May Book List

I have been reading instead of sleeping the last few days. You’re welcome.

1. Cattery Row by Clea Simmons
This is one of those mystery novels you can buy in the grocery store for like $6. It is the second in a series (apparently). My mom gave it to me because the cat on the front of the book looks like Janel’s cat Minerva. So there you go. It was mildly entertaining. A murder, some musicians, some theft, some kitties. But really it is completely forgettable. I would not think to recommend it to anyone nor do I ever plan to read it again. It helped pass the time, but it wasn’t a winner in my eyes.

2. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
I finally read this book. I started it a couple of weeks ago but it was late at night, I was exhausted, and I couldn’t keep up with the Urgals, Shades and other words I was not used to. I will admit that I am not much a fan of fantasy and science fiction. There are exceptions, of course, like Harry Potter. And now, this book. It kills me that this kid was only 19 when he wrote the book because I was truly surprised by the quality of the writing. It is at once engaging and poetic and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to reading the other two books in the series.  The story follows a young man as he finds a dragon egg and embarks on an adventure to, well, save everything he knows. He deals with wizards, evil kings and hot elvish girls. What’s not to like?

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
I loved, loved, loved this book. That said, I would not recommend it to everyone. The story follows the Cabral family but is mainly centered around the overweight, undeniably geeky and hopelessly lovelorn Oscar. The family is from the Dominican Republic and lives in New Jersey, but the story goes back and forth between the two places. Each chapter, also, is about different people and it jumps around a lot, making it confusing at times. But still wonderful. Is it weird that I really connected with this complete loser of a protagonist? Because I did. The story is a great one, but the reason I would not recommend it to everyone is the language. The entire book is written in a sort of Spanglish. There was at least one Spanish word per sentence. Which means anyone who does not speak Spanish would probably not be able to get as much out of the book. You would still be able to follow the story but I don’t think it would be as enjoyable.

4. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Jasper Fforde is my favorite author of all time. I am pretty sure if I could just be continually reading one of his books, I would be happy. Really, I lied when I said earlier that I didn’t like fantasy. Fforde creates worlds that are like weird, warped versions of our own. In his Thursday Next series, he creates a world where a woman can jump into works of fiction and interact with the characters. Perfect for a total book nerd like myself. This book is the start of a new series. Imagine a world where people see very little colors, most only one shade. For example, you can only see red, you friend can only see yellow. Social status is determined both by what color how much of said shade you can see. For example, someone who can see 86% of the yellow in the world is far above someone who can see 50% of the red. And people who can’t see any color? The Greys? Well, they are the lowest of the low. I love how Fforde creates fantasy worlds that prove to be excellent social commentary for the world we do live in. I saw elements from 1984 and The Giver in the book, and yet it was still unique. This book is one where the protagonist tells you the end right away, and then proceeds to tell you how he got to that place. Still, I was thorougly confused the entire time. Which is generally how I feel when immersed in a Ffordian work. And I love it. The confusion only makes the book more enjoyable. The thing about these books, though, is I have a dilemma. Usually I want to get through them as fast as possible in order to find out what happens. But then I am immensely sad once I am finished because I have to wait who knows how much more time until a new book comes out. Oh well. I recommend this book, 110 percent. Have I mentioned I love this author?

5. The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter
Ever heard of a website that combines poetry and financial advice? That’s because it’s a terrible idea. Just ask Matt Prior, a former newspaper business reporter who quit his job in order to start poetfolio.com. Now is completely broke and about to lose his house, his wife and his sanity. So what does he turn to? The logical thing middle-aged men turn to when their life has completely gone down the crapper: weed. This story is so unlike what I was expecting. And still exactly what I wanted. While Jasper Fforde is my favorite author by far, Jess Walter is right up there. Maybe it is because he is a former reporter, so I connect with him and his characters. Maybe it is because I have actually met him and at a book reading he gave a speech about how the newspaper industry was not dead and people who want to be reporters should not give up. Maybe it is because he is just damn good at writing. All of his books are so different from each other, but they are all good. I am going to say this one probably qualifies as one of my favorites, though. The book manages to be both heart-touchingly sad and laugh out loud funny at the same time. It is difficult to achieve this, and I salute Jess for managing it. Even after reading the poetry interspersed throughout the book, however, I am more convinced that getting financial advice from someone writing in verse is a bad, bad, bad idea.

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Jess Walter

Ok, so anyone who knows me knows I have developed quite a book crush on Jess Walter. A book crush, for those people who are unaware, is where I feel no attraction whatsoever to the author but am drawn inexplicably to his or her books.

Jess used to write for the Spokesman-Review and then moved on to writing books.

I would recommend them to anyone.

He visited our campus a couple of weeks ago. Unlike a prepared journalist, I didn’t take notes nor did I blog about it right away so I can’t give you a detailed account.

What I can do is tell you about one thing he said that stuck with me.

If journalism is your passion, he said, stick with it.

This is a really hard time for a journalism student to try to get out in the newspaper world. I have been turned down by countless newspapers and ignored by others.

But I love journalism.

Someone recently asked me if I had thought about what my Plan B would be.

Well, newspaper world, I am not done with Plan A yet.

So be prepared.