Bookstore Love

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I love bookstores. Especially independently-owned ones, especially tucked into corners of big cities. Such is the case in San Francisco, where I took a recent trip. I assume you might possibly deduce this from the picture above, my panorama of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

My parents used to live in SF, and since my dad loves books almost as much as I do, he had a couple cool places to show me. I suppose it wasn’t very smart on my part not to leave a lot of room in my suitcase for such adventures. I’ll find some way to fit my goods 🙂

On the first day we went to Green Apple Books. You can visit their website here. It’s a really cozy place with lots of nooks and crannies in which you can find all sorts of great books. I found an awesome one on how the brain works reading, as well as a copy of My Life in France by Julia Child. They also have great stationary and wrapping paper, but since wrapping paper doesn’t pack well cross-country, I refrained from purchasing the whole bin. I did, however, get one set with the pastry macarons on them. 

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Here’s the macarons stationary now added to my repertoire. 

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I also happen to love Rifle Paper Company and their cards, as shown above. 

That was a very fun stop. The next day we stopped at City Lights bookstore. Their website is here, but like Green Apple, nothing compares to the actual store. The history of this place is that it was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti (and Peter D. Martin) in 1953. It’s a bit more hippie-ish than Green Apple, considering it was founded by a poet in the fifties. It’s also really fun to browse around in. 

From there I picked up two books of short stories- one of Sylvia Plath. I didn’t know that she wrote short stories and considering I love The Bell Jar so much, I had to get that. The other is by a Russian writer with a very long name that I can’t remember. It was published at the end of the Soviet rule. It was kind of dark and slightly ominous love stories. I was curious and didn’t think I could get it anywhere else. 

Well, that’s all for now. If you’re ever in San Francisco, I would advise book lovers to visit these places. Have fun!

-Nicole

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Quotes of the Week- Weeks 16, 17, 18

Hello! 

I’m on vacation, though technically I have been all summer. I’ve also been negligent of this blog over the past few weeks, so I have some catching up to do in terms of quotes. So here are 15 for the two weeks prior and this week.

It also so happens that all 15 quotes for this week are Six-Word Memoirs. I heard about these last school year, and have a book filled with them. The organization has a cool website here, and as a fun writing thing, I thought I would do a set of quotes in them. 

I apologize that this catch-up for quotes may happen more frequently over the next few weeks, as I’m preparing for some big changes, but I will be sure to continue reading and writing no matter what. Maybe not quite as frequently, but still no matter what 🙂

Here are 15 six-word memoir quotes:

1. “Make yourself smile more than others.”

2. “Be the person you admire most.”

3. “Dance like no one is watching.”

4. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” (Friday Night Lights”)

5. “Fill the sky with your dreams.”

6. “Winners never quit; quitters never win.” ( My six-word memoir version of Vince Lombardi’s famous quote)

7. “You are your own biggest enemy.” (My former volleyball coach)

8. “When nothing goes right, go left.”

9. “I like the imperfections of things.” (Irene Silvagni)

10. “Keep calm and always read on.”

11. “We’re going to be quantum physicists.” 

12. “Don’t say no. Just be positive.”

13. “Her voice is full of money.” (The Great Gatsby)

14. “You are supposed to make mistakes.”

15. “Innovation is its own peculiar ingenuity.”

I hope you all have a good week, and I have picked up a (quite large) stack of books here which I plan to read and review in the near future. I just have to get through Emma first 🙂

-Nicole

Running With Scissors

So. I haven’t written in a while. I feel kinda bad. No quotes for two weeks (to come later today), no updates on the books I’ve been reading or what I’ve been up to, if that’s vaguely interesting at all. So I have been busy. And I haven’t written. And now I’m going to make up for it. 

Here we are. In the gap, I tried reading more of Emma and then got caught up with another book. Because we’d taken a trip to one of my favorite book stores, and I always do that when we make our trips there. That book this time? Augusten Burrough’s memoir Running With Scissors

I had originally heard of this book while reading a New York Times article about writing personal essays for college admissions. The quote was, “What do they expect, Running With Scissors?”. So I was a little curious. But I am not any more. Not at ALL. I would say this book falls into the category of “Very Strange Books I’ve Read.” That category also includes I Know This Much Is True by Wally Lamb, Tallullah Falls by Christine Fletcher, and the infamous (in my mind) Notes from the Underground by Fydor Dostoevsky. They are very, very strange. Hence the title of the category.

The premise of the memoir is this: Imagine a nine- or ten-year-old boy with fighting parents. Imagine that the mother is kind of crazy and mentally ill. The parents split, the kid is living with the crazy mom. The mom is seeing this psychiatrist, and he, along with the premises of his work and family, are pretty insane as well. And then, when the kid reaches about age twelve, his mother decides to make her psychiatrist the guardian of the boy, Augusten. So he grows up with this psychiatrist. 

This makes it sound moderately mundane. However, the book is bonkers. It is bonkers. It just has this bubble floating above it for me, one reading “HUH???”. It scares me a little bit. I don’t like what happened, and I don’t like reading about it especially. Sure, it’s really funny at parts, but sometimes it’s so vulgar and disgusting.

So I’m giving it two and a half stars. Out of five, that is. 

Read this book to look for the humor in certain spots, considering that it was real. The best funny part for me was the conversation with Natalie where she said that Augusten should write about what was going on, and he said that even if he did, no one would believe it. And it’s true. So read this book for the moments like that. Read it to connect with other books. Read it to experience Burroughs’ awesome use of the senses- including emotion; which, while confusing at parts, is extremely honest . But I wouldn’t encourage reading it for life lessons, except for that you shouldn’t give your kid away to your psychiatrist. 

-Nicole

January (Conspiracy 365)

I have a habit of collecting books on my shelf and reading them a very, very, very long time later. Does anyone else have this habit? Am I alone in this world with a shelf full of of books “TO READ” that takes me forever to get through? 😉

Well, such is the case with this book, January, from the series Conspiracy 365. I heard about it from my uncle a long time ago- maybe a year or two. I bought a used copy off Amazon at least ten months ago. And what has the book done? Sat on my shelf, unread. I got caught up in many other books along the way, and this got stuck on my “To Read” shelf. And I finally picked it up yesterday. And read it within maybe an hour and a half. 

I read a lot of books fast. That can be a good thing, an okay thing or a bad thing. Best case scenario- I love it and I am obsessed so I consume the whole thing really really fast. Such was the case with the Harry Potter books, which I read in five weeks. Worst case scenario- I hate it and want to get it over with so I read it as fast as possible to get it out of the way. I hate leaving books in the middle, so I read fast to try to finish it and move on to something else. One example of this is Laura Preble’s The Queen Geek Social Club

And lastly, the “Just Okay” scenario- it lies somewhere in between. That was this book. Gabrielle Lord’s action/thriller/conspiracy book was just okay. I read it fast because the thing is short. My copy is 185 pages (which was really hard to count since the pages are numbered backwards. Weird.).

Action/thriller books are normally not my thing, though they were for a while. Case in point- I read The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, and the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer all about the same time. But as I’ve matured as a reader, I don’t really like those type of books any more. I’m not saying that they’re not good books. I’m just trying to say that what Gabrielle Lord did, and what many other authors do, by packing lots of action into a short book didn’t wow me. 

The premise of the book is this: Fifteen-year-old kid Callum Ormond lives with his mom and sister Gabbi, presumably in Australia. (The presumption about Australia is based on the fact that he calls his mother Mum, the fact that it is hot in January, and that it says something at one point about ‘other Irish families with Australian heritage’ or something like that.) His dad died several months ago of a “mysterious viral infection,” so Cal is left as the man of the family, except for his suspicious uncle Rafe. After a strange warning from a seemingly deranged man on New Year’s Eve, a string of strange things start happening to Cal and his family- with Cal as the main suspect. As well, secrets are starting to be revealed- secrets that two different groups of people want to find out and that Cal himself wants to know- about his family and family history, which his father was investigating in Ireland when he got “sick.” Now Cal has to try to figure out the mystery and survive the next 365 days, as per the warning of the strange man, while all of these horrible crimes and crazy things happen around him. 

The book was decent. Lord made the mistake (I think) of having the book pretty much entirely driven on plot and not so much on characters. As well, it just put things right up next to each other; as in, one thing happens and then BAM another right away. If it’s a twelve-book series, why can’t you space things out? I disliked how rushed it felt. 

My favorite character was probably Boges. There was more information on him than any other character in the book, I think, and his predicament was the most interesting. Best friend of an accused criminal- that’s deeper stuff than a lot of the book. It reminds me, in a way, of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. However, besides that, the books have no relation 🙂

Overall, the book was just plain okay. I give it three of five stars, and am not encouraged to read the other books unless I fall into a very deep reading lull. Which, with all the books out there and even just those resting on my shelf right now, is not bound to happen any time soon. 

-Nicole

Nanny Returns

So…..I went to the beach. For two days. Then I had to leave my family to go home to finish Geometry and take a final exam and get final grades. Which was just SOOOOOOO much fun compared to digging my toes into the sand and baking like crazy for everyone there. (If you can’t sense my sarcasm, I think there may be something wrong with you. However, I did get 100% on my final, so it was pretty fun after all.)

And the point is…. I was at a beach, and I was trying to enjoy myself as much as possible. That includes beach reading :). Seriously, who doesn’t bring some kind of reading to the beach? Well, maybe my sister, who busies herself going back and forth between playing in the sand and in the cold morning water.

Me, I always bring lots to read. It’s not that I purposely miss out on the intense playtime stuff, it’s just that I’m kind of, I don’t know, acting like one of the grownups lately :). Sitting in the shade under the umbrella reading my book all peacefully.

I’m really avoiding the point here, aren’t I? Point is this- I was not reading Emma that afternoon at the beach (which I should’ve been, considering that I have 400 pages left and it’s due back to the library tomorrow). I read the Nanny Diaries sequel Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus. And it was pretty good. Now I will continue on with all you should hear about the book, since that is wildly more interesting than my beach-going habits.

I love The Nanny Diaries, as heartbreaking as that book was. Which just shows how great it was- poignantly well-written and fantastic. I think I’ve read the book three times (at least) from the school library. I hated the ending, as who wouldn’t? Totally sad. Very very very upsetting. I think that’s part of why I reread it so many times; because my dad told me once that he often rereads or re-watches something to figure out why he didn’t like it. And I don’t think the writing decays at the end. The sense of voice almost gets stronger, more powerful. It’s the content, written so vividly, that upsets me.

This is not a book you can read without reading the first book. I promise that you can’t. You won’t get any of the references. The story doesn’t make any sense if you don’t know the pretenses of the relationships. There is a slight recap partway through the rising action, but that doesn’t really summarize much except the end of the last book. As in, the last maybe 20 pages.

So read the first book. And don’t see the movie. I’m sorry Scarlett Johansen, but that movie does not do the book justice in any way whatsoever. The book is poignant and wonderful and carefully cute, but the movie way over-Hollywood-ized. Scarlett Johansen does not make a good Nan. She’s too old-seeming in the movie. And I always picture Nan with dark brown hair, not Scarlett’s blond. That threw me off. Consensus- read the book, the first one. Avoid the movie. Read the second book.

Let me give a quickie overview of the book: After twelve or thirteen years abroad, Nan returns to New York with dog Grace and husband Ryan (H.H.! Yes he’s back!) in tow. After starting work on their fixer-upper in Harlem and Nan attempting to find consulting work, Grayer shows up on the doorstep one night totally drunk. He hasn’t seen Nanny in the twelve years since they moved away, and only Googled her since it came up in a discussion with his mother and he found the VHS tape from the “Nanny Cam.” Grayer’s family situation is totally fallen apart- dad Mr. X with a movie star, mother Mrs. X housebound and drugged, little brother Stilton attempting to get into boarding school to escape it all.

Nan, being herself and digging into the guilt she feels about leaving him all of those years ago, offers to help, and suddenly becomes sucked into the void of X family complications. And like so many years ago, she becomes deeply attached to the X kids, and the adventure that follows.

I feel like this book is much more “adult” than the last one. Maybe it’s just because they make Nan curse so much more that it just doesn’t seem PG to me anymore. The first one I could not distinguish between a YA and an adult. But this seems very adult. And it makes some adult jokes, about which I do not especially understand. But oh well.

I don’t think it’s quite as well-written as the first one. There is so much humor embedded in the first one that I can’t get through the first 50 pages without stopping myself to laugh for a minute (um, The List, anyone?). But I didn’t do that with this one. It just kinda seemed like with getting her Masters and a crazy life, Nan had forgotten her humor and some of her old sense of self. She grew up, and I’m not sure I liked it.

I did like, however, the part where she was watching herself talk into the Nanny Cam on tape when she was 21. That was so incredibly well-played and articulate. It’s exactly the type of thing you actually say in real life in retrospect to seeing your past self. That was realistic and spot-on.

I felt that as minor characters, Sarah and Josh were a little blown-up. Like, bigger than they should’ve been. It was distracting. The major characters were Nan, Grayer, and maybe Stilton. Then there was Mrs. X and Mr. X and Carter and Ryan and Citrine. And Gene and Ingrid. And Shari for a certain period. So a heck of a lot of minor characters. And with so many minor characters, having all of them with complicated story lines made it a little hard to follow. Even people whose story lines should be pretty clear, they added all of these extra elements to it. Unnecessarily complicated. It confused me and took away from the reading experience.

The book overall earned three and a half of five stars. It was okay. It just didn’t wow me with a sense of poignancy or fun that Nan initially had knowing Grayer. The voice isn’t as strong as the first book; the tone is more serious. That may not be bad for some readers, but it made me ad little dubious of the changes in Nan over that decade. Nanny Returns is a good summer beach read that I encourage you to read- so long as you’ve read the first one and are ready for something more serious in the next book.

Quotes of the Week- Weeks 14 & 15

Hi!

I hope summer is going well. Or winter, if you happen to be reading this in the Southern Hemisphere. August is underway here and I am sitting home typing with a “very good” excuse as to why I didn’t post quotes last week. Here goes:

I was working on an extra-special quotes post, based on one of my favorite books (I know, there are a lot 🙂 ). It’s super-summery and one of the funniest, if not the funniest realistic fiction books I’ve ever read. I’m not going to spoil what it is. So I was working on getting five wonderful quotes from it, ones that made me smile or laugh so hard while reading it, and pictures too. But I couldn’t get the pictures to upload on WordPress, and they were so crucial that I decided to postpone. Oh well. 

So now you get 10 quotes cumulative for the two weeks. I hope you readers, no matter how small or almost imaginary to me, are okay with that 🙂

Here are ten quotes for this week:

1. “The only way to get rid of cockroaches is to tell them you want a long-term relationship!” -Jasmine Birtles

2. “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” -Jane Austen

3. “With friends, one is well; but at home, one is better.” -Leo Tolstoy

4. “The best style is the style you don’t notice.” -Somerset Maugham

5. “There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.” -G. K. Chesterton

6. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein

7. “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” -Albert Camus

8. “So of cheerfulness, or a good temper, the more it is spent, the more it remains.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

9. “Either hero or mud, there was no in between.” -Fydor Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground

10. “You are your own biggest enemy.” -Coach Flahrety, my old volleyball coach

I have Geometry prep to do before I take the Regents a week from now. I will post a review on Nanny Returns soon!

-Nicole

31 Books for August

Okay, so it’s August first. And I typically hate August. It is the muggiest, steamiest, most horrible month of the whole year. In my oh-so-humble opinion, that is. This year, however, I am trying to make August bearable by setting some challenges for myself. 

First is the Instagram photo challenge, with 31 days of August and 31 things I’m going to miss when I leave for boarding school. Now I thought of this- 31 books for August. 

You see, I may not actually read all 31 of these. I am being pretty awful at reading in mass quantities this summer like I did last summer when I read 65 books. I don’t exactly know where my count is this summer, but it’s definitely under 20. It may even be under 10. I will just leave it that I’m trying to go quality over quantity this summer 😉

But here are 31 books for August. Some of these are books I’ve literally read every third month or so since I first read them (This Lullaby) and some are ones that I’m looking forward to reading in the next month or so before school starts (which I am extremely nervous and excited for at the same time). 

Here are the AB&AB recommended 31 books, in no order as usual:

1. A Field Guide for Heartbreakers by Kristen Tracy (Funniest. Book. Ever.)

2. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (Ah-mazing and read so many times!)

3. Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (The sequel is a great beach read! Just finished it!)

4. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Great, great memoir.)

5. ‘Tis by Frank McCourt (Another sequel I’m waiting to read.)

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

7. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger (The movie about him is set to come out early September- I think on the exact day I leave for school. I think his writing is witty and fun to read. You can see a movie trailer here.)

8. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (I read this last August! Love this book!)

9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Recommended by my mom.)

10. The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (Totally heartbreaking.)

11. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (The most beautifully crafted fiction book I’ve ever read thus far.)

12. The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards (A new one of hers to read, and seems like a bit more of a mystery than The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.)

13. The Luxe by Anna Godbersen (Read this ages ago and need to reread.)

14. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (Awesome for a thriller book.)

15. The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore (Sequel time!)

16. The Lying Game by Sara Shepard (I need to reread this whole series and finally get to the last book!)

17. The Amanda Project by Amanda Valentino and Melissa Kantor (So so so good. I bet I could finish all four books in two days, though I read them as they were released, which is not quite as fun 🙂 Plus they have a great website.)

18. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (As in all of them. The whole series. I’m serious, no pun intended.)

19. Divergent by Veronica Roth (Destined to be as big as The Hunger Games, especially with Shailene Woodley movie version coming out soon-ish.)

20. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (Sequel to the first and second in the trio; third is said to be out in October?)

21. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (um, seriously the best realistic fiction book ever. No kidding, and I’ve read a lot.)

22.  Julie and Julia by Julie Powell (Another hilarious one, and a cooking one which only helps its reputation in my book.)

23. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (Also quite good, but not as much as This Lullaby.)

24. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (I read Into the Wild last summer, and want to see how his memoir differs.)

25. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (Different from the other two Dessens on here, and in a good way. Can also be substituted with Dessen’s Along for the Ride.)

26. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (Should be rude and nasty but funny none the less.)

27. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (A bit scary but with lovable characters.)

28. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (Extremely good but serious and you need to be in the right mindset)

29. Give and Take by Adam Grant (I need, NEED, to find a library copy of it, or just take the plunge and buy it off Amazon. It should be absolutely incredible and approach-changing and will totally review once it’s done)

30. The Best Teen Writing of 2009 by assorted authors (I have only read snippets of this in the past and expect that there should be a newest version. I considered applying for a similar Scholastic contest and may next year. This book is wonderful, with lots of stories and poems worthy of the medals they won. I just about die laughing during “A ‘How-To’ Guide for Today’s Teenage Girl.” You should find it just for that 🙂 )

31.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Must-read. Basically. That’s it.)

I hope August is an enjoyable month for everyone. I think I may plan to visit the Southern Hemisphere in August next year if possible to avoid awful NY weather. But now I can stay inside with A/C and a good book!

Have fun reading!

-Nicole