What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  Whee!

“The More Dead,the Better”: Israel’s Crumbling Media War (Salon)

I actually tweeted about this link when I came across it this week, so important did I think it was.  I still do.  Whatever your feelings are on Israel and Palestine, it’s important to note that how Israel portrays itself and how the media (the western media, that is) talks about it are very calculated things.  And, considering everything that is happening, and the slaughtering of human beings (the majority of which are Palestinean women and children) occurring there right now, it’s not really a surprise that there is finally, finally some backlash about what Israel is doing.

Did you know there is a manual for how to talk about the deaths Israel is causing?  Well, there is:

The 2009 manual counters this strategy, stating that while Americans “get” that “Hamas is a terrorist organization. . . if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people. . . you will lose support.” It carefully emphasizes again: “Right now, many Americans sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, and that sympathy will increase if you fail to differentiate between the people from their leaders.”

The article goes on to talk about the history of Israeli propaganda, how difficult it is to even talk about the state without being shouted down, etc.  Please read it.

Seriously, Fuck You, Kindle Unlimited (The Awl)

Basically, you shouldn’t have to pay to rent ebooks.  Because that’s what Kindle Unlimited (LOL “unlimited”) is.  PAYING to RENT eBOOKS that you can get for FREE on Open Library, Project Gutenberg, and from the PUBLIC LIBRARY IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

You Can Own Too Many Books (The Toast)

Are you a book hoarder?  Because I am.  I’ve never counted how many books I own, but it’s becoming a problem.  I collect books from my youth, I buy books I love, and I’m sent titles by publishers for review and when I serve on panels like the Cybils.  It’s a problem.  I have a lot, a lot, A LOT of books.  And it’s probably time to downsize a little, which is why I found this essay particularly affecting this week.

This essay gets to the heart of what makes book hoarding different:

Even more than I identify as a writer, I identify as a reader. Reading has always been the primary way I make sense of the world around me; books are my first stop when I want to learn about a new hobby, culture, person or world. When I read a memoir, the author’s story lives inside me, making me feel I know them better than I do many of my close friends. While I don’t necessarily need to own a book for it to have any impact on me, being surrounded by books when I wake up and go to sleep puts me at ease—and gives me plenty to choose from should I find myself up at three a.m., as I often do.

If you’re  a reader, you probably identify with this, at least a little.

What got you reading and thinking this week?


What Should You Stream This Weekend?

Got big plans for this weekend?  No?  Cool.  Here are a couple (good-to-great) things to stream if you’ve got no plans, hate the heat, and like to loaf around on your couch.

everAfterEver After (Netflix): If you’re in the mood for a fairy tale retelling, consider the seminal late-90s Drew Barrymore movie Ever After, which is based on the Cinderella story.  It’s got a surprising amount of humor in it, and it’s also pretty feminist (Barrymore’s Cinderella rescues herself, etc etc).  It’s also pretty awesome, as it has Anjelica Huston as the wicked stepmother and Melanie Lynskey as one of the not-so-wicked stepsisters.  Plus, weird side-plots involving Leonardo Da Vinci and lots of really great costumes.

Take This Waltz (Netflix): Want to watch a pretty depressing drama?  WHO DOESN’T?! Take this Waltztakethiswaltz stars Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen (in a role in which he is actually not annoying at all) as a couple whose marriage is good, but then the wife gets interested in the super hot neighbor, and then the marriage isn’t so good anymore.  It’s a smart, quiet little film, and it will leave you with a lot of questions.  Watch it with someone who likes to talk about movies.

covert affairsCovert Affairs (Amazon Prime): If you’re looking to binge-watch a TV show that is pretty okay but doesn’t require a lot of brain cells, this is the choice for you!  Covert Affairs is about a brand-new CIA spy named Annie Walker (Piper Perabo, who is surprisingly not terrible).  The rest is pretty standard fare: she’s a language “expert” so we get a lot of subtitles, and she manages to do really dumb things that get her into danger quite often.  It’s like Alias-lite, without all the weird supernatural stuff that bogged it down.  It’s great for a good binge-watch.

As for me?  I’ll probably be streaming some Friday Night Lights this weekend.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Expected Release Date: August 12, 2014

Two-time National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin offers an ingenious fictional take on the “oral history” celebrity bio that defined a bestselling genre: Edie, American Girl by Jean Stein and George Plimpton. In presenting herself as interviewer and curator of memories, Adele paints the portrait of a tragic young celebrity who allegedly committed suicide—presented in a series of brief first-person recollections—that ultimately results in the solving of a murder.

Adele’s words: “From the moment she burst into the downtown art scene, seventeen-year-old Addison Stone was someone to watch. Her trademark subversive street art and her violent drowning left her fans and critics craving to know more about this brilliant wild-child who shone so bright and was gone too soon. By means of more than one hundred interviews with those who knew her best—including close friends, family, teachers, mentors, art dealers, boyfriends, and critics—I have retraced the tumultuous path of Addison’s life, with research that sheds new evidence on what really happened the night of July 28, 2013. With photo inserts and previously unpublished supplemental material.”

(summary via Goodreads)

I haven’t read an Adele Griffin book that I haven’t loved, so this one is high on my list of books to get as soon as they come out.  It took me several times to read the summary of the book and understand it.  I have to say, I think it’s already sort of brilliant: a fake oral history of a young girl, told by the people around her?  Amazing.  Totally unique and I’m already hooked.  I can’t wait!

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin

Jenny Shaw’s boyfriend has just broken up with her and she’s alone in a hotel for a work conference when someone shouts “Jessie!” from across the lobby.  Impulsively, she answers, and ends up pretending to be a girl who seems to be much more fabulous than the real Jenny.  As she gets further embroiled in the lives of strangers, she realizes it’s going to be harder than she thought to extricate herself.

Definitely a rom-com put to paper, this sweet little novel hits all the romantic comedy sweet spots and should have no trouble attracting adoring readers and fans.  While the premise itself is a little far-fetched, especially when one factors in social media, online presences, and the like, it’s easy enough to let some of that go and become enveloped in Larkin’s vivid settings and memorable characters.

Jenny as a narrator is both likable and sort of frustratingly indecisive.  Not every reader will understand why she does what she does in this novel, but her motivations seem authentic enough to make it believable for a character like this to behave in the manner she does.  The novel’s most interesting bits revolve around her friendships with several of the women she meets as “Jessie,” and the ruminations on female friendship are thought-provoking and moving.

Of course, there’s also romance here, but it’s handled with a light touch, which works well in its favor.  As Jenny becomes Jessie to this group of strangers, she finds herself drawn to Fish, a boy who loved the real Jessie all through high school.  What happens next is predictable but ultimately fairly satisfying.  The friendships are what make this novel work.  Witty dialogue and a whip-fast pace make this a page-turner and fast read.  It’s frothy and fun.

Why Can’t I Be You by Allie Larkin. Plume: 2013. Library copy.


My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.  It was another busy weekend, so I didn’t do much media consumption.  Without further ado:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: I’ve been listening to this on audiobook, and it is pure, unadulterated pleasure.  It’s probably my favorite of all Rowell’s books, just in terms of sheer enjoyability.  Listening to it when Zoey and I take our walks or when I’m stuck in traffic on the way home from work has been just the best distraction.  I don’t want it to end, but I have less than 30 minutes left.  What’s interesting is that I’ve also been reading Landline at the same time, and while it is good and smart, it pales in comparison to Fangirl.  I think that’s really, really interesting.

At any rate, it’s one of those books I want to live inside of.  I don’t know what to do when I’m done, because I’ll be in this haze where nothing else I read is it.  Depressing and amazing.


Gilmore Girls Season 3: I’ve been doing a Gilmore Girls rewatch, and I’m firmly entrenched in the ggthird season, which is my all-time hands-down favorite season.  The story is the strongest here, I think.  I love so many of the episodes, including “Take the Deviled Eggs,” “They Shoot Gilmores, Don’t They?” and “Dear Emily and Richard.”  It’s a stellar season on a very good show, and I love getting to revisit it.

I wish I could say the same for J., who tolerates it being on but often leaves the room.  It’s just not his thing, at all.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

Libraries are not a “Netflix for Books” (Book Riot)

Kelly Jensen is right: libraries are not a Netflix for books by definition of what libraries do:

Libraries — at least public libraries in the U.S. and Canada — are not private companies. Their goals are not on profit and not built upon those who can afford to pay for the services. Rather, public libraries are one of the few institutions where any and all citizens, regardless of their income or abilities to pay, may receive equitable access and service.

So yes, go read this and think about it, please.

I’m Sorry For Coining the Term Manic Pixie Dreamgirl (Salon)

Rabin is the man who actually coined the ubiquitous term, and this essay, which is really thoughtful and illuminating, talks about how that term has been completely overtaken by culture writers and no longer stands for what it should stand for.  My gut reaction, before reading the full article, was to be like, “NO YOU SHOULDN’T APOLOGIZE FOR GIVING A NAME TO A SEXIST, AWFUL TROPE” but then I actually read the article (that helps, yeah?) and realized that what he’s saying is true and real and that we need to move away from using the phrase as a crutch and instead focus on writing more fully-realized female characters, always.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to pop culture: I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster…Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness.

The only part we might disagree on is when he lauds John Green, but we know I’m biased.  Because, blech.

Why Nathan Rabin Shouldn’t Apologize for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Trope (Bibliodaze)

And now, for something completely different!  This article (smart and thoughtful, too) points out that just by getting rid of the term doesn’t mean we get rid of the sexist, lazy writing that creates these limp female characters:

If we were to eliminate every word or term used for incorrectly by ignorant readers or just those trying to make a faulty point then nobody would ever write anything new. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope will continue on as long as lazy writers continue to use familiar crutches to tell their stories. Maybe we can retire the term when film, TV, literature and everything else moves beyond it. Then we can perhaps get on with wiping out the other terrible stereotypes.

What Wisconsin Girls Think About the Slenderman Stabbings (Vice)

Last week, I linked to a moving essay that Kathleen Hale wrote for Random House Canada, and today I’m linking to an essay she wrote for Vice about the Slenderman stabbings in Wisconsin (I kind of love her non-fiction writing in a way I didn’t love her debut novel).  It’s not a very long article, and it’s definitely worth your time whether you’re following the case or not, because it also examines girl culture and how hard it is to be a teen/preteen girl in America these days.

Well worth your time.  Depressing, but important.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

Movie News and Randomness

Ready for another installment of movie news?  Here’s the movie stuff that’s got me excited or apathetic this week.

1. Wild Trailer

I don’t really feel like I have to give this one much of a summary or introduction.  It’s based on Cheryl Strayed’s memoir, which has been sitting on my iPad for months and which I still haven’t read.  Reese Witherspoon stars.  I will see it, but probably not until its digital download release.

2. Box Office Woes: Age and Gender Gap Fueling Summer Decline 

Or, you know, the fact that everything has been complete shit.  But truthfully, the fact that fewer males are flocking to theaters and Hollywood still hasn’t figured out that women drive much of the box office means that it’s been a pretty lackluster summer for movies.  Whatever.  More female films, please.  (THR)

3. Laggies Trailer

The film stars Keira Knightley as a mid-twenties screw up who panics when her boyfriend proposes.  She goes to live with her new 16-year-old friend, played by Chloe Grace-Moretz.  It looks…interesting?

4. Netflix won’t ship or process your DVDs on Weekends

Wait, people still use the DVD option? (Cinema Blend)

5. New Gone Girl Trailer

Because why not?  I know I’ve posted a trailer for this, or at least I think I have?  I know I’ll see this one because I’m curious about how the ending has changed.  I can’t wait for the internet backlash on that one.  The internet loves a good backlash (and so do I!).

What movie news got you excited this week?