White Oleander Discussion-ish

If you were not aware, I am on another 50 books in a year challenge. The rules are that they need to come from the library in the category they assigned, so that we can expand our horizons.

One of the categories was a book club book, and to participate in the discussion. Problem is I live in cowland, Idaho with one book club…at the library…that meets when I work. So, a loophole needed to be found. That’s how I figured I would read White Oleander by Janet Fitch. On its cover, it proclaimed to be part of the Oprah Book Club, and this is how I am participating in the discussion: a blog post. So, let’s get to it:

(One side note, I owned this book. And I have no idea where it came from)

White Oleander follows a young girl, Astrid, as she hops around the foster care system while her mother serves time in prison for murdering her ex-boyfriend. Each home she goes to presents new problems, new trials, and new opportunities for her to learn about herself.

This story was, like, the ultimate nightmare of a foster child. But let’s start with her mother. In another online book club I looked into (found here), someone speculated that Ingrid, Astrid’s mother, is only pleased when everyone is in pain. This is shown through her own internal torture of being an artist. She aims to make Astrid an exact mold of herself, to suffer for her art. And when her ex-lover becomes happy away from her, she kills him. Now, for this last part, I have something to add. In my opinion, she recognized that she didn’t suffer around him, that happiness was hypnotic, and he was not to be happy when she was to suffer again. Ingrid was a character to be loathed, though others felt pity as well. Personally, I don’t pity someone who goes out of their way to make others suffer.

Anyway, back to the ultimate nightmare. Astrid was tossed from foster home to foster home, and each one was hell on earth in their own ways. The first was by her own design, in a way, and ended with her getting shot by her foster mom. The second treated her like slave by a racist foster mom, she was attacked by a dog, and was finally just kicked out. The third home, called the starvation home, could’ve been cut out, honestly. It had very little time to develop, and served no purpose. It seemed just to show another aspect of suffering. The fourth home was her best home, with a foster mom who cared. However, things unhinged, especially after a trip to visit Ingrid in prison, and the foster mom eventually committed suicide. Astrid was sent to her final home in a home of immigrants making all kinds of side hustles.

In the end, Astrid aged out of the system, is living in Berlin with her boyfriend, a foster kid she met at the orphanage, and Ingrid was released from prison.

There’s a lot to talk about with this story. Something to address is that this took place in the 90s, when the foster care system was still kind of shit. While there are many many people who want to foster and adopt for good reasons, there are some bad apples in the bunch. Astrid just happened to be placed with a punch of bad apples.

This whole book was about three things, in my opinion: suffering, a mother figure, and self. Those three were prevalent in each and every home (except the starvation home, which doesn’t exist). Ingrid had instilled these messed up morals involving these three things in Astrid. She showed Astrid that everyone needs to suffer, tried to make Astrid a carbon copy rather than letting her be her own person, and was a lousy mother, at one point leaving her with the neighbors for over a year so she can party in Mexico (I think it was Mexico?). Astrid tried to figure out who she was outside of her mother at each home, and through suffering she was able to learn more. As well, in each home she tried to figure out what is a mother figure.

In conclusion (of my TED talk, thanks for coming), suffering helps you learn, but it’s not to dictate your life/happiness. You are your own person, even if it takes years to figure out who that person is. A mother figure doesn’t have to be a mother, or a woman, or a person at all. It’s whatever nurtures you.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. Yes, it was a bit farfetched, melodramatic, and yikes-worthy. However, it was well-written and presented the story amazingly. Yes, I loathe some of the characters. However, there was no perfect person, no hero, and personalities galore.

I would recommend this, but I do have to warn there is some underage things that happen. It’s a definite rated-R, and occasionally rated-Gross.

And because I wrote this, I am not including this in the book club post at the end of the month.

See you next time.

Hugs

Alexandra

April Book Club

Well, how about that.

I was able to read the four books I had actually planned. So, let’s get into this:

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This appealed to me after multiple reviews and sources compared her writing to Agatha Christie. I love Christie and her writing, so I gave this a shot. I can understand why they said that; it was very Christie-esque. Though, the ending was much more predictable than Christie ever was. It was a much better mystery than a lot of the modern books today. I do recommend it if you like mysteries.

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

This was a yard sale find, and the summary on the back of the book drew me in to buy it. The beginning was fascinating! And that’s the only good thing I can say about it. It started with such promise, then it just got long winded and boring and confusing. Great concept, poor execution. Nah, I don’t recommend this one.

The Outsider by Stephen King

Guys, I found this at my local bookstore for 50 cents! And I wanted to read more Stephen King, so what a good place to start. This was actually more of a murder mystery/suspense than sci fi or horror. Of course, with King, there’s a supernatural element to it, but it just adds to the mystery of it all. The characters were great, the story was great, and I was itching to know what happened next. If you like a good suspense, I do recommend this.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

John Green recommended this book in a vlogbrothers video, and it seemed up my alley. Also, I found this book for 50 cents at the local bookstore. I’ve been so lucky finding these books around. I read this in one sitting, finishing at 2 in the morning because I couldn’t put it down. It was raw and true and I connected with it. This may be a new favorite. I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.

For May, I plan to read five books: The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, Home by Julie Andrews, and The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis.

See you at next month’s book club!

Book Club x2

Because the end of February was a wash, I’m gonna combine February and March’s book club.

In February I read:

The Burn Journals by

I remember hearing about this in my YA lit class in college, and I thought I’d give it a try. This was one of the realest YA nonfiction I have ever read. With that said, I definitely do not recommend it to those under the age of 16. Though the narrator was 14 when this event happened to him, it contains very adult writing and graphic language. But it was still an incredible story, amazingly written, and very real. I think because it was so real I loved it even more.

The Bird Box by

I was interested after the Netflix movie came out (haven’t seen it) and another friend of mine remembers being scared shitless reading it. But I was…bored. A fascinating concept; I LOVE the concept. Maybe I was bored with the writing style. That’s personal preference, though.

Fifty-Fifty by James Patterson

Full disclosure, I was stuck in a WalMart for three hours with only my wallet and phone (taking care of auto stuff). I’d rather not waste my battery, so I decided to go into WalMart and buy a book. My local WalMart is small compared to super centers, so the book selection was slim. This was the only book that sparked any sort of interest, so I got it. Read it. Turned out to be quite good. The characters weren’t my favorite, but the story was so interesting that I kept with it. Good for suspense and thriller lovers.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by

I was interested in the story after seeing Tim Burton’s film adaptation with Johnny Depp. And um. Um. Burton definitely took creative liberty with characters and story. Honestly, disappointed with the original story. I prefer Ichabod being a scared detective than a flirtatious schoolteacher. And I definitely prefer the legend of the Hessian being vengeful than…whatever that was they had him in the story. Movie over book in this occurrence.

In March I read:

The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef

One of the classics I enjoyed in school was Frankenstein and Mary Shelley always seemed like an odd but brilliant lady. This was a new book in the public library, so I decided to check it out. And I’m glad I did! As I thought, she was an odd and brilliant lady, and there was so much more to her than writing a brilliant gothic novel. She’s definitely a female writer we should learn more about.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Pretty obvious why I wanted to read this book: I love the movie so much. Starting the book was just a wee confusing because of the structure, with Goldman ‘revising’ a piece by S. Morgenstern and adding commentary asides. Once I understood that aspect, I was able to get into the book easily. And the novel is hilarious. It has every bit of charm the movie possesses, with the added bonus of more scenes (because novel versus book, y’know). If you liked the movie, you’ll love the book.

And in next month’s agenda

I am planning, in April, to read The Woman in Cabin 10 by , I Am Pilgrim by , Speak by , and The Outsider by Stephen King. Some longer books coming up, so don’t be too shocked if I only finish 3 in April rather than the goal of 4.

Let me know if you read or have read any of these books; I would love to know what you think. I’m not afraid of different opinions.

Hugs

Alexandra

You Are a Badass

One of the books I read in January (book club post here) was You Are a Badass by Jen Sencaro. I greatly enjoyed the book, and wanted to give some thoughts about why you are a badass.

Watching someone else totally go for it can be incredibly upsetting to the person who’s spent a lifetime building a solid case for why they themselves can’t.

I felt this as a personal attack. All of my friends are incredible at what they have set for themselves. And then there’s me. I am incredibly upset (at myself) when others go for it, only because I convince myself I can’t.

It’s just as easy to believe we’re awesome as it is to believe we’re giant sucking things.

It takes the same amount of brain power. So utilize it for something fulfilling.

We are all perfect in our own magnificent, fucked-up ways.

One of my favorite quotes in the whole book. We are magnificent, we are fucked up, we are us.

Do not waste your precious time giving one single crap about what anybody else thinks of you. 

This was in all caps, so it must be important. I think too much about what others think of me. It’s what I set for myself after traumatic bullying. But so much of my own limited time was spent worrying about someone else when I should have been worrying about me.

THE FOLLOWING IS HUGELY IMPORTANT SO PLEASE PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION: You have to change your thinking first, and then the evidence appears. Our big mistake is that we do it the other way around. We demand to see the evidence before we believe it to be true.

I love the way she wrote important messages. I do make the mistake of acting on evidence before faith when it comes to my self worth. Time to change.

Forgiveness is all about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive. 

Forgive. Let yourself heal; who cares what happens to them afterward. It’s hard, impossible some may say. I’m well aware. But it lets me take care of myself, not letting the other off the hook or giving them my happiness.

Because so often when we say we’re unqualified for something, what we’re really saying is that we’re too scared to try it, not that we can’t do it. 

Another personal attack. Although, I have been getting a lot better at changing this, and I wanted you guys to be aware of what you may be too afraid to do too.

Do what you can in joy, instead of trying to do it all in misery. 

Working in joy helps better your overall attitude and helps it go by easier. I’ve had jobs I loathed, and I’ve spread that complaining to my family and friends. It’s not good for anyone, especially me. A better job and a better confidence comes when you find even the smallest joy and focus on it, rather than letting the overall misery be its defining factor.

Never apologize for who you are. It lets the whole world down. 

Boom. No more needs to be said.

The only failure is quitting. Everything else is just gathering information. 

Another favorite quote. Everything is learning. You are doing better than before; the only way you don’t is when you quit.

New level, new devil. 

Life.

50 Books in a Year

For someone who loves to read as much as I do, this was tough.

Is it because I work? Is it because I had other hobbies like crafting or making videos or blogging? Is it because of pure procrastination or laziness?

Yes. All the above.

But I did it!

I read 50 books this year and decided to tell you a bit about it. And by that I mean I’m going to tell what books were amazing and what books you should avoid at all costs.

5 STARS

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie–not a surprise. I love the lady.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I was not expecting to like this as much as I did. Plot twist, it’s actually amazing.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. You wanna know what depression is like? Boom, you have an inside look. Beautifully written.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom. The title was intriguing and I gave it a shot. I loved his writing so much I read four more books of his this year.

0 STARS

*disclaimer: these books were ones I found awful, but if you love it then go ahead! I’m just talking about my personal opinion*

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar by Jennifer Laam. As someone who researched the Romanovs, this book got me in the cringe-gut. Also the plot wasn’t well done.

Red Rain by R.L. Stine. He needs to stick with the juvenile books. Adult books are not his forte (or what he’s good at).

A Perfect Wife and Mother by Alexandra Frye. What a fascinating concept with the absolute worst set of characters ever written.

These books were just examples. There were more 5 starred pieces, and unfortunately more 0 starred pieces.

I enjoyed reading. I discovered a new favorite author. I found tremendous books, and read stuff I’ve been meaning to for the longest time.

However, to be on a weird time crunch, I was too stressed and didn’t even want to read anymore.

Read because you want to when you feel like it. Don’t be pressured (unless you’re in school; can’t help you there).

Hugs

Alexandra

Books to Read Around Halloween

Are you a big bookworm like me? Do you want to get into the spooky spirit?

Well, let me give you some recommendations!

  • Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe. Or anything by Poe. He’s the perfect author to read around Halloween. True haunts. And a spooky list would be incomplete without my fave.
  • Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. Or basically anything by Stephen King. Much like Poe, he give you true haunts.
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker. A true classic horror.
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Another true classic horror.
  • The Omen by David Seltzer. Based off the movie (like a true twist), it’s a pretty frightening supernatural horror.
  • Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie. It is not a true horror/suspense list without my homegirl. Be prepared to not figure anything out again!
  • Stardust by Terry Pratchet. A mild book comparatively, but this book has its fair share of witches and ghosts.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It’s a dark fantasy involving a carnival. Have chills run down your spine yet?

I have many more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long list. Especially since we only have a week until Halloween.

Enjoy some literary haunts!

Hugs and Spooks

Alexandra

Books Books and, well, More Books

I don’t know about you guys, but I love to read.

This year, the local library has created a challenge to read 50 library books in the 12 months of 2018. The reason I underline ‘library’ is because one part of the challenge is that the books need to be checked out from the library. There are prompts for every book, such as ‘a book with magic in it’ or ‘a book by an author that shares your name’ or ‘a book written before you were born’. Those who accepted the challenge was given a notebook with the prompts, and it is our job to read and fill the notebook however we want. I actually fill it with quotes I’ve enjoyed from the book.

However, I present a couple of problems, personally. First, I have a shit-ton of books in my personal library I left unread. I did find a solution, though, by checking out copies of books I own so I can read my books and fulfill the challenge.

Second, the time table. Geez-a-loo, the books I want to read are Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Dan Brown. Basically, long books. Or classics. I finished Beowulf not too long ago. The point is, I’m behind on my reading. Seven books behind. Oh my.

So, I decided to buckle down and do a personal book club. Every month on my YouTube channel, I’m gonna talk about the books I read that month. (June’s video is here). I figured that if I talk about my progress, it would kick my ass into high gear so I can read more.

Also, I have created a schedule to finish books, giving myself a deadline for all the books I am planning to read. And if you’d like to speed-read along with me, here’s the list:

  1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini–deadline 4 July
  2. The Mirror Crack’d by Agatha Christie–6 July
  3. Dracula by Bram Stoker–10 July
  4. Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner–13 July
  5. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd–16 July
  6. Elephants Can Remember by Agatha Christie–23 July
  7. Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe–24 July
  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling–28 July
  9. Life of Pi by Yann Martel–2 August
  10. A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks–5 August
  11. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey–8 August
  12. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie–10 August
  13. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury–13 August
  14. The Road by Cormac McCarthy–18 August
  15. The Princess Bride by William Goldman–22 August
  16. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde–26 August
  17. Holes by Louis Sachar–29 August

That’s right, folks. Seventeen books in two months.

Do you think I can do it?

Do you have any recommendations for books I should also read? Who knows, it may fit into a prompt I haven’t thought about yet.

Anyway, sorry for the long post, but this is another way to get me responsible for completing the challenge. And it may give you some ideas of what to read next.

Good luck, if you choose to.

Hugs

Alexandra