Aug 27, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 30

Day 30: Your Favorite Book

FINAL DAY! Aren't you just overly excited about finding out our favorite books of all time!? Well, we're excited to share! But first, a little recap of our #30DayChallenge.

We had some great moments talking about our favorite characters, you discovered how passionate we are about our favorite writers, and you even caught a glimpse of our personal lives, not to mention our bookshelves. Even though Josh's shelf was a little chaotic, and mine a little too neat, we wanted this challenge to be fun and also to show that we mean what we say here at Scarletta: "Publishers by Trade. Readers at Heart." We're voracious readers of a wide variety of books, and we hope our challenge has inspired our dear blog readers to pick up a few new books, or maybe look at a book in a new way. 
______________

Aug 26, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 29

Day 29: A Book Everyone Hated But You Liked

Our penultimate post! How exciting. We've reached that point in the thirty day challenge that's almost a little tragic. It's been a fun few weeks of blogging. We've learned a lot, reflected a ton, and made assumptions and assertions that have been unpopular, well-loved, and debated. Books have a funny way of creating dialogue within the community that loves them.

Today's prompt is a little trickier than most. It's hard to gauge just how disliked a book is relative to your love for it. So, I thought I would look to my Goodreads list and do a little cheating. It's nice to have a fairly comprehensive list of books to reference when you're stuck as I am today.

Aug 23, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 28

Day 28: Favorite Title

“Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg - 
that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you'd imagined, that the world occupied by your 
parents, the world of washing the dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to 
buy floor tiles, is actually largely what people mean when they speak of 'life'.” 


Plenty, plenty, plenty to choose from today!

A title is a tricky thing. It has to be clever, catching, and all-together meaningful to the manuscript. And appealing! It has to have that X-factor, the ish, the it! That's what makes titles so tricky, folks. The title is responsible for the initial impression and is the most lasting way we communicate with and about a book.

Aug 22, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 27

Day 27: Most Surprising Plot Twist or Ending

I thought about being generic and choosing Fight Club, but we don't talk about Fight Club. (Yeah, I went there.) But then I thought, why be generic, so I'm picking The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. 

Long before reading the book, I had seen the following review on Goodreads: "If you love to read and if you love to care about the characters you read about and if you love to eat words like they're ice cream and if you love to have your heart broken and mended on the same page, this book is for you." How could I not eventually pick up this book? It definitely took a while to read due to the complexity and the interweaving plot lines, but so worth it. There are definitely those out there who don't like it/vehemently hate it, so I'm not going to necessarily recommend it. However, I will say that if you pick it up, to keep an open mind on why people like it. Once you finish the book, you'll understand why. 

Aug 21, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 26

Day 26: A Book that Changed Your Opinion

“The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. ” 

I thought this prompt would be incredibly taxing to write to. I'm not sure that we're always aware of our ever-changing minds, or the way our feelings and opinions wax and wane while learning from every aspect of our daily existence. Certainly we become aware of our changed thinking, but only after a certain amount of reflection. 

I used to barista at the most lovely coffee shop in the entire world, River Rock Coffee in St. Peter, MN. With a strong focus on local product, sustainability, and high quality, River Rock was not only my favorite place to be throughout college, but, perhaps, where I did the most learning and growing as a human being. In many ways, River Rock as a community, as a school of thought, was responsible for the overhaul of my person. Still, there were a few books that assisted them along the way.

Aug 20, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 25

Day 25: The Character You Most Relate To

Over the past 25 days of this challenge, I've mentioned character a lot. I love character development. I can't say it enough. So when I read a book that gives me complete relation to a character, that makes me feel as if I am the character, then I obviously don't want the book to end. I almost feel like I should read it slower to make the feeling last longer. 

Today is another day of indecision; once again I'm picking two, and for very similar reasons. Candy Quackenbush from Clive Barker's Abarat, and Isabella Strand from Molly Beth Griffin's Silhouette of a Sparrow, are my two most relatable characters.

I'm not choosing Candy Quackenbush because she is from small-town (Chickentown, to be exact) Minnesota, but because of her desire and passion for the eccentric, the adventure, and the risk. Other than that, I'm probably not much like her, but since the books are all about the eccentric, the adventure, and the risk, I find her extremely relatable. Her desire for something more, and to leave the small town with it's mundane, cyclic lifestyle behind for something exciting. And when she does, she jumps at it (literally). I grew up in a small town that had that cyclic feeling, and I needed something bigger---something adventurous. My adventure just wasn't quite like Candy's journey to another world.

Aug 19, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 24

Day 24: A Book You Wish More People Would Read

There are plenty of books that I wish more people would read. This morning, particularly, I would love it if Minneapolis drivers would read more books on how to appropriately use their turn signals or correctly stop for pedestrians. Or perhaps a novel that highlights the best way to interact with your barista! Or a collection of short stories that emphasizes how terribly offensive and inappropriate racist, homophobic, sexist, misogynist, or ethnocentric hate speech is an everyday life but especially in a cramped, freezing elevator at 8:30 in the morning.

But, you know, those are just random examples.

Aug 16, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 23

Day 23: A Book You've Wanted to Read for a Long Time

I have a long to-read list. But one that has been on there for a while is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I even got as far as purchasing a paperback version of the book, but I have yet to open it. Something always comes up, or someone has been recommending me books that I end up reading first.

I have no specific reason for wanting to read this book; I just do. It’s described as a coming-of-age story that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma. I’m not big on more recent coming-of-age stories generally, but anything set in the first half of the 1900s, and anything written as an autobiography usually peaks my interest. Who knows, maybe it was the title itself that caught my eye. All that matters is that it is on my shelf, and hopefully someday soon I will read it.

-Desiree


Full disclosure: there are currently 27 books on my 'to-read' shelf on Goodreads. That's a lot of books, y'all. And I know--I KNOW--that's not the extent of the list. It would be too embarrassing to include them all. There is just so much to read and too little time to do so. You've got to be choosy, I guess, when it comes to books.

Tangentially, that is why I don't subscribe to the philosophy of finishing every book you pick up--too much good material out there to stick it out with the lackluster, the trite.

There are plenty of titles I could rattle off today, but I am going to take another route for today's prompt. 

The book I have most wanted to read for the longest time is not a book that hangs out on my shelf. It hasn't been on my nightstand for years. Actually, it's not even available! But soon...Oh-so-soon.

I've been waiting on The Goldfinch for years. YEARS, people. When I discovered The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, all I wanted to do was read everything she'd ever written. Short stories, journal entries, dissertations, poetry: Just. Everything. Finally, last year, it was announced that she had a new book heading our way this coming October. 

I have been shivering with anticipation ever since.

Is it October 22nd yet?

-Josh


Aug 15, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 22

Day 22: Favorite Book on Your Bookshelf










I decided some of these prompts are too similar. I mean, how can I tell you about my favorite book I own without giving away my favorite book of all time (Day 30)!?! So I decided to be more creative today and take a photo of my largest bookshelf (no, this is definitely not all our books.) I love almost all the books I own, and so I display them with pride. You can see there is quite a varied taste of reading material on the shelves, so we are never bored.

-Desiree

























Doesn't Desiree's bookshelf look entirely too organized?! It sort of puts my bookshelves to shame. Still, I am definitely stealing her idea.

I agree that this prompt is entirely too similar to a few of the others. And, let's be clear, my favorite book on my bookshelf is also my favorite book! 

Spoiler alert: IT'S IN THIS PHOTO SOMEWHERE!

This bookshelf is, unfortunately, double stacked. There is another whole layer of books behind the ones up front, but I just haven't had the time to spread them out to my other bookshelves around the house. 

So, yes, this is a small sample of the books around the place, but I think this shelf, in particular, is a great representation of my book taste: wonderfully varied, but always in great taste.

What's your favorite book on our bookshelves?

-Josh

Aug 14, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 21

Day 21: Favorite Book from Your Childhood

“So he left the path for a shortcut across the field. And the moon went with him.”

I have so many childhood favorites! During my childhood, my parents loved that I would spend my time either reading or playing outside (granted we didn’t own game consoles or have cable/satellite, and our computer games were all the educational, yet “fun” kind), but they also realized that when my nose was in a book, I was oblivious to the world.
 
I started young, too: instead of a teddy bear, I carried around my mother’s Reader’s Digest magazines. I couldn’t tell you why; maybe it was sentimental. Who knows? But I do know that as a child, I loved books that sparked my imagination. In particular, I loved Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.

Aug 13, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 20

Day 20: Favorite Romance Book

I'm not interested in the typical romance book. I've never read a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Piccoult novel (and I don't like the movies either), and to be honest, I would have to Google who other romance novelists are even. This genre just isn't my thing. Romance doesn't feel as relatable in novel form I suppose. I'll probably find a lot of disfavor with romance readers by saying this, but true romance isn't so easily described that it can be "novelized."

Don't get me wrong, I like real romance: I love seeing elderly people hold hands or a family reunite, and I love how in love I am in my relationship, but to me romance writing is better found in poetry. Poetry implies the deeper feelings, the deeper thoughts, and the most sacred and scariest parts of being in love that is often hard to find in novels. It's so pure and so simple.
I'm a huge poetry reader and my favorite poet by far is Pablo Neruda. So much so, that my fiancé even knows my favorite poems by him. While this isn't my favorite overall poetry book of Neruda's, it's one that encompasses so many of his love poems - Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. Neruda's style speaks to me. It pulls me in, and it's relatable to the feelings of my own relationships. I have a few favorites, but of the love poems, the line that speaks to me the most is from Sonnet XVII. (It's even a possible selection for my wedding cake decor!)

Aug 12, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 19

Day 19: Favorite Book Turned into a Film

“It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.” 

Recently, I stumbled upon a PostSecret letter that read: "I like most film adaptations." Clever, I thought! A pretty mundane, silly thing to worry about, but, still, I get why whoever submitted the secret felt the need to cover it up. I wouldn't be caught dead telling my bookish friends that I actually enjoy most film adaptations, even if they're nothing like the book.

Oh.

Whoops.

Guess I outed myself there a little bit.

Okay, yes, it's true, I don't think most film adaptations of books are that bad. Some--a select few--are actually better than their book counterparts.

I digress, this isn't a blog about the merit a film does to a book, but rather a book that is fantastic and just also happens to be movie.

My choice for today is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Pi is not one of my most treasured books, nor is it my favorite by Martel, but there is such a profoundness to this Man Booker winner that lingers with you long after the final pages are turned. Ten years after its release in 2002, I finally picked this up last year, plopped down, and read it in roughly 3 sittings. Martel has such an analytical voice, at times, that the magical realism to his writing seems so strange from a few steps back. Masterfully, Martel weaves the life of zookeeper's son with a tragic shipwreck, plenty of wildlife, and a stunning conclusion into an amazing piece of literature. 
                               -Josh


"The book is always better." That's almost always true (recall Josh's Day 18 post about the musical of Wicked being better than the book). Like many, I've compared how close a movie was to the actual book, but I've never really thought about, nor picked, a favorite book turned into a movie. 

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the original foreign movies though) by Stieg Larsson is a phenomenal book with so much intrigue. The themes and plots presented in the book have an unmatched humanity to them that depict a violence people would prefer not to believe happens, and the sole desire for survival. While the book is definitely a hard one for many to approach due to the length and sometimes dry, calculating descriptions, the movie removes most of that and focus on the actions that occur from these descriptions.


As with any movie of course, you lose a lot of the main themes when a book is so full of descriptive commentary, but the action, the actors, and the way the plots were pulled together in the movie has easily made it my favorite book turned into movie. (Plus I'm kind of a sucker for subtitled movies.)

                        -Desiree

Aug 9, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 18

Day 18: Book that Disappointed You

There haven't been many of these and I had to decide if I were truly disappointed in the novel as a whole with my pick, in just the characters, in the narrative voice, or in some other element. Or did I just set myself up for disappointment?

My first thought was Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Brontë, but I actually enjoyed the overall novel. I had a hard time liking the characters, especially at first, as most readers do with this book. But by the middle of the book, it became more enjoyable and harder to put down. But, I digress. Wuthering Heights is not my pick today; today's pick is actually two books by the same author: George Eliot's Middle March and Mill on the Floss

I may have set myself up for disappointment in this regard, but try as I might, I could not bring myself to like the writing style, the plots (the pace. ahh.), or the narrative voices of either of these two novels. I did manage to finish, albeit slowly, Middlemarch, but probably due to the themes that are so evident in the book. And it disappointed me so because I love Jane Austen's work, love the Brontë sisters work (for the most part), and most other writings from that period of time. It's a sad day when I can't bring myself to finish a book, and as far as I can recall it's only happened with Vineland (Thomas Pynchon) and Mill on the Floss.
-Desiree

Like Desiree, I am having trouble deciding if the books that disappoint me are truly disappointing, or if I just disliked a certain aspect of the novel and couldn't get over the bump in an otherwise good piece of fiction. For instance: I despised Phillip Meyer's The Son. The subject matter bored me to tears, and I had to force myself to read it through. It just wasn't terribly interesting to me. But I wouldn't say it was disappointing. Sure, it had been hyped beyond measure, so I had high expectations, but the characters were still interesting and the writing masterful. It just doesn't appeal to me on a thematic level.

So, I've been thinking about books that I found truly underwhelming, and I am not sure there are too many to choose from.

My choice for today is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. After a brief period of obsession with the Wizard of Oz--the film and Baum's classic books--I was excited to read that a musical was being made out of Gregory Maguire's retelling of Oz's most infamous villain. So, naturally, I had to read the book before seeing the show.

Sigh.

I was familiar with Maguire's style. He's a dense, vaguely historical enthusiast of all things period and contextual. But the frustrating, overly political nature of Wicked was just too heavy-handed. The original story was so full of magic and wonder, I was expecting Maguire's work to be the same. But it's not. And there was never much life imbued in the characters, either! From the highly sexualized opening of the novel, to the convoluted transitions and the unfortunate ending, I was disappointed not only by the book, but by the experience of reading it as well. Overall, just not a whole lot of fun to read.

I would recommend sticking to the musical on this one.
-Josh

Aug 8, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 17

Day 17: Favorite Quote from a Book

"The human organism is the produce of the planet. It is not by virtue of a divine fantasy, a miracle, or a direct creation that terrestrial man is constituted as he is"

from Lumen by Nicolas Camille Flammarion

This quote, cold and scientific, is actually from a science fiction story written in 1887. Over one hundred years after the publishing of Lumen, humankind is still in a heated debate about our origins and purpose. As someone grappling with his own faith, this quote stuck out to me in particular.

But this single quote isn't the only fascinating thing about this book! The story is about a man whose consciousness transcends his body and travels away from earth faster than the speed of light. As he reaches a certain distance, the man looks back towards earth. Since he has traveled an enormous distance at a faster-than-light speed, the light he is seeing from the earth is that of hundreds of years ago. Throughout the story, the man travels farther and faster, stopping periodically along the way to look back at our planet and gazing further into its past.

Does this "time warping" effect sound familiar? That's because it is a part of Einstein's theory of relativity, written years before it was popularized by Einstein! It is the reason why, when we look up at the night sky, the light from the stars we are seeing is hundreds, thousands, millions, even billions of years old!


Flammarion's blend of science, science fiction, and spirituality helped his readers understand other emerging scientific concepts as well, including: the possibility of extraterrestrial life, planetary formation, human evolution, and even the destruction of earth via comet.
-Aaron


I feel like so, so many of these prompts are impossible to write to without a little taste of self-doubt. For every book, there are at least twice as many characters. For every character, there are hundreds of quotes. If I've had trouble picking a specific book or a favorite gendered character, how in the world am I to narrow down a favorite quote?

Well, I cannot be sure this is my favorite of them all, but it's certainly up there. My quote comes from Kafka's The Metamorphosis:




"I cannot make you understand. I  cannot make anyone understand what is
happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself."



This quote has always had a hand on my back. As someone who has struggled with identity issues--and who hasn't--I've found Kafka's work to be incredibly comforting (even if Gregor never quite felt at peace being a giant vermin!) There's an incredible sense of vulnerability that accompanies this quote, and perhaps that is why I find it so moving. It implies a conversation, a question, a discussion. There's a great honesty to it, and I hope that you find it as sincere as I do.
-Josh 






Just like most avid readers, there have been many quotes in my reading life that have impacted me. Some from my actual favorite books, some from genre favorites, and some that impacted me because I was at a crucial stage in my life. My favorite quote doesn't come from my favorite book (because that would give away my favorite book, and you have to wait until day 30 for that!), instead it's one of my favorite quotes that I had ever read, and like Josh, it has been with me at many different moments in my life.

"The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master."

The beginning of Elizabeth Bishop's One Art is a stress reliever. It's the reminder that when something goes wrong, or when you actually do lose something, to look for the silver lining. This poem helped me and still does help me through losing the small things like keys, or a credit card(!), and it also helped me through losing people I love, like my grandparents, or even, yes I must say it, ending things with someone I deeply cared about (both in friendships and in romance). I love to write poetry, and this poem taught me that it's okay to write about loss, to write about it with all my feelings deeply invested and to not just skim the surface because it may hurt. 

So because of these first two stanzas, I remember to accept loss for what it is, to see the silver lining, and to enjoy the scenery on a detour in life.
-Desiree

My favorite quote would be from one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And then one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
 –F. Scott Fitzgerald.

This quote comes from Nick Carraway. He talks about Gatsby and how he is obsessed with the past, and the American dream in general. The green light represents the past. It shows us how humanity struggles with achieving their goals by transcending and re-creating the past. Humans have a hard time letting go of the past, we all want to go back and live it again. While they still stay optimistic, (“tomorrow we will run faster”) they use their energy chasing something that moves further away from them. This quote ends the book, and brings us the conclusion of Gatsby’s life.
-John

Aug 7, 2013

30 Day Challenge: Day 16

Day 16: Favorite Female Character


There aren’t too many female characters that I would have in my top favorites besides Lisbeth. She is the main character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I find her to be a very complex character. On one hand, she is a woman who dresses Goth and looks very scary, and has had a rough upbringing. You also find out she is incredibly smart and very gifted as a computer hacker. Stieg Larsson, the author of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was 15 years old when he witnessed an acquaintance of his get raped by three men. He didn’t do anything to stop the act, and when he asked the women for forgiveness she refused. Her name was Lisbeth. This part of his life gave birth to the character of Lisbeth Salander who, in the book, is also a rape survivor. It is a very powerfully themed book about violence against women. The story, however, is great. Lisbeth teams up with an investigative journalist to try and catch a serial killer, who preys on women. The book is great and she is definitely one of my favorite female characters.

-John


“Whatever happens tomorrow, we had today; and I'll always remember it.”