Friday, April 20, 2012

I got a package today.

My copy of Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson arrived today. There may have been happy dancing involved. I have, as is to be expected, many library books that I need to finish, but they may all get shoved on to the back burner so I can read this. Seriously. Very excited.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Girl, Interrupted

I should have mentioned this sooner, but it slipped my mind. Oops. 

Here on Bluestocking Revolution I review all sorts of books. I do not discriminate. Or maybe I do, but the point is: I read whatever catches my interest, be it adult fiction, YA, non-fiction, or anything else. Sadly, "smorgasbord" wasn't an option when entering the Independent Book Blogger Awards, so I went with adult fiction. And there you have it. My decision-making process. Ta da!

Girl, Interrupted is a memoir, thus the disclaimer. Moving right along...

This was a quick and easy read for me, but I found it incredibly interesting. Kaysen tells her story admirably and it really does resonate. Susanna Kaysen, at 18 and after spending only 15 minutes with a psychiatrist she's never met, is sent to McLean Hospital where she stays for nearly two years. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of this book for me is the blurring of the lines between sanity and insanity. Kaysen writes of the thoughts going through her head during her confinement in the hospital, many of which do not fit into our general impression of "crazy." With her annotation of the entry to the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for Borderline Personality Disorder (her diagnosis) Kaysen wonders if this disorder will one day make its way out of the DSM (the way homosexuality did) as societal views of acceptable behavior change.  Kaysen also suggests that with those guidelines, many "normal" teenagers could receive those teenagers. After all, "an essential feature of this disorder is a pervasive pattern of instability of self-image, interpersonal relationships, and mood, beginning in early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts." (p. 147) That pretty much sounds exactly like adolescence. 

I think part of what makes Girl, Interrupted so fascinating is that it doesn't answer the questions that we're all secretly trying not to ask — am I crazy? Will I end up in a loony bin? Kaysen seems to have ended up in the hospital by chance, and much of the time she and her friends don't fit the mold of the stereotypical crazy person. The lines tangle and blur. Who's sane and who's crazy? Sometimes it's difficult to tell.

The Free World

David Bezmozgis' The Free World was an intriguing and, at times, heartbreaking tale of the three generations of the Krasnansky family as they made their way from Soviet-controlled Latvia to "the Free World."

Bezmozgis shows the blurring of lines and the complications that arise as people enter the Free World and ultimately become Free People. In cases like that of a family friend, Lyova, who is no longer branded an refugee, getting a visa to America proves even more difficult as he is now a "free man in a free world."

Lyova might be my favorite character in this book. My complaint would probably be that we don't see enough of his story, except we aren't really supposed to — he's a passing character. He's kind of a tool Bezmozgis uses — he provides introductions for the characters and his predicament brings forth the bigger questions of freedom outside the USSR. Maybe one day he'll get a spin-off book.

On the other hand, there's Karl. With most of the adult characters there was a certain amount of understanding after a while, but I feel like we never reach that point with Karl. He remains a mystery and almost feels like a villain because of it. We don't know what's going on in his mind.

There was less of a driving plot in this book, but it was very strong on character development most of the time. The characters don't move so far, so the readers only get to see a small slice of the journey.

I'm still a bit confused about character motivation of one part — what was the point of all that business with Iza Judo and was it related to the Masha fiasco? If anyone has an answer to this, please let me know because I'm still in the dark about that.

I picked up Girl, Interrupted from the library yesterday and started it today. I only have around 30 pages left, so I'll probably finish that tonight and review tomorrow or the day after. It's been a quick, easy read thusfar.

Don't forget to vote for Bluestocking Revolution on the Independent Book Blogger Awards on Goodreads.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

My friend and I were talking about Game of Thrones. I've kind of halted with the series and gotten caught up with reading all of the other books I have out of the library, so I'm still only a few hundred pages into the second book. 

Yesterday I went over to her house to start watching the HBO series. We ended up watching the entire first season. In one sitting. Have I mentioned that I'm not very good with moderation, self-control, etc.? It's just so good

Needless to say, I returned home at 3:30 in the morning and commenced re-reading the first book (because at that point I had to start at the beginning). I'm reading another book, The Free World, by David Bezmozgis, so I'm switching back and forth. And I've been meaning to re-read The Hunger Games. So many books, so little time. Well, now that I don't have a job, I guess I have more time to read...

In other news, I've entered the Goodreads Independent Book Blogger Awards, so vote for me please! You know you want to read about my adventures at Book Expo America.

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Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Night Circus, way after the fact

I finished The Night Circus a while ago, wrote this review a while ago, and then forgot to post it. Whoops. Better late than never.

Most of the people I've spoken to about this book have very strong feelings about it. Love it or hate it, there are no feelings in the middle. I can kind of understand how it inspires those feelings, yet I am irrevocably indecisive, so I still find myself mostly in the middle of the road. 

I enjoyed reading the book. It held my interest and I didn't really feel that the story lagged or the plot fell apart. That being said, I do take issue with some aspects of the book.

Most of the story is supposed to be set in the late 1800s/early 1900s. Other than women wearing gowns instead of dresses and the characters speaking with fewer contractions there is really no sense of this whatsoever. I understand that this is a different side of that era and Morgenstern is trying to show us a bit of the fantastic, but if you're going to go through the trouble to set that sort of scene, there needs to be more follow-through. 

The challenge concept was a good idea, but there wasn't really the right balance of conflict throughout. At times there was so much focus on the challenge that there was a complete halt to the story, at others, the challenge seemed entirely forgotten. There was just a bit of a balance issue. 

I also wanted to know more about Poppet, Widget, and Bailey and more about Marco's charms. These were the most interesting parts for me and I wish they had been developed more. It just felt like Poppet, Widget, and Bailey should have been played much bigger parts in the story. They were interesting and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know what it was like for Poppet and Widget growing up in the circus. And the magic: Celia's is innate, but Marco's is learned. I understood this to be at least partially the basis of the challenge, so I wanted to know more about Marco's magic. I also wanted to learn more about the magic that held the circus together: what magic belonged to whom?

All in all, Morgenstern has a flair for description, I'll give her that, but at times I wondered at the things she chose to describe. It almost seems like everything I wanted might have been in there at some point, and then someone told her to edit for length and she took out all the wrong parts.

Book People

I decided to make this a separate post since it's only tangentially connected.

Dream program? Check. Dream city? Check. Now I just need to figure out how to make them a reality. I'm confident that I can make it work though. I've decided that I'm willing to put myself into a certain amount of debt to pursue my passion for books. I'm already in debt for college, what's a bit more to get me to a place where I can do something that I love?

So there we go. Yours Truly is moving to the Big Apple. And yes, I am aware that Step 1 is to never again call it the Big Apple. I am really excited about the prospect of living and working in New York, which is something I've wanted to do since I was a kid, but I also can't wait to be around fellow book lovers. 

As one of my friends said when I told her about all this, "you'll finally be with your people!" I told my mom about this exclamation and she laughed and agreed, but then said that wasn't I already with "my people" working at a publishing company? Sadly, no. A friend and I discussed this over drinks — in our chosen fields where so many English and literature majors flock, "our people" — the book dorks and grammarians — are a rarity. 

In a group of ESL teachers she mentioned reading Pride and Prejudice and was met with surprise and near-disdain. The counter in my office kitchen which for most is a place to drop off old books that were cluttering up the closet or to pick up a book that looks interesting was a magical fairy book counter for me, producing a number of books on my ever-growing to-be-read list. 

I went to the library the other day and returned 2 books. I checked out 5. I have at least 4 boxes of books I brought home from college sitting in a closet because we don't have any more shelf space in my house (yes, the fact that they're in the closet and not out in the open haunts me). It's a sickness, but one I wouldn't try to treat. 

I can't wait to move to New York, but I'm kind of dreading it at the same time. If I had to guess, I'd say at least 80% of my possessions are books. And books are heavy.

I suppose there could still be people who are not "my people" in the program. That's fine, you don't have to be a prolific reader to be my friend. But it would be nice if you'd help me carry my books.

My Own March Madness

For all those who perked up at the thought of gym floors and riotous, painted crowds: sorry, false alarm (you poor, lost souls). This post is really about the madness of my life this past month.

First of all (and minor compared to everything else): I am now a certified EMT. Huzzah! There is nothing particularly "mad" about this other than the fact that I am now certified to make healthcare decisions in certain situations. Take that as you will. Now, on to the crazy:

In late February/early March, I hear from Pratt that my application is complete (I know, I sent in everything in November...) and that I should expect a decision by the first week of April. I figure that these timelines are never really accurate, so I'll find out mid-April and settle down to wait impatiently. Skip forward to March 9 when my mother texts me (at 11:30, mind you) that an envelope has arrived from Pratt. I spend the rest of the day agonizing and inwardly flipping out, rush home, down a shot of vodka (judge me if you must), open the letter, and finally exhale once I process that I have, indeed, been accepted.

So that's the first big moment of March. I've gotten into my dream program. Now it's time to apply for financial aid and look for apartments and figure out logistics, but we'll deal with that eventually.

All along I've had this master plan where I'll simply transfer to the NY office of my company (which is mere blocks away from the campus according to Google maps) and life will go on with very few bumps in the road. Well, the best laid plans and all that jazz... When I finally managed to work up the nerve to talk to HR about transferring to the other office, the answer was, at best, a "probably not, but I'll ask." Well, since then the company has gone through "restructuring" and my position has been eliminated. This does happen a lot in the publishing industry and there are certainly no hard feelings, but that's never a good feeling.

That's the other big moment of March.

In some ways it has made things easier because now I can just start looking for jobs in NY. I'm still waiting to hear back from financial aid, which is obviously a huge part of everything since I'm not sure all of my savings could even sustain me in NY for a month.