June 27, 2014

The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales

A partial list of what the LAPD reported it recovered in the search warrants: 'Pearl-style necklace, several rings with yellow metal and white stones, a ring with white metal and green stones, a ring with yellow metal and red stones, a ring with yellow metal and green and white stones, a Marc Jacobs purse, a Louis Vuitton purse, 2 Chanel purses, 1 Hermes purse, a Steve Madden shopping bag, a Blackberry Edge cell phone and an LG cell phone, 4 pairs of BCBG and Marc Fisher heels, a pair of True Religion pants (which are connected to Rachel Bilson), 2 bottles of Paris Hilton perfule, an Apple laptop, Gucci eyeglasses, Chanel eyeshadow, a Chanel makeup brush, Dior mascara, a Mexican passport, and a Washington State driver's license.'
-from The Bling Ring by Nancy Jo Sales
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Amazon | Goodreads

Living so close to Hollywood, I have always been fascinated with celebrities, so it's no wonder I was intrigued to read the story of the group aptly named "The Bling Ring" in Nancy Jo Sales book of the same title. If you don't know the story, the bling ring refers to the group of well-to-do Angelino teenagers who broke into a variety of celebrity homes mainly because of their obsession with fame. Originally an article in Vanity Fair magazine, Sales expanded her story upon the production of Sofia Coppola's film about the group, and this book is the product.

I was let down to learn that this book is written like a news article instead of in novel form. The first quarter of the book was intriguing enough because readers learn the mindset of the teenagers involved and how easy it was for them to steal from some of the most rich and famous names in entertainment. But very quickly it got to the point where there was just too much discussion of too little information and the voice of the author became so condescending and judgmental that I could barely stomach to finish this book.

Nancy Jo Sales clearly (and seemingly blindly) puts one of the bling ring's ringleaders, Nick Prugo, on a sympathetic pedestal throughout the book, which is suspicious given that Prugo is the only character to openly discuss incriminating details regarding the actions of his group and legal case surrounding them. Whether Nick Prugo is telling the truth or not is not my place to say, but it seems Sales barely questions the legitimacy of anything Prugo tells her and instead paints him as a poor, lost teenager.

On the other side of the coin, Sales paints the girls involved, namely Rachel Lee and Alexis Neiers as air headed, vapid villains even though Prugo is just as guilty of involvement. Instead of exploring the root causes of their actions and the societal implications of these teenagers, Sales instead hammers judgement so strongly that it was uncomfortable to read. Initially I admit it was entertaining to read the character of Alexis Neiers that Sales painted, but eventually it was just pathetic because it was so harshly biased. I wish instead of berating the poor girl, Sales might explore her actions on a psychological plane. Clearly all of the kids involved in this suffer from some type of psychological disconnect from reality and rather than mocking them, it seems more fruitful that we look into the how, why, and what we can do to eliminate such actions in society and find a way to help them.

Ultimately this book should have remained an article where a much more limited amount of judgement and criticism would be contained in short form. Furthermore, I didn't need history lessons on fashion, reality tv, or Bonnie and Clyde, among other horribly boring tangents Sales decides we care to hear her wax on and on about.

I find it awfully ironic that The Bling Ring is ultimately a criticism of teenagers who are trying to obtain fame and fortune by leeching onto celebrities when the book is in actuality Sales' attempt at leeching onto Sofia Coppola's film to gain more notoriety. The sad thing is that neither the bling ring members themselves nor Nancy Jo Sales came out a winner and I would have appreciated learning about this story from a simple article rather than a whole book.

Bottom Line: I don't think I've ever said this before, but save your time and just watch the movie.

June 23, 2014

Spring Reading Recap

Has anybody read A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess? That is the only book from my Spring TBR list that I didn't actually read because I just couldn't really get into it. I don't know if the book is hyped up because of the Stanley Kubrik film (which I also haven't seen yet), but please give me some encouragement to read this book if you have any! :)

Anyways, I kicked butt in spring with my reading considering how busy I've been. The first 9 books were on my TBR list and I just barely completed reading them in time! The rest were just extras haha!

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What was your favorite book you read this spring?

June 20, 2014

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Maybe it was that nearly everyone else was dead and she felt a little bit dead, too, but she figured that even a vampire deserved to be saved. Maybe she ought to leave him, but she wasn't going to.

-from The Coldest Girl in Cold Town by Holly Black

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Amazon | Goodreads

In Holly Black's novel The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, vampires no longer live in the shadows, but are quarantined to live in Coldtowns. Humans are also allowed to live in a Coldtown if they choose, but once someone goes into a Coldtown, they can never leave. Tana wakes up at a house party to find that nearly everyone has been massacred by vampires and the only ones left living are her ex-boyfriend, Aiden, and a surprisingly cooperative vampire, Gavriel (if you would consider him living). Tana makes it her mission to deliver Gavriel to the nearest Coldtown along with Aiden who is now infected. The only problem: Tana must survive the journey and try to keep Aiden alive in the process. 

There are so many great things about this book and so many things that made it a pain to get through. I felt like the overall idea and the actual characters were great; unfortunately it just wasn't very well executed for a variety of reasons. For one, this book should have been either split up into two (despite it already being a series, I think) or crafted differently. The movement of the plot is stalled continuously by flashbacks about Tana's and Gavriel's respective pasts and it ruined all of the momentum every single time. While Gavriel's past was a little bit more interesting (and probably deserved it's own novella or something), I did not care about Tana's history so much. I got the point that her mom died and she had a lot of emotions, but I didn't need to revisit it over and over. If this story didn't waver between past and present tense so much, I might have loved it. 

Additionally, the time invested in so many characters made for too many subplots of emotion which also slowed the main story. I think the secondary characters are all great, but there were too many end games that muddled the climax. While I felt this story had direction and it wasn't aimless, there was just too much going on at the end to feel fulfilled by any resolutions. I felt like Tana was trying to solve everyone's problems when I just wanted her to solve her own and go home. While I think Tana is supposed to come off as selfless (which she is), she mostly came off to me as just plain stupid. 

All that said, I still found the overall arc and characters to be very enjoyable. The writing was strong and this was by far the least obnoxious vampire/human story I have ever read (which is a huge compliment considering how much vampires seem to mean little to no credibility these days!). Despite the story being slowed by flashbacks, I still wanted to know what the inside of a Coldtown is like and then the inside of Moreau's glamorous parties. Piquing the reader's curiosity is something I think Black does very well.

I was also fascinated by the death quotes at the beginning of each chapter. I felt like it helped Black focus the reader on the idea that this is a story about death, not the glamor of vampires and how great Coldtowns sound to the general public. It also helped me pay attention to how each character feels about death and/or the possibility of immortality. I'm not sure if these strong points are enough to encourage me to read the sequel, but it might make this one of your favorites!

Bottom Line: If you love vampire stories, definitely give this a read! Just beware of changing tenses that substantially slow down the story. 3.5/5 stars.

June 13, 2014

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

You can't spend the rest of your life tiptoeing around to try and avert disaster. It won't work. You'll just end up missing the life you have.
-from The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

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The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards is a book I have been meaning to read for years. I bought it on clearance at Borders before they were going out of business, which gives you an indication of how long I've had it. This novel is about the repercussions of a powerful decision Dr. David Henry makes in 1964 when his wife gives birth to twins: a healthy baby boy and a baby girl with Down's Syndrome. Affected by his own sister's health problems and premature death, Dr. Henry believes that it's best to tell his wife, Norah, that their daughter died in childbirth and instructs his nurse, Caroline, to take her to a special needs facility. But Caroline just can't abandon the baby girl and decides to move away and raise the baby as her own.

Overall, I found this book incredibly lukewarm. It had a powerful and emotional story, but I still found it only mildly enjoyable. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but it also wasn't my favorite. I didn't feel a huge connection with the characters which I think would have made all the difference in enjoying this story. I could easily explicate how affected both Norah Henry and the nurse Caroline's lives were because of the simple decision Dr. David Henry made on his own; I would probably even enjoy fleshing out the repercussions these women faced because of the world they lived in in the 1960s. But because the writing felt like it was held an arm's distance away from the author, I never really felt truly connected to these characters despite how dynamic I think they were meant to come across.

Something I did enjoy was the path of Dr. David Henry's life and how realistically flawed he is as a character. While I don't agree with him, I understand his motivations for giving his daughter away. I can see that he wants to protect his family, and yet the guilt he obtains from his choice ends up eating away at his family anyway. The overall message that you cannot control life and you should make the best of it rather than control it is very powerful. I think that made it worth giving this book an extra half-star in my rating. I'm glad I finally read this book, even though it wasn't necessarily one of my favorites. I definitely think it's the type of book that may very strongly affect another reader in a more positive way.

Bottom Line: Not my favorite book, but you may enjoy it if you like family-focused contemporary novels, especially containing the subject of Down's Syndrome. I didn't love it or hate it, but I'm glad I finally checked it off my TBR list. 3.5/5 stars.

June 11, 2014

DNF Books

It is extraordinarily rare for me to put down a book unfinished. Recently I've been trying harder to do this because it's better to waste a few days on an unfinished book than take a few weeks to finish it begrudgingly. Last week when I found myself angrily talking back to The Actor and the Housewife and ultimately deleting it from my Kindle unfinished, I realized the last few books I DNF'd should be discussed.

 photo 5628393_zps8f07968e.jpgFirst up: the aforementioned contemporary chick lit e-book The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale which I read up to 35%. This book is about Becky Jack, an LDS housewife and mother to four kids, who runs into mega movie star Felix Callahan during a trip to LA and they become instant friends. The premise sounded fun but overall the execution (at least up through the first third of the book) was awkward, embarrassing and uncomfortable. Everything about Beck Jack made me feel uncomfortable from the way she talks to Felix (famous or not), to the way she fawns over him despite being happily married and the way she acts overall in her daily life. She is a sad Mormom mom cliche (and I say that as someone who loves Mormon moms). The premise seemed cute and quirky but I truly could not stand the protagonist and hope I forget her quickly.

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Next is a book that you might not be so surprised I put down: Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang a memoir by Chelsea Handler. I actually enjoy Chelsea Handler's humor for the most part, although I will admit that I prefer when she's limited on her crassness. I never took into account how much her television show controls what she says until I read this book. It definitely made me love her censors because her memoir is just one crass and stupid story after the other. I don't think I even made it through two chapters before throwing this one away. I definitely won't be picking up any of her other memoirs.

 photo 47304_zps7baacc8a.jpgFinally, I give you The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell. Honestly, they should just say this is by Erin Gruwell because it is so clear that Gruwell edited this thing until it was unrecognizable. If you're not familiar with the story (depicted in 2007 in The Freedom Writers movie starring Hillary Swank), this diary came from urban students from Long Beach caught up in gang violence and race wars so complex that they were barely able to consider their education. As a first year teacher, Erin Gruwell changed their lives by making their education more important and accessible to them while helping them move past their racism. I adore Erin Gruwell's story and the movie version of this story. I also drive past the actual high school where these events take place at least once a month (and it's totally safe now, by the way). But the diary-- it's clearly been over-edited and because of that it actually bored me. I think I read a third of this before I just gave up. This is probably the only book where I would welcome spelling and grammatical errors, but without them I don't feel connected to the writers at all. I'm sure in the end it's ultimately a great book and I might pick it up to finish it some day when there's nothing else to read (so basically maybe I won't pick it up), but for now it's being marked DNF.

Which books are on your DNF list? Do you have a problem putting down books unfinished like I do?

June 10, 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read This Year So Far

just pretend like it's not 11 books...

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