Parks and Recreation Book Tag

To commemorate my final binge-watch of Parks and Recreation, which I first noted in my January 2018 Wrap Up where I rave about season three, I decided to answer this phenomenal book tag dedicated to the show and its characters. As of right now, there are two original Parks and Rec book tags, but since I liked certain questions for certain characters more, I decided to mix the tags together to create all-around more fulfilling answers. The questions were created by Wanderlust Books & Icebreaker694.

For me, the magic of the show is that, on top of being a comedy that prioritizes joy instead of conflict or drama, it includes a wide cast of characters that is essentially one of a kind, so coming up with answers that served them justice was a bit of a head-scratcher. But I figured it out, eventually!

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you want to buy any of the reads I mention in this post, just click on the books below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Leslie Knope:

A strong female character who has lots of determination

Leslie’s zeal and passion for her work and those in her surrounding (and waffles) is frankly both terrifying and inspiring to watch from the sidelines. So coming up with a character to match her enthusiasm and dedication was unheard of… until I recalled Mia from Little Fires Everywhere, whose fiery dedication comes through at a turning point in the storyline, so much so that I can still feel its aftermath reverberating off the book. 

But it’s this next passage on mother/daughter bonds, which I shared in my review, that is so worth the lengthy read to capture the essence of her character:

“It had been a long time since her daughter had let her be so close. Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there were something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare—a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug—and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

Ann Perkins:

A character that you would like as your best friend
I jumped at the opportunity to read an ARC of Leslye Walton’s The Price Guide to the Occult since I’d been waiting to dive into more of the author’s words for close to two years. It did not disappoint. And I have a full review raving all about it that you’re more than welcome to visit here.

The friend in question is Savvy, aka the Guardian of Unwanted Things, who shows our main character Nor the bottomless support of female friendship.

“Though Savvy couldn’t actually solve the bulk of Nor’s problems, Nor felt better having been reminded that she had someone who gave enough of a shit to try.”

In her second novel, Leslye Walton spins a dark, mesmerizing tale of a girl stumbling along the path toward self-acceptance and first love, even as the Price Guide’s malevolent author—Nor’s own mother—looms and threatens to strangle any hope for happiness.

Expected publication: March 13th, 2018

Andy Dwyer:

A character that seems to get in a lot of trouble but that all the readers love
The second volume of Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer dropped this month, so it’s quite impossible not to mention the charismatic “Captain” Carswell Thorne. The shared characteristic that both Andy and Carswell posses is the ability to be the goofiest of goofballs around.

“A captain always knows where his ship is. It’s like a psychic bond.”
“If only we had a captain here.”

O Captain! My Captain!

April Ludgate:

 A grumpy character that still steals your heart

The day I randomly decided to watch Andy and April edits online, after watching the Chris Pratt bloopers from the show, was one of the wisest decisions. Those two led me to finally watch season three, which is where they are most heavily featured, and the rest is history.

Oh, and it’s in one of those videos that I found a comment that perfectly summarizes their characters: It’s like watching a grumpy cat and golden retriever get married.

So to answer this question I’m going with a book that I absolutely adored last year but haven’t seen that many people mention: Motherest by Kristen Iskandrian.

motherest-bookspoilsMotherest is an inventive and moving coming-of-age novel that captures the pain of fractured family life, the heat of new love, and the particular magic of the female friendship-all through the jagged lens of a fraying daughter-mother bond.

Set in the early 1990s, Agnes is feeling acutely alienated from everything and everyone upon starting her first year as a new college student. And it’s all captured brilliantly through the author’s writing style that I still think about constantly. In particular, I keep spinning around this exchange with her crush in my head:

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
I keep walking. He slows down a little as if to chat, and I move faster. I want to turn around so badly that walking feels like pushing through the heaviest revolving door in the world, but I keep going.”

This may be small, but it speaks volumes. As I mentioned it in my review, this novel excels at capturing the more quiet and subtle moments in life, and I was so here for it.

Ron Swanson:

 A character that you didn’t think you would end up loving

For this, I had to go with Reagan from one of my all-time favorite Fangirl, who is notoriously known for speaking her mind and not being anybody’s fool.

“Are you Zack, or are you Cody?”

I made the wise call to revisit the book through audiobook for the first time, and I feel like even the narrator is enjoying herself with the character because I can always hear a hint of a smile upon reading Reagan’s lines.

“I look like this because I’m alive,” Reagan said. “Because I’ve had experiences. Do you understand?” 

Oh, Levi. You perfect sunflower.

Donna Meagle

A character who’s confident in what they do

I didn’t even have to think too long before Large Marge from Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone popped to mind! Set in the 1970s around “the harsh, uncompromising beauty of Alaska,” this novel tackles a variety of topics, including domestic abuse, the importance of having a support system, young love, and so much more.

What struck me, in particular, was the community of women that came together to help a family in need, without questions asked. It was one of the most beautiful things to grow out of this novel. Marge Birdsall, aka Large Marge, was the one that remained with me long after I finished the last page. Her unwavering support still rings so loudly in my mind. Like I said in my review, my aesthetic is having Large Marge shut down entitled men.

“You want to fight this battle?” Large Marge advanced, bracelets clattering. “If this young woman misses a single day of school, I will call the state and turn you in, Ernt Allbright. Don’t think for one second I won’t. You can be as batshit crazy and mean as you want, but you are not going to stop this beautiful girl from finishing high school. You got it?”
“The state won’t care.”
“Oh. They will. Trust me. You want me talking to the authorities about what goes on here, Ernt?”
“You don’t know shit.”
“Yeah, but I’m a big woman with a big mouth. You want to push me?”

Tom Haverford:

A character who likes to dream bigJanuary was also the month where I received the opportunity to read an incredible short story written by Dahlia Adler in The Radical Element anthology. Daughter of the Book was the introducing story to the collection, and my immediate first thought upon completing it went, “I don’t know how any following tale will top that one.” (And as you can tell, since I’m not writing this in the review for the anthology, I had to put the book down because I couldn’t continue reading without comparing each following tale to the phenomenal opening one.)

Set in 1838, Savannah, Georgia, Daughter of the Book follows Rebekah’s fight and journey to receive a more fulfilling Jewish education.

“Tell them I’m Jewish first.”

Dahlia Adler created one of the most memorable protagonists I’ve encountered in my reading with Rebekah Wolf. And it is the first time that I’m actually aching for a short story to be expanded into a full novel.

The Radical Element 1-- bookspoils

I’ve read a whole lot of short stories in anthologies these past few years, but I’ve truly never felt so seen before. There are talks of Hebrew, Torah, the Prophets, our history, language, and people. To paraphrase this article, it was how I talked, how my mom talked, how my sister talked. This was the writer of our experience. And as someone who does listen avidly to Torah lessons, I couldn’t have asked for a better story to capture the essence of my appreciation.

Also, having watched the Israeli show Shababnikim, which is about four young Orthodox yeshiva students, made the characters in this short story stand out that more. Speaking of which, I would highly recommend giving the show a try if you enjoyed Dahlia Adler’s story because it showcases formidable female characters challenging the norm, as well as featuring situations with outstanding humor and precise commentary that makes everything shift in your point of view.

If you’re interested, the first episode is available to check out with English subtitles on the official Youtube page:

Jean-Ralphio Saperstein:

A character that annoys the socks out of you

The limit does not exist to the extravagance that is Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, especially with Mona-Lisa his “twin sister from the same mister” around. I can only imagine the blast the writers must have writing those scenes.

So finding a character as outrageous as Jean-Ralphio was nearly impossible until I  finally recalled someone coming just close enough: Kenji Kishimoto. With the fourth Shatter Me book coming out this March, all the love I held for these characters in 2014 has been coming back in a rush to me.
I mean, just read this next bit and tell me that you don’t hear Jean-Ralphio in the last line:

“Please—please get up—and lower your voice—”
“Hell no.”
“Why not?” I’m pleading now.
“Because if I lower my voice, I won’t be able to hear myself speak. And that,” he says, “is my favorite part.”

Even though I don’t care that much for the world created in these dystopian books, the characters… Oh, man, that is a whole ‘nother deal.

Unrelated: Tahereh Mafi can write romance scenes like no one other, in case you’re wondering what I’m most excited for in the newest book…tahereh mafi-- bookspoilsScreen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

And that’s a wrap on all my answers for the Parks and Recreation book tag. I hope you enjoyed reading! If you’re interested in answering these questions, I tag you.

Oh, and let me know your favorite character from the show in the comments below!

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Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

“And you,” Large Marge said. “What’s your story, missy?”
“I don’t have a story.”
“Everyone has a story. Maybe yours just starts up here.”

I was on the look-out for a novel set around quiet people, and The Great Alone looked like one to fulfill that promise with “the harsh, uncompromising beauty of Alaska.” Plus, the mention of exploring PTSD in the father figure piqued my interest.

The bonus was when I started reading the book and became quickly swept up in Leni’s life. She’s thirteen when the novel begins, about to enter another new school since her parents move the family rapidly from place to place (“in the last four years, she’d gone to five schools”), and she’s keen on drawing as little attention to herself as possible. My kind of girl.

Afterward, the storyline unspools easily as the family arrives in Alaska, at the notice of a letter, which leads to stories set on surviving the wilderness of Alaska and the dangers lurking inside their home.The Great Alone 1-- bookspoilsThe Great Alone 2-- bookspoilsTo get all I need off my mind, I’d like to share a list of things I took note of during my reading of The Great Alone:

(Spoilers from here.)

  • I have to start off on the right foot by featuring this all-encompassing quote on Leni’s bookish love (and mine, by default):

“Books are the mile markers of my life. Some people have family photos or home movies to record their past. I’ve got books. Characters. For as long as I can remember, books have been my safe place.”

  • I loved reading about the vast landscape of “the wild, spectacular beauty” of Alaska’s unfamiliar terrain. But I have to note the many, many descriptions… Personally, I’m not one for reading more than a couple of sentences on a character’s surroundings or the peculiar weather outside. I enjoy it more when the author spends time on dialogue, instead of useless descriptions that my eyes gloss over as it is. None of it seemed to amount to much; the words just passed through me.
  • On a brighter note, this leads me to talk about the characters. Three noteworthy relationships drove the story forward for me, including Leni with Matthew, Leni with Mama (aka Cora), and Large Marge with literally anyone because she’s that dynamic. Also, major bonus points for having a character in here named Natalie.

“I followed a man up here. Classic story. I lost the man and found a life. Got my own fishing boat now. So I get the dream that brings you here, but that’s not enough. You’re going to have to learn fast.” Natalie put on her yellow gloves. “I never found another man worth having. You know what they say about finding a man in Alaska—the odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

This a classic example of “How can I become so invested in a character by the end of the paragraph?”

  • My aesthetic is having Large Marge shut down entitled men. I’m still rattled by how she expertly handled Ernt Allbright’s volatile, moody, and sharp-tempered self.

“Sit down, Ernt,” Large Marge said.
“I don’t—”
“Sit down or I’ll knock you down,” Large Marge said.
Mama gasped.
Dad sat down on the sofa beside Mama. “That’s not really the way to talk to a man in his own home.”
“You don’t want to get me started on what a real man is, Ernt Allbright. I’m holding on to my temper, but it could run away with me. And you do not want to see a big woman come at you. Trust me. So shut your trap and listen.”

  • Speaking of which, I was counting down the pages till Ernt would be shown his way out of Alaska for good. He made everything and everyone hurt so deeply. I never trusted him to be alone with Cora. Winter is coming took on a whole new meaning with him in the picture. “You could always tell when Dad was gone. Everything was easier and more relaxed in his absence.”

So I was beyond thankful the moment the townsfolk intervened upon seeing his utterly abusive behavior towards his family. The magnitude of Large Marge and Mr. Walker stepping in to help Leni and her mom stayed with me ever since. Anyone daring to rightfully put Ernt in his place has my evergrowing admiration!

“You want to fight this battle?” Large Marge advanced, bracelets clattering. “If this young woman misses a single day of school, I will call the state and turn you in, Ernt Allbright. Don’t think for one second I won’t. You can be as batshit crazy and mean as you want, but you are not going to stop this beautiful girl from finishing high school. You got it?”
“The state won’t care.”
“Oh. They will. Trust me. You want me talking to the authorities about what goes on here, Ernt?”
“You don’t know shit.”
“Yeah, but I’m a big woman with a big mouth. You want to push me?”

In the wake of those words, I’ve never loved a character more than Marge Birdsall. Showing Cora and Leni that they have a support system around them was a grandiose moment.

I felt it even more acutely after having watched Jo Wilson’s centric episode in Grey’s Anatomy, focusing on domestic abuse.

  • Which brings me to my next point: The perceptive connection that bonds mother and daughter together like peas in a pod. “Two of a kind.” It was both agonizing and admiring to see them stick so fiercely by one another.

“Mama was Leni’s one true thing.”

They had the kind of relationship that required the simplest measure: “One always knew when to be strong for the other.” It was refreshing to see such an allied bond present between Cora and Leni.

“I’m your friend.”
“You’re thirteen. I’m thirty. I’m supposed to be a mother to you. I need to remember that.”

  • Which leads me to my favorite point in the book: The exhilarating rush of giddy, young love shared between Leni and Matthew in 1978. I loved this part of the book so much, I can’t bear to shorten it on my note. I haven’t felt such fierce dedication to a literary couple in months and months. All this time I was seeking for a book to just get me when it came to those first signs of infatuation; The Great Alone did it so right.

“Leni couldn’t help thinking how small they were in this big dangerous world, just kids who wanted to be in love.”

I went through all the stages with Leni, from seeking a friend to share her secrets and longings and bookish love with, to become so easily swept up in the intoxicating head rush that is all grown-up Matthew Walker. He got her like no one else did.

“She made lists in her head of things she wanted to say to him, had whole conversations by herself, over and over. ”

I actually ached when Leni and Matthew were separated for pages at a time because of circumstances beyond their measure. He was our light in the brutal darkness of Alaska.

“Night after night, week after week, she lay in her bed, missing Matthew. Her love for him—a warrior, hiking mountains, crossing streams—strode into the wild borderlands of obsession.
Near the end of July, she began to have negative fantasies—him finding someone else, falling in love, deciding Leni was too much trouble. She ached for his touch, dreamed of his kiss, talked to herself in his voice.

I can feel the pain oozing out of this text.

But my most cherished moment came back when she first realized the switch in her mind:

“It didn’t take Leni long to know that she was in trouble. She thought about Matthew constantly. At school she began to study his every move; she watched him as she would a prey animal, trying to glean intent from action. His hand sometimes brushed hers beneath the desk, or he touched her shoulder as he passed by her in the classroom. She didn’t know if those brief contacts were intentional or meaningful, but her body responded instinctively to each fleeting touch. Once she’d even risen from her chair, pushed her shoulder into his palm like a cat seeking attention. It wasn’t a thought, that lifting up, that unknown need; it just happened. And sometimes, when he talked to her, she thought he stared at her lips the way she stared at his. She found herself secretly mapping his face, memorizing every ridge and hollow and valley, as if she were an explorer and he her discovery.”

Scouring my neverending notes for a scene that captures the easygoing nature between the two was quite tough, but then I found this:

“But in her mind, he was Matthew, the fourteen-year-old kid who’d showed her frogs’ eggs and baby eagles, the boy who’d written her every week. Dear Leni, it’s hard at this school. I don’t think anyone likes me … And to whom she’d written back. I know a lot about being the new kid in school. It blows. Let me give you a few tips …
This … man was someone else, someone she didn’t know. Tall, long blond hair, incredibly good-looking. What could she say to this Matthew?
He reached into his backpack, pulled out the worn, banged-up, yellowed version of The Lord of the Rings that Leni had sent him for his fifteenth birthday. She remembered the inscription she’d written in it. Friends forever, like Sam and Frodo.”

cries actual tears of joy 

It’s scary to put on paper, but they changed something within me. The state of utter fragility and vulnerability that their love put them in stopped me cold and made me think twice of its power.

As I read, I was reminded of this tentative song I recently discovered:

  • So you could only imagine my devastation to the unexpected (supposed) ending of Matthew being hurt beyond repair when all he was trying to do was save Leni…

“I’m the reason he’s hurt. He tried to save me. It’s my fault.”
“He couldn’t do anything else, Leni. Not after what happened to his mom. I know my son. Even if he’d known the price, he would have tried to rescue you.”

I’ve never felt such visible pain and hurt and rage. My mind was so overrun with thoughts and emotions; I felt like I was in a zombie state when I dared to get up from the book. In the wake of all the hurt we went through with Leni, everything seemed so banal in the real world. Returning to the Outside felt like involuntary breaking off the rural spell we’d been under.

“A girl needs to be strong in this world.”

I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I was supposed to move on like nothing happened after we left Matthew, unsure of what the future held for him. I was so damn invested in every single moment shared between Matthew and Leni; it hurt more than I could bear to merely think of him without her. So I was pretty much left numb after that. I honestly couldn’t have cared less, reading about everything that occurred to the characters in the aftermath. All I wanted was justice for Leni’s kind, grief-stricken Matthew.

“He’d been drowning for all of these years without her, and she was the shore he’d been flailing to find.”

In hindsight, I should’ve known who I was dealing with before entering the novel. After all, I did read The Nightingale two winters ago. And coupled with the fact that I read 400 pages of this newest release in a single day, my reading experience took quite the toll on me. What is fresh air? But as the saying goes “Hindsight is 20/20. Everyone has a clear view from the rearview mirror.”

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