Jen’s Book Club

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

I’m going back in time on this one, because nostalgia has me in its grubby hands today. Does anybody remember those newspapery order forms teachers gave out every couple of months for book ordering? My memory escapes me, but it had a name. It may have been Book Order, but I feel like it should have been more original than that. I used to dogear the flimsy pages and run home to my mother and beg for words.

The only one that made it from the blurb on the order form to my little 10 year old hands to high school and college and my first apartment and now my first home is Watership Down by Richard Adams. I thought I was ordering a book about a journey undertaken by disgruntled rabbits, but really I had themes and ideas much bigger than my fifth grade self. I was holding a novel full of determination, adventure, growth, and the impact of humanity on nature.

From Amazon.com:

Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

Adams creates such a lush and reaching culture in this world of rabbits that includes language, poetry, love, family, and a complex hierarchy that explores leadership and the impact of tyranny. This is a novel that expands every single time I pick it up. It adapts itself to the age of the reader, and in that realm of thinking, it is a book that never loses impact. These are not the average bunnies, and this is not the average adventure novel.

 

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Jen’s Book Club

I’m going rogue and reviewing a movie adaptation of a book that I already reviewed. The Fault in Our Stars, anyone?

So I said a couple months ago that this book made me ugly cry with the best of them, and allow me to inform you: the ugly crying was audible throughout the theater on this film’s opening night. The girls across from me were basically in shambles before the credits finished rolling.

So it was sad.

I don’t know what we expected.  Seeing a heart wrenching storyline portrayed in real life was nothing short of devastating, but ALSO let me tell you that this movie was the most accurate book to movie adaptation I’ve seen to date.  The characters were cast spot on, the dialogue was 90% verbatim from very pages I cried onto, and the emotion was raw just as spectacularly translated as it was under that famous cloudy cover. And oh, it’s humor was not lost on me.

I laughed. I cried. I cried harder. I was thankful for waterproof eyeliner. And despite the tears and the wadded popcorn scented napkins (a product of my wringing hands), it was absolutely beautiful. And of course, I plan to go again.

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Stay tuned for Anne’s Book Club post next Wednesday.

Jen’s Book Club

Okay, so I’m going to level with you all: it’s been awhile since I’ve finished a book. I’ve picked some up and had every intention of plowing through them only to get distracted and stop. I used to be so focused on reading and I lost that drive somewhere in the last couple years. I think reading makes me a better writer, and I’m trying hard to get back into it.

Last week I had the pleasure of going to a really rad Caribbean cruise with some of my favorite bands, and that trip required a plane ride that allowed me to start and finish Veronica Roth’s Divergent. I know I jumped on this bandwagon late, but now I can’t get off of it and I don’t want to.

From Goodreads:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

The issue of choice is key in the makeup of this novel, and I think a lot of courage is born from choice. Tris is bold in her own right, and chooses to cross line after line after line until she becomes someone her previous life wouldn’t recognize. I enjoyed the growth of character in this novel and the joy that Tris found in becoming a part of her new faction.

But Divergent is not a one note read. It’s also a rough and gritty look at what happens when power struggles and how choice and superiority breed conflict. When the factions clash Tris is at the heart of the fight, and her choices become ones that effect every faction. It’s a book about overcoming fear, trusting oneself, learning people, and is one you won’t want to put down.

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Divergent is the first of a three part series, and will soon be in movie theaters everywhere.

 

Jen’s Book Club

I just recently finished my subject for this week’s book club. For the fifth time.

Before I unveil the title, I would like to tell you why my heart is sunk deep into this novel.

I like it because it’s harsh. I like it because it promotes weirdness. I like it because parts of it are so heartbreakingly true that I had to close it to wipe my leaking eyeballs. I might have been crying. I might have been laughing. I don’t cry and tell.

Harsh. Weird. True. Heartbreaking. Funny.

That about sums up John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

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From Goodreads:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Okay you guys, yes it’s a love story and a beautiful star-crossed one at that, but it’s also about facing the multifaceted agonies of death. It’s unexpectedly raw and unassuming. John Green doesn’t make death out to be something that is full of strength and courage; he makes it real. He makes it hurt because it does, and in his own words, “it hurts because it matter(s).” This is true in love and loss and life, and that’s what you get in this gorgeous novel.

Pick it up. Try not to cry. I dare you.

 

Jen’s Book Club

About a month ago I went on the hunt for some queer YA novels. I’d love to see more LGBTQ elements in the genre, and I wanted to know what I may not have come across in my normal book browsing. I think I probably exhausted Google, but I complied a list of a titles and thank goodness for Christmas giftcards, because they’re now sitting on the tip of my TO READ pile.  I’m totally addicted to the first one that showed up at my door, Emma Trevayne’s Coda.

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From Amazon.com:

Ever since he was a young boy, music has coursed through the veins of eighteen-year-old Anthem—the Corp has certainly seen to that. By encoding music with addictive and mind-altering elements, the Corp holds control over all citizens, particularly conduits like Anthem, whose life energy feeds the main power in the Grid.

Anthem finds hope and comfort in the twin siblings he cares for, even as he watches the life drain slowly and painfully from his father. Escape is found in his underground rock band, where music sounds free, clear, and unencoded deep in an abandoned basement. But when a band member dies suspiciously from a tracking overdose, Anthem knows that his time has suddenly become limited. Revolution all but sings in the air, and Anthem cannot help but answer the call with the chords of choice and free will.

Coda is everything I like to see in fiction. Bright, complex characters, a world built on something strong and beating, and enough internal and external conflict to keep me up at night.

What titles have you excited right now? Is there anything you’d like to see more of in YA?

Jen’s Book Club

Am I the only one who has a strategy when shopping for books? I have it down to a science. First, authors on my radar are perused and back cover blurbs are skimmed. I hold the book in both hands. I open it, careful not to crack the spine. I read. If I make it 3-5 pages in without putting it down, I carry it around for awhile just to be friendly. Lather, rinse, repeat. Then I start over, and try to put them all back. If I have trouble putting them back, I take them home.

I have trouble a lot.

I swear, they give me puppy dog eyes. It’s awful.

Because of the trouble and the puppy dog eyes, my TO READ pile is taking over my life. I think they breed and multiply while I sleep, like rabbits.

I thought I would share a few of the books I was unable to put down: the ones with puppy dog eyes and the breeding propensity of rabbits (in no certain order) (all summaries from amazon.com).

1. Black City, by Elizabeth Richards

A dark and tender post-apocalyptic love story set in the aftermath of a bloody war

In a city where humans and Darklings are now separated by a high wall and tensions between the two races still simmer after a terrible war, sixteen-year-olds Ash Fisher, a half-blood Darkling, and Natalie Buchanan, a human and the daughter of the Emissary, meet and do the unthinkable–they fall in love. Bonded by a mysterious connection that causes Ash’s long-dormant heart to beat, Ash and Natalie first deny and then struggle to fight their forbidden feelings for each other, knowing if they’re caught, they’ll be executed–but their feelings are too strong.

When Ash and Natalie then find themselves at the center of a deadly conspiracy that threatens to pull the humans and Darklings back into war, they must make hard choices that could result in both their deaths.

2. Fell, by David Clement Davies

In this dark, thrilling fairy tale, it is the wolf who saves the girl. Fell, the dark-furred twin brother of Larka, the heroine of The Sight, must face life without his sister or the rest of his loving pack. He’s a lone wolf now, a “kerl,” an outcast from his kind who shares his sister’s fatal gift for seeing the future and the thoughts of others. This gift leads him to befriend a young girl, also an outcast from her people. They have a shared destiny: to free the land from a tyrannical ruler who would enslave man and animal alike.
 
The prequel to this book, David Clement-Davies’s bestselling animal fantasy The Sight, is set among the wolves of Transylvania.

3. Sylo, by D.J. MacHale

They came from the sky, parachuting out of military helicopters to invade Tucker Pierce’s idyllic hometown on Pemberwick Island, Maine.
 
They call themselves SYLO and they are a secret branch of the U.S. Navy. SYLO’s commander, Captain Granger, informs Pemberwick residents that the island has been hit by a lethal virus and must be quarantined. Now Pemberwick is cut off from the outside world.
 
Tucker believes there’s more to SYLO’s story. He was on the sidelines when the high school running back dropped dead with no warning. He saw the bizarre midnight explosion over the ocean, and the mysterious singing aircraft that travel like shadows through the night sky. He tasted the Ruby—and experienced the powers it gave him—for himself.
 
What all this means, SYLO isn’t saying. Only Tucker holds the clues that can solve this deadly mystery.

4. Everyday, by David Levithan

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.
It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

5. Let it Snow, by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson

Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

I can’t wait to read all of these before fifteen more appear! What’s on your list of books to read?

Jen’s Book Club

Last Thursday I had the opportunity (aka time off work) to go listen to Andrea Gibson spin poems at the University of Virginia. Let me tell you that it was in the most archaic church I’ve ever seen, all stained glass and heavy dark wood and busts of important religious folk who were probably judging all the queers stuffed into the pews.

University of Virginia has bells that chime every hour. Loudly and with feeling. So, during the performance Gibson paused to let the bells chime. They never did, though, and it was almost a poem when she looked at us and said, “They turned off the bells for the gays.”

One of Andrea’s books, The Madness Vase, is all about the irony of turning off church bells, among other pretty and hazardous things.

From Amazon.com:812+21mSbYL

“The poems’ topics range from hate crimes to playgrounds, from international conflict to hometowns, from falling in love to the desperation of loneliness.  Gibson’s work seizes us by the collar and hauls us inside some of her darkest moments, then releases out the other side.  Moments later, we find ourselves inhaling words that fill us with light.   Her luminous imagery is a buoy that allows us to resurface from her world clutching new possibilities of our own.   Throughout her career, Gibson’s poems have always been a call to social justice.  But this collection goes beyond awareness. Her images linger in our psyches and entreat us to action.  They challenge us to grow into our own skin.  The journey may be raw at times but we are continuously left inspired, held, and certain we are not alone.”

This book is small in stature but big in meaning, and it’s more than just gay literature. It’s church and state. It’s falling and getting back up with bloody knees and a good laugh. It’s that pinpoint of light in the darkness. It’s raw like silk can be raw, but also raw like nerves exposed. It’s loss and fear and hate, and love in spite of all of it.