in which things get problematic

Hello, world.

I struggled deciding what to discuss today, partly because I think it’s kind of a stupid prompt. I don’t like it because

  1. I have rather snobby book tastes, sometimes, as I am a pretentious English Major,
  2. all readers have different opinions, and
  3. I hardcore struggled to think of an answer.

But, here I am, answering the stupid prompt anyway.

DAY 29: A BOOK EVERYONE HATED BUT YOU LIKED

Goodreads summary:

Eleanor… Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough…Eleanor.

Park… He knows she’ll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There’s a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises…Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

This answer may not quite make sense at first. Eleanor & Park is actually a rather well-received book, overall. I mean, any book John Green loved is obvious a good one.

When I first read it, I adored it. (I fell in love with Rainbow’s writing after I read Fangirl, which remains my favorite of her novels.) How could I not adore the precious cinnamon rolls that are Eleanor and Park?

Since reading it though, I’ve heard a lot of negative reviews about the book, specifically its treatment of the Asian and Asian-American characters. And there is a lot of truth and legitimacy in those reviews that I, as a white reader, did not see when I first read it. But I can’t lie–I still kind of love the book.

It’s my problematic fave.

What books do you love that are hated or problematic?

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

Advertisements

in which i am utterly charmed

Hello, world.

Okay, I’m a sucker for a good title. When I’m perusing a new book to read, I judge it based on three things

  1. its cover,
  2. its title, and
  3. its first line

Titles are very important to me.

DAY 28: MY FAVORITE TITLE

Goodreads summary:

London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises, and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Once I read the title of this book, I was sold. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society–does it get any better than that??? No, it doesn’t. (Unless it’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-frontal Snogging, but that’s another book for another post.)

The book completely lives up to its title, as well. It’s an epistolary novel, which I felt enhanced the sense of time and setting. The letters and utterly charming, and I loved getting to know Juliet and all the denizens of Guernsey. It’s exactly the sort of story that I love: one that explores people, what makes them tick, how they interact with others. GIVE ME ALL THE CHARACTER STUDIES. The discussions of literature and the history of WWII just make it all the better.

Also, the romance is so, so, so adorable and had me squealing for joy. (Yeah, it’s that cute.)

If you want a delightfully charming read, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is the book for you.

yours, Natalie.

in which i’m a little freaked out

Hello, world.

I’m going to be honest–I kind of like being spoiled. I’m definitely the sort of person who reads the last page of a book, just in case I die before I get to finish the book. I like mentally preparing myself for an ending; I get weirdly anxious if I don’t know how things will turn out.

But, even so, book endings often shock me.

DAY 27: THE MOST SURPRISING PLOT TWIST OR ENDING

Goodreads summary:

Terse and terrifying, this final book from Cormier will leave a lasting impression. Jason, almost 13, is a shy, ineffectual child, who takes being bullied as a matter of course–but if he sees someone else being pushed around, he may strike back. When the seven-year-old girl who lives next door is murdered, Jason is horrified. He was the last one to see her alive. He wants to do everything he can to help find the killer, so when the police come calling, he tells them all he knows. What he doesn’t know is that Trent, a detective adept at extracting confessions, has been called into the case–and Trent has Jason in his sights as the murderer. Cormier presents a cat-and-mouse game so tense that readers will feel they must escape the pages just as Jason wants to extricate himself from the stuffy, cell-like room where his interrogation is taking place.

THIS BOOK THOUGH.

I read this book when I was a freshman in high school, maybe? I can’t remember. What I do remember, though, was the ending.

I still get chills anytime I think of it.

Maudit nervous yikes kikis delivery service shiver

I don’t want to say too much, in case anyone wants to read this book (WHICH YOU SHOULD). But I will say this: it has haunted me all these years.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which my eyes are fully open

Hello, world.

I believe that books have power. In my small life, I have learned so much from books, so much about people and kindness, about joy and sorrow, about life and death. Books can change our lives, and rightly so.

DAY 26: A BOOK THAT CHANGED MY OPINION ABOUT SOMETHING

Goodreads summary:

Fairy tale and history, wilderness and civilisation collide in this brilliant and magical new novel from the author of Little Exiles.

In the depths of winter in the land of Belarus, where ancient forests straddle modern country borders, an orphaned boy and his grandfather go to scatter his mother’s ashes in the woodlands. Her last request to rest where she grew up will be fulfilled.

Frightening though it is to leave the city, the boy knows he must keep his promise to mama: to stay by and protect his grandfather, whatever happens. Her last potent gifts – a little wooden horse, and hunks of her homemade gingerbread – give him vigour. And grandfather’s magical stories help push the harsh world away.

But the driving snow, which masks the tracks of forest life, also hides a frozen history of long-buried secrets. And as man and boy travel deeper among the trees, grandfather’s tales begin to interweave with the shocking reality of his own past, until soon the boy’s unbreakable promise to mama is tested in unimaginable ways.

I read this book last Christmas because I thought I would love it–and I was right.

It was definitely an odd little book: the relationship between the boy and his grandfather is unusual and wild. But what I loved most was its exploration of myth and history.

Since I was a wee thing, I have been obsessed with all folklore–mythology, fairy tales, and folk stories of all kinds. I loved the fantastic elements and the way the stories took me away from my own life.

me @ folklore

As I’ve grown older, though, I have realized that myth and history are not such different things. They inseparable things, really, always informing and building the other. It’s a lovely, rich, and complex relationship.

One that is not always positive.

This book explores the more negative aspects of the relationship between myth and history, in a way that I had never really thought of before. I tend to idolize stories, but sometimes that is not always a healthy thing.

I think of myth so differently now because of that book, and I am glad for that.

yours, Natalie

*and yes, my title is a reference to gilbert and sullivan.

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which nothing gold can stay

Hello, world.

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, when I was a child, there was a distinct line between books I read for pleasure and books I read for school. I assumed that assigned readings were, by nature, a little more dull than the books I normally read. The classics might have been important, but they weren’t quite as entertaining as, say, the City of Ember.

As all readers do, I soon realized that my assumption was incorrect.

DAY 25: MY FAVORITE BOOK I READ IN SCHOOL

Goodreads summary:

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for “social”) has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he’s always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers–until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy’s skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Although the Outsiders might not be the most sophisticated book in all the world, it had a profound effect on me. I read this in seventh grade, just when reading started to become less of a pastime and more like breathing. As we began studying it as a class, I was surprised to find that this assigned reading was rather, well, enjoyable. I was surprised to find that the book touched my heart. I was surprised to find myself relating to the characters, despite how their lives were vastly different from mine.

My English teacher made a smart choice in assigning the Outsiders, I think. Because the main characters are teenagers, it made it so much easier for our class to enjoy and sympathize with the story. It was a smart way to introduce us to “important” books that had before seemed so distant from us. In that class, I realized, for the first time, that those important books were not just important to some grand literary society, but that they could be important to me.

And this book really was so important to me. It was one of the first books to teach me about sorrow and heartache, about how much life can hurt, about how we can make it better.

Plus, Ponyboy is just the sweetest boy. A small part of my heart will always love him.

ponyboy curtis gif - Google Search

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

yours, Natalie

in which the circus arrives without warning

Hello, world.

The topic for today really could have applied to so many books, but the one I choose for it, I think, aptly deserves the title.

DAY 24: A BOOK I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD READ

Goodreads summary:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.

This book is another one of my soul books.

After I read it for the first time, I remember thinking that this was the sort of book I wanted to write. The language and style spoke to my soul in the simplest of ways. It felt like a dream I had had long before, but almost forgotten.

The Night Circus is a lovely dream.

The book has a lot of different elements and subplots, but at the heart it is a book about the circus and its people. It is about how the circus operates and changes those who visit it. It is about love and time and magic–such wonderful magic.

I will say, if you are not a fan of lengthy descriptions and slow plots, this is not the book for you. The action in the Night Circus takes place over ten years, so it definitely takes its time. If, however, you are a fan of such books like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell or the Time Traveler’s Wife, you will like this book quite a lot, I believe.

For me, the descriptions are my favorite part of the book. I adore the little vignettes that Morgenstern uses throughout the novel, the second person point of view that places me in the circus itself. It’s a lovely experience, and I wish it could last forever.

Just read the Night Circus, okay?

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which i’m rather a romantic

Hello, world.

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am rather fond of Jane Austen’s stories. I think they’re so lovely and clever and important.

Sometimes, though, her six novels just aren’t quite enough.

DAY 23: MY GUILTY PLEASURE

Goodreads Summary:

The only place Darcy could share his innermost feelings was in the private pages of his diary…

Torn between his sense of duty to his family name and his growing passion for Elizabeth Bennet, all he can do is struggle not to fall in love.

Mr. Darcy’s Diary presents the story of the unlikely courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy from Darcy’s point of view. This graceful imagining and sequel to Pride and Prejudice explains Darcy’s moodiness and the difficulties of his reluctant relationship as he struggles to avoid falling in love with Miss Bennet. Though seemingly stiff and stubborn at times, Darcy’s words prove him also to be quite devoted and endearing – qualities that eventually win over Miss Bennet’s heart. This continuation of a classic romantic novel is charming and elegant, much like Darcy himself.

I really really really like these books.

happy smiling aww jeremy renner aw

Amanda Grange has written each of Austen’s novels from the lovers’ perspectives, which is basically exactly what you would expect them to be–aka glorified fanfiction–and it’s so good.

I may be a pretentious English major, but I can also take a lot of pleasure from cheesy, romantic stories, so long as they have decent grammar and involve characters that I love. These novels check at least one of those boxes (jk they check both).

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which the dark is rising

Hello, world.

DAY 22: THE BOOK I’M CURRENTLY READING

Goodreads Summary:

“When the Dark comes rising, six shall turn it back, Three from the circle, three from the track; Wood, bronze, iron; water, fire, stone; Five will return, and one go alone.” Will Stanton turns 11 and learns from Merriman Lyon, the Lady, and Circle of Old Ones, that he must find six Sign symbols and battle the Black Rider, blizzard and flood.

I don’t know why I’ve never read the Dark is Rising sequence. They are classic fantasy and well deserve all the acclaim it’s received over the years. Also,  it’s exactly my type of book: fantastic and lovely and mythology-ridden. So I really can’t answer why I have not read them before.

I read Over Sea, Under Stone a few months ago, which I adored (like I said before, I’m all about the Arthurian legends). I’m now almost done with the Dark is Rising now and I’m much excited to finish the rest of them.

If you’re like me and have never read these books, I highly encourage you to do so now.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

 

in which marigolds appear

Hello, world.

Today’s post is another installment in the series of books Natalie loved as a child, which really is just the series of books Natalie still loves because I am a nostalgic being and have largely the same taste in books. Little Natalie made great book choices.

DAY 21: MY FAVORITE BOOK FROM MY CHILDHOOD

Goodreads summary:

Christian is gaga for Princess Marigold. But he’s just a commoner, and no match for royalty. Heck, he lives in a cave with a troll! And now he’s discovered another reason to put his love-soggy heart on ice: Queen Olympia is scheming to take over the kingdom–and she’ll bump off her own daughter to do it. Can Christian foil her diabolical plans?

To be honest, the City of Ember probably would also be my favorite childhood read (but I’ve already talked about it and I’d obviously never talk about the same thing twice.) As I thought about other books I loved, I remembered this little gem.

I specifically remember the first time I read this book. It was a Friday afternoon, and I had brought the book home from my school’s library as a weekend read. My mother was repainting our living room walls, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in the room in one of our big leather chairs to start reading the book. In fact, I finished it that same afternoon. And read it a couple more times before Monday.

it me

Obviously, I adored this book.

A few weeks ago, I reread Once Upon a Marigold for the first time in years, and it was still as delightful as the first time. It’s such a lovely children’s book–clever without being condescending, charming without being cheesy (well, at least not overly cheesy). The main characters, Christian and Marigold, are kind and lonely and so relateable, really. (As I, too, have no friends and make terrible jokes.) All the side characters, like Ed and King Swiftbert, are just hecka funny and make the book a hilarious time. The love story is sweet, the message heartwarming. What is not to love about this book? Nothing, I tell you. It’s got everything, except, according to the cover, the kitchen sink, which I am able to overlook.

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!

in which earnestness is a virtue

Hello, world.

Okay, I love to laugh. I wholeheartedly agree with the Irish proverb that claims that “a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” I think it’s good to find laughter in every aspect of life, which, for me, includes books.

DAY 20: A BOOK THAT MAKES ME LAUGH OUT LOUD

Goodreads summary:

Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack’s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack’s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

Yes–I know that this isn’t technically a book, but it’s still literature so I think it counts. Also, it’s my blog so I can do what I want.

(I am Ron Swanson, obviously.)

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST IS SO FUNNY.

As I vaguely hinted at in my last post, I’m obsessed with the Victorian Era. I have studied it several times in school and done my own research and read so many Victorian novels and Victorian-inspired novels and I JUST LOVE THE VICTORIAN ERA OKAY? This is important for you to understand.

me when someone tries to insult the victorian era

Published at the tail-end of the Victorian Era, The Importance of Being Earnest is very much a product of its time. Well, it’s mocking the other products of its time. Oscar Wilde is the literal master of satire and is so savage with his criticisms, but in the most humorous of ways. This, really, is why I love it so. I love its place in history and I love understanding what exactly Wilde is hinting at in his writing. If you really want to get the humor out of this play, I would recommend learning a bit about Victorian society and culture.

Even without any foreknowledge, this play is still top-notch comedy. The entire premise is entirely ridiculous and all of the characters are the perfect combination of absurd and insightful. Just sample this conversation between Jack and Algernon:

How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out. You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner. The butter would probably get on my cuffs. One should always eat muffins quite calmly. It is the only way to eat them.

I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Honestly, what more do I need to say? This play is Oscar Wilde at his best. Every time I read it my sides hurt from laughing so. If you need a good laugh, definitely check this out. (Also, the play is in the public domain, so hurrah for free things!)

(Also, the movie is fantastic. That’s all.)

colin firth oscar wilde rupert everett the importance of being earnest

yours, Natalie

Tune in tomorrow at noon for the next post!