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Okay, you guys. I did it. I read Gatsby because I despise seeing movies without having read the book first.  (This is why I haven't seen Anna Karenina, because I couldn't get through the novel.  I'm determined to sometime, but now is not that time...) Somehow I escaped both high school and college without having read it, and now, like a good little librarian, I picked up a copy at a used book sale and settled down to read it this week.

Look, I'll admit, the writing is gorgeous.  But duh, it's Fitzgerald. There's a reason he's a "Great American Writer"...although, in the spirit of honesty, I haven't read anything else of his.  Have I mentioned that I'm a strange kind of English Major?

So, okay, the writing was nice and I get the story and I feel for Gatsby (and kind of love him) and Nick is just an innocent bystander, but I want to slap the hell out of Daisy and punch Tom and shake Myrtle til she shapes up.  And Jordan? Oh, I don't know, she's not innocent either, she knows what happened, she was privy to it all, and unlike Nick, who tried to find a way to make things better, she just removed herself from the situation. 

I want to say "what's the point" and "why bother writing it/reading it" but I guess maybe that's the point? To make me feel things? Isn't that what all writing is about? So sure, I felt things.  Gatsby spent all his life trying to get into this society just to have everyone eff him over in the end.  And Daisy is a huge bitch and Tom is an ignorant jerk.  And Nick is a bystander and Jordan is....I don't know...I want to like her, I do.

The only time I related to Daisy was when she was crying over how hot it was. I do that.  I cry when it's too hot and exclaim over how I can't handle it. 

And I'll tell you something else.  I'm ordering Gin & Tonics at trivia tonight. 

 
 
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This review is pulled from my review on Good Reads. 


There is something, some line that you cross when you're reading a fantastic book. There are lots of wonderful books I've read that I think "oh that was just perfect and wonderful and I will tell everyone to read it." There are books that speak directly to me, books that have such relatable characters that I fall in love, find a new best friend, and barely can come up for air.

And then there are those few books, those beautiful rare specimens that feel like they're changing my life. That I'm in love with and obsessed with and completely overrun with, and then there is something, sometimes just the smallest detail, a simple sentence, a shining singular moment that pushes me over the edge, brings me to tears of joy and sorrow and grief and pain and love, to such great heights of emotion that the book has to be set down because I can't read it through the tears. 

Eleanor & Park kept me up until 2 in the morning reading it. I wanted Eleanor to be my best friend, for Park to be my boyfriend, I wanted to find Rainbow and hug her for a day for reminding me what it was like to fall in love when you're 16. Not fantasy vampire, post-apocalyptic, unrealistic Romeo & Juliet kind of love, but real, honest-to-goodness I can't live without this person because I've never felt this way about anyone and I cannot believe he feels the same and simply speaking on the phone is enough to make my entire brain melt and my heart pound and my palms sweat. Is it fleeting? For me? Of course. I mean, but no, because reading this tugged at so many heartstrings I didn't know how to breathe properly, and I realize that 16 year old love doesn't typically last but when you're 16, you have no fucking clue that it doesn't and that's what matters.

And all this was well and good, and Eleanor's life is so devastating in this novel that I simply want to pick her and her siblings and her mom up and move them directly into my home where they can have their own beds and plenty of food and happiness to spare. I am emotionally invested in these people and they matter to me. And then Eleanor compared her life to children's novels and my heart shattered into a million pieces all over the pages of the book and I had to set it down in order to pick them back up again. 

Page 294: 
"If Eleanor were the hero of some book, like the Boxcar Children or something, she'd try. If she were Dicey Tillerman, she'd find a way. She'd be brave and noble, and she'd find a way. But she wasn't. Eleanor wasnt' any of those things. She was just trying to get through the night."

I read the sentence about the boxcar children and my heart fell and surged and loved Eleanor and the Rainbow Rowell just a little bit more. The Boxcar Children, those stories that all of my generation have at the very least heard of and many of us have read. Those books that still get plenty of use in my library today. Sure, I read them religiously for a while, alongside my babysitter's club books, stacked up by my chair on the porch, but the boxcar children are still a generic experience for readers of the world, and even non-readers. We all know them. 

It is that second sentence, that shout-out to readers, that perfectly worded sentence that doesn't mention an actual book, just Dicey, that immediately shouted to me about Homecoming and Dicey and walking hundreds of miles with her siblings and hiding in ditches and sticking to the woods and eating at the park and picking up odd jobs at grocery stores when she could so she could feed her family. With just that tiny little mention of Cynthia Voigt's heroine, I burst promptly into uncontrollable tears and had to set the book down to write this all out and get it down on paper (screen) before I forgot how strongly it made me feel all the feelings.



AND NOW that I have finished it, I can tell you honestly that I still think about it frequently, that it has embedded itself into my thoughts and dreams, and I can't recommend it to you strongly enough. 

 
 
Every now and then I get greedy when it comes to books.  We'll get a shipment of new ones for the library and they sound good and I want to be the first one to read them and I get flustered when I can't pick just one, so I go and pick way more than is possible to read at one time and confuse the hell out of myself with all the different characters and plot-lines and I just don't care because as long as they're all good, I'm happy.

This time around, I've got 4 books. Three recent arrivals, and one I picked up that we've had for a while and I've been meaning to read, and now I feel guilty if I return it to the shelf. (Sometimes I think that books have feelings...) The four books are all really different, which is helpful when you're reading more than one book at a time.  I've got a romance novel (not usually my style, explanation to come), an adult fiction novel about a bookstore (precisely my style), a YA dystopian sort of novel, and a YA novel that will probably make me feel all the feelings, a la The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. 


Reading: links will take you to Google Books Preview of each novel
The Best Man by Kristan Higgans (Romance novel, set in the Finger Lakes. Hammondsport's name has been changed to Manningsport.)
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (this is the one about the bookstore, in case you couldn't tell...)
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski (YA Dystopian-ish)
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (YA feelings....also, the author's name is Rainbow....just in case you glossed over that, I felt as though it should be brought to your attention)

What They're About:
The Best Man: While Romance novels aren't normally my cup of tea, I think that a little trashy mass-market reading every now and then is good for the soul. Or the mind.  Or your love life. Whatever. I picked this one up because the author set the entire thing here in our backyard.  She thanks Fulkerson Winery and its owners (I graduated high school with the owner's son, NINE years ago, god I'm old), as well as Heron Hill winery (the winery in the novel is called "Blue Heron").  So, this book is about Faith (her sisters are Prudence and Honor, and secretly I love those kinds of names) and how she's inevitably attracted to the wrong men, whether they be gay, married, drug dealers, etc.  She decides to move back home for a few months to do some work on the family winery (she's a landscape architect...I swear, people in romance novels and romantic comedies have the most awesome sounding jobs) and once home, she ends up falling for the best friend of her former (and gay) fiance. 

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore: I'm making a point of not reading about this book because it was one of those things where the title grabbed me and after reading the first two pages, I was in love with the writing and the circumstances. But basically, an unemployed graphic designer type person in their mid-twenties finds a job at aforementioned bookstore.  I'm a sucker for books about books (Glaciers, The Borrower, The Shadow of the Wind, The Broken Tea Glass, etc) and that's what brought me to this novel.  Here's a paragraph from chapter 2 that describes the bookstore, and kind of the novel, also. 

"Penumbra sells used books, and they are in such uniformly excellent condition that they might as well be new.  He buys them during the day--you can only sell to the man with his name on the windows--and he must be a tough customer.  He doesn't seem to pay much attention to the bestseller lists.  His inventory is eclectic; there's no evidence of pattern or purpose other than, I suppose, his own personal taste.  So, no teenage wizards or vampire police here.  That's a shame, because this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard.  This it he kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard."

In the same way that the store makes you want to enter it and search for books, Sloan's writing makes me want to fall into this story he's created. 

The Shadow Society: I don't know much of anything and I haven't even started reading this, so you're getting jacket copy here:

Darcy Jones doesn't remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse.  She has never really belonged anywhere--but she couldn't have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn't happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.  Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at their high school., and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn't thought possible  But Conn's interest in her is confusing. It doesn't line up with the way he first looked at her.  As if she were his enemy.
When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can't rely on anything--not her self, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him.  Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades'  latest terrorist plot.  What she finds out will change her world forever. 

The book is described as "compulsively readable", and let's face it, it sounds pretty badass. This is the one I've picked up multiple times only to end up putting it back on the shelf when something else comes along. I can't keep hurting its feelings, you guys.  I will read this. Unless it's terrible, but somehow I don't think that's the case.

Eleanor & Park: This grabbed my interest because of the quotes on the cover.  I'm a sucker for quotes from authors I love, so when I saw that Gayle Forman (author of If I Stay and Where She Went, two beautifully written YA novels) said "This sexy, smeart, tender romance thrums with punk rock and true love. Readers will swoon for...", and that John Green (author of the INCREDIBLE The Fault In Our Stars, as well as Looking For Alaska, two huge favorites of mine) said that it "reminded [him] not just what it's like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it's like to be young and in love with a book", I realized I had to read this immediately, because their opinions are gold in my world. 

Thoughts: I obviously can't review anything yet because I've just started reading all of them, but I will tell you that I'm really enjoying all of them, enough so that I don't even mind the extra weight of 4 books in my bag everywhere I go.  I carry large purses for a reason, people.  I will post reviews as the books are finished, and if anyone is interested in picking up one of the four, I'd love to talk to you about it when we're both done!

 
 
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Reading: "The Never List" by Koethi Zan (On Sale July 16, 2013)
What it's about: (from the back cover)
For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the "Never List": a list of actions to be avoided, for saftey's sake, at all costs. But one night they accept a cab ride with grave, everlasting consequences.  For the next three years, they are held captive with two other girls in a dungeon-like cellar by a connoisseur of sadism.
Ten years later, at thirty-one, Sarah is still struggling to resume a normal life, unable to come to grips with the fact that Jennifer didn't make it out of that cellar.  Now, her abductor is up for parole and Sarah can no longer ignore the twisted letters he sends from jail.
Finally, Sarah decides to confront her phobias--and the other survivors, who hold their own deep grudges against her.  When she goes on a cross-country chase that takes her into the perverse world of BDSM, secret cults, and the arcane study of torture, she begins unraveling a mystery more horrifying than even she could have imagined.  
A shocking, blazingly fast read, Koethi Zan's debut is a must for fans of Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman, and S. J. Watson.
How I got it/Initial thoughts: Via Shelf Awareness, a subscription email, I applied for the offer of a free ARC (advance reader copy) from the publisher, Penguin.  The book was touted as a new kind of "Gone Girl" (isn't everything lately?) and a fast-paced thriller. The quote on the back, from Jeffrey Deaver (he wrote Dexter, right?...no, apparently he wrote other things...who writes Dexter? ah, Jeff Lindsay...thanks, Google) claims that I better cancel my appointments and prepare to give up on sleep.  Given my trouble with getting truly hooked on novels lately, I was supremely Excited with a capital E to start it.
Thoughts: At the time of this review, I'm on page 225 of 303 pages.  In the beginning, it was definitely fast-paced, though I have definitely found myself skimming certain parts as I am wont to do when I'm just really interested in how everything gets resolved. This isn't the fault of the author, I just think that unless the writing is precisely perfect (for me, not the general public) I tend to breeze through unnecessary details to get to the meaty stuff.  
In the beginning, I was really impressed by the plot.  Revolving around the 4 women who were kidnapped and held captive in a basement and tortured psychologically and physically for over 3 years, the story initially reminded me of "The Room" by Emma Donoghue, which I absolutely loved. I liked the writing, it was straight and to the point and most importantly, believable.  Obviously the plot is disturbing, but as a woman who loves SVU marathons, it wasn't entirely outrageous for me, though I will admit that some details made me uncomfortable.  I found the investigation into the BDSM lifestyle extremely interesting, especially in the aftermath of 50 Shades, where it became the "new sexy" for housewives everywhere. This book, while not condemning BDSM practicers, does sort of remind its audience that it's a potentially dangerous affair.
While I haven't finished the book, I have become a little less involved--at some point in the book, things seem to fall into place a little too easily and a little too completely.  I promise to update if things change by the end, but right now, it's actually reading a little bit like an episode of SVU, like it has to wrap up in under an hour, and I don't know how much I like that. 
Still, it's an interesting and definitely fast paced read, and I think it would appeal to readers of "Room", and "Gone Girl".  I'll keep you posted on my opinion when I finish it. 
Rating: (so far) 6.9/10

UPDATE: I've finished it.  I was correct in my initial review.  It wrapped up a bit too succinctly for me and I sort of saw the big twist coming.  Still, I wouldn't say it's NOT worth reading, so check it out!