Pure is Purely… Alright?

Blog, I must be kind of a big deal, because someone actually asked me to specifically review this book and then she sent it to me! This happens all the time for Real Live Book Bloggers, but usually from publishing houses and not from friends who read their blog. STILL. I’m basically famous.

Title: Pure

Author: Julianna Baggott

So here’s the scoop on this post-apocalyptic/dystopian tome. Once upon a time, everything was happy and people went to Disney and had 3D movie glasses (the red and blue kind) and kept their kids safe by putting tracking devices in them and everything was sunny. Then the Detonations came, and they were special bombs with Special Science in them that not only clouded up all the world from the sun (mostly) but also made anyone outside the Dome fuse to whatever they were near, living or dead, when the Detonations occurred. Mutants!

What is the Dome, you ask? Why, it’s the place where all the special people with the right connections went to avoid getting hurt / fused in the Detonations. Handy! Everything outside the Dome blows because basically you’re fending for yourself by eating mutant squirrels and hoping not to get eaten by other mutant people. Inside the Dome blows, too, because the government is super strict and turns its best soldiers into mutant fighting machines for fun. Also, everyone inside the Dome is called a Pure by the ‘people’ outside, some of whom (Dusts) are mostly dust and will probably eat you and others of whom are fused in groups (Groupies) and will probably eat you and others of whom (Pressia, one of the protags and narrator) have doll-heads for hands. Also, when you turn sixteen if you’re outside the Dome, the Dome calls you in to either train you to be a soldier if you aren’t too badly mutated, or if you’re super ugly they use you for target practice.

Mostly my opinions on this book are that it is too melodramatic, too long, and not compelling enough. What some people call “grotesque” (Pressia’s doll-head hand, Groupies, Dusts) I call eye-roll worthy, and over the top. I had a really hard time getting into it at all because there were just so many eye-roll worthy details that were just dripping with melodrama. Or Pressia’s buddy and future love interest, Bradwell, the boy with the birds in his back because he fused with a flock of birds.

And then there is Partridge, who uses his kind-of-friend, Lyda, to break out of the Dome. Lyda is interesting, Partridge is kind of a turd, and of course his dad is a big political figure in the Dome and when Partridge and Pressia meet you’re like OH WILL THEY BE IN LOVE? because you know, this is YA, but Partridge keeps thinking of Lyda, who he mostly just used for her connections and kissed once, so for a while you’re just like WHERE IS THE LOVE?

This is YA, but my friends, there is very little romance, and what romance there is feels incredibly forced. I found this disappointing, because a good cheesy romance can often save melodrama for me, but that was not the case here. Boring, like two kisses the WHOLE book, melodramatic, and way too long to be the first in a trilogy.

It does get more political than your average YA book, though, which I liked. Particularly the bits about feminism. After Twilight took us back quite a ways, it’s nice to see a book recognizing. I also kind of liked the multiple narrators, even though I usually don’t. I didn’t totally like it, but I didn’t hate it, and it kept things from being TOO boring, although, like I said, mostly this was a dull book.

I gave it 3 stars because I liked it okay, but I would not be compelled to continue with the series.

Coming up next: I will finally finish blogging about the books I read in 2011. (Oops.)

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Mindy Kaling, if everyone is hanging out without you it’s their loss (and also they probably suck)

Hello again, blog! This time I have a kind of decent excuse for not blogging, and that excuse is the bf was here and I was hanging out with him instead of on the internet, okay??? Speaking of hanging out…

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Author: Mindy Kaling

If you know me at all, you know that I love the Office (also you guys, it is WAY BETTER this season than it’s been in a while, so if you lost faith, go back to it!) and Mindy Kaling is just one of the many brilliant minds behind it. So obviously I had to read her memoir, even though I find the idea of writing a memoir when you’re young pretty weird. Kind of it’s just a long humor piece, though, so I could go with it.

This book is not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as Bossypants but that is okay because it has something that Bossypants doesn’t have. Instead of wanting to be Tina Fey like after reading Bossypants, I want to be friends with Mindy Kaling after reading Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns). Reading this book was like reading a great lifestyle blog or magazine and I was super sad when it was over, because I would definitely subscribe to it if it was a lifestyle blog or magazine.

Funniest bits: the diet section, and also the section on implausible rom-com characters. So good, both of those. But really the whole thing was well written and engaging and the overall feelings I got from it were Mindy Kaling please come be my friend feelings, so that’s probably good (creepy?), right?

So read it if you think Mindy Kaling is great and if you like funny things and if you like books that make you want to be friends with the author. And don’t get it on loan from the library, because then you’ll be sad when you can’t go back and read the funny sections again.

No One Is Here Except All of Us

Hey, blog. I’ve been horrible about updating again. I blame my internet for being unreliable. Anyway, let’s move on…

I first heard of Ramona Ausubel almost a year ago when I read her haunting and beautiful short story “Atria” in The New Yorker. The story was so great that I remembered it and, over the summer, looked her up, to see if she’d written anything I could get my hands on, and found out she had her debut novel coming out in February. Then either in November or December, I saw an ad in Shelf Awareness Pro for a free galley, I entered to win one, and I got one! Thanks, Riverhead Books!

Title: No One Is Here Except All of Us

Author: Ramona Ausubel

This novel centers around a remote Jewish village in Romania that decides, after finding a stranger in the river, to combat the impending World War II by reinventing themselves and their world. The effort is led by Lena, a young girl, and the stranger, and while the village’s plot works for a while, the war creeps in and our narrator, Lena, who has grown into a young mother, is forced to flee the village with her sons.

loved this book. It was sad, and beautiful, and haunting, and surreal, and every sentence was one I wanted to mark because it was so poetic and lovely. If none of these words sound like they describe books you ordinarily like, don’t read it. You won’t like it. But if you do like poetic, dreamlike, borderline magical realism (not quite though, sorry), you absolutely should read No One Is Here Except All of Us because it is THE BEST. It’s a book that creeps into your bones and stays there.

And after (or before) you read it, read “Atria” because it’s also really excellent.

Ramona Ausubel, I am keeping an eye out for more of your writing.

The Marriage Plot: For Giant Nerds Only

After seeing the giant Jeffrey Eugenides billboard in Times Square, I decided I just HAD to read The Marriage Plot, because that billboard was really convincing. Okay, that’s not true at all. I was already curious about the book, but the very Indiana-Jones-esque billboard was also hilarious. This is the first Eugenides book I’ve read (I know, I know, I should’ve read Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides like a million times by now) and I liked it kind of a lot!

Title: The Marriage Plot

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides

Here’s the scoop on this one: Madeleine (English major), Leonard (Bio major with semiotics love), and Mitchell (Religious Studies major) are all graduating from Brown with degrees of varying levels of applicability to the real world. Mitchell loves Madeleine who loves Leonard who is manic depressive or bipolar. To avoid spoilers, I’ll be vague about the rest of the book, but basically we get to see all kinds of post-collegiate floundering, and who doesn’t love that? Also lots of flashbacks to fun college with all kinds of great lit and semiotics classes and self-importance out the ears.

I think I haven’t blogged for so long because I knew this book was next and I’m having some real trouble dissecting my thoughts about it. A lot of it hits close to home because I double-majored in English and Philosophy, and the overlap that I chose to focus on for my thesis was philosophy of language, which, you know, semiotics hello. And the classes and the reading material and the giant self-important nerds in the novel are all really dead-on and hilarious but also so, so sad. Then there’s the part where I just graduated and the idea of floundering in misery like these characters is just horrifying.

So basically my thoughts are these: If you get the satire, the funny bits of this book are even funnier. And it also highlights how darn sad and not at all funny Madeline and Mitchell and Leonard’s lives are post-graduation. If the idea of reading satire on the popular lit and language theories of the 80s makes you want to barf, probably this book is not for you. If the idea of reading satire on the self-importance of college students makes you want to barf, again, probably this is not the book for you.

I will leave you with this quote, which I think is one of the more hilarious of the lines I highlighted on my Kindle: “‘My goal in life is to become an adjective,’ Leonard said. ‘People would go around saying, ‘That was so Bankheadian.’ Or, ‘A little too Bankheadian for my taste.'” Perfect.

(P.S. This blog was way better but then the stupid internet deleted my edits to it, and I didn’t not put as much effort in the second time around, sorry world!)

Remarkably Unremarkable YA

I give to you a mass post because frankly, I would like to get on to reviewing better books and I am tired of talking about books that were kind of boring. So here are five boring books, reviewed minimally. Also I think I’m going to start linking to Goodreads pages instead of Amazon ones ’cause, you know, independent booksellers.

Title: Legend

Author: Marie Lu

So. Here’s basically how it goes. PLAGUES. DYSTOPIA. TRUE LOVE. CORRUPT GOVERNMENT.

“Oh, hello, my name is June and the government thinks I am the best at everything. My bro is pretty good too, but he’s DEAD so I’m going to find his murderer, and also I’m hot.”

“Oh, I’m Day, everyone thinks I’m a super-criminal-murderer or whatever but I just ran away because the government told me I had a shitty score but actually I’m pretty good at running around and stuff, just look at how I can escape the police, time after time! Also, I’m hot! Also, I may have accidentally killed ur bro. Would you like to be in super-mega-love?”

Predictable and boooooring. Sry, Marie Lu.

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

“Oh man. I wish I knew how my friends died but I just can’t remember… also… weird the way the people I don’t like are just, like, dying you know???” It was okay, but mostly this book is another really obsessive teen relationship book plus mysterious murders and deaths and stuff. It tries to be all paranormal, but mostly doesn’t make any sense.

Title: Anna and the French Kiss

Author: Stephanie Perkins

I was kind of fond of this one in that way where it is just your typical YA my-dad-sent-me-to-Paris-to-go-to-school-because-he-doesn’t-understand-me-but-then-I-fell-in-love romance. Nothing special, but if you’re looking for a simple, paranormal-free romance that is cheesy and set in France, go read this.

Title: Gossip Girl

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar

Know why those girls on the cover are laughing and having so much fun? Because they are watching Gossip Girl on the CW. If they were reading Gossip Girl, they’d be totally bored.

Title: Anna Dressed in Blood

Author: Kendare Blake

If you thought undead/human romance was weird, don’t worry, this is the way more orthodox dead/human romance that you’ve been waiting for. I’m not really into ghost love, and also I cared about none of these characters. Except maybe Cas’s witch-mom, she was okay. Maybe his cat, too.

Anyway, hope you enjoy these books I wouldn’t recommend! Now I can blog about awesome books I read like The Marriage Plot and No One Is Here Except All of Us. Hurrah!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG

Oh my god, blog, it’s your birthday in that way where exactly one year ago TODAY I posted your very first post, which were some resolutions or whatever because you know, beginning of January. (For those who are interested, I would say I was mildly successful with resolutions 1, 2, 3, and 7, successful with 5, and not at all successful with 4 and 6.) 

Anyway, I am not really into the idea of making resolutions this year so instead I’m going to tell you all about what I read last year, since this is a book blog and I’m curious. You can see the whole list of books I’ve read here. (By the way, I don’t know if you realize this, blog, but every book I read I post about. I’m behind on a few books right now, but I promise I will blog about all of them, and the list of books is up to date as of this moment. Also, just realized that I forgot about Legend so I added that to the list in roughly the area where I read it.)

TOTAL NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN 2011: 56

  • Hardcover books read: 2
  • Paperback books read: 9 (6 ARCs)
  • Ebooks read: 45

I did not realize that I read so few books that are actually books and not ebooks. I did, however, just buy two books I’m super excited about reading and they are real books, and they are for adults of the grown variety, as opposed the the young one. Speaking of…

  • Adult books read: 16
  • YA books read: 34
  • Middle grade books read: 6

(Fun fact: the vocabulary level of the middle grade books was much higher than that of the YA books.)

Also, you guys, I knew I was reading a lot of YA but holy hell is that way too high a percentage of YA books. More than 50% of the books I read this year were for young adults. I know I am kind of close to / in (according to some) that age range, but… that is ridiculous. Reading YA books in and of itself is not ridiculous, but they aren’t even the books I enjoy the most, so I should spend more time with books I love or am more likely to love.

What books did I enjoy the most, you ask? Here, I will give you my TOP THREE BOOKS READ IN 2011, although they are in NO ORDER OKAY? I can’t decide on which is best, which is why there are three.

If you haven’t read the first two, do so immediately. I read them both as library ebooks and I am on the hunt for cheap copies at The Strand or another used book store to buy because they are so worth owning. The third you must read immediately after it comes out in February. I will hopefully have blogged about it by then.

I guess I will make a few resolutions, too, but in the way of books and this blog.

In 2012:

  • More than 50% of books I read should be FOR ADULTS. Seriously.
  • Read MORE than 56 books. 75, even? (Should be doable depending on my job situation. I just looked at my books again and while I was in college I read 9 books, whereas from the summer program in June to the end of December I read the other 47.)
  • Blog AT LEAST 4 times a month, lazy. That is so easy, why am I not doing it yet?
  • Blog about more movies / TV shows! I do those things, too, not just read books!

Okay, blog. We had an okay 2011 in terms of me blogging and reading, but we can do better this year, right?

XOXO,

Gossip Girl

Bandwagon’d: I read The Help, you guys.

So the entire world read The Help and unlike GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TRAMP STAMP and cetera, I actually heard from some people I know (Alison) that it might be something I like, and also it wasn’t of the violence-around-every-corner-mystery-time genre that I’m not really attracted to at all. (I’m looking at you, tramp stamp.) Other things: Amy Einhorn of Amy Einhorn Books (you know... the publisher of The Help?) came to NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute so… I felt like I kinda had to read her main moneymaker. (SIDENOTE: Okay, Tramp Stamp Dragonface’s publicist AND editor came into SPI as well [that’s Sonny Mehta and Paul Bogaards of Knopf over at Random House (THE MORE YOU KNOW, OKAY?)] but I just don’t have any desire to read a book that used to be titled Men Who Hate Women, and also probably I will eventually read the series, just not yet. Let me live in my fantasy world of corny YA romance and popular fiction for a while.)

But anyway. The Help, which originally I was really oh-hell-no about because of the dialect thing, which Kathryn Stockett deploys all over the place, was actually pretty good. I waited like two months on the library’s ebook waiting list, then I got it and read it on my phone. FREE BOOKS YAY.

Title: The Help

Author: Kathryn Stockett

So here’s the thing, you guys. I actually did kind of like this book. And by “kind of like” I mean that I liked it, okay? (With some caveats.) Here’s the thing. The story is actually really compelling. And it’s pretty well written, too. You almost don’t even notice the dialect. (Or at least, it isn’t obnoxiously in your face after a few paragraphs when you get into it.) And it’s a quick, emotion-filled read.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s 1962 Mississippi and racism is rampant. Progressive Emma Stone Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan wants to be a writer / in publishing [I know that feeling…] and also really liked her maid growing up, who disappeared while she was at college because Skeeter’s mom sucks. Anyway, she gets a couple other maids to write about racism in the South and also what it’s really like to be the help. Super controversial, civil rights, etc. Also privileged white ladies are a little Mean Girls, except instead of wearing pink on Wednesdays, they all agree to put new bathrooms in for the help so that they don’t catch diseases, so it’s a lot more racist. Anyway, The Help is a book about a book about the help. And also a book about the help. And stirrin’ up trouble!

Anyway, like I said, it’s pretty good. There’s one scene in particular between Minny and Cecilia Foote (the sluttiest slut in all of Mississippi because she has big boobs and used to be poor, which obviously makes someone the worst) where Cecilia has a [highlight to see spoiler: MISCARRIAGE] and it is just so viscerally written and upsetting and it will stick with me forever. It was really well done. I also really like Skeeter and Stuart’s thing and the way it pans out. Super realistic!

Caveats: I feel weird about this being written by a white lady. I feel weird about the dialect. I feel weird about how I like the purple and yellow together on the cover.

Otherwise, though, I was pretty into it. Probably you should read it.