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!

Who DOESN’T Want To Read About A 17 Year Old Vigilante??

Wow.

This book was fantastic, and reminds me a little of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.

The story is of Elka, and how as a young girl of 7, she meets Trapper and is raised by him for 10 years. Then one day, she finds his wanted poster on the wall in town and the chase(s) is/are on.

Elka is a huntress, trained by Trapper. Uneducated in all other aspects, she is running through the forests (seemingly in British Columbia, Canada) trying to avoid the law, who suspects she knows something, and Trapper, both who are hot on her trail. She’s on her way to find the parents that abandoned her when she was young.

Add to all of this the dystopic nature of the times. Some ‘thing’ happened years before Elka was born…some sort of war with the Russians, it seems, and life has reverted back to 18th/19th century living in most parts. Most folks called it the Damn Stupid-the perfect name. No cars, no electricity, no printing press, but the occasional canned food or rifle/shotgun/pistol makes an appearance.  This dynamic between then and now is interesting, especially because Elka doesn’t know ‘before’. Elka’s world is chaotic, with massive thunderstorms and snow storms that are minor characters in their own right.

The Wolf Road2

As she makes the long journey to find her long lost parents, she encounters many hardships and mishaps along the way. Not raised around many humans has made these encounters awkward, scary, innocent, and even doused in betrayal. You want very much to wrap Elka in your arms and say “Don’t trust this person and here is why….”. She learns all the lessons she needs too and on she goes to the next stop, hardened and smarter for the next interaction.

This story was fast paced, despite taking about a year to come to a conclusion. The changes in Elka…the release of some stubbornness, the retained innocence, the dissolution of that hard shell she lived within for years, the self reflection- is both difficult and beautiful to watch. The choices she makes that result in her becoming a tough vigilante teenager are impossible to imagine, even as an adult. This book would be acceptable for any teenager to read- there is no sex, only the glancing blows of violence, nothing gratuitously descriptive. My imagination could fill in the details if it wanted to go there.

Interestingly enough, I read this on a trip to Vancouver, BC, and didn’t realize that BC was (probably) where this took place. Having seen the landscape there, and read this at the same time, Elka truly is a feminist, bad ass hero. She’s more of an adult than most of the people I know. If all women were as brave and stolid as her, the world we be a much different place.

My favorite lines:

“I don’t much like roads. Roads is some other man’s path that people follow no question. All my life I lived by rules of the forest and rules of myself. One a’ them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path. No matter if that’s a real one trodden into dirt or all them twists and turns his life has taken. People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don’t grow exactly where their momma is; ain’t no room, ain’t enough light and water so they end up wilting and dying off.”

“Them words on that piece a’ nothing could send me back south on that boat or could set me right on my path north. All from paper. That rubbish that rips easier’n cotton, breaks down to mush in water, bleaches out its meaning after too long in the sun. That paper right there in Big Betty’s meaty fingers, and the people who could make sense of it, had total power over me.”

One final note: The book is written from Elka’s point of view, so it is written just as she would have spoken it. This made the novel even more beautiful. No one really comments on her lack of education, despite running into characters who are clearly more educated than her. No one really points out her appearance other than to mistake her for a boy at one point. As dystopic as the times are, this was refreshing. Here’s Elka, fighting for justice and her life, and not having to worry about also fighting the prejudice that comes along with being raised differently than others or being uneducated. AWESOME job, Beth Lewis!

Here are a few links:

This is Beth Lewis’s website. Keep up to date on her current projects!
Here is a great article about how Beth Lewis studied hunting and outdoorsy-ness to write the book. Which I find FASCINATING.
Here are some TV women that Beth Lewis finds to be bad ass. Which are also fascinating.