Sisterhood Everlasting

I recently closed out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by reading Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares.

This review might be a little short – I don’t want to give anything away! For those who have read and love these books, it’s like getting more ice cream after you thought you already had dessert. Brashares states that she still thought about the characters so much and saw them grow up in her head, so she had to write another book.

The girls are all thirty and have drifted slightly apart from one another. Bridget lives in California with Eric, but refuses to buy a real bed because she likes to move around too much. Tibby is in Australia with Brian, and Carmen is a successful actress in New York. Lena teaches art but feels lost, and her only seeming friend is an old lady that she practices Greek with.

One day, the girls all receive tickets from Tibby to fly to Greece and reunite. They are ecstatic because they haven’t heard from Tibby in years. Bridget, Carmen, and Lena fly together to meet Tibby, but when they get to Greece, things aren’t what they expected. They are left reeling, trying to fit themselves back together.

This book made me laugh, cry, and want to throw it across the room at points, but the ending was so satisfying that I ended up loving it despite the roller coaster ride. I’m glad that Brashares gave us a chance to grow up with the girls and show us their lives as adults.

 

 

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

After getting this book recommended to be my multiple people, I had to read it, and I’m very glad I did.Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is a dystopian YA novel set in Chicago in the future. The book follows Beatrice (Tris) as she leaves her home to start a new life.

Society is comprised of five factions, each with its own special trait that defines the residents. Beatrice is from Abnegation, where the defining characteristic is selflessness, but she doesn’t feel like she fits in. When all faction residents are 16, there is a test to determine what traits define them and where they really belong, and then everyone gets to make a choice about which faction they want to live in. When Beatrice receives inconclusive results, she is told she is Divergent, but doesn’t understand what that means. The day of the ceremony, she chooses the faction Dauntless, leaving her family behind.

To become a full memeber of Dauntless, Beatrice changes her name to Tris, and undergoes an initiation process to learn courage and how to overcome fear. During this process, Tris learns that being Divergent is very dangerous, and she has to watch herself in training. She finds that she can beat the fear simulations with little effort, which causes the leaders of Dauntless to suspect her of being Divergent. After her initiation, all hell breaks loose.

I won’t give anything away, but as you can imagine with most dystopian novels, the citizens finally realize that things weren’t what they seem and a rebellion is bound to occur. With a little romance thrown in with another Divergent, Tris must fight to save her world. This book was a fun and quick read. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games and wants to dive into other worlds. There is also a sequel, Insurgent, which I’ll have to find at the library!

Why We Broke Up – A Witty Novel of Teenage Love

A beautiful book with illustrations by Maira Kalman

One of my recent reads,Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler was a slightly hilarious and slightly mortifying read of a high school relationship that fell apart.

Min, short for Minerva, tells this story in one long letter, addressed to her now-ex-boyfriend, Ed. Each chapter features an image of an object (art by Maira Kalman) which Min has placed in a box to return to Ed. These objects are the random souvenirs Min has accumulated throughout the span of their relationship. Her friend Al drives her over to Ed’s house to drop the box off while she writes the letter.

Each object has a different story. There are movie stubs from their first date, a poster that Ed ripped to write his phone number on, and an egg cuber for a movie star party they were going to throw together. Through these objects, we learn the story of how Min and Ed got together and then fell apart. Min is “arty” and “different,” although she just likes films and coffee and doesn’t understand why everyone has to label her that way. Ed is the co-captain of the basketball team and a very unlikely match for Min, who has flown mostly under the radar in high school. Through fights with Al (who doesn’t approve of Ed) and befriending Ed’s ex-girlfriend Annette, we are taken through Min’s journey. Although everyone else seems to be skeptical of them working, she and Ed declare their love for each other and spend most of their time together. Min starts attending Ed’s basketball practices after school and hanging out with him at home, and Ed learns to love coffee at Min’s favorite coffee shop.

However, like all star-crossed-lovers-from-opposite-spheres stories, Ed and Min aren’t meant to last. The end features a secret about Ed that breaks Min’s heart and forces her to end the relationship. Despite the inevitable ending, I really enjoyed this book. Min was so real, so funny, and so easy to relate to. The prose was sophisticated but fit Min’s character exactly. The illustrations were also great additions to the story, allowing the reader to see the objects as Min tells stories about them and what they represent.

Does this make you think of your own high school breakups? Everyone remembers their first heartbreak. Handler and Kalman actually have a website devoted to telling breakup stories – www.whywebrokeupproject.tumblr.com. If you liked the book, it’s worth it to poke around on the website.

Fun Fact: Daniel Handler is also the elusive Lemony Snicket from the Series of Unfortunate Events series. I have to admit I didn’t know that until after reading this book!

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

As a summer tradition, I re-read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares. If you haven’t read this book, you really should. I can’t say I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time when I read it, probably when I was in junior high, but I got sucked into the story and the characters just as fast.

Do you ever have the problem when you re-read beloved books and you get disappointed that the book was not as magical as it was the first time you read it? I had that issue with this book. I remember reading it many summers ago and absolutely falling in love with the characters, wanting their lives. After having grown up a few years, I can’t relate as much to their stories, but I can still enjoy them.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants follows four girls – Carmen, Bridget, Lena, Tibby – as they live through their first summer apart from each other. They have been friends all their lives, and the idea of a summer that doesn’t involve them all hanging out every day scares them. Luckily, they find a magic pair of pants that happens to fit them all. They decide that the Pants should travel among them over the summer to keep them together. Carmen travels to live with her dad for the summer, only to discover that her dad has a new life and new family. Lena goes to Greece to live with her grandparents, and finds love in the most unexpected way. Bridget falls head-over-heels for an off-limits coach at a soccer camp and almost loses herself in the process, and Tibby is stuck at home, working, and making friends with someone new who will change her life. The book follows each of them equally, shows their letters back and forth, describes their times apart, and shows how they stay together despite how everything is changing. It is a great book about friendship and summer, and I highly recommend it. It is still a great favorite of mine – as is the whole series.

 

Meanwhile, I went to Barnes & Noble yesterday (I know, I know, Big Bad Chain Bookstore) and bought a couple new books to read: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (which I just started!) and Divergent by Veronica Roth. It was also pretty cool, because I saw The Lifeguard by Deborah Blumenthal on the shelves for sale (if you forgot, I reviewed that in November after getting a copy from NetGalley).

After shopping at B & N I decided I need to find some small, local book stores to dig into. Time to search for treasure!

Summer Reading

Well, the summer is right around the corner (or already here, for some of you), so I thought I’d share a few of the books I want to read this summer!

One of my favorite things about summer is that all of a sudden it seems that there are more hours in the day. I can sit on a blanket outside or in a chair and just soak up the sun, enjoy the outdoors, and read. I usually read 2-3 books at the same time in the summer – something heavy, something light, and something I love to revisit.

My sister and I on a family vacation a few years back. I’m not sure what she’s doing, but I’m the one reading 🙂

Here are some of the top books on my summer reading list:

  • Until I Find You by John Irving
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
  • On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony
  • Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
  • When She Woke by Hillary Jordan
  • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  • Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

 

What’s on your list? What’s your favorite way to read over the summer? If you need reading suggestions, GoodReads has a pretty extensive list here.

Back in Practice

After about a three month hiatus, I’m back. I’m in the final push (7 days of class left) until I can take a three month break from school and hopefully read and write more! The class I’m taking right now is called “Science for Society.” It is affectionately nicknamed, “Science for Stupid People,” or, more euphemistically, “Science for Non-Science Majors.” Today I sat through an hour and a half of looking at optical illusions to learn that the brain does not always process things correctly. I walked away with a killer headache and a strong nostalgia for my regular English classes. While it is helpful to break things up sometimes and do different things (it is a liberal arts college after all), it’s hard for me to get into a literary mood when my brain is full of statistics and hypotheses and vocab words for problems in scientific thinking.

So, I decided to try and think back on books I’ve read recently and rate them. I’m thinking of it as a practice post to get back into the habit of blogging, so if this is terrible and you think I’m dumb and you hated reading this…I’m sorry. It’ll get better.

How the Light Gets In by MJ Hyland. I just finished this book – I’d give it about an 7 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being fabulous, 1 atrocious). An Australian student comes to study in the US and finds it very difficult to fit in with her new host family. The writing captures the voice of the teen character well, but I didn’t end the book feeling like she grew at all, which was disappointing.

The Band that Played On by Steve Turner. Yes, I hopped on the Titanic bandwagon in April. I think this book gets a 7 too – it was very informative, but almost too much so. I didn’t need to know every little detail of every musician’s life; I was more interested in their role on the Titanic and the accounts of the band playing as the ship went down. Interesting, but not what I wanted from it.

Girl Reel by Bonnie J. Morris. This one was great, I have to give it at least a 9. This book is a memoir of what it was like for Bonnie to grow up as a lesbian without culture around her to represent that it was okay. She traces how she identified herself through different films, always waiting for the film that would portray a healthy, loving, gay relationship. Very well written.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. It was time for my annual re-reading of this book and, once again, I loved it. I always do. Well, the first time I tried to read it I hated it because of the language, but once you get over that, it really is a good story. I found a funny little synopsis here.

That’s all for now! I will try my hardest to post regularly again 🙂

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Recently, for British Lit, I read North and Southby Elizabeth Gaskell.

I really enjoyed reading this book, although in class we almost beat it to death discussing it for two weeks. I don’t think I’ve lit-geeked out about a book like this since Pride and Prejudice, but that’s probably because the two books are similar in a lot of ways!

Margaret Hale is the daughter of a clergyman, but when her father starts to have doubts about the Church, they move from their country home in the south to the industrial mill-town, Milton, in the north. There, her father tutors local mill owner Mr. Thornton. Margaret spends her time learning about the town and taking care of her mother, who has fallen ill. Her and Mr. Thornton disagree about many things, but when a strike occurs and Mr. Thornton is in danger, Margaret throws herself in front of him, saving him from something thrown from the crowd. The next day, Thornton proclaims his love but is rejected by Margaret.

Now, of course, the real intrigue can begin. Margaret has an older brother who is essentially banished from England. He committed mutiny against an unfair leader while in the navy, and if he is seen again he will be hanged. Regardless, he snuck back into the country to visit his sick mother. After a few days, he and Margaret walk to the train station together and Frederick leaves. Mr. Thornton happens to see them together and mistakenly assumes that Frederick is some sort of secret lover.

Meanwhile, things start to go really bad for Margaret (I won’t give it away) and she is forced to move to London to live with her newly married cousin. Now removed from Milton, Margaret realizes how much she misses the town…and Mr. Thornton. When he finally comes back into her life and learns the truth about her, we get the happy ending we’ve been expecting from the day that Margaret and Thornton met.

The book is really interesting as a Victorian novel because it challenges gender roles and describes the effects of industrialization. It highlights class differences and shows how society changed with technology. Driving it all is, of course, the romance. I really enjoyed reading it, and I would highly recommend North and South.