Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares


      I pretty much devoured the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series during my middle school years. I always thought the girls were so cool (c’mon, they were teenagers and I was just a middle schooler who still rode the bus every weekday) and loved keeping up with their separate, but connected lives. Maybe it was because once the world created between these four girls hit the big screen, all of the other infatuated middle school girls and I flocked to the nearest theater, in awe of the seance that was conducted in order to initiate the pants (and, of course, Blake Lively’s hair...I know for a fact that this is where my love of her started). I wouldn’t say it was my all-time favorite book series, but it was enjoyable, probably exactly what I needed at the time it was published, and it certainly made an impression on me . 
It shocked me when I discovered this book tucked away in a tiny island bookstore...I had no clue that there was a fifth book! Because I am who I am, of course I had to pick it up and complete the series. Apparently this book, whose existence jumped out at me and demanded my attention, had more surprises in store for me, because I loved it. More so than any of the other books in the series, this book sticks with me. 
All grown up and spread out across cities, states, and countries, the girls are consumed with missing each other, despite catering to demanding careers, maintaining personal relationships, and keeping afloat in their new lives as adults. Carmen has followed her passion for acting to New York  City and is engaged to be married. Lena is teaching art in Rhode Island and still regretting the way things ended with Kostos. Bridget is living with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, but can’t seem to shake her restlessness and settle down for good. Tibby has moved to Australia with Brian, her high school boyfriend, but the other girls barely hear from her...until she calls a meeting in Greece (ps, this series is also responsible for sparking my interest in Greece, because the movies always made it look so beautiful!). The three girls arrive to find their lives instantly changed, in ways they never expected. While trying to deal with their own lives and the dark parts buried deep beneath between the beauty of their friendship, the girls must discover their own paths and learn find solace in the sisterhood. 
If you read the first four books, you owe it to yourself to read this one, too. A more grown-up version of a truly remarkable friendship, Brashares fearlessly faces the harsh parts of life and the lessons of growing up. Through tears and memories, this book will leave you smiling and feeling even more connected to the four girls that you already feel like you grew up with.



“But I know this. We're ready to move forward again in our way. Together or apart, no matter how far apart, we live in one another. We go on together.” 
― Ann Brashares, Sisterhood Everlasting

Monday, July 15, 2013

Obsessed with Zelda Fitzgerald


I’m not totally sure where this obsession began, but I’m willing to guess that it had something to do with rereading The Great Gatsby, seeing Leo DiCaprio looking all vintage and classic on the big screen, and probably the fact that I’m slightly intrigued by the 1920-1940 era. Anyways, somehow I ended up reading two books back-to-back about Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda, and enjoying them both very much. I learned a ton and, though both are fictional, I was able to gather my own thoughts and assumptions about the person that Zelda was instead of blindly believing that she was as crazy as the media makes her out to be. 

Call Me Zelda by Erica Robuck
Told through the eyes of Anna Howard, Zelda’s psychiatric caretaker beginning in 1932, this book provides insight into Zelda’s mental health, her ability to connect to others, the desperate ups and downs of her relationship with Scott, and the lack of a steady relationship with her daughter, Scottie. Anna finds herself drawn into the tumultuous midst of the Fitzgerald’s problems, while simultaneously dealing with the stress, loss, romance, and tough decisions in her own life. When Zelda confides in her that her husband takes her personal diaries and publishes her ideas as his own, Anna finds herself wondering which of the pieces published under Scott’s name are actually a result of the hard work of his wife. The rare tender moments between Zelda and Scott that Anna witnessed from afar reminded me that parts of both of them were in love with each other and that their relationship wasn’t hopeless. I was totally fascinated by the behind-the-scenes life that Robuck gave Zelda and found myself questioning whether Scott needed Zelda more to be his wife or his muse. 



Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
The Zelda that Fowler creates narrates this novel from her youth to her old age, speaking honestly about life as the wife of a famous, yet tortured author. From Alabama, New York, France, Paris, Hollywood, Long Island, and every place in between,  Zelda takes readers into the sometimes glamourous, sometimes heartbreaking world of the king and queen of the Jazz Age. Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein are encountered in this tale of troubles and fame (think Midnight in Paris!), as well as other members of what has become known as “the Lost Generation”. This novel reveals Zelda’s struggle to forge her own identity in a world that viewed her as second to her noteworthy husband and often judged her behavior and decisions as scandalous. 




After reading these books, I did some additional research on Zelda and came to the conclusion, that I will just have to settle for never knowing exactly who this woman was. Both authors painted Scott in a less than flattering light...but there are two sides to every story! Regardless of what was fictional and what was pure truth, these books furthered my interest in not only the Fitzgerald's, but the time period that they lived in, as well. 



Insightful reading: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-laine-talley/zelda-wasnt-crazy_b_3268211.html (long and definitely opinionated, but interesting, nonetheless!)

Books I want to read after reading Z and Call Me Zelda
Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald 
a vivid and moving story—centered upon the confessional of a famous glamour girl of the affluent 1920s and an aspiring ballerina—that captures the spirit of an era” (goodreads.com)
Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo
In this evocative and meticulously detailed novel about the last romance of one of America's greatest literary couples, R. Clifton Spargo crafts an exhilarating portrait of the passionate yet tragically dysfunctional relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald...a vivid, resplendent, and truly human portrait of the Fitzgeralds, and reveals the heartbreaking patterns and unexpected moments of tenderness that characterize a great romance in decline.” (goodreads.com)

Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise by Sally Cline
...medical evidence and interviews with Zelda's last psychiatrist, suggest that her insanity may have been less a specific clinical condition than the product of her treatment for schizophrenia and her husband's behavior towards her. Cline shows how Scott's alcoholism, too, was as destructive of Zelda and their marriage as it was of him.” (amazon.com)

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald
by Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald (edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Cathy W. Barks)
A collection of love letters between Scott and Zelda, as well as photographs, put together by “Fitzgerald scholars” with an introduction by their very own granddaughter, Eleanor Lanahan. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Judging books by their covers...literally


      Basically the most important, universal law of being a reader is to not judge a book by its cover. Everyone has heard this phrase and it seems like the most largely used clichĂ© to warn against misleading appearances. That being said, I must confess that I totally do this...A LOT. I can’t help if a book catches my eye, captivates me and draws me in with a magical picture, incredible cover art, or simply an intriguing title. On the other hand, I can’t help turning away from a shelf stocked with books covered in anime figures, vampire fangs (yes, I read Twilight, but it was before it became a worldwide sensation #hipsterstatus), or over-the-top, hard to read fonts. I have nothing against these types of books or the people who read them, they’re just not my kind of reading material (please feel free to turn away if you see me in the bookstore, my arms overflowing with various lovey dovey, cutesy books you may consider “fluff”...I won’t take it personally). Everyone has their own preference in the world of reading, and I am pretty sure it’s an unspoken rule that we all respect that, as it should be. Even though we may not judge the readers of certain books, we’re all judging those covers hardcore, and I’m making the statement that (despite the opinion of George Eliot, or whoever coined that old saying) IT’S OKAY to do so.
Sometimes this practice works out wonderfully for me. Exhibit A: Mrs. Mike by Nancy and Benedict Freedman. The cover of this book would’ve never been enough to hook me, so I’m eternally grateful to my middle school English teacher for pushing it on me, because it’s one of my favorite books and I’ve read it over and over again. 


      Other times, however, it’s a total failure that leaves me feeling disappointed and empty...yeah, the emotions of a book-lover can be that dramatic. Exhibit B: Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffery Stepakoff. I read this book probably about three years ago, but it still sticks out to me for two reasons: 1.) I was so in love with the cover, the title, and the idea 



Every so often that story comes along that reminds us of what it’s like to experience love for the first time—against the odds, when you least expect it, and with such passion that it completely changes you forever...torn by duty to society and her husband--and the poor, passionate man who might be her only true love--Lily must choose between a commitment she's already made and a love she’s never known before. (thanks for getting me all psyched up, Goodreads) 

and 2.) because of how letdown I was after reading it. 

Actually just thinking about it makes me a little sad because I wanted to love it so much. Isn’t that tough, when you want to love a book more than it desires your love? I should probably mention that fact that I had recently read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, one of my most favorite love stories ever, and surprisingly one of the only of his novels that I’ve liked at all. Maybe I was comparing the two books too much, maybe that’s why Fireworks Over Toccoa felt like The Notebook wannabe, a lesser version of a very similar romantic premise, yet such potential to be unique! I think I might have to reread it and see if distance or getting older makes me appreciate it anymore or if I can find some redeeming quality...
Anyways, enough of my babbling. The point is, I spent money on something I thought was going to sit on my shelf for years, a book I’d pass on to my dearest friends and family members, saying, “these words will change your life,” but it just wasn’t (insert subtle library plug here). Like I said, I’ve had the opposite happen, where a book with a subpar cover turns out amazing, but that’s always a pleasant, welcomed surprise. Who cares if you judge book covers, who cares if you don’t? Be open to suggestions from people about books they liked (you don’t wanna miss out on what could be your new all-time favorite book), utilize the library(!!!!), and remember that sometimes it’s okay to just appreciate the feelings that the words or artwork on the cover of a book makes you feel without feeling like you have to love that book more than anything.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

     WOAH...my momma wasn’t kidding when she handed me this book and told me to expect a soap opera-esque read. Jumping back and forth from 1931 to the 1938 (which serves as the “present” time frame), Lily Danes reflects on her relationship with her former best friend, Budgie Byrne, and her ex-fiancĂ©, Nick Greenwald, who she’s still pretty in love with. When Nick and his new Mrs. Greenwald (Budgie!) show up in the town where the girls spent the summers of their youth and announce their marriage, Lily is faced with a cruel reality and an inkling that something isn’t right. As she pursues the truth and grapples with the secrets of her past, she is reminded that nothing is as straightforward as it appears, and sometimes a second chance is worth everything. 
This book is without a doubt twisted and suspenseful, but still manages to be a light, summery read. The images of Seaview, Rhode Island, that were invoked in my mind made me feel a little less faraway from the beach and a little closer to the world and ways of life circa the 1930’s! Although the last fifty pages or so were slightly overly dramatic and felt abrupt, the story line was tied together nicely, overall. My biggest confusion came from the part of the story involving Kiki, a young girl whose parentage is questioned throughout and is difficult to make sense of when finally revealed.
Nick is a total  gem, and despite being married to Budgie, he is an absolute sweetheart to Lily without being disloyal to his wife. Even when things take a turn, Nick remains a complete gentleman, with good intentions...which made me very happy! I think the fact that he doesn’t cheat on the woman he is married to by law makes his relationship with the woman who has his heart even more special. The insight into him as a college student (shown during the segments of the book taking place in 1931) exhibits to readers a kind, loving, devoted young man, which adds to the suspense when trying to decipher what happened between him and Lily that led him to Budgie. 
This thrilling novel will keep you reading with sheer anticipation and charm--definitely toss a copy into your beach bag and dive into this exciting and romantic story right away!



"Serious about you. I'm crazy about you. Don't you know that? Mad for you. Drunk with you, made up of nothing but you. Since the day we met, there's not an hour gone by that I haven't thought of you."
― Beatriz Williams, A Hundred Summers