“The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls

9781416550600_p0_v11_s1200x630.jpgI honestly did not expect to finish this book before next week, but it was better than I expected it to be and I wrapped it up a little early.

Of course, I wanted to read it because I saw the trailer for the movie of the same name and apparently a lot of other people felt the same way, because I had a hold on this book at the library for almost two months before it actually came my way. Before I started the book, really all I knew was that it was a memoir.

The book chronicles Jeannette Walls’s childhood, which consisted mostly of living in rundown houses and moving place to place in the desert with little or no notice to evade creditors and the law. About half the book covers her first 10 or so years, and it amazes me how much she recalls from that time. I’m assuming she got some help from other family members who were there, because I sure know I can’t remember that much about my life when I was that young. She grows up with her parents, older sister, and younger brother and sister.

Next up, the family moves to Welch, West Virginia, where Jeannette’s father grew up. Throughout it all, the family is poor and neither parent seems to be able to hold down a job. The house they live in has no running water or indoor plumbing, spontaneous electricity (depending on whether the power bill was paid or not), and holes in the roof that let in water whenever it rains.

Eventually, Jeannette’s sister Lori, who is an artist, decides that she wants out of West Virginia, and the kids hatch a plan to send her to New York. Of course, their parents try to sabotage them, but she makes it anyway, with Jeannette soon to follow.

Maybe my point of view is skewed because I grew up with a supportive parent and never wanted for anything, but I almost hate Jeannette’s parents. It seemed like more often than not, the kids went hungry (Jeannette mentions literally digging around in the school trash trying to find food for lunch) while Rex, her father, drank all their money away, when they even had money. Rose Mary, Jeannette’s mother, had a teaching certificate, but hated teaching and would throw temper tantrums when her children tried to make her go to work so they could put food on the table. Instead, she claimed she was an artist, but an artist who was also unemployed and never seemed to sell any of her work. The parents were unaffected by the multiple sexual assaults that Jeannette faced, and seemed unconcerned that they were dirty and unclean and happened to get into lots of fights with other kids.

I just can’t believe a parent would be so selfish and do such a poor job of taking care of their children. It seemed like the kids had a stronger head on their shoulders than either of the parents. They were the ones focused on budgeting money and bettering their own situations, while Rex was gone for days at a time and Rose Mary announced that she was going to “focus more on herself,” even though she barely made any contributions to begin with. It’s just outstanding to me that people like this exist, but it makes Jeannette all the more impressive for not falling into that trap and doing well for herself, despite the situation she was raised in.

Jeannette’s young adult years are barely chronicled, but by the end of the book, the family has gotten back together to celebrate Thanksgiving. They are not necessarily a close family, and each has gone their own way, but none seem to hold much resentment for their past.

The book is just astounding at some points and almost seems like a work of fiction, but I don’t even know if an author could come up with some of the experiences that the Walls kids went through. Definitely a good book, though.

Off to read more books,
Maegan

 

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“3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows” by Ann Brashares

4071565Here we have the next young adult book written by Ann Brashares, coming in right on the tail end of the “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” timeline. “3 Willows” follows Ama, Jo, and Polly, who are about to start high school together and used to be besties but aren’t really close anymore. They have separate lives now, but they still creep into each others’ stories.

Ama is going on some kind of wilderness high for high school credit, and she hates it. Jo is staying at the beach, working as a bus girl at a restaurant where she has some boy drama. And Polly is obsessed with losing weight and going to modeling camp.

The name of the book comes from three tiny willow trees that the girls had to take care of when they were in third grade. They met each other the day the trees were handed out as part of a science project. Once the year was over, they planted the trees together in the woods. They used to visit them everyday and take care of them, but at this point they haven’t been there in about two years.

Throughout the book, they realize that the friendships they had with each other were true and that their new friends kinda suck.

The original sisterhood is actually mentioned somewhat frequently in the book. Their story is described and the new characters tell how many friend groups tried to recreate the famed *Traveling Pants.* The characters themselves show up too. Jo went to the soccer camp that Bridget was a counselor at, Polly babysits for Tibby’s mom, Polly knows Tibby’s boyfriend, Jo works with Lena’s sister and meets Lena on the fly. Ama doesn’t get any of those connections though. Probably for the best. It wouldn’t be as good if they were thrown in too much.

I think this book was supposed to be the first in a new series, but as far as I know it doesn’t have a sequel. Part of the title of the book is something like “The New Sisterhood: Book 1,” which would imply that there should at least be a book 2 but so far there is nothing. Maybe Ann Brashares is saving it to surprise us one day.

We’ll see,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Carnivorous Carnival” by Lemony Snicket

Carnivorous_CarnivalAt this point, things are starting to get mysterious and I’m devouring these books that were originally designed for children. There’s lots of secrets that are hinted at and the possibility that someone thought dead may be alive and some hidden identities that are not yet explained. There’s only four more books after this so I have to know the answers!

In “The Carnivorous Carnival,” Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire have stowed away in Count Olaf’s car, which ends them up at the Caligari Carnival. They disguise themselves as “freaks” to join the freak show (which consists of a contortionist, an ambidextrous person, and a man with a hunched back), and no one sees through it. I guess that’s acceptable because it would be extremely frustrating if no one was any the wiser when it came to all these villains’ disguises, but they immediately saw straight through when the Baudelaires tried it.

You can feel that we’re inching closer to figuring out what in the world “V.F.D.” stands for and getting some information from the mysterious Snicket file, but we’re not there yet. Every time it seems like the orphans have something right in their grasp, it just slips away. Usually because Count Olaf stole it and/or set it on fire. Now that I think about it, Count Olaf is starting to feel like a pyromaniac.

The book leaves you with a cliffhanger, where the elder two siblings are barreling down a cliff with no way to save themselves, while their baby sister goes on with Count Olaf and all his henchmen. But I immediately started reading the next book, “The Slippery Slope,” so the suspense was quite bearable.

I’ve been listening to a lot of these books on audiobook and just realized they are read by Tim Curry. He does an amazing job at changing up the voices and doing sound effects. Particularly evil laughs. You always know who’s evil based on their laugh.

I’m also about to start reading “The Last Summer (of You and Me)” by Ann Brashares. I remember reading it quite some time ago but I cannot remember any of the plot at all. Only time will tell.

Good bye and good night,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital” by Lemony Snicket

The_Hostile_HospitalI have inadvertently finished this book in a day. No complaints here though, things are starting to get suspenseful.

The Baudelaires have found their way to Heimlich Hospital, which is literally only half built. Somehow Count Olaf finds them incredibly fast this time, even though they’ve been hiding in the ranks of the Volunteer Disease Fighters (V.F.D. but not the right V.F.D. still) who believe that the best way to cure sickness and disease is cheeriness. They actually seem super annoying actually. They sing one song over and over again and hand out heart-shaped balloons to patients, no matter the ailment.

Eventually, Olaf’s associates ruin some stuff and try to commit murder, which they probably did unacknowledged.

One thing I’ve been wondering about is the time period when these books occur. It’s never really made clear, but the Baudelaires just used a telegram machine to contact Mr. Poe (even though he is useless at helping them) and Heimlich Hospital has a library of records that consists of rows and rows of filing cabinets, with no mention of any kind of digital question. Probably not pertinent to the story, but just makes me wonder.

The next book is “The Carnivorous Carnival” so there will probably be a carnival. There are more things popping up that make you wonder, and there are lots of loose ends at this point, but still plenty of books to figure it all out.

Later,
Maegan

“Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares

5453And so we have concluded our last summer of the Traveling Pants. At this point, Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bridget are all at separate colleges doing their own thing, but the pants are still making the rounds. The book only covers the summer which is where…

Carmen is at acting camp literally only because her frenemy suggested she go. Frenemy is surprised when Carmen is successful at the program and Carmen is surprised when she realizes frenemy is a frenemy. There is hardly any mention of the boy she fawned over the entire last summer and her baby brother, who was also a large part of book 3.

Lena takes a summer art class and meets Leo, the super good artist who also goes to RISD. There is attraction, there is painting, there is modeling for painting, there is Kostos. Lena is confused and does not know what she wants for herself or from these boys that she may or may not be leading on.

Tibby basically ruins her own relationship and lazes around the whole summer, not working on her script for her intensive screenwriting class and barely working her summer job even though she has no money.

Bridget flies off to Turkey to go on an archaeological dig and meets a married dude that (surprise) she is attracted to. They both make a few bad decisions. Not sure if Bridget ever actually tells her boyfriend about all this. She also has some revelations about her family and her house. IDK.

The girls’ families are not nearly as much a focus in this book, except Lena’s sister, Effie. I feel like there were a few things that went entirely against the characters that have been created over the past three books, but it wasn’t a bad story. I can definitely see how going further would just lead to these four girls running out of things to do.

Anywho, I’m going to start of the rest of the Ann Brashares books next. The first one up is “The Last Summer (of You and Me).” I’m also on “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Hostile Hospital” now by Lemony Snicket. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Until next time,
Maegan

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village” by Lemony Snicket

The_Vile_Village.pngAnd so I will continue my trend of alternating between Lemony Snicket and Ann Brashares. An interesting match, really.

“The Vile Village” is the seventh “Series of Unfortunate Events” books. I’m really not sure how much time has passed across the series, but it surely can’t be that much. The Baudelaires never seem to stay in one place for too long.

In this book, someone high up the ladder has decided to take the aphorism “It takes a village to raise a child” quite literally, so now an actual village and all its citizens are the legal guardian of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. The village is called V.F.D., which the orphans think have to do with some mysterious clue that their friends the Quagmire triplets have been hinting at, but it really just stands for “Village of Fowl Devotees” (the whole place is covered in crows, hence “fowl”) and we still have no idea what V.F.D. actually means. Even though the Quagmires keep trying to tell the Baudelaires and the Baudelaires are just too dense to listen for a few seconds. Like I said before, for being such smart children, they have some really dumb moments.

This time they are living with a nice dude named Hector, but things are still miserable because they are required to do literally all of the citizens’ chores. What a drag. Eventually you-know-who shows up again (Count Olaf, not Lord Voldemort) and no one believes that he’s actually him because apparently the residents of V.F.D. can be a little dense too. The Quagmires are saved, and then they’re gone again. There’s just a lot of back and forth at this point.

We are now on to book eight of the series, “The Hostile Hospital.” Haven’t started it yet but I’m going to take a wild guess and say it takes place at a hospital. I’m also about three-quarters of the way through “Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares, and of course after I finish it I have to read every other book that Ann Brashares has written, so my to-be-read list will probably just never stop growing.

Wish me luck,
Maegan

“The Second Summer of the Sisterhood” by Ann Brashares

5454This book, the second in a series of four, picks up the summer after the last book (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) ended. The stories are only told throughout the summer, so we don’t know much of the characters’ lives during that time.

They’re set up that way because everything revolves around the Traveling Pants, which are only worn during summer. It’s pretty ironic that the only time these girls wear jeans is during the sweltering summer. Especially considering one of the rules of the pants is that you can never wash them. I mean ew.

But anyway, the four characters are Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget, and of course they have some shenanigans during the summer. Here’s what they are up to this go around:

  • Tibby — Attending some kind of summer film school at a college nearish. Friendzones one of her best friends and acts like a poser for a while. Offends her mother and then makes a documentary about Bailey, who she met the summer before.
  • Lena — Got a summer job at a clothing store (thanks to her mom) and then proceeds to be the worst employee ever. Has some boy drama, then has some more. Then has A LOT more. Mix in a little family tragedy.
  • Carmen — Rude to a boy who continuously tries to make an effort. Babysits some. Destroys the happiness of those around her.
  • Bridget — Up and decides to go to Alabama after she finds some letters from her maternal grandmother, who lives there, that her dad had been keeping from her. Lies about her identity, Grandma knew anyway.

My favorite story of these characters in this book is Bridget. I feel like she has the most change from the start of the book to the end. Plus she spends her summer in Alabama and I heart Alabama a lot. She stays in a town called Burgess, which I honestly didn’t know what a real place until I just looked it up and I lived in Alabama most of my life. But several places that I do know were mentioned, and it made me miss it a little.

It seems like there’s a little more about the relationships between the four main characters and their families in this book. The last book mainly focused on the girls themselves and the friendships they had with each other. So it was nice to get to dig a little deeper into who they are.

I haven’t started the third book in the series, “Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood,” but I will probably do so tomorrow. Plus I’m a little into “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator” by Lemony Snicket. You know, that other series that I’m also reading.

Bye for now,
Maegan

“Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book” by Jennifer Donnelly

33412061I discovered this little number when I found the novelization of “Beauty and the Beast” and I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that it was an original story based off the same characters we all know and love.

This book occurs sometime after Belle is locked away in the Beast’s castle and before she realizes she has *feelings* for him. It happens right around the time the Beast presents his majestic library to Belle and she is smitten with it. One thing though, I don’t remember the “Here’s my library, Belle” scene happening in the same way in the novelization or either of the movies I’ve seen. So just a little discrepancy there.

Anyway, it starts with a prologue where sisters Death and Love are playing chess (with moving pieces, mind you; very Harry Potter-esque). The sisters make a bet, basically that Belle will fall in love with the Beast, when Death decides to tilt the odds in her own favor. She sends a book called “Nevermore” into the library, where obviously Belle is now spending all her time. Naturally, Belle stumbles upon the book and discovers that it’s enchanted and she can actually walk into the story (lost in the book, lol), which has been created just for her. Or so they tell her. But what the characters don’t tell her is that the countess she spends so much time with is Death and Death is really just trying to trap Belle in the story so she can never leave.

Kudos to Death because she knows exactly how to get Belle. She presents her with exotic acquaintances, travel opportunities, tasty treats, and even her father, who she hasn’t seen since she was locked away in the Beast’s castle. But eventually Belle realizes what is going on and tries to escape. At this point, the story gets a little horror feel to it, with all these animatronic puppets and marionettes chasing Belle and preventing her from leaving. There’s talk of their beady, glass eyes, and one just knocks his own head clean off after running into a wall (or other similar formidable opponent, tbh all I remember is the puppet decapitation). I’m telling you, it’s the stuff of nightmares.

But of course everything ends happily ever after. The biggest thing that bothered me about this book (and the other book and all the movies) is how disrespected the Beast is. I mean the man has a name. I’m pretty sure it’s Adam but I honestly don’t know because it is LITERALLY NEVER MENTIONED EVER. How hard is it to just say, “Hey bro, I know I’m a prisoner in your castle but it seems like we’re becoming friends, so what’s your name?”? Instead of just calling him *The Beast* all the time. I mean, I’m sure he doesn’t really appreciate it. He’s just trying to be liked by everyone, ‘kay?

Rant over. Now I’m into “A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy” by Lemony Snicket and “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” by Ann Brashares. But hey, at least now I’m only reading two series at once so that’s progress, right? …Right?

Until next time,
Maegan

“Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick

518K3i-ncIL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve had this book on my wish list for a couple months now and it was available so I decided to just go for it.

I’ve recently gotten into memoirs and I really like the Pitch Perfect series and Into the Woods so why not read Anna Kendrick’s? I’ve read her Twitter feed, so I knew what to expect and it’s refreshing that she just seemed so real in this book. She wasn’t trying to make people like her and she just said what she thought.

Honestly, I was hoping to read what it’s like being an actor and what goes into filming a movie but she didn’t dwell on that, and instead focused on the experiences she’s had and a few key people she’s had them with. I did learn that filming movies takes crazy hours though and you will probably gain five pounds just because of the abundance of food all over.

Anyway, it was just a witty read (listen) and I enjoyed it pretty well. I’m still working on “The Martian” and “Buffering.” I haven’t even started on the next “Series of Unfortunate Events” book, but I will. In time.

Later, Gator,
Maegan

“I’ll Give You the Sun” by Jandy Nelson

16109340I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while and I finally got around to it.

The way it’s written is such that the chapters alternate from the points of view of a pair of twins, Noah and Jude. But the interesting thing is that the chapters told from Noah’s perspective are when the twins are 13 or 14 years old, and Jude’s chapters are when they’re 16.

I expected this to just be another feel good YA novel, but it was so much more than that. There were so many things that happened in these characters’ lives that you just kept twisting and turning through the story and near the end I didn’t want to put it down. It’s like everyone is connected, but you don’t know how until right up at the end. Several chapters seemed like they were going to give you something to grasp and then right at the end it ended and left you hanging.

One of the best parts of the book was the writing and the personification. These twins think in amazing, imaginative ways where colors come to life and trees come crashing down and people blast off into the sky. It’s almost breathtaking, the way these two teenage minds are explained. It made me feel like I was missing out because there is clearly so much in the world that I am not experiencing.

Some of the chapters were long, but it fits in with what needs to be told at each part of the story. Overall, this book was great and it makes me want to add Jandy Nelson’s other book, “The Sky is Everwhere” to my to-be-read list. Next up is finishing “The Martian” by Andy Weir, “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick, and “Buffering” by Hannah Hart (I know, I know, still working on it, don’t judge).

Until next time,
Maegan