I Just Purchased…

Although I try to live pretty frugally until starting a full time job (no internet/cable, stacking books on the floor to save money on bookshelves, etc.) I have a hard time saying “no” to buying books! I get my fair share of books at the library, but there are some titles (old and new) that sound too good to just “rent” and I think I’ll want to read more than once. Today I took a trip to the bookstore and while I wanted to buy nine books I settled on two: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler and The Accidental Highwayman: Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides by Ben Tripp.  I’m all about the nonfiction genre and I know Amy’s book will be hilarious (though I doubt more hilarious than Rachel Dratch’s) but sometimes a girl just needs a good work of fiction. When I read the description of Ben Tripp’s teen novel it made me excited – a combination of historical fiction and fantasy. This is the description from the book jacket:

In eighteenth-century England, young Christopher “Kit” Bristol is the unwitting servant of notorious highwayman Whistling Jack. One dark night, Kit finds his master bleeding from a mortal wound, dons the man’s riding cloak to seek help, and changes the course of his life forever. Mistaken for Whistling Jack and on the run from redcoats, Kit is catapulted into a world of magic and wonders he thought the stuff of fairy tales. Bound by magical law, Kit takes up his master’s quest to rescue a rebellious fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England. But his task is not an easy one, for Kit must contend with the feisty Princess Morgana, gobling attacks, and a magical map that portends his destiny: as a hanged man upon the gallows…. Fans of classic fairy-tale fantasies will find much to love in this irresistible YA debut by Ben Tripp, the son of one of America’s most beloved illustrators, Wallace Tripp (Amelia Bedelia). Following in his father’s footsteps, Ben has woven illustrations throughout the story.

I haven’t read it yet, but I’m excited to start this novel because it sounds so different from most of the other young adult books being published lately.  I think that even teens eventually get tired of reading about different vampires/mythical beings falling in love or independent heroines surviving-and-eventually-leading their dystopian society. I know I do. Fingers crossed that today’s splurge was worth it! I technically bought three books today and gave the third one to charity. When I was checking out the man at the register asked if I wanted to purchase a book for children, teens, and their families in the hospital. I can’t remember the name of the charity but every year Barnes and Noble do similar book donations around the country and I think it’s for a great cause. You can choose any book you’d like to donate, but since I was already purchasing at the register I chose one that they had on display (because I think we all know that I’d go straight to Harry Potter if I had picked one) and ended up donating The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I LOVE THIS BOOK. And I mean Love with a capital L. I enjoyed every chapter and cried more than once while reading Liesel’s journey that was both heartbreaking and heartwarming – kudos to the author for accomplishing that difficult feat. I hope that a teen in the hospital will enjoy it as much as I did! xx. ls

Get Gone, Gone Girl.

I’m writing to you today from my home-away-from-home – the library. I’ve already started making a habit of dropping by on my days off to see if we got any new arrivals in books or DVDs and I think my coworkers are starting to think I am insane for doing this – regardless of the fact that I live a 5 minute walk away.

The theme of today’s post is a cliché but relates to reading – be true to yourself.

I’m not saying you should never try reading something new and out of your comfort zone – I will be doing the same by reading some Sci-Fi books this year. You can discover something you really like if you give it a chance… but if you already know you’ll hate it, don’t bother reading it.

I need to take my own advice.

While I was working the other night a patron brought back a copy of Gone Girl, a book that got phenomenally popular over the last year. While I was getting my MLIS in Pittsburgh I’d be on the bus or walking my dog on any given day and spot at least one person reading this book . Someone at work would always be telling me how good this book was. It was everywhere. I didn’t care.

There was something about it that made me know I’d hate it before I ever picked it up. I have no clue what it was – some kind of an intuition regarding several factors including but not limited to: the title, cover, and popularity.

Despite this, I went against my better judgement and tepidly checked it out. I started it that night and got through 200 pages like a robot, getting no emotion out of the experience at all. I read the next 200 pages the next day and finished it. I hated it and I had to finish it because I hated it.

On the bright side, it didn’t fill me with nearly as much rage as Happier at Home or Under the Tuscan Sun did (which seriously probably wasn’t healthy). But regardless, I get to add that title to my hate list while remaining irked that I went against my intuition and bothered reading it in the first place.

During the experience I was reminded of one of my first shifts at the library when a “floater” came in (an employee who floats from branch to branch and isn’t a permanent employee of my location who I will now refer to as Floater) and immediately started griping about how we have The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) on display. He went on and on about how people only say they liked it because she wrote it and it got horrible reviews before they knew it was her book (which isn’t true). On and on he went about how much he hated it. Then Floater goes on to say that he’s never read and it doesn’t know anyone who’s read it and he hates seeing it on display. It really irked me that he felt that way – that he didn’t even KNOW anyone who had read it and he still hated it. But now I’m a little more understanding – some people in general don’t like to have titles/authors pushed in their faces. Other people rely on this method in order to be able to pick out anything to read, but others cringe at it. I guess I’m a little like Floater and am a cringer sometimes.

So go on, fellow readers, and learn from my mistakes. Take chances but remain true to yourself.

(Unless you like getting book-rage)

xx. ls

(Down)Time Management

Something I’ve discovered about myself since I got out of grad school is that I’m bad at downtime management. Time management is something I’m great at: I worked two jobs while in school full time. Give me tasks at work or assignment deadlines and I am on it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do all-nighters or feel the pressure of the clock ticking away, but that’s just a reality of deadlines. My skill of Downtime management, however, is another story.

When I moved back to Ohio after graduating I transferred back with my retail job… and its closest store is an hour away from where I currently live. I cut back on my hours to devote as much time as possible to job searching (I can’t tell you how many times I was told, “Job searching is a full time job! heh heh!” Heh. I knoooooow.) That luckily paid off, but I realized one day that I had some downtime issues when I had been up since 8:00am and before I knew it, it was suddenly 5:15pm… where the day had gone?

I am an advocate for Lazy Day Appreciation. No matter what the circumstances are or what the weather is, everyone is entitled to Lazy Days – living in their own guilt-free world where yeah, maybe it’s one of the first beautiful Spring days and they need to clean out their car, do four loads of laundry, and finally fix that shutter that’s been hanging on by a single hinge since last summer, but they get a free pass to do none of it. Just because.

I now realize I’ve been abusing the downtime, Lazy Day system. Like government (supposedly), downtime can only be enjoyed properly through checks and balances. “Too much of a good thing” is a real thing. When I had actual time management to worry about, my very limited downtime was spent joyously unproductively. When I had a few months at my disposal I got rid of the checks and balances, living days at a time where there weren’t any new openings to apply to and throughout the day I had basically accomplished nothing.

Sadly, to me at least, I now realize that even downtime must be properly taken care of. If I get two days off in a row I feel like it’s a week vacation – but now that I’m an adult (when did that happen?) I have to actually do things with the downtime I’m given so that I can really, truly enjoy some of those Lazy Days that are becoming more rare as I’m getting older with a potential-career thing going on.

A big change I need to make? Get out of the habit of using downtime as Netflix time. I could probably read 15 books a month if I just stopped watching Netflix. I could paint some rooms. Paint some canvases. Write some stories. Clean my car.

“But, but, Sister Wives! I must stream Sister Wives!” No, self. I do not.

I don’t watch a ton of actual T.V. and when I get my own place I have no intention of getting cable – but when it comes to DVDs and Netflix, it’s like I’ve entered The Black Hole Of Time. I need to teach myself that having an entire day off of work doesn’t mean my entire day needs to be downtime. Even during the aftermath of a snowstorm, like I’m in today. But I have to admit… it feels good.

xx. ls

“Lit Gifts”

If you’re a nerd book enthusiast such as myself, chances are you’ve received your fair share of book/library-inspired gifts. I love them. And this year I got two gifts that are totally share-worthy.

Gift #1 is a Harry Potter necklace from my best good friend Nissa that  has the “9 3/4” sign from the platform to Hogwarts. I’ve always thought if I ever got a tattoo that I would get 9 3/4 on me somewhere. Most fans go for the Deathly Hallows symbol or “Mischief Managed” (can you tell I’ve researched this?) but I like the idea that the platform was Harry’s first real step into the world where he was always meant to be.  Also, reading Harry Potter was the first time I felt like reading was extraordinary. I was in the 4th grade and already knew I liked reading and writing, but I was always sitting in Mrs. Genslinger’s room staring at a huge poster of The Sorcercer’s Stone in the upper right hand corner of the room, with Harry on a broomstick about to grab a snitch. I was enthralled with this poster, transfixed by it – I had to know more. But every week we went to the school library it was always taken out by another student… until my luck changed. Mrs. Helmers, the school librarian, started reading it to us one fateful Friday and after one chapter I went home from school and demanded (probably timidly asked) that my parents buy it for me so I could read the rest. And they did. And the rest is history.

Gift #2 is an awesome “Bibliofile” book that came from my friend Kate in Pittsburgh. I moved away almost 6 months ago but it’s friends like Kate that make me really miss the city. This book is self-described as “a reading journal for book lovers” and is full of pages to enter books you’ve read, their authors, your rating, notes, and what other subjects it has inspired you to study. Not only that, but there are a quite a lot of biographical pages for the reader to fill out concerning their favorite authors, places they like to read, the best and worst films based on books, etc. The end even has lists of Pulitzer Prize winners according to year, among other awards.

I have great friends.

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BadReads.

Have you ever felt so disappointed by a book that you couldn’t get over it for days?… or is that just me? This happened to me twice in 2013. At the same time.

In the summer of 2013 I was performing an internship doing eBook cataloging and while I waited for batches to load I had a lot of time to read. My first date with disaster was in the first week of July with Frances Mayes’ Bella Tuscany. The month prior I had read Under the Tuscan Sun, admittedly because I love the movie and thought I should give the book a whirl. I was wrong to do so. As it happens in Hollywood, the movie and the book are about as opposite as they can get – the only similarities being a woman named Frances Mayes buys a house in Italy and some Polish men help remodel it. I disliked the book so much I had to keep going on with the next book Bella Tuscany. It was like Twilight: something so bad you just couldn’t stop staring at the “car crash” as you drove by in slow motion.

One of the things I loved about the movie was that Frances is portrayed as a strong woman learning to pick up her life again after a terrible divorce. Alone, she takes risks and dives into the unknown while she navigates through a new world on a new continent, and lives each day appreciating the beauty in it.

In reality Ms. Mayes and her boyfriend were college professors and had planned the purchase of the house and they spend the summers and some winter breaks fixing it up. While the movie inspired me to want to take risks and just got for it!, the book’s constant complaints about remodeling made me want to shake her to try to make her realize how great she had it.

Now this is what really grinds my gears. Directly after Bella Tuscany I read Happier At Home, a “sequel” to Gretchen Rubin’s bestseller The Happiness Project. I enjoyed The Happiness Project for what it was, and marched on through some of the annoying/unnecessary anecdotes to appreciate the “life tips” Rubin gives about de-cluttering your life and trying to reach “happiness”.

I work at the retail store Anthropologie which has sold The Happiness Project since it was published and as soon as we got in Happier At Home I bought it without even opening it, thinking it was as good as the first. I was wrong.

It’s true that The Happiness Project was marketed as a relatable mom-next-door’s search of happiness while living in Brooklyn. However, if you research into the family you learn that Rubin married into one of the most wealthiest families in New York and enjoys a life relatable to any woman living in a Penthouse with a help staff.

Happier At Home was the first book that made me disappointed enough to actually review it on Amazon and give it one star. Rubin’s writing in this book is so unbearably repetitive I had to skip pages at a time. For example, in a book less than 300 pages she mentions at least three times about working/interning for Sandra Day O’Conner. She talks about how people in her life were giving her advice and ideas on ways to achieve happiness and doesn’t even want to entertain the thought of trying them out for herself. She comes across as ungrateful and uninterested in hearing anything that she hasn’t thought of first.

Her “tips” for happiness are far from what she discusses in her first book, and the second time around they consist of “I decided to kiss my husband more because I heard affection makes your love stronger.” On that note, I couldn’t believe one section she included: Rubin discusses trying to come up with a once-a-month date night with her husband so they always have something to look forward to with each other. She brings it up to her husband multiple times and he shoots her down multiple times by ignoring her. She basically shrugs at the reader and says, “that’s how my husband is.” Why would you include a, frankly, awkward failure like that in your book that’s about bonding with your loved ones?

I’m not even going to go into this, but WAY too many pages of this book were devoted to Rubin’s sense of smell. You’re just going to have to read it yourself to learn about that one.

For what it’s worth, Anthropologie still sells The Happiness Project, and Happier At Home went on sale within three months of us getting it in.

Need to rant about an awful or disappointing book? Let it all out below, friend. Let it all out.