Thursday, April 16, 2015

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver.

“That's what life is, pretty much: full of holes and tangles and ways to get stuck. Uncomfortable and itchy. A present you never asked for, never wanted, never chose. A present you're supposed to be excited to wear, day after day, even when you'd rather stay in bed and do nothing.” 

So, I had really high expectations for Vanishing Girls, and while it didn't meet all of them, I still really enjoyed it. There is something very...warm and familiar about Oliver's writing so that even though I may not love the story, I love the writing (the same happened when I read Panic and Requiem). 

I'm not saying that this is a bad book. By all means, it isn't. There are so many wonderful things here to love. First, Oliver has a very lyrical and musical style in her writing. It makes reading one of her books a joy because you get a bit sucked in by the language. Every once in awhile I stop to mull over her word choices, but I always enjoyed the way she strings things together.

Second, this book had, what I consider to be, the strongest sibling relationship I've seen in quite some time. And I'm not talking about siblings who love and support each other to the ends of the earth, but the real gritty kind of relationship-where there is jealousy and competition and comparison. I found myself totally absorbed in learning the relationship between Dara and Nicole. Both are resentful of the other, but will barely admit it to themselves, let alone each other. That competition and jealousy fuels a lot of the action in the novel.

As I was reading about Nick being jealous of Dara, or vice versa, I was reminded of my own relationship with my siblings. I have two older brothers and a younger sister. I'm closer in age to my brothers than my sister, so we were closer in school and other things that brought about a lot of silent competition in our house. Both of my brothers are incredibly intelligent, particularly in math and science. They were also very athletic growing up, where I struggled in team sports (I danced through the ninth grade, but I also played softball). Once the 3 of us were all in high school (as a senior, junior, and freshman), there WAS competition between us. They excelled in different areas than I did, so it did create a lot of resentment and jealousy on my part. Thankfully I grew out of that, but I could relate so well to Dara and Nicole.

With my own sister, who is 6 years younger than me, I never had to feel that jealousy. I don't know if she ever felt that towards me, but we were so far removed in age and experiences (I was in college by the time she was in high school) that it never became a problem like is does in Vanishing Girls.

Back to the novel, the story basically follows Nick and Dara through a summer after a horrific car accident. Both girls were injured and had been kept apart by their divorced parents. Most of the book is told from Nick's perspective, as she returns home and tries to rebuild a relationship with Dara, who ignores her sister and hides in her room. As the reader, we follow both girls around town and learn more about their relationship before the accident and after. Their rivalry is uncovered and we begin to piece together what happened.

But then a girl named Madeline Snow disappears, and a few days later, so does Dara. In a panic, Nick begins to search for Dara and pulls the pieces together. 

It really is a well done and steady piece of YA, but my one complaint....well, the ending. There is a twist that I won't talk too much about, but I didn't like it and felt like I was taken out of the narrative a bit too much by Oliver. I actually had to stop reading and go back to other passages in the book to verify what I had thought I read (and I was right in my interpretations). It just threw me in a way I didn't like. I am writing this right after finishing, so perhaps my opinion will changes as I let the book simmer for a bit, so I will edit if that happens.

In all, this was a good piece of YA that still makes me want to read more by Oliver (and this was way better than Panic). If you're looking for a bit of a thriller with a very dynamic sibling relationship, this is your book. 

“This is it: somehow, in these pictures, the mystery of the accident is contained, and the explanation for Dara's subsequent behavior, for the silences and disappearances. Don't ask me how. I just do. If you don't understand that, I guess you've never had a sister” 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Inspiring Quotes from Books.

Another Tuesday, and another top ten list from the folks at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week asks us for our top ten inspiring quotes from books, which I am all over. I keep a small pack of post-it tabs near me when I'm reading, so I am constantly marking favorite passages and lines.

I hope you enjoy what I picked-I think there is a wide variety here!

In no particular order....

from "All the Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven

Edith Wharton's "The House of Mirth"

from "Looking for Alaska" by John Green

from "The Odyssey" by Homer

from Kate Chopin's "The Awakening"

"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte

"Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville

from "The Great Gatsby"

from Arthur Miller's "The Crucible"

from Charles Dickens' "David Copperfield"

Monday, April 13, 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell.

“You don't know when you're twenty-three.
You don't know what it really means to crawl into someone else's life and stay there. You can't see all the ways you're going to get tangled, how you're going to bond skin to skin. How the idea of separating will feel in five years, in ten - in fifteen. When Georgie thought about divorce now, she imagined lying side by side with Neal on two operating tables while a team of doctors tried to unthread their vascular systems.
She didn't know at twenty-three.” 

I have loved all of Rowell's books, and Landline is no exception to that love. Truthfully, I put off reading it until well after the debut out of fear that it wouldn't live up to her other titles. And while I do have one small complaint about it, I really loved this title (more on that complaint in a bit).

Essentially, Landline is about Georgie McCool and her husband Neal. They married relatively young and while Georgie undoubtedly loves her husband, she's not the best at showing him how much. The novel begins when Georgie has to back out of a family trip to Neal's childhood home for work, and Neal decides to leave without her, taking their two daughters with him. For whatever reason, Georgie cannot get in touch with Neal once he leaves, and she is forced to face the fact that perhaps their marriage isn't as solid as she once thought. The book follows her thoughts throughout that separation (with a bit of magical realism thrown in), and shows her thinking back to the beginnings of their relationship.

This book was one of those titles that hit me at the right place and in the right time. I think, had I read this before I got married, I would have been bored by the very real marriage parts of this. And I think a lot of Georgie and Neal's relationship as a married couple is realistic. My husband and I discussed the other day that we sometimes go in waves in terms of commitment and energy invested into our relationship. When he was working his incredibly stressful job, I took on more responsibility and care for us and our home. When he was unemployed, that responsibility shifted to his shoulders. Now we're pretty even as he is back in school. I think that kind of give and take is normal in a relationship.

What's abnormal is when one participant in the relationship takes more and more without ever giving, which is the situation Georgie finds herself in. As Rowell writes,

“Nobody's lives just fit together. Fitting together is something you work at. It's something you make happen - because you love each other.” 

I find that to be very true after 5+ years of marriage and 13 years of being with Matt. And while I know that might seem insignificant to some, I do know that we have learned that making a life together is all about that balance and that we must work to maintain that balance. For that, this book really resonated with me in my current (happily) married state. It was just an affirmation of something I already knew-that love and fitting together takes a lot of work. If you expect it to just happen and be fine forever, you have some struggles in the future.

I also loved the flashback between Georgie's current relationship with Neal to her memories and conversations with Neal as a young twenty-something. The portions about long conversations on the phone for hours and hours made me melt a bit, as it brought back memories from my senior year of high school, right after Matt and I started dating. There were a few times I fell asleep as we talked into the early morning hours. :)

I found myself making comparisons between that part of their relationship and my own, as I know how hard it is to be young and in love. I also know that as you grow older, you do change and mature. You've got to accept those changes.

The other aspect of the novel that I enjoyed was Neal's attitude toward Seth-Georgie's co-worker and friend since college. There were a couple of times in the novel where I thought that Neal was finally going to flip on Georgie for still being bonded to a male friend, but when he treated Georgie's relationship with Seth as important to her and her happiness and goals...well, I found it refreshing. How often do we read about a male imposing restrictions on their wife and her relationship with other men? Too many. For that, I really gained respect for Neal.

My one complaint? I felt that at times some of the scenes dragged on a little too long. The puppies? Not really necessary. Some of the whining? Not needed either. But neither was distracting enough to pull me away from finishing this in two sittings.

In all, I found Landline to be refreshing and as hopeful as some of Rowell's other work. I think she has a knack for creating relatable characters (Heather! I would love more about her!). I look forward to seeing what else Rowell has in store!

“Nothing good is easy.” 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Weekend Update for April 12, 2015: End of Spring Break and Reading Binge.

Hi everyone! It's hard to believe that we're halfway through the month already, isn't it? Since today is the 12th, it also marks that I have exactly 2 months until the end of the school year. Our third quarter ended before break, so we only have a short time left before glorious summer. :) I have a lot to get done in that time!

But I digress...this last week was my spring break. We had a little bit of a longer break since we had the Friday before off as well (it was our "Records" day). I had a lot of plans for over break-reading, doing some work on my National Board Portfolio, cleaning, and grading. To be honest, I spent a lot of time doing domestic things-doing a bit of spring cleaning, catching up on laundry, as well as cooking and spending time organizing some things that needed organized. I also read quite a bit (I think 4? Maybe 5?). I did a little grading...and read through some materials for my NB stuff....

Today, after I finish writing this entry, will be spent on a bit of a grading binge. I started a bit last night (and totally forgot how much I had to do). I have some things that NEED to get on third quarter, so those will be my priority. I also have....96 essays on The Crucible that I should get to soon.

But I did enjoy my break and spent it as a break. I needed it. I was feeling pretty negative before this week, so I'm ready to get back to work refreshed and ready to go. I also need to set a little more time aside for get my NB stuff done-I'm thinking next weekend will be spent catching up on that so I can enjoy the readathon the week after!

Speaking of reading, I read some good things this week. Here's the list (I had to double check on Goodreads to make sure I'm remembering correctly):
  • Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
  • Fables Volume 3
  • Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  • Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver
  • Fables Volume 4
Sure, 3 of them are graphic novels....but who cares? :) I also (finally) got a copy of Battle Royale by Koushin Takami yesterday, so I'm excited to read that as well. I didn't expect it to be as long as it is, but I'm sure it will be a fast read.

I really need to get back into some of the classics. I've been neglecting them the last month or so. I did start Lady Audley's Secret a couple weeks ago, but set it aside. I think that might be my next big read.

Anyway, the piles of grading are calling me. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Fables V. 1 and 2 by Bill Willingham.

I first read Fables a few years ago (I actually believe I read the first 6 or 7 right after we moved into this apartment). I remember flying through the volumes my library had available, and enjoying them, but beyond that, my memories are pretty hazy. They came back to my attention a month ago, when I started to notice the comics everywhere on social media. It seemed like everyone I follow on Instagram and twitter were posting about the series. So, I was inspired.

After the first two volumes arrived a couple weeks ago from Amazon, I flew through them both. While the story in each was familiar, I was still surprised and fascinated by the world Willingham created.

The first volume, titled Legends in Exile, introduces the readers to the modern world of the Fables. Years before, the Adversary rose up in their homelands and many escaped to our world in exile. They set up a government in New York City for those in human form, while their animal counterparts found residence in an upstate farm.

The first volume focuses on some of our main characters (and from what I remember, their arc lasts for quite some least through what I read before). Snow White works as the administrative assistant to King Cole, the leader of Fabletown. Although, Snow really just runs the show. The Big Bad Wolf is now known as Bigby and he is the sheriff of sorts. From the beginning, there are many references to their original stories, but obviously modernized to fit this new world.

The first volume follows the story and investigation of the murder of Snow White's sister, Rose Red. It's through this investigation that we slowly get introduced to some of the big names and faces on Fabletown. I think the author does a great job of honoring the original fairy tales and stories so that readers feel comfortable with the characters, but he also takes it further and modernizes their lives to fit his new world. I was drawn in immediately and read the volume in one sitting (it is pretty slim compared to some of the others).

Volume 2 continues the story as events go down at the northern farm for the non-human Fables. Sick of being secluded to the boundaries of the farm, many of the non-human Fables are ready to rise against the human occupants of Fabletown and reclaim their places back in their homeworlds.

Unlike the first volume, this did not feel like an introduction. Since the lead characters were mostly familiar, it was very much a continuation of the story established in part one. I also liked that it was brought to a resounding close. I mean, I know the story continues, but this very much felt like a complete story on its own (again, if I remember clearly, I don't think that is the case later on).

I also enjoyed that Willingham also brings in characters and stories that aren't necessary fables or fairy tales. There is definitely some influence from mythology in both volumes, as well as literary texts. It makes for interesting reading, as you are;t quite sure who's going to pop up and where.

In all, I'm enjoying my little reread of this series. While I did order 3 more volumes (3 and 4, as well as the standalone companion, 1001 Nights of Snowfall), reading through the whole series will take me some time. These are titles I want to own and keep, so purchasing will need to be spread out, as they are a little pricey.

Let me know your thoughts on this series if you read them, and if there are other comics series I need to get my hands on!