Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Girl With All the Gifts

This book, simply put, hit me right in the gut. I started reading this book one evening and finished it three days later. It would have been sooner had I not had to deal with work and school. Even with that, I cancelled plans simply to free up my schedule so that I could devote more time to reading. Rearranging my schedule last minute to read a book happens, but it's rare. By the time I finished the book, my eyes were dry and sore, my brain going a mile a minute, and I couldn't start my next book right away because I was still wrapped up in this.

A little back story, I managed to fall down a zombie-loving hole a few years ago. I never identified myself as a horror buff and still do not, but I found I began watching more movies and shows with zombies being featured. I think this is partly due to the zombie fascination in our culture as a whole. With The Walking Dead being so popular and various movies making their debuts, it's hard to dip into sci-fi or horror without passing a plot with zombies in it. I wonder if zombies are the new vampires in entertainment and will eventually be forced back into the shadows, but that's another thought for another day.

From various zombie-related works I've received or read, there seems to be specific ingredients to create the piece. Men wielding guns, a broken-down society, possibly some crazy scientists, and a love triangle of some sort. Plus the usual dash of death and innards. I started this book expecting that but it came out to be so much more. Somehow, M.R. Carey managed to take a theme and create an entirely new storyline.

Let's kick off with a quick who is who. Melanie is a sweet child in a rather odd situation. She is locked into a windowless room nightly and come morning, after she is strapped into a wheel chair while under the sight of a gun, she's wheeled off to a classroom to receive elementary lessons. Well, except for once a week when she gets a shower and a meal of maggots. Already, you know Melanie isn't a normal human and yet... her heart is very human-like.

Occasionally, children in the classroom are taken away by the doctor on base and never return. When it comes to Melanie taking a turn with the doctor, she's saved, then all hell breaks loose. With the help of a teacher, the scientific (and somewhat insane) thought process of our neighborhood doctor, and the gun-slinging safety of two soldiers, we're taken away from the safe world Melanie only knows and thrown into the light.

Now onto the details and my thoughts on different areas of the novel:

Many reviews and the novel itself identify Melanie’s relationship with Ms. Justineau (her favorite teacher) as a crush or innocent love. I like to think she idolizes Ms. Justineau, but is that what a childhood crush on an adult is? This child who has never experienced love in her present memory but has the mental capability to construct emotions and memory, to find the good and bad of a situation, zeroes in on the one adult in her tiny world that shows her kindness and helps to make her mind grow from the lessons she teaches. Of course she idolizes her, I’m sure any child would in such a situation. 

Ms. Justineau herself is a smart woman who has many talents. She isn’t just a teacher but a scientist. She’s caring to Melanie, strong and determined. She’s also filled with self-loathing from an incident that happened long in the past. However, I enjoy that her past and the darker edge to her character never really appeared to Melanie nor became what she was known for. She was still, every step of the way, protective and caring to the little girl despite all that’s going on around them and it felt genuine. Her personality is consistent but she grows by means that the author finds out more about her past.

The other major characters in the book change and grow in the more classic manner. We have our crazy scientist who starts off being someone I didn’t pay much attention to. I found the villain to be the SGT who straps Melanie to her chair and wheels her (and the other children) to and from their rooms or off to be experimented on. He was the number one jerk in this book, but then he began to change and grow into a person with a lot more layers than the front he gave. Or maybe it was more that I had a better grasp as to who he was and accepted him, faults and all. The scientist, however, went from being a side character to one who was without a doubt a villain. Rather, there is the argument of what makes a villain. In this book, it's a moralistic view. How do you see children, how are you willing to do experiments on them? Well, by disassociating yourself. She too is a character that makes understandable judgment calls if you focus on where she is coming from. But to the outsider, she doesn’t really have her heart in the right place. And yet… yet we are provided additional information that makes it steadily more and more clear as to why she is the way she is and she too becomes more acceptable.

I appreciated that this book wasn't fully focused on the gore that often goes hand-in-hand with zombie books. It gets tiring and I'd rather have plot than skull-bursting action. We have action, we have some gore, but there is always the sense of poetry in the words left to describe the events. It's a story and these are events but they are not lingered upon in a gross way.

This book also did something else -- it honestly gave me the creeps. Bravo to the author who did his research. There's a real life fungus, better known as zombie fungus, which attacks ants in the Amazon and our friendly author managed to pull from that and create a zombie epidemic that sounds entirely possible. After making the poor decision to look up the fungus, I was sufficiently creeped out and giving side eye to the author for aiding to my nightmares.

All in all, this was a great book! Even with the nightmares because you know it was good enough to construct such creepy feelings and bad dreams. I couldn't stop thinking of Melanie after I finished the book. I wanted to know more, I wanted a check in on how she is, but the book doesn't really need a sequel. It was perfectly written as it was.

By the way, this was a book I borrowed from a friend and I have every intention of buying my own copy so I can have it on hand and read it again. So get yourself to a bookstore and grab a copy as soon as you can! I loved it that much!

Last Week's Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Next Week's Review: The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Yosemite National Park

Where: Yosemite National Park, Yosemite, California
When: October 2014

The sun wasn't going to make its entrance for hours, but we were up. The hotel was silent, everyone was asleep, and when we finally stepped out of the hotel and onto the street, we found few people were out and about on that Wednesday morning.

The City, New York City, is the city of my childhood. It has been pressed into my mind that all cities are like New York -- they never sleep -- but I was wrong and San Francisco was there to prove it that October morning.

We stood on the sidewalk, having been told that the bus for our tour would pick us up outside the hotel, and waited. I grew a little nervous as the time grew closer -- were we supposed to request that they pick us up there? It was in the itinerary paperwork I had filled out but was there more to it all?

We had dressed in layers despite that it wasn't horribly cold that morning. We knew Yosemite was a bit of a higher altitude so we figured layers were our best bet. We also packed snacks for the long bus ride, as well as some driving entertainment.

My phone went off, a San Francisco number calling me, and I quickly answered. Just a friendly customer service representative letting me know that the bus was nearby. We waited only a few moments more before boarding the small bus filled with sleepy-eyed people and a cheerful driver and... off we went.

The small bus quite literally picks everyone up from hotel to hotel. We were going up and down so many roads and it took ages but finally, we were on our way just at daybreak.

On Highway 580 going East
The ride IS long from San Francisco -- our starting point. Four hours one way then four hours back makes for a hellish commute but our driver was sweet and understanding. He provided information on the area and stopped for bathroom breaks and meals.

On the way out, we stopped at a produce stand for the bathroom and a chance to stretch our legs. Further down the road we stopped once more for breakfast before continuing on for our final destination: Yosemite State Park.
Sierra Nevada Foothills
I have a tendency to fall asleep on long car rides but thankfully stayed awake on the drive out to Yosemite. With my familiarity of landscapes being secluded to the East Coast, the change in landscape in California was entirely new to me. Foothills became steeper and soon we were in the mountains. The roads were somewhat terrifying -- is it just me or does California not seem to have a lot of guide rails? But the views were just breathtaking.



As soon as we made it through the entrance of the park, we made our first stop in the grove of the giant sequoias. We were given the option to complete a walk down the giant sequoia trail or hang out around the bus. Since we were in the higher altitude, the air was much thinner than most of us were used to and I quickly discovered that means I had to take much more frequent stops to catch my breath during our walk. Still, we did it. It was chilly and I had an extra sweater to put on which I was very thankful of. Hood up, hands in pocket, we made our way down to see the more famous trees.

What was so mind blowing for me is that I, a self-proclaimed country girl, had never been in a forest that was so silent. You couldn't hear vehicles, airplanes, nothing. There were no noises that were not naturally made by the earth and its many animals. Birds chirped, squirrels were everywhere, and a breeze made the branches of the tall trees bristle against one another. It was so beautiful and so peaceful. Plus, I saw the biggest pine cones of my life!


Once we made it back to the bus, we headed off for a more lengthy drive. It seemed to take longer than I had expected for us to get to the main destination -- Inspiration Point where you can see all the major spots of Yosemite. Maybe it was because I was hungry. Along the drive we saw the end result of wild fires. Often enough, I hear of fires blazing in California. Homes are in danger, helicopters drop water, large areas are completely destroyed. I never truly understood how destructive these fires are until we passed by an area that had been destroyed by fire in the 1990's -- that's 20 years ago and still trees were just charred sticks and only tiny trees and bushes had managed to grow in the area.



Continuing on, we made our way over hills, around sharp curves and then through a tunnel. Upon exiting it we were introduced to the most breathtaking sight of my life.


Just look at that. That was what was outside my bus window. The entire bus, all of us tired tourists, gasped; cameras were taken out, flashes and clicks made, and I had tears in my eyes. We were all glued to our windows at this point and stared with complete awe as we made our way through the winding roads and trees, through another tunnel, and finally to Inspiration Point.


It looks like a picture, that was one of our reactions upon getting off the bus. It's so surreal that this is a real-life visual and not something created on the computer or seen online. This type of beauty does exist in real life and it was just so completely mind blowing.

Once more, it was quiet beside the sound of the tourists and tour vans at the look out point. With California being in such a horrible drought, and our visit taking place toward the end of what was the dry season anyway, all the waterfalls that are so famous weren't visible to us but that was fine. It could have made the visual better, sure, but what we saw was certainly not something to nitpick over.



After staying at the spot for a bit, the bus took us into the valley and to the visitor center. This area has camping grounds and bungalows for rent, which I would love to stay in one day. Through the trees all you could see was rock foundations unless you looked directly up to see the blue sky. Ravens hung in the trees and cawed at us while we had time to walk around and take the area in. We also had enough time to rent a bike, but passed on that in favor of getting a big lunch and relaxing for a bit.




This stop gave us plenty of time to eat, use the bathroom, and relax outside of the bus before boarding it and heading home. Still, we stopped once more on the drive for a bathroom break and dinner before continuing on toward San Francisco.

But prior to getting to San Francisco we stopped at Treasure Island and looked at the San Francisco skyline as the fog rolled in. It was a great way to finish the trip.

Our driver dropped everyone off by means of who was closest to the bridge when we crossed over into the city. This made the drop off time speed by, something we were very thankful for by this point as it had been a very long, eventful day. As soon as we got off the bus we made our way wearily up the steps of the hotel and crashed shortly after with the scent of the freshest air I've smelt still lingering on our clothing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wild

The day I began reading this book, my friend died from cancer. Over the course of four years she had battled (and beat) two forms of cancer, but it seemed luck was not on her side and she kept getting sick. The evening before she had made a post detailing that she wasn't feeling well and was headed to the hospital. A mere sixteen hours later, she was gone.

This hadn't been my first rodeo with cancer. I had pre-cancerous cells four years beforehand which were successfully removed; my aunt had two forms of cancer, the second killing her; and my grandfather had cancer that overtook his body which led to his death a mere two years beforehand. I was familiar with cancer in ways that I never asked to be and with opening this book, my friend's death still so fresh that I was still in a state of shock, I could relate even more to Cheryl and the loss of her mother than I am sure I could have if I read the book at another time -- with the pain of what cancer does to a person less fresh in my mind.

I expected that this book would be life changing. That I would often be left stunned and unable to move on as I processed the information. It... wasn't so much that. But it was enjoyable, it was something that I read and felt passion for with each page turn. It made me think a lot about myself, about what I've experienced and what I am willing to try in my life, and about the scope of bravery in my internal dictionary.

To me, Cheryl is brave, but we'll dive into that in a minute. The sum up of the novel is this: Cheryl's beloved mother is diagnosed with cancer and quickly dies. Cheryl is at a complete loss and struggles to deal with her grief by choosing less than healthy ways to cope with it. Sleeping with different men, doing drugs, divorcing her husband all follow in a quick line following her mother's death. Then she gets it in her mind to find herself again. This is entirely fabulous and I feel a real moment that many people face when they are falling down a metaphorical rabbit hole. Your life isn't perfect, you complain about it, hate it, fight it, but at some point you get to a position where you go "I am going to change myself/this situation/what's happening" and you go forward. I feel that's where Cheryl is when she begins her hike up the Pacific Crest Trail.

We are offered different memories of Cheryl's life and her relationship with her mother at the start of the book but more and more, as she continues her hike, we focus on the hike itself, as well as the mental development of Cheryl.

Emotionally, I get what it's like to mourn someone important to you. It's damn hard and people certainly mourn in different ways. Hell, every death is different and you may mourn each death differently from the last you've experienced. It's a tricky thing, life and death, but I felt I could understand Cheryl because I could relate to her sense of loss. While her life choices are not my own, I could relate to the anger, confusion, and feeling of wandering that she went through.

But the similarities stopped there. This woman is brave. Any woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail (or any other) by themselves is brave. I can't even imagine doing it. Give me a walk in the woods, let me hike up to the overview of the valley near my parents' home, but to go on something that is so removed from civilization all by yourself? And to do it as a woman? I can't imagine it. This is not to say that women are incapable of doing such great travels by themselves, but we unfortunately live in a culture where it's ingrained in our minds, as women, to proceed with caution while alone as there are threats to the world.

It's interesting in that while we are prepared to blast pepper spray or blow into a rape whistle if we are advanced upon in a threatening way, that the worry of a woman alone also equals pleasantries from strangers. Cheryl meets a number of strangers on the hike but only a few would be categorized as rude or dangerous. Often enough, she was given a lot of courtesy and respect which is awesome.

But I still can't get my mind around doing all of this by yourself. I have been lucky to see bits of the wilderness that eastern California when I visited Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite Park (then Yosemite Park's valley, too) as I walked on well made paths. But even then, the air was thin and there wasn't any sound from machinery which made me oddly uncomfortable and feel somewhat alone despite that I was around so many other people. To do that alone, I would honestly be a little scared.

The book was eye opening in that I tried to consider myself in these situations and I realized I wanted to see more of America, more of our land, but that I don't think I'm quite long-hike material. At least not on my own. But I may still occasionally think "I'm like Cheryl" when I take my short five mile hikes near my house in the state park. It's something to aspire to at the very least.

I'd suggest this for anyone who is interested in the great outdoors, travel, and personal growth because you'll be completely satisfied. We get a peek at what it is to mourn but also what it is to travel and grow as a person. I loved this book, I'm happy I received it, and I'm happy I read it when I did. In many ways, the book helped me cope with my friend's death and I'm sure I'll refer to it in the future when other obstacles creep into my life... or maybe just when I consider taking a long hike.

Last Week's Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
Next Week's Review: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

Thursday, April 9, 2015

My Reading Nook -- Renee

My Reading Nook, a feature from Soon Remembered Tales, gives readers a chance to show off their favorite place to read.


What’s your reading nook? 

This is my bedroom. In the picture, you can see the two places that I read the most. Obviously the first one is my bed. I always love to have an abundance of pillows and blankets to make the reading experience most pleasurable. Hidden behind my pillows is a window seat. When it’s nice outside, I like to set pillows against the sides and open my windows and just read for hours. Also, I have books on the shelves on both sides of my bed as well as another floor to ceiling shelf on the opposite side of my room. 


Why is this nook special? 

I love this nook because of the lighting when I open the windows and because of the comfort. I always know I can retreat to a book in my room when I need a break from school or just life in general. 

About You: 

I’m 16 years old and I’m a junior in high school. I have been reading my whole life and I have recently become a book blogger after having tumblr for years, because I think that it’s a very good way for me to spend my time on the internet. I love reading and I’m always looking for new book recommendations. The booklr community is amazing and hopefully I will have a growing role in it in the following months. 


Interested in sharing your own reading nook? Take a look at the My Reading Nook tab for more information!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3)

The list of books I have read and have yet to review was growing lengthy. I was sitting those reviews aside for a separate reason, but it was also influenced by this final book. It was one I had bought months beforehand, just as it had been released to stores, and I had found myself in the midst of chaos. Issues with a roommate, a conference season at work, trying to move my belongings, and traveling to the other side of the country and back without work blowing up in my face upon my return. I was really, really busy and the book was pushed aside. I knew it was there, I saw it every time I looked at my bookshelf, neatly nestled between the first two books of this trilogy and my Catherynne Valente books. The eye on the cover watched me, patiently, and seemed to wait for me to pick a time. 

I had other chances to read the book. Things settled down both at work and in life. I was moved in fully and I had the time for pleasure reading. Instead, I went for other books and passed over this. It happened again and again until the new year arrived. I felt it, suddenly, that now was the time to read it. Looking through photos I've used for the blog, specifically pictures of my book nook, I realized that I had read the first two books (back to back) the previous winter. So, maybe without realizing it, I feel that this series is a good winter tale. I also was in desperate need for some fantasy YA with lots and lots of dreamy love. 

At this point I would typically throw out the links for the previous two book reviews but I never wrote them! They were read shortly before I closed the blog last year and I never had the chance to write them. So we'll do a quick review of the first two books.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone -- Book 1

This book was magical right from the start. The main character, Karou, is every teenage goth-like kid's fantasy girl. You either liked her or wanted to be here. She's quick witted, serious, with bright blue hair and a talent for art. She also has a secret: her family is a group of monsters. Creatures whom all seem to have crawled out of hell but certainly do not behave in such a matter.

We're also introduced to Akiva, an angel by description but not necessarily by action. He has set out to burn the doorways to other worlds, portals that allow Karou and her monster family to move freely so that Karou may do her "father's" (of sorts) bidding (to collect teeth, oddly enough). And then... Karou and Akiva meet and there's something there. Something important. Something that Karou can't quite remember. Then she does and her world is turned upside down.

Days of Blood and Starlight -- Book 2

Karou now knows of her mysterious past and who her "adoptive" family really is. Aside from the caring monsters she always knew them to be (which remained true), they weren't monsters at all but her own race. She also has discovered who Akiva is and what he has done.

There is a lot of changing in this book by terms of writing. While the previous one seemed to go on one track, there's more flip flopping and changing of perspective in this one than the last and at times I found myself bored by the story because we were focusing on one character while I was really interested in finding out what another was doing. Still, the story all but shoots you out of a cannon and into the other worlds that we are given.

Akiva and Karou, two characters you've come to love (or should have, in my opinion), are on separate sides and you're left to wonder if they'll ever see eye to eye again, if Karou will ever accept and forgive Akiva, and yet... there's other magic afoot.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters -- Book 3

A year passed from the time I finished the second book, to when I picked up the third. A year. A year that proved long enough for me to forget a lot but not so long that I forgot the plot and how wonderful this book is. Taylor writes as if she were a great artist painting the most lively painting. Everything is beautiful, even the ugly parts, and it's easy to get swept away by her language in all three of her books. This third book was particularly like this, as it was well over six hundred pages long and dove into different mythologies within the culture of the Chimerea and Seraphs (and beyond). 

I adored all the characters who had been there before. I loved them to bits and was weary of newcomers. Eliza, the human who has a deep, dark secret; the girl who has her own chapters and it isn't quite clear the point of her; the girl who means so much more but then seems to not take focus anymore. She became more interesting the more I read her chapters. At first, I was bored by them and bothered that Taylor introduced an entirely new character in the last book. "She better be here for a damn good reason," I thought. And she was, but I still felt like we weren't given the proper time with Eliza to see her really come to her full self.

Our old beloved characters are there, of course, and I feel that they were featured all equally and with wonderful development. I enjoyed seeing them all and I eagerly devoured every page to see how everything panned out. One aspect I really enjoyed was the discovery of the "angels" in the human world and how they were handled by humans. I feel that this was not only insightful but probably accurate. People go nuts upon the arrival of angels, people obsessive with religion have gone to Rome, and governments are on edge.

Moving along, we learn more about Akiva, as well. Finally we discover his ancestry with detail and I found myself a bit confused. I feel it was rushed, somewhat, and thrown in at the end of the book. My confusion could have been due to not having read the series in a year, I may  have forgotten some details, but I was certainly a bit confused about who these people were and why they were there. It certainly took me a minute to remember part of the details of Akiva's mother from the previous books.

Aside from this all, I wanted to throw the book a few times because I would grow so frustrated about events. Life isn't fair and Taylor definitely doesn't hold back on that with this book. But the ending was... satisfactory (without giving too much away!) and for a week after finishing this book I was sad that I couldn't read more. I'm still sad that the trilogy is done. I want more, I want to check in on these characters, and I want to see what they're up to now and in the future. When I feel a sense of loss after finishing a book, I know I enjoyed it.

Last Week's Review: My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff
Next Week's Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- March

March is a great month, typically. It has the first spring holiday (St. Patrick's Day) even though, technically, it's the last winter holiday. But in my mind it's more spring-oriented with all the clover and green. Most of the time we end up getting nice weather for St. Patrick's Day as well, so that's always a plus. Winter becomes something of a memory and I'm giddy to wear green and eat soda bread. But the spring-feel (plus the actual arrival of spring) wasn't understood by all and we ended up getting the most snow of this winter during the month!

St. Patrick's Day dinner
March was introduced with a snowstorm and then, slowly, it became warmer and I was able to go hiking in a tank-top and capris. It was wonderful and nature agreed. Crocus bloomed, the trees budded, and robins were happily digging for worms. Then it snowed again -- on the first official day of spring. 



But winter was slowly slinking off to hide until the end of the year and the first big sign of this was that I had my first full week of work at my office since December! The warmer days are starting to outnumber the cold days and I am confident that soon enough I'll be complaining about the heat and humidity. Just last week we had nearly 80-degree temperatures and ridiculous humidity, followed by our first thunderstorm, so summer isn't far away.

This month was also busy as I worked on a big release at my job and finished up a copyediting course I was taking. Let me tell you, editing documents from 7:30 in the morning until 9 at night, with breaks only being to drive and eat, is exhausting.

Copyediting final and cats.

With the class taken care of, I finally had a chance to pleasure read without feeling guilty, and better yet--I was able to write blog posts again! April will be a month spent catching up.

Book Reviews:

Other Posts:

  • For Wanderlust Wednesday we visited the city of San Francisco and got some coffee from Caffee Triste--my favorite coffee spot while I was in San Francisco in October. Believe me when I say that once I'm back in that city, it'll be one of the first places I go to eat breakfast.
  • I discussed my goals for the next year and a half while I head toward the ripe, old age of thirty.
  • We visited California and the San Francisco Bay area for a peek at Ashley's reading nook. Complete with comfy pillows and cuddly cats. I can verify that the cats are cuddly as I've met them and cuddled with them until they found their food dishes more interesting.
  • The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge for all of those die-hard readers and Gilmore Girls fans out there.

Must Reads from the Web:

A lot has gone on around the web, much of it I didn't have the chance to capture by means of sharing links, but here are some highlights from the past month!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

My Salinger Year

I had a hard time starting this review. I came back to it again and again and found that I would stare at the unfinished sentence I had left off at and not be able to form words. This is not to say I didn't enjoy My Salinger Year, I loved it! I was completely taken by it and transported to 1990's New York City, the NYC of my childhood, long before I knew who Salinger was, or that I could work in a world of editing words and write about my love of books on the side. But writing this review? That was a different thing.

There was something about this book that made it feel personal for me. "All of Us Girls", the two page beginning of this book, immediately caught my attention. The careful detail given to describe the girls preparing for their day of work; the particular dress, the morning practice of breakfast pick-ups, then the job itself--obeying bosses, working with authors, buzzing from the famous and creative energy from these special clients, and the desire to be an author themselves. I was snagged by this description, even though it was only two pages long. I understood this passage. I got it. I had been one of those girls. Working for publishing? No, not really, not in the literary sense. But I have carefully chosen my wardrobe to fit the part prior to leaving in early morning light to travel to my new job. That nervous desire of being seen as special, a shining star, all while wearing the heavy dream of being so much more than this little job you have taken a particularly long time to dress for.

Joanna Rakoff details a year of time as she worked at a literary agency while figuring out the world and the track her life was on. At times I found her extremely frustrating. At this point in her life, she's living with her loser boyfriend who she had met while in a relationship with another guy--who you only hear of by terms of endearment, the man sounds wonderful. It makes it hard for you to like her or her (current) boyfriend as the former boyfriend always continues to sound pleasant whenever he's mentioned. But that aside, Joanna definitely doesn't have a peaches and cream lifestyle at this time. The apartment she lives in has a roommate with a drug problem, followed by another apartment with no heat. Her pay is little and she finds it hard to keep a social circle as everything is expensive; hell, even getting a sandwich for lunch can be a splurge.

For me, particularly, while I condemn cheating on significant others and the likes, I understood why it was happening. Or at least, from my point of view. Here's Joanna in her early 20s. Like most women at that age, they're still figuring out their lives, they're still getting their footing. There were so many mistakes made by myself and every girl I know when they were in their early 20s and fresh out of college. It's a part of growing up. Stupid boyfriends, bad living situations, you name it. There's also that need to achieve; the mental state that yes, you do deserve your dreams; and the first jobs where you're paid pennies but it's still something, so you stick with it, even if you're living off Ramen. I identified with that because I've been there. Hell, just two years ago I was there. I was budgeting every cent I had to make sure there was enough to pay my bills but also feed myself. When Joanna received her loans and credit card statements and was shocked, I had to laugh, because I understood how that was after graduation when I started seeing them come in. It's easy to spend money but so much harder when you have to pay it back.

But where my familiarity with situations ends is at her job. While her office environment was a dead ringer for a job I left a year ago (again, familiarity and understanding), it was the tasks of her job that were lost to me. I never worked with famous authors. I never fielded my way through letters that were sent to authors. This, even with the poor pay and crummy office environment, was and is a dream job of sorts.

The emphasis of this being a year of Salinger should be clarified. I approached this book expecting to see a lot of Salinger. I expected that Joanna would become dear friends with him. But even the head of the literary agency killed that dream the moment Joanna began. No, she wouldn't become friends with him. There were strict rules to follow. While Salinger is often talked about and Joanna becomes quite the fan, he only makes one appearance. What struck me as the true stars are the letters that Salinger received, sent to the agency for review and reply. He was to never see these letters and Joanna had to respond with a very repetitive letter from the agency explaining that Salinger didn't want letters. But many of the letters were extremely interesting and so open, so alive, and so honest. I don't believe I could read the letters without wanting to send a real reply and offer some hope to those writers.

Joanna obviously felt the same way and did respond personally to a few, clearly breaking office rules, but who cares? I'm glad she did.

I really enjoyed this book and I enjoyed Joanna's writing. For Christmas, my beau actually bought me another book written by her. I enjoyed the tale told and I loved the nostalgic edge to it--I so often remembered how I felt 5+ years ago. Granted, I'm still in my 20s and definitely not far from that stage of my life, but far enough to know I've changed and appreciate what I've learned.

Last Week's Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
Next Week's Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor