Tag Archives: Jennifer Weiner

2012 Q1 Reading Report

I’ve been a bit remiss in my blogger duties this year. But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading. Here is the first of 2012’s Quarterly Reading Reports.

January

Royal Street, Suzanne Johnson – Read my 225 review here.

Then Came You, Jennifer Weiner – I decided last year to catch up on all the JennWein books I’d gotten behind on and this was my last book on that mission. I begin every one of her books with the same incredulous thought: this seems like a needlessly complicated and melodramatic plot. But, it doesn’t matter, I quickly get sucked in anyway. Her characters are so full and dimensional and really, isn’t life (needlessly…) complicated and melodramatic? Anyway, I love her books and this one was no different. Several different characters, a lot going on, surprisingly fulfilling. I’ve gotta stop being surprised.

February

Eight Days to Live, Iris Johansen – I also set myself the mission of catching up with all of Iris Johansen’s books, even though she’s a very different writer than JennWein. While I’m reading her books, I know they’re each pretty much the same book, but they’re comforting in a way. Like bad t.v. left on in the background. I don’t really have to pay attention to absorb the story. Anyway, since I read Blood Game last year, I’ve seen a marked improvement in the books. This one focuses on Eve Duncan’s adopted daughter and it also is a bit better, more like how Johansen’s books felt when I started reading them.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy, Alison Bechdel – A friend from Peauxdunque loaned this graphic novel memoir to me and I ate it up in about a day, though it’s pretty hefty (don’t let the pictures fool you). It was really funny and really moving, just as the subtitle “tragicomedy” implies. I’m consistently impressed with the narrative options available when visual art is mixed with words.

Chasing the Night, Iris Johansen – This book introduces a new character, Catherine Ling, that Johansen is clearly going to continue to write about. Another woman obsessed with a missing/taken child, Catherine seeks out Eve Duncan’s help. Since Eve Duncan is the character of Johansen’s I like the least, it was interesting to see her in interaction with another character who has so much in common with her, but is a foil to her. The books have definitely gotten a lot better – so much so than I’ve begun to wonder if they aren’t ghostwritten, maybe even by one of the reclusive author’s children (her daughter is a researcher for her and her son has co-written several books with her). Well, regardless, I think the collaboration with her kids has probably given her fiction a whole new lease.

Eve / Quinn / Bonnie, Iris Johansen – So, I’ve acknowledged a few times that Eve Duncan isn’t my favorite character, yet I gobbled up each of these books in just a few days, lured by the promise of finally knowing what happened to Eve’s daughter Bonnie – after more than a dozen books. The “truth” of what happened was really sad and haunted me for a few days. Yes, I’ll admit it. I was haunted. I’ve finally caught up on all of her books (except for the ones written with her son, Roy). Or, so I thought. A new one featuring Catherine Ling is coming out in a few days.

March

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson – Even though I only finished two books in January, I was also reading this behemoth all year, which I started last year. I put it aside a few times and picked it back up, reading the last half pretty quickly.  One interesting result of the book’s heft is that I felt like I was living with this odd, brilliant man for quite a while. It seemed to me that this book was both an inspiring call to arms and a cautionary tale. At times, I was quite horrified as I read, or amused, or fascinated. I was always impressed with Isaacson’s writing, his ability to be pretty impartial considering how hard it must’ve been not to either glorify or vilify Jobs.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns), Mindy Kaling – Pretty much the opposite of the Jobs biography in every way, but just as good. I started reading it right after I finished Steve Jobs and I finished it within 24 hours. It is such a quick, witty, brilliant snack of a book. If I didn’t already love Mindy Kaling, reading this book would pretty much finish me off. She needs to write like 10 more books.

Tango Zen: Walking Dance Meditation, Chan Park – Also a quick read, this book is pretty much a series of quotes about tango (or zen meditations, however you want to look at it).  I refer to it a lot, especially when thinking about my proclivity to close my eyes while in close hold with some partners. It’s given me a different lens through which to understand tango, and also an exercise for centering myself when my anxiety/overthinking threatens to trip me up while dancing.

Wither, Lauren DeStefano – Another dystopian teen book. I’m really loving this subgenre and the different permutations creative authors are making of it. This one was pretty horrific and fascinating. Think Stepford Wives with a healthy dose of Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t like the cover of the second book, but I am excited to read it.

Hunger Games / Catching FireSuzanne Collins – I loaned my copies of the series to a librarian friend (all of the library’s copies were requested) and when I got them back, I re-read the first two books before seeing the movie with her. This is the third time I’ve read the books and they are still amazing each time, maybe even more so as I appreciate just how multifaceted they are more each time I read them.

I think one thing that particularly impresses and excites me about dystopian lit in general and this book in particular is how mature the subject matter is. This is a dire world in which the teen characters, often girls, can either succomb or fight. It seems to indicate that teens can take a great responsibility for their universe than we’ve previously attributed to them. So, in a word: empowering. While Hunger Games might’ve begun the newest wave of dystopian, helped identify the subgenre, it reminds me most of a series of books published almost 20 years ago.

So that’s what I’ve been reading in the first quarter of 2012. I’m looking forward to a strong second quarter in reading.

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Reading in Q4

The 4th Quarter has been one of the lightest so far, but there are some real gems in here.

October

We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han – This is the satisfying conclusion to what could have been a sappy teenaged trilogy in a lesser writer’s hands and what is, instead, an absolutely riveting tale about three friends growing up and the ways that their friendships change.

Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Sara Gran – An interesting flip on a standard mystery, this weird novel (in the good way) set in post-Katrina New Orleans and is certain to be only the first in a series featuring private eye Claire DeWitt. I’m fascinated with the way different writers, using different genres and different agendas, are weaving Katrina into their narratives.

Dark Rain, Mat Johnson – Also set in post-Katrina New Orleans, this graphic novel tells the story of Dabny, reluctantly drawn into a bank heist in the chaos of the aftermath of Katrina and the people he meets in the city. While reading Dark Rain, I kept thinking I really need to read more graphic novels – so many narrative possibilities!

Pym, Mat Johnson – Talk about weird! This novel is a re-imagining, a sequel, and also a parody of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and also it’s own bizarre creation. The tale of an all-black expedition to the Antarctic is funny, thought-provoking and also, just plain weird.

Wild Ride, Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer – Silly, fun. Jennifer Crusie’s novels are always witty, light and fast-paced and the books she co-writes with Bob Mayer are even more so. Not my absolute favorite of their collaborations, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Uncommon Criminals, Ally Carter – I thought  Carter’s Gallagher Girls series was inventive and awesome, but she outdoes herself with the Heist Society books, about a family of art thieves. I ate this second book in the series up as soon as I got my hands on it. Only downside is waiting for the next one…

November

One Day, David Nicholls – Once again, I was intrigued by the movie… I probably shouldn’t admit that. The movie is pretty good and the book, of course, is better. Gut-wrenching, of course, but a very good read. By very good, I mean that you’ll want to kill both of the characters and pound your head against the wall in frustration. But, you’ll definitely be emotionally invested.

Something Borrowed, Emily Giffin – Not only was this the second book in a row I read because I was intrigued by the movie, but oddly enough, it’s the second in a row with a lead male character named Dexter. Which I don’t find to be a particularly romantic name, especially in light of Dexter. Besides the point. I’d never gotten around to reading Emily Giffin before and the book was a lot better than I’d thought it would be (also frustrating, see One Day, above).

Fly Away Home, Jennifer Weiner – Continuing my mission to catch up on JennWein’s books. Only one left! Well, till she publishes another… There are certain obvious inevitabilities in every one of Weiner’s books, but what amazes me about her writing is that once she establishes the (let’s face it, sometimes ridiculous) situations and the characters, she burrows in so deeply under their skin that it’s often frightening and uncomfortable, but always, she introduces us to not just fleshy, but fully fleshed-out women in modern circumstances.

Deadlock, Iris Johansen – Always ridiculous, Johansen books are nevertheless addicting. I don’t know why I can’t stop reading her. The books are almost impossible to distinguish from each other, the characters all one of maybe five stock types that Johansen relies upon (and almost all with the same voice). But, after all of that is said and done, I still read her books. This one is about the same, perhaps marginally better than usual as it follows an archeologist in a preposterous set of circumstances.

December

The Future of Us, Jay Asher + Carolyn Mackler -This story, about two friends who stumble upon Facebook in 1996, is brilliant, haunting. Facebook in this book is a (future) time capsule, a Ouiji board, a DeLorean, a time machine. It reminds me of Big (so therefore, also 13 Going On 30) and also, weirdly of Before I Fall. It’s a great book, like a classic 80s movie and I mean that as the highest compliment.

Blood Game, Iris Johansen – This one is an Eve Duncan book. Eve Duncan books are my least favorite of Iris Johansen’s, though she’s the character that really helped launch Johansen (who was writing romances decades ago). As annoying as Eve Duncan is to me, there was something about this book that made me determined to seek out the rest of the books, including the trilogy that hopefully concludes Eve Duncan’s story.

That’s all of my Q4 reading so far, but if I manage to finish the book I’ve been reading before midnight, I’ll be sure to add my review, to wrap up 2011’s reading…

Before I go, I should add that I was disgusted with the number of books I read last year (59) and I was determined to read more in 2011. I usually aim for 100 books a year and I managed 105 this year. But always, quality wins out over quality and this has been a great year for reading.

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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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Emilie’s 2008 Best List

What a crazy year this has been. It’s the year that my big appetite for music became voracious and I sought out friends and resources to feed it. It’s the year that I “discovered” audio books as a natural result of driving for work – a lot. It’s the year I didn’t go to the theater as much as I used to, but everything came to DVD so much quicker. It’s the year I hoped to finish my book. It’s the year I started this blog.

This is a very personal best list, so the things that I’m highlighting as my favorites of 2008 may not have been released in 2008, just discovered by me in this year that’s soon to be past.

Books – 2008 is the year I read more nonfiction, romance and thriller than ever before, not to mention almost all of Jennifer Weiner and Jennifer Crusie, Spiderwick and Neverland and a lot of David Sedaris. Out of the almost 150 books I’ve read this year, my 15 favorites in roughly the order I read them:
1. His Dark Materials (3) Philip Pullman
2. Gregor and the Code of Claw, Suzanne Collins
3. When a Man Loves a Weapon (this will be released in 2009), Toni McGee Causey
4. Things I’ve Learned from Women Who’ve Dumped Me, Ed. Ben Karlin
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (about halfway through the year now), Junot Diaz
6. The Rescue Artist, Edward Dolnick
7. The Ruby Key, Holly Lisle
8. To Kill a Mockingbird (finally read this!), Harper Lee
9. Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician, Daniel Wallace
10. Calumet City, Charlie Newton
11. Finn, Jon Clinch
12. A Very Long Engagement, Sebastien Japrisot
13. Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl
14. Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
15. The Wolfman, Nicholas Pekearo

Notables: Continued reading some of my favorite series – the “Alice” books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books, and Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty. Also was blown away by a trio of historical romance writers – Gaelen Foley, Sherry Thomas and Suzanne Enoch, who gloriously re-invent the genre and write freaking well. Agnes and the Hitman and Faking It made me laugh myself hoarse. And I’ve been crazy about the Twilight series, of course, really impressed with how things wrapped up in Breaking Dawn.

Movies – I used to go to a movie by myself every Sunday, but that habit sadly went away. However, as a three year + member of Netflix, I still saw over 100 movies this year (and I did get to the theater some, of course). I’m going to try to approximate the order I saw them in.
1. Stardust
2. Once
3. Juno
4. Shoot ‘Em Up
5. Across the Universe
6. Wanted
7. Live Free or Die Hard
8. Dear Frankie
9. I’m Not There
10. Persepolis
11. Dark Knight
12. My Blueberry Nights
13. The Brave One
14. Penelope
15. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
16. Mamma Mia!
17. Wall*E – in some ways, my favorite of the year
18. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
19. Twilight
20. I Could Never Be Your Woman
21. Rachel Getting Married
22. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Notables: Much, much better than I’d heard/you’d think – Speed Racer, Good Luck Chuck and The Cutting Edge 3. 21 and Atonement almost made my list, so I guess that makes me a big James McAvoy fan.

TV – This was the year my t.v. became largely decorative. When I forgot how to hook the cables and wires back up after Gustav and relied almost entirely on watching t.v. on my computer. But the shows I love, I love all the more for it. No particular order here.
1. How I Met Your Mother
2. Bones (NOT happy it’s moving to Thursdays)
3. So You Think You Can Dance (Cat Deely’s the bomb, Joshua wasn’t my fav and we need DVD)
4. Survivor (yes, I still love this show)
5. In Plain Sight
6. Top Chef
7. Moonlight (NOT happy this got canceled)
8. Pushing Daisies (NOT happy this got canceled)

Notables: Big Bang Theory surprises me, whenever I manage to catch it, with how funny it is.

Music -This was the year of music. I’ve never been such an avid music listener and collector.
Singles –
1. Wagon Wheel, Old Crow Medicine Show (most listened to song in my iTunes)
2. Forever in Blue Jeans, Jason Castro (he wasn’t my favorite, but this stuck in my head)
3. Toxic, Yael Naim (cover of Britney, haunting and freaky)
4. Fake Is the New Real, Alice Smith
5. Johnny and June, Heidi Newfield
6. Be My Husband, Lisa Hannigan and Damien Rice
7. So What, Pink
8. Another Way to Die, Alicia Keyes and Jack White
9. American Boy, Estelle and Kanye
10. Just Like a Woman, Charlotte Gainsbourg
11. Holding Out for a Hero, Frou Frou
12. Are You Strong Enough to Be My Man, Sheryl Crow
13. You Got Growing Up to Do, Patty Griffin and Joshua Radin
14. Echo, Cyndi Lauper
15. Comes Love, Billie Holiday
16. Whatever Lola Wants, Ella Fitzgerald
17. Love Song, Sara Bareilles
18. See You Again, Miley Cyrus (say what you want, but this song is catchy and cool)
20. Missed Me, Dresden Dolls
19. Hide and Seek, Imogen Heap
20. Arms of a Woman, Amos Lee
21. Lilac Wine, Katie Melua
22. Do I Move You, Nina Simone
23. Hurt, Johnny Cash

CDs –
1. Across the Universe soundtrack (oh glorious TV Carpio, put out a cd already! Dana Fuchs!)
2. Juno soundtrack
3. Once soundtrack
4. Acid Tongue, Jenny Lewis
5. Volume 1, She & Him
6. Black Snake Moan soundtrack

Performers, period –
1. Patty Griffin – I’m delirious over Patty Griffin
2. Jenny Lewis
3. Lucinda Williams
4. Emmylou Harris
5. Allison Moorer
6. The White Stripes, Jack White notably
7. The Dresden Dolls
8. Roisin Murphy
9. Katie Herzig
10. Sugarland
11. Krista Detor

Notables: My love for Nina Simone, Johnny Cash, The Magnetic Fields, Cake and The Beatles, always vibrant, has been renewed. I grew to really appreciate Kanye West (though my first love for him came after his infamous quote after Katrina). And I learned that, as amusing as I find it when my neighbor M. sings the lyrics to “Ding, Ding, Dong,” I am NOT a fan of Gunther.

Websites – These are the websites I checked every day in 2008, once I knew about them!
1. Post Secret
2. I Am Fuel, You Are Friends
3. Living With Music – writers blog about music!
4. GalleyCat – how could I leave this one off?
5. Wikipedia
6. imdb
7. cdbaby
8. Amazon
9. Craigslist
10. YouTube

My Favorite Things – What I’ve been loving this year
1. Favorite Home Away from Home – Cheers, my coffeeshop
2. Friends – you know who you are and likely, you’ve introduce me to a lot of great music and food this year. I love you for it, this year and all years.
3. Family – for the pictures, the drama and the support.
4. Local Music – The Zydepunks, The New Orleans Bingo! Show, Loose Marbles and Gal Holiday
5. Food – the roast beef po’boy at Parkway just may be my favorite thing I’ve eaten this year
6. Lessons – dancing, parallel parking, how to be a better writer (friends again, thank you)
7. Libraries – Nola and BR, so very excited about having multiple library cards
8. Writing – NaNoWriMo, PerNoWriMo, Write or Die, Jamey
9. Epiphany – being excited and finding others who’re also excited about the same things.
10. City – New Orleans. Of course and always.

That’s it, Emilie’s Top List for 2008. Enjoy. Argue. Applaud. Whatever. 🙂

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