YA Boys Usually Suck.

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Okay, I have a fatal flaw. A hamartia, some might say. My problem is that I read books. I have a lot of thoughts on them. (Positive and negative, but usually more of the latter.) And then I wait too long to write them down and I forget them.

So, to compromise for my fatal flaw, instead of writing long, thought-out, enticing book reviews that really demonstrate why I graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English, I will give you a few short, less detailed mini reviews of books I’ve read recently. Think tweets, but slightly longer.

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before; P.S. I Still Love You; and Always and Forever, Lara Jean — all by Jenny Han

The subtitle to this mini review is: Peter Kavinsky sucks. If you missed out on my thrilling Goodreads reviews of these three books, they can be summed up by the phrases “Peter Kavinsky sucks,” “Peter Kavinsky still sucks,” and “Decent ending. Peter Kavinsky still sucks.” And that’s all I have to say on the matter.

Just kidding, it’s not. But seriously, despite the other potential “love” interests in this series being incredibly dull (I put the term “love” in quotations because, come on…), at least they weren’t arrogant, territorial, emotional abusive assholes like Peter Kavinsky.

Other than that, this series was alright. I found Lara Jean to be very immature and just kind of annoying, but I guess I was also immature and probably very annoying in high school. The family dynamic was cool — I think the Song girls’ story developed in a realistic way. Kitty started out as a sort of Tiny Tim, impossible child stereotype, but I think she progressed and grew up gradually and believably.

Anyway, I think as far as young adult trilogies go, this was a pretty good one. I like Jenny Han’s style, but I’d like to see what she could do with a stand-alone. In fact, I think this would have made a better stand-alone.

Once and For All – by Sarah Dessen

Okay, apparently this is the summer of YA, because I rarely read YA these days. But Sarah Dessen is another story. I will continue to read her books when I am 80 years old (assuming human life expectancy has progressed drastically by then and she’s still writing books.)

This one? Eh. Not my favorite. Surprise, surprise, the romantic interest sucked. I’m sick of the spoiled, immature, kind-of-an-asshole, womanizer, rich kid trope. I really am. And that’s exactly what this book was. And while I’m on the topic of tropes I hate, can we please, please, please stop with the “main character is low key and introverted but her best friend is wild and boy crazy and constantly trying to get her to come out of her shell” trope. I get it, some relationships are like that. But not all of them have to be. I know it isn’t generally the author’s intention, but it begs the belief that being shy and introverted is good and being outgoing and liking to go to parties and on dates is bad. Both are fine within reason, so let’s stop inflicting otherwise on teenage girls.

And, in an effort to stop ranting, I do need to mention the big issue I had with this book, which was the way it dealt with trauma and mental health. I don’t think this is a spoiler because it’s revealed early on, but a character in the book loses someone they love in a school shooting. First of all, just because this is unfortunately “culturally relevant” doesn’t mean it has a right to be used as a one-dimensional plot line. This character lost someone, and there is no mention of therapy or counseling or grieving. Instead, the main “conflict” that’s addressed is “how am I going to put myself out there and find love again?” This is a possible concern, yes. But this is not everything. Honestly, if you’re going to use a very sensitive, very tragic subject as a plot device, it needs to have a message. I’m sorry, it just does.

So, despite all that ranting, this book had some redeeming qualities. The main character was likable. Her job working for her mother’s wedding planning business, her relationship with her mother and her mother’s business partner…all well done. But it’s more fun to hear about the stuff I didn’t like, right?

 

Alright, there were supposed to be a few more books in here, but I think this has gone on long enough, so I’ll make this post exclusive to YA and do another review soon. That means you can look forward to hearing my thoughts on The Handmaid’s Tale and The Sisters Chase in the very near future!

If you’ve ready any or all of these books, let me know your thoughts. If you disagree with mine, please (respectfully) tell me that, too.

5 Songs to Fall Asleep To

I have to say, I don’t actually fall asleep to music very often. I’ve tried, but for some reason I’d rather fall asleep to a podcast or an audiobook. Maybe it’s because they’re longer; I don’t have to worry about changing the song every 3 minutes if something I don’t want to listen to comes on. Or maybe it’s because podcasts and audiobooks require concentration; they don’t allow my thoughts to wander and the worrisome thoughts to set in. 

In the rare event that I do use music to help me sleep, though, this is what I listen to. 

1. “Hundred Ways” – Joseph

First of all, I should mention that pretty much any Joseph song is a good nighttime song. “Sweet Dreams” is an obvious choice, but “Hundred Ways” is my personal favorite. These three sisters from Portland form one of the most talented groups I’ve ever listened to, and I would recommend them to literally anyone ever. Seriously, go listen to them now. You don’t have a choice. 

2. “Scars” – James Bay

I would let James Bay sing me to sleep any day, just saying. This song is sad but hopeful and also peaceful and chill and raw and it’s just great, okay? If you’ve been avoiding James Bay because you think he’s just like every other whiny white dude with a guitar and tight pants, I feel you. But just give him a chance. 

3. “Down in the Valley” – The Head and the Heart

I discovered this song years ago thanks to one of those Starbucks free download cards they have by the pick-up counter. These are a hit or miss, usually a miss, but this one happened to be pretty freaking great. This is a mellow song, but when the pace picks up towards the end, I get chills every single time. Plus, it’s a song about home, and who can resist a good home song?

4. “Blue Jeans” – Lana Del Rey

Lana’s entire Born to Die album reminds me of Amsterdam. When I was abroad, I took a weekend bus trip to Amsterdam, and I have these weird vivid memories of being curled up on a coach bus late at night, driving through the city streets late at night on the way back to my hotel, listening to “Blue Jeans.” Traveling makes me anxious, but in this moment I was so at ease, so I relate this song to that feeling. 

5. “Strong” – London Grammar

This is another one that brings back memories. Similar memories as “Blue Jeans,” actually. Apparently I really vibe with relaxing late at night on coach buses, because I remember listening to this song over and over on the way back from a Red Sox game, and I also listened to it pretty continuously in London when I was a scared college student in a foreign country trying to fall asleep and beat that dreaded jet lag. Hannah Reid’s voice is chilling and solemn and pretty damn flawless. Seriously, I hope this woman either has kids or is planning on having them, because she’ll have no trouble singing them to sleep in a heartbeat. 

Alright, now that I’ve written this and listened to these songs, I think it’s time for bed. 

To check out my Five Songs on Friday Spotify playlist, click here. 

To Reread, or Not to Reread?

I used to be a chronic rereader. There was this book — The Canada Geese Quilt, by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock. The author visited my elementary school every year, so my book was signed. It was my first autographed book, so it was a big deal…even though she signed everyone else’s book, too. But in my mind, this book was mine. Not only was it my first signed book, it was also the first book I read in one sitting. (But certainly not the last — I was an English major, after all. And a master procrastinator.)

I don’t remember much about that book. A girl learns how to make quilts, possibly from her grandmother. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure the grandma dies. Spoiler alert. I learned that they’re called “Canada geese,” not “Canadian geese.” Other than that, I literally remember nothing, but for some reason that book stuck with me. I reread it once a month, I’m not even kidding.

Starting with The Canada Geese Quilt and up until now, I guess, rereading has been a source of comfort for me. This comfort generally came in the form of one of the seven Harry Potter books. The good thing about loving a series so intensely is that each book makes me feel something different. Based on my mood and where my mind is at in that moment, I know which of the seven is bound to bring me the most joy.

From a less emotional, more intellectual standpoint, I found real value in rereading books in college. Like I said, I was an English major. Rereading was part of the deal. I’d take classes and have to reread books I’d read in high school, or even books I’d read the previous semester. But for the most part, this wasn’t exhausting. It was enlightening. There were books I got little or nothing out of the first time I read them. Camus’ The Stranger was one. Bronte’s Jane Eyre was a surprising second. Then, I read each of them over again for different classes and had completely different experiences. Maybe it was the professor. Maybe it was the details brought up in class discussions. Or maybe I’m just constantly growing as a reader and sometimes all it takes is a new, more experienced perspective. Listen, college is a wonderful place, okay?

That being said, my rereading experience hasn’t been devoid of heartbreak. I’m terrified to reread Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four because it’s one of my favorite books of all time and I’ve only read it once. What if, years later, it doesn’t hold up? What if it isn’t as profound as sixteen-year-old me thought it was? This has happened to me before, of course. I’m slowly making my way through all thirteen A Series of Unfortunate Events audiobooks because they were my favorite non-Harry Potter books when I was younger. But the reason it’s taking me so long is because I’m bored. I grow frustrated with the repetitive storylines and the lack of character development and have to stop listening for days, even weeks or months, at a time.

So yeah, rereading can be fun, but at what cost? Is it worth rereading my childhood and adolescent favorites now I’m clearly outside the target audience, only to find them annoying and below my intelligence level? Or is it better to keep them engrained in my memory as they were back then? Or, in the case of the books I once despised, do I give them another chance?

Or am I overthinking this whole process? Maybe the real joy of having access to physical books is that they’re timeless — you can keep them on your shelf and go back to them when, or if, you desire.

Maybe part of growing older and learning more and experiencing more is accepting that your opinions on these things will change. Maybe I need to accept that my experience rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events as a 24-year-old college-educated adult will be different than my experience as an eight-year-old book lover and, more importantly, that both experiences are valuable.

Rereading can be a source of comfort or disappointment, but it can also show you how much you’ve grown as a reader, a thinker, and a person.

So for now, I’ll just keep rereading Order of the Phoenix until it gets old. Which is a funny joke, because it’ll never get old.

Five Songs on Friday (12 May 2017)

I’m back with another five songs on the best day of the week. This week’s theme is “the last five songs I looked up on Shazam.” Is “Shazamed” a word? It is now. (Plus this is 2017, so probably.) So here we go, here are the last five songs I Shazamed.

 

1. It Ain’t Me – Kygo and Selena Gomez

I Shazamed this song at a bowling alley during “Midnight Bowl” (which I hate because I can’t see where the ball is going with all the flashing disco lights.) Anyway, I Shazamed this because the verses were super catchy and it sounded like a Sia song. Conclusion: I don’t think Selena is the best vocalist, but every song she releases or is featured on is a hit. 

2. Cleopatra – The Lumineers

I was out with my boyfriend and he was convinced that there was someone performing live music. I Shazamed this to prove that the Lumineers were not, in fact, performing a free live concert win the middle of a food court in Upstate New York. I get where he was coming from, though, because this song has a very raw sound. I dig it.

3. Wherever You Will Go – The Calling

I heard this at a restaurant and couldn’t remember which broody early-2000s rock band it was. Not gonna lie, this song doesn’t hold up in 2017. It sounds like every other early-2000s mellow rock song. This was for sure on a “Now That’s What I Call Music” CD, right?

4. You Don’t Know Me – Jax Jones feat. RAYE

This was another Midnight Bowl song. I heard it and thought “this would be a great song to run to.” Update: it is.

5. The Great Longing – Lost Under Heaven

This song ended the first episode of 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, which had a killer soundtrack overall. It’s one of those songs that I know I’ve heard before but can’t place. In any event, it’s a good song.

 

To find all these songs plus the songs from last week’s FSoF, check out my Spotify playlist here.

What’s the last song you Shazamed?

20 Days To Go: Thoughts from an About-To-Be College Graduate

For the past few weeks, I’ve found myself unable to read any of the five books of which I’m in the middle, write any blog posts, or even watch any TV shows (besides Game of Thrones because I’m too afraid of being spoiled on Twitter). In fact, I haven’t been doing much of anything besides schoolwork, unsuccessfully searching for jobs, and worrying about what happens after May 10th. For those of you just tuning in, May 10th is the day I graduate from college and begin my life in the real world I thought I entered four years ago when I graduated high school. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

Throughout the past four years, whenever I’ve said anything about college being difficult, I’ve been hit with the ever-present “just wait until you graduate and have to go out and be a real adult” response. Of course, as a college student, I was confident that this was the real world. Now, I’m quickly coming to terms with the sheltered bubble that is college life and realizing exactly how much I would give for just one more semester to sort out my life.

Because now I’m starting to reconsider my choice in degrees.

Because all those people who told me “you can’t do anything with an English degree” are starting to make a lot more sense.

Because I don’t think I’m smart enough or assertive enough to put my political science minor to use.

Because I keep telling myself “I should probably move somewhere like New York or Boston or even freaking London” even though I can’t even process how overwhelming it would be to move to a major city without the comfort of a college campus to come home to.

Because the idea of going to real job interviews terrifies me.

Because the idea of trying to convince anyone other than myself that I’m a good writer seems laughable.

Because I’m under the impression that all my friends have definitive plans even though I know that isn’t the case.

Basically, to sum it up: last night I was laying in bed after being completely exhausted all day and suddenly I was wide-awake. I thought about my time abroad in London last semester and how much I loved everything about it, and the only thing I could think was, “I should’ve done an internship” even though I knew 100% that I wanted to immerse myself in a university setting. I thought about this semester and how much I got involved on- and off-campus: I juggled a full course load, an internship, a part-time job, and an editor position on my school paper. However, all I could think was, “I should’ve done more”.

I know, I know. There’s only so much you can do in one semester. Loads of people leave college without knowing what they want to do. Not everyone has a job lined up before they graduate. Things will come together eventually. These are the things I keep telling myself, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I know I’m being pessimistic. I know it could be a lot worse. I know that if I have to, I can stay at my part-time job a little bit longer while I find something more permanent.

But naturally, it wouldn’t be like me not to worry. I guess what surprises me is that less than two weeks ago I was totally fine. This all started to hit me really recently and has consumed my thoughts to the extent that I completely forgot that this Friday is my 22nd birthday. I love birthdays, but my thought process has become, “how can I have fun and celebrate when I still don’t have my life together?”

As a disclaimer, I didn’t write this to stress you out. I didn’t write this because I think I have it any harder than any other soon-to-be college grad. I wrote this because this is prominently a book blog and this is what has been diverting my attention away from thinking and talking about books.

That being said, I think I’m going to make this a series. This is my “20 Days To Go” edition, and I’ll try to post an update every couple days on what I’m thinking.

And of course, if you have any advice, I would absolutely appreciate it. Stay strong, fellow grads!

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins | Book Review

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Published by Riverhead Books, January 13, 2015

Genre: Psychological thriller

Pages: 336

So first of all, I think it’s worth noting that I read this book in one day. Well, I read the first 40 pages on Saturday night and the rest throughout Sunday. So basically one day. In other words, either it was really good or I just really didn’t want to do my homework. Maybe a little bit of both.

I’ve been hearing about this book all over the place – it’s topping bestselling lists everywhere, it’s being called “the next Gone Girl”, and my mom read it within a couple days and told me I would like it. So finally, after I’d just finished a hefty 500+ page epic fantasy the day before, I thought I’d give The Girl on the Train a shot.

To give you a short synopsis in case you’re not already familiar, The Girl on the Train follows three women, Rachel, Megan, and Anna, who are brought together (although not always consciously) by ex-husbands, commuter trains into London, and illegal activity. The timeline jumps between present and past as the three women’s stories intertwine and a mystery unravels. That’s really all I want to say without giving anything away; I would recommend going into this book without knowing much more.

I’ve heard a lot of people say they were disappointed because they went in expecting the next Gone Girl and got something completely different. However, I think it’s important to recognize that no book is really “the next” anything. Unless you count Fifty Shades of Grey, which was based off of Twilight fanfiction and was therefore pretty accurately “the next Twilight” upon its release. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that The Girl on the Train was completely different from Gone Girl or any other psychological thriller I’ve read, but I totally get why the two are being compared. The Girl on the Train deals with rocky marriages, unreliable narrators, and apparent mental illness in a way that so far I’ve only seen matched in Gillian Flynn’s work.

The characters, in this case, were more believable for me than those in Gone Girl (and I promise I’ll stop comparing this to Gone Girl now). All five of the central characters arguably suffer from some sort of mental illness, and I think Hawkins grasps this in such an authentic way. When a character was anxious or manic, I felt my pulse race and my reading speed up. When a character was depressed, the reading got slower and I found myself inwardly channeling written emotions. Also, the way Hawkins wrote the thoughts of a character suffering from alcohol addiction felt so incredibly real to me, despite never having suffered from addiction, myself. None of the characters were particularly likeable; they all had their inner demons, but I found myself relating to them all at one point or another.

This book doesn’t have a particularly dense plot; sometimes I would read 40 or 50 pages and discover that nothing of value had really happened. While this would normally frustrate me, I found that it really didn’t in this case. Even though actual things weren’t taking place, the characters’ inner dialogues and stress over uncovering the truth kept me intrigued throughout.

I really need to mention the setting of this novel, because it felt so incredibly real. This might be because I spent three months living in London and could therefore picture exactly what a community on the city’s outskirts would look like. I could also relate to Rachel’s obsession with “Jason and Jess” during her morning and evening commutes because I often found myself picking out the same houses again and again during the over ground legs of my journeys. I actually got chills once in a while when I would recognize the names of train stations or supermarkets. Also, I kept getting pretty strong Broadchurch vibes, for obvious reasons if you’re familiar with the show.

Basically, this was just a really cool book. Not very literary, but definitely thought provoking. It puts you inside the minds of people you may not normally associate with and make them seem more human than they might have otherwise.

Needless to say, while this book is not Gone Girl, if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn or simply of psychological thrillers, I would definitely recommend this.

Check out The Girl on the Train on Goodreads!

Cinderella (2015) | Film Review

cinderella-2015-movie-posterLast Sunday, I went to see Cinderella with a few family friends, including my friend’s four-year-old cousin, who insisted we all wear tiaras to the theater. In other words, I got to channel my inner Mia Thermopolis for a couple hours. I was happy to see the long-anticipated Frozen short before the movie (which was really cute aside from Kristoff awkwardly professing his love to Anna – just so everyone knew they were still a thing), but I was really just way too excited for Cinderella to start.

Okay, first of all, I’m really, really glad they reproduced the Disney animated film instead of playing off the original Grimm Brothers’ tale, because let’s be honest, it’s super creepy and definitely not for children, and the film was definitely advertised as being child-friendly. So I’m sure there are people who had an issue with that, but I was perfectly fine just watching everything end happily ever after.

Second, the scenery and the sets were absolutely gorgeous. There was one outdoor scene in particular that took place outside the king’s palace that had the most stunning view overlooking the water. From what I could find, it looks like that place might be Black Park in Buckinghamshire, so it really just made me want to phone up my friend who lives there and tell her I’m coming to visit ASAP. They also filmed at Windsor Castle in Berkshire and the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich; I assume both locations were used as sets from the palace, and holy crap, they were amazing. If I wasn’t already having Princess Diaries vibes, that definitely did the trick.

Okay, now let’s talk about the cast, because it’s probably the thing I was most excited about before seeing the movie. First of all, let me make it known that any film involving Helena Bonham Carter is an automatic must-see for me, since she is my queen and I love her in every possible way. Also, any project involving Kenneth Branagh in any way, shape, or form is solid gold. (Gilderoy Lockhart, anyone?) Also, I’ve never really followed Cate Blanchett’s filmography before, but I might have to change that because she gave me legitimate chills as Cinderella’s evil stepmother. And of course, as an honorable mention, I’d only ever seen Richard Madden in Game of Thrones before this, but I would follow those bright, blue eyes to the end of the world and back. In fact, I could probably dedicate an entire blog post to Richard Madden’s eyes, but for the sake of boring you, I’ll move on.

Overall, the film had a really whimsical, daze-like feel to it, which in some cases I find really weird and awkward but in this case I found it kind of awesome. Of course, there were some parts that seemed a little bit off to me, particularly when Prince Charming (aka “Kit”) excitedly leads Cinderella into his secret garden that he’s “never shown anyone before” and proceeds to push her on a giant swing for approximately two seconds before she realizes it’s midnight and runs off. Also, I just couldn’t get on board with the insanely creepy lizards-turned-footmen in the carriage scene, but the carriage itself was gorgeous, so I just put up with it.

So basically, I’d highly recommend this movie. I’m pretty sure once it comes out on DVD it’ll quickly become one of my go-to feel-good movies, since it was just majestic and lovely and, oh yeah, did I mention Richard Madden’s eyes?

CINDERELLA