Notes From A Lifetime of Literary Privilege by Kelly Lauer

Guest posting on the blog today is my super bestest reading friend Kelly, from Reading With Analysis.  I was supposed to post this last month for Banned Books Week, but with the move, Vegas trip, and everything in between it got lost in the shuffle! SO! Do me a favor, and please welcome Kelly back to the blog!

As a reader, I have always been lucky.  Not only was I born in a comparatively prosperous, middle-class neighborhood in southern California (and thus privileged in so many ways, including weather and proximity to delicious Mexican food and rather diverse culture), I was born to a reader who likes to own books and who has a deep-seated hatred of being told what to do.  I was always surrounded by books, and they weren’t always the anesthetized, “family friendly” books so popular among other conservative, religious folk in the eighties.  If my mom wanted to read a book, she bought it, even if the other ladies in church, had they known, would have been scandalized.  It was wonderful. Still is, actually.

My mom owns so many books, it’s a marvel.  And her tastes are incredibly diverse.  In my house there were romance novels nestled up against thrillers, bookended by memoirs and biographies and self-help books and books on prayer, the Bible, biblical history, and lots and lots of books about Jesus written by white men.  In fourth grade, after I had read my way through all the (interesting) books my (religious) school’s library had to offer — every Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, nature book, elementary science book, or unauthorized “biography” of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding in sight — I went home and started sneaking books out of my mom’s collection.

wtrfgwrIn fifth grade, I changed schools and had a new library to explore, but my mom’s books, full of windows to adulthood, beckoned.  I loved Where the Red Fern Grows and cried when I got to the end (which unfortunately occurred in class, while everyone else was reading the third chapter.  Let’s just say I got a lot of 10-year-old side eye that day, and I couldn’t even explain to them why I was crying… it would ruin the story…), but I also cried at the romance novels I read in secret (and didn’t understand at all).

Through fourth grade I had an established place in a hierarchy, a history with the other kids, and a PK best friend to help me contextualize the world and feel comfortable in my place in it.  From fifth grade on, I was just a too tall, too earnest, too naive kid in a sea of cynical children and teachers who aligned in a thoroughly foreign (to me) hierarchy of socio-economic status and “coolness” in which I had no place at all.

But there were always books.

Books didn’t care if I didn’t know what the curse words meant.  Books didn’t care if I missed all the sub-context.  Books really didn’t care if I wore that neon green stegosaurus sweatshirt every freaking day.  Books don’t judge; people have the corner of the market on that one. And books were always there for me, because I was lucky enough to be surrounded by them and to be my mom’s daughter.

The awful thing about people applying the same judgment to books that they use on their peers — only accepting the pretty ones, perhaps, or the ones whose stories and values present no challenge to the status quo — is that they limit access to those books that might be most beneficial to a child or young adult or adult who needs a story that presents an alternate view.  By silencing or censoring books, people end up silencing and censoring those people who most need to find a way to be heard.

So here’s to the libraries, and the librarians, the book stores, and the book addicts of the world.  Here’s to the writers who create worlds for displaced souls. And here’s to the readers who give a collective middle finger to the banned book list.  Also, here’s to my mom for being my librarian and only occasionally telling me to be quiet.

Armchair BEA: Day 2 – The Favorites!

For the second day of Armchair BEA posts, we’ve been tasked with describing our favorite reads of this year.  Instead of just picking one book and talking about it myself, both Todd and I have picked two of our favorite reads of the year and will share them with you!  Hopefully this will inspire you to seek out new and exciting reads for the remainder of the year.  So, without further ado, here they are:

Todd:  I’d have to say that my favorite book this year is H10N1 by M. R. Cornelius.  Yes, you could say that it was a shoo in because it’s a post-apocalyptic thriller, but I think it’s more than just that.  One of the best parts of novels in this genre is that they are as much a reflection of the people around us as they are a description of the actual apocalyptic event.  Yes, I know the whole genre is pretty popular right now with the likes of The Walking Dead and Resident Evil on TV and the big screen, but I’ve always liked these kinds of books, as they showcase the good and the bad that comes out of a dire situation.  Cornelius definitely achieved that in her work, and it was a thrill ride from start to finish.  I’m definitely glad I gave this one a shot, it was a blast to read.  You can read my full review here!

In second place by a very, very slight margin is the second book in the Across the Universe trilogy, A Million Suns by Beth Revis.  Although I’ve just finished it recently, it’s definitely an amazing follow-up to Across the Universe.  In it, we follow Elder as he attempts to lead the ship through a new host of trials and tribulations following the death of its previous leader, Eldest.  Not only does Revis’ writing show amazing technical detail that is a staple of any good sci-fi novel, but the interpersonal connections she weaves between Elder and his main interest, Amy, are great.  It’s a great coming-of-age novel that explores the difficulties of leadership, and the obstacles one must overcome in being different than everyone else.  Hopefully I can finish my review quickly and post it up for everyone to read!

Kim:  Although it was quite a task to pick just two books that would take the top spot so far this year, I’ve finally managed to do so.  First up is the fifth book in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander, Dangerous to Know.  Lady Emily’s character is fleshed out much more in this book, as she and Colin must deal with her miscarriage.  Although she was already a strong female character, this tragedy gave her some depth that made her all the more believable and relatable.  We all must get through difficult patches in our lives, so to see Lady Emily boldly carry on and eventually overcome this situation was inspiring.  Alexander did a great job in creating such a wonderful character, and along with the other characters in the novel presented an exciting story that I couldn’t put down!  You can read my full review here.

Seeing as Todd has ranked his two books after choosing them, I’d have to say that I’m saving the best of my two for last.  Orchid House by Lucinda Riley is a stunning tale of love and loss.  As I stated in my review, I was amazed that this is Riley’s debut novel, as her writing is as seamless and fluid as the most veteran writers out there.  The way in which she crosses time and geography in this work is astounding.  Covering three generations and three countries, Riley treats us to a rich world that drew me in from the very beginning.  I’m always a sucker for great character development, but this went above and beyond, teaching us that life is a precious gift that can be taken from us at any time.  Couple this with the amazing backdrop of Riley’s fantastic plot and you have a sure winner.  I don’t give out more than 5 stars often, but this definitely deserved it!  Read my full review here.

Well, that’s it for our favorite reviews of the year so far!  Check back tomorrow for the third day of Armchair BEA posting.

Until then, happy reading!

Armchair BEA: Day 1 – The Introductions!

Heyyoo fellow armchair BEAers! Unfortunately this is the 2nd year in a row I’ve been unable to attend the actual BEA convention in NYC and have decided instead to participate in Armchair BEA!  With this being the first day, it’s introduction day!  We’ve been asked to answer at least five questions from the list below as our way of introducing ourselves.  Without further ado:

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?
    • Kimberly Denny-Ryder, book addict at your service.  I got into blogging in the fall of 2010 as a way to meet other readers and discuss books.  When I graduated college I felt like my brain was melting and not being used.  I decided I’d challenge myself to read 100 books a year as a way to keep sharp.  Soon after, my friends and family were all telling me I was crazy to be doing it on top of planning my wedding, volunteering with local charities, etc.  As I inched along towards my goal people kept asking me where I was finding the time to do everything.  My response became my blog!  Almost two years and 200+ books later, here we are!
  • What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?
    • I’m currently reading/listening to several books.  My audio book of the moment is 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.  As far as paper is concerned, I’m reading The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, and Everblossom by Larissa Hinton
  • Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?
    • My favorite post that I’ve written? AH – this is difficult.  I can’t decide between my sarcastic review of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy or my review of The Orchid House.  My Fifty Shades review is one of my funniest, while Orchid is my best written.  Y’all can decide which one you like better!
  • If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?
    • Eat dinner with any author? Hands down Jane Austen.  She is my favorite writer and one who is unmatched in talent and passion.  I would love to meet her in person and be able to discuss with her her thoughts on society and how the world has changed since the 1800’s.  I’d also love to discuss what she thinks of the book world, including her thoughts on the world of Jane Austen fan fiction.  Would she be excited about the popularity of her novels and all the spin off’s that have been created?  I think being able to discuss society and her novels would be pretty fascinating.
  • Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?
    • I would definitely say that my tastes have changed.  When I started blogging I read primarily historical fiction novels and Jane Austen fan-fiction.  Being a blogger I feel it’s important that I expand my tastes and share great books of all genres with fellow readers.  I’ve expanded my reading to the erotica, romance, memoir, science-fiction, and fantasy genres.  My blog has turned me into a well-rounded reader and has helped me find some great new authors/genres/books to share.  I’m forever grateful for my followers for sharing with me books and authors that they think I’d like.  They give great recommendations and continue to help shape me as a reader.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my answers and have gotten to know me a smidge more!  Check back in tomorrow, for more Armchair BEA activities!

Happy Reading!

Our Oscar Vlog Part IV

It’s Oscar day!! Below is the last part of our four part vlog series on the Oscars. (Yes it is in black and white. It’s our small homage to The Artist!)  In it we discuss the best picture and best picture nominations! We hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as we did making them!  Enjoy the Oscars!

2012 Oscar Vlog Part IV from Kimberly Denny-Ryder on Vimeo.

Our Oscar Vlog Part II

For those of you that enjoyed part I of the Oscars vlog rejoice! It’s time for part II!  We discuss the nominees in the two writing categories, as well as go on tangents about the Muppets and fashion!  As usual – leave us your picks and comments in the space below! Enjoy!

2012 Oscar Vlog Part II from Kimberly Denny-Ryder on Vimeo.

Our Oscar Vlog Part I

Adam, Charlie, and I recently got together to put together a vlog about our Oscar thoughts.  The three of us are pretty big film lovers and wanted to share out thoughts on the snubs, pics, and surprises of this years nominations.  Part I of our IV part series is below.  Part I discusses our thoughts on the best actor and best actress nominations.  Make sure to leave us a comment! Enjoy!

2012 Oscar Vlog Part I from Kimberly Denny-Ryder on Vimeo.

We’ve Been Tagged!!

Friend of the blog, Kate from Musings of a Book Lover, recently informed us that we’d been Tagged!  Tagging is a way to get to know bloggers better and hopefully help you find new blogs to check out.  First things first, the rules!

1 You must post the rules.
2 Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3 Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
4 Let them know you’ve tagged them!

Here are the questions that Kate has asked, and my answers!

  1. Favorite ice cream flavor?
    1. There is a really small ice cream place near my house in CT called Wentworth Ice Cream that has the BEST ice cream.  My go-to flavor when I’m there is light mint Oreo. It’s basically heaven in a cup!
  2. What’s in your purse?
    1. My wallet, cell phone, Dreaming of Mr. Darcy, nook, and some Vanilla Coke chapstick. (Yum!)
  3. If you could meet one author, who would it be and why?
    1. Jane Austen! She is what started my passion for reading and to be able to meet her and tell her how profound an impact her novels have had on my life would be a dream come true.
  4. If money were no object, what is one thing you would buy yourself right now?
    1. Hands down a trip around the world.  I first got to travel outside of the US in the spring of 2011, taking stops in Spain and Italy.  I can officially say that I have the travel bug.  I don’t think I could ever be happy again if travel was not part of my life.  I’m heading to Mexico in August to see the Mayan ruins and go whale shark diving!  Places I’d like to visit on my trip around the world would be Greece, England, Ireland, Fiji, Australia, India, China, Germany…’s a never-ending list.
  5. What do you want to be when you grow up?
    1. HAHA great question.  My mind is ALWAYS changing. When I was little I went through wanting to be a teacher, a film director, a professional dancer, secretary, and nurse.  As an adult I went to college for communications, specializing in media production, but I wound up getting a job in finance when I left school.  I now see myself as settling down in what I really want to do: work in publishing somehow.  Whether it’s doing social media PR or editing manuscripts, I need to work with books professionally.  Anyone want to help me out with that?
  6. Whats another hobby besides reading?
    1. I’m a big film fan!  Fellow Reflections of a Book Addict blogger Charlie and I have recently been hitting up the theaters every Tuesday night to see something new.  In fact last  night we went to go see The Artist (I highly recommend it).  Besides books and films I enjoy scrapbooking, volunteering, and bowling.
  7. Favorite recipe (link to it, if you can!)
    1. Hands down Ina Garten’s chicken piccata!  I love to cook and my favorite chef to use recipes from is Ina.  What good is a dinner recipe without one for dessert?  Try Ina’s chocolate cake!!
  8. Sweet or sour?
    1. Can I say spicy instead?!
  9. What is one movie you could watch over and over again?
    1. Oh man – this list has the potential to be enormous. If I had to pick ONLY one, I’d pick Casablanca from 1942 with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.  It is my #1 favorite film of all time and one that I fall in love with all over again each time I watch it.
  10. Have you ever been to a play?
    1. Yes! Over my 25 years I’ve seen a good number of them.  I’ve seen The Phantom of the Opera three times, The Lion King twice, Wicked, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Riverdance on Broadway, Les Miserables, 42nd Street, Crazy For You, The Sound of Music, Annie, Beauty and the Beast, RENT, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. In March, Christine from A Rambling Fancy and I are heading to Newsies (along with our friend Stacey), and I also received tickets for Spider Man- Turn Off the Dark for Christmas!
  11. Why did you start blogging?
    1. I wanted to share my love of reading with others!  How many people pick up a book because it’s recommended to them by a friend?  I wanted to share the books that I was finding and start discussion with like-minded people who enjoyed/disliked them.  Hearing from blog followers that they’ve read a book because of my review and have enjoyed it has been one of the most rewarding things about being a blogger.

The 11 bloggers I’ve selected to tag are:

  1. Adam at Roof Beam Reader
  2. Meredith at Austenesque Reviews
  3. Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
  4. Christine at A Rambling Fancy
  5. Kelly Ann at Oh My Muse!
  6. Laurel Ann at Austenprose
  7. Tasha at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books
  8.  Colette at A Buckeye Girl Reads
  9. April at Good Books and Good Wine
  10. Teresa at Teresa’s Reading Corner
  11. Trai at Tutor Girl Reads

And my 11 questions for them are:

  1. As a book blogger you obviously read a lot of books.  What is the one book you recommend to people over and over?
  2. (I have to steal one of Kate’s questions above) Why did you start blogging?
  3. If you had all the money in the world and could travel to ONE place, where would it be and why?
  4. Who is your favorite author?
  5. If you had to give your blog a color to describe it, what color would you give it?
  6. What book started your love of reading?
  7. What is your favorite genre to read?
  8. Is there a film adaptation that you think was better than the book? What film?
  9. Where is your favorite place to read?
  10. What is your favorite guilty pleasure read?
  11. Do you prefer solids or e-books?

I hope this has given you more insight in who I am behind my blog and some new blogs to check out!

As always,

Happy Reading!

Observations by Jess: Standing Room Only

EKTORP Chair, Idemo black Width: 41 3/8 " Depth: 35 3/8 " Height: 34 5/8 " Seat width: 22 1/2 " Seat depth: 19 5/8 " Seat height: 17 3/4 "  Width: 105 cm Depth: 90 cm Height: 88 cm Seat width: 57 cm Seat depth: 50 cm Seat height: 45 cm  Anyone who has read some of my previous posts knows about my love of bookstores and that I have a very nostalgic and intimate relationship with their smells of coffee and brand new books! For anyone who shares my sentiments, I think we can all agree that something strange has been happening at our local book browsing havens. No, I’m not talking about that random polka track that is in heavy rotation on the B&N radio station,  but I have noticed a lot more people sitting on the ground amongst the shelves and in the aisles. Why, you might ask? Well for starters, there is nowhere to sit!

Apparently Barnes and Noble has become a standing room only kind of place…just like a crowded bar on game night. You find yourself balancing books and coffee instead of beer as you bobble from foot to foot trying to read the introduction of a book you MIGHT have wanted to buy if you hadn’t just spilled coffee down your shirt due to a circus-type balancing act.

This may be a little dramatic (or rather just a real life account of my formerly new shirt), but I must say it used to be nice to be able to put my purse, coffee, and other reading selections down for a moment to take a look and see what kinds of books I picked up. I am not one of those people who is going to occupy the seat for hours on end…make a few phone calls…write some Christmas cards…and eat my lunch in a retail store, but it would be nice to take a load off and enjoy being there.

After the whole hypothetical/not-so-hypothetical coffee spilling incident, I took to the web to see what people were saying about the mysterious disappearance of the Barnes and Noble “Comfy Chair,” or even those hard as rocks wooden ones. The most compelling argument I found against the chairs was on a message board posted by a B&N employee. The employee recounted several instances of people sleeping in the chairs, teenagers getting it on in the chairs, eating five course meals in the chairs, leaving crumbs in the chairs, and reading full novels in the chairs. These are serious problems for any store because when it comes down to it, it is a place of business, not a public library or park. When I worked in retail, reading an entire magazine then returning it to the shelf without paying for it would be considered stealing. I find that I couldn’t agree more!

It seems that just like most things in life, a couple bad apples spoiled the whole bunch. Or perhaps in this case, a couple bad book-worms spoiled the apple? Either way, it’s sad that those who just want to browse and enjoy a relaxing hour in the bookstore are either confined to the cold, hard chairs in the coffee shop or to a lone, crowded bench that resembles a city bus stop in a rain storm.  

At the risk of sounding like an old, cranky lady, it’s disheartening to discover that my fellow bookstore geeks are sometimes so socially irresponsible that a company which generally welcomes the occasional loiterer like myself has had to go to such extremes as to remove chairs from their establishment. I guess I could always sit on the floor…but at the risk of getting kicked in the head…I might just resort to bringing one of those folding beach chairs next time I go.

The Jane Austen Twitter Project

Austen fan-fiction author Lynn Shepherd and writer Adam Spunberg are the people behind the Jane Austen Twitter project.  Jane Austen enthusiasts from around the world are working together every Tuesday starting February 8th through May 3rd from 9am to 9pm (UK time) to create an Austen style story.

Plot ideas were submitted and then voted on, with the following storyline, A Ball at Pemberley by Twitter user @fansupnicolee, winning:

After the demise of Mr Dashwood, Mrs Dashwood is invited by old acquaintances – Mr and Mrs Bennet –  to reside at Longbourn until other arrangements are made. Mrs Bennet has recently lost three of her daughters to matrimony and, whilst Elinor and Marianne are sure to be good company for Kitty and Mary; her intentions are that by providing suitable hospitality for them it will be an excuse to meet more families than already in her acquaintance. Upon their arrival, they receive a letter from Mr and Mrs Darcy, stating that they are residing at Pemberley; and that there is to be a lavish, substantial ball held there. Mr and Mrs Bennet, Kitty and Mary are all thrilled at the idea of being reunited with Elizabeth and Jane on the evening; and Mrs Dashwood, Elinor and Marianne are honoured to be invited to such an event. Among the people attending the ball include Willoughby, whom Kitty, Mary and Marianne immediately find attractive and compelling – but he only has eyes for Elinor, much to the discontent of Elinor herself (and Marianne particularly). Henry Tilney and Eleanor Tilney, who are very old acquaintances of Mr Bingley, are also invited to attend the ball. Henry immediately becomes the object of Elinor’s affection…

As you can tell from the plot, all of Austen’s characters are slated to make an appearance together in this story !  To follow the action on twitter search for #A4T (Austen for Twitter).  You can also check for updates on the official Twitter account for the project at @Austen_Project.  Each Sunday the Austen project’s website will be post an update of that Tuesday’s writing so you can read everyone’s additions. 

There is still an opportunity to take part and become one of the writers if interested.  I heartily encourage anyone with an interest to join.  I’ve been following what’s been written so far today and it’s very very interesting.  Major kudos go out to all of today’s participants.  It’s been interesting seeing how all the characters are coming together to make appearances. 

The next writing date is scheduled to be February 15th.  Make sure you check out this amazingly unique project.  I’m excited to see the project in its entirety, scheduled to be posted May4th. 

Leave some comments below, and let me know what you think of the project!