Super Sad True Love Story = Super Sad DNF?

Nancy Pearl, who might be the only librarian who can boast her own action figure, has a rule of 50: read the first 50 pages, and if you don't like it, move on.

I am 56 pages in to Super Sad True Love Story, and I do not love it. In fact, I don't even like it. But I've heard some really good things about this one (and definitely good things about the author's other works), and I've had the ARC on my shelf since... well, since they were sending out ARCs of this book. I can't quite explain why I'm hesitating in declaring it unfinished and moving on, but I am. And so I'm hoping some of you have read it and can tell me -- is it worth sticking with it? Does it get better? Or at least get interesting? Or should I just give it up and move on?

A Trailer (and A Prayer) for The Great Gatsby Movie

Have you seen it? Have you seen it? The trailer to Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of The Great Gatsby hit the internet this week:

And this is my prayer to the movie gods, the book gods, the Fitzgerald gods: please, please, please, let it be good. No--let it be wonderful. Let it be beautiful. Let it be Baz Luhrmann's best work, and not his worst. Let it be as wonderful as the story and the casting and the costumes and the set suggest it could be.

What do you all think? Will it live up to expectations?

Because this is one movie adaptation I don't think I can't stand to see flop.

A Side Note: Some Non-Book Blog Recommendations

My Google Reader is a site for sore eyes. I have a constant stream of 1000+ unread items in there, and I'm almost afraid to open it these days. Almost. But there are a few blogs that keep me coming back, and some of those aren't even book blogs. In no particular order:

Mighty Girl: Maggie, at Mighty Girl, is working her way through her mighty life list (which was part of my inspiration for my 26-by-26 list). Her posts vary from travel stories to product recommendations to food/drink/craft ideas, and generally encourage us all to reconsider whether or not our lives are full-and fun!-enough.

The Bloggess: I've never cried so hard from laughing as I did when I first read about Beyonce the metal chicken. And I've never laughed so hard from crying after reading about the Christmas Miracle. The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) is one of the funniest, most entertaining writers I've ever read. And as a side note to this side note of a post, she also has a new book out (which is equally fabulous): Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

Young House Love: This couple is the cream of the DIY crop, taking home improvements to a whole new level. Their actual decoration style is a bit modern for my taste (see: Steampunk Home, below), but their ideas on how to decorate and improve a home on a budget (and with a healthy dose of "I-can-do-this" chanting) take some of the guesswork out of home improvements.

Steampunk Home: If Young House Love is my inspiration for the how-to of house design, A Steampunk Home is my inspiration for what I want my house to look like. Though some of the gears and copper can be a bit over-the-top, the general vintage feel of everything is to-freaking-die-for.

Smitten Kitchen: I own dozens of cookbooks, but that doesn't stop me from constantly looking for new foodie blogs. Smitten Kitchen is just such a  blog, chock full of delightful recipes that treat food simply, and differently, and simply differently. (Oh, and there's a Smitten Kitchen cookbook coming out this fall...)

(This post a part of The Broke and the Bookish's Top Ten Tuesday, even though I only listed five blogs, and posted on a Thursday.).

Audiobook Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole, by Stephen King

Confession: The first Stephen King book I ever read was 11/22/63.

Second confession: The second Stephen King book I ever read was The Wind Through the Keyhole.

I listened to both on audio. 11/22/63 was captivating, enthralling, long (but never tedious), detailed, powerful, and imaginative. It left me craving more King in my reading life. So of course, I promptly read 35 odd books not by Stephen King.

Imagine my delight, then, to have a change to listen to none other than Stephen King himself narrating the audio version of his latest book, The Wind Through the Keyhole. And imagine my giddy, school-girl giggle when I realized that The Wind Through the Keyhole, while technically book 4.5 of the Dark Tower series, is actually a stand-alone novel that can be appreciated even by readers new to the well-established series.

The Wind Through the Keyhole is the story of a band of travelers who must seek shelter from an oncoming storm. While waiting out the cold and wind, they light and fire and pass the time with a story. As the story unfolds, we hear of Roland's early days as a gunslinger, and his mission to find and kill a skin man -- terrifying, murderous creature that changes forms at the drop of a hat. Along the way, Rowan finds a young boy who is the only living person capable of identifying the skin man in his human form. And so they lock the boy away for his safekeeping, and to pass away the time while they wait to round up the usual suspects, as it were, Roland tells the boy a story...

And the second story unfolds, and proves to be the namesake of the novel King himself has narrated. The story-within-a-story is about a young boy seeking revenge for his father's death, which sends him on a quest to cure his mother of her blindness, a quest in which he stands down a tiger, seeks Merlin, stumbles across black magic, poses as a gunslinger... all at the age of 11.

Both stories are fantastical and whimsical, and fit perfectly inside one another. King's novel is an ode to the power of storytelling as a means of escape, as a means of entertainment, as a means of conveying messages about life, death, fear, bravery, and so much more. And though King's narration can feel flat at times, it is ultimately impossible to question his delivery--the stories contained herein came from him, after all. The Wind Through the Keyhole proves a fitting tribute to fiction from an author known for his skill with the pen; what's more, it is a welcome return to Mid-World for fans of the Dark Tower series, or a simple introduction to the world to those new to the novels.  Novels I'll be sure to add to my TBR list, of course.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

The Guilded Earlobe
5 Minutes for Books


Note: Thanks to Simon and Schuster Audio for a review copy of this title.
The Wind Through the Keyhole | Stephen King, nar. Stephen King | 9781442346963 | 12 discs | April 2012 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you

In Which I Come Late to the Hunger Games Party

Ok, I know. Everyone saw the Hunger Games movie like... months ago. And blogged about it in a reasonably timely manner. And said intelligent, engaging things about it.

Here's what I have to say about it: the book was better.

Shocking, I know! A blog post in which a self-proclaimed bookworm stands by the tried-and-true maxim of the book always winning out over the movie. But really, the book was better. Wasn't it?

Don't get me wrong, the movie was interesting. And the Capitol - the Capitol! - was breathtaking and amazing and colorful and vivid and almost exactly like it was in my head. But most of the characters fell flat for me (including Lenny's performance as Cinna; while he looked the part, he really didn't have the oomph that Cinna had in my head), and it just felt... long. For a 300-odd page book (written in a large font with large margins), I was shocked when I found out (during the previews, mind you) that I was in for a two-hour plus viewing. And disappointed that the games themselves didn't really start until over halfway through. And even more disappointed when (spoiler alert) they changed the ending of the movie. Well, maybe not changed entirely, but definitely ended earlier/differently than in the book.

Which is all just a really, really, really long way of saying that the book is still better than the movie. Even an action-packed teen movie with a bunch of heart-throbs in it. Because unfortunately, those heart-throbs aren't great at line delivery (I'm looking at you, Gale).

Of course, I'll see the next two movies. And by the way -- reviews of the second two books to come (one of these days). I read them on the flight to Italy. Perfect airtime reading, if I do say so myself.

I Can Do This: A Summer of TBR

I've made commitment after commitment to myself that I will focus on reading books I already own. That I will finally start to tackle the ridiculous collection of tomes that threaten to pull down the Billy Bookcases in my living room. That I will actually acknowledge the existing to-be-read list (which is in no way a literal list) instead of just adding to it.

The time has come for me to make this commitment public. Deep breaths. Here goes.

From now until September 1, I will only read books I already own.* This includes my forays to the library for audiobooks; I will be seeking out audio versions of books that already adorn my shelves.

Wish me luck.


*I do have a review commitment to Shelf Awareness for Readers, so I will still be reading/reviewing ARCs as assigned... but only as assigned.

Book Review: A Partial History of Lost Causes, by Jennifer Dubois

Irina Ellison has spent most of her life watching her father die, standing by as Huntington's destroyed first his body, and then his mind. His demise is a map of what her own will be; her own diagnosis gives her the certainty that she will one day lose control of her body and mind as certainly as he did, though she can only guess when it will begin. First a twitch of an arm, then a loss of control, then a loss of memory, of self, of personality. Her entire life becomes a question she seems incapable of answering: how should she live, if she knows it is all for naught? "My major character flaw," she writes, "is an inability to invest in lost causes. When you are the lost cause, this makes for a lonely life."

And so it is not so surprising, really, that when her father finally dies, she abandons what little life she has in Massachusetts--a job as a lecturer, a mother, a chess opponent in the park, a budding romance--in pursuit of an answer to the question, one that she finds her father addressed, once upon a time, to the world's most famous chess player: the Russian Aleksandr Bezetov.

Aleksandr and Irina are linked by nothing more than the unanswered letter her father once penned, but Jennifer duBois weaves their stories together with a stunning delicacy that is all the more apparent after the last page turns; herein lies the greatest power of duBois' debut novel. A Partial History of Lost Causes is brilliant in its subtleties, paired neatly with a heavy hand of philosophical musings on the nature of death--and therefore life. What makes us who we are? And if the person we are is destined to disappear, what point is there? 
"Personality is continuity. Personality is the myth of continuity. And the person is lost when nothing can be old to him, when nothing can be familiar, when all parallels, all symbols, all analogs, are gone; when the world is perpetually stunning; when we are newborns again, at last."
Most importantly, however, there is the question Irina and her father and the strange chess player she comes to befriend are all asking: How do I proceed if I know it is a lost cause? 
"You wouldn't be where you are if you weren't mostly a winner... And yet there have been games, matches, tournaments that you've lost. And among these, surely, are games, matches, tournaments that you've known all along you were losing... When you find yourself playing in such a game or a tournament, what is the proper way to proceed? What story do you tell yourself when that enormous certainty is upon you and you scrape up against the edges of your own self?"
This is the question that ties together all of the otherwise disparate threads in A Partial History of Lost Causes, resulting in an intricate novel of multiple layers and truly compelling characters. It is a novel of love and loss, politics and games, strategies and defeats, and all of the little moments that make up a life before a life is swept away by a death. It is a reminder to appreciate what we have, to value what we've had, and to look forward to what is yet to come. It is the kind of novel you want to rush through, desperate to find out what happens, but also the kind you want to read carefully, to savor, to understand. It is also, incidentally, the best book I've read all year.


Thoughts from other bookworms:

Largehearted Boy (Jennifer duBois' own recommended playlist to pair with the book)
Devourer of Books


Note: Thanks to the publisher for providing an e-galley of this title for review, via NetGalley.
A Partial History of Lost Causes | Jennifer duBois | March 2012 | 384 pages | Buy from an independent near you

Mother's Day Books: Girls Reading

This column originally ran in the May 1, 2012 edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers. Reprinted here with permission. If you haven't already, sign up here for a bi-weekly dose of readerly goodness in your inbox.

The most iconic Mother's Day gifts are flowers and brunch, but why not celebrate the mothers in your life this year with one of these books that celebrates books themselves and the girls who love to read them?

Maureen Corrigan, book critic on NPR's Fresh Air, hit the nail on the head with the title of her memoir: Leave Me Alone, I'm Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books. Corrigan explores the formative power of books in shaping her life, from her first recognition of people who don't understand the power of reading to her career as a professional book reviewer. She also details her love of books in three genres she "created" (female extreme adventure novels, hard-boiled detective stories and tales of Catholic saints and martyrs), leaving readers a history of a life dedicated to books and a powerful list of titles to add to the ever-growing to-be-read stack.

Jo Walton's Among Others takes a more fantastical approach to the subject of the formative power of reading, but is still, at heart, an ode to the power of books to mold us into the people we become. As a child, Morwenna and her twin sister played in the industrial ruins near their home in Wales, where they befriended the spirits who lived among the ruins. When an accident claims the life of her twin and Morwenna is sent away to boarding school, she turns to books of science fiction and fantasy to keep her company. Through these books, she reconnects with the world, with other readers and with herself. Walton's delicate combination of classic Welsh mythology with the science fiction and fantasy titles of the 1980s is a powerful one, and like Corrigan's memoirs, will leave readers with a long list of titles to explore.

Katie Ward's debut novel, Girl, Reading, is in fact a series of self-contained, intertwined stories, each centering on the creation of a portrait of a girl, reading. The book begins in the 14th century and moves to the year 2060, with tales threaded together by the commonality of the creation of the portraits and persistent allusions to art and literature. The result is a novel that celebrates the intimate, delicate bond between women and their books--a subject no reading mother will want to miss.

Audiobook Review: How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, by Dov Siedman

I've never been much of one for business-type books; I generally find that as much as I like an idea behind a book, I have the attention span for about 20 pages of it... and from there, it just gets repetitive, overly detailed, or dull. Or all of the above.

But when I was offered a review copy of the new audiobook version of How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything, I was intrigued. And not just because President Bill Clinton wrote the introduction, though that certainly didn't hurt.

How turned out to be a little bit of what I expected from a business book (overly detailed and repetitive at times), but more interesting than your standard "this-is-how-to-do-it" kind of read. Because in fact, it is anything but a "this-is-how-to-do-it" read, and Dov Seidman is clear about that from the get-go. How is not a how-to, but a caution to think about how you act, how you behave, and how you make decisions--an invitation to understand the impact of how you do something, as much as what you do.

Though perhaps not the most groundbreaking book you'll listen to all year, the audio version of How is a worthwhile listen for those interested in taking a different stance on business reading. Don't expect a how-to manual on doing the right thing or being the right kind of leader or worker or decision maker; instead, expect to reconsider a few things you've always taken for granted, and get some interesting stories on human nature -- and varying business cultures -- along the way. It's the kind of business sociology book that can be applied in business as much as in everyday life, and I believe that's what makes it more compelling than a standard how-to (or how-not-to) read, as the case may be. And as an added plus, narration by Scott Brick is spot-on.


Note: Thanks to the publisher, Simon and Schuster Audio, for a review copy of this book.


How | Dov Seidman | Simon & Schuster Audio | 9781442352834 | February 2012

Top Ten Favorite Book Quotes

I write in my books. I've confessed this many times before, I know, but it's relevant here (yet again) as I argue that this writing does, in fact, serve a purpose. I highlight, I comment, and I underline. And the underlines form a collection of some of my favorite book quotes of all time. Though the list is ever-evolving (#3 just made the cut last week, after all), here's where it stands at the moment (in no particular order):

1) "People tend to complicate their own lives, as if living weren't already complicated enough." - Carlos Ruis Zafon, The Shadow of the Wind 

2) "It would be so much better if we could share our insecurity, if we could all venture inside ourselves and realize that green beans and vitamin C, however much they nurture us, cannot save lives, or sustain our souls." - Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

3) "We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine." - E. M. Forster, A Room with a View

4) "Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead." - F. Scott Fitgerald, The Great Gatsby

5) "That odd capacity for destitution, as if by nature we ought to have so much more than nature gives us. As if we are shockingly unclothed when we lack the complacencies of ordinary life. In destitution, even of feeling or purpose, a human being is more hauntingly human and vulnerable to kindnesses because there is the sense that things should be otherwise, and then the thought of what is wanting and what alleviation would be, and how the soul could be put at ease, restored. At home. But the soul finds its own home if ever it has a home at all." - Marilynne Robinson, Home

6) "Everybody has a story. It's like families. You might not know who they are, might have lost them, but they exist all the same. You might drift apart or you might turn your back on them, but you can't say you haven't got them. Same goes for stories." - Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

7) "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live." - J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

8) "The thing about Tolkien, about The Lord of the Rings, is that it's perfect. It's this whole world, this whole process of immersion, this journey. It's not, I'm pretty sure, actually true, but that makes it more amazing, that someone could make it all up. Reading it changes everything." - Jo Walton, Among Others

9) "Once upon a time there was a boy who loved a girl, and her laughter was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering." - Nicole Krauss, A History of Love

10) "But life isn't hard to manage when you've nothing to lose." - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Post Vacation Blues

I'm back! Although I don't know why I say it quite so joyfully, because I'd really rather be travelling. Ok, I suppose I am excited to see the cat and the dog again, and sleep in my own bed, but I do miss waking up to this view:

I spent most of today warding off the post-vacation blues, which were only amplified by the fact that it is also Monday. Four more days to go until the weekend (and a wedding!). But the post-vacation blues have left me with dozens of words, and thousands of sentences, welling up, with nowhere to go. I'm hoping that means I'll be able to finally catch up on the dozen+ reviews I haven't written.

I did read three and a half books while travelling - the last two of the Hunger Games trilogy (finally), E. M. Forster's A Room with a View, and half of Jennifer Dubois A Partial History of Lost Causes (which is fan-freaking-tastic, thus far).

Back with more later this week!