Top Ten Tuesday: Classics I Still Haven’t Read Yet

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is all about those books that are still collecting dust on our to-read lists. Every book blogger has experienced the guilt of knowing that you should read a critically-acclaimed or otherwise particularly awesome novel, but have yet to get around to it. Excuses know no bounds!

On any typical “Best Books of All Time” list, I can cross off about 20 percent of the works, which is better than the average American (a poor standard), but could definitely use some improvement. In fact, at the risk of humble-bragging, I would have read many of the classics I’m about to mention in high school had I not been in honors and AP English classes. Instead of reading popular classics like Huck Finn and The Picture of Dorian Gray, I delved into more obscure ones, like Saint Joan and The Return of the Native.

Yep, that might have been the most hipster thing I’ve ever written, and I completely deserve to be publicly shamed a la Cersei Lannister in “Game of Thrones.”

Anyway…moving on! High school-me may have been preoccupied, but present-me needs to get it together and finally cross off these ten classics that I still haven’t read yet: 

  1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  4. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  5. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  7. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  8. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  9. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  10. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Alright, time to see if you can out-hipster me…how many of these classics have you read?

Book Review: Honeymoon Hotel

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Image via Goodreads

Rating: 4 out of 5

After being bombarded with never-ending blockbuster sequels and remakes, it’s no wonder that I’m getting more and more frustrated with Hollywood’s complete lack of originality. For the most part, the film industry cares jack-shit about women, which is why I would rather escape the bro-movie madness into some good chick-lit.

If entertainment is going to be formulaic, I might as well go with the formula I prefer: ambitious girl meets manic pixie dream boy and falls in love after a rousing bout of sexual tension.

In Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne, Rosie is the events manager at the uber-posh Bonneville Hotel in London. After working her ass off for years, she’s finally so close to a major promotion that she can taste it. That is, until her boss’ son Joe comes in to help run her department, and the nepotistic red flags start popping up to threaten her career goal.

I became a fan of Hester Browne’s after reading The Little Lady Agency series. On a whim, I missed her writing, so I purchased this book along with The Runaway Princess. She excels at creating strong female protagonists who have great jobs and friendships and don’t exist just for the men in their lives.

I enjoyed that Rosie and Joe change each other for the better. Rosie learns to ease up on planning weddings down to the nitty-gritty details and remember that love, not centerpieces, should be the focal point of getting married. On the flip side, Joe learns to respect the hard work it takes to plan an event and that running away from your problems never solves them.

Honeymoon Hotel is a great reminder that you can’t get what you want, whether it’s true love or a dream career, if you remain stuck in dead-end relationships and jobs. It’s lighthearted fun and would make a great movie one day—if romances ever manage to break through the monotony of action flicks and make it to the silver screen again.

Audiobook Review: The Guest Room

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Image via Goodreads

Rating: 3 out of 5

I have to admit that I was surprised that my fellow book club babes felt so negatively toward Chris Bohjalian’s The Guest Room. I was already a fan of the author after reading The Sandcastle Girls, his heartbreaking historical fiction novel about the Armenian Genocide. Honestly, there are so few Armenians left in existence, let alone Armenian writers, which compels me to appreciate the creative folks who share my heritage.

So even though some of the ladies at book club agreed with my 3-star rating, I was much more sympathetic about liking this story. However, since I recognize my own cultural bias, I wanted to share a plot summary written by my friend Kat, because it’s absolutely hilarious. She actually re-enacted this description during our meetup this week, and it’s safe to say that her sassy summaries will be a regular feature hereafter:

So basically you got a 40ish older brother (Mr. No Backbone) who throws a bachelor party for his immature womanizing 30ish baby brother at his home (*cough* damn fool *cough*), of which he shares with his devoted wife and 9-year-old daughter.

Said baby brother and even more hounddog groomsmen decide to hire strippers of which they pay extra to have sex (i.e. tag team) and guest what, oh, the strippers were sex slaves who took that very opportunity to kill their bodyguards/ captors right there in the house.

So now the strippers are on the run (literally 10 blocks down the street… They so smart 😐), the house is a crime scene, the older brother’s marriage and family are falling apart (🙄), and there is a whole lot of media coverage & legal heat on all the groomsmen (ya damn skippy 😏).

I couldn’t get jiggy with this because the characters were utterly stupid, and it was like as the story went on, the author kept dumbing everyone down for cheap thrills and sad attempts at creating suspense. Uh no! This gets 3 stars if I’m being nice, and a 2.5 if I’m keeping it real. Read at your own risk, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I have to agree with Kat that you question the judgment of the characters throughout the novel, correcting their decisions in your mind as a desperate attempt to prevent this bachelor-party-gone-wrong from getting even worse.

However, I pitied Richard, the relatively innocent bystander dealing with the aftermath of his brother’s mistakes, and Alexandra, who never asked to be abducted from her family in Armenia and forced to live as a sex slave. Having the POVs shift between these two protagonists, as well as to Richard’s wife and daughter, allows you to get in the minds of everyone affected and form your own conclusions about how you would feel and act in the same situation.

My only major complaint with The Guest Room was that it had too much feeling and not enough acting. Bohjalian is wonderful at writing inner turmoil, but this was not the sexy thriller my book club and I had been hoping for. As Kat concluded, read at your own risk, but as long as you know what kind of story you’re getting yourself into, I thought that it was enjoyable.

My final words of wisdom if you plan on adding this to your to-read list: definitely get the print version! Unfortunately, the audiobook is terrible with accents, and Alexandra sounds like an awful stereotype of a foreign bimbo. The Guest Room is a story with a ton of potential that didn’t quite deliver, and the poorly executed audiobook is another testament to that.

Audiobook Review: All the Birds in the Sky

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Image via Goodreads

Rating: 2 out of 5

I’ve been dreading writing this review as soon as I realized that this novel was not going to get any better. With all the hype surrounding Charlie Jane Anders’ novel All the Birds in the Sky, I’m not surprised that it was nominated for my book club last month. I am surprised, however, by how many readers actually gave it a high rating.

I’m already three book reviews behind on this blog, so I’m not going to waste your time like this book did mine. Instead, let me sum up my thoughts in a simple literary recipe:

  1. Take one hideously executed mashup of fantasy and sci-fi.
  2. Add two boring, unlikeable love interests playing to stereotypical gender norms (He’s the tech genius! She’s the earthy pagan witch!).
  3. Mix the genres and characters until so poorly combined that you can’t tell if the story is meant to be romance, coming-of-age, apocalyptic, or a gross hodge podge of all three.
  4. Set the plot in the heart of San Francisco, but describe the city with so much hipster pretension that even people who live and work there like myself want to vomit.
  5. Finally, garnish with a big pinch of the absolute worst sex scene that I’ve ever read. Magical nipple-blowing…that’s all I’m going to say.

In my humble opinion, the only reason that All the Birds in the Sky received so much hype is because the author happened to co-found and run io9, a well-known Gawker Media publication. I’m sure the marketing budget for this book went through the roof. Add the fact that Charlie Jane Anders is transgender, and you have all the makings of a unique, diverse, intriguing tale–except that it falls right on its face.

An utter disappointment, made even more annoying on audio, and quite possibly my least favorite book of 2016. Not recommended in the slightest.

Happy 5th Blogiversary to Me!

I know that I’ve been busy, but I cannot believe that I almost missed the fifth anniversary of my blog! Many of the book bloggers whom I follow are college students just getting started, so I definitely feel like a veteran after half a decade. In fact, a recent blog referred to my Why I HATE Nicholas Sparks post as “ancient.” Thanks?

To celebrate this major blogiversary, I’m here to share five fun facts about your very own Book Club Babe!

1. The Hard Numbers: In the five years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve written 416 posts and gained almost 87,000 total views from over 46,600 visitors. The day with the best views ever (463 total) was April 8, 2015, but that’s only because my talented brother Nick Jarrett launched my personal website alyssajarrett.com that day, which hosts a feed to this blog. Check it out to see my professional portfolio and find links to my vlogs and other social media networks.

2. The Fanbase: Speaking of social media, let’s tally up my fans! I have a total of 850 followers, which includes my WordPress (123) and email (18) subscribers, personal Facebook (234), Facebook page (71), Twitter (151), Pinterest (98), personal Google+ (36), Google+ page (94), Goodreads (21), and YouTube (4). I’m certainly not the most popular blog on the web, but I’ve heard many times that people found books they loved thanks to my reviews, and that makes everything worth it.

3. Most Popular Day and Time of Posts: Tuesday (17% of views) at 12:00PM PST (6% of views). Not surprising, given the popularity of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you’re a new book blogger, join us!

4. Most Discussed Posts: Other than my rant on the romance novel king, my most commented on posts include My Top Ten Goals for 2016, Top Ten Books When You Just Want to Laugh, and my rant on Fifty Shades of Grey.

5. VIP Commenters: I have to give a special shout-out to Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines, The Other Watson at Wanton Creation, and Bridget at Dog-Eared and Dog-Tagged for supporting me all these years. I consider them some of my first blogging friends, and I wish them all the best in the future!

Another year down, hopefully many more to go! Thank you for all the insightful conversations, amazing recommendations, and wonderful memories!

XOXO

Book Club Babe

Top Ten Tuesday: Book-Related Facts About Me

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Image via The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, focuses on the book bloggers rather than the books themselves. But since talking about myself is not nearly as interesting as letting others do the honors for me, I’ve enlisted my friends to contribute!

Here are ten book-related facts about me, according to those who know me best! (All facts have been quoted via Facebook comments).

1. “You’re a bit of a grammar queen, who tends to correct people’s Facebook posts. Like mine, for example.”

2. “You love Greek mythology.”

3. “If there’s a sexist rich guy in a book, he automatically reminds you of Christian Grey.”

4. “You prefer the fresh smell of binding to the fluorescent glow from some lifeless e-book.”

5. “You hate when books end, and you’re left without any real closure.”

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6. “You’re frenemies with Elizabeth Gilbert.”

7. “Ideal book: Dystopian feminist-centric romance novel based in an alternative universe where dogs and cats have equal rights as humans.”

8. “Ideal male leads to fight for the heroine’s heart and affection are played by none other than Tom Hiddleston and Jared Leto in the movie adaptation in three parts.”

9. “You love fantasy with supernatural types and fireworks at the end.”

10. “I know you may not kick stray puppies when you’re bored, but you sure do have some built-up tension towards Nicholas Sparks.”

All I can say is that my friends have certainly described me in a nutshell! Do any of their facts resonate with you as well?

Literary News: In Case You (Really) Missed It

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The past 14 hours have been a whirlwind of fun: last night my book club met to drink a few bottles of wine while discussing the horrendous novel All the Birds in the Sky (review coming next week!). This morning was even invigorating, because I was finally able to login to Pokemon Go, the mobile game that’s taken over the globe. I’ve been gallivanting around San Francisco hoping to catch them all!

But now it’s time to get serious…I have a confession to make.

In full disclosure, I have a terrible habit of filing away articles for my blog, then forgetting that they exist. Every time my cursor hovers over the bookmarks folder on my browser, I cringe and try to ignore the growing list as best I can.

But 2016 is half over, and I just can’t take it anymore! Time for some summer cleaning!

Here are the first six months of literary news in review, in case you really, really missed the boat, or just want to relive the excitement!

Literary Feminism

  • “Damn, you’re not reading any books by white men this year? That’s so freakin brave and cool” (Jezebel)
  • “In literature and in life, men and women still want different things in a mate” (Jezebel)
  • “One weird trick that makes a novel addictive” (Jezebel)

Harry Potter News

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book” (BBC)
  • “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America was a travesty from start to finish” (io9)

Hollywood Adaptations

  • “Ava DuVernay confirmed to direct A Wrinkle in Time” (IndieWire)
  • “Inside the peculiar new home of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine” (Entertainment Weekly)
  • “6 adaptations that fixed the book (according to the author)” (Cracked)
  • “First Look as Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events set” (Spinoff Online)
  • Will drama about young William Shakespeare picked up to series by TNT” (Deadline)

Et Cetera

  • Placing Literature maps out real places you’ve read about in books” (Lifehacker)
  • “The mass-market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is dead” (New Republic)

Can you tell I’m a fan of Gawker Media publications? After reading this list, what literary news made you most excited? And if I missed any headlines, please send them my way!