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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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.
20170408_144106
 
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.

Been There, Seen This Scene, Still Love It

I originally purchased this book at a bookstore in St. Thomas. I like purchasing books by local authors when I am in a foreign country. It was written by Tiphanie Yanique, an author who was originally from The Virgin Islands.
land-of-love-and-drowning
I started this book late last year, and admit, it took me a while to get into it. At about 1/3 of the way through, I was hooked, and off we went on a beautiful, torturing, mythical journey. It is the story of two sisters from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands- Eona and Anette. The first bit of the book talks about their parents, where they came from and when the girls were born. The rest of the book is about the sisters’ loves, children, and lots and lots about the island itself. Having been there, I loved reading about the familiar areas where we had traveled and imagining them in this book. St. Thomas (and the surrounding islands of St. John, St. Croix and Anegada) were strong characters in this story.

This is historical fiction, and includes the events of World War II, the Korean War, the Civil Right’s Movement and the purchase of the island by the US from the Dutch. Other events include a hurricane (Mary) and a protest by the islanders to keep the beaches public. The timelines at times didn’t line up for me. Anette has a child when her husband goes to fight in WWII (and she is still youngish), but then mentions she is in her 30s when it seems as if she should be much older (given the age of her children). The author does admit to taking some liberties with the timeline. I also love that the author explains that much of this story is based of her own mother and grandmother’s lives, and that they went to Anegada, where her grandmother’s family was from, but had never been. This tied up the book nicely.

I liken this book to a mix between Edwidge Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude for the mysticism that is included in the story.

And just for fun, here is a picture of me reading Land of Love and Drowning with one of my cats, John Snow. #johnsnowisalive

me-and-js-reading

And finally, if you’ve ever wanted to travel to St. Thomas, may I recommend the Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines? We used this ship to get their last September and it is indescribable, as the second largest cruise ship in the world (shorter only by 1 foot from its sister ship, Harmony of the Seas).

Joyce Carol Oates Lite

This is Joyce Carol Oates as her lightest…Lauren Kelly is just one of her pseudonyms that she wrote under for a brief spell. For those that find JCO difficult to read, this is a lot easier…less stream of consciousness, more precise story telling.
blood-mask
However, keeping with her typical dark style, the The Blood Mask itself is very JCO. Diabolical, a little confusing and twisty, slightly morbid, though not overtly grotesque. It is the story of Annabelle (who becomes Marta), a teenager sent to live with her rich, art-influenced (influencing) aunt after her parents become incapable of caring for her. What first seems like a dream come true (moving from a broken home to a mansion) quickly becomes a nightmare of manipulation, unrequited love and a struggle to prove loyalty.

A pretty quick read, yet not amazingly profound in any way. Great for those who’d like to dabble in a little JCO to peak behind those dark brocade curtains of her mind.

Cat Fairy Tale? Purr, purr, purr…

Today’s Backlisted Book Review is The Cat Who Came In From The Cold.

As an animal lover and veterinary technician for over 20 years (credentialed, and specialized, thank you very much!), Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has written books that I can really appreciate. He understands animal behavior and the human animal bond in ways many veterinarians don’t understand. Finding this small volume at a used book sale, it was not even a question that I would pick it up.

 

Cat Who Came In

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold is a fable; a fairy tale about Billi, an Asian Leopard cat who is the first wild cat to chose to be domesticated. Unlike dogs, who love being around humans and other animals, cats are solitary and fear many other animals. It takes place in India, and touches on the hypocrisy of how animals are portrayed in different religions. The word billi means cat in Hindi.

Billi frequently sees young children and a dog pass under his favorite branch in his favorite mango grove. One day, he strikes up a conversation with the dog about living with humans. Billi remembers stories his mother told him as a kitten of being around humans, and he has never been able to let go of his curiosity. He goes on a discovery journey to find out how other animals feel about humans. His knowledge and curiosity finally get the best of him, and when the time is perfect, Billi inserts himself into the human world in a very brave and beautiful way.

This is a beautiful story, very quick read, great for kids as well. It warms my heart to have this in my head now as to how my own cats have come to honor me with their presence. The end of this story touched me personally as well, given the experience I have had with my own cats caring for me when I was battling cancer and chemotherapy. ❤

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