Monday, November 8, 2010

NaNoReaMo 2010: Week 1 Recap

I finished four books during the first week of my month of reading; three of those books I read in the first three days (the fourth took longer because we had company and a wedding in the family over the weekend). I've noticed a couple things about using all my free time for reading: (1) Reading for fun makes me more productive when I work; and (2) I have been more relaxed during the last week than I have been in a long time because I'm spending more time doing what I love. So far, I'd say that NaNoReaMo is teaching me that I need to read like a fiend more often because feeding my joie de lire also feeds my joie de vivre.

The first book I read was The Shunning by Beverly Lewis, which is the first book in The Heritage of Lancaster County series. The book is about a woman who had been raised Amish, only to find out much right before her wedding day that her family had been keeping a secret from her for 22 years. I liked the book because the Amish lifestyle fascinates me, but I didn't like it enough to go out and get any of the other books in the series. While a lot of plot lines can be termed predictable, I've found there's a good predictable and a bad predictable. For me, a good predictable is one in which you can figure out the general direction of the plot from the beginning but are so in love with the characters and/or setting that you feel propelled to keep reading and, in fact, end up feeling like the plot is new even though you guessed from the beginning what might happen. On the other hand, a bad predictable is one in which you not only know what is going to happen, but you also end up rolling your eyes as what you guessed would happen actually happens. The Shunning bordered on "bad predictable" territory for me. I can see why people like Beverly Lewis's books--even if they are predictable, they are also satisfying--but her books will most likely never make one of my "favorites" lists.

The second book, Beastly by Alex Flinn, came highly recommended by participants of YALitChat on Twitter. It is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is set in modern-day New York and is told from the Beast's perspective. The beginning of the book enchanted me--I started reading it late at night, and even though I was tired, I literally had to force myself to put the book down. I was enjoying it so much that I made my husband listen to me talk about the book, which is something I don't do very often. One of my favorite things about the book is that the Beast (a.k.a. Kyle) joins a chat room for people who had been magically transformed. My favorite chatter is "Froggie" (who needs to be kissed by a princess to end his transformation); because he is typing with webbed feet, he often makes mistakes in his typing:

Froggie: stil no hop here. i meen ther is hop but not HOPE.
I am kind of hoping Froggie will get a book of his own... While I loved the beginning of the book, the plot fell apart for me when the girl came into the story. The Beast went from this wonderfully complex character to a flat stock character within one or two chapters. Maybe that says something about my reading tastes--I like the Beast better when he's mean than when he turns nice. Interesting...

After finishing Beastly, I read Skinny by Laura Smith, which is a novel that follows one girl's descent into an eating disorder. The portrayal of the main character, Melissa, and her struggle with trying to control her life through controlling her food intake is fascinating. Even though the book is Christian fiction, I would recommend it to anyone trying to understand what someone might be going through when they have an eating disorder. The resolution of the book came a little too quickly for my tastes, so I wouldn't label the book as wonderful or anything, but I do think it has a certain power from its honest look at a real problem.

Finally, I read Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, another book that came highly recommended by fellow YALitChat participants. This book was my favorite of my Week 1 books (and will most likely be a contender for my favorite book of November). Nick and Norah is an example of a good predictable--I had guessed from the beginning what would happen in the end, but I wanted to know all the details of how these two people got from point A to B. This is novel (a novel novel, if you will) in more than one way: the entire book takes place in one night; the story is told from two perspectives, with every chapter switching between the two as the story advances; and the plot feels real--I wouldn't have been surprised to find out that Nick and Norah were real people and that this was an autobiographical account of how they met. My hat goes off to Cohn and Levithan for writing such an incredible thought-driven journey. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I am excited that Michael Cera was cast as Nick (not just because I have a weird old-lady crush on him but also because as I read the book, I pictured him as Nick, and it just worked). Here are just a few of my favorite lines from the book:
"Sure thing," I tell him, even though Norah looks like the only use she has for the word fun is to make the word funeral.
"No!" Tony/Toni/Toné exclaims. "I saw the two of you canoodling. You're a regular Johnny Castle." I have no idea who Johnny Castle is, but I definitely approve of the name.
Sometimes when we slide together, we take a few seconds to separate ourselves. We're not to the point of deliberately touching again, but we're not about to turn down a good accident.
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist opens the dialogue between males and females--it's an exploration of the whole Mars versus Venus debate. Because we get to read the story from both their perspectives, it helps us better understand the magic of an incredibly good first date. My one warning label for the book is that it is rated R for language and content. If you are easily offended, you may not be able to enjoy the book; furthermore, I think many readers may find this book more appropriate for the 16 and above crowd. I honestly don't think I would have understood this book's brilliance if I had read it at too young of an age.

After such a strong Week 1, I hope my Week 2 will keep the reading energy flowing. Happy reading!

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