Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Throwbacks from Childhood

I just want to quote Maurice Sendak here: "I don't write for children. I write and somebody says, that's for children."

Children's books are so not just for children. They are real books with real messages. And, yes, a lot of the time there are pictures to go with them.

These are some my favorite picture books. And not just because I enjoyed them as a child. Mostly because when I'm digging through the stacks at work looking for books, I take the time to open these ones and read them for the 239480th time.

I enjoy this book SO much. Chrysanthemum loves her name, but when she goes to school for the first time, her classmates make fun of her. In the end, her teacher (named Delphinium) shows Chrysanthemum, and the class, that it's all right to be different.  

This is one of my favorite stories ever. Cinderella is great and all, but who cares if you're married to a prince if he's vain and boring? Cinder Edna knows what's up. 

This is a story about being just who you are, which is why I love it. Also because it's about a bull named Ferdinand who only wants to sit and smell the roses - he doesn't want to be in the center of a ring at a bullfight. 

I love this book because it's so damn whimsical. Grumpy grandma + spunky kid = giant grandma. Read it for yourself, I can't say any more without discussing it at length.

Miss Rumphius is who I want to be. I want to make the world a more beautiful place. I think this is a very important book for children. Children should of course, think about what their place in the world is and what they would like to do, but they should also consider their surroundings.  It's important to be aware of the mark you leave in this world, even as a young child. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Delightfully Quirky Reads

Although this past weekend was busy for me, I somehow found a way to read not one, but two books! I basically accomplished this by 1) Reading until late into the night. (aka 2AM ... ish) and 2) Reading children's books. 

Okay, so they aren't 500 page tomes, but they are really enjoyable for what they are.

I'm sure you're starting to see my patterns when I'm reading fluff books. Bliss is super cutesy and quirky.  The Bliss family are bakers - magical bakers. The three herb-named children are left in charge of the bakery when their parents must go away for a week. Their one task: not to let anyone know about the magic cookery book. 
As soon as their car has left the driveway, the mysterious, marvelous, and incredibly gorgeous "Aunt Lily" drops in and insists that they allow her to stay as she is family. The children can't resist her and her cooking and soon are under her charms. 
The only thing I disliked about this book is that it's the beginning of a series. This is how I feel about series: THERE ARE TOO MANY. It's like no one can actually write ONE GOOD BOOK on its own. It has to be a SAGA or a trilogy or a flipping never-ending SERIES. You can hardly pick up a YA novel that looks good without it being number #7 in the whatever chronicles. It drives me absolutely mad. And speaking of series, this book I read was ALSO number one. 
But you can read it without having to read the next one, which is why I'm even writing about it. 

Stuart Horten is a very short ten-year-old boy who has just moved to Beeton with his eccentric parents (his mother is a doctor and his father creates crossword puzzles and is therefore obsessed with words). Stuart becomes entangled in a mysterious exploration of the town when he finds out his great-uncle was a magician/illusionist in the 1940s in Beeton and his magical workshop has never been found. Setting off to find it, Stuart encounters the power hunger mayoress, a elderly woman who has a feisty seeing-eye dog, and a set of identical girl triplets.
Although this book is the first in a series, it can be read on its own without leaving you with a cliffhanger. The character reminds me a bit of Hugo Cabret, especially with all the mechanisms throughout the book. I liked the adventure, even if it was a bit far-fetched for a ten-year-old protagonist.

In other news, I'm still pushing through A Dance With Dragons. I'm going slow because who knows when book number six will come out...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life... Not an Ordinary Read.

This book is incredible. Just because you live an ordinary life does not mean you don't have a story to tell. This is the foreward to the book:


I was not abused, abandoned or locked up as a child. My parents were not alcoholics, nor were they ever divorced or dead. We did not live in poverty, or in misery, or in an exotic country. I am not a misunderstood genius, a former child celebrity, or the child of a celebrity. I am not a drug addict, sex addict, food addict, or recovered anything. If I indeed had a past life, I have no recollection of who I was.

I have not survived against all odds.
I have not lived to tell.
I have not witnessed the extraordinary.

This is my story. 

                                                                  - Amy Krouse Rosenthal, age 39

After the foreward, she starts writing the book in an encyclopedia-esque way, which is intriguing. It also makes for a very quick read. I've concluded from this book that even if you don't have a particularly crazy/frightening/exotic story to tell, you still have a story (or many) to tell.
Because she so blatantly states that she is an ordinary human being pulls in the reader. She can relate to the common man/woman.
Plus, it's pretty damn creative.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Short List of Excellent Books

Chuck Klosterman is highly underrated. I mean, yes, everyone loves Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs because it is wonderful, of course. But his novel Downtown Owl was fascinating. Better than Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs in my opinion. It has several different points of view, which I always like in a book.  The first character you're introduced to is a young teacher who has just moved to Owl, North Dakota. There is also the point of view of a teenage boy on the high school football team and an old man who has lived in Owl for many, many years. Their stories entwine. 

The best part about this book is that Chuck Klosterman begins with the end, which is THE BEST WAY to start any book. I give this one five stars. 

Of course this book is overshadowed by the overwhelming amount of people who saw the movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, but the book is just better. I suppose by the same logic the blog must be better than the book, but I have never read her blog. 

The movie also didn't show how much Julie swore, drank and fought with her husband. I think all those things were very important to the story because the whole story is about her journey through the year with food. Stories about a journey generally should have a lot of obstacles. The book did, the movie just glamorized one fight. 

Read the book - it's worth it.

If you're not in the mood for a novel, try Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House. Since it's a compilation of his short stories, it's easier to digest than a full novel. That won't mean you won't read it in one sitting, though. His short stories are incredible. Every time I finished one, I couldn't help but move right on to the next one. This is one I'm going to read again. And soon!

When In Doubt, Pick up this Book. Or maybe don't....

When In Doubt, Add Butter by Beth Harbison is what I would call a fluffy novel. I periodically indulge in these, thoroughly enjoy them, and then ignore all fluff novels until I've read 10 other, less fluffy, books. That being said, this is a nice, quick beach read.

There were parts about this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing was pretty funny at some parts and I think Beth Harbison harbors a secret love for alliteration.  But then again, who doesn't?
My favorite line from this book is, "I don't trust people who don't like garlic" (pg. 102). Amen to that, sister.
It's a food-oriented novel centered around the main character, Gemma Craig, who is a private chef at the age of 37, and is alone in her life. She likes things just so and is never the one to do anything radical. (You can see where this is going already, can't you?)

My problem with this read was that it was just so ridiculously predictable. That drives me nuts in a novel. I don't want to spoil the novel for you, but her life takes such expected turns that the story gets a little boring.
But if you're looking for a one-day beach read, pick it up - it's not that bad.

And once in a while, you need something fluffy to lighten up your days of endless wars, dragons, drunkenness and pillaging. I mean if you're me and you happen to be halfway through A Dance With Dragons.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Fannie Flagg: Funny Name, Killer Books

Fannie Flagg is definitely one of my top five favorite authors. She's written eight books, plus a southern cooking cookbook! She started writing plays and acting when she was very young and has been pretty much been fantastic all of her life. I've read all of her books and they are all incredible. Fannie Flagg just UNDERSTANDS how characters should be and exactly how they can overcome issues. That's what I love about her.  My very favorite book of hers is:

Dena Nordstrom is a big city girl with a big city job and all the stress that goes with it.  Her ties to her Southern roots are tenuous at best. When she finally visits her family, whom she hardly remembers, she is desperate to leave the Southern town as fast as she can to get back to the big city.  All that big city stress gets her down as soon as she returns to the city and she has to figure out what she really wants in life. 

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man is a wonderful story of a down to earth young girl who deals with her problems as they come: which is seemingly all the time. I loved this story and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good laugh as well as a little heartbreak.

Of course this is how most people know Fannie Flagg: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. The movie is great, the book is better (obviously) and yet this is how most people form their opinion about Fannie Flagg. I say, stop that this instant because she's written books better than this one.  Don't get me wrong, I love Fried Green Tomatoes, I really, really do. But it's no Welcome to the World, Baby Girl or I Still Dream about You, which is her latest book. 

This is Fannie Flagg's most recent novel and I am in love. Ever since I read it two years ago on Cape Cod on our family summer vacation, I cannot say enough good things about it. This is the plot: Maggie Fortenberry is a lovely, polite, very mild-mannered and sweet sixtyish year old. She's decided her life is basically over (although she has a job and some excellent friends) and the time has come to kill herself. Maggie plans this out meticulously through the book by closing bank accounts, giving away clothing, and determining how exactly she will carry out the suicide. This book was wonderfully dark, yet exceptionally comedic. 

I also love A Redbird Christmas because it's about a crotchety old man named Oswald who, after visiting the doctor, discovers he is very close to death. Cold Chicago isn't doing him any good, so he decides to relocate to the little old town of Lost River in the deep South. What he finds there are some great neighbors, crazily hot weather, and a deep relaxation that can only come with a town that time has forgotten. 

Give these a try and let me know how you like them!

Paris Wives

A few months ago I read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and absolutely loved it! It follows the story of Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway. Richardson was Hemingway's first wife.  The book tells the ascent and descent of their relationship, mostly taking place in Paris. Although it is fictionalized somewhat, the author did her best to garner information from letters between the two and other materials she studied.

After I read this book, I was inspired to read more of Hemingway's work. I've read a good amount being an English major and all, but this book pushed it further. 

I also just noticed that there is another book with the same premise (which I'm now going to read as soon as I can get my hands on it) and it's called Paris Without End: The True Story of Hemingway's First Wife by Gioia Diliberto. 

If you've read this one, please let me know because I'm fascinated to know how they differ and why. Apparently, Vogue likes Paris Without End, if that means anything to you. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Off the Subject of Books for Just a Second...

Had the weirdest dream last night where I was talking with Queen Cersei (from Game of Thrones for those of you less nerdy folk). I think reading A Dance With Dragons before bed is messing with my head. Next time I'll be having tea with Lady Melisandre.

In other news, this song is wonderful and I simply adore Lily Allen. I can accept however that this song is a little weird, but Elton John is in it, so it's pretty fabulous.

Also, Fifty Shades of Grey is crazily popular in Great Britain says Flavorwire. I haven't read it and I don't plan on reading it, either. I understand that people want to read what they want to read. I fully support that. If you need a trashy beach read, go for it. However, I will not be succumbing to the trash novels. I have too little time on this Earth and not enough time to read the GOOD stuff let alone the trashy, fluff books.
How do you feel about the Fifty Shades of Grey madness?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

They Tried to Make me Go to Rehab - AND YOU SHOULD HAVE GONE AND JUST STAYED, AMY!

So I've just finished Amy, My Daughter by Mitch Winehouse today. If you want to break your heart, go ahead and pick up this gem of a book.
Amy Winehouse's father wrote this book after her death. He was one of those fathers who was very close with his daughter and he isn't afraid to tell the world the truth about everything that happened. Amy was, of course, addicted to heroin for a long time and after that it was alcohol, but she was an incredible, giving, generous and exceptionally talented person.
The book is wonderful, but it is definitely hard to read. When she said that she was done with drugs the first time, you get excited, but the 400th time, it's not so easy to forgive her. And her father was fed up, too, naturally.

I also finished Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin and I'm onto A Dance With Dragons. Both are incredible. Of course I love Daenaerys, so A Dance With Dragons is so much more wonderful because she's actually in it opposed to Feast for Crows. The two books were supposed to be one and Martin decided to split it, which was great because he could fully tell all the stories from everyone's point of view and it wouldn't be 2,000 pages. They are just two separate books, 1,000 pages each. No problem.

On a different note, Flavorwire put together a list of how to eat like your favorite authors! Love it.