life, The Sun Also Rises, The Things They Carried

Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (5/5) Renewed my faith in baseball

20 Mar

I wish I could like all book club selections as much as I liked this one, but then there wouldn’t be much debate, would there? I guess the debate is good and I’m wondering who the dissenters in our numbers will be. As a note, I’m changing up my format for book reviews. Let me know if you like this better or if I should go back to my old style.

Cover image via Goodreads.com

Cover image via Goodreads.com

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Chaos theory says that a butterfly beating its wings can cause the end of the world. One errant throw by Westish College shortstop Henry Skrimshander changes the live of five people by the end of the season. Missing the throw and breaking his streak of error-less games gets into Henry’s head and won’t come out. Westish College President Guert Affenlight has to face being a father again and falling in love with a much younger man. Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, is escaping an unhappy marriage by coming home to her father and pursuing the education she skipped out on before. Owen Dunne, is injured by Henry’s errant throw and finds comfort from someone he didn’t expect. Mike Schwartz, Westish catcher and captain, can’t understand why his tutee Henry can’t throw and why Pella Affenlight is so irresistible. As their lives crash and intermingle during baseball season, the ripple effects of one mistake overwhelm the reader.

Now for the spoiler’s summary. If you haven’t been here before, I like to discuss endings. Pella meets Mike soon after arriving at Westish and the two start dating. She takes a job in the kitchens to ear her own money and finally starts to feel in charge of her own life. Schwartz starts to realize he’s given himself up completely to Henry’s training and is becoming resentful. He starts keeping things from Henry, his relationship with Pella included. Meanwhile, Owen and President Affenlight embark on a strange and dangerous love affair. Owen feels like a plaything to Guert and the two take a small vacation together on the eve of the division championships. At the championship game, Henry decides to quit the team and walks off of the field mid-game. His depression continues for a few days and when he doesn’t make the bus for the play-offs, Mike sends Pella to fetch him and send Henry to follow in a car. When Pella gets to his room, Henry refuses to go and the two sleep together, ruining Pella’s relationship with Schwartz and embarking on a relationship with Henry. On the eve of the national championships (always on the eves, huh?), the dean of Westish tells Guert that he’ll be investigated for a relationship with a student. He gives Henry his plane ticket to the game and dies in his apartment that evening.

There is so much to talk about with this book. I think it will make for a great discussion at our book club meeting. I don’t really like to rehash plot so much, but if you’re going to spoil the ending for yourself and read the paragraph above, You’ll need to know these details for my discussion here and in my book club reflection. This book is so well written and the audiobook was done beautifully. I was concerned that this would be a ‘boy book’ that I wouldn’t like and that my female-heavy book club would not get into. I was surprised to find that though the book focuses on baseball, the technicalities of the sport were minimal and Henry’s path to become an athlete was a lot more universal. After the initial bad throw, baseball really becomes a background to the characters’ lives.

I loved the unique names in Harbach’s story. Guert and Pella were a little out there, but almost crazy last names like Starblind, Arsh, Skrimshander, and Affenlight were so realistic it made me smile. I liked how complicated of a character Mike Schwartz was. He had some of the jock stereotypes about him but at the same time, he was very driven to achieve highly for himself and not rely on his physical abilities and had the brain power to go places. Maybe not the places he wanted to go (Yale, Harvard), but places. On the other hand, I felt that Henry was a very flat character for a lot of the book. He didn’t have much of a personality until the last quarter of the book and I would liken him to a robot because he did what everyone else asked of him.

My favorite character has to be Owen Dunne. He was so quirky that I fell in love with him early on. Henry has pegged him as such a hippie-brain that when he tries out for baseball, Henry’s in complete shock. Instead of being a stereotypical athlete like Schwartz, he reads in the dugouts and takes the coach’s comments seriously when he’s yelled at. I could picture it so perfectly and it was all so believable. Harbach really created a three-dimensional character with Owen.

Even though I loved and was very invested in all of the characters, I couldn’t find one that I really related to. Pella, as the only woman, was the most relatable, but her decisions seemed rash and hurried to me and I couldn’t sympathize with her ruined marriage or depression. I think I felt a level of camaraderie with most of the characters because of the college setting. I went to a small private liberal arts school (though not in Wisconsin) so I could understand the underfunded sports, feeling of knowing everyone in town, and seeing the president at a sporting event. Part of what drew me in at the beginning was the school and how much it reminded me of my alma mater.

My favorite part of the book would have to be when Owen and Mike are looking for Henry after he walks away from the game. I loved that they didn’t find him and that instead they find a teammate and Henry’s sister and that all the quirks of Owen and Mike (cleanliness and bossiness respectively) show while they’re looking through the bar for Henry. I thought it was very believable and I could see it happening in a small college town.

The part of the book that really angered me was when Henry was living in Pella’s house. They decided to be together on such short notice, without having really talked to each other before they had sex and knowing that it would hurt Mike. I understand that some things can be helped, but it seemed obvious to me that Pella knew it was a mistake yet she let Henry stay on. And then after Henry’s concussion, it was as if that had never happened. I was really frustrated with the characters.

If I’d written the book, I think the only thing I’d do differently is to write in some more female characters. I guess this isn’t surprising as a woman criticizing a male writer, but I thought he wrote Pella pretty well and could have done another female lead with equal ability.

I loved this book. It’s a great book for college students through adults and will appeal to men and women. I give it a full 5 out of 5 stars.

This book fulfilled ‘Wisconsin’ for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

Related Posts:
49. ‘The Art of Fielding’… Chad Harbach | Doron’s Book Blog
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach | Dactyl Review
The Art of Fielding, Chad Harbach | Lasesana
The Art of Fielding (2011) – Chad Harbach | A Novel Approach

WWW Wednesday, 19-Mar-2014

19 Mar

I’m having a blast with MizB’s WWW Wednesday meme. If you haven’t yet, considering joining in the fun!

www_wednesdays4The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: I’m keeping the numbers low. Yay for me! I’m determined to make headway on Harry Potter y la Orden del Fenix by J.K. Rowling. I read 50 pages over the weekend and I’ll make my way to the end soon enough. Reading this is much more academic than fun because I have to look words up so often, so I’m not enjoying it as much as I could. My review of this book will be more about what it’s like to read in another language than the book itself. I started a new audiobook last night, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I was advised that I’ll need to keep a box of tissues with me while I listen to it. The story is about the reasons why a teen girl killed herself. That does seem to be a topic that would beg Kleenex. My ebook of the moment is The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson. I’ll be reading this one for a while and it’s so far, so good.

Recently finished: I finished The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach last night. It was absolutely amazing and had a very fitting ending. I’ll be posting a review soon, hopefully tomorrow! This was for my book club that meets next on 31-March so there will be a follow-up Book Club Reflection to follow.

Reading Next: Since I got another First Reads in the mail last week, I realized how much I need to read The Geography of Memory by Jeanne Murray Walker. It’s been sitting on my shelf for far too long.

That’s it from me. What are your three Ws? Leave a comment and let me know and also check out the original post on MizB’s blog!

Until next time, write on.

Book Club Reflection: Just Kids by Patti Smith

18 Mar

I think discussion a memoir for a book club is the best kind of gossiping there is. We get to talk freely about someone’s life and criticize their memory and I feel privileged to do so. I guess that’s what you get if you ever write about yourself and publish it. I’ll have to take note of this.

My book club met last Monday to discuss our latest selection, Just Kids by Patti Smith. In my review I said that I felt removed from Smith because her fame was before my time. There were a few other people close to my age who felt the same way, but we were fortunate that our membership includes people who were in high school and college during the peak of her fame. Our discussion leader who chose this book is a huge fan of Smith’s and was very engrossed in the subject.

We all agreed that this book wasn’t really about Smith at all; it was about Robert. It was a story of how they lived together and above all it was a tribute to their love and a way for Patti to say that after all that had happened between them, she still loved him. We thought she hurt a lot more than him when they ended their romantic relationship together. She saw herself as Robert’s muse and not an artist in her own right. Robert pushed her to create and she likely would not have achieved her success without that push. He introduce her to the movers and shakers in their industry and got her foot in the door where it needed to go.

We asked ourselves what might have been different if Robert had written the book instead of Patti. I think he would have focused on her instead of himself. Patti glossed over her own fame toward the end of the book and how it took off so quickly. She was convinced to read a few poems and then wanted a guitarist to make her poetry different. From there she started writing songs, formed a band, and became widely successful. Robert’s last boyfriend even financed her first tour. I think Robert would have been fiercely proud of Patti’s success and downplayed his own notoriety. We also suspect that Smith used a lot more drugs than she let on and perhaps Robert would have given some insight into this. Our members felt that because of her family, she was reluctant to admit to her kids that she had been a part of the drug scene. Though, with a son who married Meg White of The White Stripes, I don’t think she’d surprise them. Smith has a new book coming out that we suspect will focus more on herself and her career. Maybe this is the book Robert would have written.

Robert’s relationship with his parents was complicated. We were surprised at how confident he was in his ability to be an artist given the strict religious upbringing he had and how it didn’t incite confidence in artistic ability. We questioned how long he had been in New York before het met Smith and suspected that the time he spent pursuing fame before he was introduced to the reader could have instilled that confidence. One part that was comical to me was when Robert was concerned about Smith moving away because his parents still thought they were married. It made us think that his parents must have not known about his art and we wondered how he planned to keep that secret from them. He seemed more worried about his sham of a marriage.

Of course we had to talk about Smith herself. She seemed very hard on herself and critical of anything she ever created. One of our members recalled her father telling her she wasn’t pretty enough to get married and we suspect that comment came from her early pregnancy. We thought it was so interesting that her look was so androgynous while she was in New York. One of our members couldn’t tell Robert and Patti apart in the pictures. That might even be because Mapplethorpe wanted her to look like him or himself to look like her. Even Alan Ginsberg couldn’t tell her gender just looking at her. I wonder how much of this escape from traditional feminine beauty was because of what her father said.

We wondered about why Smith would have been so successful so quickly after Robert fought an uphill battle for his own notoriety. One suggestion is that her medium was a lot more mainstream at the time, even if her style was different from anyone at the time. I suspect that the publicity of the 1970s would have lent itself more to a performance artist than a print artist.

New York City itself was a large player in Smith’s story. They were both so driven to make it in such a harsh and unforgiving place. The Chelsea Hotel was the point where they started living in an artist’s world and rubbing elbows with the right people. It was a Mecca for starving artist and that glamorous lifestyle. We wondered why the landlord would take art as a security deposit. The book portrayed it as his love for art and his support of starving artists. More likely, he know that the tenants were so attached to their portfolios that they would be sure to make payments to get them back.

The appeal of a memoir over an autobiography is that the writer doesn’t have to research the details of what happened to them and report them with 100% accuracy. They can write from memory, and sometimes memory is fuzzy. And sometimes, memories are altered by what we want them to be. We thought Smith glossed over the drug community that must have existed in the Chelsea Hotel. She claimed to not participate in it, but we were suspicious that she did more than she let on. She has children now and Smith wouldn’t want them knowing all the gritty details of her drug use. Wouldn’t Smith have been a bit of an outcast in the community if she didn’t share in the drug culture?

The member of our group who remember the 1970s emphasized how much this book is a result of the time. Before AIDS, free love had no consequences. There was nothing you could get that couldn’t be cured. (On a side note, Dallas Buyers Club depicts this beautifully as well.) Everyone wanted to rebel against the anger they had surrounding the Vietnam War and drugs were a way to do that. A few of our members recalled that those who they saw in the heavy drug culture and free love tended to be rich kids who felt it was a privileged scene. They were those who had enough money and support from home that they could afford the drugs and have a second chance if they messed up. For Smith, it wasn’t a ‘cool’ place to be; it was her life. She could have gone home so many times, but she didn’t. Did she stay because of Robert?

Smith name-dropped a lot in the book; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin. Do we really believe it all? Or is this a part of the selected memory? Some of the people she would say she met in the Chelsea Hotel were already rich and famous. Why would they be living in what is described as such a run-down and dirty place? I feel that this might be one place where Smith’s memories wouldn’t check out with actual history.

The book was filled with so much loss; suicide, theft, death, and disappointment. It became commonplace, almost predictable, for Smith and Mapplethorpe. It was part of New York City for them. Our members recalled that NYC was a lot more dangerous in the 70s. Robert kept telling Patti he would protect her and he did.

Writer’s Takeaway: The group loved Smith’s writing style. It was clear that she was a poet who has a strong command with words. Her vocabulary was good, something uncommon in celebrity writing, and her style was very engaging. We liked the small vignette style and it reminded us of a diary. One members suspects that much of this book was re-written sections of Smith’s personal diary during the time she was in New York.

We’ll meet next month to talk about Kazo Ishiguro’s book Never Let Me Go. I read this title about a year ago so I won’t re-read it, but I’m so excited to discuss it!

Until next time, write on.