Top Ten Tuesday: (2014 Years) June 10, 2014

Here we are, dear readers, at the half way point in the year.  Which, if I were a good bookish blogger would mean I would be on book number 24 at this point.  I am not on book number 24 at this point.  That’s life folks.  Of the books I’ve read (or are actively reading at this moment) here is a list of the best.

Top Ten Books of 2014 (thus far)

  1. Burning for Revenge (Tomorrow Series #5) by John Marsden
    First of all, I have been loving this series in the first place, but the fifth book is perhaps the most intense plot line and action / adventure so far (I’m halfway through the sixth at the moment).  This is really the opportunity for the main characters to come into their own, being welcomed into the war by proper authorities gives them a sort of agency in the fight for Australia, and ultimately makes them adults and soliders in their own right.
  2. Insurgent (Divergent Series #2) by Veronica Roth
    I haven’t completed the final installment yet, but I found this novel to be sprisingly good.  Generally the second novel in a trilliogy can be filler- perpetuating the plot but not really enriching the story.  Insurgent was an exception to this rule, giving us a lovely independant plot, full of rich characterizations, real emotions and the harsh realities of a heronie not getting what she wants.
  3. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (reading-in-progress)
    The idea of a story set in the poorest slums of Mumbai may not be a great beach read, but Katherine Boo has turned this tragic story into one where elegant prose illuminates the small rays of hope and dignity found within a landfill town.  The story itself reminds us that life’s little details are futility precious.
  4. The Fault in our Stars by John Green
    Okay, last years NYT Best Seller is probably on everyone’s 2014 list because of the movie, but I re-read on a sleepless night a few months ago (before the hoopla for the movie got so intense) and cried a bucket of tears.  Heartwrenching and honest, and a reminder of the life behind the diagnosis- this is the book Green will be remembered for.
  5. My Story by Elizabeth Smart and Chris Stewart
    An early memoir, I was expecting Mormon propaganda, but instead got a straight to the facts no fluff, filler, or sugarcoating account of the worst year of a young girls life.  Smart (with Stewarts help) narrates her time in captivity in a way that reminds us not only of the horrors of her captors, but also of the inadequate nature of the response system.
  6. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
    Okay, truth is its c**p from a literary point of view, but I still turn to it like Lays Origional potato chips.  (Read my actual review here).
  7. The Butler by Wil Haygood
    The origination of the Lee Daniels / Oprah Winfrey film this fast book is a more journalistic approach to the story of one man who went from a field slave to watching the first black President elected in the US in his lifetime, all while standing by watching history unfold every day.  This book is a great reminder that domestic work is not forgone, or forgotten.
  8. Growing Up Duggar by Jill, Jana, Jinger, and Jessa Duggar
    An enlightening memoir / instructional on the highly Evangelical beliefs and teachings in the Duggar Family (of 19 Kids and Counting Fame).  I picked this up in part because of my interest in the subculture of Extreme Christianity in the US, but kept with it largely because once you remove the biblical passages, they open a lively and important discussion about the way we choose to interact with the opposite sex.  I dont always agree with them, but they are some of the few people in the world even bothering to discuss this topic.
  9. Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer (book-in-progress)
    Half science fiction, half woe-is-me teen lit this book is far from high literature, but it never claims to be anything other than one big game of “what if.”  What if Cinderella lived in the future?  What if cyborgs existed?  What if there was an epidemic?  What if Cinderella could actually offer something to the prince, more than a pretty face and a dance in the woods?  What if this re-imagining ignites the love of fairy tales for a whole new generation of cell phone carrying, internet using tweens?
  10. Tuna fish on Banana bread with extra Mustard and Sauerkraut” by me
    Okay that’s not a book.  But I wildly amuse myself, and I’ve started telling people that instead of “I dont know.”  My favorite part is most people at work walk and talk and so they never notice, or they make it all the way down the hall before turning back and asking.


This regular feature here at A MaeDay Life is a part of The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday’s.  This week’s theme was “Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

Why I read (and like) the “Twilight Saga”… as college-educated-independent-feminist-woman

Let’s begins where all book reviews begin, the synopsis: The Twilight Saga is four book series that surrounds the classic love story of an outcast new girl finding herself in a group of outcast not so new comers as they build and protect their little outcast family. It is a girl meets boy- girl falls for boy- boy turns out to be another species and that’s okay, sort of love story. To add interest, the love story is built into a world with thousands of years of hidden history that results in multiple clashes with other outcasts.

If all of this was set in post apocalypse Salt Lake City no one would have said a word. But this story isn’t about outcasts on the surface. It’s about vampires. It’s not about the apocalypse it’s about today’s world (though the distinguishing factors between now and the apocalypse can be debated), tucked into a little town no one heard of but everyone has driven through (metaphorically and emotionally). And let’s be honest, everyone prejudicial hates it because of a little sparkle.

Look- I get that glittery men may not spark terror into your heart- but perhaps that’s what make these creatures of the Northwest Overcast actually scary. Creatures of the night aren’t really scary in the day- until it turns out they can get you at any time. And the love stuff- yeah, it’s a romance- did anyone tell you it wasn’t? (If they did you should really find some friends who read books before suggesting them). And the bit about Bella being a dopey teen-aged girl? She WAS a dopey teen-aged girl. That’s how sixteen year old’s are- I know, I was one once. Every teenager romanticizes something, be it the relationship they’re in, or the college they apply to, or the degree they hope to get- it is impossible to not become utterly lost in these new adventures during a time when life has nothing but adventure and possibility to offer.

I understand that we do not WANT our girls to exemplify Bella. I don’t want my girls to (Twilight– Book 1) trust some boy they’ve known for two weeks with their life. Fall in love in less than a month. Run away from home without consulting an adult whose known them more than a month. (New Moon– Book 2) Fall apart when said boy moves away. Experience hallucinations without telling an adult. Engaging in life endangerig behavior with friends. Run away AGAIN. (Eclipse– Book 3) Let boys fight over her. Hang out with a pack of half naked boys. Feel reliant on boys to protect her. Fail to engage with friends outside of a love triangle. Endanger herself to assist in a fight that no one bothers to call the authorities about. (Breaking Dawn- Book 4) Get married right after high school. Use marriage as a tool to get what she wants. Endangering the safety and security of her family to do what she wants (and put family members against one another). Fail to involve her husband in important parenting and medical choices. Fail to communicate with all family members, endangering the whole family. And all throughout these books she lacks any respect for the authorities in her and her boyfriends worlds.

Like I said there are some issues.

Bella isn’t a girl I want my girls to become. Edward (the sparkly vampire boyfriend sporting a bouffant) has some issues too- he’s overprotective which makes him controlling and oppressive. Jake (the werewolf best friend acute angle in the love triangle) is vindictive, jealous, enabling dangerous behavior and half naked. And then there’s the adults. We have Charlie the Mr.Magoo of Sheriffs for a Dad (he never notices all these murders in his tiny town?). Billy, Jake’s Dad who places historic tribal duty over his fatherly duty to protect or even parent his son. Esme and Carlyle, Edward’s “parents” who are more than happy to welcome a child who is 100 years younger than their son into their family.


But I still read the books. And watch the movies. More than once. More than once a year. Why, you ask? Because I’m not looking for great feminist literature- I’ve got Willa Cather for that. I’m not even looking for great literature- I own all of Charles Dickens work.  Stephanie Meyer is a great storyteller, but her grammar and linguistics leave a bit to be desired of you’re looking for literary merit. I pick up Twilight because I want to believe. I want to think about a world where you are destined to find the right person, and it might take 100 years, and it might be a different species, but soul mates will find one another. I want to believe that love will concur the difficulties of social norms and stereotypes and familial objections. I want to believe that there are men in the world that will fight- to the death- to protect women, and women who cannot imagine a life without those men. I want to believe that all the struggles will wrap up neatly in the end, and that what happens is meant to be, and screwing with the fates gives the fates license to screw with you. And at the end of the day I want to believe that the outcasts will find homes and families and their place in the world.

Twilight isn’t the kind of book you return to because you will find little nuggets of eternal truth with each revisit. It’s the kind of series you return to to relieve the happiness and pain and excitement of first kisses and butterflies in your stomach on a first date. It’s the sort of literary nostalgia that makes us buy children’s books filled with nonsense and that chicken and stars soup that your mom gave you when you were five (even if it does taste like you’re drinking bullion cubes). Like our childhood blankies, Twilight is soft and warm and you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to get when you pull if from the shelf.

And that is why, this college educated strong independent woman reads trash like the Twilight Saga. Because for some people trash is treasure. But for me it’s like a teddy bear. And if anyone deserves a little bedtime comfort its us hard working modern feminists.

The Twilight Saga (roughly 2070 pages total)
~Twilight published October 2005, 544 pages
~New Moon published September 2006, 575 pages
~Eclipse published August 2007, 640 pages
~Breaking Dawn published August 2008, 786 pages
~The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner published June 2010, 224 pages (not reviewed here)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Supernatural, Romance
Source: Personal Purchase

Rating: C+ to B-
Date Read: December 2013- February 2014 (reread)
Pros:  Great story for reluctant readers, and those who like romance, and supernatural stories.  Good action. 
Cons:  Terrible to use as an example of personhood on any level (how to be a good girl, boy, friend, parent, adult, family member), or grammar (unless you are correcting it).
Final Recommendation: Read for pleasure (and pain if you are a grammarian).