Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Silver's "One Pink Line" Deserves Plenty of Stars

I've already mentioned (over and over) how much I love the Kindle because it helps me discover new books. Several years ago, when I helped dear-old-dad buy Mom a Kindle I wasn't sure how she'd feel about the ad version, but she loves it. It's helped both of us discover new authors, Dina Silver being one of them.

I found One Pink Line via a Kindle ad and promptly downloaded the free preview. Within two pages I was hooked, impatiently waiting to download the rest (I wasn't linked to a wi-fi network at the time). I would never have guess this was Silver's first novel. The writing is tight, the story and characters engaging, and the ending beyond satisfying. Well, I guess it might not be the first book she's ever written, but it's her first published novel. 

Silver's two main characters, Sydney and Grace, are mother and daughter narrating from two different spaces. Sydney from her youth and journey to motherhood, and Grace from the midst of teenage angst, trying to understand herself. Throughout Sydney's journey she remains likable, despite her stumbles. When Sydney encounters roadblocks and hardship, she puts on her big girl pants and powers through life. In the same way that I related the Julie in Flat Out Love I could relate to Sydney (minus the unplanned pregnancy). Even though Sydney's story takes place in the early nineties, Grace and her millennial struggles bring the book to the forefront of my memories from adolescence. Though Grace's story is not a huge part of the novel, her discovery of Sydney's past operates as a vehicle for the reader.

But Silver's best character is Ethan. Sydney meets Ethan at a high school graduation party in the novel's first chapter, and it is their relationship which is the most fulfilling. Ethan's unconditional and constant love for Sydney puts many other literary heroes to shame. Ethan, as well as the whole book, turned out to be so surprising. Immediately upon meeting him, and then his seemingly snooty family, I expected Ethan to turn in to a typical college boy and leave Sydney heartbroken at the end of their first summer together. But unlike other books about the young adult experience (cough, Prep, cough), One Pink Line set up a heroic male character in an unexpected setting. His steadfastness and pure heart provided a wonderful depth to Dina's story. 

Dina Silver's novel makes for a quick, hearty read. I don't want the word "quick" to undercut the beauty of this book. There are few, if any, things I find lacking. The supporting characters who flesh out Sydney's family and friends are well-developed and warm. No plot point seems extraneous and the ending, while not totally unexpected, maintains a magic to it that makes me re-read the final chapter. 

p.s. In Flat Out Love news: Jessica Park published a novella, entitled Flat Out Matt that occurs simultaneous to the original, only this time from Matt's perspective. If only Christmas weren't right around the corner . . . Mom? Are you reading this?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Book Fairs & Reading Young

It's fall and if you're anything like me this weather makes you nostalgic for book fairs. I work at a small college with a big education program - meaning they host a book fair every year for their students and professors to stock up on children's books. When I was in elementary school, Book Fair week was the highlight of the school year. I can recall begging my parents for money the first day those shiny silver cases popped up in the school lobby. 

As a small child books thrilled me to no end - I have always loved reading - and yet I cannot tell you why. I just can't recall a time when I would have preferred another activity. Since getting married a few months ago and recently becoming an aunt I've begun to wonder what it is that made me like reading so much. My younger brothers certainly don't have a passion for it, and yet we came from the same two parents. Perhaps it's because I am female, making me less inclined to play video games, but I know plenty of women who like neither activity. And I also know men who like to read, just not my brothers. 

I wish I knew, because I want to impart a love of reading on my future children. In the past I never quite realized the magnitude of reading and writing as skills, perhaps because I've always loved both. I read as often as I brush my teeth (twice a day, sometimes three). I also struggle to figure out why people don't like to read. I can certainly see why you'd dislike a particular genre, but there are so many options! Traditional fiction, science fiction, fantasy, history, biography, children's, mystery, horror, romance . . . everyone should be able to find something they love.

Does anyone out there have some advice or perspective on young readers? How do you instill a love of reading when our culture is so full of other distractions and activities, many of which are not "exciting" to children? Perhaps I should work on a list of favorite children's books, maybe then I can squirrel it away for the future. 

p.s. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Effects of One Moment

After finishing Gone Girl I was ready for something light and happy. So I read Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos. It was a great book, and I will certainly read de los Santos again, but I read it within a few days and needed something else. Enter The Art of Fielding one of the books I bought a few weeks ago on my trip to Barnes & Noble. 

Despite being an excellent book, it wasn't exactly the pick me up I needed. While Chad Harbach's debut novel had an interesting hook: the impact one moment can have on the lives of many, I found myself wishing for a more hopeful ending. This is a character driven novel versus a plot driven story, and while I appreciate that method of story-telling, I can't come away saying I liked it. 

That being said, Fielding was packed with realistic and poignant characters. There was no antagonist, so every character was fighting against their own past and self-doubt. Each of the five principal characters narrate their own story following a young college short-stops catastrophic throw to first base. Henry, the short stop in question, begins as a naive high school student and transforms into a sure-footed potential major league draft pick, but he disintegrates into a shadow of himself. Not through want of trying, Henry struggles to overcome the psychological effects of expectation and pressure.

Henry's mentor, Mike Schwartz, must come to terms with his own failings and future - both of which are uncertain at the novels' beginning. Pella, the formerly estranged daughter of the college's president, stumbles in to Mike's life and together they form new paths. Despite being happy for Pella's return, President Affenlight is embroiled in a tumultuous relationship with student - a student who just happens to be Henry's roommate. The five characters, while their journeys are most certainly intertwined, fail at first to recognize the linkage between themselves. Once they realize the ripple effect of their actions are inescapable, the ending seems rather fortuitous. 

Please don't take this to mean I wouldn't recommend this book. Quite the contrary. I simply think I may have read it at the wrong time. In my desperation to perk up after the seriously frightening and somewhat depressing Gone Girl, Harbach's book was poor choice. It will certainly remain on my shelf though, just waiting for another chance to make a better impression. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

So Much to Read, So Little Time

Well over a year ago I noticed a headline on Entertainment Weekly indicating a new movie was in production called Winter's Tale. At the time, I believed this was to be a film version of the Shakespeare play, The Winter's Tale . Well, apparently I was fifty shades of wrong. The trailer was released and Shakespeare it is not. Everything about this trailer looks amazingly, stupendously magical - from the cast to the filmography to the costumes. 

And while it's not the work of Bill, turns out the movie is based on a novel of the same name. Which sort of leads me to the point of this post. Mark Helprin published this in 1983. I don't even think my parents had met in 1983, let alone had children, so clearly this book was written and published before I ever set foot on this planet. And certainly before I learned how to read. But the description of Winter's Tale is right up my alley - romance, historical setting, a time traveling magical twist - and I've never even heard of it! There seems to be a period time of from which I've never read. Sure, I've read many American classics taught in high school and college, but apparently the 1980's and 90's are lost on me. 

So now I feel like I have some catching up to do. Until now I'd consider myself relatively well read. At the moment I am reading The Art of Fielding, which was only published two years ago, and I'm still plodding through Anna Karenina. I try to read a variety of genres, but this discovery has me reeling. How can I hope to even make a dent in the world's library? Most of the books are my to-read list are old classics or recent publications. Almost none of the books are from the past thirty years. While I don't honestly entertain the notion that upon my death I will have read every book known to man, I was thinking I could at least make it 50% through, right? That's totally reasonable, isn't it?

Okay, probably not.

It seems I am in need of some education. A quick Google search for"great books from the past 30 years" took me to this site. Funny thing about it - even a quick glance will tell you that many of these books were made in to films (just like Winter's Tale. Does Hollywood produce anything original anymore?) making the titles familiar, but the book a new concept. So don't mind me while I sit here, scouring the internet for not-new new books to read. And if anyone out there has suggestion for good adult literature from say, 1980 to 2000, let 'er rip! I'll just be sitting here adding things to my Goodreads shelf.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bloggers I Love (Or, My Imaginary BFF's)

I've been reading blogs for almost three years now. A lot of blogs. I can't clearly remember how I found my first one, but from one blog you find another and another and another. At the time I had just moved from Pennsylvania to Missouri and I had a few (okay, no) friends in the area. While this list is by no means comprehensive, these bloggers helped me through some friendless times and maybe they can do the same for you!

The Pioneer Woman: In a word, yum. The Pioneer Woman is written by Ree Drummond, a rancher's wife and mother of four chronicling her life in the country and all the deliciousness her kitchen creates. Ree's recipes are easy to follow an include great pantry staples. Over the years her photography has gone from great to stellar (sometimes I want to lick my computer screen). She's been blogging for a long time now and just published her third cookbook, which I highly recommend! I'm sure everyone on the planet has heard of her by now, I mean, she has a TV show on the Food Network, but I just have to recommend her because she's my favorite and my first.

The Lettered Cottage: Layla and Kevin Palmer have an awesome home-decorating blog sprinkled with moving and motivational Christian musings. They have a great mix of country and modern esthetics that I cannot wait to implement in my own home one day. They have recently begun writing about their adoption process and it has produced some top-notch posts on the subject. 

Young House Love: I found these two through TLC. One of my favorite blogs, YHL consists of John & Sherry Petersik, a married couple in Virginia who just began work on their third fixer-upper. They write with refreshing enthusiasm and honesty about their home decorating. Their projects range from cheap crafts to full room remodels. Their determination and stamina for home improvement is infectious, I cannot wait to buy a home of my own and go crazy. John & Sherry also provide very detailed tips and tricks on their projects. Often there are video tutorials or step-by-step instructions. All of their home stuff is made ever more delightful by the presence of their chihuahua Burger and their three-year-old daughter Clara.

Bower Power Blog: Written by the real-life best friend of Sherry Petersik, Katie Bower's blog is similar to YHL, but includes more lifestyle and motherhood content. Katie's open heart and honest approach about the messiness of DIY and parenthood makes her blog a must-read for me. I love her goofy sense of humor and her attitude about her kids. Reading her blog makes me want to move to Georgia just so we can be friends. 

A Practical Wedding: I stumbled upon this blog when I was in the thick of wedding planning and oh, how I wish I had found it sooner! Even five months after my own wedding I'm still checking in daily to see what Meg and her crew have come up with. APW is so much more than a wedding planning blog. The content is female driven with writing about partnership, family, career . . . the list goes on. APW has a very active reader community and the comments section is a great way to make internet friends - some of the readers even began "real life" happy hours.

The Small Things Blog: All things makeup, beauty, and hair! Kate is a professional hair stylist and her blog includes great hair tutorials and videos, product reviews, makeup tips and so much more. Kate reviews and large range of products - which I love! Most items are accessible to the average woman and she is open and honest about her opinion. Kate also has a great sense of style and often includes outfit posts and jewelry. She announced her pregnancy this summer and it has been so fun to see her wardrobe transform without losing a bit of style.

There are a few other blogs I read daily, but these are most certainly my favorites. If you have a good blog recommendation, please pass it along!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Gone Girl is a One-Way Ticket to Crazytown

I am hungover. . . from reading.

I flew home this past weekend for a Sacrament filled weekend (a wedding and a baptism) and between two delayed flights and one restful morning I was able to read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl. My head almost hurts just thinking about all the crazy contained within its' pages.

Don't mistake my headache for dislike. Flynn writes like wizard - the story is masterfully executed, but emotionally painful to read. Gone Girl begins with the disappearance of Amy Dunne, wife of Nick Dunne, on the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary. At first it seems Amy is the victim of kidnapping, but as the story unwinds, Nick is pegged as a suspect. It's easy to see from the beginning their marriage is far from perfect, a fact neither seems to have addressed with the other. When I discovered what really happened about three quarters of the way through the novel I was left breathless, rushing to finish the last part so I could pick apart the ending (which then left me really breathless).

The disintegration of Nick and Amy's marriage is both realistic and unbelievable. While it's easy to see how the cracks became ditches which became canyons across which they could not reach, the manner in which they both handle the divide is appalling. At times I found it hard to believe two people could be so deceitful and manipulative, and it's a testament to Flynn's writing that Nick and Amy remain sympathetic and somewhat likable throughout. The truly hard part to swallow is their lack of communication - it literally made me fear for my own young marriage (but then I remembered neither of us are psychos and I breathed a sigh of relief). The issues and struggles Amy and Nick face - both personally and financially- are no joke and the idealist in me has to believe better communication could help. I'm thinking if a book can actually strike fear in to you, then damn, it must be good.

This is a book I certainly struggle to describe without revealing large parts of the plot. If you're a fan of thrillers I highly recommend it - and please let me know if anyone out there has read it so I can have a discussion! I'd compare it to Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. It's not thematically similar, but the complicated, morally ambiguous plot will leave you rushing through to discover the ending. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Past is Present in "Silver Girl"

A few posts back, I wrote about my new-found love for Elin Hilderbrand. I started reading Silver Girl over the weekend and I think I have discovered what makes me love her books so much . . .

The past.

Maybe on the surface that seems like a simple concept, but books set in the present, yet rooted in the past, always intrigue me. Connie and Meredith are the oldest of friends; they can hardly remember how they met. There is not a time during which they weren't friends - until three years ago. Though the reader doesn't discover the details of their falling out until late in the story, the fight and the effect it had on their individual losses is crucial to the story. Stories like this, which link our pasts to our presents are so life-changing for me. While I'm certainly not a believer in fate, I'd like to believe our everyday choices really effect us - otherwise what are we doing?

Hilderbrand intermingles the present day story and the past history so well. By telling the story from both Connie and Meredith's point of view, they can both become sympathetic, relatable characters. Neither of them is the villain. When they reunite at the novels' beginning, you want them to mend their friendship. You can see yourself in their friendship - even if your husband wasn't busted for a ponzi scheme. 

I also love the equal treatment of their stories. The investigation into Meredith's husband and the effects it has on her life is treated with the same importance and significance as Connie's struggles with grief and her estranged daughter. The personal struggles of both women are as intriguing as their relationship with one another. They are both mothers, and yet separated from their children. They are both fighting skeletons and yet, by coming together in Meredith's time of need they are able to rekindle their friendship. All because of the past.

Having finished the book, I find myself rejoicing at their renewed bond. Sure, there is resolution to both individual stories, but my joy comes from their reconciliation. And seeing as how The Saving Graces is one of my favorite books, this should surprise no one. True, wonderful female friendship can make a book for me, even if the story is sub par. 

I'll certainly be adding Hilderbrand to my list of re-readable authors. And maybe soon I'll make my own trip to Nantucket!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Anna & Me: Part Four

As I mentioned here, I'll be reading Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, and blogging about my journey through one of the great classics. The novel is broken in to eight parts, so I'll post after finishing each one. To read parts one, two, and three of my journey with Anna, click here , here, and here.

"The inequality in marriage, in his opinion, lay in the fact that the infidelity of the wife and the infidelity of the husband are punished unequally, by the law and by public opinion." This line, though not spoken by a character, is really the crux of Anna Karenina. There is no other sentence (so far) that more apptly and concisely describes the novel. 

Part four picks up following Anna's conversation with Alexey during which he proposes continuing their marriage as is, with the caveat in place that she stop seeing Vronsky in public. They live peacefully like this for some time, but when Alexey catches Vronsky entering his home (while Anna believed Alexey was out for the evening) he takes Anna's letters to Vronsky and begins seeking a divorce. 

As the opening quote suggests, women and men were held to different expectations socially. While this double standard is certainly sexist and archaic to our modern minds, remember that Anna is ridiculous. Her selfish behavior appalls me. I just can't sympathize with her "plight." She seems (at first) unwilling to get a divorce but simultaneously unwilling to leave her affair alone and move forward with her husband. Though Anna is defiant and  proud, when it comes to discussing her infidelity with Alexey and facing her actions she clams up and appears crazed and unbalanced (foreshadowing?). Now, there is certainly an argument to be made that if it were not for women like Anna women would not be where they are today, but for the re-cap purposes of this post that argument will remain unaddressed.  

Anna's behavior is borderline ridiculous. Perhaps it's my idealism or my modern perception of divorce, but her inability to control herself and perpetual shirking of blame is irritating at best. When Alexey discovers Anna disregarded his request, he avows to seek a divorce. Seeking a divorce was quite the undertaking in 19th century Russia, making Alexey's wait rather long. So long that during the interim Anna delivers Vronsky's baby. This seems to smooth things over - Alexey rushes to her side when he hears of her illness and potential death (one she attempted to foresee). 

Post-labor, Anna and Vronsky become rather unhinged. Alexey retracts his desire for a divorce and promises to stay be Anna's side. This throws Vronsky into an absolute tailspin. 

(DISCLAIMER: I'm sure you're reading these Anna posts to understand the gist of this novel. I think the next statement requires a major spoiler alert because my mind was blown by what I am about to write) Vronsky returns to his own home and promptly loses his shit and shoots himself in the chest. That's right, he attempts suicide. It's insanely stupid, but also effective. By the end of part four Anna has returned to him and they have left the country, without divorcing Alexey. 

The other important development in part four is that Levin and Kitty are reunited! Stepan hosts a dinner party ate which the two loves overcome their misunderstandings and become engaged. My little romantic heart did some dancing at this development. I would elaborate further on the details, but those don't matter to me. The real hero of this story has found his mate - and I can continue disliking Anna. 

*All quotes are taken from the 2012 edition of Anna Karenina, written by Leo Tolstoy and edited by Constance Garnet

Monday, October 14, 2013

Go Ahead, Judge a Book by the Cover

I do it all the time. I did it last weekend when I bought The Island. I did it in a Borders once and came home with a copy of Naked simply because the cover was funny. Sure, we shouldn't judge people by their "covers," but judging books by their covers is a tried and true way to pick out a new book! 

For example, after my dear friend Trixie noticed me reading The Island, she lent me two more books by Elin Hilderbrand and two by Marisa de los Santos. All of the book jackets are beautiful. If these images don't make you want to read, I don't know what will. Well, okay, yes, the book jacket descriptions are certainly captivating, but book covers exist for a reason. 

Silver Girl, by Elin Hilderbrand

To my delight, Hilderbrand continues the beach themed book covers. I finished The Love Season yesterday and it did not disappoint. I was worried, after loving The Island so much that I had built Hilderbrand up in my head too much and that perhaps the first novel was just a flash in the pan. Thankfully, my concerns were unfounded and The Love Season was more than wonderful. This book portrays, very eloquently, how your life can change in just one day, or over the course of many, many years. 

I have never read Marisa de los Santos, but if her book covers are any indication, I will love her too. This cover speaks to me in so many ways. There are multiple pairs of boots in varying sizes, leading me to believe the book is about a family, probably narrated (narr-i-ated if you're my husband) by the mother. 

This one looks great too! The inside flap of the book jacket is certainly more descriptive, but once you read it the cover makes more sense. 

So when it comes to picking books, ignore your Grandmother's advice and judge a book by its cover. Someone, somewhere, in some marketing office designed that cover to draw you and and grab your attention. If it worked, all the better! You could discover a new favorite author. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Women & Mothers in "The Island"

There's nothing quite like a rainy day of reading, unless that rainy day involves coffee and book shopping with your husband at the local Barnes & Noble. Sure, I have a stack of library books just waiting to be finished, but who doesn't jump at the chance to buy clearance books? I picked up The Island by Elin Hilderbrand this weekend, and I am psyched to add her to my list of go-to-beachy authors (along with Dorthea Benton Frank and Patricia Gaffney). 

I have always been drawn to books set in a small New England beach town or a small coastal town in the Carolinas, so when I saw the cover for The Island I immediately knew it was the book for me [ASIDE: this realization sort of makes me wonder what e-Readers are doing for book marketing? I mean, if you're "old school" like myself and my mother, you don't view book covers in color  (because you have an original black-and-white Kindle). What kind of effect does this have upon the books we actually buy? END OF ASIDE

Boy was I right! The Island has many of my favorite story elements - interesting, complex female characters who, through self reflection and familial support, go after what they really want from life - be that romance, career, solitude, family, or self discovery. Hilderbrand also employs one of my favorite story telling techniques - multiple narrators. Though Birdie's narration opens the story, her daughters Chess and Tate, and her sister India, take part in the narration. I have always found this to be a compelling way to tell a story and Hilderbrand does not disappoint. By narrating from four different perspectives, Hilderbrand allows a multitude of readers to connect with her work. There can be no bad ending to the story because each woman has a different, but equally satisfying conclusion.

The story begins when Chess, Birdie's over-achieving, seemingly perfect daughter calls to tell her she has broken off her engagement. Chess explains very little about the fallout with Michael and quickly sinks into depression - Chess buzzes her head, quits her lucrative magazine job and refuses to talk about the breakup. Ever the good mother, Birdie grows concerned and plans a trip to Tuckernuck Island, a small rustic isle off the coast of Nantucket where the family once summered. Along with Tate and India, Birdie attempts to help Chess heal herself - but the funny thing about helping others is that it often leads to healing wounds we ourselves didn't know we had. All four women benefit from a "life" vacation, growing and changing in unexpected and illuminating ways.  

It's funny, but my favorite quote from The Island is part of the acknowledgements section wherein the author thanks her mother -"this book is for my mother . . . she taught me absolutely everything I know about unconditional love." This unconditional love Hilderbrand refers to fuels the novel, and it is this that makes me enjoy it so. Many of my favorite books include intense mother-daughter relationships. Any author who can write full, complicated, and long-standing relationships in the pages of a novel and make them feel real is a winner in my book. And in spite of my Kindle love, I never would have discovered Elin without a trip to a real bookstore. 

*quotes from The Island, by Elin Hilderbrand, Little, Brown, & Company 2010

Friday, October 4, 2013

Once Upon a Time . . .

. . . in a land far, far away, two young girls discovered Ella Enchanted, the greatest interpretation of Cinderella ever. Okay, well maybe Ever After could give Gail Carson Levine a run for her money, but that's a movie. 

To this day, I still read Ella. It's absolutely, hands-down, my favorite book. And it's written for children ages eight and up. A true work of art, I have re-read this book countless times, as has my sister. In fact, between the two of us we'd read it so many times in high school our copy was in pieces. Actual pieces. So, we did what any baby-sitting 15-year-olds would do and bought a replacement copy, which proved a serendipitous decision that allowed us to read the book at the same time (Out loud. To each other).

The story exists within the kingdom of Frell, an imaginary land inhabited by humans, ogres, fairies, giants, and other mythical creatures. As an infant the title character receives a gift from a fairy, constant obedience, which in reality turns out to be a curse. As with all Cinderella stories, Ella loses her mother - though in this version her father does little to compensate for the loss. Unlike traditional tales, we meet Ella's mother early in the story. The mother is a wonderful, bright, funny lady and Ella's best friend. Though as readers we see her death coming, it is no less painful. It is at her mother's funeral that Ella meets Prince Charmonte, sparking her journey towards love and liberation. 

Following her mother's death Ella's father re-marries a hideously materialistic dolt of a woman who, of course, has two daughters of her own. The story follows Ella through a stint in boarding school, an ill-fated quest to find the fairy who cursed her, a bumbling nit-wit of a father, a banishment to the scullery by her step family, a loss of friendship - all while forced to listen to commands and orders, no matter who issues them. Despite her obstacles, Ella maintains a correspondence with Prince Charmonte. The friendship and then romance between Ella and Char reads true - Ella is bright, smart, funny, and kind where Char is loyal, true, and steadfast. Instead of love at first sight, Levine builds a real relationship between Ella and her prince, making the eventual happy ending that much more satisfying. As a reader you want Ella to be released from her curse and marry Char not because that's what you expect but because she is so deserving of happiness. Levine sculpts a whole character, with flaws and charm and feelings. Ella's strength and determination are empowering for young girls (and twenty-five-year-old married women like myself). 

I would be remiss not to mention Mandy, Ella's fairy godmother - every good Cinderella story has one and Mandy does not disappoint. Loving, magical, nurturing, and a little bossy, Mandy functions as Ella's guide towards deliverance. Throughout the story Ella grapples with understanding her curse and Mandy is instrumental in helping Ella grow into the lady she was always meant to be. Though Mandy cannot replace Ella's mother by any means, she does her best to provide Ella with all the love and encouragement she needs.

If you're a lover of children's literature or a mother of a young girl, pick this up at B&N this weekend. I cannot recommend a book with more enthusiasm. And if you read it please check back in and tell me! Now off to read it all over again :-)

See, my second copy isn't even in one piece!

And, though I hesitate to even reference its existence, yes - the film starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy is an "adaptation" of this book. But it is terrible! Completely, absolutely awful. The movie is so loose an adaptation of Levine's work I'm surprised Hollywood could use the same title. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Anna & Me: Part Three

As I mentioned here, I'll be reading Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, and blogging about my journey through one of the great classics. The novel is broken in to eight parts, so I'll post after finishing each one. To read part one and two of my journey with Anna, click here and here

Surprise! I finally made it through part three of Anna Karenina. It wasn't necessarily slow, but I was simultaneously reading The Night Circus for book club and it was ridiculously good, so Tolstoy took the back seat. 

Part three picks up with Levin holed up in his country estate, attempting to heal his broken heart through the physical labor of farming and agriculture. Through meetings with Sviazhsky, a local district marshal, Levin learns about more efficient farming techniques and attempts to put them in to practice on his land. Though Levin experiences some resistance from the peasants who work his land, he remains firm.

Levin becomes quite enamored with country life, must to his brothers' dismay. It seems evident that Levin's character and his increasingly simple life operate as a stark contrast to the city life in Moscow. Meanwhile, Dolly is also out in the country. Stiva asks that Levin to check in on Dolly, as he believes she is having a hard time. Dolly was initially overwhelmed, but comes to enjoy the simplicity of the country as well. I hate to laugh, but when Stiva's neglect is so laughable. Stiva sees absolutely nothing wrong with leaving his city wife alone in the country with few comforts and little help.  Sure, the disregard Stiva shows for his wife and her needs rings true for such an era, but it's still rather pathetic. Thankfully, Levin gladly checks on Dolly - and finds out some interesting information about his one-time-love Kitty. I was hoping he would go see Kitty when Dolly mentioned she'd be visiting, but it seems I must wait a little longer for their inevitable (please, please, please!) reunion. 

Unsurprisingly, Vronsky begins to show his true colors in part three - much to the dismay of romantic readers, I'm sure. I however, am not surprised in the least. When speaking to his friend Serpuhovskoy, Vronksy seems almost remiss that he has not achieve more in his career. I held on to hope that this exchange would change Vronsky's attitude towards Anna - Serpuhoskoy is married and believes "there's only one way of having love conveniently without its being a hindrance - that's marriage" because others have "ruined their careers for the sake of women." I thought this conversation would urge Vronsky to end his relationship with Anna and perhaps find a wife - or at least concentrate on his career. But alas, my previous suspicions that Vronsky was unworthy (you know, if being with him was even an option for Anna) are proven correct. 

To be sure, Alexey is no knight-in-shining-armor - he's a little cold and stiff. But Anna's husband is not completely unfeeling. Again, as with Stiva, he is not abnormal for the time. While it's sexist for Anna's indiscretions to be so frowned upon with Stiva's own faithlessness goes unpunished, it seems unwise to engage in such an affair when, by all accounts thus far, Alexey is a far better husband and man than other Russian socialites. Alexey's reaction to Anna's infidelity could function as a defense mechanism. Now, to a modern mind his proposal that they go on living life as usual seems ridiculous - but in those times it was not abnormal. Alexey's concern is deeply rooted in his desire to maintain appearances, as it's not until Anna brings her affair to their doorstep that he grows truly angry with her.

So, as with the first two parts, I am left feeling indifferent towards Anna. She has an ideal situation  - Alexey will allow her to continue on as usual and will act as though nothing has happened. Her refusal to follow such demands is shortsighted at best. Vronsky has done nothing to prove he will support her, and despite her worries that Alexey will take her son away if she does not comply, she continues her affair. I am far more interested in Levin's story line. The paper copy I have clearly indicates the two stories are of equal merit, which just furthers my belief that the title of this book is huge misnomer. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Girls in White Dresses with Blue Satin Sashes

Just a mid-day list about my favorite things:

1. Coffee. Caribou was selling a pink mug for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it comes with free refills for a whole month! Now if they just had a drive-through, I'd be set. Also, they have the best slogan.

2. Katy Perry. No, seriously, have you heard her new song? It's like Ace of Base meets Madonna meets 2013.

3. Mindy Kaling. Just read this interview and then try to tell me she's not the best thing since sliced bread. 

4. Greeting cards! The Postal Service might be a little slow, but mailing things is totally underrated. Who knew Halloween cards could be so much fun?

5. Baby clothes. I am now an auntie (horray!) and I plan on having the best-dressed little nephew around.

Coming soon, part three of Anna Karenina. I know, you've just been dying to see how the story continues . . .

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Nora to Love

Maybe when I have a daughter I should name her Nora, because everyone named Nora is awesome. 

I've already "waxed poetically" about my love of Nora Ephron and now here I am, singing the praises of one Nora Roberts - yes, the New York Times bestselling author of over 200 romance novels (that's a lot of novels!!!!).

Romance novels often get a bad rap. While there are certainly some stinkers out there, I don't believe the genre as a whole should be dismissed. There is bad science fiction, bad children's fiction, bad historical fiction, bad mystery novels - and yet, romance novels are written off as silly stories with flighty women that create unrealistic expectations for real world romance. Well, I am here to tell you that Nora Roberts is no Walt Disney. 

In the eyes of my mother and myself, Roberts represents all that is good about the genre. Not only has Roberts written many great stand-alone stories, she has trilogies (and some quartets) down to an absolute science. Some might argue that Roberts formulaic stories and consistently happy endings are indicative of vapid, empty story telling. I aim to disagree. In all of Roberts stories the main characters are strong, generally independent women (or even men! Some of her novels have male main characters! I challenge you to name another romance novelist who does that (and if you do, please tell me because I will definitely read it)). The romance story line is always framed by a greater journey - be it a fantastic journey of strength and ghosts, or four women building a business from the ground up - and that journey is what gives women agency and power. Roberts books may be romance novels, but Twilight and silly damsel-in-distress tales they are not (yes, I read the entire Twilight series, and it is silly and harmless for someone in their twenties, but it portrays a fairly dysfunctional relationship which could be problematic for the young girls reading it). And yes, Roberts books include descriptive sex scenes, but they aren't anything crazy a la E.L. James. The sex in Roberts books function as just one aspect of the relationship, not as the central focus.

My favorite stand-alone novel of Roberts is Honest Illusions. It's rich in detail, the characters are absolutely magnetic, and the main conflict is super-duper suspenseful. The troupe/family of magician thieves makes for an entertaining and morally ambiguous read. Sure, they're stealing jewels from "horrible" wealthy people, but does that really make it okay? Perhaps the Nouvelle family deserves the misfortune which befalls them. Furthermore, this book spans several years and the love between Roxy and Luke is certainly no fling, so there is no room for the "love at first sight" criticism.

For the most part, Roberts trilogies and quartets follow a similar outline and that's what makes them so great. The series generally revolves around three women, who are either friends prior to the story or become friends because of the central conflict. The female camaraderie in Roberts novels provides warmth and depth to the characters in a way that I think elevates her work beyond typical Harelquin fare. Each book follows the love story of one of the group, with sprinkles of the other relationships. I love this aspect to Roberts work - it gives the love story extra mojo and believability. Sure the couple in book one might get engaged at the end of the story, but they don't get married until book three, so the reader spends more than one book becoming invested in their love. The final book usually involves the two more cynical or "damaged" characters because they (REALISTICALLY) took longer to come around to love and each other. Though some of her books, specifically the Key Trilogy, can be more fantastical in the storyline, I have always found the love stories very realistic. Sure, they fall in love pretty fast, but Roberts characters are full-fledged adults (usually in the late twenties, early thirties), not young bright-eyed 21-year-olds. 

When I asked my Mom for help explaining why we love Nora Roberts she said "I think because Nora follows a certain formula for her writing. Readers know what to expect and that's sort of comforting. Some books can be stressful to read.  When you find an author who writes really well even though there is a formula you read them over and over". And she is totally right! I've already told you I love to re-read books, sometimes multiple times. And because Nora has so many books to choose from, it can feel like catching up with an old friend. 

Romance novels can provide a great escape, especially when well-written. If, like me, you experience moments of anguish as the bookstore because you can't afford the entire stack of books in your arms so you tell yourself to JUST PICK ONE, pick the Nora Roberts book, because it's sure to surprise you and is totally re-readable (which means it's a good investment! I always regret buying a book I end up disliking because that means I'll never read it again). 

And now some unsolicited recommendations:

The Villa - This one holds a special place in my heart because it's the first Nora I remember reading. Sophia and Luke are the grandchildren of neighboring wineries who join forces in more ways than one. They've known one another for years, making their love story all the more meaningful. 

The Key Trilogy - It's hard for me to put in to words how amazing these books are. The female friendship in this series drives the storyline and the men become secondary. The women meet when they are invited to a reception at a mansion in town owned by mysterious folk. Little do Mallory, Dana, and Zoe know when they embark on a quest to save the souls of three demigoddesses. 

The Inn at Boonsboro Trilogy - This is a recent series and is a great example of Nora's ability to write well-rounded male characters and allow them to steal the show from the women. Three brothers in a small Maryland town are rehabbing an old inn and these books follow their journeys towards love and family. Their mother is a real treat, giving Ryder, Beckett, and Owen a solid foundation from which to grow their family business. The girls don't hurt either - Clare, Avery, & Hope are equally as great, it's just nice to read a romance novel from the male perspective. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pondering Prep

There are many things I could write about Curtis Sittenfeld's coming of age novel Prep. One week later I still cannot fully make sense of my thoughts. So, for the purposes of this post, I will only remark upon the sexual relationships of the main character.

Prep tells the story of Lee, a young, bookish girl from Indiana who, through her own planning and effort, is accepted in to a preparatory boarding school in Massachusetts. Despite her parents misgivings, Lee attends on a scholarship and narrates her trials and tribulations, both internal and external, of her time there. A large part of the book takes place in Lee's mind - she internalizes many of her feelings, rarely exposing her true self to those around her. To be honest, I could not relate to Lee very well. I myself was a fairly regular high school student. I generally enjoyed academics, with few exceptions, and never struggled socially. Not to say I was Miss. Popular, but I floated somewhere in the middle of the pack and had a core group of friends, all the time remaining friendly with everyone.

During Lee's freshman year she develops a crush on a male student named Cross (after a brief interlude where she contemplates her own sexuality and the possibility that she could be gay). Throughout four years of high school there are only a handful of times when Lee and Cross interact. Much of the novel is spent dissecting her friendships with other girls and her general social awkwardness and insecurity. So, when Cross, seemingly out of the blue, slips in to her bed one night early in senior year, I am angry, confused, alarmed, and unconvinced. 

Unconvinced because the author failed to prepare me for this development. Lee embarks on a "relationship" with Cross that continues throughout the school year. I am embarrassed for Lee (perhaps that is the point). The entire relationship is degrading and ends in humiliation. While I could hang Cross for his part in the matter, Lee has pitifully low self esteem when the whole thing starts and she immediately tells him she doesn't expect or ask anything of him. The second time they are together Lee tells him "when we see each other in school we can just act normal." He doesn't understand and when she replies with "I won't come and kiss you in the morning at breakfast . . . it's not like I expect you to bring me flowers."

I am so angry with Lee - even one week after finishing the book. I am angry at Sittenfeld for putting Lee in this situation. I am angry with Martha (Lee's roommate) for not being more firm with her disapproval of the whole thing. 

Now, before you jump down my throat and accuse me of being a prude, let me explain. Lee comes from a small town in Indiana. In all the scenes with her parents they are upstanding, supportive, seemingly loving parents. One of their most memorable moments occurs when they come visit for parents day of her junior year and a horrible argument ensues because Lee is embarrassed by her parents middle-class status. Lee's parents are clearly angry because they taught her better - it's implied they taught her to value people. In particular, Lee's father is appalled by a friend of hers with plans to stay over with a boy. This begins the argument (in which Lee reveals to the reader point-blank that she's never fooled around), which leads me to believe Lee was raised to value herself and her body and not throw it around to a boy who didn't even so much as buy her dinner first.

So when Lee kisses Cross for the first time and engages in oral sex in one meeting, I am flabbergasted.  Prior to this Lee had never been kissed by any boy, let alone the object of her affections. Sure, Lee has low self confidence, but Sittenfeld did little to prepare or convince me she would allow this to happen. I just don't buy it. Lee and Cross begin sleeping together regularly, with few people knowing and Cross consistently attempting to avoid detection. The cheapness of their interludes doesn't help the matter. 

In their final confrontation Cross is certainly a jerk. I don't want to ignore the blame he so surely deserves. I'm simply commenting on the plot holes I wish to be filled. Perhaps the relationship is a manifestation of Lee's attempt to be accepted, but to my mind her great friendship with Martha fulfilled that need. Sure, she pines after Cross throughout high school, but not so much that it's constantly occupying her thoughts. Lee rarely mentions Cross to anyone until he and Martha are both elected class prefect. 

It seems as if, with other things, Lee didn't know how she felt about sex, so she allowed Cross to run the show. Earlier in the novel Conchita, a mutual friend of Lee and Martha, angrily tells Lee she is "shallow and conformist. You don't have an identity, so you define yourself by who you spend time with." That seems to be the case with Lee throughout the novel. So, in light of this, I can't fault her character for the toxic relationship with Cross. I want to, I want to shake her, I want to remind her of her own worth. I believe the novel would have succeeded in its portrayal of high school and the terrible parts of ourselves the experience can being out without the Cross relationship. Other than her friends disapproval, Lee seems ultimately unscathed by her experience with Cross. There isn't enough novel remaining to indicate she learned something from it. I am sure every girl endures mistreatment from a guy in one form or another and certainly to varying degrees, and I wish Sittenfeld had explored the effects of this relationship further, rather than just the immediate affects. 

Because, ultimately, the end of Lee's story could have transpired in the same fashion without Cross. The interview, the article, the school administration, graduation - everything could have happened without Cross.If anyone out there has read this book, I would love to hear your thoughts. I owe a dear friend of mine some credit on this one - over G-Chat she helped me bounce around some ideas and discuss the book in some way. 

Have you ever read a book and been upset by the subject matter? 

All quotes from Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld, Random House Trade Paperbacks, New York, 2005

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Channeling Matilda

Sure, I have a Kindle, but my wallet can't support my reading speed quite yet, so I often head to the library. Sometimes I am a little, shall we say, ambitious, and I come home from the library like Matilda with a wagon full of books.

Unfortunately, of the books I mentioned here, only one of them was available (well, technically I already bought The Night Circus, so I wasn't looking for it). But what happens when the library doesn't have what you're looking for? You find something else! (And add your name to the waiting list.)

I've been reading Anna Karenina on my Kindle, but then writing about it was proving difficult, so I snagged a paper copy in hopes that my thoughts will take better shape.

Then I passed through the "K" isle and had to get a copy of The Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. I love this book - though oddly enough I obviously don't own a copy. If you're unfamiliar with Kingsolver, I highly suggest starting with this one. I owe my love of Kingsolver to Rachel McAdams, yes the actress. Several years ago Marie Claire ran a piece about summer reading and the editors read this book with Rachel. So maybe I picked up this book because it was celebrity endorsed, who cares?  It's a story of rebirth and personal discovery, set in the Appalachian mountains. The main characters at first seem dissimilar (and their stories are not connected in the beginning), but by novels end you will find their growth and personal struggles bring them together in a way that's both surprising and enlightening. Not that it's necessary for a book to be successful, but I find myself rooting for every character, even the supporting characters. And it's not that they are trying to overcome something concrete necessarily, but that you want what's best for them, whether that be to leave town and start anew or to put down roots. 

A college roommate of mine read American Wife when we were in college. It's a fictional imagination of a presidents wife and her experience in the Whitehouse and public eye, I am super intrigued. Then, a local friend of mine posted a recent newspaper article by Curtis Sittenfeld about the merits of living in the Midwest, specifically Saint Louis, and so now I have to read her books. 

Which brings me to Prep, also by Sittenfeld. Prep has always been on my reading list, another good reason to stroll through the library, you'll remember book titles you scribbled haphazardly years ago. I read this over the weekend and I am still not sure what to make of it. On one hand, I agree with the book jacket reviews which compare the main character, Lee, to Holden Caufield. But I don't know if I liked the book. At times I found the main character whiny and other times perfectly normal for an introspective high schooler. I made notes throughout the book, so once I get my mind wrapped around this depiction of high school I'll post about it - and hopefully I can articulate my feelings about the use of sex without sounding like prissy. 

Nothing like getting new books from the library while trying to read Tolstoy and a book club assignment. Opps!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Nora Ephron

I have often struggled to properly express what reading means for me and my life. It's not that I feel ostracized by my love of reading, but when I attempt to explain to someone why I find such joy in it, I fail. Sure, my close friends and family understand because they actively see my reading. But new acquaintances and strangers on planes peer at me with mild interest, as if I'm telling them I like to play squash on weekends at the club.

Reading is so much more than a hobby. A hobby is something with an end-product, with an expiration date. Hobbies can come and go, they can wane like the moon. For a true reader, there will never be hiatuses or off-seasons, because to experience a time such as this would be like suddenly developing asthma in adulthood. After years of gulping down air you'd be taken aback by your shortness of breath and inability to make it painlessly up a tall flight of stairs. 

Finally though, I have found a passage which poetically and perfectly expresses how essential reading is. Enter, stage left, Nora Ephron. I picked up a copy of I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, a collection of essays published in 2006, this weekend and boy did it speak to me. 

"Reading is everything. Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading makes me feel I've accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. Reading is escape and the opposite of escape; it's a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it's a way of making contact with someone else's imagination after a day that's all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss."  

Add this excerpt to the list of reasons Nora Ephron was amazing. Perhaps this doesn't make sense to you, perhaps you think the amount of reading I do borders on crazy, but it would have made sense to Nora. 

*Ephron, Nora. I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Anna & Me: Part Two

As I mentioned here, I'll be reading Leo Tolstoy's novel, Anna Karenina, and blogging about my journey through one of the great classics. The novel is broken in to eight parts, so I'll post after finishing each one. To read part one of my journey with Anna, click here

Look how many copies the library had! Come on people, read a classic.

Perhaps I should have named this series "Russian Aristocrats and Me." While Anna is certainly a key player, at the end of part two I still don't find her story all that compelling. I imagine that her affair (which at this point is full blown) will become more torrid as time moves on, but I am still waiting for it to ensnare the other "subplots," not to mention my attention. 

Part two begins with Kitty, very ill, and a Shtcherbatsky family discussion regarding her state. Eventually it's decided they will go abroad (elsewhere in Europe) to see if a change of environment perks her up. Kitty's story throughout part two was my favorite - it's clear from the get-go that she is ill from embarrassment and heartbreak. Sure, perhaps her reaction is misguided, but at age eighteen I was certainly no level-headed beauty.

While abroad in Germany Kitty meets Madame Stahl, a bed-ridden woman and her adopted daughter Vrenka. Kitty grows as a character immensely. Where in the first part she is vapid and rather self-centered, when she experiences Vrenka's calming personality and general happiness of self, Kitty transforms - despite what her father says. Tolstoy writes that "it was characteristic of Kitty that she always imagined everything in people in the most favorable light possible." This realization makes me hopeful Kitty will return to Russia and reconcile with Levin. When Kitty leaves Germany at the end of part two, Vrenka jokes that she'll never come to Russia until Kitty gets married - her reply "I shall be married simply for that." And with that, I am a Kitty-Levin shipper. When Kitty refused Levin earlier in the novel I was not terribly upset because of her vanity and materialistic personality. However, now that she has been reborn, as it were, I have to root for the two of them. Levin, with all his family troubles deserves some happiness and lightness. 

When Levin discovers Kitty's has taken ill, because Stepan dropped by for a visit, he kind of well, loses his shit. Levin's reactions were just so honest - his internal struggle between wanting to ask after Kitty and trying to avoid the subject in order to stay on the path of healing was the most emotional part of this story so far. I've never read Tolstoy before, so hopefully he is nothing like Shakespeare - because everyone knows those dramas never end well.  

The affair between Anna and Vronsky comes to fruition in part two - and while I am curious about how Anna will navigate her marriage now, due to some major plot points I can't divulge without spoiling the story, I am not invested in their "romance." It seems so unintelligent on her part. Karenin seems only concerned when he realizes society is gossiping about Anna. In part one there was some glimmer of emotion and feeling from him, but Karenin quickly dismissed it because "jealousy was an insult to one's wife." Seems an odd approach to take in such a situation, but society was quite different back then. Karenin himself also comes to know of the affair during part two - and there is little discussion between man and wife regarding it. Tolstoy has caught my attention in that regard - HOW can this possibly end well for Anna? - but I don't necessarily want to root for her. 

I've been trying to take some notes while reading, so when I finish I can make a proper assessment of the novel, but I've discovered it's a little difficult with a Kindle - so, I did what any smart girl would do and grabbed a hard copy at the library today :-)

*All quotes are taken from the 2012 edition of Anna Karenina, written by Leo Tolstoy and edited by Constance Garnett

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Well Shoot, Now I Need to Order STARZ

Seriously, how did I not know about this? Outlander is amazing. Ridiculously, stupendously, incredibly amazing. If you are a fan of long books, Scotland, romance, or historical fiction, read these books. Diana Gabaldon has woven a story so rich in detail that I spent three months of my life reading this series and nothing else. 

I discovered this when I was trolling through Vulture and saw a casting announcement. How I missed that initial announcement, I'll never know - so let's move on to more important things: 

5 BIG reasons I recommend this series.

1: Real romance and passion. No joke, the love between Jamie and Claire spans centuries, time, and space. When Claire, a nurse in post WWII England, is magically (not with wand or something, just magic okay? Don't think about it too much) thrown in to 18th century Scotland, she ends up marrying Jamie Fraser, a lord with a tragic past who's attempting to evade the law, when she gets into a sticky situation. Despite having been married back in the real the world, Claire quickly grows to love Jamie, as will you. Their relationship is a battle of wills, due in part to Claire's innate modernity and Jamie's seemingly "ancient" ways. Hell, the title of the novel is a nickname Jamie dubs upon Claire when they meet.

2: A seriously evil villain. Without giving away too much of the plot, it's hard to describe the series main antagonist. Suffice it to say, he could rival Voldemort. Black Jack Randall's evil seems so sadistic give that he is a mere human. I have always found human villains more compelling than supernatural characters. There are more foes throughout the lengthy series, but Black Jack Randall is certainly the most memorable.

3: Historical fiction is the best! Didn't you know that? Well, in case you forgot, Gabaldon will remind you. The culture of 18th century Scotland serves as a wonderful backdrop for this story. Jamie Fraser's Scotland is in some turmoil when Claire enters the scene and potential rebellions are cropping up all across the country. In one of the books Claire and Jamie attempt to prevent a battle - with unforeseen consequences. The series even includes a journey across the ocean to America, where Jamie and Claire become major players in the Revolutionary War, so you don't have to be Scottish to enjoy the history.

4: Time travel. Stay with me on this one! In the first book, Outlander, Claire travels through time and there is little explanation. Some readers and movie-viewers always want an explanation for time travel - I am not one of those viewers. It's fiction people. Just suspend your disbelief and roll with it. I love fantastical elements in stories, that's what makes them a great escape from real life, and that's also why I don't want to know how time travel happened. I am far more interested in society and culture of a story and the relationships than the technicalities of time travel.

5: Did I mention how awesome Claire is? As a nurse in WWII and after, Claire had her own career and life prior to marrying Frank (her 20th century husband). Even for our modern times, Claire is a strong, independent woman - her personality and strength are only enhanced by her life in 18th century Scotland. Sure, things were certainly very different for women in that time, but they weren't just sitting around looking pretty and making babies. Sure, women didn't have voting or property rights, but life was much harder in the 18th century an at times women had to fend for themselves in times when their husbands were off to war. Claire blossoms in the 18th century - she not only learns new domestic skills, but she puts her medical training to good use and becomes a "healer." Her strength, perseverance, and heart drive the story in a way that makes me want to be zapped back to the 18th century myself.

Suffice it to say, I am very excited for this series. My mom got me hooked on these books and she said there have been movie rumors for years. I am thrilled the books will become a television series - imagine balling a class room full of five-year-old Christmas excitement in to one person. Then multiply that times 100. The time travel and plot make it near impossible to make a movie which could do it justice. Not only that, but these books are pretty damn long. Like, Game of Thrones long. Perhaps STARZ has found its own obsessive fan base - I know I'll be tuning in. If I could just figure out a way to get STARZ without paying for it . . .