Late to the Party -- Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Heroines, and Bookish Problems I Have

So I always see the Top Ten Tuesday features on The Broke and the Bookish, but I never bother to go look at this week's topic ahead of time. Which means... well, apparently it means Tuesday fell on a Saturday this week. Anyway --

My Top Ten Favorite Heroines:

1. Pretty much all of Lois McMaster Bujold's heroines -- especially Cordelia, Ekaterin, and Ista.

2. Elizabeth Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and Anne Eliot -- For different reasons, but these are three characters who know who they are, what they want, and what they're willing to do (or not do) to get it.

3. Jane Eyre -- Heck yes Jane Eyre. Speaking of knowing who you are and how far you'll go for what you want. This is a girl who Takes. Control. Of the Situation.

4. Ella from Ella Enchanted -- Ok, have we noticed a trend yet of women who fight back, take control, and don't accept what life gives them? Good, because Ella totally fits in with that trend as well. Cursed by a stupid fairy? Find her. She threatens to turn you into a squirrel? Just kidding, you speak a different language. (That you learned just 'cause, because you learn languages for fun.) 

5. The Graceling girls -- Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue all have a special place in my heart.

6. All the Lunar Chronicles girls -- I think my love/obsession with the Lunar Chronicles is well documented by now.

7. Buran from Seven Daughters and Seven Sons --My best friend handed me this book in high school, and it's still one of the things I love about her-- that she made me read this book. In fact, I'm tempted to go find myself a copy RIGHT NOW and reread it, because it's been way too long.

8. Frankie Landau-Banks -- Oh, Frankie. You're that girl in high school who I would have seen and really really wanted to be friends with, but I was too shy and awkward to actually TALK to you or anything. But good for you, fighting The Man and still wanting a man.

9. Matilda Wormwood -- When I was little, I wanted to be Matilda. I still do.

10. Jasmine from Bad Kitty -- I love Jas. So very much. She has a very clear idea of what she wants to do, she works hard to be good at it, she knows where she's going in life, she surrounds herself with supportive people who think she's amazing and want her to succeed... Yeah, I love Jas a TON.

Ok I thought I'd have trouble thinking of ten heroines I love. Clearly, I was being stupid.

Just for fun, I want to tell you about some of my Bookish Problems, which was last week's Top Ten Tuesday.

-Forgetting which ebooks I own. I keep buying ebooks and forgetting about them. On the one hand, this is annoying because I forget about them and don't remember to go back and read them. On the other hand, though, it's makes for a kind of nice surprise whenever I get around to looking through my ecollection. (However, confession: It's harder for me to browse e-collections of books than physical collections of books. Something about being able to SEE the books on my shelf just makes it so much easier.)

On the subject of physical books, though...
-Moving. I don't know if you know this about me, but I move constantly. In the last two years, I've moved four times, and I'm moving again in two weeks. And all that moving tends to wreak havoc on my book collection. I've got books in storage, books almost out of storage, books in boxes, books on shelves... These days, because it's all so pell-mell, I mostly rely on my e-books. (In fact, I've only read two paper books since September.) But someday, my friends. Some day.

-My 18-month-old daughter keeps ripping up her board books. She keeps tearing the spine off, which occasionally leads to pages falling off. I don't know how to stop her, and it breaks my heart that she can't look at books unsupervised anymore.

One last one, which isn't about books themselves, but about content and writing styles.
-I hate it when I finish a book that's written in the first person and I can't remember the main character's name. Seriously. If I have to go back to the synopsis and look it up, what's the point of even having read the book? Just say people's names a little more, authors!


The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Review: Ok, first things first: There is a LOT of swearing in this book, and a lot of teenage sex. So go into it with that knowledge.

That being said, I actually really liked this book. Even though Bianca's coping strategy isn't one I would try or recommend, I can totally understand where she's coming from. When there's an issue you want to avoid dealing with or thinking about, finding something to distract yourself can help you stay sane. But it can also be unhealthy to constantly escape from your problems instead of dealing with them or solving them, which Bianca came to discover. I felt like her journey was believable and relatable, and I was happy to follow along with her.

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, snark-attack



Burial Rites by Hanna Kent

Summary: A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829.

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her. But as Agnes's death looms, the farmer's wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they've heard.

Riveting and rich with lyricism, BURIAL RITES evokes a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and asks the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?

Review: What a lovely book. Reading the description, I'm not really sure why I wanted to read it. It doesn't really sound like my kind of book, but when I thought about what kind of book it would be like, it really did sound like something I'd enjoy.

And I did enjoy it. Despite the problems I had with it, which come to me the more I think about it, now that the book's done. At the time, it was a very enjoyable book to read. It was interesting and riveting, and I'd read more by Hannah Kent.

Although. Although. I don't know. It's a little convenient, isn't it, that the spurned lover of a murdered man has such a convenient story of how little she was involved with the actual murder, don't you think? But the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Because she goes on and on in the beginning about how she's gonna protect herself and not open up and tell people the truth about who she is. But it didn't seem to me like it took much effort to get her to change her mind and start spilling her guts. UNTIL I remember one of the first things she says to Reverend Tóti, which is, "I could tell you anything."

Which makes me think, maybe she's not such a reliable narrator after all? And few things intrigue me more than an unreliable narrator.

I do wish there had been more of the main story. The first half of the book is about 70/30, but the second half (basically once she gets to the juicy part of the flashbacks), that ratio is pretty much reversed. I guess because there's only so much interesting stuff that can happen on a small farm in the middle of nowhere, beyond listening to a convicted murderer tell a crazy story about the guy she supposedly murdered.

Overall, I was a big fan. I liked reading about Agnes's gradual acceptance into her temporary home, and I liked getting glimpses into her mind. Despite the grisly subject matter, it was a nice book to read.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, is-or-would-be-a-good-movie, my-kind-of-woman, thought-provoking



I need to stop

So I got a Kindle this week, and now I... I can't stop buying books for it.

I mean, I know that it's important to load up my new device, but I DO already have a Nook, and downloading library books onto the Kindle is surprisingly easy.

It's just...

There are so many cheap books!!

And I keep buying them...

I've also been buying Nook books. My defense is two-fold: I rarely pay more than $3 for them (3 of them were free, in fact), and also I got a $5 gift card from B&N this week (which is why I splurged on Dear Mr. Knightley, which I'm excited about after reading Lizzy and Jane a couple weeks ago).

PS. It's been less than a week, and I feel a little guilty, but...   ...   I think I love my Kindle more. I KNOW, RIGHT? I've been a Nook girl for FOUR YEARS, and all of a sudden I switch teams at the DROP OF A HAT!? What. Is. Wrong. With. Me.


Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Summary: On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions.

Review: It's been about a week since I finished this book, and I finally feel like I have enough distance to talk about it.

It's a beautiful book. It's extremely well thought-out, and very skillfully written. The story is incredibly complex, and I have to give Atkinson props for keeping it all straight.

I have a couple of things to talk about-- I feel like the summary gives the promise of closure for the book, which the book then fails to deliver. The teaser at the beginning of the novel also did that, but I liked where she took it later on.

Also, I'm super bummed about Ursula's search for love. Clearly it's not as high a priority for Ursula herself, and this book also doesn't have ANY examples of actual True Love (except with Ursula's siblings -- the only constant is how close she is with her older sister and younger brother), but I was always waiting for her to fall in love and stay in love. Although that's also the point of the book, I think -- nothing's forever.

My other big issue was the fact that it's set, for the most part, during World War II. I'm just not that into stories about WWII -- that doesn't make me a bad person, does it? It's not that they're not interesting, because they are, but I'm just not that into them.

[SPOILER] I do have one more spoilerly thing to talk about -- I saw a theory on Goodreads that I really liked, that says that maybe her mother can start over again like Ursula can, and she can remember her past lives sometimes, too. Because of the part at the end where she says, Practice makes perfect. I really like that idea, because it explains how Ursula's not the only thing that changes every time-- outside factors are affected by other people having more chances as well. Although that sends me down a depressing theological rabbit-hole when I contemplate that Atkinson seems to be saying that we all just repeat our lives-- what, forever and ever? There's no end, just this, always? Ugh, it makes me tired just to think about. (PS, if other people besides Ursula could remember past lives the way she could, don't you think there would be a huge mob at the hospital the day Hitler was born? It reminds me of Asimov's idea that if time travel were possible we'd be surrounded by tourists from the future.)[/SPOILER]

Anyway, clearly this book gave me a lot to think about.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, funny, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, pretentious, snark-attack, thought-provoking



How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Summary: “Every war has turning points and every person too.

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

Review: The book itself is pretty good. It's short, it's a quick read, and it's nicely written. It took me a while to get into the style, because at first the fact that she didn't use quotation marks for dialogue drove me nuts -- I couldn't tell when someone was actually saying something, or just thinking it. Although she did a good job giving me context clues, so I could figure it out pretty easily.

It was a little much, to create a story based on a fictional modern-day world war and then add in the telepathy on top of it, but at the same time, I LOVE stories about mind readers. (Except a certain vampire mind reader, but I at least love to hate that story.) So I was on board with that. In fact, I'm a pretty big fan of the whole book.



Except for the part where she's in love with her cousin. Because, ick. Like, really really big ick. I mean, was that necessary, Meg Rosoff? Seriously?

So yeah. That's my review in a nutshell. It's a great book, except for the thing with Daisy and her cousin.

Goodreads Shelves: bechdel-test, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, pretentious



2014 Wrap-Up

So last year I participated in the 2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge. My goal, at the beginning of the year, was 15-19 books, and my goal for the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25.

Halfway through the year, though, I was doing so well that I adjusted my Goodreads goal to 50 books.

And I made it! I read exactly 50 books.

I only read one that doesn't count towards the 2014 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge -- Rickshaw Girl was only 96 pages. So my official count for the challenge was 49 -- I beat my 2013 total by 40 books!

Yeah, that feat will probably not be repeated this year. Still. Pretty good.

Jamie's 2014-outdo-yourself-challenge book montage

The Seer and the Sword
The View from Saturday
Agent of Change
Sloppy Firsts
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Let It Snow
Aunt Dimity's Death
To Kill a Mockingbird
Dancing with Fireflies
The Four Doors
Me Before You
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
For Darkness Shows the Stars
Split Second

Jamie's favorite books »


Paper Towns by John Green

Summary: Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

Review: It's like this: When I'm constantly hearing people talk about something, be it a book or a movie or whatever, I can only go so long before I need to check it out for myself.

Which is basically why I read Paper Towns. John Green kept filming vlogbrothers videos from the set of the movie, so I figured it was time to read the book. (Which is also why I bought and reread The Fault in Our Stars that one time.)

I think I've mentioned previously that I'm kind of over John Green's Preciously Clever Teenagers. But mostly because I used to be one, and those days are pretty much over for me (what with my ten-year high school reunion coming up this summer. Seriously, where does the time go?). In fact, I was thinking how weird it is that there are always these characters with a nickname that has literally nothing to do with their name, but every single person calls them by that nickname and knows some weird story about why they got it. And I was like, who is like that? Who even does that? And then I remembered a friend I went to high school with who went by Hot Sauce for no apparent reason but every single person called him that. And also a kid who was such a big fan of University of Alabama football that he went by Bama, and there were kids who didn't even know that his real name was Josh. So... John Green gets a pass, because I guess that really happens.

Paper Towns was interesting. It said some things to me about people, and about how you never really know what's going on inside someone's head. It also kind of made me want to read Leaves of Grass, maybe?

I liked Margo. I liked how Quentin worked so hard to figure her out, and he thought he saw beyond what she showed people and saw deep into her soul and stuff, and then at the end he realized that he'd done it wrong and read too much into a ton of random stuff. Margo, as seen by Quentin, is a lot more real and complicated than she seems, but also less mysterious and unattainable than she seems, too.

Random thought: I HATE books that are written in first person, but you don't know what the main character's name is. Like, after you've finished it. Have you read books like that? Where you can't remember the MC's name because the book was in first person and they just didn't say their name enough? This book isn't like that, although it's kind of close: I kept getting thrown off every time somebody called him "Q," because he called himself Quentin too much. I always thought of that as his name. Anyway.

I've said it before, but bear with me: I think I'm getting a little too old for YA books. My unofficial New Year resolution (I know it's February, but I finished Paper Towns back in December) is to read more grown-up type books. (Spoiler: So far it's going well.)

Goodreads Shelves: addictive, bechdel-test, fluffy, funny, is-a-movie, is-this-a-kissing-book, my-kind-of-woman, nook-ya, pretentious, thought-provoking

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