Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

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Well hello again! Sorry it’s been so long, you know the drill; school was crazy, I had midterms, and then it was reading week and I was in Florida hanging out with Captain America. Yup, you read that correctly. I’ll put up some pictures once I get organized.

I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris while in Florida. I’ve heard good things about Me Talk Pretty One Day, also by Sedaris, so I thought I would give this a try. Here’s the best way to sum this one up: it was okay.

From what I understand, this is supposed to be a humour book. Sedaris is supposed to be a humourist. I was supposed to laugh. Preferably out loud. And did I? No. No I did not.

Honestly, I found this more sad than funny. Sedaris’ family doesn’t trust him with stories about their lives because they know he’ll write about them. One of his sisters spent the majority of her teen years in a juvenille detention type school where the people in charge putted golf balls into the teens mouths. All of the stories about his father were about how his dad let his family down in some way or another. His mother, well honestly he makes her sound pretty great.

One of the saddest stories was when David stayed at the home of one of his sisters. She and her husband have two parrots, one belongs to her and one to her husband. Her parrot likes to repeat phrases the sister says, at the time of his visit it was repeating daily affirmation phrases. ***SPOILERS*** The story ends with Sedaris creeping downstairs to where the parrot is kept and repeating “please forgive me” over and over again, feeling bad for publishing stories about his family. That’s just depressing. I realize every family has its problems, and the only information I have about this guys family is from this book, but man are they weird.

There were a few stories that were humourous, most of the stories about Sedaris’ brother and the stories about his time as a house cleaner were quite entertaining.

It boils down to this: if you liked Sedaris’ previous books you’ll probably like this one. I’ve never really read essay style books, and this wasn’t the best introduction to them. It’s not something I would read again, and it didn’t turn me on to the rest of Sedaris’ works. Sayonara, Sedaris.

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Land of Love and Drowning – Tiphanie Yanique

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I hated this book. HATED. It was so twisted and disturbing, and not in a good way. I picked this book up because it was on nearly every “best books of the year” list I saw and the description sounded interesting. It seemed like my kind of book. Romantic relationships, familial relationships, magic, all sorts of twists and turns. And to be fair, it had all of that, but in the worst way possible.

I don’t even want to get into the plot because even though I read this over Christmas it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I think of it. Some of the issues I had include parental sexual activity with children, incest of the sibling variety, manipulation, et cetera. On top of these issues, the characters were completely unlikable. Every single one. They were manipulative, which I already mentioned, adulterous, mentally unstable (can’t really blame them for that one when their parent was sexually abusing them), lying, strange, obnoxious, and just icky. Blech.

Basically the book is set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, focusing on a set of siblings. When the sisters’ parents die, the older sister is left to look after her younger sister and to look out for their half brother. The little sister and little brother are inexplicable drawn together and bad things follow.

Okay I’m not even going to go past that because it just really disturbed me and I don’t want to get into it. I realize this is almost embarrassingly short but nope I just can’t do it. I’m definitely willing to acknowledge that this is an important book. It deals with racial, sexual, and ethnic issues. It takes place during the time of the U.S. taking control of the VIrgin Islands, during World War Two, during the depression. The plot covers all of these issues and more. I am more than willing to acknowledge that there are people who will very much enjoy this book. And that this book should be read. But it just wasn’t for me. Despite its dipping its toes in magical waters, this book was much too real for me. Sexual abuse, poverty, racism, and sexism among other things all combined to make a story that I just couldn’t escape in.

Have you read this book? Did you hate it too? Is there a book that you hate equally as much as I hated this one? Tell me in the comments!

Now that we’re through with the book related things, I’m going to cheer us (read: me) up a bit with a fun dad joke! Wahoo! Today’s bad/dad joke comes to you from a seven year old who told it to me at work…

What do you call a bear with no teeth? A gummy bear!

Ha! Okay bye.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

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You’ve all read a Neil Gaiman book before, right? Right?! Well, if you haven’t, I really recommend this one. Or Stardust. Or American Gods. Not Coraline, that freaked me out so much as a kid I don’t even want to think about it now. Seriously, those button eyes kept me up at night for weeks.

Anyway, I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane (which shall now and forever more in this post be known as Ocean) during a slow day at work in between actual guard rotations and cleaning. Granted it’s not very long, but I was also completely absorbed in the book and had a hard time putting it down. I think I was actually late on deck a couple of times because I couldn’t pull myself away (sorry coworkers…). I’m going to get into the plot later, but Ocean just serves to solidify Gaiman’s position as the master of nostalgic fantasy. There’s something about his books that just take you somewhere far away, deep into your head and heart, to some place or time that existed long ago. They make you remember things you had thought you forgot and people you wish you had. Which is funny because that’s exactly what happens to the narrator when he returns to his childhood friend’s home as an adult. Gaiman’s books perfectly encapsulate the expression, time period, or life stage they are supposed to represent. In this case, that happens to be childhood.

The narrator (we are never actually told his name) is a bright and very brave young boy on the verge of understanding the adult world but imperfect in his knowledge. He is very bookish, but also adventurous, and he doesn’t seem to understand why  adults are so habitual and always in a hurry.

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.”

“I lay on the bed and lost myself in stories. I liked that. Books were safer than other people anyway.”

“I went away in my head, into a book. That was where I went whenever real life was too hard or too inflexible.”

“I liked myths. They weren’t adult stories and they weren’t children stories. They were better than that. They just were. Adult stories never made sense, and they were slow to start. They made me feel like there were secrets, Masonic, mythic secrets, to adulthood. Why didn’t adults want to read about Narnia, about secret islands and smugglers and dangerous fairies?”

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

Oh alright I’ll stop. The point is, this kid is pretty perceptive. And very fun to read about. Anyway, he starts to encounter magic in his world. He doesn’t know that it is magic, not right away. For the first while it is just chaotic events, like a renter at their house using his father’s car to commit suicide, or a coin becoming lodged in his throat while sleeping. He eventually enlists the help of his neighbour, eleven year old Lettie Hempstock, a couple of years older than him and his new favourite friend.

Lettie takes the narrator with him to confront the magical being causing all of this chaos, and in a moment of distraction the narrator momentarily removes himself from Lettie’s protection. The monster lodges herself in him, and thus finds her way into his world. She comes into his life in human form as the nanny Ursula Moncton who seduces his father, is adored by his little sister, and much appreciated by his mother. It seems that she is fooling everyone except for him. Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother, who reveal themselves to be magic protectors of sorts, make it their mission to protect the narrator and remove this evil creature from the world. Obviously they face some troubles along the way. But these troubles of course make for a much more entertaining, much more mystical and magical story.

When the narrator reaches adulthood, he returns to his home town for a funeral and finds himself drawn to the Hempstock’s home and the pond that lays on their property, the one that Lettie had always insisted was an ocean. There he encounters the old Mrs. Hempstock, Lettie’s grandmother, who reassures him that the events that he is suddenly remembering did in fact happen, that he is alright, he will be alright. She also reveals to him that he had been back to visit many times before, though he remembers none of those visits. I loved this ending. It was just so perfect and honest. So many things we experience in childhood are forgotten or even repressed until we return to a certain place, smell a certain smell, hear a voice or see a picture or whatever else may trigger our memory. These flashbacks come and they may never return until we find that trigger again. Gaiman’s version of this was just so poignant and beautiful, I didn’t want it to end.

Okay confession time: I desperately wish magic were real. Of course I know it isn’t, at least not in the way it is portrayed in books. There is no Hogwarts, no Narnia or Fillory or Oz or any of the other magical lands written about in books. That being said, I have read about a lot of magical lands and beings, and Gaiman’s version was one of the most beautiful and enchanting versions I have experiences. The style of his writing, the prose was fantastic and the descriptiveness of it was just fantastic.

Now that we’ve covered the book side of things, lets get to the dad jokes. Today’s bad/dad joke is…. insert drum roll… What do you get when you cross a parrot with a caterpillar? A Walkie-Talkie! HA!

Alright, alright, I’m done.

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The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure and The Kill Order – James Dashner

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Okay so I probably should have just put all of these together including The Maze Runner, which I wrote about here, into one post. But I didn’t. So now you just get to read about the last three books. Yay!

Totally honesty time. I did not enjoy The Scorch Trials or The Death Cure as much as I expected too. The ending was FANTASTIC and I’m so happy I finally found a book series where I completely and totally loved every part of the ending. However, all of my previous critiques of Dashner’s writing stand. He does not describe scenes or people or emotions as well as I would like, and the humour sometimes feels a little forced. Often he tells you how characters feel, once or twice even how you the reader should feel, and I think that’s a mark of poor writing. Instead of telling me how a character feels, show me. Write exactly how they react to the emotion with their body language and their words, tell me exactly what the scene looks like, how the character behaves. These are the little things that take a story from good to great and they were missing. That being said, it’s still a great series. The story is very interesting, if a little reminiscent of some other young adult dystopian novels. The characters are for the most part likable, if a little underdeveloped. The plot progresses at a quick pace, if not a little too quick sometimes.

It seems every bit of praise I have for the series comes with an addendum except for the ending. I’m going to attribute that to the writing and my very non-forgiving attitude towards young adult fiction to the sheer amount of novels and series in the genre. If your book isn’t great it just won’t stand out. I think with this series it was the story line that makes the books stand out, not the quality of writing. Maybe I’m just hating on this poor guy for no reason, I don’t know but I just thought the books could have been much much better.

The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure wrap up Thomas and Teresa’s story so well, I very much enjoyed the end (yeah I know I’ve told you that about twelve times now, it’s just so good!) The last book in the series, The Kill Order, is actually a prequel to the whole series. This might have been my favourite out of all of them. It features a whole new cast of characters, which I actually liked more than the set in the series proper. WARNING! I’m going to rant about another ending. If you’re sick of hearing about endings, or reading about endings, or even reading the word ending(s), step away from your screen.

Okay, so The Kill Order is all about how the Flare began, what happened to make the world into the dystopian society it was in the series and how the Flare was spread. I found this bit really interesting (hello, bio nerd), and I also liked reading about the daring escape made by the characters that was required to escape the solar flares that destroyed the earth. I don’t know, guys. The Kill Order just stuck out to me above and beyond the other three books in the series. If you’re struggling your way through the series and aren’t sure if you’re going to finish, keep plugging along. The ending to the series is fantastic. And The Kill Order is so good. I mean, it still features Dashner’s writing flaws, but the characters show some growth and it isn’t as forcibly written. Plus the ending has a major twist that made the whole series worth it for me. Actually it’s not even a twist as much as a reveal. Or a surprise. Or something, I don’t know it’s just great. I kind of guessed at the ending, but I wasn’t sure until the last few pages. Just take my word for it, okay? Okay. (This is where I picture all of you going off to the library/bookstore/your bookshelf and picking up the book and getting started. In reality you’re not doing that, but in my head you are.)

We’re going to move away from the books for a minute and head into the realm of really bad/hilarious jokes. I’m a huge dork (as many of you know) and I think dad jokes are hysterical. So over the next couple posts I’m going to share a few because even if you don’t think they’re funny I laugh just from telling them, so at least one person will laugh, right?

Okay, here goes: What’s the difference between unlawful and illegal? One’s against the law, and one’s just a sick bird.

…HA! Okay so that one isn’t great, but I’m saving my best (/worst?) material for the end. As one of my friends likes to say, “you know it’s going to be a bad joke when she giggles before telling it.” If you’re wondering, I giggled.

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An Abundance of Katherines – John Green

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I’m going to start today’s adventure into the contents of my ever-expanding bookcase by highlighting some of my favourite recently discovered blogs. To start with, Glen Hates Books, has hilariously honest and often brutal reviews of all sorts of books. He is super funny, as well as completely honest in his reviewing. He points out flaws he sees in the books he reads, calling it like it is, which I super appreciate. To clarify, he doesn’t hate books.Except for maybe the poorly written ones.

Next, litforlunch, posts a new short story every day as far as I can tell. I’ve read quite a few so far and they have all been well written and imaginative, I’m looking forward to more!

The third recent find is Crossroads Reviews, which is a fairly new blog from what I can see but so far has me very interested mostly because of the genre of books they review… FANTASY! YAY! You guys know by know I love fantasy, and this blog is all about that. Their review of The Ocean and the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is very similar to my feelings of the book, which is going to be written about here soon. They are the first fellow fantasy nerd I have discovered here on wordpress, so I was very excited to stumble upon their blog.

Last but not least, (how annoyingly cliché is that? Step up your game, Lindsey) is The Irresponsible Reader. It was so nice to find a blogger who reviews a little bit of everything including fantasy (again! That’s two in one day!), scifi, humour, contemporary fiction, romance, classics, non fiction, etc. This blog is filled with starred review of books that I absolutely adore, books that I’ve been meaning to read, and books that I’ve never ever hear of. I’m very excited to delve deeper into their blogging world. Also, their blog is impeccably organized.

Check these guys out! I’m so excited about all of these great new blogs I’ve found. Anyone else have any recommendations?

Alright, on to the task at hand. I’m not going to lie to you. I love John Green. I know I said in the last post how I wasn’t in to romance or chick lit or whatever any more, but I still very much appreciate a good young adult book. Especially one written by a nerd such as John Green. I was a little hesitant to tackle An Abundance of Katherines, hereafter known as Abundance because as you all know I am lazy and the title is just long enough for me to want to not bother. My fellow John Green addict, Ally, told me Abundance was her least favourite of the Green works. Another friend said “I dunno about that one. I mean, I guess if you like self involved, whiny main characters and a plot that just isn’t plausible then I guess it’s alright. Looking for Alaska is better.” And he was right, in a way.

The main character, Colin, is absolutely self involved and incredibly whiny. To the point where even he is annoyed with himself. But that is what makes Abundance the book that it is. The characters come to realize their own faults. They learn and grow. That’s such a huge part of any story and I think it is under appreciated in this one. Also, I found myself relating to Colin more than I expected. He is a huge nerd, a child prodigy that has failed to live up to his potential, and a self-proclaimed dumpee. The weirdest of his quirks is he only dates girls named Katherine. Nineteen of them, so far. And he has been dumped by all of them. Colin becomes determined to create a mathematical formula that can predict the outcome of a relationship using the data he has gathered by dating Katherines 1-19.

Colin and his best friend Hassan go on a soul-searching quest and end up in a small town in Tennessee. The main love interest is named Lindsey, so obviously I love her. Plus she is all around awesome, despite allowing her boyfriend to treat her like crap. And she has a great accent (at least she does in my head, it’s my version of a southern accent and I rock it).

The reason I find Colin so endearing is his overwhelming bookish tendencies. (I was going to write bookishness, but I figured you would have had enough of my made up words for one week.) And the little epiphanies he has throughout his journey. Some of my favourite quotes just under this paragraph, but obviously these are out of context so keep in mind if you enjoyed the sentiment now you’ll probably love it while reading it in the book.

“Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.” — YES Colin, YES!

“You don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” — This one got to me. It happens all the time to everyone in every part of the world, but at the time of reading it felt like it was only me who experienced this and seeing it written on paper made me feel a little less inadequate.

“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.” — Quick shout out to these people. I think some pretty random and sometimes inappropriate things and you never judge me. Or if you do, you do it in a way where I end up laughing at myself (BRITT).

“He liked the mere act of reading, the magic of turning scratches on a page into words inside his head.” — Alright this one is similar to a quote that has made it’s rounds on pinterest a few times, something about how remarkable books are because all they really are are lines on paper and somehow we make them into these great epic journeys, these deep love stories, these heartbreaking tales of loss. I just like thinking about how symbols on a piece of something that used to be a tree became these stories that I hold so dear to me.

“Well, while you were in the bathroom, I sat down at this picnic table here in Bumblefug, Kentucky, and noticed that someone had carved that GOD HATES FAG, which, aside from being a grammatical nightmare, is absolutely ridiculous. So I’m changing it to ‘God Hates Baguettes.’ ‘It’s tough to disagree with that. Everybody hates baguettes.” — Okay so this is just typical John Green style humour, which is part of the reason I loved Paper Towns so much and part of what makes this one as enjoyable as it is. There’s plenty more, so go read!

Anyway, I enjoyed Abundance. I’m aware I haven’t told you anything about the plot other than things you can find from the back of the book, but hopefully you’ll take my rantings a just go with it. I won’t lie, it’s not as good as Paper Towns or even The Fault in Our Stars (which I know everyone obsesses over but I just don’t like as much as Paper Towns), but I did like it more than Looking For Alaska. If you are one of those people who loved TFIOS and freaked out when the movie came out, then you probably already know this but they are making a Paper Towns movie and I am super excited.

So now that I’ve done my ranting for the evening, does anyone have some book suggestions? I’m in need of new books!

…Okay fine if I’m being totally honest with you and myself I am not in any way in need of new books, I have at least fifty unread books in my bookshelf. Plus I don’t have the money for new books right now anyway. But I want to hear your suggestions nonetheless, they’ll all be added to my Goodreads to-be-read list. Also, I’m taking part in the Goodreads 2015 Reading Challenge, and I’ve decided I’m going to read 60 books this year. I’ve never actually kept track of how many books I’ve read in a year, so that could be a gross over- or underestimate, but we shall see! Goodnight!

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