Wednesday, July 31, 2013

30 in 30 Challenge Update #1

I’m now knee-deep in the 30 in 30 challenge and I definitely feel like I have my work cut out for me. Even just reading short books and graphic novels, I find myself scheduling extra reading time every day.
Here are the books I read during the first week and some “microreviews.”
  1. French Milk by Lucy Knisley (graphic memoir)
    Knisley is a talented cartoonist, but this memoir of a trip to Paris with her mother is a bit drab and repetitive. It seemed like I read about what she ate for dinner on every other page with snippets of visits to art museums in between. I would have liked to read more of Lucy’s thoughts and feelings rather than a log of meals and museums.
  2. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler (nonfiction, drama)
    Eve Ensler based these vignettes on hundreds of interviews that she conducted with women all over the world. These monologues with the “Vagina Facts” sprinkled throughout make for enlightening reading.
  3. So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away by Richard Brautigan (fiction)
    Brautigan’s narrator looks back on a childhood accident that shaped the rest of his life in this short novel. Set in the post-WWII 1940s, So the Wind Won’t Blow it All Away is mostly sad, but like all Brautigan’s novels, immensely readable and unique.
  4. The Little Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery (Children’s fiction)
    The classic children’s book depicts the Little Prince’s visit to Earth and several other small, strange planets. The Prince’s naivety and joie de vivre make him a perfect candidate to explain the real reasons that we live and learn.
  5. A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (poetry)
    A brilliant collection and my first introduction to Ferlinghetti. My favorite poems in A Coney Island of the Mind were in the middle section, “Oral Messages.” These were written for jazz accompaniment and are reminiscent of today’s slam poets.
  6. Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan (graphic novel)
    A stunning introduction to Brian K. Vaughan’s newest graphic series, Saga is the story of Marko and Alana, star-crossed lovers from opposite sides of an inter-galactic war. Saga is worth reading just for Fiona Staples’s stunning art, but it’s worth sticking around for Vaughan’s character development, narrative voice, and complex storytelling.
  7. Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue (short stories)
    In Kissing the Witch, Emma Donoghue presents thirteen retellings of classic fairy tales. Sometimes it’s immediately obvious what source material Donoghue draws from, other times the reinterpretation is subtle. Either way, these are delicate and heart-wrenching tales that draw the reader into a world of magic, love, and loss.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

30 in 30 Challenge

In the hopes of getting myself to read more and knocking out some books that I’ve been meaning to read for…ever, I’m doing a 30 books in 30 days challenge. I heard about this recently from a few different blogs and it sounded like a fun idea. Most of the books I’ll be reading are relatively short, but I tried to mix in as many different types and genres as I could. Here is a VERY tentative list of what I’ll be reading over the next 30 days:
  1. At Work – Annie Leibovitz
  2. Austenland – Shannon Hale
  3. The Boyfriend List – E. Lockhart
  4. A Coney Island of the Mind – Lawrence Ferlinghetti
  5. Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
  6. Essays in Love – Alain de Botton
  7. Ethan Frome – Edith Wharton
  8. Free Will – Sam Harris
  9. French Milk – Lucy Knisley
  10. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making – Catherynne M. Valente
  11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  12. I Remember Nothing – Nora Ephron
  13. Interpreter of Maladies – Jhumpa Lahiri
  14. Kissing the Witch – Emma Donoghue
  15. The Little Prince – Antoine de St. Exupery
  16. The Locked Room – Paul Auster
  17. Looking for Alibrandi – Melina Marchetta
  18. Maus I – Art Spiegelman
  19. Nine Stories – J.D. Salinger
  20. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
  21. Polaroids from the Dead – Douglas Coupland
  22. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Tom Stoppard
  23. Saga Volume 1 – Brian K. Vaughan
  24. Saga Volume 2 – Brian K. Vaughan
  25. The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet – Reif Larson
  26. Shopgirl – Steve Martin
  27. So the Wind Won’t Blow it all Away – Richard Brautigan
  28. Sweet Tooth Volume 4 – Jeff Lemire
  29. Sweet Tooth Volume 5 – Jeff Lemire
  30. The Vagina Monologues – Eve Ensler
The selections may change based on my mood, the weather, etc. I’ll post a couple updates every week throughout the challenge. I started French Milk by Lucy Knisley earlier today and will (hopefully) finish up before bed tonight. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Night Film by Marisha Pessl

624 pages, will be published on August 20th 2013 by Random House
When the 24-year-old daughter of infamous horror film director Stanislas Cordova is found dead in an elevator shaft, the police immediately rule her death a suicide. But investigative reporter Scott McGrath, who briefly tangled with Cordova several years earlier, is certain that there’s more to the story. Teaming up with two rookies - Nora, the coat-check girl who saw Ashley Cordova days before her death and Hopper, a quiet drug dealer who received a mysterious package from Ashley - McGrath begins to unravel Ashley’s twisted past and in turn, the horrifying history of Cordova himself. But every loose end that McGrath manages to tie seems to work itself free, leaving new questions and startling conclusions in its wake. As he dives further into the Cordova family’s past, a sinister place populated with curses, black magic, and death, paranoia sinks in and McGrath begins to think that he is being targeted by Cordova himself.
Scott McGrath is a likeable character, although his quest for the “truth” does cloud his judgment in both his personal and professional lives. I found myself raising my eyebrow a few times as he blatantly put himself and his family in danger and his already tarnished reputation on the line. His relationships with Nora and Hopper are endearing, yet somewhat unrealistic. I can’t imagine a veteran reporter actually allowing two inexperienced strangers, decades younger than himself, ride shotgun on perhaps the most important investigation of his life. But for the most part, their dynamic works: Nora’s innocence, Scott’s determination, and Hopper’s secret motivations blend together to form a perfect storm of investigative prowess. 
In a nod to post-modernism and perhaps to create a more visual reading experience, several sections of the book are scans from articles about Ashley and her father, screenshots of webpages, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Most of this worked well for the book by giving the reader a sense of involvement with the story, as if we, too, were reading the hidden Cordova message boards and magazine articles along with McGrath. But I could have done without the few photos of Ashley herself, as I would have liked to create my own image of her. I imagine these photos were included, again, to create the feeling that Ashley’s story is grounded in reality and add a greater sense of urgency to the novel. 
With Night Film, Marisha Pessl has crafted a literary thrill ride that will leave readers turning pages deep into the night. I myself began to feel tied up in Cordova’s complex world the longer that I read. My imagination got the best of me a few times after the lights had gone out. And more than once as Scott McGrath gave brief synopses of Cordova’s films, my first reaction was skip over those sections because I didn’t want his films to be spoiled for me before I got to see them. Unfortunately for us, Cordova exists only in the excellent Night Film, as do his films, his fans, and his family.
**I received this book for free through the Goodreads first reads program.
Rating: 4.5/5

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book Haul

I went to New York City for the first time last week, so of course I went to the Strand Bookstore (18 miles of books!!). I thought that I exhibited great self control in only buying six new books. These were my purchases:
Essays in Love by Alain be Botton
Free Will by Sam Harris
Paper Towns by John Green
The Receptionist by Janet Groth
Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
The Society of Timid Souls: or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland
It was a really amazing, though moderately overwhelming, store with tons of cute tote bags, notebooks, etc. I plan on going back on my next trip to NYC!

I went to New York City for the first time last week, so of course I went to the Strand Bookstore (18 miles of books!!). I thought that I exhibited great self control in only buying six new books. These were my purchases:
  • Essays in Love by Alain be Botton
  • Free Will by Sam Harris
  • Paper Towns by John Green
  • The Receptionist by Janet Groth
  • Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell
  • The Society of Timid Souls: or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland
It was a really amazing, though moderately overwhelming, store with tons of cute tote bags, notebooks, etc. I plan on going back on my next trip to NYC!