Busy Summer of Reading

I just realized I haven’t shared what books I’ve read (and enjoyed) in the past few months.
Mostly that is because June was a whirlwind of taking 3 classes, 2 of which were crammed into those 4 weeks, and one of those was a YA Literature class, so I was reading non-stop!  All while watching The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.
 
Here is the synopsis of what I’ve read since the end of May:
 
Double BindThe Double Bind: Women on Ambition by Robin Romm– 2 stars. I didn’t finish. Essays on when women have been told they were bitches at their jobs. Got old reallllll quick.
 
ScytheScythe by Neal Shusterman– YA. This book started out my YA Lit class and I really liked it-4 stars. It is first in a series (next book in February). Dystopia/utopia. No one dies in anymore (thanks Cloud-based politics and healthcare), but the population is out of control. Enter Scythes and their apprentices to pick people off.
 
Girl I Used to BeThe Girl I Used to Be by April Henry. YA. Snooze. 2 stars only because its probably fascinating to a teenager. Parentless emancipated teen moves around Oregon looking for her parents’ killer.
 
SweetbitterSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I gave this book 3 stars, I think mostly because I wasn’t sure what the point was of the book, but it has stuck with me. Young woman moves to New York just because, gets a job at a world class restaurant. Becomes infatuated with two of her coworkers and their odd relationship. Its a bildungsroman filled with fancy cocktails, blackouts, cocaine, dirty laundry and oysters.
 
It's All Absolutely TrueIt’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot. 1 star. Terrible copy-cat of Hyperbole and a Half. Terrible.
 
by Maris Kreizman. 2 stars. Basically a bunch of pop-culture memes. Only good from this book besides a good laugh was Maris Kreizman responded and retweeted my tweet to her.
 
MooncopMooncop by Tom Gauld. YA graphic novel, 4 stars. Short read, BEAUTIFULLY illustrated. A quiet book about a cop on the moon who is one of the last to remain in the settlement their after everyone moves back to earth. I reached out to the author for a school project and he was beyond nice and supportive.
 
Ronit and JamilRonit & Jamil by Pamela Laskin. YA, book in verse (which I did not know existed before this). 3 stars. Take on Romeo and Juliet- star-crossed teens whose fathers work together as a medical team. One is Jewish, the other Palestinian.
 
Bubonic PanicBubonic Panic: When Plague Invaded America by Gail Jarrow. YA non-fiction (of which their is a HUGE paucity!!) Writes very succinctly about the history of the plague around the world. I found it fascinating with great images and illustrations. 4 stars.
 
The Here and NowThe Here and Now by Ann Brashares. Brashares of Traveling Pants fame. Picked this book out as a YA selection for Stephanie ‘s daughter. 4 stars. Would make a great movie. Involves a group of future time travelers returning to present time after a new plague kills most of the future population. Rules created for the group involve no relationships with time natives (us) or changing the course of the future.
 
Last Seen LeavingLast Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig. YA mystery. 4 stars. January, Flynn’s rich girlfriend, is missing and presumed dead. Themes include teen sex, homosexuality, mental illness, class differences, and typical teenage angst. Also: girl power.
 
Train I RideTrain I Ride by Paul Mosier. Middle grade fiction. Paul is a friend of my old criticalist. His 8 year old daughter is currently battling an aggressive form of cancer, so we’ve connected through her. I met him in person finally when he gave this book talk a few weeks back. This is the story of Rydr, a 12 year old girl on an Amtrak train with a chaperone to meet the distant relative that will now take care of her in Chicago. She’s scrappy, smart, sad, broken, and resourceful. 3 stars.
 
by Dan Wilbur. 3 stars. A funny read about more “appropriate” and hilarious titles for classic books. Anyone care to guess what classic book the title of this book is referring to??
 
Aristotle and DanteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz. YA LGBTQ fiction. If you get nothing else out of my long winded post, read this!!!! 5 stars. Book 1 of a future series. No real plot, but some amazing character development between Dante and Aristotle and their friendship.
 
Thirteen Reasons WhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Because the media and nay-sayers think they have the right to censor what everyone reads and watches on Netflix. 3 stars, only because I found the main character Hannah (the suicide committer) rather annoying. And then I felt bad, because, you know, suicide. She sends a series of tapes to the 13 people that played a role in her suicide. Pretty whiny young lady, really. Many of us have experience way worse things than she did.
 
Fever DreamFever Dream by Samantha Schweblin. 3 stars. I really have no clue what I read, which is the point, I suppose, given the title. Amanda is dying and her friend’s son David is there to listen to her talk about how she got there. There’s dead horses, witchcraftery, absent husbands and some other spooky shit in this super fast sweat-inducing novella.
 
The Art of ArcherThe Art of Archer by Neal Holman. 5 stars. If you love to laugh your ass off at some ridiculous cartoons like I do, then you should be watching Archer. Funniest show I have ever seen, and totally inappropriate. This book made us start rewatching the whole series because of all the amazing tidbits. Had no clue it took that much work to make a cartoon.
 
Another BrooklynAnother Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. 4 stars. I think this is supposed to be YA, if it isn’t, it could be. August escaped Brooklyn after a (mostly) idyllic childhood with her 3 best friends. Now, as an adult, she returns for her father’s funeral and relives some of those memories and the reasons she left. Very quick read/short novel.
Whew!
There were a few other books I read mixed in there, but mostly centered around travel I was doing at the time as well. Now I’m reading Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides (for Abnormal Psychology class) and am already blown away. I’m also halfway done with The Radium Girls by Kate Moore but MAN is it dry and verbose in some spots.
Hope everyone has a completed list as long and enjoyable as mine for the summer!
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What Did I Just Read?!

To find new books, I tend to listen to the All The Books podcast by BookRiot. My dog Raina and I listen on our nearly daily walks as they share new book releases and books from back-lists that they enjoyed.

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This book, Behind Her Eyes, caught my attention during one of the podcasts, and I added it to my wishlist at the public library. Noticing that it was wait-listed, I added my name. “Oooh,” I thought. “Lot’s of people want this book, so it must be as good as Liberty said it was!”

Um, yeah.

So, there are comparisons of this book to Gone Girl…I guess so…only in the psychological sense. It also reminded me a little of The Girl on the Train– perhaps because it is set in the UK, or that the main character, Louise, is a lovelorn, wounded ex-wife on the fringes of someone else’s relationship as Emma was. What drew me to this book was Liberty’s admission that despite being great at figuring out mysteries before the reveal, this one she did not see coming, and that in no way would anyone else be able to figure it out.

Challenge accepted.

So the premise is of Louise, recently divorced and a single mom, who meets a charming married man at a bar one night. Nothing too untoward happens, and they go their separate ways. Only to meet back up again at Louise’s work in a psychiatry office. Where he is her new boss (dun-dun-DUN). Add to this a friendship blossoming between Louise and Adele, his wife, which Adele wishes to keep a secret. Louise starts to question the relationship between Adele and her husband while also trying to maintain her work relationship with him. It becomes clear that Adele is not what she seems, and that her husband is treating her as a patient with medications, scheduled phone calls and locking her in the house. Louise decides to come to the rescue- but does Adele need help?

Louise also has her own emotional and psychological issues, mostly stemming from night terrors she’s had since becoming a mother. A little booze on top of that doesn’t help. Adele offers her a book that helped her through her own night terrors, and through notes in the book margins, Louise finds out even more about Adele, fueling her need to come to Adele’s rescue.

Liberty was correct. I did NOT see that ending coming. I loved it. I know some reviewers blew it off as just an easy out in the last few chapters, but Sarah Pinborough leads you to that ending throughout the book- you just don’t realize it until the end. I think some reviewers are just resentful that they didn’t see it coming or felt tricked. I personally loved it because it was like the feeling you get when hear some salacious gossip and you aren’t sure if you should laugh or feel bad. A total mind-blowing read.

Do it.

When Rooting for the Underdog Pays Off

For those of you who don’t know Augusten Burroughs, take a gander at Running With Scissors or Wolf At the Table whenever you are feeling like a giant pile of poop.
His childhood (and adulthood) will remind you of why your life is perfect!

Lust and Wonder

This is a memoir (another!) of his adulthood post sobriety, though the early few pages are still him immersed in a relapse.
This memoir chronicles three very important relationships he had as an adult, including both of his marriages.


If you are familiar with him, you will appreciate his ongoing sense of humor in his writing- about his mental illness, his catastrophizing, his impulsive jewelry buying.
What is new is the love story that this memoir produces.
You’ve always rooted for him given the horrible life he’s had, and this book gives you a chance to celebrate what he’s done with it.

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On top of it, he mentions that one of his therapists looks like Joyce Carol Oates from the 70s. He mentions her numerous times, and gets her style. Love him even more now.

My husband and I were lucky enough to meet him at a recent book signing and hear him read an excerpt from the beginning of the book- where he is visiting a therapist regarding his lack of sexual feelings towards his boyfriend. He’s as hilarious in person as he is on the pages. He’s also WAY MORE philosophical in person, though this excerpt is pretty amazing:

“Diamonds appeared oily upon magnification. Rubies were busy inside. Sapphires sometimes appeared to contain a galaxy, and emeralds could blind you with green. Opals reminded me of a beehive. Sometimes jade looked like sticky rice, and inside some alexandrites, it appeared to be raining. 

Was it a universal truth that the closer you looked at something, the more you would see but the less you would understand what you were looking at?”

Amazing.

 

When What You Read Feels Like a Dream…

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was like a dream and a fairy tale for adults (I think it even says that on the back). How someone can take such short, simple sentences and turn them into mental images of such grandeur and mystery and beauty blows my mind. Morgenstern isn’t a lyrical author, but she is a painter with words.

The Night Circus

The story is of Marco and Celia, two illusionists. Both are raised from children to understand that their illusions are part of a contest of which they know no rules. The contest eventually involves a magical, surreal circus that captivates the places it visits- and captivates the people that visit. Once Marco and Celia meet and realize that they are opponents, the fate of their lives, the circus and the performers is a jeopardy.

The novel begins in the Victorian era and it has a very steampunk feel to it. I could see some cosplay come out of this. I read it and thought what a great movie or TV series this would be (if Hollywood can meet/exceed reader expectations), but alas, there isn’t yet one despite the screenplay having been sold in 2012. Surprisingly (or maybe I missed it?) there is no mention of the turn of the century despite this story crossing over into the 20th century. I thought there could have been something extraordinary about this change included with the circus, but there was not.

Morgenstern attempts to create two time lines- a current one with a young circus-goer named Bailey and a past one that creates the backstory of the circus and the contest. You realize that the two will intersect towards the end of the book, but I didn’t feel it was that necessary, as it wasn’t until the last 1/3 of the book that I even realized they were on different paths. Bailey’s relationship to the circus doesn’t become exposed until the end, and even then it is not made totally clear. One interesting note- the author RARELY uses the word magic to describe anything in the book. If the word is used, it seems as if it is a dirty word.

Beautiful story about love, relationships, death, illusions and whether our paths in life are truly ordained before we exist.

My Non-Hyperbole about Hyperbole and a Half

Just finished this today and had to share my thoughts immediately.
Wow.
What an amazing book and she is an amazing writer and person.
Prior to reading this, I had heard of the cartoon Hyperbole and a Half, and knew there was a blog associated with it, but I never checked it out. I had only really seen the random memes that showed up on FB.
I had also heard a little scuttle about the author, Allie Brosh, especially when the blog stopped producing new stuff.
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Turns out Allie is a scientist by trade, but a cartoonist and memoirist at heart. She has crippling bouts of depression, and expresses them BEAUTIFULLY here. The stories are hilarious, moving, captivating, and hilarious again. She writes a lot about her mom, her (crazy/stupid) dogs, and her battle with depression. All while being brutally and hilarious and sweary (which of course endears her to me).
 
I am lucky, and have never personally experienced depression like this, but I know people who have (maybe not even this bad, Allie’s is serious business). She even details about how she wanted to end her life, and knew she needed to tell someone that, but had NO idea how to start that conversation without becoming the soother instead of the soothee….I’d never even thought about that- she makes it crystal clear. Of dying she says she never wanted to kill herself, she just wanted her life to end. The CRAZY thing is that Augusten Burroughs almost said the exact same thing word for word last night at the reading we went to!
 
Read it. It’s thick, but super quick since it is a graphic novel. Fills the graphic novel box if you’re doing a book challenge. HIGHLY recommend this. If the depression talk is a trigger, then just read the mom and dog sections. FREAKING. HILARIOUS.

Is Solitudelust a Word? Because Now I Have It.

Just finished this quick book…so fascinating!

 

The Stranger in the Woods

It is the true story of Christopher Knight…a self-imposed isolationist that lived for 27 years in a makeshift camp in the Maine wilderness. In that time, he only spoke to four people, who were hiking in the area….he didn’t even speak to himself out loud. For 27 years (seriously?).
To survive, especially the brutal Maine winters, he expertly broke into camps and cabins near the lake not far from his campsite. For 27 years (seriously) he carefully and stealthily broke into homes to steal clothes, soap, frozen hamburgers and other items to stay alive. Until he finally got caught.


For years he was a local myth. People tired of having their stuff stolen left bags of books for him or paper to write a wishlist that they would fulfill. He never accepted them, further adding to his mystique.
The author spends months with Knight after his arrest, learning about what drove him to disappear into the woods, what entertained him there, and most importantly, what kept him there.

I learned a TON from this book, not just about how Mr. Knight survived in the woods for (OMG) 27 years, but also about the author Michael Finkel’s troubled career and stolen identity (you can’t make THIS story up!). I also learned that there was a weird fad in the 18th century where wealthy people found it fashionable to house a hermit on their grounds, and show him off at dinner parties. I also learned that their is an entire hermit community that you can only join if you can totally prove you are a hermit. Which is very hard to do since using a computer is the antithesis of hermitism (new word, Webster’s!).

Not going to lie, after reading this, I started to wonder how many days I’d last in a self-imposed silent camp. Is that isolationlust? Solitudelust? Sololust? Whatever it is, my husband is ready to try it. And maybe I am too….

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All The Ugly And Beautiful Things

Can things we once thought were ugly be beautiful? Are beautiful things sometimes ugly?

I have a feeling this book is going to stick with me for awhile. It’s the type of story that makes you question your preconceived notions about rules, love, law and relationships. It makes you question the things that society thinks are taboo, for better or worse.

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Wavy is a young girl when she meets Kellen. He is the motorcycle riding henchman of Wavy’s father Liam, a meth producer and drug dealer. Wavy’s mother Val spends most of her time in bed coming down or high on drugs. Wavy feels responsible for her young brother Donal, changing his diapers, feeding him, even getting her grandmother’s cookbooks out to make dinner.

Kellen crashes his motorcycle near Wavy’s home, and she rushes to take care of him, as is her nature. Once Kellen gets an eye for Wavy’s living situation and the home’s conditions, he begins to take care of her and Donal in a way her parents (and their cast of characters) never could. He buys the groceries on the lists Wavy makes, he drives her to school and back on his motorcycle, he makes sure she has shoes on her feet.

Wavy doesn’t speak often, nor will she eat in front of people. Because of her upbringing, she’s prone to steal food at night and only say sporadic words. With Kellen around, she opens up, speaks more, and slowly, fall in love. What do we do with this…a young girl falling in love with a 20-something year old man? We hold on, cross our fingers, and hope this situation doesn’t get out of hand.

But it does as Wavy gets older, but not in the way you’d expect. A tragedy occurs on Wavy’s 14th birthday, and the aftermath of it destroys Kellen, Wavy, and Donal. Throw in a meddling aunt, and everyone’s lives are forced down a road none of them want.

The story is told through multiple characters…from when Wavy is 5 until she is 21, when Wavy is in college to be an astrophysicist. This book had me perpetually on the edge…I didn’t want Kellen to take advantage of young Wavy, I didn’t want Wavy to fall into the daughter-of-a-drug-dealer trope. I’m still not sure if these things (and more) did or did not happen.

Very quick read. Great debut novel.