Tuesday, September 4, 2012

"The Rules of Civility" Review

What is it with the books I have read this summer making me feel old?  I mean, I am only 31.  The characters in “The Rules of Civility” live through so much, and their various circumstances change so many times within the scope of the novel that by the end (or at least up to the epilogue) I just thought…wow.  You’re still younger than me. 

On to my review…


“The Rules of Civility” is a debut novel by Amor Towles, and my favorite of the summer, to date.  I thoroughly enjoyed his style of writing.  He’s not just a story-teller, like the authors of a good portion “talked-about” novels are today (I happen to enjoy those, too), but rather had a very individual and identifiable voice.  The very best part for me was the dialogue—witty, smart, and so effective.

The story is told from the perspective of Katey, a quite spirited and independent woman living in a boardinghouse, working as a secretary, and living it up after hours with her best friend and partner-in-crime, Eve.  They’ll put on their best dress and scrape enough change together for a drink, secure in the knowledge that they’ll find a handsome bachelor or two to fund the rest of their night out.  It is this way that they meet Tinker Grey, and the three are swept up into a series of glittering evenings in fancy bars and smoky jazz clubs.  That is, until the night when a chance event causes everything to drastically change.

Much of the plot seems to happen by chance, in the beginning, setting of a series of events that the characters must react and adapt to.  Katey, Tinker, and Eve all seem to hold their cards close to their chests, revealing only as much of themselves as is unavoidable, all the while believing that they understand the others completely.  This is a source of a good portion of conflict in the novel. 

“The Rules of Civility” is an even-handed story of high society…the charm, but the real people, and struggles behind it.  And while Katey does work her way up the social ladder, she is far from a social climber.  Rather, she works her own way up, which is of course the best part.  I will say there were a few spots where Katey did things I didn’t find believable and thought “Ugh.  This was written by a man.”  However, those spots were few and far between.

Not long into the novel, I realized I was picturing the entire thing in black and white, as if it were a movie with Rita Hayworth or Barbara Stanwyck.  I found that I like the New York of the late 1930’s more than I like the New York of today.  You get the feeling that you should be holding a cigarette in one hand (even if like me, you don’t smoke) and a cocktail in the other as you read this book, if it weren’t for the fact that it would leave you with no hands to hold the book in.

Happy Reading! 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"The Year of the Gadfly" Review

Less than four weeks until the of summer, which means less than four weeks to finish my summer reading pile.  I thought I could do it, until I picked up 3 of my selections from the library and realized how LONG they all are.  We'll see.  I will be posting my review of "Rules of Civility" by Amor Towles soon, and am working my way through "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society."

On to my review of "The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller."  If you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

What it’s about:  Teenage Iris, a hopefully journalist who has been deeply affected by the loss of her best (and only) friend, has moved to a new town to begin school at Mariana Academy.  It seems Mariana is full of secrets, as are most of its students/faculty.   Aside from Iris, there is science teacher Mr. Kaplan, a Mariana alum with his own secret, troubled past.  Parts of “Gadfly” are told from the perspective of Lily and take place in the late 1990’s, a victim of bullying who was hiding her own secrets.  And then there is the resurfacing of Prisom’s Party, a once inactive secret society that sees themselves as moral watchdog vigilantes.  The boundaries between bully vs. victim, and right vs. wrong are muddled as Iris tries to unravel the complicated web and blow the cover off the party responsible for a string of disturbing rumors and bullying. 

What drew me in:  Prestigious prep school, eccentric characters (a “Marvelous Species of sorts) that all have some sort of secret, secret societies, and a plucky main character.

What it reminded me of:  “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl, for starters.  This is partly because Jennifer Miller, author of “Gadfly” sent me a little message on Goodreads suggesting that I read her book because of my rating of “Special Topics.”  The two do have their similarities…dark mystery, prep school and cliques, clever main characters, etc.  The main character here, Iris, reminded me more of a combination of Veronica from “The Heathers” and Flavia de Luce from “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.”  Oh, and Iris’s science teacher, Mr. Kaplan…for me, sort of a Mr. Keating (of Dead Poet’s Society) wannabe.   Mr. Keating to students: “Carpe Diem!  Seize the Day!”  Mr. Kaplan to students:  “Embrace extremity!”

What worked for me:  The story is told from the point of view of three characters, which I enjoyed, especially when each of their stories began to merge.  “Gadfly” shifts back and forth from present time and a late 1990’s timeline, and Miller did a great job slowly revealing the many ways that they intersected.  (I also admit to feeling a bit old when I realized that the “past” storyline was around the time I was actually in high school.)  Miller pretty much nailed the unique affects the loss of a (close) peer has on a teen-ager, and certainly captured the teen-age angst.  The story shows what we all know from experience:  What happens to you in high school follows you long after you graduate.

What didn’t work for me:  I found myself wondering as I read if this was actually YA Fiction (which it is not), and there were just a few scenes that seemed a bit…gratuitous.  Not really a big deal, but they irked me in relation to Iris only being 14, and because they seemed totally unnecessary to the plot.  The resolution was wrapped up a bit too “neatly” for the dark tone of the rest of the novel.

I gave this one a 3 star rating on Goodreads.

Happy Reading!

Friday, August 24, 2012

High Five For Friday

Friday...I am so happy that you are here.  Linking up with From My Grey Desk Blog!

1.  Just started Season 1 of Mad Men...love it!  How did I take so long to catch on?
2.  Thank you, Martha Stewart, for teaching me how to fold a fitted sheet!  Life changing.
3.  Adorable note pad I found in the $ section of Michael's.  
4.  Taking advantage of the beautiful weather with some outdoor reading.
5.  One of my sweet readers gave me a "Leibster Award."  Check out her blog.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

30 with 30, Week 10

Here we go with 3 outfits for the last official week of the challenge with Lauren of From My Grey Desk Blog!  I missed a few weeks in between, and am determined to come up with my final few looks, so check back next Tuesday.

 Cardigan/Top/Shorts:  Forever 21
Jeans:  Rue La La
Sandals:  Target (1), Nine West (2)

Necklace:  Anthropologie
Tank: Target
Skirt:  American Eagle
Sandals:  Steve Madden


Thursday, August 16, 2012

It's the Little Things...

We hit a milestone around here this week.  My little guy (who from here on out I'll be referring to as "Steele," a nickname he earned recovering from a nasty fall as a baby) learned to pedal his tricycle.  This is big for several reasons, not the least of which is that it ends the back-breaking job of bending down to push him.

So today, we took a little tricycle ride.  By little, I mean approximately 25 feet, 50% of which was downhill.  Hard work for a 2 1/2 year old who just learned to pedal!  And there I was, walking beside him and cheering him on (from a standing-straight-up-non-back-breaking position, no less!), encouraging him to keep going and try to make it "all the way to the driveway!!"

He couldn't have cared less about how far he got, because he was too busy enjoying the ride.

After about three feet, he slowed to a stop.  As I reached out to give him a small nudge and get him going again, he said "No, Mommy.  Look!"  He climbed down and examined a tiny (by tiny I mean maybe 3/4 inch tall) root-like thing growing between the sidewalk cracks.  "Whose beanstalk is it?!"  (We've been watching "Mickey and the Beanstalk" lately.)  Steele examined the "beanstalk" for a few minutes, tugging on it and trying to make it grow, and then resumed his ride.

For about three feet that is.  This time he climbed off of the trike and noticed a slug.  This was the first slug he has ever seen.  He spent a few minutes just looking at it and it's gooey trail, cheering it to "Go!  Go, Slug!  Get to the grass!" before he realized just how slow that slug was moving and climbed right back on that trike.

As I'm encouraging him speed a long to make it to his destination, he is busy marveling at the little things along the way.  The little things I wouldn't have noticed without him pointing them out to me.

Thanks for the reminder, little guy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

30 with 30, Week 9

I was so excited this morning when I checked out From My Grey Desk Blog and saw that Lauren and Kate from The Small Things Blog chose me as their favorite look from last week.  Thanks!!

On to this week...two things to mention.

First, the lack of lipstick in any of these shots.  What can I say...there was a toddler sleeping in the room where every tube of my lipstick happened to be, and no way was I going to risk ending naptime for lipstick!

Second, I love, love, love the necklace I am wearing with two of these outfits.  It's from Simply Livly on Etsy.  Because it is a jersey knit, you can easily tie it to adjust the length.  I love their necklaces...check them out!

Grey Top:  Forever 21
Tank:  Target
Jeans:  Rue La La
Skirt:  Forever 21
Sandals:  Target
Necklaces:  First- Anthropologie, Second-  Simply Livly @Etsy.com

Cardigan:  Forever 21
Tank:  Target
Belt:  H&M
Sorry for the horrible picture quality on this one!  Not sure what happened...but I am eagerly awaiting my new camera so I  can stop relying on the one on my phone!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

30 with 30...Better Late Than Never!

Unfortunately, I only had time for two outfits this week since we are still working on settling in from our move last week.  And I had an "extra" sneak in for one of the shots (p.s...he is wearing snow boots in the summer because he is a fireman)!

Top:  Target
Jeans:  Rue La La
Skirt:  Forever 21
Belt: H&M
Sandals:  Target


It's not too late to get in on the challenge!