Screen and Page Pairings: Girls and Treasure Island!!!

Nearly two years may have passed since I lamented the seeming lack of literary fiction centered around characters in their twenties, but I still feel that same frustration. My thirst for stories about people in my stage of life is slightly slaked by HBO’s Girls, which, despite its failings in representing only a very narrow, white, privileged version of Brooklyn millennial life, is one of the only shows I’ve seen that stars characters I relate too. (It’s a curse as much as it is a blessing; I can’t describe the horror I felt while re-watching the series a year ago and realizing Marnie was the character I related to the most. Fucking Marnie. It was a dark time in my life, which has thankfully passed.)

Anyway, all this to say,* I’m always on the lookout for books that delve into the lives of women in their twenties, so I was more than a little excited when bae sneakily bought me a copy of Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine on a used-bookstore date.**

Our unnamed narrator is drifting through life without purpose and working a string of meaningless jobs when she picks up a copy of Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The adventures of Jim Hawkins shock her out of her lethargy, and she vows to live her life according to Stevenson’s Core Values:

BOLDNESS

RESOLUTION

INDEPENDENCE

HORN-BLOWING

As she becomes increasingly obsessed with Treasure Island, she sheds caution and manners and any trace of respect for her friends and family. She imposes on her boyfriend’s generosity, steals cash from her employer at The Pet Library to buy a parrot (because if she’s going to be Jim Hawkins, she needs a parrot, obvs), proceeds to neglect said parrot, and betrays her sister in a fit of self-righteousness. She is self-absorbed, entitled, delusional, and completely oblivious to the way her actions are hurting those around her. She is infuriating and, somehow, utterly endearing.

I don’t always “cast” characters in the books I read, but I couldn’t help reading lines like, “I’m twenty-five years old and this happened on a Monday when I didn’t have to work at The Pet Library and had no plans except to sleep and maybe wash my bras in the sink, and that was a big maybe,” in the voice of Lena Dunham playing Hannah Horvath on Girls. Although Treasure Island!!! is exponentially more ridiculous than Girls, they both convey a sense of millennial aimlessness and portray young women who don’t always conform to the roles society has created for them. As Roxane Gay discusses in her essay “Not Here to Make Friends,” it’s weirdly refreshing to watch and read about women who are just unapologetically terrible in a world where female characters are often judged on their likability.

Treasure Island!!! is absurd, hilarious, and oddly compelling. I haven’t been this horrifically entranced by a narrator since reading The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara, and that is a truly magical thing. If you’re craving a bizarre read (I mean, it has a Pet Library where people literally borrow living animals) that will simultaneously make you boil with rage and want to grab a bowl of popcorn, this one’s for you.

*I basically just resurrected this blog as a means of finding out just how many Hamilton lyrics I can sneak into my posts.

** He was reading Bad Feminist and remembered Roxane Gay’s essay about Treasure Island!!! I’m telling you, he’s a keeper.

What’d I Miss?

Alright lovelies, I’ve been away from the blogosphere for six months, and I’m pretty out of the loop. I feel like Jefferson coming back from Paris, minus the glorious hair and bravado.

What'd I Miss?

I have a lot of catching up to do. So, if you have a few minutes, help me get back into the swing of things by leaving a comment letting me know any or all of the following:

  • Your favorite post you wrote
  • Your favorite post written by someone else
  • Your favorite new or new-to-you blog
  • The best book you read recently
  • The upcoming title you’re most excited to read
  • Something exciting you want to share about your life

Thanks!

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again?*

Guess Who's BackHello booklings! Can I first just say how much I’ve missed you all? I had no idea how disconnected my blogging hiatus would make me feel, and I’ve missed the excitement, nerdery, and smart conversations. (I have also really appreciated the ways many people have stayed in touch!) Although I’m still working on finding a healthy balance in my life between, work, the boyfriend (we’ll call him bae), running, reading, and necessary time to myself, for the last few weeks I’ve felt the blogging itch. I’m still not reading anywhere near as much as I used to, but I’ve been picking up books that excite me, and my head is buzzing with post ideas. I’ve been quietly drafting posts whenever I feel the urge, with the plan of bringing the blog back “when I’m able to accomplish X.” Yesterday, I realized that kind of conditional thinking is a great way to never actually re-launch the site, so I might as well just go for it now, while I feel like I have some momentum. This is a year for fresh starts, so I plunked down some tax return dollars on a new WordPress theme and spent the evening tweaking it.

BSV Round 2 is going to be a bit different than it was before. It’s really important to me that blogging never feels like a job or a chore or something I have to do, so I’m making some changes and adjusting my vision. This is what I have in mind:

I AM going to:

  • Throw away the editorial calendar and write the posts I want to write, when I want to write them
  • Keep trying to write about books in fresh ways. This means fewer traditional reviews and more engaging approaches to talking about books
  • Cut down on the number of books I request/accept for review consideration. To reduce the pressure and the number of “meh” books I read, I’m going to try to stick to new books from authors I already love and maybe the very occasional book that has been exceptionally, glowingly blurbed by authors I respect
  • Make an effort to engage with bloggers more; I really let this slide while on hiatus, and I’m excited to get back into reading blogs!

I am NOT going to:

  • Hold myself to any type of schedule; my goal is to write one or two posts per week, but I’m not going to stress myself out about it
  • Write about every book I read. If I don’t have something to say about a title, or I can’t come up with an interesting way to discuss it, I’m not going to waste my own (or readers’) time by trying to force it
  • Participate in as many memes. When I’m not reading multiple books a week, it doesn’t make sense to do What I’m Reading Monday posts. I was never very guilty of the following, but I’m also not going to rely on Top Ten Tuesdays as a way to fatten up my posting schedule

Basically, my goal is to focus less on arbitrary notions of what a book blog SHOULD be and more on what makes me happy and inspired. To borrow a lyric from Hamilton (because that is what my life is now), my blogging motto is basically going to be, “No stress, my love for you is never in doubt.” I’ll read and write some blog posts, and I’ll figure it out.

*Guys, I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I’m apparently still a twelve-year-old suburbanite who gets Without Me stuck in my head on a regular basis.

(Officially) Taking a Blogging Break

A belated happy new year, booklings! And while we’re on the topic of things “belated,” I must apologize that this post is coming rather later than it should have. As many of you know, the last six months of my life have been filled with earth-shifting changes, and although I held the blog together pretty well at first, I haven’t had the time or brain-space to write, or even to read very much.

It feels slightly surreal to look back at the changes of 2015. I spent most of the year unemployed after being laid off from my office job in late 2014, broke up with my boyfriend of nearly six years in July, moved out of the apartment we had shared together, spent a few months living in the spare bedroom of incredibly generous friends, started dating someone new (a fellow bookworm who claims allegiance to houses Hufflepuff and Stark), started working two part-time jobs (as a sales associate at LOFT and a page at the library downtown), and moved into a new apartment (where I finally have a space to call my own) with two lovely roommates. It was the most challenging, discouraging, and terrifying year of my life so far, but it was also the most momentous. 2015 taught me more than I ever could have expected — about myself, life, love, and friendship. I feel stronger in my convictions, my sense of self, and my resilience. My life kind of fell apart in 2015, but I’m slowly rebuilding it and allowing it to take on exciting new shapes.

This is all wonderful, but it hasn’t been super conducive to running a blog. What little reading I’ve done has mainly been for comfort — re-reads of Tiny Beautiful ThingsWhen Women Were BirdsHarry Potter, etc. I’m woefully out of touch with the blogging/publishing community, and my reviewer hat doesn’t seem to fit right now. So although the blog has been quiet for more than two months, I’m finally, officially, taking a break.

Thank you to everyone who has shared kind words and messages of support over the last few months. I love you all, and I hope to be back when things calm down a bit! Until then, happy reading.

Much love,

Leah

What I’m Reading Monday, October 19

Happy Monday, booklings! Can I take a moment to talk about how glorious the fall weather is around here? It’s chilly but not cold, the leaves have turned the most beautiful colors, the afternoon light has the most glorious golden quality, and the biggest sartorial choice I have to make each day is which flannel shirt I want to layer over a tee. I want it to stay like this always.

It was another fairly slow reading week for me, despite the fantastic quality of my books. I finished up The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which was really wonderful; as with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I just wanted to start the whole book over again as soon as I finished.

I also read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and you guysssss. It was so beautiful. I think I loved it even more than Interpreter of Maladies.

I unofficially participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday, but the day was pretty much a lost cause; I only spent four hours reading and passed out at 12:30. I didn’t even manage to read the insanely short The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Alas, I can’t win every time, and I can’t say I’m too disappointed with how I spent my day.

Next up is This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper!

What are you reading this week?

Four Favorite Fall Releases

Although I’ve stepped back from reviewing new releases in the last few months, the fall books I have managed to read so far have been excellent! Here’s a quick look at four of my favorites:

Fortune Smiles by Adam JohnsonFortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

Publisher: Random House
Release Date: August 18, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

Fresh off the heels of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Orphan Master’s Son, Anthony Johnson is back with an excellent short story collection. In “George Orwell Was a Friend of Mine,” a former warden of an East German Stasi prison denies the crimes of his past and tries to convince tourists that no wrong-doing was committed. In “Dark Meadow,” a pedophile grapples with his desires while using his computer skills to fight child pornography. Mixing humor with darkness and despair, Fortune Smiles is sometimes deeply uncomfortable to read but compelling nonetheless.

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Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill CleggDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Books
Release Date: September 8, 2015
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher

The night before her daughter’s wedding, June Reid loses everyone she cares about in a horrific gas explosion. Devastated, she sets off across the country to heal and start anew. Although this story alone would make for a beautiful, gut-wrenching book, Did You Ever Have a Family isn’t just a portrayal of a woman dealing with tragedy; using a rotating cast of memorable characters, Clegg paints a portrait of a small Connecticut town with it’s tangled relationships, unique social dynamics, and racial tensions. One of my favorite books of the year, this novel is heartbreaking, poignant, and ultimately uplifting.

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Fates and Furies by Lauren GroffFates and Furies by Lauren Groff 

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Pages: 392
Source: Publisher

One of the biggest books of fall, Fates & Furies is a dazzling portrait of a marriage. When the novel opens, Lotto and Mathilde are newly married and passionately in love — but as the decades pass, the cracks in their relationship, the secrets and resentments roiling beneath the surface, are revealed. Although the first half of the novel, told from Lotto’s perspective, is less than spectacular, the second half, presenting Mathilde’s point of view, blows it out of the water. Wildly inventive and poetically written, Groff’s newest novel takes on a legendary feel with its vibrant characters, unique format, and and mythological allusions.

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Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye WatkinsGold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher

In a near-future California devastated by drought, Luz and Ray squat in an abandoned mansion, avoiding evacuation to a camp for as long as possible. Living on love and rationed cola, the couple are content eking out a meager living until they cross paths with a baby with strange blue-gray eyes and translucent skin. To give the child a better life, they set out across the desert in search of greener pastures. Emily St. John Mandel‘s post-apocalyptic vision meets Karen Russell‘s sparkling sentences to make Gold Fame Citrus a stunning work of fiction. Although the ending doesn’t quite hit the right note, this is a gripping novel with heart-stopping twists and a hearty dose of environmentalism. It’s totally bonkers and crazy good.

What’s the best new book you’ve read this fall?

What I’m Reading Tuesday, October 13

Hello booklings! Columbus Day totally threw me off, and I didn’t manage to get my “what I’m reading” post up yesterday, but better late than never, right?

I’m still in a bit of a reading slump, but it has nothing to do with the quality of the books I’m reading. The books are wonderful, but I’m having trouble finding the motivation to sit down and read them. I finished up The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, which was really excellent. Nearly a week later, I still have a lot to mull over. I also made it halfway through The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra, which is every bit as fantastic as I had been hoping. He somehow manages to deliver pithy one-liners while also tugging at all of my heartstrings as he writes about the ravages of war.

On audio, I’m slowly making my way through The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. It’s great, but possibly not the best thing to listen to while running in the park on gorgeous fall days; I keep getting distracted by shin splints and pretty fall foliage, and I miss important parts of the story.

Here’s hoping things pick up a bit more next week!

What are you reading this week?

Audiobook Mini Reviews

I have been in a pretty major blogging slump for the last few months, and the number of books I have read but neglected to review is frankly embarrassing. To close that gap a little bit, I’d like to share mini reviews of some of the fantastic audiobooks I’ve listened to lately!

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NgEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 292 pages | 10 hours, 1 minute
Source: Audible

When the body of Lydia Lee, the favorite daughter of a mixed race couple in 1970s Ohio, is discovered at the bottom of the local lake, her already fractured family is shaken to its core. Long-buried secrets rise to the surface and hidden tensions are revealed as her parents and two siblings grapple with the tragedy.

Written in beautiful prose, Everything I Never Told You is an intimate portrait of all the things that go unsaid within a family, from racial tensions, impossible expectations, to pressure to succeed in particular ways.

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Modern Romance by Aziz AnsariModern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

Narrator: Aziz Ansari
Publisher: The Penguin Press | Penguin Audio
Pages / Hours: 277 pages | 6 hours, 14 minutes
Source: Scribd

Aziz Ansari has incorporated romance into his comedy for years, but in Modern Romance, he teams up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg to take an analytical approach to dating in the age of Tinder. Narrated with Ansari’s trademark humor, this book looks at how dating and marriage have changed in the past 50 years, the experiences of modern daters, and the romantic cultures of different cities around the world.

Funny, informative, and thought-provoking, this was an oddly comforting book to read in the wake of my breakup a few months ago.

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The Engagements by J. Courtney SullivanThe Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Publisher: Vintage | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 528 pages | 16 hours, 50 minutes
Source: Scribd

When advertising copywriter Frances Garety scribbls the phrase “A diamond is forever” on a slip of paper in 1947, she has no idea the slogan will change the way Americans think about diamond engagement rings. The Engagements tells Frances’ fascinating story, as well as the tales of four couples whose lives are linked by a single ring: Evelyn is struggling to accept her low-life son’s divorce; James can’t live up to the expectations of his wife’s family; Delphine takes revenge on her unfaithful fiance by destroying the things he loves the most; and Kate, happily partnered but vehemently anti-marriage, helps her cousin prepare for his wedding.

With compelling details and vibrant characters, The Engagements explores the history of the diamond engagement ring and the complexities of romantic relationships.

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeerAnnihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Narrator: Carolyn McKormick
Publisher: FSG | Blackhouse Audio
Pages / Hours: 195 pages | 6 hours
Source: Scribd

For decades, Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world by a nearly impenetrable border. The first exhibition sent to explore reported a landscape completely reclaimed by nature; the second exhibition committed suicide; and the members of the third exhibition turned on each other. Now, the Southern Reach has assembled a twelfth expedition team, made up of a biologist, a psychologist, an anthropologist, and a surveyor. Narrated by the biologist, Annihilation takes readers (and listeners) through a mysterious land complete with dangerous creatures and unreliable characters.

Annihilation is intriguing and suspenseful, but too little is resolved in the end for it to be satisfying. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering it’s the first book in a trilogy, but after listening to (and being entirely bored with) more than half of the second book, Authority, I gave up on the series.

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Circling the Sun by Paula McLainCircling the Sun by Paula McLane

Narrator: Katharine McEwan
Publisher: Ballantine Books | Random House Audio
Pages / Hours: 384 pages | 12 hours, 16 minutes
Source: Scribd

Growing up in colonial Kenya, Beryl Markham has a rather unusual childhood. She fearlessly rides the racehorses her father trains, plays with the native Kipsigis children, and rebels against her governess’ attempts to turn her into a proper young lady. But when everything falls apart, she is forced to grow up too quickly and enters a disastrous marriage — the first of many doomed relationships. Struggling to retain her independence and sense of self, she makes a name for herself as a racehorse trainer and falls in with a decadent crowd of European expats, including Karen Blixen (author of Out of Africa) and Denys Finch Hatton, who helps her realize her desire to become a pilot.

Glamorous, spirited, and heartbreaking, Circling the Sun is a stunning portrait of a trailblazing woman and the colorful expat community of 1920s Kenya.