30 Day Book Challenge: Day 25 – A Character I Can Relate to the Most

I’m on the home stretch of this challenge! Only five more days! I thought this would get easier with time, but basically every other question stumps me. For this one, I kept thinking about which character I most wanted to be LIKE. There are plenty of qualities that I wish I could borrow from my favorite book characters.

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I could go on for days about how much I love The Hunger Games, and I think it’s because I identify so much with Katniss Everdeen. By no means am I an expert archer or survivalist, but I’m good at making tough decisions. I have had to take care of my younger sibling a lot, and I would do anything for him. Katniss and I operate on the same wavelength. We think logically, but our emotions can sometimes hinder us. We believe in fighting for others’ rights, even if it isn’t easy. Most of all, we value people above everything.

 

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 16 – My Favorite Genre

Young Adult Literature

I’m an English major so I read a wide variety of works. I’ve been introduced to so many genres in the past few that I didn’t even know existed! It’s good to read things from every genre, but I keep going back to YA.

Why I love YA:

It’s interesting that YA, compared to other literary genres, is relatively new in the world of words. It is believed to have grown in the 1920s and really started flourishing in the 1970s and 1980s when it became clear that there was a serious demographic gap between juvenile lit and adult lit.

I, like many other YA readers, don’t consider myself a “young adult” in the strictest term, although the age limits are loose and constantly fluctuating throughout generations, but I still enjoy reading the genre. I think it’s because being a young adult is such a defining period in our lives. You start to grow up and figure out who you are. This is super difficult! We all remember the struggle. And at any age, we can all relate to feeling like we don’t have everything figured out. (Do we ever feel like we do?)

YA appeals to me because we can always be reminded how much we can change and how the world can be a scary and beautiful place. No matter how old I get, I will sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. I’ll deal with serious issues. I’ll remember what it felt like having a crush or falling in love. I’ll know what it’s like to have that one best friend or inspiring teacher or that girl you hate. I’ll relate to being frustrated with my parents or my hair.

Maybe we never really grow up, or maybe we’re always growing up. Either way, young adult literature is there to help with stories and characters and words.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 13- My Favorite Author

Meg Cabot. (Rhymes with “rabbit,” just an FYI)

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Reasons I Love Meg Cabot:
-We’re very similar! We’re both from southern Indiana. She attended Indiana University, and I did too for a while. We both love to draw. We both have cats. The list goes on.
-She writes SO much! Once I got to meet her (which was a pinnacle of my existence), and I asked her how on earth she is so prolific. She essentially told me that she knew no other way. She just did it all the time. This is awesome because I can always look forward to a new book and have so many others to go back and re-read.
-She started out under the pseudonym Patricia Cabot and wrote a series of period romance novels which were my first introduction into the romance genre. I used to dream of writing books like those. Maybe it will happen someday.
– I love her characters. There’s never a character who I can’t relate to on any level. Seriously, I couldn’t even pick a favorite. I always find myself thinking that I would react the same way her characters would. Her female protagonists are so endearing because they’re humans who have flaws, for better or for worse and have character and heart. I want to be them or be best friends with them!
-Cabot herself is awesome. She writes a great blog which she updates regularly. I love reading her take on everything from books to pop culture.
-She supports good causes, often writing for anthologies when the proceeds go to charity.
-She has often said that she never sets out to write The Great American Novel or the next War and Peace. She just wants to write to entertain and make people happy. I think this is what all writers should aspire to do with their stories.
-Her sense of humor is spot on. I constantly laugh out loud while reading her work!

She gave this sage writing advice:
“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 11- A Book I Hated

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I read this book on the recommendation of a youth librarian at my local library. She asked me how old I was and pointed me toward this book. This is a reason that I resented some of the librarians in my childhood. They assumed that every person in an age group or gender enjoyed the same books. Book recommending is a tricky practice, but I would have appreciated some more thought.

Anyway…

I didn’t like Prep for several reasons. I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, Lee. I found her annoying, dumb, and way underdeveloped. The books spans Lee’s four years at Ault boarding school, but she remains the same. Even after she graduates, she’s emotionally stunted. She’s so ruthlessly self-centered that I wanted to punch her, and not in a character I love to hate way. I also didn’t think any of the other characters throughout the novel were likeable or believable. It felt like such a stretch to imagine that they could exist. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know.

I was also freaked out by so much of the “adult content” in this book, not because I was too young but because the author writes with no finesse. The book has no soul. The plot goes nowhere. The pacing is glacial. There isn’t anything there for me. It’s a pretty lengthy book, and I remember forcing myself to chug through and read it. I have no idea why.

I think Sittenfeld is capable of writing, if she was writing about something other than a thinly veiled memoir of her boarding school days.

Goodreads summary:

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences–complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant, coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.

 

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 7- Most Underrated Book

Day 7- Most Underrated Book

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I’m not sure if underrated is the right word, but I feel like no one is talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, maybe because it was written in 2008. I was once again reading this book in a post-Twilight world where EVERYTHING was about vampires and werewolves. I love a good vamp/wolf story, but I was ready for something new. I read it a few years ago, and thought it was so timely and smart and entertaining. It’s a clear allegory for race or sexuality or anything that makes people different. BUT WITH ZOMBIES! It’s great because (before warn bodies hit theaters) it seemed like zombies got no love. For obvious reasons, they are seen as The Abject because they’re basically just walking corpses and aren’t all seductive and mysterious like vampires.

I love this book. I think it’s a great read, and I can even see myself teaching it in the classroom. Pick it up and give it a read. PLEASE!

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Goodreads blurb:

Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.

All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.

The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic.” But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 6- A Book That Broke My Heart

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I’ve been wanting to write a post about this book for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. I read a borrowed copy of this book on a road trip to New Orleans for a Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society convention (It was a blasty blast). The trip was half a day long; I had gotten almost no sleep; I was in a car with people I barely knew (but they were very kind and awesome). So I start reading this book, and I finish it within hours, and I’m just sitting in the backseat of this rental car with tears pouring down my face, trying to sob quietly so these people who barely know me don’t think I’m psychotic. They saw me, but thankfully they’re English majors too so they understood.

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This book breaks my heart because I just really wanted a happy ending, even though I knew there couldn’t possibly be one. I loved the characters so much that I wanted a miracle to happen. I wanted literary proof that bad things don’t happen to good people, especially when they’re young and in love. Green’s writing in this novel is so beautiful and meaningful that it filled my heart with warmth, even after all the tears. Yes, it broke my heart, but, in the end, I was ok with that because, like the characters, I found that the experience was worth the pain.

 

My other posts about John Green: Looking for Alaska    An Abundance of Katherines 

Since You Asked… by Maurene Goo

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When Holly Kim, copyeditor for her high school newspaper, accidentally submits an article full of her honest opinions about her high school, she gets her own column instead of punishment. Holly rants and raves about what bothers her and tries to find balance between being known for speaking her mind, keeping her Korean family’s values, and trying to survive high school.

I had really high hopes for this book!

I thought the cover and title were cute. I loved the premise. Scholastic Inc. published it. It had all the great makings of a great read.

Yeah, not so much.

The characters were all, well, caricatures. They were all annoying and over the top. All of the dialogue felt forced or unnecessary. Holly Kim, the main character is barely likeable. The book reads like someone in middle school wrote it. I am honestly surprised it was published.

I kept reading, hoping it would get better, but it never did. I thought, when Holly got to write her own column, that I was in for some insightful or poignant observations about life in high school or being Korean-American. No. When she got a tip-off that the student government might be rigging the homecoming court election, I thought she would use journalism to expose her school’s underground politics. No. I thought there might be some swoon-worthy moments with her secret admirer. No. I thought that when Holly suffered through her Korean family’s unique Christmas traditions, she’d find value in family or her culture. No.

The plot lines are never developed.

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Goo tries too hard to be funny and tongue-in-cheek. From this book, I seriously doubt her chops as a writer, especially one in the YA genre.

Overall, I found the book a huge disappointment and a real struggle to read.

*Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of this book