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 With photo inserts and previously unpublished supplemental material.”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?

Waiting on Wednesday: Magnolia by Kristi COok

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:

Magnolia by Kristi Cook

Expected Release Date: August 5, 2014

In Magnolia Branch, Mississippi, the Cafferty and Marsden families are southern royalty. Neighbors since the Civil War, the families have shared vacations, holidays, backyard barbecues, and the overwhelming desire to unite their two clans by marriage. So when a baby boy and girl were born to the families at the same time, the perfect opportunity seemed to have finally arrived.

Jemma Cafferty and Ryder Marsden have no intention of giving in to their parents’ wishes. They’re only seventeen, for goodness’ sake, not to mention that one little problem: They hate each other! Jemma can’t stand Ryder’s nauseating golden-boy persona, and Ryder would like nothing better than to pretend stubborn Jemma doesn’t exist.

But when a violent storm ravages Magnolia Branch, it unearths Jemma’s and Ryder’s true feelings for each other as the two discover that the line between love and hate may be thin enough to risk crossing over.

(summary via Goodreads)

I’ve been reading a lot of pretty heavy stuff lately, so this one seems like a fairly good antidote, if you ignore the straight-up terrifying notion of an arranged marriage between two TEENAGERS in CONTEMPORARY AMERICA.  Which, I guess, is what the book is asking readers to do, since I think we all know where this one is going.  I don’t expect a lot of surprises out of this one, but I do expect a southern-fried romance, and it looks like it’s going to deliver on that front.  I don’t mind a little steamy read during the steamy hot days of summer.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Jamie Henry’s sister Cate has been in a juvenile detention center for two years, since the night she burned down a barn with horses and a classmate inside.  The classmate survived (albeit very hurt), the horses did not.  Since then, Jamie has tried to live life as normally as possible, dealing with his own anxiety issues.  But now Cate’s out, and she’s coming for him, telling him it’s time to face the truth.  But Jamie isn’t sure what truth she means.

Kuehn’s latest offering is a gripping, absolutely riveting thrill of a novel.  From the onset, readers will be find Jamie’s narrative compelling, his voice authentic, and the slow-burn of the story absolutely unforgettable.  This is a knockout of a novel, and despite the fact that many readers will extol or lament the ending, the novel as a whole is as strong as can be.  This is not a case where the ending makes the book.  The book makes the book, because it’s really that good.

From the start, readers will know that there’s more to this story than meets the eye.  Jamie is a classic unreliable narrator, and while he has moments of sympathy, he’s also kind of a dick.  All of this works perfectly, and Kuehn’s grasp of the character and his affectations make this a hell of a read.  Readers know that Jamie isn’t telling the whole truth, either because he doesn’t want to or because he literally can’t, but there are clues in the text to help them figure it out alongside Jamie.

A great example of a look at mental illness from inside the mental illness, this book stands apart from others of similar ilk because it’s so exceedingly well done.  Tight pacing, excellent plotting, and a firm grasp on the prose makes this a quick read, but one that demands a second or third, much closer reading.  Readers are going to want to go back and look for clues they missed the first time around.  And they’re going to want to talk about them.  Because this is a book that demands to be discussed.

Absolutely engrossing and horrifying.  Recommended for teens and adults alike.  This will make a great discussion book, and is guaranteed to haunt readers for a good long while.  One of the best of the year.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn. St. Martin’s Griffin: 2014. Library copy.