Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Salinger Year

I had a hard time starting this review. I came back to it again and again and found that I would stare at the unfinished sentence I had left off at and not be able to form words. This is not to say I didn't enjoy My Salinger Year, I loved it! I was completely taken by it and transported to 1990's New York City, the NYC of my childhood, long before I knew who Salinger was, or that I could work in a world of editing words and write about my love of books on the side. But writing this review? That was a different thing.

There was something about this book that made it feel personal for me. "All of Us Girls", the two page beginning of this book, immediately caught my attention. The careful detail given to describe the girls preparing for their day of work; the particular dress, the morning practice of breakfast pick-ups, then the job itself--obeying bosses, working with authors, buzzing from the famous and creative energy from these special clients, and the desire to be an author themselves. I was snagged by this description, even though it was only two pages long. I understood this passage. I got it. I had been one of those girls. Working for publishing? No, not really, not in the literary sense. But I have carefully chosen my wardrobe to fit the part prior to leaving in early morning light to travel to my new job. That nervous desire of being seen as special, a shining star, all while wearing the heavy dream of being so much more than this little job you have taken a particularly long time to dress for.

Joanna Rakoff details a year of time as she worked at a literary agency while figuring out the world and the track her life was on. At times I found her extremely frustrating. At this point in her life, she's living with her loser boyfriend who she had met while in a relationship with another guy--who you only hear of by terms of endearment, the man sounds wonderful. It makes it hard for you to like her or her (current) boyfriend as the former boyfriend always continues to sound pleasant whenever he's mentioned. But that aside, Joanna definitely doesn't have a peaches and cream lifestyle at this time. The apartment she lives in has a roommate with a drug problem, followed by another apartment with no heat. Her pay is little and she finds it hard to keep a social circle as everything is expensive; hell, even getting a sandwich for lunch can be a splurge.

For me, particularly, while I condemn cheating on significant others and the likes, I understood why it was happening. Or at least, from my point of view. Here's Joanna in her early 20s. Like most women at that age, they're still figuring out their lives, they're still getting their footing. There were so many mistakes made by myself and every girl I know when they were in their early 20s and fresh out of college. It's a part of growing up. Stupid boyfriends, bad living situations, you name it. There's also that need to achieve; the mental state that yes, you do deserve your dreams; and the first jobs where you're paid pennies but it's still something, so you stick with it, even if you're living off Ramen. I identified with that because I've been there. Hell, just two years ago I was there. I was budgeting every cent I had to make sure there was enough to pay my bills but also feed myself. When Joanna received her loans and credit card statements and was shocked, I had to laugh, because I understood how that was after graduation when I started seeing them come in. It's easy to spend money but so much harder when you have to pay it back.

But where my familiarity with situations ends is at her job. While her office environment was a dead ringer for a job I left a year ago (again, familiarity and understanding), it was the tasks of her job that were lost to me. I never worked with famous authors. I never fielded my way through letters that were sent to authors. This, even with the poor pay and crummy office environment, was and is a dream job of sorts.

The emphasis of this being a year of Salinger should be clarified. I approached this book expecting to see a lot of Salinger. I expected that Joanna would become dear friends with him. But even the head of the literary agency killed that dream the moment Joanna began. No, she wouldn't become friends with him. There were strict rules to follow. While Salinger is often talked about and Joanna becomes quite the fan, he only makes one appearance. What struck me as the true stars are the letters that Salinger received, sent to the agency for review and reply. He was to never see these letters and Joanna had to respond with a very repetitive letter from the agency explaining that Salinger didn't want letters. But many of the letters were extremely interesting and so open, so alive, and so honest. I don't believe I could read the letters without wanting to send a real reply and offer some hope to those writers.

Joanna obviously felt the same way and did respond personally to a few, clearly breaking office rules, but who cares? I'm glad she did.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed Joanna's writing. For Christmas, my beau actually bought me another book written by her. I enjoyed the tale told and I loved the nostalgic edge to it--I so often remembered how I felt 5+ years ago. Granted, I'm still in my 20s and definitely not far from that stage of my life, but far enough to know I've changed and appreciate what I've learned.

Last Week's Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
Next Week's Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

My childhood was filled with Little Women. My mother adored the book and movie so we often watched the film whenever it came on TV. I knew the movie plot by heart but the size of the book, to me, was daunting. I tried to read it in fourth grade but gave up on it. My scrawny arms lugging around our thick, classic, hard copy was just too much and the language was a little too advance for my attention to grab.

So I picked the book up again years later and read it from start to end for the first time. It was exactly what I expected it to be, based on the various films I saw of it and my mother talking of the novel so much as I grew up, but I really loved having the book in my hand and developing imagery in my mind that wasn't exactly provided in the movies.

The fact that Little Women is, more or less, a retelling of Louisa May Alcott's life was fascinating to me. I have always found those who are able to write about their lives in a creative way that does not necessarily match true events that happened in real life to be really interesting, smart, and someone I'd love to be as a writer.

McNees' book takes a trip through a summer of our lovely Little Women author. We step behind the scenes of the book and into Louisa May Alcott's life. Now, this isn't a biography but a fictionalized version of it, yet still written with the attitude of being historical. This woman knows her stuff for this time period and gives the attention to detail. I felt like I had a better understanding of the time period -- including the style of dress, the way relationships were handled, and the lifestyle of the family -- and that it painted a very clear picture for the plot at hand.

As Louisa and her family move to a new town, they deal with the ups and downs of family life, as well as the social circles within the town. Louisa is just like our darling Jo in her penned book and finds herself tangled up in romantic ties of a young, handsome man from the town. I enjoyed the peek into life of women in that time and the detail McNees gave to clothing and how women were expected to behave. It's always something that's fascinated me and it was handled well but still with the splash of creativity that made it a story and not a historical tale.

This could be a beach read, it could be something read in the dead of winter or during lazy summer days. It's something romantic and a little heartbreaking. A love story, of course, but a story of love from start to end. I learned more about Louisa May Alcott's life (verified after googling more information about her following points of the book that I found interesting) and was quite happy to have picked this book up. It's a quick read and rather easy to follow, something that you don't have to push your brain too hard to wrap around, and certainly a great gift for anyone who is a lover of Little Women.

Last Week's Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Next Week's Review: My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

When I was growing up I watched Gilmore Girls every week. When the show ended and the reruns began on ABC Family I watched every season again and again. Now it's on Netflix and... well I'm sure you can figure the rest of that out. I can honestly say I've probably seen every season at least three times. (I'm thinking the number is closer or over five.) I loved the show and it struck home a lot. My mother enjoyed it too and often found herself saying that Rory and I shared a lot of the same characteristics (even the not-so-good ones). One such characteristic is that we were both bookworms and would lug books around with us where ever we went (including dates).

At least a year ago I saw a Gilmore Girls Book List on Tumblr and have long since lost the link but then, to my surprise and joy, I found it again on this blog. I had wanted to go and read through the books on the list but, well, it's kind of lengthy so we'll see how that goes.

How about you? How many have you read?

1984 by George Orwell
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays by Mary McCarthy
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - read
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - read
A Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare - read
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
A Monetary History of the United States by Milton Friedman
A Month Of Sundays: Searching For The Spirit And My Sister by Julie Mars
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf - read
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
A Separate Peace by John Knowles - read
A Streetcar Named Desiree by Tennessee Williams - read
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - read
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - read
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - read
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank - read
Archidamian War by Donald Kagan
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner - read
Atonement by Ian McEwan - read
Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
Babe by Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Beloved by Toni Morrison - read
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Brick Lane by Monica Ali
Bridgadoon by Alan Jay Lerner
Candide by Voltaire - read
Carrie by Stephen King
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White - read
Christine by Stephen King
Complete Novels by Dawn Powell
Complete Stories by Dorothy Parker
Cousin Bette by Honor’e de Balzac
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky - read
Cujo by Stephen King
Daisy Miller by Henry James 
Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
David and Lisa by Dr Theodore Issac Rubin M.D
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller - read
Deenie by Judy Blume
Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Don Quijote by Cervantes
Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - read
Driving Miss Daisy by Alfred Uhrv
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe - reading; I've completed the poems but not the tales
Eleanor Roosevelt by Blanche Wiesen Cook
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn
Eloise by Kay Thompson - read
Emily the Strange by Roger Reger
Emma by Jane Austen 
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Encyclopedia Brown: Boy Detective by Donald J. Sobol
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Ethics by Spinoza
Europe through the Back Door, 2003 by Rick Steves
Eva Luna by Isabel Allende
Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer 
Extravagance by Gary Krist
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - read
Fahrenheit 9/11 by Michael Moore
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
Fiddler on the Roof by Joseph Stein
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Fletch by Gregory McDonald
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - read
Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger
Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers - read
Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
George W. Bushism: The Slate Book of the Accidental Wit and Wisdom of our 43rd President by Jacob Weisberg
Gidget by Fredrick Kohner
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Alvin Granowsky - read
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell 
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - read
Hamlet by William Shakespeare - read
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling - read
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling - read
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad 
Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry 
Henry IV, part I by William Shakespeare
Henry IV, part II by William Shakespeare
Henry V by William Shakespeare
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Holidays on Ice: Stories by David Sedaris - read
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III (Lpr)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss - read
How the Light Gets in by M. J. Hyland
How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
Howl by Allen Gingsburg
I’m with the Band by Pamela des Barres
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee
Iron Weed by William J. Kennedy
It Takes a Village by Hillary Clinton
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë - read
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare - read
Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
Lady Chatterleys’ Lover by D. H. Lawrence
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  - read
Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Lord of the Flies by William Golding - read
Macbeth by William Shakespeare - read
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert - read
Marathon Man by William Goldman
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris- read
Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter by Simone de Beauvoir
Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman by William Tecumseh Sherman
Mencken’s Chrestomathy by H. R. Mencken
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - read
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Moliere: A Biography by Hobart Chatfield Taylor
Monsieur Proust by Celeste Albaret
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf - read
Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and It’s Aftermath by Seymour M. Hersh
My Life as Author and Editor by H. R. Mencken
My Life in Orange: Growing Up with the Guru by Tim Guest
My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult 
Nervous System: Or, Losing My Mind in Literature by Jan Lars Jensen
New Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson- read
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Night by Elie Wiesel
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen- read
Notes of a Dirty Old Man by Charles Bukowski
Novels 1930-1942: Dance Night/Come Back to Sorrento, Turn, Magic Wheel/Angels on Toast/A Time to be Born by Dawn Powell
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - read
Old School by Tobias Wolff
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
On the Road by Jack Kerouac - read
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Oracle Night by Paul Auster
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Othello by Shakespeare 
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Out of Africa by Isac Dineson
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Pigs at the Trough by Arianna Huffington
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk Legs McNeil and Gillian McCainThe Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - read
Property by Valerie Martin
Pushkin: A Biography by T. J. Binyon
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Quattrocento by James Mckean
R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton
Rapunzel by Grimm Brothers - read
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier 
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
Rescuing Patty Hearst: Memories From a Decade Gone Mad by Virginia Holman
Rita Hayworth by Stephen King
Robert’s Rules of Order by Henry Robert
Roman Fever by Edith Wharton
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare - read
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
S Is for Silence by Sue Grafton
Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
Sanctuary by William Faulkner
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette by Judith Thurman
Selected Letters of Dawn Powell: 1913-1965 by Dawn Powell
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen  - read
Several Biographies of Winston Churchill
Sexus by Henry Miller
Shane by Jack Shaefer
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Small Island by Andrea Levy 
Snow White and Rose Red by Grimm Brothers - read
Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World by Barrington Moore
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos by Julia de Burgos
Songbook by Nick Hornby
Sonnets from the Portuegese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust
Swimming with Giants: My Encounters with Whales, Dolphins and Seals by Anne Collett
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
Tender Is The Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Term of Endearment by Larry McMurtry
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - read
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
The Art of Fiction by Henry James
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath - read
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews by Peter Duffy
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer - read
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger - read
The Children’s Hour by Lillian Hellman
The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse
The Collected Short Stories by Eudora Welty
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty by Eudora Welty
The Complete Poems by Anne Sexton
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
The Crucible by Arthur Miller
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
The Da Vinci -Code by Dan Brown 
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band by Tommy Lee, Vince Neil, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx
The Divine Comedy by Dante
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe
The Fall of the Athenian Empire by Donald Kagan
The Fellowship of the Ring: Book 1 of The Lord of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien - read
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
The Godfather: Book 1 by Mario Puzo
The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
The Gospel According to Judy Bloom
The Graduate by Charles Webb
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - read
The Group by Mary McCarthy
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
The Holy Barbarians by Lawrence Lipton
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The Iliad by Homer - read
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Jumping Frog by Mark Twain
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini 
The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 by Gore Vidal
The Legend of Bagger Vance by Steven Pressfield
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - read
The Little Locksmith by Katharine Butler Hathaway
The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen - read
The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson - read
The Love Story by Erich Segal
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - read
The Manticore by Robertson Davies
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
The Merry Wives of Windsro by William Shakespeare
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Miracle Worker by William Gibson
The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion by Jim Irvin
The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism by William E. Cain, Laurie A. Finke, Barbara E. Johnson, John P. McGowan
The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life by Amy Tan
The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War by Donald Kagan
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
The Peace of Nicias and the Sicilian Expedition by Donald Kagan
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - read
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - read
The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
The Portable Nietzche by Fredrich Nietzche
The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill by Ron Suskind
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe - read
The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Return of the King: The Lord of the Rings Book 3 by J. R. R. Tolkien - read
The Scarecrow of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - read
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  - read
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Shining by Stephen King
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare - read
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - read
The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare
The Trial by Franz Kafka
The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath 1950-1962 by Sylvia Plath
The Vanishing Newspaper by Philip Meyers
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides - read
The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings - read
Time and Again by Jack Finney
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee  - read
Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom 
Ulysses by James Joyce - read
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
Unless by Carol Shields
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray - read
Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico (Thirty Three and a Third series) by Joe Harvard
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
We Owe You Nothing – Punk Planet: The Collected Interviews edited by Daniel Sinker
What Colour is Your Parachute? 2005 by Richard Nelson Bolles
What Happened to Baby Jane by Henry Farrell
When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
Who Moved My Cheese? Spencer Johnson
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee 
Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire  - read
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - read

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

A girl with wings. Something like an angel, or a fairy of sorts, either way she sounds otherworldly. Ava Lavender, our girl with wings, immediately creates a vision of a fantasy novel, something that surely is about love and has a happy ending while only giving brief moments of fright or wrongdoing. But this book is so much more than that. It does not shy away from the struggles of life and feelings of loss and it does not entirely focus on the winged girl.

Being blessed to come from a family of many strong women, I appreciated that this book focused on the females of Ava's family. It began with her grandmother's story, propelled into the life of her mother, and finished with Ava. All three women suffered and experienced life in a more bitter way -- or maybe it is a more honest way. Some novels will dance around the edge of heartache, it will never be very blunt about the errors of life. But we approach this novel with the questions what is it to not love? what is it to love but not be with the person you love? what is it to be loved too much and in a dangerous, deadly way? And we receive these answers, as the characters can provide them due to their own experience. Even if it is not pretty.

Walton weaves a web of beauty with her words. She is the type of writer I want to be and joins a ranking of many others. Her writing is beautiful and you feel like you may be reading poetry, rather than a fictional book. It's a book where you highlight passages because you want to be able to find those specific words and quote them or relish in the feeling the passage gives. I never so wanted to experience fictional food, or see a place, or touch the clothes worn by the characters or see the wings of Ava. I wanted to experience the house she lived in, I wanted to see the nature and the trees. It was, simply put, beautifully written.

But as I've mentioned, it's not a fantasy novel only briefly touching on sorrows. I mean, sorrows is in the title and it encompasses all. The sorrows of one affect all. And I state it now that a scene in the book can be horribly triggering for those who have been sexually assaulted, and that would be my biggest warning about the book. With the writing power that Walton has, the scene was descriptive and left me feeling sick to my stomach. Yet I kept reading, simply because I wanted to know what happened next. 

Aside from that, this well crafted book was so beautiful and so original. I really was pleased by how unique it felt in a world where YA books seem to be the same story retold over and over again. It also should win awards for it's cover which is more beautiful in real life than in a grainy jpeg on this blog. Seriously, just look at the cover when you are at a book store next. Hopefully you'll also pick the book up to read it because it definitely deserves the attention of people.

Last Week's Review: The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay by Alex Epstein
Next Week's Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Reading Nook -- Ashley

My Reading Nook, a feature from Soon Remembered Tales, gives readers a chance to show off their favorite place to read.

What’s your reading nook? 

My reading nook is my twin bed in my apartment. It’s got lots of pillows and blankets so it’s comfortable and on a cold day, it’s a great place to snuggle up and read a book. My apartment’s position in the building allows for a lot of natural light, which is great to read by, even though I mainly use a tablet. The black and white patterned blanket is a heated blanket so it’s very easy to make sure that the temperature is just right. As you can also see, I often have one of my cats join me while I’m relaxing.

Why is this nook special?  

I like reading here because it’s quiet, it’s comfortable, and basically it’s entirely my own space where I know people won’t interrupt me if I want to sit, read, play games, or just in general chill out. The bed’s position gets a lot of great light and it serves double duty as both my bed and as a couch when I have guests over. The bed was purchased from World Market and has a great vintage feel to it; and its softened up by the comfy mattress, large body pillows, and tons of blankets. I don’t use the reading pillow as much as I should, because I typically end up laying down or leaning on the body pillows instead, but it’s nice to have for guests who come over who may have to sit on the floor (sorry, the apartment’s small!).

Where else do you read?  

I also tend to read a lot on BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), the train I commute on to and from work. Since I’m usually just sitting or standing for about a half hour, I whip out a book or my video game system and pass the time. Often I’m standing and having to hold on to something, so this is where my tablet or phone comes in really handy. Space is at a premium when it comes to rush hour, so not having to use two hands to turn pages is a boon.

About You:  

I’m Ashley, a pseudo-journalist with a penchant for horror movies and video games. I generally dabble in horror novels (William Blatty’s ‘The Exorcist’ kept me sleeping with the lights on for a month) but I also enjoy a good science fiction piece or fantasy. My favorite book is Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus,’ and I love finding either new adaptations or self-styled sequels and comparing them to the original work. I also love video games, as mentioned above; though I do love horror, I also like trying out various genres and types. I usually land in fantasy RPGs, though!

Interested in sharing your own reading nook? Take a look at the My Reading Nook tab for more information!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Circle Cast: The Lost Years of Morgan le Fay

We've been here before. I rave about the Arthurian Legend character of Morgan le Fay, declare my love, and ramble on for ages. But instead, I'll suggest past book reviews for the various Morgan le Fay books I've read. Well, books that have the character in it, at the very least:
The Mists of Avalon
Le Morte D'Avalon
Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country
Last year I came across a list of Arthurian legend books. I made my way through the list, looking for all books that had Morgan le Fay in them and also seemed to grab my interest -- The Circle Cast is one of them.

I had this book on my Kindle and read it on my flights to and from California. It's a long flight, so I had plenty of time to sit back and read.

This book is more forgiving of Morgan than some other versions of Arthurian legend. She, at times, is viewed as a villain or a misunderstood one. But this book shows Morgan before she became a high priestess or threat to Arthur. This book shows Morgan as a small child, taken away from her home for safety, and the many things that befall her.

She's a spiritual child, entwined with nature, and the "old religion" seems to keep showing up, as if attracted to someone who can support such gifts. But really, magic doesn't so much show it's head very often. Instead, we are shown a girl who is smart and determined. A girl who is forced to leave the home she loves. A girl who is made to be called "Morgan" rather than her born name, all to protect her. A girl who is delivered to one home, only to lose it and become a slave and later on, a queen.

Through the majority of this book, a princess she is not. Instead she is forced to clean and obey but does so without much error. With it, she learns more about magic and allows her spiritual gifts to grow. The magic, to me, seems more that Morgan has an attachment to the energy of the earth and knows how to correctly use it.

We see her grow up, become a queen, and head off to seek revenge for the childhood that was lost. The more vicious side of Morgan that's often shown in books begins to appear.

While I thought it was an interesting and new take on Morgan le Fay's life, I also struggled to get through the book. I felt like it went on endlessly and could have been shortened quite a bit. There's a lengthy stint at a village of Christians and I felt it had no true point in the plot other than introducing a love interest. A lot of areas were drawn out when they could have been edited down. I pushed myself to the end of the book and was more pleased to have finished it than finding myself wishing it hadn't ended. I also suspect I will not reread the book in the future. 

By means of retellings of Morgan le Fay, my favorites still remain I Am Morgan le Fay and The Mists of Avalon.

Last Week's Review: Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
Next Week's Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Lists within Lists

When I began this blog I was a baby of twenty-two. I suppose, according to some, I'm still a baby. But I can't avoid the fact that I am quickly nearly the landmark birthday of thirty. As I write this, I'll be turning twenty-nine in July, so I have about a year and a half to go until the big three-zero, that doesn't mean I haven't looked at that future birthday with great intentions.

From Tumblr

I've seen this before, people making to do lists before they graduate High School, College, get married, have kids, turn a certain age -- all of that -- and if there's one thing I am, I'm a list writer. I love lists, I always have, and I enjoy the feeling of success when I cross items off a list and ultimately finish it. So, why not make my own list? Why not make a list of what I would like to do before I turn thirty. In no way do I feel that thirty is an end all -- I feel it is quite possibly the start of a better phase in my life (if the opinions of my 30+ year old friends are anything to go by). But I just can't turn down the good opportunity for a list.

Here it is, but note: this list began a month after my twenty-eighth birthday. So some items are already crossed off!
  1. Run two 5ks or one 10k 
  2. Take a picture everyday for one year 
  3. Finish my copy editing certification 
  4. Stand in the Pacific Ocean  Completed on October 12, 2014.
  5. Get my passport 
  6. Visit two states I've never been to (Visited California in October 2014)
  7. Go kayaking 
  8. Go without my phone/the internet for 24 hours (no 365 photo) 
  9. Take an aerial aerobics class 
  10. Take a painting class 
  11. Host a dinner party 
  12. Work on my French every weekday for a month 
  13. Pay off all credit card debt 
  14. Do writing prompts everyday for a month 
  15. Go gluten free  I went gluten free as I adjusted to a new diet to help my IBS. Luckily, I can still eat gluten, I just have to be careful of how much and how often.
  16. Conquer a fear Zip lining in West Virginia, August 2014. (never again)
  17. Open up a savings/401K account 
  18. Go on a whale watch tour 
  19. Make a quilt 
  20. Maintain a garden 
  21. Go hiking for a full day 
  22. Learn calligraphy 
  23. Cook one meal from each section of the Italian Cooking Bible 
  24. Watch the sun rise (and not on the way to work) 
  25. Go on a vacation with my girlfriends 
  26. Work out twice a week for three months straight (One more month to go!)
  27. Get a pedicure/manicure 
  28. Leave the United States! 
  29. Go to the dentist and get the "all clear"! 
  30. Read 100 books (34 done!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Caffe Trieste

What: Caffe Trieste
Where: 601 Vallejo St., San Francisco, CA
When: October, 2014

Years ago, as I became a coffee lover, I also began to enjoy the atmospheres of cafes. I always liked that romantic quality of sitting in a cafe with a steaming cup of coffee while reading or writing. I'm of that Barnes and Noble-Starbucks generation where I dream up words for that publishable novel I'm writing while in a coffee shop.

I also discovered that every town, big or small, has a coffee shop of some sort. Whether it's coffee served at a gas station or an actual cafe where you can sit and enjoy the atmosphere, there's coffee everywhere, and I began to make it a point to get a cup of coffee while traveling on day trips or vacations.

San Francisco certainly wasn't any different.

The first night we were in the city, our friends who had just moved to North Beach pointed out Caffe Trieste. They said it was a favorite spot of theirs and it stayed open quite late. Little did we know at that point that Caffe Trieste was going to become our daily haunt for coffee and pastries.

Every morning we would walk the two blocks uphill to the restaurant. It was always bustling, no matter the hour we dropped in, and while we always had to wait on a line but our service was quick and accurate.

Each morning I would buy a danish and it was always delicious. I devoured those babies and I still occasionally think of them - I haven't found such good danishes in ages. The coffee was also delicious and a full cup, all topped with whipped cream that wasn't from a can but made by hand.

There's outdoor seating but also different, spiffy tables within the cafe proper. One morning we sat outside, listening to church bells, traffic and pigeons. We sipped our coffee, ate our danish, and discussed what the city of San Francisco was to us. Because that's the urge while sitting there, to talk about life or opinions, to feel thoughtful or maybe just social.

We went to the cafe at night only once. It was to meet with friends after a very busy day and together we sipped Italian sodas (the first non-coffee drink I ordered!) and caught up. Outside, a group of men had pulled up chairs in a circle on the corner, strummed guitars, sang softly or chatted with a cop who had been passing by. We sat inside and other people were sitting at the end of our table, but there wasn't any awkwardness. Sitting back and viewing the atmosphere you see staff hugging patrons who frequent the place often enough to establish relationships; it seems to be a family place. Not in that children are running around but that good friends and family meet to chat over their richly flavored drinks.

A Saturday morning I met with yet another friend at the cafe. We ordered our drinks, sat down and began to chat. She had been living in San Francisco for two years and hadn't gotten a chance to go to Caffe Trieste yet. We were discussing life -- we had gone to a liberal arts college together and both escaped our small towns to bigger cities -- while a couple took control of the corner of the cafe and set up a stand. Out came musical instruments and suddenly the cafe was filled with live music -- a normalcy, apparently.

There are multiple locations of Caffe Trieste but you can only find the cafe in the San Francisco-metro area. Live music is common but my goodness, if you are going to go to the cafe, go for the coffee and those danishes!