Review: Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

If you are a fan of Gilmore Girls, Parenthood and/or the speed at which Lauren Graham talks, then this is the book for you.

When ordering textbooks for my last semester of my undergraduate career, I decided to order an extra book as a reward to myself for being so close to graduation. Lauren Graham’s book had been on my radar for awhile, and having seen every episode of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood throughout my time in college, I felt it was an appropriate choice.Unknown.jpeg

And I wasn’t wrong. The book packs plenty of humor into each page and several times I caught myself audibly chuckling while reading it in public. Following her journey was amazing and, even though I’m not interested in being a professional actress, I loved the behind the scenes look at everything.

However, one point I want to mention is that it reads like a conversation. Vastly far from an “academic” or classical read (which I was thankful for) the entire book feels like you sat down and were simply having a conversation with Graham and it happened to also be captured on paper. It reads like this to the point that I almost wonder if she spoke and recorded her story, transcribed it, and then just turned that into a paragraph format.

As someone who enjoyed the fast paced dialogue on Gilmore Girls and spent hours hearing her Graham speak, I enjoyed this. At points I could almost actually hear the words in her voice, as if she was in the room with me. I’m considering re-reading this with the audiobook narrated by Lauren Graham just to experience this throughout the entire book. And if this thought makes you giddy and excited to read this book, then I highly encourage you to check it out.

Just be warned that it will also encourage you to rewatch Gilmore Girls…but you need an occasional break from reading, right?

Review: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

First and foremost, this is a book of fiction.

This story explores the  marriage of Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson. Yes, the Ernest Hemingway who wrote The Sun Also Rises (1926) and For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940).

While The Paris Wife is a fictional account, the text does try to remain as true to the historical period as possible. A note from McLain states, “Although Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway, and other people who actually lived appear in this book as fictional characters, it was important for me to render the particulars of their lives as accurately as possible, and to follow the very well documented historical record.”

Throughout the novel you see interactions between Hemingway and his writerly friends: Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, etc.

Beginning in Chicago, the novel opens with the blooming courtship between Ernest and Hadley. Once married the couple move into a small flat in Paris so Ernest can focus on his writing and, hopefully, publish his first novel. Throughout the novel you see Ernest and Hadley interacting with other famous writers: Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, etc.

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Photo of Hadley, Ernest, and their son (From wikipedia.org)

 

Because the timeline of the novel, characters included, and the story told directly relates to the real life of Hadley and Ernest, I often had to remind myself that I was not reading an autobiography, but rather a fictional account.

I truly loved this book! Each time I had to stop reading I couldn’t wait to get back to the story.

This was partly because I just completed an American Literature course that featured work of Hemingway, Pound, and Stein. Through The Paris Wife I felt like I was getting a private inside look at these writer’s life. This comes not only through the fictionalized conversations, but also because the narrator is the less well known Hadley Richardson.

However, I also loved this book because you are instantly pulled into the 1920s and Paris because of the well researched and highly vivid details. While reading I never felt as though McLain was trying to push history furthered than she should have or create situations that were too fictional to work within the story.

Because this is inspired by the real life of Ernest Hemingway, and it is public knowledge that he had four wives throughout his life, as you approach the end of the novel the question of whether or not the fictionalized account will still end in divorce or if McLain writes a happier ending for the couple.

In the end, this book made me want more. But in the best possible way. I wanted to learn about the real life of Hemingway through his autobiography and written work. I wanted more books set in the 1920s, in either Paris or any city.

 

I don’t quite know what historical novel I’ll read next, but I’m definitely looking forward to jumping back into history and a new world.

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My Top 25 Unread Books for 2018

IMG_5051In my last post, I mentioned that one of the ways I decluttered my reading life was by making a list of 25 unread books that will serve as my main “go-to” stack when choosing my next book.

They are, in no particular reading order (with :

  1. Leap Day by Wendy Mass
  2. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  3. Miss Peregrine’s Hone For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  4. Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle
  5. Three Cups of Tea by Greg by Mortenson & David Oliver Relin
  6. The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox
  7. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  8. The World’s Strongest Librarian by Josh Hanagarne IMG_5050
  9. The Victorian City by Judith Flanders
  10. This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell
  11. Chain Letter by  Christopher Pike
  12. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  13. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
  14. Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
  15. Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
  16. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  17. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  18. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  19. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  20. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
  21. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  22. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  23. All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  24. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
  25. Talking as Fast as I can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls by Lauren Graham

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I have had most of these books for at least two years and they always seemed to get pushed aside for new novels that I kept buying. Hopefully this will help me read books I already own.

Now, time to make a cup of tea and grab a blanket so I can get started on taking these books off my unread stack.

 

The Unread Shelf Project

The Unread Shelf Project has recently been sweeping across blogs, Instagram, and Youtube alike as readers search through their personal library to find how many books are waiting to be discovered.

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One of the book stacks I created while sorting my read/unread books

Naturally, I decided to make myself a cup of coffee and began to sort through my own book collection. I knew that over the years I had bought and received many books. As a book lover, a book from my wishlist or an Amazon/Barnes and Noble gift card was the go-to option when a present was needed.

However, even I was surprised by the amount of unread books that I had. After counting each bookshelf, I found 325 unread books!

I really couldn’t believe it. How had I managed to acquire all of these books? Why was I hanging onto books that I hadn’t read and most likely wouldn’t?

And I realized that something has to change. Many of these books were stories that I had been excited to read…back when I was in high school. Now, several years later, these were titles that no longer interested me. Having this many unread books felt daunting and had it seem as though I could never get through them all. It was no longer a sight of joy, but a never ending to-do list.

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A few of the books I am keeping on my to-read shelf

I decided to go through all my books (even those I had read) one more time to decide if I actually wanted to keep these books, or if they were just there because they looked pretty on the bookcase.

How I decluttered my reading life:

First, I decided to get rid of all unread books that I no longer wanted to read.

Second, I removed all read books that there was no even the smallest inkling that I would never want to re-read.

Third, unless part of a series, I sorted my books onto separate bookcases. This included making one bookcase solely decided to unread books that I am still excited to read (hoping this will encourage me to stop buying new books – for the time being).

Lastly, I packed away books that I want to keep in my personal library but know I won’t be reading in the next six months-a year. These were mainly books I have already read and could see myself reading them again in the future years.IMG_4959

In the end, I will be removing 100 books (both read and unread) from my bedroom and sharing them throughout the book community. Additionally I selected my top 25 unread books that I intend on reading in 2018.

As I go into 2018, with big literary goals, I hope that this decluttering will help reading require to a joy rather than a requirement or burden.

Even though it might be time consuming, I highly recommend trying out the Unread Shelf Project. You too might discover the joy of decluttering your bookcase.

 

 

 

 

What Makes Jane Austen Relevant To Modern Society

Browsing through the shelves of your local library will most likely result in the discovery of at least one Jane Austen novel in the fiction section. However, it is now just as easy to discover an Austen related movie or television show when sifting through Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. This upcoming July will mark the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, but her novels are still taught within classrooms, read for enjoyment, turned into visual television shows and/or movies, and continuously appear in various new and modern adapted formats. From the YouTube series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and products on Etsy to vacation packages based in England, Austen and the world in which she portrays is highly accessible and easy to enter into through various arsenals.

Episode 1 of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Whether experiencing the world of Austen for the first time or a full fledge Janeite, these pieces of fiction captivate audiences from a wide variety of backgrounds, age, gender, and cultural upbringing.

But how can it be that fictional characters and stories imagined so long ago can continue to intrigue modern audiences from a variety of backgrounds and cultures? Why is it that Austen and her novels still matter in today’s society?

To answer these questions, I offer two components that work in conjunction with one another in order to create classic tales that remain relevant for modern audiences. With stories that revolve around timeless elements of family conflict, money problems, and romantic relationships, Austen was able to produce narratives that transcend her personal life and allow for it to fluctuate throughout time. Utilizing examples from Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice, it is evident to see the ways in which the original text written by Austen provides a transformable narrative that makes adaptions and interpretations inspired by the text to be molded into new creations.

Jane Austen’s Original Text

The first element that contributes to the binary is the classic and timeless nature of the plot, characters, setting, and overall narrative being presented in the text. By basing her novels in the context of daily life, making the plot line believable, and providing main characters with a happy ending, Austen produced literature that readers are able to relate with. Since their dates of publication, readers have fallen in love with the stories Austen weaves together. From Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth to the Bennett Family, Austen writes in such a way that the audiences emotions mimic those of the characters you are reading about until readers are lost in time and forget that the novels are fictional accounts of life from the early 1800s.

An Early Edition of Austen's Persuasion
First page of Persuasion

Part of the reason for full immersion within the text is due to Austen’s writing style. While Austen writes in a formal way, she composes her work in a straightforward manner that is still able to be read by young adult audiences in addition to older generations. The narratives of both Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are comprised of three basic plot points that have been prominent parts of life prior to, during, and after Austen’s time for a variety of age groups. These points include money and class based situations, internal family conflict, and the struggle revolving around romantic relationships – or the lack thereof. It is this backbone of realistic elements that make the novels relatable and able to enjoyed throughout a broad spectrum of readers.

Whether it is a parent passing the love of Austen onto a child, a teacher assigning a novel as required reading, or readers discovering the books on their own, everyone is able to find an element of the book in which they are able to connect with the story being presented. Not your average “chick lit,” Austen includes elements that would appeal to a male audience by creating strong male characters with prominent roles within society and refraining from explicitly including heavily romantic scenes that are now stereotypical of romantic novels and films.  Returning to the three basic plot points of the novel, these elements are not gender specific nor are they relevant to a singular age group. This allows for further inclusion in regards to the variety of readers interested to the material at hand.

Adaptations of Austen

However, it is also this timeless narrative within the novels that allows for Austen’s work to be adapted by new writers, artists, and creators. The second way in which Austen has been able to remain relevant throughout the past two centuries is due to the wide range of adaptations based upon her original text. As society has evolved and culture shifted, these adaptions and variants have allowed for Austen’s content that was associated with the time period to change in correlation to the modern time. The fluctuations presented in adaptions have the power to keep the attention of previous Austen fans while also attracting new audiences.

One novel in which this is well executed is Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin’ Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway. Using only subtle changes to create her novel, Hathaway was successful in creating a new text that remains true to Austen’s Persuasion while conveying an understanding of social class and expectations of females in the 2010s. The main change made by Hathaway was changing the setting of the novel to the American South during the 2010s. Furthermore, this modern transition included having the main characters, Lucy and Jem, break off their relationship due to attending different colleges and the demanding family expectations for life post-graduation. In addition to having a monetary class difference, which is no longer as heavily influential in accepting marriage proposals, there is also an element of Lucy and Jem being an inter-racial couple. Though Hathaway’s novel is a stand alone piece that can be enjoyed without previously reading Austen’s Persuasion, it continues to feel familiar to Austen fans and allows for them to further explore the lives of characters already well loved.

Cover of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin' Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway
Cover of Persuasion, Captain Wentworth, and Cracklin’ Cornbread by Mary Jane Hathaway

Other books, such as Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure by Emma Campbell Webster or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, also uses Austen’s novels as a basis to create their own spinoff and new text. While some adaptations are more successful than others, each one continues to add to the overall image of Austen within the realm of literature. With each new novel readers are able to dive further into the stories that have been well loved over the past two centuries. While some adaptations are more successful than others in relying upon image presented by Austen, each one continues to add to the overall context of Austen within literature.

Similarly, expanding the potential audience further, movie adaptions that either remain true to the original text or simply use Austen’s plotline as inspirations for a new pieces continue to welcome a variety of people from different genders, age, and culture into the world of Jane Austen. As with book adaptations, visual retellings provide a wide range that include “exact” representations of the original text, modern interpretations that follow a similar, and films loosely based on Austen’s work.

In 2007, director Adrian Shergold oversaw the production of a new visual adaptation of Persuasion. Giving both Austen and Simon Burke, screenwriter, credit for the writing of this novel, the film remained true to the overall meaning and structure of the original text including the characteristics of the main characters and setting. Encouraging Austen fans, general book lovers, and chick-flick fanatics alike, the cover/poster for this film clearly stated the origins for the story and utilizes the name Jane Austen while visually showing the leading romantic couple in order to heighten the level of romance being presented.

Movie Cover for Persuasion (2007)
Cover for the DVD edition of Persuasion (2007)

 

As practiced by many creators of adaptions, Shergold did not try to hide the way in which his movie was related to Austen’s original text but rather promoted this element if order to appeal to a wider audience for his own work.

In contrast, the 2006 film The Lake House takes a different approach to Austen’s story. Focusing upon the theme of waiting, two lovers separated by time must find a way to make their soul mate even though they aren’t capable of seeing one another in person. Rather than use the plot line, time period, and characters as Austen created, The Lake House takes their own spin the story. A paperback of Persuasion does play a role in the film, but while viewing the movie it is not directly clear that The Lake House is suppose to be an adaption of the novel. However, this adaption does place a heavy amount of focus on the theme of waiting for the correct timing in life. This was present in Austen’s Persuasion but could have been hidden to some solely seeking the romantic side of the novel.

The Lake House. 

Though not directly recognizable as an adaptation of Persuasion, the use of waiting as in The Lake House allows for those whom have read Austen’s Persuasion to delve further into considering deeper meanings within Austen’s work. This causes the story to emerge as a new creation with only vaguely recognizable characters and plot points that continue to connect it to Austen while also remaining pleasurable to a spectrum of viewers.

As with written adaptations, visual representations can be found in a multitude of ways with a broad range of elements highlighting Austen’s work. From Bride and Prejudice that places an Indian spin on Pride and Prejudice to Becoming Jane where Austen’s own life is explored, there are films regarding Austen that are suitable for everyone. With each new film that mentions Austen in the title or relates the plot line to one of her novels, the world of Austen continues to expand through renewed love in addition to new fondness for the stories she wrote so long ago.

But why does this widespread exposure matter?

It is this exposure to such a large breadth of people that contributes to Austen having the ability to remain part of popular literature today. While Austen created beautiful novels that have been, and continue to be, loved by many, each new adaption expands her stories to a broader audience in addition to causing current Austen fans access to more materials that further grows the world Austen first created.

By being able to be revamped, renewed, and repurposed, Austen will never become just another writer of classic literature. Instead, she will continue to beckon readers into her world, accept movie lovers that visualize Colin Firth as their dream Mr. Darcy, and allow for her audience to grow and shift with her as they leave childhood behind and emerge as adults that perceive the story differently but still find solace in-between the lines.

So, enter into the world of Austen and see what it is she has in store for you. The door to her world is always open.