The Joys of Moving/I Can’t Wait to Unpack

In exactly five days I will be moving. It’s going to be a long day and it’s going to be hard work (next time I’m getting a moving company. I’m too weak to lift that many boxes) but the one thing that I’m looking forward to about the whole packing deal is unpacking.

First because it means that we’re all moved in and can stop worrying about every little thing that needs to be done. Like setting up internet, gas, cable, electric, and all those other not-fun things that are necessary for living but a pain in the ass to deal with. Second, because I get to see all of the books I haven’t read in years, or have never read, and make sure they’re on my to-read(-again) list.

It’s crazy going through all of my books because I have A LOT of books. Four bookshelves had to be packed up, and in-between I’ve found even more books lurking in odd places. So today, friends, we’re going to go through a bit of the books I’ve found.

  • Some Girls: My Life in a Harem – Jillian Lauren.

This was one of the first books that I read as a young adult that really sparked my love of reading. The book was published in 2010 when I was nearly done with school. As a kid who had been badly bullied and ridiculed, and made to think that I was inferior for being a plus sized woman. I want to be clear on that though: I was bullied for being bigger – I’m a size 18, and at the time I think I was a size 12. A size 12 is the national average of a woman in America. Ergo, I was made fun of for being an average person. Just like everyone else. I could go on forever about how horrible bullying is, but I’ll get back to the book.

This book is actually a memoir. Jillian Lauren was a New Jersey born and raised woman who moved to New York City straight out of high school and was poor, needed money, and turned to being a high-class escort. As a bigger woman, again- not a big woman, bigger – she was approached by a super discreet agency that hired women short-term to entertain (you know what I mean) Prince Jefri, the brother of the Sultan of Brunei, who tended to like women with meat on their bones.

She was contracted for a couple weeks and lived in Brunei for those weeks, but Prince Jefri took a liking to her and made her one of his coveted girlfriends. She soon worked her way up to being his second girlfriend. Bear in mind that the prince has multiple wives, multiple girlfriends, and multiple escorts. So being in the second place category was a pretty incredible thing. However, she was still technically a prostitute. She was getting paid, and getting paid well. It’s estimated that in the three years she was there, she was paid $300,000. She eventually left the harem, and left Brunei. She now resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Scott Shriner – one of the rock stars from Weezer, and their son.

This book made a huge impact on me. I do want to stress that it never made me want to be a prostitute! But Lauren was a woman from New Jersey, just like me, who was bigger, like me, and who just wanted to be successful. It’s a story of a woman who overcame obstacles, and turned her life around. I’d give it four stars out of five! And a high five.

  • The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

Ah, yes. Alexandre Dumas, one of the greatest French authors in the entire world. I dare say one of the greatest authors in the world. And I’d also say, the author with the best haircut.

The Count of Monte Cristo was one of the greatest movies I had ever seen. It came out in 2002 (an earlier version in 1975 – but I prefer this version) and changed my life. I’ve always loved period piece movies as well as prison break-out movies ever since I saw Escape From Alcatraz when I was a kid. So once I watched the movie I had to read the book. And let me tell you… it was better.

There is something so magical and so powerful reading a book that has such an original idea, that has amazing writing, and that is similar to a movie that I fell in love with. Dumas, on top of writing classics like The Man in the Iron Mask and The Three Musketeers, managed to write a flawless novel, with intriguing characters and an incredible backstory. He truly paints a picture.

This book has followed me since 2002. In the meantime I’ve collected an early 1900s edition of the novel, a fancy looking edition, and a regular edition that I happened to find really cheap back in the early 2000s. The story always reminds me of the will of human strength and the unflappable abilities of people just trying to have free will.

  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

Lastly, I’ve had this novel in my possession for a really long time. To the point where I actually recently bought the novel thinking that I always wanted to read it and didn’t own it. During my packing I found that I had two copies of it. So I am so excited to read this book. It was published back in 2011 and is about a mysterious traveling circus back in the 1800s that only opens at night and is made up entirely of all black and white things. It’s not a regular circus either, each show is more magical. One of the circus tents is said to hold clouds.

This book seems perfect for me – it’s suspenseful, it’s set in the 1800s (so cool!), and it supposedly has a magician rivalry… I can’t wait to read it.

So after this upcoming weekend, I will be in the process of UNPACKING!!!! Which I can’t wait for. My boyfriend can attest – I’m incredibly stressed out (to quote a picture I saw, “I stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about.”) and haven’t even really had time to read! It’s so sad.

But I hope these books stay in your brain and you get a chance to read them because I loved them, and I honestly just want to reread them now – after I read The Night Circus, of course. It’s crazy how many books stay in your mind based on what stage you are in while you read the book. If you have any books that have changed the way you think about the world, or about a certain time in your life, let me know in the comments and I’ll make sure it’s on my to-read list!

Until next time. Happy reading!!

Rachel

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A Discovery of Witches – Brief Update

Hi blog friends! Well, it’s been about five days now and I’ve finally started to get into Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches. Formal warning: it is going to take me a while to read it. As I’ve mentioned before the font size is so tiny and takes up so much of the page that my poor eyes can’t read more than about 20 or so pages per night without getting a headache. I’ve JUST exceeded the 100 page mark… Today. I’m ashamed with my slow reading; I take so much pride in being a quick reader!

Also, in less than two weeks my boyfriend and I are moving into a new apartment! Which means a lot of packing. Which means this book will take me even longer to finish. It’s about 600 pages, and if my packing escapades of today are any indication, I will be far too exhausted to read for a long amount of time each night. However, The good news is as follows:

I have found a ton of books that I’ve completely forgotten about, both books I’ve read and books I haven’t read but always wanted to read. So that post will be coming up soon! Some of these are books that made me truly love reading, and want to be a writer, so I can’t wait to tell you about them! (Exclusive insight into the next post: Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren. One of the most exciting books I’ve ever read!)

Back to A Discovery of Witches: the first couple of chapters are slow. It’s just this woman telling you her backstory of why she doesn’t use magic even though she comes from a long line of experienced and powerful witches, and how she decides, against her better judgement, to use magic on a certain manuscript in the library and is suddenly overcome with creatures following her. The excitement doesn’t settle in until chapter four or so, when she begins to interact with a very old, possibly very dangerous vampire. Not the sparkly vampires either – the rip your throat out vampires!

It took me about three nights before I started to actually get in to the book. A lot of the time with a new book I’m just waiting for it to be nighttime so I can snuggle up in bed and read. But I didn’t really care to do that the first few nights, which was really surprising for me. I’m currently reading chapter ten, and now I’m just itching to read more during the day!

So on that note, I’m going to go get some reading done!! Until next time,

Also, I want to wish my dad a very happy birthday! Thank you for reading me bedtime stories and sparking my love of books (Goodnight, Gorilla) at an early age. My old man.

Rachel

Stop Reading Bad Books!

Hello, world! I was talking to my dad the other day about (what else?) books. He had been reading a book that I recommended to him without ever actually reading it. It’s called Kronos Rising by Max Hawthorne. My dad and I love monster movies, and, for me at least, particularly sea monster movies. So I saw that this book was out, and it looked awesome. It’s about this creature that is terrorizing a town. It’s essentially Jaws (which happens to be my favorite movie, in case you were wondering) but with some weird prehistoric alligator-like creature.

He told me when he first starting reading it and he thought it was okay, but nothing great. He kept reading it. When I’d ask him about it he’d say, “it’s okay. The writing isn’t that good. Great concept though.” He finally finished the book a couple days ago and told me that he didn’t like it at all and asked me what my opinion was: when you’re reading a bad book, should you read it to the end, or move on?

It’s such a tricky question because everyone is different. My mom, for example, will never stop reading a book. She comes from a farming family and stubbornness is in their blood. She starts and finishes every book she reads. And I wonder where I get my book stamina… My sister on the other hand, will start a book and even if she loves it she won’t finish it. If it’s short and she can read it in one day, she’s happy. Any book more than 150 pages she won’t finish.

So really it depends person to person. However, I have a pretty fail proof argument: Life is too short to read crappy books.

This statement has a few sub-arguments with it:

1. If it’s bad, why are you even giving it the time of day? You spend a third of your life sleeping, which gives you two thirds left of your life. If you’re anything like me, you spend nearly another third of your life reading. Do you really want to spend an entire third of your life reading crappy books, or reading good books? I would prefer to read good books – things that interest me.

2. When you switch over from a poorly written book to a well written book, you feel a wave of happiness over you! Like everything will be okay again because you have accepted this new world to jump into. It’s a big weight being lifted off of you, and it really makes you appreciate a good book a lot more than the bad.

3. You can do what I do and tell people not to read the book! “Avert your eyes to this book at Barnes and Noble! You’ll thank me later!” You’ll be saving yourself and others from hours of dreadfulness. It’s so nice to tell people not to read something, or tell them to read it at their own risk, or even to recommend an amazing book. Hell, that’s why I started the blog! Shielding your loved ones from bad books is your responsibility as a person, and as a book lover.

To prove to you all that I have read some really horrible books (and to shield you, my blog family loved ones), I will give you a list of three books that I have either stopped reading or hated reading within the last four or so years.

A. I Can Barely Take Care of Myself – Jen Kirkwood. I love this comedian. I think she’s spectacular and so funny. She was even on a couple episodes of Drunk History! But her book was awful. It was really badly written, and it just droned on and on nonsensically. I had expected it to be what it promised: how she can barely take care of herself let alone a kid. Nope. It was about how horrible babies are and how they ruin everyone’s life, and how marriage is a sham and you shouldn’t do it. What?? Come on, Jen. I only made it through about four chapters.

B. Do Over by Robin Hemley. This, too, had promise. About a man who gets a divorce and has a couple of kids and how now that he’s divorced he wants a do-over or something like that. I made it through about eight pages before I just shut it and forgot about it completely.

C. This last one is a touchy one. Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord. I actually read the entire book. It was a short book, definitely less than 200 pages. Because it was so short, even after I started questioning it, I decided I’d just keep reading until the end. In a way I’m actually glad I did because they made a movie about it 2014 with Simon Pegg that I normally would have seen, but because I didn’t like the book, I didn’t see it. The good part in that is that I didn’t waste 20 bucks on an excursion to the movie theatre only to see a really horrible movie (or so critics say).

I read this book about three years ago and I thought the narrator was a total jerk. He has a live-in girlfriend and an amazing Psychiatry job, but he’s not happy. So what does he do? He takes a sabbatical and tells his girlfriend he’s going on an adventure around the world to find out what makes people happy.

Keep in mind, they do NOT break up!! But this guy goes to Japan and meets up with this old friend of his and has an affair with a Japanese prostitute. He then goes a few other places, one of them being Africa where, again, he has an affair. Not only does he do this knowingly, wittingly, but he was super happy about it! Each time he started thinking about how he could just live with these women and be totally happy forever. And then something bad always happened and he had to leave and then, and only then did he realize, “hey, I kinda love my girlfriend.” What a jerk. I think they made sequels. Maybe they’re better than the original, but I didn’t like the first book so I’m not even going to look them up. Not worth it. I do think the author’s sequel was about love though. Hmm…

In any event, I’m a firm believer in reading genuinely good books. That’s why I’m a habitual re-reader. Some books are worth multiple reads and some aren’t even worth one. So save your time for the good books, and actually enjoy reading. Reading is one of the world’s most magical activities – apart from going to Disneyworld. So cherish it!

Until next time!

Rachel

P.S. I’ve started reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Holy crap this book is HUGE. Almost 600 pages and I’m fairly positive the writing is in size 10 font and it most certainly takes up the entire page. This is going to take forEVER. Bear with me.

An Open Letter to John Green

Before I begin, I’d like to express that I’ll be back to do normal posts very soon. This is a fluke….or is it? You decide. Until next time, friends.

Dear John Green,

I hope you had a pleasant and chocolate filled Easter! I’m currently looking at my Easter basket and am eyeing the chocolate duck. I’ve eaten it’s head so far (sorry duck) but all I’m thinking is, “damn, I want to eat the rest.” And honestly, I’m so torn apart right now that I just might.

Why am I so unhappy, you may ask? Because I just finished reading your critically acclaimed The Fault In Our Stars about thirty minutes ago. Normally I would turn this post into a Book vs Movie post, but I genuinely think it might deserve two posts – one letter to you and one book vs movie – just simply based on the fact that my little aching heart can’t watch the movie yet. I need time to process. To heal.

But I will give you my book review. So I’ll go ahead and give you my rating: 5 stars. No, 15 stars. This was the fault in our stars you were speaking of, Green: the fault in our star rating system because there’s no star high enough to accurately assess this novel. Wonderful.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time, but based simply on the fact that everyone was reading the book, and everyone was loving the movie, I didn’t read it or see the movie. I didn’t want to be peer pressured into reading a book by some dude I didn’t know when I could be reading a book by Amy Tan. That was until I read Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle and yourself. I loved it. I loved it so much, and I loved your part of the story so much, that TFIOS quickly moved up my “to-read” list.

Having promised myself that I wouldn’t keep reading science fiction and fantasy novels exclusively, I decided it was time to read the book. You start the novel with a bang – cancer. You have this writing style that is so conversational, but at the same time you feel like you’re getting smarter just reading it. It’s so intelligent, and you use that intelligence to perfectly express exactly what the character is feeling in a way that a real person would feel. I can’t get over the magic of this novel.

Side note to my blog family: In case you don’t know what the premise of the novel is about, here’s a brief back cover summary: A cancer ridden Hazel is depressed and stays at her house all day watching reality TV shows. Her mom then sends her to make some friends at a cancer support group in their local church. She meets a cancer survivor named Augustus, and she starts thinking differently.

As a sarcastic and introverted person who absolutely loves reality TV (don’t judge me) I absolutely loved Hazel. I thought she was a brilliant character with a beautiful heart, and realistic expectations – and maybe a defeatist attitude. Augustus, the everlasting love interest, was portrayed as this funny, optimistic, romantic teenage boy who just wanted the girl to love him, but was really so much more than that.

And that is why I’m writing this open letter to you. As a habitual reader – clean and sober 30 minutes – I usually get way too invested in my books. They’re the great love of my life (along with my boyfriend – Hi, Anthony!) so I often put my whole mind and soul into a book – I become defenseless to these characters and allow the author to toy with my emotions for several hundred pages. There is usually an expectation, though. That, yes, I allow the author to invade my psyche with the understanding that at the end of the book I may be sad, but I won’t feel devastated.

You have crossed that boundary, sir. It has happened before, but I’m putting this on the top five list. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily that the ending was an all consuming devastation of a single event, but rather that the entire novel was devastating. It was one thing after another, and even with a fairly happy ending, you still know that more goes on when the book is finished. Much like Hazel and her obsession with Peter van Houten’s novel in the book, I just want to know what happens when the book is over. It’s only now that I realize how much of a written genius you are to have the presence of mind to create a book so devastating but so familiar and friendly, only to have it end the way you ended it, much like van Houten’s book.

Well, I feel as though I’ve berated you enough, good sir. I would like to say some kind words before we part: I absolutely LOVED this book. I truly felt connected to it in a way that I haven’t felt with another book in a while. So I want to congratulate you on creating a masterpiece, and for possibly becoming my next favorite author.

I almost wrote “I love you, Bye” before I realized that’s not how you end a letter. So until next time, okay? I love you, bye.

Rachel

Storm Front Review – The Dresden Files

A couple weeks ago my boyfriend’s friend recommended a book series called The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. He told me it was about a wizard private investigator and that was enough for me to want to read the series. The series has 15 books currently, with the most recent one coming out about a month ago.

I began the series, obviously, with the first book, Storm Front. When I first started reading it I was excited, but I also had a kind of hard time reading the first couple chapters. I’m assuming it’s because I went from reading Gone Girl (also known as “The Most Fucked Up Book of All Time”) to reading about a wizard. It was just a really big change, and it was hard for me the first two chapters. But then the book got awesome.

The story is about a man named Harry Dresden who has his own kind of detective-like business. He has a little office where people come to ask him to find lost items and things of that nature, but he is also in cahoots with a special division of the Chicago Police Department. They call him for any weird crimes that they believe might be supernatural. In this case, it was a double homicide. At the same time he is trying to figure out the homicide, he is also approached by a woman who says that her husband has gone missing, and was becoming increasingly more involved in wizardry.

The story itself is awesome. But what makes the book really wonderful is the author. He has a way of bringing each character to life in a way that seems real. These characters are flawed, and they make mistakes. They’re cocky and they’re suspicious. Introverts and completely awkward. They seem like regular humans – people you would encounter any day of the week. The interesting part is that he can do that with characters, but he can also do it with creatures. He brought to life a vampire that is so much more the old definition of a vampire. A sort of Dracula/Vampire Bat figure rather than the cast of True Blood. It was a great book to read, and I can’t wait to read more of his books.

Butcher also has a way with words. And by that I mean he is insanely sarcastic which makes me insanely happy. The main character actually has a t-shirt that says, “EASTER HAS BEEN CANCELLED – THEY FOUND THE BODY.” appropriate timing, Butcher, appropriate timing.

I really loved reading this book, and anyone who loves witchy or fantasy novels is going to love this book – even anyone who just loves a good crime book will love it! I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series, and I’ll let you know when I finally pick up the next book!

Until next time! Happy reading!

Also, thank you, Nate, for introducing me to Harry Dresden. I’ve made a new friend.

Rachel