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  • Sarah Skilton 5:00 pm on 2019/11/08 Permalink
    Tags: christmas shopaholic, crazy rich asians, , , josie silver, julia whelan, last christmas, london belongs to us, my oxford year, one day in december, , , sarra manning, ,   

    5 London-Set Books to Read After You See Last Christmas 

    Anglophiles, assemble! Last Christmas hits theaters today, about a young woman (GoT’s Emilia Clarke) who works at a year-round ornament store and whose holiday blues start to lift when a handsome stranger (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding) enters her life. Besides the romance, what I’m most looking forward to are the scenes showcasing the beauty and quirks of London during the holidays. Here are five more new and recent romances set in Merry Old to keep you cozy this weekend.

    Royal Holiday, by Jasmine Guillory
    An impromptu mother-daughter trip to England to style a duchess for the holidays? So much yes. Guillory’s fourth book centers on an older protagonist, 50-something Vivian Forest, whose daughter Maddie (last seen in The Wedding Party) provides the impetus for the trip of a lifetime. When Vivian meets Malcolm Hudson, a veddy proper private secretary to the Queen, sparks fly. The problem is, Vivian’s due back in the States after New Year’s. Is a magical fling worth the possible heartache to follow?

    Christmas Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella
    Becky Bloomwood Brandon is eager to share a traditional English Christmas with husband Luke and daughter Minnie at her parents’ place, complete with ugly sweaters and caroling. Then her mum and dad drop a bombshell: they’re moving out of the village of Letherby and into a trendy London ‘burb. As such, they need Becky to host the festivities this time around. Bargain shopping, well-meaning yet screwball attempts to help loved ones, and surprises in the form of an ex-boyfriend, ensue. Like a mug of cocoa with marshmallows on top, this looks to be a sweet and heartwarming delight. This is Becky’s eighth outing, but newcomers to the Shopaholic series needn’t have read the previous volumes.

    One Day in December, by Josie Silver
    What happens when your best friend lands the guy you’ve been fantasizing about for a year? That’s Laurie’s predicament in this romance that spans a decade and begins with a missed connection out a bus window in London. When Laurie and Jack first glimpse each other from afar, their mutual and intense attraction is put on simmer—they have no idea how to find each other again—until months later when Jack shows up on the arm of Laurie’s mate Sarah at a holiday party. Does fate intend for them to pursue each other, or is it better for everyone if they walk away? Perfect for fans of Love Actually.

    My Oxford Year, by Julia Whelan
    When Rhodes Scholar Ella Durran arrives at Oxford to study English lit, it’s the culmination of a lifelong dream. Soon, however, she’s torn between her education and a job opportunity working for a rising politician. Then there’s the banter-filled and swoony romance she’s begun with Jamie Davenport, a young, mischievous professor who pushes all her buttons in the best ways. But Jamie’s hiding something from Ella that will change everything—and force Ella to make choices that all seem headed toward heartbreak. Have Kleenex on hand for this gorgeous and emotional debut.

    London Belongs to Us, by Sarra Manning
    Fans of fast-paced stories set in a single night will tear through this love letter to London. When teenage Sunny discovers the truth about her boyfriend—he’s two-timing her with a girl from another school, and has been for a while—she sets off on a cross-city trek for answers. Zipping through villages both lesser-known and iconic (Notting Hill, Soho, Camden…), she meets a colorful cast of characters and learns what she’s willing and unwilling to do for love—and herself.

     What London-set romance novels would you recommend to Last Christmas fans?

    The post 5 London-Set Books to Read After You See <i>Last Christmas</i> appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , crazy rich asians, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 

    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2019/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , , crazy rich asians, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , this love story will self-destruct   

    A Book for Every Song on Lover, Taylor Swift’s New Album 

    TS7 is finally here! If you’re like me or any of the millions of Swifties out there, the arrival of this next era is just as exciting as a brand-new bookshelf full of reads you get to experience for the first time. After listening to the album on repeat all weekend, I decided to celebrate Lover with a book roundup inspired by each of the songs (since it’s the only thing I’ll be listening to for the foreseeable future, don’t @ me.).

    1. “I Forgot That You Existed” (Best Friends Forever, by Jennifer Weiner)

    You heard it from Taylor first: indifference is the new vengeance. This solid album-opener is upbeat and poppy, a nice contrast with the lyrics about the (final?) end of a broken relationship, friendship (or feud), when you actually forget that the person you once had so much ire for still lives. She transitions from “Your name on my lips, tongue-tied/Free rent, living in my mind” to “ forgot that you existed/and I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t” with ease. But of course, insisting that you forget someone existed while singing about them.introduces interesting tension, and would into any relationship. It reminded me of Jennifer Weiner’s Best Friends Forever, about what happens when a former friend shows up on your doorstep in a crisis, insisting you’re the only one who can help them out of a tight spot (when you’d rather do anything but).

    2. Cruel Summer” (Do You Want to Start a Scandal, by Tessa Dare)

    Lyrically and sonically, this is one of my favorites on the entire album (it’s so good it should have been a single!) It’s got an Out of the Woods meets Getaway Car vibe in terms of the melody. Wistful, a bit haunting, but also a total bop. “So cut the headlights, summer’s a knife/I’m always waiting for you just to cut to the bone” describes a low point in Swift’s life (Summer 2016, ugh), juxtaposed with the high of discovering new love. There are so many books I could have picked for this, but “I don’t want to keep secrets just to keep you” reminded me of the Regency romance trope where the heroine has a secret, or finds herself in a situation where her reputation is at stake, but is still tempted by a handsome rogue who might lead her into temptation and true love. (Sound a bit familiar?) Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare feels like the perfect accompaniment to this song about a woman who must prove her innocence in the face of a sullied reputation or be forced to marry a man she doesn’t think she could ever love.

    3.Lover” (Roomies, by Christina Lauren)

    The title track (and the one I’ve been singing in the shower for days) is a swoony daydream of a couple in complete harmony, as Swift spins wedding vow-like lyrics such as “With every guitar string scar on my hand/I take this magnetic force of a man to be my…lover/My heart’s been borrowed and yours has been blue/all’s well that end’s well to end up with you/swear to be overdramatic and true/to my…lover.” But Swift is all about balance in her songs, so imagery of keeping up the Christmas lights in “our place” is juxtaposed with suspicion that “everyone who sees you wants you.” This track reminded me of Roomies by Christina Lauren, with its musician main character and the trope of having to share a space while inevitably falling in love.

    4. The Man” (The Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker)

    The double-standards between men and women have been explored in songs and novels since both art forms existed. Swift has already confronted the media’s perception of her as a victim, as a girl who goes on too many dates but can’t make them stay, etc. But in “The Man”, she more directly confronts how different she’d be treated if she were the opposite gender. How could I not think of the new thriller The Whisper Network, about a group of women who come forward about their male boss’ behavior of harassment in the workplace. Instead of continuing to suffer in silence, they tell the truth, resulting in an explosive conflict and an ending I sort of saw coming, but was very glad I was right.

    5. “The Archer” (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

    Another slower, lyric-driven track on the album with gut-punching truths about love, friendship, and holding on to the one who has your heart. “The Archer” is associated with being a Sagittarius (which Swift is), but also her dynamic with the world. “Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?” is self-aware in a new way for Swift, as is “I never grew up, it’s getting so old” or “I see right through me.” This is one of my favorite tracks on the album, as Swift confronts her cultivated image as both archer and prey of fame and of love. Listening to the rising energy of the track as it builds to a anti-fairy-tale crescendo plus Swift’s lyrics made me think of Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is forced to acknowledge how her own prejudices have made it difficult for others to love her, but that she is deserving of an imperfect love. (And how could “All of my enemies started out friends” not remind you of awful Mr. Wickham?)

    6. “I Think he Knows” (The Duke and I, by Julia Quinn)

    After a slower song, this heats things up a bit, describing the early sizzle of a relationship before it even starts. For an entire album that sings the praises of a man, I liked the moment in the pre-chorus where she says “He’s so obsessed with me, and boy, I understand.” Own your worth, girl! The bridge was my favorite part of this song (as it often is with Swift; girl knows how to bridge) as it played with tempo and rhyme. “Lyrical smile, indigo eyes, hand on my thigh/We can follow the sparks, I’ll drive.” Swift explores the tension of the moment between seeing someone and initiating contact—songs like these always sting with a bit of danger, too, because the man knows she wants him but neither of them say anything in public about it. She’s whispering in the dark, which gives me serious secret romance vibes. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is about Simon, who is planning to propose to his BFF’s sister even though he doesn’t actually love her. It’s an arrangement that suits them both, but before they both know it, Daphne is giving Simon serious “I Think he Knows” vibes.

    7. Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (The Cheerleaders, by Kara Thomas)

    If you don’t get the oft-spoken metaphor “politics is like high-school”, this song takes the metaphor to the next level. Subtly political but 100% heartbreaking, Swift re-imagines the political sphere (and her role in it) as a high school romance, moving from “American glory, faded before me”, painting the democratic 2016 election loss as a ripped-up prom dress (from Miss Americana, who assumed she would win.) Oozing drama and storytelling the way only Swift can, I love the moody elements of the brokenhearted girl contrasted with the new riff on a cheerleading chant (Go Fight Win!). This song is about mourning loss and then finding the strength to say “I know we’re going to win”, but it’s haunting melody and lyrics led me to pick a Cheerleader-inspired thriller. The Cheerleaders is about a string of cheerleaders murdered in a small town five years ago…and just when everyone thinks it’s time to move on, one girl becomes the center of a mystery that never truly died.

    8. Paper Rings” (The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan)

    I’m on my fourth listen of the album and this might be my favorite track on it (though that changes minute by minute, with an album as dynamic as this—and just to further accentuate this, by the time of posting this piece my new favorite might be I Think he Knows?). It’s a totally retro, 60’s style song, a totally new sound for Swift, and one that fits perfectly with her new aesthetic. (Makes me wonder why this wasn’t one of the singles released before the record.) It is a gold-mine for Swiftian lyricism, with so many gems I can’t possibly call them all out, and it moves so fast (like a good read) that you both want to cascade over them and pause to hear each line at least 5x before it passes you by. It’s an unabashed love song, relishing in the joy of knowing you’re with the one you love so much that “I like shiny things, but I’d marry you with paper rings”. The line that stuck out the most was “I hate accidents except when we went from friends to this”, which made me think of when Bex Porter goes to Oxford and, completely by accident, falls in love with the heir to the throne.

    9. Cornelia Street” (Passion on Park Avenue, by Lauren Layne)

    “Cornelia Street” is sort of the antithesis to I Think He knows. It’s about remembering the early days of a new relationship (“We were a fresh page on the desk/filling in the blanks as we go”) and being more than willing to give up all the good that comes with fresh starts in order to settle into something real. It aches with melancholy, because any time we give something up should be a little sad—but it brims with hope and Swift’s trademarked optimism about love. “I hope I never lose you, hope it never ends/I’d never walk Cornelia Street again/ That’s the kinda heartbreak time could never mend.” I had to pick an NYC-set story for this, like Lauren Layne’s Passion on Park Avenue. The city is another character in the romance between a successful jewelry-business owner and the son of the woman her mother used to work for.

    10.Death By a Thousand Cuts” (Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better, by Madisen Kuhn)

    Inspired by the Netflix movie Something Great, this is one of the few sad songs on the record, about a girl going through a breakup who can’t help but linger in happier memories. (For the record: “I dress to kill my time” is genius, as are so many of these lyrics.) Only Swift is so good at pairing such devastating messaging with a pop beat you can’t help but want to sing. This song was the hardest one to pick a book for (especially because it’s already inspired by a movie) so I decided to go with a poetry collection! Please Don’t Go Before I Get Better is all about the aches and sun rays of growing up, told in a staggeringly relatable voice that will make you want to curl up on the couch and cry your eyes out.

    11. London Boy” (Red, White and Royal Blue, by Casey McQuiston)

    This is 100% about Joe Alwyn, but also…Taylor dated at least two Brits that we know of before him, so this song is about what we already knew (“the rumors are true”): she has a penchant for London Boys. Essentially a road map of her favorite places in the city, this indulgent ditty trades “Tennessee Whiskey” for “A gray sky, a rainy cab ride” and of course, her man by her side. Red, White, and Royal Blue is the perfect pic for this song, about two boys who fall in love (after a rough start where they were almost enemies) amidst those gray, rainy skies…but one of them happens to be the son of an American President, and the other, the current Prince of England.

    12.Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)” (Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell)

    Of all the songs on the album, this one gave me the most vintage Swift vibes. There’s no denying that she is an astonishingly talented songwriter, especially when you listen to what is essentially her greatest fear laid bare, on the track with just a bit of guitar and the Dixie Chicks harmonizing in the background. Here, the story shines: Swift’s mother has been sick for a number of years, and while they’ve mostly kept the details of that battle private, this is the most vulnerable moment of love for her mother on an album mostly about finding true love. “Holy orange bottles, each night I pray to you/Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus, too.” A friend of mine recently lost their mother just after getting married, and it made me marvel at how life often delivers us highs and lows to grapple with simultaneously. While all of this was going on—Kanye and Kim, Joe and London, another world tour, another album—in the background, Swift has been terrified of losing her mother. This song made me think of Swamplandia!, a novel about a young girl living in a gator-wrestling theme park where her mother used to be the main event until she passed away. Now, in the wake of her death, she and her siblings must grapple with her legacy as a competing business rises up to swallow the success she built on the swamp.

    13.False God” (City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert)

    Is that a saxophone in the background of a Taylor Swift song? This slow, jazzy number is all about love and desire—and how we come back to it even when the world around us (and sometimes we, ourselves) put it in jeopardy. “And I can’t talk to you when you’re like this/Staring out the window like I’m not your favorite town/I’m New York City” and other lyrics referencing New York seem to be the grounding force in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Multiple times on this record Swift has alluded to rough patches in her current happiness, but connection is always the solution to fixing it. She seems to say that if you treat your relationship like it’s your religion, you can get through anything. This is one of the sexier songs on the album, but it’s also got serious NYC vibes, so I’m picking City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: a novel all about relishing romance in the glitzy 1940’s New York Theater scene, but also how desire can either set us on the road to ruin, or redemption.

    14.You Need to Calm Down” (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid)

    This song has done what Swift does best: inspire conversation and a bit of controversy. Acknowledging that it was past time for her to be an outspoken ally for the LGBTQIAP+ community, YNTCD tackles the various ways communities are pitted against one another (especially on the internet.) The first verse examines her personal haters (“Say it in the street, that’s a knock-out/But you say it in a Tweet, that’s a cop-out), the second calls out homophobes (“Shade never made anybody less gay”), and the third examines how her relationships with her female contemporaries have often been antagonistic, something she herself has been responsible perpetuating in the past with songs like “Bad Blood” and “Better Than Revenge” (“We all know now, we all got crowns/you need to calm down.”) The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is about a famous actress who hid the great female love of her life behind multiple male partners and uses her platform to tell the truth (all while hiding one last devastating secret). While Taylor herself has not come out as part of the LGBTQ community, she has come out as an ally, and this book made me think about the issues of privacy, platform, allyship, and identity that the song also confronts. If there’s more to the story of Swift’s relationship to the LGBTQIAP+ community, she’s going to share it on her own terms.

    15.Afterglow” (Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams)

    This song ranks high on my favorites from the album, and it’s a rare genre from Swift: the apology song. The other famous one is Speak Now’s “Back to December”. In this mid-tempo song with slamming drums and a breathy falsetto, Swift yearns for the partner she pushed away to meet her in the moments after the fight ends. “It’s all me, in my head/I’m the one who burned us down/ but it’s not what I meant,” she insists. There’s still hope here though, as opposed to earlier songs on the record that signal the doom of a friendship or a breakup after-the-fact. Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, is a novel about a girl coming to terms with her role in a failed relationship, a career she can’t seem to succeed in, and friends she unknowingly betrays. “Why’d I have to break what I love so much?” is a question asked in this song’s chorus, and one Queenie must answer in order to find real, lasting happiness.

    16. ME! (feat. Brendon Urie)” (Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan)

    This self-love anthem is bubblegum sweet and full of earworms, the “Shake it Off of the TS7 Era. It makes me think of lightning fast beach reads that you can’t put down and that feel so good to read but also have a deeper meaning to them. Just because it’s not the most lyrically advanced of her songs doesn’t mean this bop doesn’t deserve to be celebrated— it reminded me of how romances constantly get a bad rep (lol, see what I did there?) about being somehow lesser than other genres. But I love that Taylor doesn’t care about what other people think and is 100% focused on being her authentic self— just like the heroine of Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel Chu. When confronted with the wealth and expectations of her boyfriend Nick’s family (who don’t think she’s good enough for him), she insists it’s her individuality that makes her the perfect partner for him.

    17. It’s Nice to Have a Friend” (This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen)

    This track might be my second favorite? It’s so different (Ukulele? Trombone? Is that what I’m hearing?) and such a contrast to the beginning of the album, the opener closes the door on a once meaningful friendship. It’s also a deceiving song, in that I’m still not 100% sure what it’s about (on third listen.) I think though, Swift is exploring the importance of friendship in all its forms: in childhood (“School bell rings, walk me home”) to adolescence “Something gave you the nerve/to touch my hand”) to romantic love (“Church bells ring, carry me home/rice on the ground looks like snow”). Ultimately, she may be saying that the most important thing about a romantic partner is that they make you feel like you have a friend—when you’re young, the thing that matters most is feeling seen by other people. If your lover is also your best friend, then you know they always have your back. A love story that takes place over two characters’ twenties, This Love Story Will Self-Destruct is about the missteps, betrayals, beautiful moments and connection that forms between two people over a decade.

    18.Daylight” (Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes)

    “My love was as cruel as the cities I lived in.” What a way to begin this album closer. Swift’s last tracks have a tradition of being the ones that are most emblematic of her current state of mind, but they also have developed certain themes over time. Renewal, starting over, self-reflection, and hope are all subjects Daylight sheds a little light on. She acknowledges past failings (“I wounded the good and trusted the wicked”) and what she wants for the future (“I once believed love would be [burning red]/but it’s golden”). A book that feels like daylight on your skin is what’s needed for this song, and I think Evvie Drake Starts Over is the perfect pick: a story about a woman still grieving the loss of her husband but who finds herself moving on with a former major league baseball player. Both of them have pasts they are healing from, but together, they find hope for the future. “I’ve been sleeping so long in a twenty-year dark night/and now I see daylight.”

    And, unlike (I think?) any other song in her catalogue, she speaks in the end, not sings, in a direct appeal to her audience. Her very last words are “You are what you love.” Well, I love Taylor Swift. I love a good song lyric to sink my teeth into, or to sing. I love love. And I love a good story, whether it comes from a song or a book, and when you’re done with the album, I hope you find some here. Leave a comment below with which books you’d pick for your fave Taylor songs!

    The post A Book for Every Song on <i>Lover</i>, Taylor Swift’s New Album appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Ross Johnson 9:00 pm on 2019/02/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , crazy rich asians, , , diana gabaladon, fingersmith, flavor of love, giovanni's room, helen simonson, , , , , , , major pettigrew's last stand, , , one day, , , , , , the age of light, the proposal, , valentine's day books, whitney scharer   

    15 Love Stories to Match Your Valentine’s Day Mood 

    It’s almost Valentine’s Day—and the perfect time to year to read a love story. But our tastes in romantic tales vary as much as our dating profiles: sometimes we want our literary lovers to make us laugh, and just as often, we need a really good cry. Whether your tastes tend toward the lighthearted or the tragic, there is assuredly a romantic novel out there for everyone.

    Here are our suggestions for 15 different types of love stories to match your Valentine’s Day mood.

    Unforgettable

    Call Me By Your Name, by André Aciman
    This tender love story, the basis for the award-winning film, is a pure delight in terms of character and storytelling, chronicling the burgeoning attraction between the curious, precocious 17-year old Elio and 24-year old Oliver in the Italian Riviera of the 1980s and its reverberations through their lives over the course of two succeeding decades. The setting is almost as sumptuous as the romance, as the two live out a travel agent’s dream, lounging around the gorgeous Italian countryside and coming to rest in picturesque villas. It’s a perfectly sun-kissed love story for this dreary mid-winter month.

    Magical

    A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness
    For readers who like their romance with a bit of dark magic on the side. When factions of supernatural creatures set their sights on a document that could give them the upper hand in a war, a reluctant witch must seek the protection of an equally reluctant vampire, her supposed mortal enemy. Witch tales have a tendency to emphasize the importance of family… but in this case, it could the witch’s own family that wants her dead. Will true love prevail between these two warring beings?

    Unrequited

    The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
    This Booker Prize–winning novel tells the powerful, poignant story of a devoted English butler who takes a road trip to reflect upon his life, which mainly revolved around a 30-year career of service to his lordship. For much of that time, he harbors feelings for Darlington Hall’s housekeeper Miss Kenton—affections Mr. Stevens’ deeply ingrained sense of duty makes it inconceivable that he would ever express, or even fully acknowledge to himself. There is nothing that wounds the heart quite like an unrequited love affair, and this is a novel that will leave a scar upon every reader.

    Heartbreaking

    An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
    Newlyweds Roy and Celestial find their marriage tested after a cruel twist of fate sends Roy to prison in another state for a crime he didn’t commit. As the years of separation drag on, Celestial turns to her friend since childhood, Andre, for comfort, and Andre’s perspective provides new insight into her painful situation. Letters sent between husband and wife further illuminate this incredible, contemporary study of marriage, loyalty, and racial injustice.

    Saucy

    Fingersmith, by Sarah Waters
    Sarah Waters’ tale of Dickensian skulduggery is so twisty and deceptive, we can promise you’ll nearly drop the book in shock not once, not twice, but three times while reading it. The story begins with the low-born Sue, an orphan trained in deception by a Fagin-like mentor named Mrs. Sucksby, accompanying a master thief and con artist known as the Gentleman on his latest scheme. She’s taken on the guise of a lady’s maid, playing a supporting role as he seduces a wealthy heiress with an eye toward having the poor woman committed to an asylum as soon as they are wed so he can claim her fortune. It’s just another job for Sue—until she makes the mistake of falling in love with the Maud, the plot’s intended victim.

    Delightful

    The Proposal, by Jasmine Guillory
    Nikole Paterson has just experienced a bit of embarrassment: her ridiculous boyfriend of five months proposed to her via scoreboard at a baseball game—and spelled her name wrong doing so. Understandably, she’s not exactly feeling the ’til-death vibes, so she decides to hightail it out of the stadium, fleeing the nosy camera crews and 45,000 fans. Her exit is made more swift via the unexpected aide of one Dr. Carlos Ibarra, who even sticks around after she gets trolled via social media for hightailing it. (Dear trolls of the world—Get a life!) Nikole and Carlos tentatively embark on a quiet romance. She thinks she’ll be fine with just a fling to help her get over her embarrassment, but oon realizes that Carlos just might be the real deal.

    Timeless

    Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
    “A timeless love story” is a discriptor to be taken rather literally in the case of Gabaldon’s beloved novel, the first in a series that mixes rich historical detail with a romance that stretches across centuries. Former combat nurse Ruth Randall, just reunited with her husband after World War II, walks through a stone circle in 1945 to find herself in war-torn Scotland in the year 1743. There, she meets the fiery Jamie Fraser, beginning a passionate, deeply sexy love triangle as she finds herself torn between two different men, two different centuries, and two vastly different lives.

    Unconditional

    Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
    If you’re looking for love story that will break your heart open, most any Jojo Moyes book is a safe bet. Each one of them is filled with heart and characters you can’t help caring about, and none more so than Me Before You, which tells the story of Louisa, a sheltered girl whose life changes when she takes a job caring for Will, a suicidal man who resents that he must use a wheelchair following a terrible accident. Their love grows and endures through any number of challenges, but may not be able to overcome all. This book will definitely make you cry buckets—but it will also make you laugh, and nod your head in recognition, and flip back to the first page to read it again.

    Hilarious

    Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
    In this novel and its sequels, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People ProblemsKevin Kwan dives into the funny, soapy world of super-wealthy Asian and Asian-American characters, centering on the relationship between New Yorker Rachel Chu and her boyfriend Nicholas Young. When the two head off to Singapore for the summer, Rachel thinks she’ll be meeting Nick’s family and staying in their humble family home. But Nick failed to tell her that his family is rich. And not just a little rich—crazy rich. Thus Rachel becomes our eyes and ears on a journey into the decadent lives of some of Asia’s richest families. Much of the fun of Kwan’s trilogy comes from reveling in sordid stories of unimaginable excess, but the true magic is the way it makes you can about the love story at its center. Romance abounds, even if the books’ many relationships never quite play out as you might expect.

    Scandalous

    Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
    The past can certainly feel more romantic than the present, as in this thrilling tale of novelist and travel writer Martha Gellhorn, the third wife of Ernest Hemingway. Already famous for her journalistic work during the 1930s, Gellhorn meets the older Hemingway and their romance sizzles from the start—for a time. McLain masterfully brings these historical figures to life, depicting Hemingway’s neediness and instability, traits that slowly ruin an ideal marriage. Gellhorn makes her break from Hemingway in dramatic fashion, stowing away on a hospital ship bound for Normandy on D-Day, and subsequently becoming the first journalist of either gender to report back from the massive invasion of Fortress Europe. The story’s twists and turns wouldn’t be believable if they weren’t based on real events.

    Intense

    The Age of Light, by Whitney Scharer
    Whitney Scharer’s historical fiction hit focuses on Lee Miller, a larger-than-life figure who worked as a fashion model in 1920s New York before traveling to Paris and apprenticing herself to famed photographer Man Ray. She eventually became his collaborator, lover, and muse as she develops her art and starts her own photography studio. During World War II, she serves as a war correspondent and photojournalist for Vogue—and somehow that’s only a handful of the twists and turns this dynamic woman’s life will take. Scharer not only brings to life the tempestuous and passionate love affair between Miller and Ray, but illustrates how they pushed and prodded one another to even greater creative heights in their work.

    Charming

    Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
    The retired and entirely proper Major Ernest Pettigrew lives in the tiny English village of Edgecombe St. Mary, enjoying tea and all the other sorts of things that retired Englishmen are meant to appreciate. Then his brother’s death brings him into the orbit of the recently widowed Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper with whom he develops first a friendship and then a romance. Polite society frowns on such a match, complicating matters for the Major in a novel that playfully explores a love that defies obstacles of race and class.

    Illuminating

    Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin
    Tender but intense, Baldwin’s 1956 novel is a foundational work of 20th century gay literature. It tells the story of an American named David who is abandoned left in Paris by his girlfriend, and the Italian man, Giovanni, whom he meets at a gay bar and unexpectedly goes home with. Baldwin explores issues of masculinity and alienation as he plays out the lovely, forbidden, and ultimately doomed romance between the two men.

    Classic

    A Walk to Remember, by Nicholas Sparks
    Oh, the tears that have fallen over the pages of this love-against-all-odds romance. Bad boy Landon meets Jamie after he is forced to participate in the school play—it’s that or expulsion. Over time, he finds himself drawn to the girl, who warns him it is in his best interests not to fall in love with her. By then, of course, it’s already too late for them both: Landon leaves his old life and friends behind to be with her, and when Jamie reveals a devastating secret to him, they cling to one another, even when it seems that all hope is lost.

    Tragic

    One Day, by David Nicholls
    Dexter and Emma spend the night together in 1988 following their graduation from Edinburgh University, speculating about the future course of their lives. Each subsequent year, on July 15, Nicholls’ novel revisits the friends and sometimes lovers to chart the course of their lives, loves, careers, and romances. Before it’s over, we circle back to that first night in order to better understand the significance of the date, and of the long relationship between the two, and of the journeys they’ve taken as they’ve moved in and out of each other’s lives.

    What’s your Valentine’s Day romance of choice this year?

    The post 15 Love Stories to Match Your Valentine’s Day Mood appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2015/09/08 Permalink
    Tags: crazy rich asians, deep dive, , , primates of park avenue,   

    5 Books that Are Great Examples of Cultural Anthropology 

    There are novels, and there are anthropological studies, and then there are books that are a curious mixture of the two. Sometimes, they are fictional stories that explore a modern society or subculture with an almost scientific rigor; sometimes they’re memoirs or nonfiction books that blur the lines between fact and fiction or that inspire fiction based on their science. However it happens, the results are often brilliant, because these stories aren’t simply enlightening or entertaining—they’re both. Here are five recent books that use cultural anthropology to brilliant effect.

    Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan
    Few recent books have exposed readers to a world heretofore not only unexplored, but generally not even understood to exist, in quite the same way as Crazy Rich Asians and its sequel, China Rich Girlfriend. Kwan’s magic lies in his complete lack of a moral compass in telling his tales of unimaginably rich Chinese families flaunting their wealth. Because he never pauses to wonder if any of it matters, to worry over whether these are good or bad people or whether their money might be used better elsewhere, the reader doesn’t have to either.We merely stare, wide-eyed, as this glittering, cold, gaudy world is revealed to us.

    Primates of Park Avenue, by Wednesday Martin
    The greatest trick Wednesday Martin ever pulled was obfuscating her own wealth and privilege, the wealth and privilege that gave her access to the Upper East Side Manhattan that she eviscerates with almost gleeful scientific rigor in this memoir. While readers outside of the ultra-rich Manhattan neighborhoods described in this witty, sometimes arch book might not have embraced her if they realized how much an outsider Martin really wasn’t, it doesn’t change the fact that her detailed examination of the strange, insular world of rich mommies and trophy wives is equal parts horrifying (for the average person with human emotions) and entertaining (for everyone who enjoys seeing smug people taken down a notch).

    Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman
    The source book for the film Mean Girls, Wiseman’s exploration of the modern teenage “Girl World” is more of a self-help book with anthropological tendencies than a novel, breaking down teenage life into cliques and behavior patterns with psychological and cultural inspirations, and offering suggestions and solutions for navigating the maze. It remains one of the most popular, useful books for parents of teenage girls, not because it inspired a hit movie, but because it explains what’s going on in clear, perceptive language that any parent, no matter how distant from her own childhood, can easily understand and utilize.

    Bennington Girls are Easy, by Charlotte Silver
    It’s important to remember that subcultures are often fleeting. Just as the Greasers of the 1950s and the Hippies of the 1960s came and went, so to do all other pockets of American weirdness. Smart writers understand that sometimes the best way to go anthropological is to focus on that moment of transition. Silver expertly captures a moment in time when graduates of elite school Bennington, brilliantly educated but peculiarly sheltered from life, ran smack into the economic downturn of the last decade. Instead of corporate jobs that would have funded their misadventures, Silver’s rich recent grads fumble through sex and intense self-love affairs that ultimately doom friendships and end romances, giving the rest of us a glimpse at a very specific subculture in scientific (and amusing) detail.

    Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple
    On the surface, Where’d You Go, Bernadette isn’t anthropological at all—it’s a straight-up novel about a brilliant woman who retreats into home and family life to escape a damaging past, only to run away when things reach a breaking point. Dig deeper, though, and you find a scathing examination of modern Seattle, and the monied-yet-progressive families that send their kids to the Galer School, where Bernadette’s daughter Bee is a student. With a main character transplanted from Los Angeles, the novel serves as a dissection of a particular subculture in a specific city, arguably at a specific period in time, and it is equal parts hilarious and insightful.

     
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