I Really Need to Blog More…

Palisades Park by Alan Brennert
2013, 416 pages

I am so bad at blogging lately! I read this book at least two, maybe even three, weeks ago and didn’t blog about it. It wasn’t that it was bad, I just apparently didn’t want to write about it. So now it is much later and I need to just get on with it! So here we go.

Palisades Park was, once, a real place in New Jersey.

According to the book it closed in the 1970s. The book follows the effect this amusement park had on the Stopka family. Eddie Stopka first visits the park with his parents when he is a young boy. He loved it so much he never forgot it. Fast forward and he meets and then marries his wife in the park. His children are raised in the park. His daughter wants to become a high diver, based on those she has seen in the park.

The book starts in the 1920s, and goes up to the end of the 1960s. The Depression, World War II, Korean War, and the Civil Rights Movement are all parts of the plot.

The author himself went to Palisades Park himself as a child. The book is like a love letter from him to the park. It’s well written, and interesting. Worth a read.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
2013, 400 pages

This book is pure silliness. And that is awesome. It switches back and forth between sisters Fliss (Felicity, because I was wondering where the nickname ‘Fliss’ could possibly come from) and Lottie. Lottie proposes to her boyfriend, Richard, and he panics. The rejection is too much for Lottie and she jumps headfirst into a relationship with a former boyfriend she hasn’t seen in fifteen years.

Lottie, determined to end her poor dating record, decides that there will be no sex until they are married. Of course the new boyfriend decides that they must get married immediately! The rest of the book is about Fliss’s attempts to sabotage her sister’s wedding night so that Lottie can get out of the marriage if she wants to.

It’s a hilarious comedy of errors, and should definitely become a movie.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
2013, 433 pages

Where do I go with this book? There were things I enjoyed, and things I really did not care for. Regardless, I stayed up way too late finishing it last night. That made it a book that I read in one day. Generally that doesn’t happen unless I liked it. So…..what does it all mean?!

I should probably explain the plot before I go picking it apart. Essentially it is this: 18-year-old Cath and her twin, Wren, move in to college. Cath is introverted, and always seemed to follow her twin around. Wren decides they need some space in college and becomes the party college girl, complete with hospital trip due to too much alcohol. Cath resists making friends, talking to people in public, general friendliness. She writes fan fiction based on a series (very Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia….I mean, we know what it’s about) that she loved as a kid. Her sister used to write with her, but does not now. The eighth book in the series is coming out, and Cath is determined to finish her novel version before the real one comes out. She spends a lot of time on message boards. Her father’s a little manic, there is boyfriend drama, there you have it.

The bad:

First of all, the names. There are twins, Cather and Wren. The reason is explained that the mother did not pick out two names, just one, and so split it between the two. Cather is too close to catheter, as both I and my friend Alyisha observed, to make it an acceptable name.

The fanfiction angle. I get it, I appreciate that it exists. I have never read fan fiction, but I’m sure there is some wonderful stuff. Someone can point me in a direction and I will give it a shot. However, in what universe is finishing a fiction novel online more important than, you know, taking your finals and staying in college?

Family drama: dad’s a manic and sometimes needs to be hospitalized, the twin is a drunk because, you know, that’s what you’re doing in college, and a mother who abandoned them. No wonder she’s disappearing into fan fiction. Her life is kind of sad times.

The good:

Well, I did finish it in one night. I needed to know how the boy drama ended! No YA book is complete without boy drama!

The girl is not a pushover. She doesn’t want to just sleep with guys, so good for her. She has her own world and she wants to keep it, even if it is considered lame by others, so also good. She had her own opinions and she kept them. She didn’t go changing because of boys. So, again, that is good.

The story was fast paced and an easy read. Good in this sense.

The book is interspersed with chapters from both Cath’s fan fiction and the imaginary series that she took her ideas from. The parts were good, and seemed like it could actually be a series.

Rating: I think 4 out of 5. I’m indecisive.


Austenland: Book vs. Movie

Austenland by Shannon Hale
2007, 197 pages

2013, 97 minutes

The plot for both the book and the movie stays surprisingly the same, hurray! Jane Hayes is a 30-something living in New York with a very serious Mr. Darcy obsession. It has cost her boyfriends, relationships and general normalness. Through one way or another she ends up going on a three week vacation to Austenland in England. There you are completely immersed in Regency England and are essentially a heroine from a Jane Austen novel. Actors are hired to play the male characters, there is a Colonel Andrews, Mr. Nobley, Captain East, your general Jane Austen men. Each female guest gets a man assigned to her to complete the Austen fantasy. The last night there is a ball, and all women will be proposed to by the suitor that they are assigned.

Jane can’t decide between the gardener, Martin, and Mr. Nobley, the Mr. Darcy of the bunch. Jane also has to decide what is real and what isn’t. Are any of the relationships real? Would any last outside of Austenland?

The plot of both is similar, but I found the movie much more amusing. The reason for this: Jennifer Coolidge. She plays the man-hungry, fake-British-accent lady with all the hilarious lines in the movie.

Don’t hang yourself, Jane!

Anyway, both are awesome and worth a read or a watch. I would definitely recommend the movie, as I laughed pretty much the whole time. And that is always a good thing.

Rating for book: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles
Rating for movie: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

September 14: Things I’ve Read This Week

I believe I have mentioned the full-time teaching job, and the long commute. However, that does little to get rid of the fact that I still enjoy reading for a while in the evening as a way of unwinding. However, this will turn my book posts into weekly posts for the foreseeable future.

Earth by Jon Stewart
2010, approximately 200 minutes

My first audiobook foray was disappointing. This, however, was anything but. The first thing that I have noticed is that I am a much more visual person than an auditory one. I have a really hard time being able to focus on the threads of a narrative for an extended period of time in the car, while driving and listening. This may have to do with the fact that I am multitasking, but I also prefer reading words. I have an easier time remembering things that I have seen than things I have heard.

Anyway, I have found the perfect audiobook for this!
1. It is funny.
2. It is narrated by the author, the always fabulous Jon Stewart and his Daily Show crew.
3. Did I mention it was funny?

Sadly I do not remember enough to be able to justify these claims, but it’s a good time. I promise.

*Side note* I found Earth, the book version, today. I will have to read it and compare.

Rating: 4 out of 5 bedazzles

Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal
2013, 368 pages

The third entry in the “Glamourist Histories.” It is Jane Austen meets people who can create illusions out of the ether. This entry, not so awesome. The main idea is that the weather in 1816 is so cold that there is no summer, and there is snow even in July. This is being blamed on coldmongerers, glamourists (the magician people) who deal with making things cold in summer. So, essentially, they create the air conditioning instead of machines.

There are riots, and personal problems too. Jane is busy trying to find a husband for her younger sister. In a word, meh.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Naked by David Sedaris
2001, 3 hours

This audiobook took me three days to listen to. That was nice. I also figured that since the Jon Stewart audiobook worked out well for me that I would try this one. Also a humor writer, also narrated by the author. (David’s sister, Amy Sedaris, is pretty awesome, she reads many of the female parts of the book in different, ridiculous accents.) However, I did not enjoy this quite as much as I did Earth.

For one thing, what Sedaris sounded like in my head when I read his other books and what he actually sounds like are two very different things. That was odd, and threw me for a bit of a loop. It also seems more serious than some of his other books. Many of the stories talk about his childhood. It just seemed a little down.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 bedazzles

Speed Round

Steaming cup of coffee? Check.

How do I learn how to do this?!

Cuddly blanket and a comfy seat on the couch, complete with cat sitting on my legs? Check.

Let’s get down to the reviews, shall we?

Unfortunately, many of the books on my pile are sequels to others. I have to say, writing a review of a sequel is really hard. How much do I give away? How much do I have to avoid if you haven’t read the previous books? This is my conundrum, but we will see how this goes.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
2009, 541 pages

City of Glass is the third entry in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. Based on reading the book jacket, I think that this was originally supposed to be a trilogy. However, it has since expanded to five books with a spin off series as well.

This book involves main character Clary and friends traveling to Alicante, the city of Shadowhunters, to try and convince them that Valentine, evil Shadowhunter who wants to get rid of all Shadowhunters who accept Downworlds (mortals, vampires, werewolves, etc.), needs to be stopped. There is a battle, naturally.

I did not enjoy this book as much as the first two. It involved some skimming at the end. It just did not have as much suspense as the first two. I was able to guess how things were going to go. I also think that it wrapped up the trilogy pretty well, and so it did not need to include two more books.

Rating: 3 out of 5 bedazzles

If the Shoe Fits by Megan Mulry
2013, 313 pages

I thought that this was going to be some form of romance in which it reinterprets a fairy tale. I like those. It was not that. Sarah James, shoe designer, has a weekend fling with Devon Heyworth, earl of something-or-other. They then decide that they want to be together. Misunderstandings ensue, and they end up happily ever after.

It was not the best of romance. Other issue, totally not enough shoes.

Rating: 2 out of 5 bedazzles

And now we come to the new category of book reviews: the audiobook.

My commute is now about 40 minutes, which means that I spend almost an hour and a half in the car every day. The radio gets boring pretty quickly, so I have decided to begin borrowing audiobooks. My first audiobook, not a success.

The Suitors by Cecile David-Weill
2013, 7 discs and 8 hours 47 minutes

Oh my issues with this book. It was translated from French, and I just wonder if it read much better in French instead of in English. The story is about Laure Etangre and her sister Marie, who find out that their parents are going to sell their Mediterranean vacation home. They are rich, their parents are rich, and their friends are rich. The two girls decide that they should search for rich suitors to marry in order to keep their vacation home. Yeah, that is the plot.

Nothing really happens in the book, just minute descriptions of dinners and lunches and obnoxious people.

Another huge problem: the narrator. I didn’t care for her voice, accent, or the way that she read the book. It was allllll bad times. But I finished it, so I guess good job me?

Rating: 1 out of 5 bedazzles