Monthly Archives: November 2014

Thanksgiving Day and Being Audrey

Happy Thanksgiving!  Today, I am grateful for books, Chipotle, and the people I share them with.  And today, that includes all of you.  Because this morning I finished Mitchell Kriegman’s Being Audrey Hepburn, and now I’m going to tell you about it.

This is a difficult blog post to write because I was loving this book until the last ten pages.

To start with, most of the characters are vivid.  Lisbeth, the main character, has real problems, an overbearing family, and a larger-than-life best friend.  She begins as unassuming.  And yet, within a couple chapters (with the help of a little Audrey magic), she becomes  the latest sensation to hit the New York social scene.  I loved this book because it gave me the feeling that I too could change my life.  And I was impressed with Kriegman’s writing.  I never doubted that it was a teenage girl’s voice, which I was skeptical of when I first realized a man had written it.

But (and as always, spoilers follow) some story aspects seemed very out of place.  The entire romantic subplot, for instance.  All through the book, Lisbeth’s love interest Jake pops up at random places.  Sometimes you think she’s forgotten about him because she is swept up in ZK and her new friends, but he always comes back into the picture.  It’s so random that, when they are shown to be together in the end, it feels like a consolation prize.

Of course, it’s not as bad as the kiss she shares with her best friend Jess.  Originally, I was extremely happy with his portrayal of Jess.  Her sexuality (she is a lesbian) is mentioned and contributes to her character, but is in no way her defining trait.  And yet, a scene comes where she leans in and kisses Lisbeth, which has no place in the story.  It doesn’t add anything to the story, it doesn’t make sense for her character, and it pulled me out of the story.  Lisbeth’s adventures in society were exciting enough.  No romance was needed.

And, unfortunately, the end was a disappointment.  The big “twist” happened in the last twenty pages.  There wasn’t enough time to completely explore the fallout, even if it had been a good plot point, which it wasn’t because it felt like the author had lied to us.  Lisbeth’s Nan had said that her husband was an ordinary guy, but the “greatest guy ever,” and yet, in the last twenty pages, it is revealed that he was a mobster.  It felt like something he had just thrown in for an ending.   And Lisbeth’s society friend, Tabitha, didn’t develop at all.  In fact, no one she met in her adventures seemed to be real in the end.  Months went by in the last ten pages, and she ended up where she began with the exception of her romantic relationship and her blog making some money.  It felt like lazy writing.

I was disappointed because I do love Holly Golightly, the Breakfast at Tiffany’s character that Lisbeth was trying to emulate, and the Being Audrey Hepburn actually did feel magical for the first 310 pages.  But the ending completely ruined the effect and left me feeling almost empty.  I just wish I could go back to the end of Jess’s fashion show and bask in the glow for a little longer.

My favorite thing about this book:  Lisbeth’s interactions with her Nan, where they drink champagne and eat cheesecake.  Which may be why I felt so betrayed when I discovered she had lied.

My least favorite thing about this book:  Besides the ending?  The kiss between Jess and Lisbeth.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to:  People who love Audrey Hepburn or following celebrities on page 6.

Where I read this book:  Mostly at the Lowell library.  It gets so dead that we have a lot of time for reading.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After No More Dead Dogs by Gordan Korman, before A Journey to the New World of the Dear America series.

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Breaking News

I was going to wait until tomorrow to post something about the Darren Wilson verdict for a couple reasons.  First off, I wanted to give myself time to process, to research, to actually try and understand everything that’s going on.  Second, I usually post on Tuesday anyway.  But I have changed my mind.  Not because I think anyone especially needs to hear what I have to say, but because I need to say it, I need to do the writing in order to do the processing.

Here’s what I know: Darren Brown is not even being tried here.  They have determined a crime has not been committed.  Even though, as this blogger points out, it is incredibly unusual for someone not to be indicted.  Even though, as the prosecutor himself said less than an hour ago, “There is no doubt that Darren Wilson is responsible for Michael Brown’s death.”  Because “anyone can use force in defense.”

Except…isn’t there a such thing as excessive force?  He was shot six times.  Even if he WAS a threat, six is far more than necessary to neutralize it.

Oh, and I know that “anyone” thing isn’t true because this happened despite Stand Your Ground laws.

I understand there are a lot of different viewpoints, and I understand that witnesses are not always reliable.  But this was an 18 year old whose body was left laying in the street for four hours after his death.

I can’t get over that.  I feel like there are far too many questions.  At the very least, I want this to lead to cameras on cops. I want more transparency and accountability.

And all of the aftermath?  All of the peaceful protests that are being talked about as violent, even though the pictures show policemen in armor and protesters with their hands in the air?

My heart hurts.

I’ve also read a lot about how this isn’t our battle (“us” being the white people).  I understand where this is coming from, and I understand what you mean.  And I’m not sure how to respond to that.  Because I know I will never completely appreciate what you are going through, I know that I am highly privileged and I know that I am safe from this kind of violence and oppression.  But I feel like equality should be everyone’s battle.

So, that being said…I lend you my support, my ear, and my heart. I ask that you forgive me my own transgressions.  I hope the world can get better.  I hope Anne Frank was right.

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This Week

Well, today is Saturday.  Not my usual update day, but I missed two in a row, so I wanted to say something.

Tuesday was my sister’s birthday.  In honor of that, my best friend and I committed a tiny act of vandalism (okay, we painted the high school rock, which is totally the point. Let me have my bad girl moment!) on Monday night.  Then Tuesday didn’t feel like Tuesday and I forgot to do a post and we went to dinner and it was just not happening.

Then Thursday rolled around.  I still hadn’t finished Frankenstein.  I spent a while trying to decide what book I should write about instead.  Then, in the evening, I started feeling sick.  So all day yesterday, I was on the couch next to a trash can.  Rough day for me.

The good news is, I feel infinitely better and my weekend plans may even be in tact.  And since I failed to update twice in one week, I’m going to make a “listicle” of five things that have happened or occurred to me since my last post.

1. Last Friday was my boyfriend’s birthday.  We went to an archery lesson, and I am entirely too competitive at things I am not good at.  It’s something I’m trying to get over, especially in writing.  If I do not practice, I will never improve.

2.  I miss England a ridiculous amount.

3. Someone tried to use my credit card account at Winn Dixie.  Now, I love Winn Dixie, but the last time I was in one was in May, right before I left Disney World.  I bought four bottles of honey mustard.  So I’ve only had this card for about a month and it had to be canceled.  Fun times.

4. Pitch Perfect 2 comes out in May.  I don’t think I’m going to be able to stand myself.  You have no idea how much I love Pitch Perfect, guys.

5.  Sarah Dessen’s new book Saint Anything also comes out in May.  I’m going to request a review copy so that I can review it on this blog for you lovely readers.  However, for my request to be successful, I may need more people to be following/viewing my posts.  So please take a second to comment, follow, or share, and we’ll see what happens.  I’m sending the request in next Friday no matter what, so if you want to know how good it is before it comes out, publicize the crap out of this.

So this is a brief summary of things that have happened while I haven’t been updating.  I will see you on Tuesday.

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Happy Endings

I know this is going to shock you, people of the internet, but…I did not finish Frankenstein.

I had good intentions, but then my Books a Million order arrived in the mail.  I FINALLY had Lauren Graham’s book.  And Isla.  I finally have Isla.

I have been waiting for this book for months.  The original publication date was pushed back, for very good reason, and I have been waiting for it as patiently as I can. However, since I loved Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, I was SO excited to finally have Isla and the Happily Ever After.

In relation to the other two, it felt a little off at first.  Anna and Lola each had a goal.  A Dream Job.  It’s part of what I loved about them.  They knew what they wanted to be, and neither was a typical “everybody wants to do it” kind of career.  And they fit their personalities completely.  In that light, Isla seemed a little lost.  But as you go through her story, you find that she is lost.  Isla might be the most realistic of the three because she’s still trying to figure out who she is, like many high school students.

As such, Perkins has to define this character not on her aspirations or even on her ideas of herself, but on her actions and the thoughts that come naturally to her.  She shows her loyalty and patience in her friendship with Kurt, the boy she’s known since diapers who happens to be autistic.  With autism, Kurt very easily could have become a caricature or a political statement.  Instead, he’s a real character, who grows and changes.  His autism is part of his personality, but it doesn’t define him.  What defines Kurt is his cartography skills, his love for Isla, and his feelings.

She makes the characters come alive, but she also places the readers directly in the cities she talks about.  Isla lives her a double life in both Paris and New York, and she clearly makes them feel like home.  She describes them with familiarity, but with an undercurrent of magic that highlights the feeling of young love amazingly.

Of course, I can’t really be objective about this.  I haven’t been hit so hard by a book, so close to home, since the last Sarah Dessen.  I relate to Isla so well.  Her physical traits sound like me.  Her fear of the future sounds like me.  Her insecurities and her self-criticism sound exactly like me.  In short, I kept reading because I needed Isla to get her happy ending to prove that I could get mine.

But it’s a beautiful love story, not just about the dating relationship, but about her beginning to fall in love with herself.  And her journey isn’t finished when the book is over, but that’s okay.  By then, the reader has already fallen in love with her.

Oh, and speaking of Sarah Dessen, Perkins is the only other writer I know who weaves her old characters into her new stories.  So if you need to know that Lola and Anna are okay, if you are at all invested in their lives, this book will be very satisfying for you in that sense as well.

Edit: I forgot to do the thing that I meant to do at the end of every one of these, so…here you go.

My favorite thing about this book:  Probably the cameo and what happened for Anna.  I mean, I love Isla’s story, but that little nod to Anna’s was amazing.

My least favorite thing about this book:  Well, the sex scene was fine, not vulgar or graphic, but they “finished together.”  Does that actually happen on the first attempt?

Who I would most like to recommend this book to:  All the girls who have a self-loathing problem.  Or who love Paris.

Where I read this book:  …Again, on the couch at home.  And a little at work.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  After Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door, before The Friendship Pact.

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Unfair Internships

So yesterday, I got home from my friend’s house only to find that my laptop, the one I got for college, was dead.  I was already looking to replace it, but I was hoping to decide on the top 3 laptops I’d want and then wait to see what was on sale come Black Friday, but now I am in desperate need of one.  On top of birthdays and Christmas presents, its a lot of money.  And I just bought a sword.

I’m only working part-time, and while its enough to keep me in gas, books, and Chipotle (the three essentials of my life), it’s not enough to move out on my own.  And while I’m working on it, I have no idea how long it’s going to take to get a full time position.

That being said, do you know what’s worse than a part-time job?  Working full time and not getting paid for it.

All of this has probably been said before, but the very idea of unpaid internships are unfair.

1) Free labor.  I am a huge fan of people being paid what they’re worth.  I’m not sure why this is such a difficult concept.  The very idea of capitalism is that people exchange money for goods and services.  If life were free, if even just the basic necessities were free, then people could afford to take jobs for the experience or the love of them.  But if people are still having to pay for their food and rent, their only option is to work a paid job.  Considering gas, people would end up paying to work instead.  Best case scenario, gas is about $20 a week.  Which leads to point number 2.

2) They favor the higher classes.  Capitalism is supposed to be the idea that people get ahead in life by working harder.  In theory, it’s nice to think about, but it isn’t how it works in practice.  College already poses this problem.  People who are already well-off are more likely to go into higher education (realize I’m talking about American capitalism and higher education).  Some people who don’t have the money take out loans or get financial aid, but they fall behind even further when some people can afford to take an unpaid internship whereas others have to take whatever they can get to pay the bills.  I’m saying this as someone who probably could get away with it, and I realize I’ve got a lot of privilege like that.

3)  They make it harder to get paid what you’re worth even when you are getting paid.  For one thing, it’s hard to know how much you’re worth when you’re starting out anyway, but when your first job pays you squat, anything seems better.

There aren’t really good alternatives.  Volunteering is one.  I realize it seems like the same thing, a job you aren’t getting paid for, but it’s a job no one is getting paid for and a job you choose for a cause you support.  That’s how I got my current job, by volunteering there first.  It’s at a library, which is something I wanted to support anyway.  If you are in college or high school, getting an internship that gives you class credit means you’re still working for something.

I feel like the whole practice isn’t something capitalism should be supporting, and it isn’t fair to anyone.  People should be paid what they’re worth, but if we’re going to act like this is a fair competition, it shouldn’t be systematically easier for the people who are already ahead.

There’s the rant for the day.  Join me Thursday to see whether or not I’ve actually finished Frankenstein!

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Yes Please

I am trying something new today.  Today is going to be the first Book Club Thursday.

Basically, my goal is to read at least a book a week, and then tell you about it.  Although if that doesn’t happen, I may tell you about a book I’ve read before that I love.  This could take several forms: might be a general gushing/ranting about the book, might be a legitimate, critical review, or it might be like the papers I had to do in college, where I talk about symbolism and deeper meanings.

Today’s book is Yes Please by Amy Poehler.  If you don’t know who that is, you can find her IMDB site here.  Personally, I love her in Parks & Rec, and I had seen gifsets on Tumblr of her and Tina Fey being feminist, so I wanted her book as soon as I knew it was a thing.

Featured image

Beforehand, it had been a while since I had read a memoir.  I forgot how dense and fluid they can be.  Memoirs don’t tell a story the way a novel has to.  They aren’t always in chronological order.  They’re linked more by ideas and themes than by an actual timeline, and for someone who generally reads novels, it can be a bit of an adjustment.  But Yes Please was entirely worth it.

There are times when Yes Please seems like Amy’s love letter to her life and her friends and family.  As such, it is completely beautiful, but it goes further than that because she shares them and so much more with the reader.  She tells them what mistakes she has made and what mistakes she continues to make.  She shows that she is human and the good and bad things that come with that.  She treats the reader like a younger sibling and uses them as confidant while simultaneously trying to impart her wisdom.

Obviously, this edition of Book Club Thursday was just me gushing about this book I really loved.  This is partially because I don’t like this posts going to far over 400 words, and I had to set up the idea which gave me less space to work with.  Sorry if you’re disappointed.  Maybe next week will be a critical analysis week.  Of course, I’m not sure which of the three books I’m reading will be done by then, so that will greatly affect what you get.  And, for future reference, I will consider recommendations.

My favorite thing about this book:  Probably Amy’s sex advice.

My least favorite thing about this book:  Now I want to go to Chicago and visit UCB.

Who I would most like to recommend this book to:  Parks & Rec fans.  In many ways, Amy IS Leslie Knope.

Where I read this book:  Mostly on the couch at home.

Where this book sits on my bookshelf:  Between Jerry Pinkney’s version of Aesop’s Fables and Addy Learns a Lesson from American Girls.

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Voting Day and Equal Pay

Today’s the day!  You all know what I’m talking about. That day. That SUPER important day that affects absolutely everyone everywhere.

Happy Star Wars…wait.

Okay, I was just informed Star Wars Day is on May Fourth.  Easy mistake.  Could happen to anyone.  So what’s so special about today?

Oh, it’s voting day in the United States?  Nevermind.

Anyway, it is voting day, I will be voting directly after work, and as such I have spent some time this morning researching the candidates.  Totally last minute, I know.  But while I was looking things up, I came across this:

“Equal Pay is a family issue.”  (http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/equal-pay)

Okay, sure.

“Women…are a growing number of breadwinners in their families.”

And now I’m going to stop you for a second.  Because that’s completely true.  I come from a family where that has always been the case, especially since my father passed away.  But no one ever says that the reason men make more money is because they have more to support.  A man does not get a pay raise when he gets married or when his wife has a baby.  He is paid solely based on how much work he puts in.

If it was based on how much money you had to spend to support yourself and your dependents, single women should make more than single men.  Look at their expenses: pads and tampons, which are completely necessary.  Birth control, which you might argue isn’t but that women are considered majorly responsible for.  Even how expensive cosmetic products are, which are marketed towards women and highly encouraged by the culture we live in.

But we live in a capitalistic society, where money is exchanged for work.  When women are paid less, you are literally telling them that their time is worth less.

I also feel the need to mention that race is a HUGE factor and the 77 cents on a dollar statistic that is often quoted is for the WHITE population.  It’s even less when you get into people of color, which is also not okay.

So, yes, equal pay is a family issue, but like racism is a family issue in that it has been deeply ingrained in our culture and it will take the family to help stamp it out.  In that it affects us all and not just those that are being discriminated against.  In that one day I will have children and one day I will adopt children and I do not currently know what their genders and races will be and I am terrified to think they will not be treated fairly and as they deserve.

Which is why I do believe in affirmative action.  Because centuries of institutionalized racism and sexism has left us with a low bar for “equal rights” and in order to bridge that gap, sometimes you have to force people and businesses to treat those oppressed people better.

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