July 31, 2015

So my favorite Jane Austen novel ISN'T Pride & Prejudice...

You may be surprised to learn that my favorite Jane Austen novel is actually...Mansfield Park. I'm aware that this isn't the popular opinion. However, I don't give a hoot because I LOVE IT. Considering that I'm not a huge fan of drama or romance in general, this book is CHOCK FULL of drama and romance (and scandal oh my!). For those who haven't delved into this book, the story revolves around a young woman named Fanny Price who is sent to live with her aunt and her family when she is a young girl. From the very beginning, she is treated as an outsider and a lower class citizen among the members of her family except by her cousin Edmund. (Here is where I caution you all to remember the time period in which this book is written because otherwise you're gonna be all like SAY WHAT?!) The dynamics of the household are an odd mix of ambivalence, haughtiness, vanity, and neuroses. Then there's Fanny who is the embodiment of all that is lovely and pure but who is entirely overlooked and abused by her family...except by Edmund who she has come to admire greatly. (Do you see where this is headed?) Things start to get juicy when a brother/sister duo enter the neighborhood and rouse up trouble among the youths (picture the equivalent of ditching class to smoke cigarettes behind the gym but in Regency period England). Through it all, Fanny stays true to what she thinks is right despite the injustice of her situation. A lot of people find her character annoying and too morally rigid. However, I think they're missing out on the best parts of her character. Fanny stays firm to what she believes in and despite the temptation to give in and follow what everyone else is doing she rejects the easy path. The reader can clearly see her self-confidence and self-esteem bloom as the novel progresses. If you haven't read this fantastic classic by the inestimable Jane Austen then you are truly missing out.

I'll (hopefully) be back next week with an update to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I'm a little over halfway through it so if I keep up the pace I should stick to my end of week posting schedule (yes, I have a posting schedule). As always, I thank you for checking out my blog and if you're feeling so inclined please drop a comment and let me know what you thought. :-) If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags.  HAPPY READING!!

July 23, 2015

Can you ever truly know another person?

It must be said that John Green is an absolutely phenomenal writer. The only experience I had with his writing was The Fault in Our Stars which is completely different from Paper Towns (except for the main characters being teenagers). There is another similarity in that you are made more aware by reading this book. It's an excellent book for introspection. You're almost led to believe that the book is about Margo Roth Speigelman when in point of fact it's about Quentin "Q" Jacobsen and in actuality he is really just a stand-in for the reader. (This book is also a love letter to Walt Whitman. Seriously.) This is the story of someone who everyone felt they knew but at the same time was unknowable. It is more the story of someone who wanted to know that person as utterly and completely as they knew themselves. We are all so many facets and pieces put together and what we choose to show to the world may not even be a true reflection of what lives inside of us. John Green somehow articulates this and makes it okay that it is not always possible to get to the root of a person and that even if you do you might discover that what you find there is nothing like what you imagined or hoped. 10/10

I'm definitely the kind of person that sees a commercial for a film or tv series and when I see that it was based off of the book I immediately write down the title. That's how I came to discover Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. This book is 1,006 pages long. Nope, that wasn't a typo. It's the story of two very different magicians living in the early 19th century in England. They join forces to fight in the war against France but for one of them there is a pull toward the dark side of magic and everything is in danger of collapse. I like magic. I like the early 19th century. I definitely like England. This should hopefully be a no-brainer.

If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags. No matter what camp you fall into I hope that you drop me a comment and let me know if you're reading the same book or if you have any recommendations for me. HAPPY READING!!

July 21, 2015

Mystery and crime in New York City

It's no mystery that I'm a fan of crime and mystery novels (that is the corniest sentence I have ever written on this blog...or anywhere). You'd think that I'd have heard about the Mystery Writers of America before now but I guess I've just been stumbling around in the dark. There was the time that I reviewed their cookbook but that's quite different from the collection of short stories that comprise Manhattan Mayhem. It introduces the reader to a variety of writing styles, tropes, and authors which you may or may not have heard of (along with a list of their written works which will be added to my TRL). I really enjoyed the pace of this anthology. Not only is the reader bounced around to different areas of Manhattan but also to different time periods. It's a grab bag where you're left asking, "What's going to happen next? Is it a story about the mob? Is it a cold blooded murder? Will it be obvious who are the good guys and the bad guys?". This would probably be an excellent choice for "book to take while on vacation". For fans of crime and/or mystery stories, you can't go wrong with this one.

I guess there are still people out there who haven't heard of John Green (even though you guys should remember when I reviewed The Fault in Our Stars). Anyway, you might have seen a trailer for a film called Paper Towns which is due out on *frantically checks Google* July 24th in the U.S. It is the story of Quentin Jacobsen and Margo Ruth Spiegelman. I have to applaud John on his creation of unique names. He is undoubtedly the master at creating names (and making his readers think critically and cry while doing so). I'm not going to say anymore about this until I've read it. dun dun dun CLIFFHANGER

If you're a longtime reader of the blog, thanks for making my blog a part of your life and I hope that you're getting as much out of it as I am. If you're new, I encourage you to take a look through my posts either randomly if that's your thing or by using the search bar to look through the tags. No matter what camp you fall into I hope that you drop me a comment and let me know if you're reading the same book or if you have any recommendations for me. HAPPY READING!!

July 16, 2015

It can be difficult to delineate a single genre to some books

I find it difficult to categorize the genre which will fully describe The Thurber Carnival. It is humor with a generous helping of autobiography sprinkled with cartoons. There's short stories such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty which I mentioned previously. There are also twists on fairytales (of which you know I'm overly fond). It was obvious from the preface that this was going to be an interesting read because Thurber wrote the preface himself in the third person. O_O A contemporary of E.B. White (remember Charlotte's Web), Thurber was a well-known essayist, humorist, and cartoonist of his time (early to mid 20th century) and was one of the leading voices of The New Yorker. He's considered the Mark Twain of the 20th century in fact and I'm sad to say I had never heard his name before I had watched the Ben Stiller film (thanks, Hollywood!). I found the anthology to be quite good but I do caution you all to remember the time it was written in as it's definitely not politically correct (sexism, racism, etc). If you're looking for a quick, fun read that features some rather interesting cartoons this is probably the book for you.

You might remember a few months back when I reviewed a cookbook from the Mystery Writers of America. Well, they've collaborated on something else...a mystery anthology set in Manhattan to celebrate the founding of their organization 70 years ago. The book is titled Manhattan Mayhem and it's a selection of stories from some really fantastic mystery writers such as Mary Higgins Clark, Ben H. Winters, Lee Child, and so many more. I can't wait!!

July 12, 2015

Ridiculously raunchy

I'm almost sad that I've already finished You Deserve a Drink (although my fellow commuters are probably glad they won't have to witness my random gigglesnorts). It's exactly what it advertises. If you're looking for a quick read that is alternately hilarious, disgusting, and borderline unbelievable then you're on the right track with Mamrie's debut novel. She shares stories of her childhood up to the present day which almost entirely revolve around her unique talent of getting herself into unusual predicaments (mostly due to alcohol). Forewarning: Alcohol, illicit substances, sexual escapades, and naughty language abound in You Deserve a Drink. Did I just hear you all run for the nearest bookstore? Also, if you do read it and find it's amazingly hysterical then I highly recommend you check out her YouTube channel here.

Next up is a book that 1. I purchased solely because I watched a film based on a short story in this collection and 2. I had to search far and wide for because it's not really in print anymore. I'm talking about The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. I can hear you all scratching your heads in confusion. Did you guys see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller? WHY NOT?! Okay, well it was originally a short story written by James Thurber for The New Yorker. It's a poignant, heartfelt story of a man who lives almost entirely in a fantasy world in his own head...until he goes on an epic adventure and discovers just exactly what he's made of. IT. IS. AWESOME. This book includes several pieces which were originally published in that paper and was a bestseller when it was published in 1945. I will readily admit that I'm going into this with extraordinarily high expectations because that movie blew my mind (and the soundtrack is one of my faves). Wish me luck!

Quick note: If you have any recommendations please leave a comment below and if you're reading along with me I'd love to hear your thoughts on these books as well. I hope you're having a fantastic summer and that you'll visit the blog again. So far, I'm sticking to the weekly posting schedule and in some cases I've been posting more than once. In order for you to stay abreast of my postings, follow the blog so that you'll be notified via email. :-)

July 9, 2015

Warning: This book is not for the faint of heart

Ureneck clearly feels passionately about this subject. It's evident in his writing and his description of the events which unfolded. He used data from a variety of sources including interviews of family members of those directly involved with the evacuation of the Christian refugees in Smyrna. Going into this, I had absolutely no knowledge of this event and I now feel that I am informed enough to have a discussion about the events of that fall of 1922 (and early spring of 1923). According to the author, the event is mostly unknown to those residents now living in the area (called Izmir now) and the man Asa Jennings has been left out of most published accounts. It's hard to believe (and sometimes not so hard) the level of violence that humans can inflict on one another. I don't think it will ever be possible to truly ascertain the numbers of people which were killed during the massacre described in this book. When will humans stop trying to destroy one another? If you'd like to gain more knowledge about an area of the world that is very relevant in the news these days (I'm talking about Greece, guys) you could give The Great Fire a shot.

I'd like to move onto something a little more lighthearted. I've had this next book ready and waiting to be read for quite some time now. I'm talking about Mamrie Hart's debut novel, guys! You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery promises to be as hilarious as the YouTube channel of the same name. Each story from Mamrie's past is accompanied by a cocktail (she was a bartender so it's totally legit). You can drink along as you read! Note: I do not drink but I think she's hysterical so I am VERY excited for this one.

July 7, 2015


Source: http://theironstonenest.com

I can't believe that I've been writing this blog for FOUR YEARS. Time has flown by and I have loved sharing my book reviews with all of you. I hope that you'll all stick around as we continue to read simply for the heck of it! (See what I did there?)

July 3, 2015

Have you ever wished for a luckdragon?

There are some books that I can re-read over and over again. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende is one of them. Some of you (or most of you who knows) are aware that the 1980's film of the same name was based off of a book. I can say with absolute confidence and conviction that the book is superior in every way. The story is centered around a little boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux (one of the most fantastic names in literature) who is not your typical hero. He's chubby and spends the majority of his time buried in books. He has a strained relationship with his father and he is bullied at school. This character is real. He is tangible. I empathized with this character on a lot of levels. He comes upon a book (I'm definitely leaving a lot out here on purpose) titled The Neverending Story and from this moment on he is changed forever. This isn't a regular book. It's alive. The reader (us) is taken on a journey with the reader (Bastian). We are introduced to the land of Fantastica with characters that range from the Childlike Empress who is the ruler of the land to Atreyu who is on an epic quest. This might be one of the first books that caused me to weep with grief...or maybe it's just the first one that I remember. Whatever the case, I still cry every single time I read this book and I try to read it once a year. It's an adventure story that is layered with magic, friendship, and self-discovery. There's a reason why it's one of my favorite books of all time.

I'm trying my best to stick to a regular posting schedule but I knew that I wasn't going to be finished with The Great Fire by today so I thought I'd try something a little different and write up a review about one of my favorites. Let me know if you think I should do this again sometime by writing a comment below. :-)

And since I won't be posting tomorrow I'll say it today: HAPPY 4TH OF JULY!