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Monday, May 21, 2018

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler Review

31380867Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
4.3 out of 5 Stars

This book was astonishing in its subtleties and accuracy about life, at least, from what I could tell. I feel like I should write a short punny line about how it was "a delicious book" that "satisfied my appetite for the story," but so many people have probably done that already at this point that it's been overdone and honestly I don't feel clever enough at the moment to cook up something new.


Really though, this book is incredible. The characters are so complicated and each is unique to themselves in a way that echoes and highlights what Tess is learning as she lives in New York. What I really love about this book, however, is that even though I know nothing- and I mean nothing- about fancy wine and foods, I was still able to enjoy the story without feeling stupid for not knowing what was being talked about. If anything, I feel like I was able to learn more about wine connoisseurship- please don't ask me anything because I still know next to nothing- and develop an appreciation for what goes into making wine and the different tastes that are created.

I picked this book up because I was intrigued by the trailer for the Starz TV show Sweetbitter. I am planning on continuing watching the show, and I read this while between episodes, but this review is going to be on the book alone. Later though, when the series is finished, I think I'll review that as well.



Image result for wineSPOILERS BELOW



PLOT:
This is definitely a coming-of-age story. It begins with Tess packing up her things and finding a crappy apartment in New York City. There she gets a job while she figures out who she wants to be but ends up falling in love with the industry. It's sort of like a DIY version of Cinderella where instead of falling for the prince, Cinderella makes her own outfit for the ball and constructs her own castle. It may not be as grand as some other castles, but she loves it and it is home. It really is a great story about navigating how to make a life for yourself that doesn't follow the safe laid-out plan that you had before. Tess is a very relatable character, even though she is annoying at times, and the experiences that she goes through read very realistically. I'm curious to know if the author's own narrative is leaked through the narrative of Tess, but even if it isn't, the events unfold in a way that could probably actually happen.

What this book does a really great job of though is carrying messages and lessons without being vague, or worse, pretentious. Some of Simone's lines are pretentious, but she's messed up and pretentious anyway, so it still goes with the flow of the story. One of my favorite quotes though, and it may be from Simone, is, "I’m giving you permission to take yourself seriously. To take the stuff of this world seriously. And to start having. That’s abundance." I'm not entirely sure what about the quote speaks to me the most, but the way it is incorporated into the dialogue makes it unassuming, yet profoundly resonating.
Image result for fine dining 
CHARACTERS:
Tess: The first thing that comes to my mind is that she is very relatable- ordinary. This works perfectly for the story, especially as a coming-of-age novel. The second thing that comes to mind is annoying. I really hated how she behaved like a child at times. She would go and do something stupid and then not like the consequences. Or something would go wrong and she'd have an excuse why. It was just the small things like this that I really didn't like, and I don't like them in person either, so that's probably why. Overall though, she was able to be a consistent character while still growing throughout the story into something that I think would have a very bright future. My absolute favorite thing about her though is when she tells Simone that she quits. This is right after Simone tells her she'll be promoted to the "Smokehouse," and Tess has absolutely had enough. Good for her for standing her ground and choosing the risky over the certainty.

Simone: Simone kind of makes me sick at this point, reading the whole of the story. She irked me for most of the book just with her personality, but there was a point where I was worried about why she is the way she is. But then Sasha reveals what she did to Jake while they were younger and I don't particularly care anymore. I know that it isn't entirely clear what about the story Sasha shares is real versus not real, and that details are probably still missing, but I can't think about that. I just feel bad for Jake.

Image result for sweetbitter starzJake: He is the character that when I closed the last page, I felt the most sadness for. Everything that he does can be explained by the story that Sasha tells if we as readers take it to be true. In that case, I think that at this point in the story, the portion of time that Sweetbitter tells, Tess would have been the best chance Jake had to get better. By that, I mean less wrapped around Simone in a weird twisted way. The minutia of his character is extraordinary with the way that the details of him and his past are revealed. As odd as it might be to say this, I hope Jake has a better future, away from Simone. (I know he's fictional but still.)

WRITING:
Like I've already said, I think this book does an incredible job of integrating amazing lines and quotes without being obnoxious about it. What I really want to point out though is the fragments that are interspersed over the course of the story. We get definitions of food jargon and random poems that are nearly nonsensical. I really enjoyed these, although I'm not entirely sure what purpose they held. It just makes the story easier to digest. It also makes it unique from other coming-of-age stories. The reader isn't just learning about Tess's story- they have a snippet of what she is actually learning that adds depth to the story being told.

Thanks for reading!

Spoiler Free Review: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

26192646Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
4.3 out of 5 Stars


This book was astonishing in its subtleties and accuracy about life... at least, from what I could tell. I feel like I should write a short punny line about how it was "a delicious book" that "satisfied my appetite for the story," but so many people have probably done that already at this point that it's been overdone and honestly I don't feel clever enough at the moment to cook up something new.

Really though, this book is incredible. The characters are so complicated and each is unique to themselves in a way that echoes and highlights what Tess is learning as she lives in New York. What I really love about this book, however, is that even though I know nothing- and I mean nothing- about fancy wine and foods, I was still able to enjoy the story without feeling stupid for not knowing what was being talked about. If anything, I feel like I was able to learn more about wine connoisseurship- please don't ask me anything because I still know next to nothing- and develop an appreciation for what goes into making wine and the different tastes that are created.

I picked this book up because I was intrigued by the trailer for the Starz TV show Sweetbitter. I am planning on continuing watching the show, and I read this while between episodes, but this review is solely about the book. Later though, when the TV series is done, I think I'll review that as well.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Riverdale Season 2 Thoughts and Feels

Image result for riverdale season 2Riverdale Season 2 Thoughts and Feels
4 out of 5 Stars 
 

Riverdale season 2 has ended and it is completely tragic, yet also completely well-timed. I first binge-watched season 1 of the show last summer, but I've been watching this season weekly while they aired. This season was more in depth than the last season, but also slightly more unfocused. I will give it to them that this was their first season with 22 whole episodes, so maybe they were working out the bugs of how to fill all the episodes, because I'm sure that's difficult. There were just a few character arcs that I would have liked to seen more of and others that were so minimal that I wish they didn't exist at all. Overall though, the show was different enough each week with a lot of great anticipation that I kept watching and loving the characters and their stories.
Image result for riverdale season 2 jughead
SPOILERS BELOW (including finale)


Looking at the larger plot of the seasons, we have a single murder mystery in season 1, the Black Hood in season 2, and I'm think a crime ring for season 3. The Black Hood though was only a portion of this season, and a part of me wishes they had done more with that character, especially the resolution. Yes, it was cool that Hal was the killer and I wasn't surprised that Tall Boy supposedly did it for the money from Hiram, but I wish that this could have been looked at a bit more. The later of the two in particular because Tall Boy just disappears somewhere in the season, so it seems very convenient for him to be the second Black Hood. This could potentially work somehow in the next season if Tall Boy were to somehow come back, but I also don't think it would work well at all if

I'm really curious to see where the show goes for season 3. In an interview, Roberto said to look back on episode 7 for clues for the upcoming season? (Also, this interview subtitle calls him Robert????) I don't have access to the episode right now, but looking at the online description this is the one with 48 hours of no sinning. I can't remember the details of it though and how it would tie in with what the season finale sets up for the next year....

Image result for riverdale season 2 episode 21
Thinking about the finale, I think Polly has the "darkness" that was in Hal and Betty. It creeps me out in general whenever she talks about what she has learned at the farm, because I'm 99% sure that it really is just a cult. Polly has been brainwashed and I think it is just feeding the "darkness" that is genetically inside her. Also, I have a crackpot theory this is the link where Riverdale could potentially crossover with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: that is, it would have if Sabrina wasn't coming out through Netflix. I'm not really sure what it going on there and how I feel about that.

Speaking of "darkness" though, where exactly is Hal? We saw him get arrested which is all fine and well, but then we see him talk to Betty through a clear all encompassing wall thing. Clearly, he is not in a normal prison cell, because we've seen those on the show before and they do not look like that. But is he in an advanced cell for psychopaths? Is he in an insane asylum? Biggest question in preparation for the new season- is he going to be moved to the prison being built on the south side?

Image result for riverdale season 2 highlightsOne of my favorite things about the finale was when Archie confronted Hiram in his own house. That was so beautiful. All season, Archie has been acting like a stupid puppy tailing Hiram everywhere, so to see him finally stand up against Hiram- albeit in an idiotic way- was fantastic. That scene peters out in the end (I wish Archie had done something more than just stab the desk) but CLEARLY there was a larger ramification to that interaction. Hence, why it was slightly idiotic. Archie has done Hiram's bidding all season, pisses him off at the end of it, and thinks that there were going to be no consequences for that? The tricky thing with the arrest at the end of the finale is that Andre, the actual killer, is dead. There were no other witnesses either, so there is no way to tangibly prove Archie's innocence. But this also means that evidence would have needed to be fabricated by Hiram right? So I think all they really need to do is prove the evidence to be false in order to get Archie released.


Kevin had a really interesting story this season, but I wish they had put just a little more time into it because it felt very disjointed at times. He had the whole thing about finding hook-ups online, and then there was a maybe thing with Fang (so I thought), and over everything there's Moose. But it was just sprinkled in when it was convenient and I think his character could really benefit from being a larger focus in the story. I want to see more of how his life is and what the dynamic is between him and his father and what he does when Betty, Archie, Veronica, and Jughead are always running around like the Scooby gang.

Image result for riverdale season 2 highlights
What Riverdale added to this season was the musical episode. I enjoyed the Carrie episode a lot. It was still relevant to the whole season while also being more entertaining and confronting so much of what needed to get pushed along in terms of character development and growth. I am not entirely sure though that this would work again as another musical episode. If they were to try to do this, I think they would need to place it in a very similar spot in season 3 that they did season 2 because then it would echo another spring show within the show. It can't be random or it won't carry over well.

In general, the music of Riverdale was SO GREAT. I loved so many of the song choices they had playing in the background of the show. This may not really be something that most people pay attention to while watching something, but I definitely notice it, and not only did the songs fit the events that were happening, but they were also I think just great songs. I am definitely planning on putting together a Spotify playlist for the songs from this season.


Image result for riverdale season 2 highlights
Along the same note of the music in the show, I really want there to be more of Josie and the Pussycats. I want the band to get back together, I want to hear more of their singing, and I want that to come back to Riverdale. I love their voices and the covers and songs that they perform and it killed me inside just a little that they weren't a thing in this season. I believe they will be coming back though, especially considering the comment Josie made in the finale about getting back to music.

Last big thing: Jughead and the Serpents. I love how Jughead is the king of the Serpents now and then he asked Betty to be the queen!!!!! I am really interested to see where the gang goes moving in the future with the consolidation of the two sides/ larger divide of south (with the Ghoulies now though) and the north (old Riverdale north + the Serpents). What I'm really really curious about is how many of the "northside" kids from the high school are going to join the Serpents and how is Jughead going to run the gang.

Image result for riverdale jugheadThis is all only part of what I want to talk about, but the rest of it has to do with the characters and their relationships specifically and this post is already long enough, so I'll just make a separate post about the ships later and link it here when it is done.


Season 2 was really great and I hope the creators of the show keep learning and producing amazing work so that season 3 is a fantastic as I think it will be!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Spoiler Free Review of A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

31076583A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
4.2 out of 5 Stars

SPOILER FREE REVIEW
A Court of Frost and Starlight was the perfect little break I needed from studying without being too distracting. All of the characters got to have some page time, there were little individual stories for everyone that all tied together, and it set up for the next few books beautifully. 
With that, there is not much more I want to add to this portion without getting into spoilers, because there is a very high chance that if you are looking to read this book, you have read the other books already and are just wondering if this is a book that has to be read. I would say, "YES," you do need to read this book. Not only because it was great fun, but because it lays the ground work for the rest of the books. 
It completely blows my mind that Maas was able to create a novella that wasn't just entertaining, but necessary for the continuation of the series. "Necessary" may be a strong word in this scenario, because someone could probably read right from book 3 to book 4, but this novella fills in so much context and character development that I really genuinely think that those readers who choose not to read this will be missing something as they continue the series.

Enjoy the novella. It will help get you ready for the next book, tide you over until the next Maas book, and it's worth the money too because to Sarah J. Maas a novella is 229 pages.

Thanks for reading!
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