Life and Death (Twilight, #1.75) – Stephenie Meyer

life-and-death-stephenie-meyerSource: Goodreads

Beaufort Swan has spent his whole life being a grown up, and he’s tired of it. His mom is finally set to get remarried, and his new stepdad wants to move the family from Arizona to Florida. Beau, recognizing that everything is already about to change, makes the decision to move in with his biological father in Washington state. His mom has someone to take care of her, and Beau will have a chance at being a normal high school junior.

Getting used to the never ending rain of Forks Township soon becomes the least of Beau’s worries, while making new friends and trying to figure out why his perfect-in-every-way lab partner seems to hate his guts quickly take priority, but some of the answers could cost him everything.

 

Stephenie Meyer celebrates the 10th anniversary of the first Twilight book by gender swapping and rewriting it. Many have even speculated that she did it because everyone complained so much about how the original Edward used and abused Bella, and she wanted to show that it had nothing to do with their genders, but with the fact that one of them was a vampire and one of them was a human. Life and Death was originally released with Twilight, packaged together as a 10th-anniversary edition. I didn’t really feel the need to own another copy of the first book, so I waited until Life and Death was released independently. I picked up a paperback copy at my local Barnes & Noble for about $10.

It was a little slow at the beginning, and I also had a hard time figuring out who was who, having read the books and seen the movies nearly six years ago now. As far the Twilight craze went, I was a bandwagoner. My friend Christine read the books as they came out and was really surprised when the craziness appeared out of nowhere just before the final book, Breaking Dawn was released and the first Twilight movie was announced. I remember the books sweeping through our Catholic high school like wildfire, just as The Hunger Games would do three years later. Suddenly everyone had read the books, and vampires were the cooler than The Jonas Brothers. But I digress.

Life and Death gender swaps everyone, even minor background characters, except for Charlie and Rene, Bella/Beau’s parents, because at the time of his/her birth, it would have been very unlikely for the father to get full custody, so it wouldn’t make logical sense for Beau to be moving to Forks to stay with a mom who should have had custody all along. Everyone’s names start with the same letter as their old name, in an attempt to make it easier to figure out who is who. Though Mike/McKayla was the only one I could pick out without any trouble.

While I can’t tell you how many times or where exactly the book started to veer from the original, I can tell you that it does veer quite a bit. (I guess that’s why they released them together?) Beau is significantly more clumsy, and fearless, wishing to be the adult in all of his familial relationships, and obsessively in love with Edythe (or maybe the obsessive love was just more apparent from the male perspective? Bella’s thoughts were relatively quiet in comparison) and this ultimately drives the story in new directions. The majority of the Cullens have only very small parts, and everything after the slow beginning moves almost too quickly, though you probably guessed that by the fact that this novel is shorter than Twilight.

Overall, I felt it was well done, despite the slow beginning and the character confusion, and I actually enjoyed the new ending. While Twilight could never have ended that way, it made perfect sense for Beau and Edythe’s story to end there. I think I will always love the original quartet more, but it was refreshing and unique to be able to take a book I really enjoyed and look at it from a new perspective. I felt that I was able to get into the characters’ heads in new ways, and maybe understand Meyer’s world a little more thoroughly. I just need a list of people with their male/female names so I can get all of the characters straight in my head. Just thinking about it hurts.

 

Curio Street Reads Rating: 3.75 Stars

Ella Enchanted – Gail Carson Levine

Ella-Enchanted-Gail-Carson-Levine

Source: Goodreads

Ella is cursed at birth to be obedient: any order given to her must be obeyed. Up until she is fifteen, her mother and Mandy, their cook, have kept her safe from harm. That all changes when Ella is sent away to finishing school, where she must learn to brave the world and all of its occupants. Ella’s life is further complicated by the attentions of Prince Charmont, who’s love and friendship she desires, but whose life would be in constant danger if it were to become wrapped up in hers.

 

This book was my favorite as a child and has always held a special place in my heart. There are few books that are more important to me than the Harry Potter series, and this is one of them. Ella was one of, if not the very first strong female lead character I ever read about, and she has stuck with me through thick and thin. I think I’m on my third or fourth copy of the book because I love it so much that I used to lend it out (which I never do anymore), and people kept losing it for extended periods of time. So now I just buy copies for everyone and give them as gifts.

Re-reading it yesterday on my 25th birthday for what is probably the 30th or 40th time, I noticed a number of things I’ve been overlooking in the story. Growing up I always saw Ella as the epitome of a strong female character. I saw her as selfless, romantic, and kick-butt. Yesterday, I tried to pay attention to the little details, possibly for the first time since my initial reading all those years ago. Mainly what I realized is that there are no 100% good characters in this story. Mandy and Lucinda each have ways in which they can help Ella, but they decline to use their talents. Prince Charmont readily admits that he has anger issues and holds grudges for years – rather like Mr. Darcy’s ‘my good opinion once lost is lost forever’ nonsense. Even Ella is quite selfish. The story is told in the first person, occasionally delving into Ella’s mind and often into her intentions, and typically reveals that she is at her core a human teenage girl, not the kind of hero/heroine to be placed on a pedestal. Ultimately, it is her selfishness and the opposing need to be selfless that results in breaking the curse – in a very odd, somewhat confusing and relatively anticlimactic scene that made perfect sense to my younger self but now seems a little lack luster.

Over the years, I often picked up Ella Enchanted as a comfort read. If I was stressed then I could read about how Ella defeats her demons and gain the courage to fight my own. But this time around it was like looking at one of my heroes through fresh eyes or new spectacles, and realizing they were as much of a selfish brat in their early and mid teens as I was. Up until more recently, I deeply identified with Ella’s character, and growing out of her feels like I’m finally, just maybe, growing up.

This book is not perfect. I can admit that now – maybe for the first time – but it will always be especially dear to me. I may even love it more because of its imperfections. I definitely recommend this book (not the film. PLEASE NOT THE FILM) to LITERALLY EVERYONE, because there are just so many lessons, adventures and discoveries to be found in its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

TOTY – 25: Responsiblity

 

 

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A+ self-confidence here, letting you know that this photo is 100% makeup and filter free. Wheeee!

 

It’s July! Which makes it my birth month, the anniversary of this blog (starting its FOURTH year!!) and also time for a new theme of the year, or as I like to call it, TOTY. If you’ve never read one of my TOTY posts before, allow me to explain. Every year around my birthday, I like to select a broad theme for the next year of my life, to help guide my decision making for the next 365 days. I’ve focused on things like experience, health, and writing. You can find links to all of my previous TOTYs at the bottom of this post.

It’s been one heck of a year. Being 24 was one of those strange in-between years like 19 and 20, where you’re not really sure what the objective is except to survive. I’m turning 25 today, which to 12-year-old me seemed impossibly old, but to be honest I still feel fairly young. Turning 24 helped me to take a little control of my life. I wasn’t so much in my early 20s anymore, and people stopped expecting me to go out and party with them every night, which definitely allowed me to come into my own skin a little more. Now that I’m turning 25 and officially in my mid-twenties, I feel completely free of that party-hard culture that tried to suck me in during college, and people have stopped looking at me strangely when I talk about career opportunities like the important things they are. I’m extremely happy to be out of that age where people say ‘oh, you have plenty of time! Just concentrate on having fun!’ instead of taking my job inquiries seriously.

The last year started off by helping two of my friends plan their respective weddings, both of which were at the end of August/beginning of September, on back-to-back weekends. Cue tons of crazy drama, none of which is mine to share but I was somehow a part of anyway. Let me just say: WEDDING PLANNING IS HARD! Thank goodness I had both of them to bounce ideas off of for each other. I was able to fill in the holes in both plans based on what each was doing to make sure all of the bases were covered, down to vases on the reception tables for the bridesmaid bouquets. At the end of October, I made the huge decision to leave my part-time retail job of 10 months in Allentown, Pennsylvania to become a nanny for my then seven-month-old cousin in Boston, Massachusetts. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made, though I do still miss my amazing coworkers.

One of my goals for last year was to write every day. While that didn’t happen, I did do quite a bit of writing, and I’ve definitely adjusted mentally so that writing is at the forefront of my mind 90% of the time. I participated in National Novel Writing Month, and you can find my weekly updates from November here. Besides NaNoWriMo, I’ve worked hard to locate some of my favorite coffee shops in the city where I can work besides my room, and it’s helped immensely.

Another goal was to apply to graduate school, which I was intensely nervous about. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in right away because of my lack of writing experience aside from this blog, and I would need to reapply a few times before I got accepted in another year or two. BUT I WAS WRONG! I have been accepted to the Publishing and Writing Master’s Degree Program at Emerson College here in Boston, Massachusetts where I will be starting in September! I think because I didn’t expect to get in right away, this all still doesn’t quite feel real. I have to pinch myself a few times a day just to remind myself it’s all happening. Just thinking about it makes me tear up from joy. *as I start to tear up*

My last goal was to apply to full-time jobs. This one has been a little complicated because I took the nannying job in October, and I’ve been pretty happy doing it. I cannot, however, continue doing it once I start graduate school for logistical reasons. So I am back to square one, but with a lot more writing under my belt than I had last year. I’m ideally looking for an Editorial Assistant or Copy Editor position, but I would take something like an administrative job if need be.

Last year around this time, I was contemplating my current nannying position and the general idea of Boston. I had only been here twice, both briefly, and yet the city enthralled me. I’ve now lived here almost nine months, and if possible love this place even more. Sometimes I take a train to a random part of the city and then walk back to my aunt and uncle’s place, just to explore. I guess what I’m saying is, not only do I have to remind myself that I got into grad school but I also have to remind myself that I live here and that I get to go on living here, not leave when a semester or internship ends. It’s an amazing feeling: a mix of freedom and adventure, the world an open book in front of me.

 

This feeling is fueling my theme for the next year: RESPONSIBILITY
I need to continue working things like time management skills, becoming financially literate, and getting better at cooking and baking. General skills all adults should have. Looking towards a future that includes moving out on my own, it would irresponsible of me not to learn these basic skills. So, how do I plan to achieve these things?

To become more financially literate, I’m going to start reading about it. From finance and money management blogs to Finance for Dummies, I’m going to try to read something every day for the next year to help me better manage my money and understand the finance industry (ie, stocks, bonds, bank account types). I also started a spreadsheet to track my spending in January 2017, and starting January 2018 I’ll be able to make fairly strict budgets to help me get the most out of my time in grad school and still pay off my debt in a reasonable amount of time.

To become a better cook, I’m rounding up family recipes to practice. I want to combine these into a cookbook that I can refer back to anytime I need a meal idea, which should take the pressure off of making a full meal for dinner when I live on my own. I’ll probably be moving out of my aunt and uncle’s house and into my own apartment this Fall, so knowing how to make more than Mac and Cheese and Chicken Parm should be pretty helpful.

Fridays this year will consist of a mix of lifestyle posts. Finance posts will share secrets to money management I’ve picked up, and share some cool blog posts to help you with your own money skills. Food posts will share my favorite family recipes.  In addition, Fashion posts will chronicle my building of an adult wardrobe appropriate for all aspects of life, Fitness posts will share snapshots and thoughts on how to get back in shape your way, Focus posts will share study and writing tips to help you get the most work done in your spare time, Family and Friends posts will teach you how to deal with your family as a new adult, and Faith posts will share ways to incorporate your faith into your everyday life. Obviously, I won’t have a chance to share on all of these topics every month, since there are seven of them and only four or five Fridays per month. My plan is to mix it up a little, and we’ll see what we get.

If this all sounds like a lot to do on top of grad school, finding a new job, writing book reviews, and continuing work on my novel(s), that’s because it is. But I’m excited to share this journey with all of you! I feel that at the age of 25, these are the things I should know how to do. I’ll be on my own next year for a lot of grown up things (like healthcare), and I think that makes it important now more than ever that I know how to take care of myself in any kind of situation.

 

What are some things you want to work on this year?

 

 

Check out some of my previous TOTYs:
TOTY: 22 – Why Soul Searching is not my Theme of the Year
TOTY: 23 – Wellness and Becoming My Best Self
TOTY: 24 – Me Doing Me

 

M Train – Patti Smith

M-Train-Patti-SmithSource: Goodreads

 

Transportive. Delectably imaginative. Easy to pick up, hard to put down. Completely immersive. Deliriously inspiring. I want to crawl inside and live here forever. Forget punctuation and plot – who needs it?

My father claimed that he never remembered his dreams, but I could easily recount mine. He also told me that seeing one’s own hands within a dream was exceedingly rare. I was sure I could if I set my mind to it, a notion that resulted in a plethora of failed experiments. My father questioned the usefulness of such a pursuit, but nevertheless invading my own dreams topped my list of impossible things one must one day accomplish.
~ p.81, M Train – Patti Smith

This passage! Smith just gets me, even though all I knew about her while reading the book were the facts in the author bio at the back of the book: her marriage and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I wondered if she only wrote poetry and took polaroids. Did she write music? Had I heard any of it? (obviously, I have, but I am notoriously bad at remembering artist and band names. Lyrics are my strong suit.)

All of the people she mentions I know by name, yet they are all strangers to me. Burroughs, Wittgenstein, Rackham, Bulgakov, Wegener, Camus, Ibsen, Plath, Genet, and many others I’m sure. As I read I wondered if getting to know these people would make me a better writer. Smith already has.

When I finished it, all I could think about was what a journey it was. I wanted to start it over immediately, and did, and was again transported to that place between dreams and reality. Much like Smith’s obsession with The Wind-Up Bird, I just wanted to dive back in. I had a copy from my local library, but I actually went out and purchased a copy of my own yesterday so I can continue to pour over its pages. The writing is phenomenal. I rarely enjoy works written in the first person, but this memoir of sorts is executed to near perfection.

I found that I didn’t even mind the strangeness of moments in the story where Smith actively mentions that she “Closed her notebook and sat in the cafe thinking about real time.” How do we know that’s what she did if she wasn’t writing down her thoughts? Obviously, her notebook was closed. Still, the fluidity of the book allows for this kind of endeavor. The ‘story’ plays out in black and white almost as if we are watching it through her polaroids. I wondered whether, if I pushed on their surface, they would grant me entry.

This is one of those books my children are going to find on my desk, dog-eared and falling to bits because it has been read and loved so much. I often had the realization while reading that I had been thinking of a dozen things, set off by a passage I had read 30 minutes ago, the book lying on my lap in quiet anticipation, perfectly happy to wait for me to come back down to reality and continue to wade through its pages.

 

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Film Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

 

 

Wonder-Woman-IMDB
Source: IMDB

 

 

 

Patty Jenkins directs Gal Gadot as the title character in this origin story of DC’s greatest hero. Diana grew up on the island of Themyscira, the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and the last child of the god Zeus. As a young woman, Diana saves a man from drowning and exposes the world of the Amazons to the tumults of World War II. Determined to do her duty as an Amazon and rescue the world from a never-ending war, she sets off with her new friend for the frontlines.

 

I had originally planned to see this opening night, but I was trying to coordinate schedules with someone and it just wasn’t working out. During the month I was waiting to see it, I saw a lot of hype online about how strongly feminist the film was, and how it does such a good job of how it portrays Diana as her own person rather than a sexualized object, and it all just made me insanely excited to see it.

When I finally saw it for the first time last night, I had to admit it was not as overtly feminist as I thought it would be, but Diana’s sense of equality is pretty fantastic, and it does clearly influence those around her. Having grown up knowing about men but never meeting one, she doesn’t have any of the ‘men are more important’ mentality that most women have ingrained by the age of five, but neither does she have an awe of them that would impede her in any way. Her mentality is very body positive and inquisitive as well as focused. When faced with something new and scary like guns, bombs, and crazy people in general, it is this mentality that keeps Diana on track to achieve her goals.

In the past week I’ve started hearing of a few people who didn’t love the film, but so far I’ve been able to chalk that up to them either being let down by the huge hype, or the fact that they are not typically superhero movie people and only saw Wonder Woman because its protagonist is female. I didn’t love the “romance” aspect, but I can completely see and understand how important it was to the overall story and helped mold Diana into the Wonder Woman we all know and love. Honestly, that’s my only gripe about the entire film. Everything else was phenomenal, I’m going to see it again as soon as my schedule allows, and I’m going to buy it the second it comes on out on DVD. I already purchased the soundtrack.

I came out of the Wonder Woman ready to take on the world, run a million miles, learn all the fighting styles and languages there are, and with this crazy need to make an impact in the world. Wonder Woman is a princess, a goddess, a warrior, a superhero, a scholar, a catalyst for peace, and she works in a museum. What more could you ask for in a role model? Ever since watching Lynda Carter in reruns of the Wonder Woman TV series from the 70’s as a child in the 90’s, Wonder Woman has been one of my heroes, and I consider myself beyond lucky to have her handed back to me in the form of Gal Gadot.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Enna Burning (The Books of Bayern, #2) – Shannon Hale

Books-Of-Bayern-Enna-Burning-Shannon-Hale

Source: Goodreads

Enna has returned to the forest after settling her best friend Isi into her new life as Princess of Bayern. Everything is easing into a new normal, one where Enna and her brother Leifer run the family farm after their mother’s death until Leifer comes home one night with a terrible secret: the language of fire. Whispers of invasion by the nearby kingdom of Tira become actual battles, and Leifer’s secret could mean the difference between Bayern winning the war or the end of everything.

 

Although I wanted to pick this book up immediately after re-reading The Goose Girl back in March (I read the whole series in middle school), I had a lot of other books on my list to get through. When I finally got to this one, I wasn’t in as much of a mood to read it as I had been, and the beginning felt slow because of it. I brought it on vacation with me over Independence Day weekend and finally broke through to the rest of the story, which was quite enjoyable.

If The Goose Girl focused on identity than Enna Burning focuses on trust. Enna and Isi are 17 and 18 now, and rapidly growing up and gaining responsibilities that seem increasingly impossible to complete. Enna and Leifer’s secret eats at them incessantly, and Isi has multiple problems of her own, the least of which is trying to support her new husband as their country heads into its first war in decades.

As the sophomore book in the series, the plot is much more straightforward, focusing almost entirely on the war, and the plot has a clear way of ending. Hale’s world building is quiet, yet extensive. We learn about Tira through its soldiers’ words, and we learn more of Bayern’s war-torn history. The character development continues to be superb. A worthy follow-up to The Goose Girl and a good set up to push the story past being just a fairytale retelling.

I definitely adored the first book, and I loved this volume as well. I look forward to re-reading River Secrets shortly.

 

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

Other reviews in this series:
Book #1 – The Goose Girl
Book #3 – River Secrets (Review Available 7/25)
Book #4 – Forest Born (Review Available 8/15)

The Rumor – Elin Hilderbrand

The-Rumor-Elin-Hilderbrand

Source: Goodreads

 

Summer on Nantucket is never complete without a good rumor, but no one ever expected that the rumor mill would drag in the island’s most envied couples. Novelist Madeline King is struggling to meet her deadlines, while Grace and Eddie Pancik’s relationship is reportedly on the rocks. To make everything worse, Madeline’s son and Grace’s daughter’s budding romance could implode at any moment. The whole island is soon watching the Kings and the Panciks. Can the two families put the rumors to rest and survive the summer?

 

I finally managed to get a library card up here in Boston, and decided it was time for some summer reads. I’ve heard a lot about Elin Hilderbrand, and the majority of it has been good, so I thought I would give The Rumor a shot.

The story takes place on Nantucket, an island just off the coast of Massachusetts. The reader follows two couples as well as their children, giving us about seven different prospectives to view the situation from. Madeline is a struggling writer who is married to a local airline pilot, and her best friend Grace was raised in a well-to-do family and married a high-end real estate agent. Grace has twin daughters, Allegra and Hope, while Madeline has a son, Brick, and desperately wishes for more children.

The ‘rumor’ itself starts out as a simple misunderstanding, but before the characters realize it they have been swept up into one big mess that sits teetering over their lives. Money, love, and livelihoods hang in the balance.

The entire time I was reading this, I wasn’t entirely sure if I liked it or not. It’s nearly un-put-downable because it jumps perspectives rather than having chapter breaks, but the story is not the kind of thing I usually enjoy reading. It had that whole slowly-falling-into-horrible-danger thing going for it like The Great Gatsby or just about anything by Hemingway, with a dash of A Streetcar Named Desire thrown in for good measure. All stories that fascinated me, but weren’t particularly enjoyable to read.

The plot, while fairly predictable, played out well, and the characters were superbly well developed. I really enjoyed getting to know each character individually, and Hilderbrand did a wonderful job of differentiating between people so I could figure out who’s perspective I was reading from fairly easily whenever I picked up the book.

If you enjoy a good, mildly steamy, summer beach read, this is the book for you. While not as light-hearted as I had initially expected, it definitely made my time spent reading it interesting.

 

HHC Rating: 3.75 Stars