8/28/2014

On the Shelf: Let's Get Lost

On the Shelf: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
LET'S GET LOST by Adi Alsaid.
Published by Harlequin Teen in 2014.
Four teens across the country have only one thing in common: a girl named Leila. She crashes into their lives in her absurdly red car at the moment they need someone the most. There's Hudson, a small-town mechanic who is willing to throw away his dreams for true love. And Bree, a runaway who seizes every Tuesday—and a few stolen goods along the way. Elliot believes in happy endings... until his own life goes off-script. And Sonia worries that when she lost her boyfriend, she also lost the ability to love. Hudson, Bree, Elliot and Sonia find a friend in Leila. And when Leila leaves them, their lives are forever changed. But it is during Leila's own 4,268-mile journey that she discovers the most important truth—sometimes, what you need most is right where you started. And maybe the only way to find what you're looking for is to get lost along the way.

Let's Get Lost has many of my favourite things that can be found in a book: mulitple perspectives, stand-alone stories, and a focus on character development. I love the format of this book—each section is from the perspective of a different chararacter—so it feels like you're reading five different stories. Leila is the common factor in all of them, but the sections don't connect together as much as I thought they would. The sections stay focused on the narrating character with a few artifacts and themes tying everything together.

I like intelligent writing, and Let's Get Lost begins with clever narration and dialogue. The point of the story is never entirely clear, and beginning with Hudson's section is the perfect starting point for Leila's journey. This section is by far my favourite of the book. It accurately portrays small-town life as Hudson shows Leila around his hometown and all the treasures within it. It had me thinking about the treasures from my hometown: the "corner store," a tree named 'Spike,' a trail in the woods... seemingly forgettable places for anyone else, but incredibly important to me. Hudson's attempt to show Leila his own seemingly unimportant places becomes even more special by the end of the book... but I don't want to give away too much.

I would have been happy if Let's Get Lost was only the first and last sections. Still, the other characters have merits too, and all are on their own journey. The plot lines aren't repetitive, and they all feel hauntingly realistic. Alsaid hasn't written an over-the-top look at teenage life: Let's Get Lost is simplistic and it's this simplicity that makes it work.

In the end, Let's Get Lost is a story about Leila told from the perspective of other people in her life. As the reader, we get little glimpses of Leila's personality and story as she meets new people on her roadtrip, but it's not until the end that we learn any of her truth. Getting lost every now and then is a good idea, if only to find ourselves again.

8/26/2014

My Literary Bucket List: Bookish Goals I Will Most Likely Never Accomplish

I’m not sure if I believe in the bucket list. Writing lists can be therapeutic, but only a rare few list makers ever accomplish what they write down. My birthday is too close for comfort (this is the first year that I’m not ready to grow up), and it’s customary to make a bucket list of things you want to accomplish over the next year, the next ten years, the next, well, lifetime. So I’ve brainstormed a literary bucket list, which is essentially a bunch of things I would love to do (and have thought about many times)–but we all know it’s very unlikely that I will accomplish any one of these things.

Read all the books chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.
I had an English teacher in high school admit to me that she had read every book on this list. I’m assuming she started around the same time the book club was formed, but catching up sounded like it would be fun. I told myself, at that moment in grade nine, that I too would one day read all the books on that book club list. I just did some quick research: Oprah’s Book Club started in 1996 and there are seventy books on the list. (Seventy-three if you count the books selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0.) It looks like I have only read five of the books that Oprah deems worthy. I’m confident that this goal won’t be crossed off my literary bucket list anytime soon.

My Literary Bucket List: Bookish Goals I Will Most Likely Never Accomplish >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
Image credit: Trevor Tondro.
Have a black and white bookcase.
I love the look of a bookcase filled with spines that only use black and white on the design. It is lovely? Yes. Is it practical? Sadly, no. When I first saw an image like this, probably six months ago now, I was determined to make it happen. I looked through my book collection and made a pile of all the books that would work. I don’t think I even had enough to fill one shelf, never mind an entire bookcase. Unless I start purchasing books only because they have black and white spines, this item seems impossible.

Read every Ernest Hemingway novel.
I really like Hemingway and I have no good reason why. I’ve already read three of his novels, and there are only ten in total, so this goal could technically be within reach. That being said, I’m not sure how many of his books I could get through before I want to simultaneously hug him for being such a good writer and punch him in the face for being such a jerk. I imagine I’d need a few bottles of wine and a better working knowledge of bull fighting and hunting.

Join a book club.
This has been at the top of my “I totally wish I could do this” list for as long as I can remember. I never seem to be at the right place at the right time. I just want to be that person who brings vegan food to a potluck and sits around and talks about books with people. Is that too much to ask? My life says, “Yes, Maria. Yes it is.”

Meet J.K. Rowling.
There are very few people who would not want to shake this woman’s hand.

Read one short story every morning for an entire year.
This could be the only item on this list that has a slight chance of being accomplished. I really, really, really love short stories. I also really love mornings. And reading. Putting all these thins together sounds almost perfect. Okay, so maybe this one might be worth a try…

>> What ridiculous bookish goals would you like to pretend to accomplish? Let me know in the comments!

8/21/2014

On the Shelf: Fangirl

On the Shelf: FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell >> I BELIEVE IN STORY
FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell.
Published by St. Martin's Griffin in 2013.
Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan... But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere. Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I'd be shocked if anyone reading this hasn't heard of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. The book made its rounds on blogs and websites quite some time ago, so this post is really late to the party. I read the book a couple months ago, but I've been mulling over just what to say about it. It took some convincing before I picked up the book (months after its release; months after what felt like the whole world was talking about). I was worried that the subject matter wouldn't be dealt with appropriately: there are a ton of negative stereotypes surrounding fandom and fanfiction. Thankfully, Rowell knows what she's talking about.

I knew Fangirl was special the moment I started reading it. I saw so much of my University self in Cath. It's no secret that I've dedicated hours of my life to fandom. I understand what it's like to lose track of time while writing fanfiction, to prefer the company of "online" friends to "real-life" friends. Reading about Cath's journey reminded me so much of my own – growing up often means letting go.

What I love about Fangirl is that it's a character portrait more than anything else. There are great things about friendships and relationships and learning how to survive life on your own, but by the end of the book I realized that the true story is how Cath learns to balance fandom and reality. The truth is that the two are so often combined – there's no need to choose sides.

Rowell's writing is fantastic. The dialogue is clever. The excerpts of fanfiction make this book truly unique. If, for whatever reason, you still haven't picked up Fangirl, you need to change that. For those of you who grew up with fandom as part of your life, you'll connect with Cath on a personal level. For those of you who have never even heard of fanfiction before, hopefully Fangirl will introduce you to a whole new part of online life that deserves a little more attention.

8/19/2014

10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read

My to-read pile is never-ending. I love getting book recommendations from people, especially when they read a category or a genre I'm not too familiar with. Out of all the recommendations, there a few that come up over and over again. So, as part of Top 10 Tuesday, I present: the ten books people keep telling me to read.

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> 10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read
#1. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell >> I'm not usually one for love stories, but I've been told this one is a necessary read. I really love Fangirl by Rowell (a review of that book will be on the blog later this week), so I may have to try out E&P.

#2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel GarcĂ­a Marquez >> Not having read this one yet pretty much makes me a fraud. I adore magical realism, but have never read this novel. I know deep down in my bookish heart that this is a fatal error.

#3. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn >> This is one of those books I've avoided for so long because of the hype. It feels like everyone has read this book, and everyone is always telling me how great it is.

#4. All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman >> I've been told many times that I will love this book, based on previous book preferences. I need to bite the bullet and buy it already!

#5. Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe >> Too many of my friends have been talking about this comic. I actually started reading the frist trade paperback this week, so hopefully I'll be caught up soon.

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> 10 Books People Keep Telling Me To Read
#6. Cinder by Marissa Meyer >> I love fairy tale retellings, and I've been told many times that this one is worth reading. I'm still apprehensive, but it might finally be time for me to give it a chance.

#7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott >> I've read a lot of classics, but this one has never crossed my radar. It's one of my good friends' favourite books, so I hear about it quite often.

#8. Friendship by Emily Gould >> I still have no idea what it's about (I can only assume friendship plays a part), and it may be only recently published, but a lot of people have been talking about this book.

#9. #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso >> I like kickass women who do kickass things, so it makes sense that this book has been recommended to me multiple times since it was published in May.

#10. Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson >> Another comic series that I've been told is phenomenal. I'm not typically a big fan of superhero comics, but this one does sound appealing.

>> Have you read any of these books? Which one would you recommend I move up in my to-read pile? Let me know in the comments!

8/12/2014

Charlie and the Creepy Chocolate Factory

I BELIEVE IN STORY >> Charlie and the Creepy Chocolate Factory
The new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book cover is sort of creepy. This doll-like image of a young girl was the center of attention this past week. Most people don’t like it. Some people have complained. Why? I have no idea.

I actually like the new cover. Yes, it suits the aesthetics of Penguin’s Modern Classics series – but it also reflects the style of Roald Dahl. A beloved writer of classics like Matilda, The BFG, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, Dahl is known as an author of children’s books. But Dahl’s style has always been slightly sinister. His adult work is quite dark (most of his short stories are great horror tales), and even his children’s books have a touch of evil. There are unsettling plots and characters in every Roald Dahl book, and I think this new cover really touches on his ability to write children’s books for adults.

Thankfully, I'm not the only one who likes the cover. Penguin is definitely standing by the company’s decision to use this unusual artwork: “This design is in recognition of the book's extraordinary cultural impact and is one of the few children's books to be featured in the Penguin Modern Classics list. This new image for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory looks at the children at the centre of the story, and highlights the way Roald Dahl's writing manages to embrace both the light and the dark aspects of life.”

I even found some allies on Twitter who appreciate the cover design, albeit for very different reasons. Whether it's because the cover fits thematically with the book, represents Dahl's unusual style, or is a clever marketing ploy, there are reasons to admire the new cover art.

I love that new editions like this—even when controversial—breathe new life into classic books and introduce them to new readers.

>> What are your thoughts on the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory cover? Let me know in the comments!