Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Longbourn

Longbourn entered my realm of knowledge a little at a time. The cover was one I was consistently noticing and after awhile I paused my skimming of magazines and websites to read the description of Longbourn. Another book of the Pride and Prejudice era? Something potentially riding on the coat tails of the successful show Downton Abbey? I can be quite catty about such things if I'm in a foul mood but usually it's unfounded. I'll move past my negative opinion and at least give the book a try. After all, I've read more than my share of books that were based on Pride and Prejudice -- call it a guilty pleasure. Longbourn was like this, in that the next time I saw the book I bought it and a short time later I was reading it.

Why the comparison to Downton Abbey? The book takes both the underworld of servanthood (much like that show) and combines it with Pride and Prejudice and begs to question: what did the servants of our beloved Bennets experience?

This book doesn't hold back nor does it make the more famous, beloved Bennet characters perfect as they are so often portrayed in Austen-esque novels (or movies, or tv shows, etc.). A household filled with women will without doubt bring on some unpleasant experiences. How did women handle periods when there weren't pads or tampons? Well, I found out.

The characters would get up before dawn just to prepare breakfast and the household for the homeowners. They would clean up after them, help them dress, do their laundry, prepare foods, run errands, and not really ever have an opportunity to do anything for themselves other than a little reading before bedtime.

I know very little about servants so the majority of this book was very humbling. Fiction or not, it's based on fact, and I felt horrible for complaining about doing my own laundry -- at least I have time to lay on the couch and watch TV, to cook for myself and not make fancy meals for someone else that I only have the left overs (or nothing at all). While I always loved Elizabeth and thought her to be so independent for running off and going through the mud with no care about clothes or what is expected of a woman, this book made me realize there were unspoken characters in the original book -- the servants who had to clean all the mud out of the clothes. 

But for all of this, secrecy and romance still happen and quick enough I was sucked into a very Austen-like love story. Mysterious men; the wrong love but then, possibly, the right love; and secrets within multiple families that are all tied together. I loved it, I was as tangled in the relationships of these characters as they were and quickly enough I was coming to the end of the book, stomping my foot, and demanding more.

I would urge anyone who enjoys Jane Austen -- especially Pride and Prejudice -- to pick up this book and give it a go. I completely understand what all the fuss was about and am adding to it. Go, go read it now!

Last Week's Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Next Week's Review: Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

If I Stay

I've seen this book on bookshelves for ages and have continuously ignored its presence. It was a YA book, I assumed a love story, and while the idea of the main character being in a coma and "how are they going to write a book that way" was intriguing, it wasn't enough for me to pick the book up.

Then I saw the trailer for the film. I didn't even realize it was a movie based on a book, not until near the end. Good job, movie producers, because I may have ignored it if I saw at the very beginning that the preview I was seeing was for this book (considering how determined I was to stay away from it for no good reason). The trailer caught my attention, I was interested in the cast, and I immediately was thinking, "I kind of want to see this movie."

Then I saw the title and went, "Well, shit. Now I have to read the book."

And read it I did.

The story is somewhat hard to swallow but not because it is poorly written or any of that -- it's the subject matter that's strange. Here we are, reading the memories of a girl who is in a coma after a horrible accident that killed her family. I was caught up in the story of how she met her family, how her family became a family, and her teenage years but then would be brought back to the present -- her present -- and the jarring fact that her life was hanging in the balance and the wonderful characters I had come to know were (at least some of them) dead.

The book can't help but bring the reader to question what they would do. Would you stay or would you go if you were aware of all that is going on around you and you had that choice. Would you stay or go if you had lost the people who you held dear. It was a question I kept turning over in my head and I'm glad of the author to not make it into an easy decision for the main character.

There were many relatable quotes in this book, many that you could highlight and think "this is something I would like said to me" or "I agree with this so much." But my particularly favorite section, my favorite moment, was when the main character's grandfather sat with her and was honest. If she wanted to go, she could, he would understand, but he did want her to stay as well. It was a very real moment, something that I have experienced when family members were on the brink of death. There is a certain romance with death, especially in fiction, but in the end when you are at the bedside of someone you love, someone who has suffered greatly, you will at times think of what could potentially be the best option for them, "I don't want you to suffer anymore. I'll miss you so much, I don't want you to leave, but it's ok if you go." That idea, that message, was what has hung onto me since I finished this book.

There is a follow-up book to this, a sequel if you will, which I'm not as interested in reading. I was satisfied with this book and I do want to see the movie (and judge it accordingly as I often do). But I don't want to mar the impression this book left on me with reading the following book. I'm perfectly content with the experience of this one.

Last Week's Review: Dancing with Mr. Darcy by Various Authors
Next Week's Review: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Bookish Travel: City Lights Booksellers and Publishers

What: City Lights Books Website
Where: 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133
When: October 2014 (repeatedly)

Wedged between Little Italy and Chinatown on the rolling hills of San Francisco sits a building filled with my favorite of things -- books. With the cool air, the there and gone again fog, and coffee shops scattered in the vicinity, this is the picture of bookish.


When I arrived at San Francisco, we were dropped off outside of this bookstore so that we could head for our hotel (which was located a block away) and immediately, I was thrilled. "We're staying near a bookstore!" I exclaimed to the beau who sighed and said we didn't have enough room in our luggage to take back more books (that was a lie, by the way).


By the first full day that we were in the city, we were in the bookstore. Three floors of books, the outside sign declares, and it's the honest truth! Large windows let in light to the middle floor while the top floor, filled with poetry, has a more pleasant light from a few overhead lights and a window in the corner.


A rocking chair in the corner, a street musician outside the open window singing, and myself, sitting and enjoying the atmosphere. While this is certainly a bookstore to shop and pick up odds and ends, it's a place rich with atmosphere and history.

They also publish, which is awesome in my humble opinion. Their books have some connection to the city of San Francisco which I find even more exciting. It's nice to find regional books in indie book shops.


The store stays open until midnight which served us well plenty of times on our trip. Not being partyers or drinkers, we found ourselves wandering the shelves of the bookstore, pulling out books and reading them to one another in funny voices, and making mental notes of what to buy.

Outside of the store is also a special place for book enthusiasts, Jack Kerouac Alley. With brightly painted walls, street musicians or music from the local bars pouring out into the street, it's pleasant to pass down this alley and look at the quotes ingrained in the concrete by famous writers.



P.S.: I bought only two books while there, we definitely had room in our luggage for more.

View other bookish places or travel posts.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dancing with Mr. Darcy

This was an impulse buy while at my local Barnes and Noble. It was placed on top of a bargain bin and while I generally stay away from the bargain bins (due to finding very few books of interest) this caught my eye. Snagging it, I inspected the book and upon approving it worthy of the few bucks in asking price, I bought it.

The page count isn’t extreme, which I have found I need with with collections of short stories. You would think that a love of reading would cover all aspects, including novels, novellas, and short stories, yet I’ve never found short stories (or essays) to grab my attention. It’s a true rarity when I do find something that seems to fit.

Funny, considering I co-wrote a short story in The Midnight Carnival.

I think my distrust in collections are from the works I find uninteresting. It’s a risk to buy a book and discover you only like one part of it. For Dancing with Mr. Darcy, I was pleased to enjoy a few of the stories, all of which could not be grouped together by writing style or plot.

What I found most impressive is that a month after I completed the book, I still found myself thinking of it fondly. I recalled specific stories – a mother and son traveling to the UK, a model, a dream – and I would get the same feeling I so often felt while reading Austen in the past: a quiet of the soul and content feeling in the heart.

Last Week's Review: Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith
Next Week's Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Reading Nook -- Sarah

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? 


Roughly seven months ago, my partner and I moved in together - new apartment, new reading nook. I still feel as if I'm adjusting to the space, particularly when it comes to finding a comfortable and lighted area in a one-windowed loft with little to no privacy. I've taken to using the big leather chair, angled in the corner by the window. At least the feeling of seclusion is present. Cue the fluffy blankets and basset hounds to snuggle. 


Why is this nook special? 

The necessity of my nook is what makes it special, I think. Here's what I've learned from living in this open space with another person and two dogs: how to perform under pressure. I've always been a very distracted reader - quickly picking up my phone, playing with my dogs, thinking about how much laundry I have to do. However, I love reading and being in this new environment has truly forced me to focus. The dogs barking in the background or the boyfriend playing video games on the couch next to my nook does not bother me as much as these distractions once did. I don't think my reading nook fits its standard definition of cozy and comfortable, but it has given me a sense of flexibility and a place of study. 



Where else do you read? 

With this new self-awareness, I read just about everywhere I can - riding in the car, the elevator, in the line at the grocery store checkout, on my phone, my tablet, my computer. I oftentimes find myself pulling a book from our shelves in our office space, plopping down in the desk chair, and reading a few pages before moving on to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. 



About you: 

My name is Sarah Reynolds, a part-time blogger, full-time worker, and a forever lover of words. I am originally from the Endless Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania and now reside in Baltimore, Maryland. I have a degree in creative writing, editing, and publishing, but find myself working in higher education fundraising. Check out my blog, craft projects (#SarahCrafts), iPhone photography, and general life musings using the links below: 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Joy in the Morning

One of my favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, has stuck with me during all the years since I first read it. With my enjoyment of that book, I've wanted to read more by Betty Smith. After years of wanting, I went to a bookstore and splurged -- this was one of the books I purchased.

It's not often that I feel torn over how to rate books. I'm a whole star kind of girl. But with Joy in the Morning I feel three stars is too low and four is too high. (If we were ranking it from one to five stars, the firth star being the highest rating).

This story isn't plot driven but it's still an entertaining read. Based in the 1920's, I had a hard time swallowing some of the portrayals and actions in the book as my knowledge of that time period and how American culture was is generally based on TV shows and little else.

Carl and Annie get married at a very young age (Annie just had her 18th birthday and Carl is still in college) and this surprises their families, as well as causes them to be heavily judged. I was surprised by this, my assumption was that everyone got married young in the 1920's. My surprise continued from there. The way Carl, at times, treated Annie made me want to hit him. He was handsy, rude, and demanding of a man's "right". Over the course of the book he strayed from his behavior and seemed to be more responsive to Annie's needs, which was good character development but didn't remove my initial distaste.

Annie is a likable character, but a little annoying. She is often labeled as a child due to her age and petite, youthful look. She has an innocence that you rarely meet in people and means well while being friendly to a fault. However, there is another side of her "childlike demeanor" that wasn't so sweet -- her mood swings. Her moods were up and down and she had so many tantrums they got old extremely fast.

Still, the book was simple good fun. It entertained me while I rode the train to and from work. I felt satisified to have gotten another does of Betty Smith.

One note, this book has one of the best quotes for book lovers: 
“She went from room to room, floor to floor, stack to stack, reveling in books, books, books. She loved books. She loved them with her senses and her intellect. The way they smelled and looked; the way they felt in her hands; the way the pages seemed to murmur as she turned them. Everything there is in the world, she thought, is in books.”

Last Week's Review: Taking Woodstock by Elliot Tiber
Next Week's Review: Dancing with Mr. Darcy by Various Authors

Friday, January 30, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- January

Cheers to 2015!

January 2015! I still can't believe that we're already in 2015. I'm usually stunned and confused about the year for the first few months or so, until I grow used to it and comfortable with the number. But this particular January has certainly been a whirlwind of activity. It seems that the older I get, the busier I get. I think back to high school and college when I thought I was busy, or craved adulthood and all that went with it, and I want to shake my younger self by the shoulders and say "Enjoy the quiet, enjoy your time off; life is going to get so crazy!" But I mean that in the best of ways.



This month added a lot to my day-to-day schedule. I began following the FODMAP diet, which is more like dietary restrictions than a diet. It's hard, an epic pain in the butt, but it helps my IBS. Aside from the challenge of just sticking to it, it also means being more picky with what foods I buy and making most of my meals from scratch at home -- which sucks up a lot of time. Still, it's great for my body and I'm glad I've stuck with it.

I also began going to Lifetime Fitness regularly. Let me tell you right now, it's great. If you're looking for a gym and a Lifetime is near you, I say check it out! I've experienced my share of gyms in my life and this is, by far, the most supportive (and clean) gym I've ever attended. I feel like I'm on an epic retreat when I go to the gym and I haven't even used all the facilities available to me yet! 

I'm also working on my final course for a copyediting certification. This is rather new, as it only started two weeks ago, but it'll be adding onto my workload for the next three months and boy am I ready! I've been working toward this certification for nearly two years with many, many breaks between classes, but it's all been for the best and I'm eager to conquer the final class.


Of course, one of the biggest events of January was the reopening of this blog! It's been wonderful and I'm so glad I'm here with such wonderful readers. You've all been so supportive and I appreciate all your views. But, if you're busy like I've been, I'm sure you've missed a couple things.


Book Reviews:


This month has provided new reviews on a handful of books. Some were positive, some weren't so much, and some were ill received by the book's authors. It's part of running this blog, to be honest with my opinion of books, and I intend to stick with that. I've also opened up to personal hardships and how books have helped me overcome them, as well as a book that gave me a very nostalgic reaction.



My Reading Nook

January also meant the introduction of My Reading Nook. My Reading Nook is a submission-based post where you, my reader, submit photos of the area you like to read and share with everyone some information on it. Aside from this, it's a chance to share our diversity in reading, but also show how we're all related. Some people like to read on buses while others can only read in quiet locations, it's all different and yet the same. We're all joined together by reading and that's just awesome.



If you want more details, please follow this link or, in the future, you can just click on the My Reading Nook at the top of my blog's page!

Other Posts

What's January without some kind of a yearly wrap up? I shared with you the books I read during the year I was away from the blog and it was a nice little trip down memory lane for me. I hope to bring in some reviews from those books during the next few months so bear with me.

Another post that I threw on the blog is the start of my Wanderlust Wednesday series. I've been so lucky to travel in the past few years and I hope to keep doing it. On any given day I'll count how many weeks or months it has been since I last flew somewhere and immediately get the itch to do it again. With so many expenses this year (gym, healthy foods, class) I'm not sure how much traveling I'll be doing, but I hope to keep up with it. This month I talked about Cajun Encounters, a tour group that I really loved that's based in New Orleans. Take a look at my Wanderlust Wednesday post to learn more about the tours they offer and my experience with them!

Must Reads from the Web

There is so much material out there pertaining to writing and reading. On any day I can find a ton of articles -- posting them is a different story as I often forget by the time I get home or lose the link. However, these are the articles I've read from around the web in the past month that actually made it to my Facebook page.



So long, January! Take your cold weather with you (or maybe just give me snow so I can work from home all of February).