Tag Archives: Ally Condie

2012 Q4 Reading Report

I’m not going to hit my annual goal of 100 books in 2012 and while that disappoints me, I am not disappointed in the books I chose to spend my time with this year. I read more nonfiction than ever and I tend to read that more slowly. Keep in mind that I also read much more than what I track in these reading reports – scripts as part of my film jobs, short stories and essays for Narrative, stuff that I am legally and professionally required not to discuss. Additionally, I often read essays and articles, work by Peauxdunque members and other writers. A lot of that undisclosed reading picked up this year, which meant a decline in just-for-pleasure and even for-review reading.

October

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield – This is the book that Mamma Mia! and I listened to on the return leg of The Grandma Road Trip, but didn’t get to finish. I checked out the audio from my library and Mamma Mia! and I set aside some time and both listened to the rest. I was obsessed with this story while we were listening to it, but something about having to wait a while to conclude the story and not being in the same situation (listening to it in the car, mostly at night, with Mamma Mia!) dulled the conclusion for me. Maybe the suspense couldn’t be sustained, either over the break between listens or over the 400+ pages worth of story. Maybe it would’ve felt different if I’d read the book itself over time, or if we’d listened to the whole thing in one go.

Three to Get Deadly and Four to Score, Janet Evanovich – These are silly and fun. I can read two books quickly, be absorbed in the world, and feel a sense of accomplishment. I like that Stephanie Plum has such a distinctive, specific voice.

The Uninvited Guests, Sadie Jones – I read about this one in Entertainment Weekly and was intrigued. The hostess whose house I stayed at during Isaac was reading it, too, but she wasn’t that impressed. I knew what she meant when I read it. The mystery was compelling, but it was hard to invest in any of the characters.

How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran – This book literally had me busting a gut quite frequently. It’s been a long time since a book has made my stomach hurt from laughing. It was thought-provoking, too. There were many genuine points about womanhood mixed in with the humorous delivery. Sometimes I disagreed and quite frequently, Moran’s feminism contradicted itself, but it was always smart and I was always invested. She has another book called Moranthology, I discovered when I went looking for the link. I’ll probably read that one, too.

November

Wild, Cheryl Strayed – I was not intrigued by the subject matter. It honestly sounded like it’d be the most boring and excruciatingly sad book, simultaneously. However, Entertainment Weekly wouldn’t stop talking about this book, nor would any of the other print or online media sources that I read. And then I read Tiny, Beautiful Things and I knew I had to read it. Even so, I was surprised by how quickly I got sucked in and how completely this book took over my life. I couldn’t think about anything else until I finished. If I can write with a fraction as much honesty and clarity, I will be incredibly pleased with myself.

Hive Five and Hot Six, Janet Evanovich – Have you noticed a trend? I tend to read something immense and/or devastating and then I read two of these books, and then I dive back into something consuming. I like books that know what they are and don’t pretend to be anything different. These are palate-cleansers for me. Light and easy between heavy courses.

The Mapmaker’s War, Ronlyn Domingue – my interview with Ronlyn about this book is forthcoming. The book will be available in March.

Torch, Cheryl Strayed – I doubled down on the heavy courses here. It was fascinating to see how Strayed dealt with the same material in fiction and two different forms of nonfiction. Maybe more than anything else this year, reading these three books was instructive. The novel told a story that was very close to the stories relayed in the nonfiction books, if you’re looking at a bullet-point list of facts. Yet it was so different, the why behind the story and the how of its construction. Somehow, it touched me even more deeply than the nonfiction, though I think I admire the nonfiction more.

December

Reached, Ally Condie – I ate this book, the conclusion of the trilogy begun with Matched, consumed it as fast as I could. I had to know what happened and I barely blinked. If you just read the premise of Matched, you might think it was all hook and no substance, but it wasn’t very far into Matched that I realized I was reading something unique and fierce. The way the characters in this series respond to poetry and art, the way they use it to become themselves, pass messages between each other, and change the world, is a strong argument for literacy and art, why they are entirely vital.

Seven Up and Hard Eight, Janet Evanovich – I took four of these home with me for Christmas, figuring I deserved a nice long dessert after the hardy courses I’ve read this Quarter. There’s some heavy, dense stuff on this list and I wanted to be able to focus on my family and enjoy a nice story. That’s what I got.

The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster – I somehow never read this growing up. I don’t know how I missed it. I think it would’ve meant the world to me if I’d read it when I was a kid and I have friends who still respond to it that way. I enjoyed it a lot, marveled at the word craft and the imagination of it. I’d like to read it several more times and I regret I didn’t read it earlier. I checked it out from the library months ago but, and I’m not sure why, it took me forever to pick it up and get into it. Probably because its reputation had preceded it. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to what I’d heard.

To the Nines and Ten Big Ones, Janet Evanovich – These two were particularly good, fast reads. They seem to be getting a bit darker, too.

[12.31 Update:

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Haruki Murakami – I checked this book out of the library at the beginning of the year and I’ve been renewing it ever since, dipping in on occasion. This is a slim book, an extended meditation, but I’ve been reading it all year long, finding it dense, at times boring, at other times humorous, always enlightening. I read more than half of it yesterday and today, finally ready for it I think. “Still, when I finished,” Murakami says in the afterword, “I had the feeling that a weight had been lifted.” I feel that way too, now that I’ve finished reading it in the last hours of the old year. I’m not a runner and this book illustrated that more than ever. I don’t have the mentality for it, but it was fascinating to get inside a runner’s head for a while, especially one who is also a writer.]

I’ll be picking my favorite books of the year when I post my 2012 Best List later today. On the one hand, I read fewer books this year than I typically do, so that narrows the field and theoretically makes it easier. But on the other hand, because I read fewer books and more nonfiction, I usually lived with the books longer, letting them rattle around inside me. It’s going to be tough.

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Emilie’s 2011 Best List

Each year, one or two categories are really easy while others are really difficult. Books will be fairly easy, movies much more difficult. Here we go…

Books:

Because I did my Quarterly Reading Reports, it’s a bit easier for me to pinpoint which books stuck with me all year long. The surprise for me, considering how slow I am when reading nonfiction, is that almost half of my best books of 2011 list are nonfiction titles.

1. House of Prayer No. 2, Mark Richard

2. Across the Universe, Beth Revis

3. Whip It, Shauna Cross

4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

5. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

6. The Southern Cross, Skip Horack

7. The Devil She Knows, Bill Loehfelm

8. Matched and Crossed, Ally Condie

9. The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

10. Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski

Notables include Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls and Heist Society series, Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, Jenny Han’s Summer trilogy, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Movies:

This list is a little longer and includes movies I saw in the theater and watched on DVD (or streaming).

1. Country Strong

2. Daydream Nation

3. The Adjustment Bureau

4. Wild Target

5. Bridesmaids

6. Elvis & Anabelle

7. Winter’s Bone

8. Super 8

9. Hanna

10. HappyThankYouMorePlease

11. Hugo

12. Our Idiot Brother

13. Stupid, Crazy Love

14. Circo

15. War Horse

My list includes one documentary and two others that I really enjoyed were Exporting Raymond and Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. A few films that were far better than I anticipated, rising above their genres should also be noted: X-Men First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Cowboys & Aliens.

TV

1. How I Met Your Mother

2. 2 Broke Girls

3. Raising Hope

4. The New Girl

5. Castle

6. Falling Skies

7. Downton Abbey

8. So You Think You Can Dance

9. Dancing with the Stars

10. Survivor

Notables include Bones, In Plain Sight and Psych of course, Storage Wars, Terra Nova, Suburgatory and Community (which I got into late this year), as well as wonderful cancelled shows I streamed on Netflix: Party Down, The Unusuals and The Good Guys.

Music:

Albums –

1. Adele’s 21

2. CAKE’s Showroom of Compassion

3. Christina Perri’s Lovestrong

4. Jenny Owen Youngs’ Batten the Hatches

5. Lissie’s Covered Up With Flowers

Singles (not from any of the above) –

1. The Generationals “Ten-Twenty-Ten”

2. Kid Cudi “Pursuit of Happiness”

3. Lil Wayne “How to Love”

4. Michael Franti & Spearhead “Say Hey (I Love You)”

5. Timothy Bloom & V. Bozeman “Till the End of Time”

On any other day, I might give different answers, but as of this moment, this is my 2011 Best List.

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Reading in Q3 – September

My reading tapered off a bit this month as my time became more invested in orchestrating Yeah, You Write (among other things), but I read some wonderful books during September.

Best Friends Forever, Jennifer Weiner – At some point, Jennifer Weiner started writing and publishing books faster than I could read them, so this was me beginning to catch up. When I picked it up, I wasn’t terribly excited about the premise of the story. I dreaded reading about a formerly fat woman who’s been a doormat for her more glamorous best friend most of her life. But I quickly became absorbed in Weiner’s humor and the complicated, identifiable characters she presents.

Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver – This one was so lovely and so frustrating. You know right from the beginning that the main character dies in a car accident. She somehow gets stuck in a Groundhog Day loop, reliving her last day several times and approaching each version of the same day with a different mindset and goal, sometimes trying to change her fate and sometimes resigned to it.  Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman – I listened to the audio version of Coraline a few months ago and when I returned it to the library, one of the librarians recommended this one, also read by Gaiman himself. I’m so glad she did because I liked this one even better. Loosely based on The Jungle Book, this story is about Nobody Owens, who is adopted as a baby by a family of ghosts and raised in a graveyard. It fun and sad and adventurous and clever and Neil Gaiman is such a good narrator.

Crossed, Ally Condie – This book was immediately different from the book it follows, Matched. The continuing story of Cassia, her match Xander and Ky, the boy she has fallen in love with against the predetermination of The Society, this follow-up is told in alternating chapters from both Cassia and Ky’s points of view. They are now in the Outer Provinces, Ky exiled to die and Cassia outwitting The Society in order to find him. The environment in Matched was lush, with increasing menace. Crossed starts out menacing, parched, with glimmers of hope like mirages across the desert.

It’s Not Summer Without You, Jenny Han – This is the second book in an addicting trilogy. I’ve had to utilize all of my library cards (3 cities, 2 different states) in order to find all of the books, but it’s been worth it. This second one amps up the melodrama and the emotional stakes in the complicated friendship/relationship of Belly and the two Fisher boys – Conrad and Jeremiah. Jenny Han is an exceptional writer who can make the most stereotypical and melodramatic of plots fascinating and new, filling them with characters it’s impossible not to care about. Smart, funny and romantic.

I Am Number Four, Pittacus Lore – I was intrigued by the movie, which happens more often than I should probably admit. This book was just atrociously written, but there was something compelling about it that not only made me finish it but request the sequel from the library. The story is interesting, even if the writing is dull and heavy-handed. Most of the characters are pretty one-note and flat and several of them could have been collapsed into one, but I was interested by the world that was built.

Knowing Your Value, Mika Brzezinski – A while back, Maurice showed me a clip of Morning Joe and I was disgruntled by Mika Brzezinkski’s on-air persona. Admittedly, I was basing my annoyance on one twenty minute clip, but the men on the show talked over her constantly and when she did speak, it was to say cheerleader-ish things like, “I read your blogs – they’re so awesome!” A few weeks later, Maurice sent me the link to a second clip of Morning Joe where Mika discussed her new book, Knowing Your Value, where she uses her own negotiating mistakes and interviews with other powerful and successful women to illustrate that women are often their own worst enemies in negotiating salaries and benefits. I saw Mika in a new light and knew I had to read her book. It hit home quite a lot and changed my perceptions of situations I have been in and will be in again. Highly recommended – not just for women, but for men, too. Everyone should read it to better understand negotiation and how women and men deal with, and perceive,  each other in business.

So that’s my September reading, which finishes out the third quarter in my reading report. It’s be interesting to see what books the last quarter of the year brings into my life!

[11.2.11 Update: Interestingly enough, ironically, I accidentally tagged Mika Brzezinski as “Mike Brezezinkski.” Sheesh, subconscious. It’s now fixed.]

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Reading in Q3 – August

I really picked up the reading pace this month, making up for lost time and visiting the library a lot. Whenever I’m between movie gigs and freelancing, reading and library visits are two of my favorite things.

Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, All Together Dead, From Dead to Worse, Dead and Gone, Dead in the Family, Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris – I’m taking something of a reading vacation for myself and breezing through these books in 2-3 days each. Definitely Dead was a bit confusing in some places, especially at the beginning with the timing. Something pretty interesting happened in the gap between books and Sookie mentions Bill was with her when it happened, so that was a bit strange to me. I’ve been loving the series so much that I’m actually becoming increasingly disappointed with True Blood and how much it’s veered away from the plots and characters of the books. Trying to enjoy the books and the show as two separate things, though I was incredibly disappointed with the Season 4 finale. I don’t know if I’ll keep watching the show.

The Southern Cross, Skip Horack – My review will be published in 225 Magazine. Link coming soon. here.

Twenty Boy Summer, Sarah Ockler – I specifically requested this book from the library after reading about it being banned. The description of the book sounded really good and the reasons for it being banned were so incredibly dumb, so I was intrigued. I’ve so rarely read a book that addressed grief so well, especially grief processed by a teen. It really resonated with my own experiences and relationships growing up, and then also with things I’ve only experienced now, as an adult.

The Devil She Knows, Bill Loehfelm – My review is upcoming in 225 Magazine. Link to come.

Bumped, Megan McCafferty – Really fascinating look at a very possible reality where teenage girls are the only ones who can conceive and so become the most important people on the planet. Up until they’re about 19. Really says a lot of powerful, interesting things about our tech-addicted society, the marketplace, relationships, growing up, all of those things. I’m increasingly impressed with not just the books that are available for teens, but the teens themselves for being such a hungry audience for these extraordinary books.

Matched, Ally Condie – And this one just blew me away. Set in a “perfect” future society that orchestrates every detail of the lives of its citizens — their meals based on ideal caloric intake, their deaths on the their 70th birthday, their jobs and their “matches” — it really demolishes the idea of perfection. This Utopia has selected 100 of the greatest paintings, songs, poems, etc. and banished the rest, a form of banning so extensive that it’s terrifying. There is no new art, no new creative thought. Citizens don’t even know how to write with their own hands, only how to select words to form messages, a cut-and-paste method. The teen characters in this book are so hungry for choice that unauthorized poems become a way of communicating connection, love, secrets and history and learning to write your name by hand becomes an enormous act of rebellion. This book has a lot in common with Fahrenheit 451 (as well as 1984), but is so cleverly wrapped up in juicy, romantic melodrama. And the most haunting thing is that the future depicted here is not at all unlikely or very far away.

The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han – Swoon. This was a just delicious teen romance set during the summer, but written so very, very well. I loved Jenny Han’s Shug and I knew I’d love this series, too. Belly, the main character, was so vivid and ferocious in her desires and uncertainties that it was impossible not to completely fall for her and identify with her. And then it turns out the book is so much more than “just” a lighthearted teen romance and I’d gotten so beautifully conned into reading a deeply emotional book about families and friendships. I had to read the next two books as quickly as I could, but my local library didn’t have them. Good thing I have a library card in three cities and two states…

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield – This book kicked my ass. It’s a drill sergeant of a book, but also calm and encouraging. It’s a short book, often with just a little text on each page. But I read it s l o w l y because each page kinda punched me in the gut. I read passages aloud to my friends, fellow writers and artists, and they never failed to kind of gasp after I finished, cause they’d gotten punched in the gut too. I can’t recommend this book enough. I actually kept it out from the library because I want to re-read it.

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