Waiting on Wednesday: Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

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:

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir

Expected Release Date: December 9, 2014

Mysterious. Magnificent. Creepy. Welcome to Rockford Manor.

“There’s something hidden in the Maze.” Seventeen-year-old Imogen has never forgotten the last words her father said to her seven years ago, before the blazing fire that consumed him, her mother, and the gardens of her family’s English country manor.

Haunted by her parents’ deaths, Imogen moves to New York City with her new guardians. But when a letter arrives with the news of her cousin’s untimely death, revealing that Imogen is now the only heir left to run the estate, she returns to England and warily accepts her role as duchess.

All is not as it seems at Rockford, and Imogen quickly learns that dark secrets lurk behind the mansion’s aristocratic exterior, hinting that the spate of deaths in her family were no accident. And at the center of the mystery is Imogen herself–and Sebastian, the childhood friend she has secretly loved for years. Just what has Imogen walked into?

(summary via Goodreads)

I’ve seen this one described as Rebecca with a twist, and since we just read Rebecca in my book club (and it was generally well received), this seems like a good pick for me while the other book is still fresh in my mind.  The cover is gorgeous, the description is pitch-perfect for a slightly creepy feeling, and the book has, I think, a great deal of promise. I can’t wait to read this one.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla has had a crush on Josh since their first year of high school at the School of America in Paris.  But she’s pretty sure he doesn’t even know she’s alive until they run into each other at a coffee shop in Manhattan over the summer before their senior year.  That sets in motion things that Isla has only ever dreamed of, and it isn’t long before the two are dating.  Their bliss is short-lived as they encounter resistance from their families, their school, and their own invented problems.

Stephanie Perkins’s much-anticipated conclusion to her romance trilogy offers readers plenty of what the other two titles in the series did: witty dialogue, steamy romance, and insanely privileged teens.  It was also bound to be unable to live up to the hype and anticipation, especially after its delayed release.  While it’s still a perfectly engaging read, it lacks the chemistry of the first novel in the series.

Part of the problem lies with the book’s main characters.  Both Isla and Josh feel woefully short on character development, despite their obvious attraction for each other.  While Isla’s uncertainty about her future feels realistic enough, there isn’t enough development given to other aspects of her character to make her feel like a fully realized person.  The same goes for Josh: apart from his self-obsessed cartooning, there’s not a lot to him.  But they do have undeniable chemistry, and that along with a healthy dose of sex positivity, makes this enjoyable even when the characters feel flat.

It’s interesting to note that the novel’s central conflicts come from within the characters themselves.  Perkins does a nice job of authentically portraying how a person’s own thinking can be their own worst enemy.  These teens in immensely privileged but create their own obstacles that keep them from being together.  Isla’s insecurities and Josh’s self-destructive tendencies create issues that wouldn’t otherwise exist for the duo.

On the whole, the story is predictable but very sweet.  Lackluster character development shouldn’t matter to hardcore Perkins fans, and the character cameos from previous books adds a nice (if a little fan service-y) touch.  A perfectly satisfying light romance.

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. Dutton: 2014. Library copy.

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things that got me thinking this week.  There’s been all kinds of things to think about over the past few days.  Without further ado:

Ambiguously Brown (Medium)

This excellent piece tackles the concept of what TV Tropes calls “ambiguously brown,” which is a person who is probably-definitely not Eastern European white but also not clear what ethnicity a person is.  It’s a trope used in TV and movies all the time to “diversify” a cast in an ambiguous way.

Every “ambiguously brown” person understands how this works in reality: people tend asking point-blank “what you are,” or smugly assume they already know, pinning your brown body down and through, like a butterfly in a natural history archive. Growing up in primarily white suburbs, I had become used to expecting this question, though I won’t say I’m really okay with it.

It’s an interesting, challenging read, and it tackles a lot of different things at once.  Well worth a read.

Pseudonymous Activity  (Dear Author)  AND The Choices of Kathleen Hale (Smart Bitches)

I’ve read a lot (and I mean A LOT) of pieces in response to the Kathleen Hale article published last week in the Guardian (which I am not linking to), and these are two of the best.  They provide an excellent roundup of what has happened and why it’s important, and they do it in a very polished, accessible way.  This is still ongoing in terms of discussion, and though I don’t think there will be much in the way of consequences for Hale (though she definitely lost a good chunk of readership), there’s more to think about as a reviewer and blogger (and, you know, as a human being who believes stalking, in any form, is WRONG).

On Wanting a Book to Fail (Bibliodaze)

This thoughtful piece tackles specifically the issues of James Frey’s book-packaging company Full Fathom Five and the unrelated issue of a major publisher going forward with a fan fiction story written by Anna Todd about the band One Direction.  In the latter case, Todd’s story was published on a fan fiction website and accessed millions of times before being acquired by a major publishing house, repackaged, and being sold as original fiction.  We can blame 50 Shades for that one.  At any rate, Cecilidhann writes:

Wishing failure on something is a loaded call to make. Numerous people have gloried in bragging about wanting political opponents to fail, even if the risks greatly outbalance the short-term schadenfreude. The success or failure of a book isn’t a one person responsibility. Thousands of people work in every facet of publishing, preparing a book from the auction to the bookshelf, and with the industry in as tenuous a state as it is, it’s understandable why everyone’s looking for a safe bet. Big names like Frey and authors with an established reader-base like Todd are seen as those easy bets. On one level, I get why many have overlooked the wider context, but I just can’t do it.

She’s passionate about what she’s saying, but I think she does a great job of being exceedingly fair-minded.  It’s a thought-provoking piece that tackles professional jealousy, the politics of book publishing, and the ethics that go along with the world of writing.

Read Whatever the Hell You Want: Why We Need a New Way of Talking About Young Adult Literature (New Statesman)

I mean, obviously this is relevant to me, because of where my passions lie.  But it’s also an extremely well-written piece worthy of anyone’s time, especially if they’ve read any of the incendiary “think pieces” about adults and YA and literature over the past year:

Backlash has been building for years…And now, it’s the so-called “realism boom”: if a book isn’t about wizards or vampires, if its readers can’t be written off as giggling schoolgirls, if the author is male, or writing about male protagonists, it might be  encroaching on the territory of “serious literature”. Realistic YA is often deemed not quite serious enough – and some act like its existence is some sort of threat to the “adult” titles it might be shelved beside. It appears easier to dismiss a teenage heroine in a dystopian hellscape than it is to dismiss kids with cancer – but these books are getting dismissed all the same.

One the whole, the article does a lovely job of summarizing the various schools of thought that have taken shape over the past few years surrounding what constitutes “good literature” and what people “should” be reading.  As a librarian, as a reader of books and lover of reading, it’s fascinating and infuriating to see people weigh in on this topic, especially when their snobbery and privilege is so powerfully overwhelming and when it’s clear they don’t even have the most basic understanding of whatever it is they’re choosing to disdain.  But it’s also worrying, because: who cares?  This policing of other people’s reading habits isn’t just obnoxious: it feels grossly dangerous.

What got you reading and thinking this week?

Movie News and Blather

Time for another movie news roundup, because I’m not feeling the book stuff today.  Without further ado, here’s the stuff I’m looking forward to, when it comes to movies.

1. Top Five Trailer

Although it’s definitely outside of my usual fare, this Chris Rock written-directed-starring movie was one of the most popular films at the Toronto International Film Festival this year and was part of a pretty serious bidding war.  The film is about a comedian trying to get his life back in order and stars Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, and a bunch of cameos by other people.  It looks pretty awesome.

2. Christian Bale in talks to play Steve Jobs in new biopic

Because one mediocre film about the tech genius wasn’t enough.  It’s being adapted by Aaron Sorking, who has proven time and again that not only does he have a great deal of disdain for technology, but he also doesn’t understand it on a fundamental level.  Plus he’s so great about women! Hooray! (THR)

3. Miss Meadows Trailer

So the movie stars Katie Holmes who is usually pretty awful but who I keep seeing in movies despite this, and it looks like it might be fun in the dumbest ways.  She plays an elementary school teach who is also a vigilante?  Okay?  At any rate, this will be one I watch from the comfort of my couch with more than one drink, probably.

4. Neil Patrick Harris will host the 2015 Oscars 

I like Neil Patrick Harris a lot, and he definitely has the awards show hosting chops to pull this off.  It’s not his fault that the show is bloated, outdated, and boring.  And this is coming from someone who watches it EVERY YEAR. (Variety)

5. Life Partners Trailer

I can’t wait for this one.  Leighton Meester and Gillian Jacobs are best friends who use their co-dependent friendship from having to date anyone.  But then Jacobs’ character meets a dude, and their friendship is put to the test.  It looks like a really smart, really funny movie about female friendship, and it’s directed by a woman, so you know I’m supporting the shit out of this one.  It comes to VOD November 6th before getting a limited theater release.

What movie news got you excited this week?

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday: Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti

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:

Bright Coin Moon by Kirsten Lopresti

Expected Release Date: November 18, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Lindsey Allen is an A-student who has her heart set on becoming an astronomer. But first she must break away from her mother, an eccentric failed beauty queen who has set up a phony psychic reading shop in their Oregon garage.

Lindsey is biding time until she graduates high school, reading tarot cards for the neighbors in her mother’s shop and recording the phases of the moon in her Moon Sign notebook. Her life changes when her mother, Debbie, decides they should move to California to become Hollywood psychics to the stars. As they pull out of the driveway, Lindsey looks up at the silver morning moon. It’s a bright coin moon, which means only one thing: what you leave behind today will rise up tomorrow.

When mother and daughter arrive in Los Angeles with new identities, they move into a leaky, run-down building and spend their nights stalking restaurants and movie premieres to catch that one celebrity they hope will be their ticket. When it seems they will never make it in LA, Lindsey is assigned a new mentor through her school. Joan is a lonely, wealthy widow who can’t get past the death of her husband, Saul. Debbie is convinced they’ve hit the jackpot, and plans for a future séance commence.

As Lindsey grows closer to Joan, guilt over the scam consumes her, and she must make the ultimate decision. But can she really betray her mother?

(summary via Goodreads)

This one looks like it’s going to be an excellent exploration of mother-daughter relationships.  I love a complicated story, and this one looks like it will fit the bill.  If it’s done well, I’m sure it will be riveting.  Here’s hoping.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

Sean Norwhalt thinks his crappy life is turning around when he meets Hallie and they start dating.  But then she leaves for college, and Sean is still stuck in his small town, and he doesn’t know what kind of a future he has, let alone the bright one full of “possibilities” that Hallie keeps talking about.  The only things that are looking okay for Sean are the Marine Corps, which he hasn’t told anyone about, and Neecie Albertson, a girl who wasn’t even on his radar before.

Carrie Mesrobian has done it again in her excellent sophomore effort about a “perfectly good white boy” with serious doubts about his abilities and his future.  As much a character study as a novel can be, this outstanding novel offers an insightful, honest, and achingly real look at a teenage boy.  At times laugh out loud funny and also searingly heartbreaking, this is a standout of a novel, and one of the best of the year.   This is a must-read, must-stock title, not to be missed.

Mesrobian demonstrated her uncanny knack for getting into the heads of teenage boys in her debut, Sex & Violence.  She continues to excel at that talent here, by presenting a teenage boy so authentic in his portrayal that he feels like a real person.  We’ve all known boys like Sean.  Some of the readers are Sean.  He’s smart but unfocused, perceptive but unknowing, and frequently crassly funny.  He’s a good kid who lacks direction.  The result is a memorable character readers can’t help but root for.

The secondary characters work just as well.  Both Hallie and Neecie feel like fully realized people, and they relate to Sean in realistic, sometimes uncomfortably awkward ways.  As Sean navigates his last year of high school, he starts to make realizations about the people around him that feel authentic and natural.  Mesrobian never gives her readers too much information, allowing them to go along on the journey with Sean.

Some readers might get tripped up by the fact that the novel doesn’t have any huge events to knock Sean or the other characters on their asses, but that’s kind of the point. Mesrobian’s book is about a kid who is completely normal, and his life reflects that.  There’s not supposed to be some huge cataclysmic event between the book’s pages, because that’s not something that happens often in life, either.  The result is a measured pace with vivid characters and a moving and satisfying conclusion to the book.

Highly, highly recommended.  One of my favorite titles of the year.

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian. Candlewick: 2014. Electronic galley accepted for review via Edelweiss.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

Here are the pop culture-y things I consumed this weekend.

tammyTammy: I finally got around to watching Tammy, and I was surprised by it, in a mostly good way.  It was funny, but not as silly as I thought it would be.  It had a stellar cast (in addition to Melissa McCarthy and Susan Sarandon) including Allison Janney and Mark Duplass, and it was so female-centric.  I loved that part of it.  I’m glad I saw it, but I’m also glad I waited and didn’t see it in the theater.

The Purge: Anarchy: J. and I love a terrible horror movie, and this one purgefits the bill.  There are so many things wrong with the logic behind The Purge movies if you think about it for like a second, so I spent most of this one cracking jokes and trying not to be scared (just because it’s stupid doesn’t mean I don’t get jumpy).  I don’t know why we keep subjecting ourselves to this shit, but tis the season or whatever.

Elliphant – “One More”

I’m obsessed with this song and have been listening to it on repeat.  There’s something about it that is kind of uplifting but also sort of depressing?  Does that even make sense?  At any rate, it is stuck in my head and I love it.  The video is pretty awesome, too.  I want some light up sneakers, like right now.  The song features Mo, who is also one of my favorite artists right now.  It’s a win-win situation, in my opinion.  This is definitely my song of fall.

 

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?