Reading & Book Reviews

Memoir Monday: An MFA Program Inspiration

Today, I did a day trip to Duluth for no other reason then I wanted to get out of Ely for the day.  Somehow, I got lucky enough to have the day off from school – the instructors at Vermilion had a duty day – and I got the day off from work without requesting it.

One of the main stops I always take, if I can, is to Barnes and Noble if for no other reason to enjoy the books.  While I was there I purchased Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s with Morrie, and Debra Ginsberg’s Waiting.  The first two, I’ve either read or heard of before, but I completely stumbled upon Ginsberg’s while window shopping.

Spalding’s Logo

Apart of the reason why I bought these books, as well as a few through Amazon and Target, is that I’m in the process of applying to Spalding’s MFA program.  The specific cohort that I’m planning on trying to get in, at the moment, is the creative nonfiction one.  The application deadline for the Fall of 2017 is August 1st, so I wanted to to find a good idea for my final project that I will have to do.

The books I have, so far, on my memoir reading list are:

Mitch Albom’s Tuesday with Morrie

I first read this memoir back in the spring of 2008.  Most of the memoirs out there that seem popular are women’s ones, so I wanted to make I attempted to have a few male centered ones.  Plus, it will be nice rereading a book I once read nearly a decade ago.

Kenneth Rosenberg’s Memoirs of a Starving Artist

I picked this one in part because of the otherwise female orientated list I will have.  The other reason why I picked this one was because the author draws upon 25 years of experience of trying to pursue his dreams.

Megan Gebhart’s 52 Cups of Coffee

The appeal to this one for me is that it sounds like it might have similar tones as Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays With Morrie in the sense that Gebhart met with a different person each week for a year to see what lesson she could learn from them.

Piper Kerman’s Orange is the New Black

I choose to add this one to the initial list purely for bandwagon reasons.  I figured since Orange is the New Black is very popular, still, among Netflix users, why not read the book that inspired the series.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love

Another bandwagon choice.  After all, I remember taking a travel narrative course right around the time that the movie came out.  I have read the book, as well as watch the movie, but I figured another good read and paying attending to the structure more so this time wouldn’t be bad thing.

Julie Powell’s Julie & Julia: My Year of Living Dangerously

I’ve seen the movie more times than I care to admit.  Since the movie is based on of a book, I figured that I should probably read the book.  Plus, the book is essential based off of Powell’s blog and blogging is a format of writing that I’ve been use to since about 2009.

Frances Mayers’ Under the Tuscan Sun

This choice was a movie inspired one, but also to contrast Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love choice.  Since Mayers stayed in one country, this has a certain appeal to it since I’m totally an arm-chair traveler.

Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted 

I, probably like most people in my age group, have heard about this book.  Also, since there is a bit of mental ‘illness’ in my family, I figure that this read might help to see how to write about the topic.

Debra Ginsberg’s Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress

Like I wrote earlier, I saw this book while window shopping today.  What attracted me to it is the fact that I’ve worked in the food service industry a bit, so I figured it’d be a fun read.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild

This one is purely a Lorelai Gilmore Recommendation, indirectly, from the revival series of Gilmore Girls.

In regards of a reading order, I really don’t have an order picked out.  I already have about half of the books at the ready and in my apartment ready to be utilized.  However, you can keep up to date on the progress I’ve made, both in terms of book reviews and the list, by going to the ‘Memoir Reading List’ page I have set up.

Thirteen Reasons Why Book Review

In Jay Asher’s book Thirteen Reasons Why, we get travel back in time slightly and listen to cassette tapes.  Yet, the cassette tapes don’t have music on them, nor an audiobook.  We get to hear the Thirteen Reasons Why Hannah Baker committee suicide, but our story starts with reason number nine: Clay Jensen mailing the cassettes to the next person on ‘the list”.

Through out the book, we get to follow Clay as he relieves some of Hannah’s last thoughts and the reasons that she has to end her life.  We get to travel the teenage wasteland of first kisses and heartbreaks, the bonds of new friendships formed and ruined, underage drinking and the aftermath of that and how all of this lead up to Clay finding the package of cassette tapes at his house the night before we enter this story.

Yet, what I found love-able about this book is how Clay’s reactions would be what one’s would be to receiving these tapes and reliving some of the last thoughts of a person’s life.  Reading this book was also compelling because the situations and overall story is something people can relate to.

I’m not saying that every single person who ends up on a list as “having the best ass” or a horrible first kiss ends up wanting to kill themselves, but it’s the little thins that add up to someone wanting to take their own life.  It’s these things that Hannah experiences that makes the book believable.

This is a great book, I think, for young adults to read.  All though some of the content is on the heavier side of things, I think that it explores what teenagers are thinking and how their peers shape their lives.  I think Asher did a pretty good job at writing a story about teenagers that seem realistic.

A List of Young Adult Romance Books

While surfing Twitter, I found this tweet that talked about the Twitter user’s new list of favorite young adult romance books:

This is a great book list for anyone that’s interested in having a reference guide to some new books for young adult readers.

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review

The are so many different ways I can start off this review of Fifty Shades of Grey.  After all, some call it soft porn and others view it as graphic.  For me, I actually thought it wasn’t that bad.  Sure, there where a few scenes in the book that where “graphic.”  However, what can we expect from a book that centers around sexuality and sex?  For it to dance around those graphic scenes with creative euphemisms to protect our delicate eyes that see more graphic things on TV?  I think not.

I found this book interesting to read, in part because it does introduce us to the world of a submissive and dominate relationship.  And yes, I know people, there are probably hundreds of books out there that may not be in the mainstream media that we all hear about on the same subject; but this book offers us the chance to see a relationship like this to unfold before our eyes and explore the relationship.  Plus, the book does a pretty good job setting up for the next book if you choose to go more in-depth with the characters.

Yet, probably the most exciting thing about the book was how see the issue of consent in a sexual relationship comes up.  In a world where rape and sexual assaults are prevalent, to some, in our culture, it was interesting to see how the issue of consent was shown in the book and within this community.  After all, how many of us actually take the time to sit down with our sexual partners and say, “Hey, I don’t want to do this in bed” or “I don’t want to have sex anywhere other than our place.”

Generally speaking, this isn’t the kind of book I would have gone off and bought unless if it was as well placed in the media as it was; but I was glad I read it.  It made for more of an interesting read than I thought and I cannot wait to see what happens next in the series.

The Hunger Games Book Review

We all know how big of a deal The Hunger Games is.  After all, it is a book for young adults that takes a look at a post-war dictatorship type of world where preteens and teens are sacrificed by the capitol of what remains of North American now named Panem.

With having 12 males and 12 females from the 12 districts being forced to sacrifice their own lives is an interesting way to for the central government to attempt to keep power within the country.  Mainly because of how the kids end up sacraficing their lives is in the form of a “game” that would make you think it’s intimidating than it really is.  Plus, even with there being a winner that lives, one might wonder at just how much better off the winner might of been if they had died in the games since winner had to killing someone, most likely.

One thing that is truly interesting about this book is that Collins took the chance of not holding back details of death and killing in a book that was written specifically for preteens and teens.  This is a rarity because most books that are written for Young Adults are written with a very limited range for young adults.  YA books may contain drug use or sex; but having a book that has such high amounts of violence in it and kids killing other kids is something unique in it self.

There’s also the added kick that a book that is more action packed is told from a female perspective.  It’s nice that the book was written from a female’s perspective, because I think it added to the conflict of being forced to kill one’s peers.  Whereas if the book was told from a male perspective, unless if it had been Peeta’s perspective, it might of taken on the form of stereotypical male’s perspective about how cool violence is.

I feel like I should also touch on the film adaption a bit here.  Since the film based off this book, like so many other films based off of books, went in slightly different direction, that actually made the film better.  In part because it takes us into the depths of seeing how messed up the capitol is in this world that we really don’t get in the book.

With the book being so focused on Katniess’s perspective. it’s hard to get a full sense at how corrupt the political system is in this world.  All though, the other two books in the series is supposedly takes on that topic.  I would know, but I have to wait till Friday when I have some cash to buy the next book.