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For the love of book-readin'

MEGA Book Love: Teen Book Trivia Contest October 7, 2013

Filed under: Book Industry,Means of Reading — megabooklove @ 9:47 am
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October 16 is gonna be nerdy. Real nerdy. I can’t wait.

This day is the Young Adult Trivia night at the McNally Jackson bookstore in NYC. I’m probably carrying the least weight of my team, because the others read a lot more quickly and manage to carve out massive chunks of time to read teen fiction books. And I think they don’t really watch TV, which sucks my time like whoa.

I’m currently in training for this competition, which means I am trying to cover some of the books we, among the three of us, have not yet read, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. We have looked for lists of the most popular books, looked for other ways to check out the most popular young adult books — what the kids are readin’ these days — and made ourselves a few assignments. Hopefully in the next week and a half you will see some rapid firing book reviews on kickass YA fiction.

And then, come October 17, you shall see a blog post of glory. Or graceful defeat. But really, I’m doing it for the

Even better: All proceeds will go to Literacy for Incarcerated Teens. There will also be opportunities at the event to donate books directly to Passages Academy, a NYC Board of Education program serving incarcerated and detained youths, ages 11-17.

If there are any good new young adult books you’re wild about, let me know so we can prepare! Thanks!

 

Book Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie October 5, 2013

Filed under: Book Review — megabooklove @ 12:33 pm
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I had read something of Sherman Alexie’s in my Gay & Lesbian Lit class in college (The Toughest Indian in the World), and I remembered liking it but not being floored. My professor casually suggested that we check this writer out because he has a unique perspective. It is only because of an upcoming young adult trivia night that I picked up this book for my yet unnamed team.

The Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian wasted no time in getting started. Readers are hit with a rough and sudden view of the narrator’s self-image and the daily tragedies of living on the rez. These descriptions are relayed factually and without any degree of pity or sorrow, and with doodles by our narrator Junior, and I was glad this book was so well paced we were informed of a backstory and moved forward pretty quickly. There is nothing I hate more than a sob-story of a book with a sad sack narrator (Here’s looking at you, Oscar Wao). We meet Junior, his parents that are introduced by a loving son (and about whom we gradually learn some pretty ugly things), his grandmother and his best friend Rowdy. We also meet some anonymous bullies and some that get names but no real identities, in 30-year-old scumbags beating up on a 14-year-old kid.

We also briefly meet the pivotal teacher Mr. P., who is a white teacher on the reservation who taught Alexie’s parents (with the same textbooks used today) and his sister. We also learn of the heinous motivations of the white teachers who work on the reservation, whose aim is to beat the Indian out of students and encourage them to give up. A very remorseful and bandaged Mr. P. tells Junior what everyone thinks and what he needs to here: Get out of here, you deserve better.

Bravely, Junior asks to transfer to a better school, off reservation, chock full of rich white kids who don’t seem to fight by the same rules as the Spokane. The book follows a very hopeful, smart, courageous Junior (now called by his given name Arnold) through being the new kid, being an outsider, and exploring, tearfully but endearingly, what it’s like to break the pattern.

…Plus a bunch of crazy stuff happens in very few pages, starting on page 154.

Native American Writers

Aside from Sherman Alexie, we don’t seem to have a great pool of literature to draw upon. The only other such writer I can think of is John Twelve Hawks, whose The Traveler was highly recommended to me. If anyone reading can think of some other good Native American authors, please let me know in the comments!

All in

This book took me about 2 hours to read, and I am a slow reader. It is worth reading. There is a lot more to say than what is here, and the novel breezes by swiftly. The narrator is likable and you know, without him stating it outright, that he is in a constant struggle of individual vs. community, and that he is employing his only strategy of one step, one mile, one day, one ray of hope at a time.  I give it a 4 out of 5.

Also reading:

 

Book Review: Son, Lois Lowry October 3, 2013

Filed under: Book Review — megabooklove @ 8:45 am
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Son is a conclusion to an incredible series written by Lois Lowry over the past 20 years.

If you haven’t read The Giver, you should. Really. And don’t let anyone ruin it for you. It’s 192 pages and it is written for kids, so it should take a few hours for you to finish, and it is worth twice that time. Even if you read nothing else in your life, read The Giver. Then, if you really like it, follow it up with Messenger and Gathering Blue. Then go ahead and read Son.

This is pretty much all I can tell you. Read The Giver, then you can read Son. You could probably skip Messenger if you are really pressed for time, but Gathering Blue is a great book on its own. and you need it a little bit for Son. But still — read The Giver. And If you read it a while ago and want to read the newest book, re-read The Giver and it will help you follow along a bit better.

And don’t wait for the movie to come out. While I have all the faith in the world in Jeff Bridges, who knows what will happen with Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes on screen.

All in, I give it a 4 out of 5. The ending felt rushed and the middle felt long, but I am crazy about the series and many of the characters. Enjoy!

 

National Novel Writing Month October 1, 2013

Filed under: Book Industry,Other Book Media — megabooklove @ 8:34 am
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National Novel Writing Month is nearly upon us!

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a 30-day period where experienced and amateur writers all over the country commit to drafting a novel, start to finish, from the morning of November 1 through 11:59pm on November 30. The goal is to create a complete rough first draft of 50,000 words by yourself — without using any of your previous writings.

Writers are often plagued with serious levels of procrastination, and a bunch of posers claiming to be writers who have not really written everything, like myself. People who call themselves writers or even think themselves writers are able to skirt along on this delusion without really producing anything.

This year, and this is something I promised myself on New Year’s 2011, 2012 and 2013, things will be different. To date, I haven’t written anything for myself that isn’t this blog or a to-do list. I’m happy (and nervous) to announce that my non-writing guilt will be assuaged come December 1. I have registered and told one person, and now you, blog, that I will be participating in NaNoWriMo 2013!

I have an idea ready to rock and I am appropriately wasting some planning time by reading 90 Days to Your Novel, a guide to writing a book in a short time. NaNoWriMo’s rules tell me that I can outline and research before November 1, so that the full month is dedicated to writing alone. And the 90 Days writing guide tells me it will take about a month to create a strong outline. The list-making person I have become appreciates this lead time and will relish the thought of being bale to start before I can start, because i am certain I will run out of steam before the end of the challenge.

This will be my first book. (It feels great to type that! And actually believe it!)

 

Book Review: Bossypants, by Tina Fey September 29, 2013

Filed under: Book Review,Buzzfeed — megabooklove @ 10:49 am
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I had wanted to read this book for a while and I was happy to see that it was part of Buzzfeed’s list. In fact, it was one of the only ones on the list I had known about and wanted to read.

Was it funny? In parts. It was a lot of silly storytelling, which i suppose is what an autobiography of a comedian is. But it was certainly more of a bio than a comedic (maybe that’s on my end and not the book’s fault) or inspiring (like Lean In).

Certainly there is one-sided discussion of women in comedy, and that there has been a long running thought that women are not funny and no one wants to see a comedic scene between two women. Obviously, this is wrong, though i feel inclined to point out that on this year’s Emmy’s featured an award for best comedic writing and scrolled through staff after staff of exclusively or almost exclusively male writers on every nominated show but Girls. WTF.

The best parts

The funniest part of Bossypants (and yes I will go ahead and ruin it for you) is when she mentions her most proud moment as an adult, which involved being a good boss and being able to tell her staff on 30 Rock that they would be able to keep their jobs for a second season, was followed immediately by her proudest moment as a child, where she beat her uncle in Scrabble with the word FARTING. Love that.

Best piece of advice in the book:

“So my unsolicited advice to women in the workplace is this. When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following questions: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work and outpacing people that what. Then, when you’re in charge, don’t hire the people who were jerky to you. If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road in front of you.” (pg 144-145) This more difficult road is then explained through a defunct Sesame Street reference about kids solving problems by navigating old construction sites.

All in, i give it a 3 out of 5. It was worth reading, and there were definitely many more things that I liked than things I did not like. But i guess i was expecting more. Especially after reading Lean In, there seems to be a lot more to say about being a successful person in a tough and aggressive field, and I wanted a little more. I’m glad I read it but I don’t think it changed my life or my perspective much, and maybe that is a high standard, but it is what I want from a book — to walk away with something more than when I started. Otherwise it’s really just lost hours.

 

Book Review: Red Kayak, Priscilla Cummings August 26, 2013

Filed under: Book Review — megabooklove @ 9:45 pm
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Coming highly recommended by my mom, I read this book, Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings. It’s nothing I would have picked off the shelf or even looked at to read the back cover. But I’m glad I did.

This book was good. A likable main character/narrator with endearing humility and integrity, a central theme so clear any reader could imagine the predicament and apply it, and a thoughtful perspective on friendship and morality.  You understand Brady and you feel for him.

A kids’ book (probably in the YA section), the book was easy to start and read all the way through without stopping. It was well paced with a no-frills style that matched the setting and the situation. Every thought, every action the reader witnessed garnered a reasonable follow through. The book was itself like a little trip out on a creek – the story launches, then there is a clear, calm progression of events and a story you could get a little lost in for a short time, feeling like part of Brady’s chill world.

All in, worth more than the few hours it takes to read. Very good, very enjoyable.

 

Book Review: Main Street, Sinclair Lewis (Buzzfeed List) August 22, 2013

Filed under: Book Review — megabooklove @ 12:14 pm
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There has been an awful lot of talk of the Great American Novel, in the sense that it hasn’t been written yet. After Main Street, I disagree.

Main Street captures the naïve idealism, the ostracism of hope, the wavering commitment of a young little revolutionary, desperate to make a substantial wave in the lake of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, society. Carol moves through her life expecting something greater and then usually deigning to instead make due with what she’s got. She is occasionally happy, often frivolous, but still stays true to herself. Certainly there are moments of accommodation, as there must be in any survival-of-the-fittest in small town society, but she does not allow peer pressures to pay her maid less or stop being friends with some of the town Swedes.

There is a lot of description. There are a lot of things I thought would happen that didn’t, and things I didn’t expect to happen that did. It was long, but the story moved forward at the slow pace of Gopher Prairie itself.

This book is set in the years before World War 1, so before America had sustained its biggest and most unexpected gashes – the Great Depression and Pearl Harbor, among others – and before the Roaring Twenties. This allows Main Street to tell the tale of hometown life for a young vivacious woman in the dawn of American modernity. It is honest, open, and allows readers to come in and get equally comfortable with the endearing details and the flaws.

Looking at Wikipedia’s list of books at one time considered Great American Novels, I am disappointed Sinclair Lewis is not present for any of his works (which won big time awards that he opted not to accept) but Beloved by Toni Morrison is. Don’t get me wrong, Beloved is a great book, but does it really tell the tale of America? I also object to the presence of Lolita on this list. These inclusions make me think there will never be a unanimously selected Great American Novel because the criteria here has been stretched to bestow respect to already widely respected books.

All in, Main Street is a good story, maybe even a great one, but I’m not begging you to run out and read it. If you have a big block of time and you want to develop a relationship with a book and its characters, go for it. You can fall in and out of it easily, like meeting up with a friend you are happy to see and happy to leave, and glad to wish well. I’m actually more interested in Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here.

Truth be told, this is the first book I’ve completed on the Buzzfeed list, which I committed to reading all or 75% of by the time I’m 30. If this is the likes of what I’m in for I don’t think I’ll make it. Time will tell!

 

 
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