Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post
Author: Emily M. Danforth
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Date Published: February 7, 2012
Pages: 480

How I Heard About It: On the book's date of publication, NPR's Melinda Lo posted a review immediately, singing Danforth's praises in an irresistible way.

Two Sentence Summary: Set in the early 90s in super-conservative, small-town Montana (Miles City, to be precise), this book is the beautiful coming-of-age and coming out story of Cameron Post, a young woman whose parents have both just died in a freak car accident.  When Cameron's religious Aunt Ruth catches wind of her niece's romantic goings-on, Cameron is packed up and shipped off to a facility for "correcting" her homosexuality, and Danforth takes us on an impressive journey through the mind of a young woman coping with trauma.

Things I Think: This is an exceptional debut novel, and while it is largely marketed as a Young Adult read, I'm one of many adults who has picked up and lauded "The Miseducation of Cameron Post." 

Danforth is an exceptional writer.  The characters are hyper-realistic in their three-dimensionality, as is the in-depth portrayal of Miles City ("home," for the narrator) and all of its secret nooks. The level of detail and the absolute honesty of the narrator combine to make this book intensely intimate.  It would be difficult not to "become one" with Cameron on her journey, in which we are allowed to experience private moments of infatuation, gullibility, shame, pride, wrath... Even when she steps away from herself, numbs her overwhelmed brain with drugs or shoplifting or stolen beers, Cameron is endearing and sweet and hugely clever.

Perhaps the thing that rang truest for me was the major social pressure of living in a small town.  Privacy is typically unlikely and short-lived, and one's decisions are colored by concern for how the town will react. This constant presence can become a heavy burden, and while some might crumble under the weight of these societal expectations, Cameron wages a fierce battle to maintain her sense of self. Constantly pushing back against the status quo, her story is one of perseverance and individuality, a recipe for a powerful and important coming-of-age novel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Giveaway @ Dragonflight Dreams

Want to win one of my bags? Hop on over to Amanda's blog ASAP!

Also, it is Wednesday and that means I need a nap. Adieu.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Karen's Spring Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish.

My book backlog is out of control right now.  And never, ever has the to-be-read pile been so alluring.  See for yourself...

Time to get organized and buckle down on these puppies. What's on your nightstand, waiting to be read? Tell me so I can make me backlog even bigger ;)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Featured Sponsor at Dragonflight Dreams

Hello from a very rainy Thursday morning!

I am really stoked to be the featured sponsor at Dragonflight Dreams today.  Amanda Cobb, the super sweet proprietress of said blog, gave away this great sponsor spot which I was lucky enough to win. And today, she has posted our interview!

Later in the month, I'll be participating in a sponsor giveaway here as well.  [[Hint: Bettie Bag.]] Definitely keep checking back to see what kinds of craft goodness are up for the winning.

Stay warm and dry during these [pre]spring showers!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Date Published: January 10, 2012
Pages: 336

How I Heard About It: Every book blog and every avid reader I have ever known ever. People lucky enough to get ARCS sung Green's praises to such an extent that I had to get my hands on a copy of "The Fault in Our Stars" the day it came out.  I've let some time elapse before reviewing because s I wanted to "let things settle."  Now, though, I am ready to start a second wave of fanaticism.

Two Sentence Summary: Despite being the recipient of a new wonder drug used to treat terminal lung cancer, Hazel Grace's life has become coping with her disease.  When Hazel meets cancer survivor Augustus Waters at "Cancer Kid Support Group," the two become enmeshed in a loving, hilarious, heart-rending series of adventures which opens doors of  a more cosmic comprehension at every turn.

Things I Think: This book definitely falls into the category of, "Everyone and their sister has told me this is the best thing they've ever read and I'll love it, so now I'm scared to read it because my expectations are so high and everyone will think I'm a jerk if I don't love it as much as they do."

And you know what? This was one of the few times a book has lived up to the uproarious hype with which it was preceded.  I haven't read any of John Green's other work, so I really went into "Fault" not knowing what to expect.  This exceptionally talented man has written from the first person perspective of a terminally ill teenage girl; not only is the prose hilarious and heart-breaking, but it is entirely believable.  From Hazel's admitted addiction to "America's Next Top Model" marathons to first-love butterflies and worries, Green has constructed a character that is so real one cannot help but become involved in her intricate, challenging world. What is at stake for Hazel becomes what is at stake for the reader: time, companionship, understanding.

I believe the universe wants to be noticed. I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed. And who am I, living in the middle of history, to tell the universe that it—or my observation of it—is temporary?” 

Again, Green's character Augustus Waters is constructed with a mindblowing clarity.  Brilliant and witty, handsome and fun, Augustus is the perfect "partner-in-crime" for the cerebral pseudo-loner Hazel.  The two begin to bond, in particular, over their shared love of a novel that centers around a terminally ill teen.  Meta? Yes. Got me bleary of eye immediately? Duh.

You are so busy being you that you have no idea how utterly unprecedented you are.

What's really important to note about "The Fault in Our Stars" is that Green has stumbled upon the magical balance of heavy, cancer-teen reality with a challenging, humorous positivity.  Cliches of sentimentality (which I had so feared from plot descriptions) are nowhere in sight, and in fact, the glimpses into this difficult world are so new and surprising that I found myself continually wondering how Green has garnered such awareness.
Truly, I think this is going to be remembered as one of the best books of 2012.  Coming out just after the start of the New Year, Green's new book has set the bar exquisitely high for fiction writers this year.  If they can live up to the challenge, we will be very lucky indeed.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Variations on a Theme: The Bettie Bag

Here are the latest creations from the sewing studio!  These two new versions of my latest project (now known fondly as the Bettie Bag) are rocking a similar vibe but doing it their own way. 

Version 1 (Buttons) - This bag was inspired by (and is about to be mailed to) my lovely friend Katie who is far away in Kentucky.  Not much for bows is Ms. Katie, so I made this one a little less girlie and a little more everyday chic ;)

Retro fabric + lined pocket = hooray.
And now, Version Two, which just might be put up for a giveaway over at Dragonflight Dreams later this month. (Hint!)  I won a lucky sponsorship spot at Amanda's sweet blog, so keep your eyes peeled for updates if you want to add my newest bag to your collection.

I hope you all had a gorgeous weekend. It was in the seventies here in San Francisco so there was no shortage of fun around here.  (I actually put down NetGalley and turned off the sewing machine... I, too, am shocked.)