Reading Pet Peeves Part I

I have always been a reader. They say that if you do something for 10,000 hours that you are an expert so that basically makes me a professional reader. Naturally, if you are an expert at anything, you are bound to find things about the activity that you just can’t stand.

Reading pet peeves…or in this case publishing pet peeves.

Although we are conditioned not to judge a book by it’s cover, I enjoy judging covers. I love book covers and all the work that goes into them. I always get excited when a book is republished with a new cover. I even collect different editions of the same book to admire all the different covers. BUT THIS:

This is simply unforgivable.

I noticed these books while I was in Target, and it really got me thinking about how angry this makes me. I am not opposed to books getting new covers. I often love new covers more than the original, but there is something so gross to me about a movie poster being advertised while pretending to be a book cover.

As if it’s not painful enough that most adaptations miss the point of the book, but changing the cover or even the title of the book to match the movie adds insult to injury. I find it very irritating when a movie adaptation has a different title than it’s source material, but there are cases when it’s understandable. I can understand why filmmakers don’t want to release a new movie titled “between shades of gray.” They obviously want to avoid confusion with 50 Shades of Grey-I get it. There is no reason however that poor Between Shades of Gray has to be republished for the rest of it’s days as Ashes in the Snow.

Now onto the movie posters. In both examples of Between Shades of Gray and Dumplin’ Go Big or Go Home, the original artwork of the book cover is far superior to the movie poster.

Just look at the original cover for Dumplin’, it tells you everything you need to know about the book. It has subtly, it captures Murphy’s spirit and sense of humor. It shows the triumphant and trailblazer attitude of Dumplin’ with her hands in the air. What does the movie poster tell you? Absolutely nothing. It is a close up picture of a girl. It could be someone’s senior portrait.

This happens all the time! Hollywood takes our books, slaps actors on the cover, and tries to sell them to us again. I never buy a book with actors on the cover, and I never will. The only time I can remember a movie poster being batter than the original book cover is Lolita, but that’s the exception not the rule.

The point is, I think that movie poster covers take away from my reading experience. The next time you’re in Barnes and Noble or Target, I promise you that you’ll find more examples. They’re everywhere!

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney: A Mini Book Review

I like to go into books pretty blind. I plan on writing about my thoughts on death of the author philosophy vs. authorial intent, but for now just know that I like to go into newly published books without much para text. My goal for my mini reviews is to give you just enough vague intrigue to try out these books for yourself without knowing too much of the plot.

Sometimes I Lie is Feeney’s debut novel that was published in 2018. It has been most commonly tagged as a thriller or suspense novel. I would call it more of a puzzle, but that’s not an official genre now is it?

The novel follows the protagonist Amber who is narrating the events from the unconsciousness of a coma. The chapters alternate from the present time, the week leading up to her coma, and a diary from 1992. Amber is desperately trying to remember what caused her to be in this coma, and she suspects foul play from those closest to her.

I normally do not enjoy thriller novels. I always read them with high hopes, but end up being disappointed in the story or the writing itself. I feel like a lot of the thriller novels that have come forth in this post Gone Girl surge has very cheesy writing. However, I really enjoyed Sometimes I Lie.

This is a really quick read! The chapters are really short so it was very easy for me to read the book in one sitting. Each of the timelines was gripping, and the twists and turns kept me guessing until the end. On the negative side, I didn’t really feel any strong connection to the characters and the end was a little lack luster.

Overall, this book is thoroughly enjoyable and genuinely was able to surprise me with some reveals. I give the book 3 stars and encourage you to check it out! I recommend you read this when you’re burned out on Netflix and need a quick read in a bubble bath.

Why I Begin a Book by Reading the Last Page

Ever since I was old enough to read my first chapter book (undoubtedly Junie B. Jones) I just couldn’t wait to get to the ending.

Endings are very important to me. I have a list of the last lines spoken or written in all my favorite books and TV shows. I’m not sure what that says about me, but here I am. The last line of a book has the power to transform the reader’s opinion of the entire work. I have loved books the whole way through, only to be betrayed in the final moment, being left with a bitter taste in my mouth. I have also read books that were just “okay” until a fantastic closing line changed my mind. Endings are very important to me.

It should come as no surprise to you by now that when browsing through a bookstore I begin reading the book’s final paragraph instead of the back cover or inside flap. I know what you’re thinking: “But doesn’t that spoil the book for you?”

I have never once been able to understand important details from a closing paragraph. I don’t yet know the characters, setting, or plot. What the closing paragraph reveals to me is much more important; it gives me a sense of what type of journey I’m about to experience along side the characters. If the last moments of the journey intrigue me, I’m more excited to go back and find out how the journey began.

Going into a book completely blind to all details except the ending makes the book all the more powerful. When I read about the characters going through the events of the story, even while knowing what’s to come, I hope that somehow the last page was wrong. That somehow these characters will find a way to rewrite that final page, only to arrive at the same ending i began with, but now I fully understand it and feel a sense of loss, or triumph, or even peace.

Arriving at a sad ending, despite knowing it the whole time fills me with a sense of hope and new understanding and appreciation for the journey. In a way it transforms even the saddest ending into a bittersweet closing.

A great example of the power of reading an ending first comes from John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony. When I began the book with the closing moments of the boy making himself lemonade, it had virtually no impact on me. I then went on to go through the story seeing the boy grow and develop, and with each tragedy that happened to him I knew he was one step closer to the earthly confidence and strength to produce a glass of lemonade. When I arrived at the ending again, I had a more heightened sense of pride for this boy and what he had been through.

Like I said, endings are very important to me. The unyielding hope I experience from knowing the ending of a book reminds me of why I love books so much– even though books transport you to other people’s minds, other countries, or other worlds entirely–what truly marks a good book is the experience, heart, soul…the human aspect of it all.

Embarrassing Books I Loved in Middle School

Okay, we all have those books that we loved as preteens that are just embarrassing to admit now. I read all the time in middle school. It was a time in my life where there were endless literary choices, and most of the literary choices I made were…pretty cringe worthy. I genuinely loved each of these books at the time (and secretly still do).

1) Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

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Technically this isn’t a book. This is a massive, never-ending, life consuming series. I have been known to humble-brag that I was a PLL fan before it was turned into a (also iconic) TV show. If you saw me anywhere from the ages of 11 to 16, chances are I had one of these books in my hand. Of course I didn’t know going into the first book it was going to be a decade long commitment. The truth is that after the first 8 installments of the series I felt like I was in a bad marriage. I grew to hate these juicy books I once loved, but kept reading out of pure obligation. The 4 liars I rooted for reluctantly in the beginning slowly turned into far worse people than A ever was. Spencer Hastings was especially irritating! Spencer could never figure out who she wanted to be, and her motivations changed abruptly between each entry. A long journey it was indeed. 19 books, 8 years, 3 A’s, and 2 Alisons all cultivated into one disappointing conclusion. Looking back, it seems as if we were fooled by that sneaky Sara Shepard. She had us on the hook for 8 years and nearly 20 books before she revealed who murdered Alison. 

2) The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

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This is another YA book series I lived for in middle school. I begged my school librarian to pre-order each entry of this summer romance trilogy so I could read them fresh off the presses. Jenny Han was already my favorite author (Shug was my jam). In 6th grade I even wrote Jenny Han a fan letter begging her to get Shug adapted into a movie and to cast me as Anne-Marie…that’s how movie casting works right? Before Netflix adapted To All the Boys I Loved Before, Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty was every 13 year old’s relationship goals. The protagonist Belly is a fellow freckle face who spends every summer at a beach house with her family and her mom’s best friend’s family. She has grown up with Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher, and they’ve always looked at her like a sister, but this summer things change when she’s suddenly hot. Over the series Belly is torn between the two gorgeous brothers. Conrad is older, troubled, moody, and shows little interest in Belly (even while dating her). Jeremiah is funny, cute, sweet, and a much more stable, better choice for Belly. For the record, #teamconrad4ever. I loved these books so much at the time. They had summer romance, really funny moments, and a lot of heart. However, I can’t help but look back and think of how problematic the brother love triangle is! I mean, Belly is in serious relationships with both brothers practically at the same time.      

3) The Boy Who Sneaks in my Bedroom Window by Kirsty Moseley

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While the first two series on this list where very cool books in their time, and are still justifiably lovable; this one was embarrassing to read even at the time. The plot had so much potential, only to quickly slip into soap opera material that a 12 year old would secretly write after a late night marathon of Degrassi. The protagonist, Amber suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her father when she was a child. In order to cope with the abuse her next door neighbor, Liam sneaks into her bedroom every night of comfort her to sleep, even years after her father is out of the picture. Sounds interesting right? That’s what I thought. However, this book has a TON of issues. Amber suffers from a common YA literary trope of “I’m so unbelievably hot that every man I ever come into contact with attempts to attack me.” The amount of times Liam, or her brother have to rescue her from a creepy man is ridiculous. The book fails to ever really flesh out the characters, reflect on the abuse, or take advantage of a good set up. Oh, and there’s the whole teen pregnancy is a happily ever after, problem solving, fairy tale ending thing. That was an interesting choice. I knew this book was cringe-worthy even in middle school, yet I still find myself loving the initial idea.

4) Talent by Zoey Dean

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If The Boy Who Sneaks in my Bedroom Window is Degrassi, then Talent is the classic, Degrassi Goes Hollywood. In this YA series (are you sensing a pattern here?) local L.A middle school girl named Mac discovers Hollywood’s next big thing. Mac spots Emily who is visiting Los Angeles from Iowa. Convinced she’s the mini Meryl Streep, Mac convinces Emily to move to L.A and becomes her manager. It’s a dream come true for Emily, but becoming an instant success in Hollywood is harder than she and Mac thought. This series is about pursuing big dreams, backstabbing, but most of all friendship. I loved these books because I could slip away into the fantasy that I was Emily being swept up in the Hollywood glamour. Although looking back now, it’s crazy that a 12 year old was able to convince countless movie industry professionals that she was Emily’s manager. But I guess that 12 year olds probably do look much older in L.A. It was truly a tragedy when the fourth book in this series was never published, leaving us all wondering what happened to our two main starlets. This series wasn’t realistic, but it was a very harmless, wholesome series that will make any young dreamer want to keep reading.

Although these books are embarrassing for me to admit loving as a brace faced preteen, I still do have a special place in my heart for all of these books. I think it’s silly to ever regret a book I’ve read. Each book I read becomes a part of me. These books especially give me that warm nostalgic feeling from a simpler time, but one I’m definitely glad I’m beyond now.

What are some of your most embarrassing literary loves from middle school?