30 Day Book Challenge: Day 24 – A Book that I Wish More People Would’ve Read

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I love this book because I’m fascinated with Girl Culture, what it means to be a girl, and how our society is changing girlhood. Being a young girl today is SO much different than being a girl a few decades ago. You have to be sexy, innocent, girly, smart, stupid, everything and nothing and adfshfasd;fjaslkv;jbera;g

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The worst part is that we’re so indoctrinated to our culture’s beliefs on how girls should look and act that we, even the most passionately feminist among us, don’t even realize what we’re doing sometimes! This book gives great insight into the problems facing young girls and how our cultural practices can either help or hurt them. Since the beginning of time, women have been subject to double standards, objectification, and a whole multitude of other crappy stuff!

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In my opinion, the best place to act against misogyny is to build strong girls. (Which just so happens to be my sorority’s philanthropic mission!) We have to build girls a strong foundation so that they can deal with all the bull they’re going to encounter in the world. Then they’ll be better able to put a stop to it!

A Goodreads summary of Orenstein’s book:

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source, the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.

But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway, especially given girls’ successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization, or prime them for it? Could today’s little princess become tomorrow’s sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality, or an unwitting captive to it?

Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she – or we – ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable; yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 23- A Book I’ve Wanted to Read for a Long Time but Still Haven’t

As younger readers, we complain about having to read the classics, but (especially if you’re an English major) you thank your stars that someone forced you to read them! The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliette, Moby Dick- they’re classics for a reason. They mean something in our culture, and we’re still talking about them years after their publication. To get a lot of cultural references, you have to know about these books, even if it’s just a Wiki-based knowledge.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of those books that EVERYONE knows and talks about.

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It’s a favorite coming of age tale. I have an English professor that gives it to each member of his family when they become a teenager. It’s a staple in classic and YA literature. People have posters of the cover and talk about how Holden Caufield is SO them!

And… I’ve never read it.

It wasn’t taught in my school! I just really want to read it because I need to know what all of the fuss is about. But it’s sat on my TBR shelf forever and ever. Maybe I’d really love it and want to teach it in the classroom. It’s clearly a novel that appeals to teenagers.

HOWEVER! I think now is an opportune time for me to start the novel because a movie about Salinger is coming out, and I’d like to have some primary knowledge of his work before I see it. Apparently, they’ve found FIVE new manuscripts that will be published posthumously. Isn’t it awesome when classic lit gets a moment in pop culture fan fare?

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I just have to find time to fit it into my schedule with the other billions of things I have to read for classes…

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20 – Favorite Romance Book

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There’s no love quite like unrequited love. The longing. The stolen glances. The sexual tension. What’s not to love?

Here’s the dish on my favorite romance novel:

They parted in disgrace…But desire would bring them back together.

Years ago, in one explosive instant, childhood rivalry turned into wild passion for Jeremy, handsome young Duke of Rawlings, and Maggie Herbert, the object of his affections. Unfortunately, the ensuing scandal found them banished to separate corners of the world.

Now fate has joined Jeremy and Maggie again– for a long-overdue dance of desire as uncompromising as the lovers themselves. Jeremy, a decorated soldier, is determined to claim Maggie at last. And Maggie, engaged to be married to another man, finds her secret fantasies of Jeremy spinning out of control. All that stands between them and the steamy passion the years can no longer chain is the past– and a present steeped in jealousy, intrigue, and danger…

Ok- I love the characters so much because they’re hilarious and passionate. I love stories about love that endures, especially with fire and passion. To be honest, the love scenes are descriptive enough to get the point across while being tasteful.

Also, this book is by Patricia Cabot AKA Meg Cabot! Read about my love for her here!

I have read and re-read this book book to the point that the pages are distressed. It’s no longer in print, but I found an edition online and got Meg Cabot to autograph it when I met her! Needless to say, this was my method of brown nosing her, and it totally worked.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 19 – Favorite Book Turned Movie

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Sometimes when the stars align, hell freezes over, and we all hold our collective breath at the same time- a book to movie adaptation is just as good as the book. Obviously, this is a rare occurrence, but it IS possible.

Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare occurrences.

The story of teenage Charlie’s adventures were perfectly translated onto the silver screen this past year. I was so nervous for how they would make the movie because the characters and the narration fit together in the novel’s world so perfectly that I didn’t think any adaptation could do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the movie! I was disappointed that they didn’t play up the whole Charlie being abused thing and they skimmed over some of the other more serious issues, but overall I was pleased. I think it captured the book’s feeling and the character’s heart and quirkiness. The casting was perfect. I also think that it helped that Chbosky, the author, helped adapt the book to a screenplay. I honestly think this should be standard for book to movie translations.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 12 – A Book I Used To Love But Don’t Anymore

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I know several people have been posting this book for this day, but I couldn’t think of a better example than Twilight. I randomly picked the book up at Barnes and Noble the same day my best friend did. We gobbled it up and made the rest of our friends read it. It was like a drug. Our entire school (at least those in the know) were constantly talking about the books. We’d discovered them right before Breaking Dawn came out and were ravenous for more.

I loved this book. I fell hard. Twilight was like my high school boyfriend. I became obsessed with it in a short amount of time, constantly thinking about it. It was the only thing I wanted or even was able to talk about. I could go on about Edward Cullen FO DAYZ! Talk about a teen crush.

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Then came the fan fiction.

Veteran fan fic nerds, scoff all you want, but Twilight was my introduction into the fan fiction universe. This, of course, only added fuel to my fan fire. I read EVERYTHING, bad and good. I learned the lingo. I even wrote my own which, not to brag, became pretty popular on twilighted.net and got some good reads on fanfiction.net. I was in deep. 

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Yet, as with all good things and young loves, it came to an end. The Twihards became this cultural movement. I went to the book release party (which, I mean, who doesn’t love a book release party?). I bought the fan gear. Then the movies came out. I was too much of a rabid teen to admit how terrible they were at first, but even I knew how ridiculous they were. (The spidermonkey thing. Really?! I’m still not over it.) But… Robert Pattinson… so I kept watching.

Then the eventual backlash hit.

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I was starting to realize that Twilight was indeed a true stand in for a high school boyfriend. The initial fires died out. I began to see its flaws, how one-dimensional it was. The book and I had a run, but I’d outgrown it. The book was never meant to be an eternal love. It was just a fun fling.

Twilight will always have a place in my heart, as early loves always do, but I’ve moved on to better relationships.

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The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

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It’s a mouthful, like, I even have trouble typing it, but the title grabbed my interest. I used to argue vehemently about how love at first sight was an urban myth. Love is more than just liking how someone looks or feeling a spark during eye contact (I have learned this the hard way before). My pragmatic and romantic sides are constantly battling each other, and this book is a good example of that.

Hadley is on a flight to London to be in her father’s wedding to her new British stepmother whom she’s never met. She misses her flight and has the usual unpleasant interactions with strangers in the airport when she meets Oliver, a boy her age that is willing to extend some much-needed kindness her way. Turns out, he’s sitting next to her on her new, rescheduled flight to London, and he’s a good-looking Brit (don’t you love when that happens?). He helps her with her claustrophobia during their flight, and they talk all night and have some adorable sexual tension laden moments. They are clearly on the track to some romance, only to be separated after they get off their flight thanks to stupid airport security.

Of course, as fate would have it, they happen to meet again.

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This book was a fast, fun read that was just adorable. I kept reading it, thinking this would be the book that I would want to write if I wrote YA lit.

I’ve read some criticism online about the plot being unrealistic, but I think that’s the point. I mean, the title kind of pokes fun at the idea of love at first sight. People like myself enjoy these stories because they don’t happen so often. Sometimes you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy these types of stories.

This brings me back to the pragmatic vs. romantic argument.

My pragmatic side thinks it’s completely ridiculous for Oliver and Hadley to fall in love so quickly, especially in a sequence of happenstances. It tells me love is something that grows out of a long time of talking and getting to know each other, and, even after that, it’s rare for it to last. Long-term relationships are like business partnerships with a lot of negotiations.

But my romantic side says that love doesn’t follow any rules. There’s no mathematical formula for falling in love. Sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it’s slow. Sometimes it grows out of a long relationship. Sometimes it happens in a second. Sure, it’s rare, but it’s not impossible. Pragmatism helps us survive, but love keeps us going because it gives us hope.

There are some interesting insights into how family dynamics work and how change can help and hurt that I enjoyed reading.

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I liked Hadley, and I liked hearing her take on things.  She’s funny and real, someone you’d be friends with. I love the banter she and Oliver share. It’s a pleasure to read.

This book is about hope and the happy moments in life that can sneak up on you. It’s not the most well-written book I’ve read, but there’s an undeniable sweetness in it. Read this book if you’re looking for a fun, simple read that will make you smile. I look forward to reading more from Smith.

My favorite thing: there are references to Charles Dicken’s Our Mutual Friend that are just great. Like this opening page!

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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One of the most buzzed about books in the past year! I was draw to this book for some shallow reasons: I love the name Eleanor; I loved the cover art; I love red hair; I thought it looked like a super cute love story. Though these were superficial attractions, the heart of the book drew me in.

I was going to summarize this one for myself, but the Goodreads blurb is PERFECTION.

A stunning debut young adult novel about cassettes, comic books, misfits, and the incredible experience of first love.

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

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What I liked:

  • I AM SO STUPIDLY IN LOVE with Rowell’s characters. I love how endearingly and realistically human they are. They have flaws. They’re stubborn. They make mistakes. But they’re funny, kind, brave, and loving.
  • I love that Eleanor is not a size negative three. I feel like I either read books about characters who are reed thin and tall and lanky, or they’re overweight and suffer because of it. Rowell makes it clear that Eleanor isn’t skinny without making the character’s identity revolve around her weight. THANK YOU! It is so refreshing! She’s not super beautiful or super hideous (in her mind). She’s just a girl, and her world doesn’t focus on her appearance, even when people make fun of her or call her “Big Red.” She wears what she wants and isn’t afraid to be who she is.
  • I love that Park is part Korean. Rowell manages to orchestrate a humorous and interesting family dynamic between Park and his family: his younger, more masculine brother, his white father, and his cosmetologist Korean mother. There are moments when the family is light and happy, but there are also moments that really touch on important issues like parents’ expectations of their children, being mixed race, and having family problems that are bigger than what to have for dinner.
  • Eleanor and Park don’t hit it off right away. They bond through reading comics on the bus.
  • The story manages to be sensual without being over the top. It’s extremely appropriate in the best way possible.
  • The plot is great and full of little twists and turns. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went through my day, and I devoured the book because I needed to know how it ended.
  • It portrays people and circumstances in a real way. I don’t want to give anything away, but Rowell does a great job of giving each person layers and real emotions.
  • It portrays young love (or any love for that matter) as it is: beautiful but sometimes difficult and awkward with great moments mixed in.
  • There are righteous nerdy references.
  • It was written in third person which presented a unique narration and perspective on the characters that I enjoyed.
  • The ending is amazing. I like Rowell’s style. Many people have said that they’d like to see a sequel to this book, but I think there’s something to be said for a good, solid stand-alone book that doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up with a perfect little bow.

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What I didn’t like:

  • If I had to pick something, I would have liked to have read more about Eleanor’s family situation.

A Love Letter to Rainbow Rowell:

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Thank you for being you. Eleanor & Park was fantastic, but learning more about you has made it all the better. I love that you interact with your fans (including me!) on your personal Twitter. I love that you’re not afraid to be wacky and write about real things, but you also have a great romantic streak. Your cover art for your books is awesome, even if you had nothing to do with it, it still reflects well on you. Thank you for writing this article about Eleanor’s weight and why Park is Korean. Your website is super cool. I can’t wait to read your other books: Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline. Finally, your name is Rainbow, and that is pretty freaking awesome.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 9- A Book I Thought I Wouldn’t Like But Ended Up Loving

 

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Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

I had never read anything David Sedaris had written until he visited my hometown Barnes and Noble. He was a charming speaker. He signed a copy of his book that I had never read, and I was content to leave it on my bookshelf. I knew he was famous and a big deal so it was worth it to me.

This is a picture of my autographed book. He drew a drunk rabbit which is obviously the best thing ever. (He also offered the young people at his signing either shampoo or condoms as a reward for being young readers. I took the shampoo because my dad was there.)

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I’d always loved biographies and autobiographies, but I was never interested in autobiographical memoirs because I’d always had this idea of the genre just being someone reminiscing over anecdotes from their life that they found amusing. Everyone thinks their funny stories are the funniest.

Then I started listening to his audio books during my hour-long commute to my summer job, which made it wayyyy less awful. I listened to Sedaris read his memoirs and found myself laughing out loud to myself and remembering the stories long after. Sedaris writes with great humor and heart that it felt like I was talking to an old friend and laughing with him about memories we shared. This book was my favorite out of his. Plus, I love the cover art on all of his books.

Have you read his other books or essays?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 8- Most Overrated Book

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This is an unpopular opinion, but I HATE NICHOLAS SPARKS. I hate what he says in interviews. I hate his books. I hate his writing. I hate those cheesy movies they make out of those books. I hate seeing people reading them in public. I hate seeing or hearing his name or his books anywhere.

With that said, the most overrated book is The Notebook. SO MANY people say it’s their favorite book or favorite movie. Seriously? I gave both a try. I did. I tried it. There are so many other, better things to be reading: better authors, better characters, better love stories. Sid and Nancy have a better love story. Maybe if the writing talent was there, it could have been something, but I find it to be a thorn in my book-loving side.

And, yeah, I used the movie version of the book cover just to add insult to injury.

*End Rant*

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 5: A Book that Makes You Happy

Underneath my tough exterior (who am I kidding?), I have a deep love for sweet, sweet romance. Not even the kind that you read about in paperback romance novels where the man is a duke and the woman a secret princess (I really love those too). I love romantic comedy books, even more than I love rom com movies. I think that books just offer so much more in terms of letting my swooning imagination run wild.

That is why my selection is Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot, the third and final book in the Queen of Babble series. First off, I ADORE Meg Cabot, of The Princess Diaries fame, WITH A PASSION OF A THOUSAND ETERNAL FIRES. I’ve read basically everything the woman has even written. I chose this particular book because it’s so sweet and funny and light that it never fails to make me smile. I have read the romantic scenes between Lizzie and the man she ends up with so many times, I probably have them memorized. I just love the characters.

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Publisher’s blurb:

Big mouth. Big heart.

Big wedding. Big problems.

It’s the wedding of the century!

Things are looking up at last for Lizzie Nichols. She has a career she loves in the field of her choice (wedding gown restoration), and the love of her life, Jean-Luc, has finally proposed. Life’s become a dizzying whirl of wedding gown fittings—not necessarily her own—as Lizzie prepares for her dream wedding at her fiancé’s château in the south of France.

But the dream soon becomes a nightmare as the best man—whom Lizzie might once have accidentally slept with . . . no, really, just slept—announces his total lack of support for the couple, a sentiment the maid of honor happens to second; Lizzie’s Midwestern family can’t understand why she doesn’t want to have her wedding in the family backyard; her future, oh-so-proper French in-laws seem to be slowly trying to lure the groom away from medical school and back into investment banking; and Lizzie finds herself wondering if her Prince Charming really is as charming as she once believed.

Is Lizzie really ready to embrace her new role as wife and mistress of Château Mirac? Or is she destined to fall into another man’s arms . . . and into the trap of becoming a Bad Girl instead?