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 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.

 

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.

I’m Furiously Happy That I Read This

You know how sometimes you read a book, and it is so funny and awkward and true that you almost feel bad laughing out loud or sympathizing? That was me while reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.

I must admit, I have not read her first book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, though I do own it. Now I will move it to the front of the TBR list.

Furiously Happy

This is a collection of short stories/essays/journal entries/conversations from Jenny’s life. If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Lawson, just follow her blog for a taste of what you will find in her books. If you want fun Jenny Lawson swag, go here. Let’s start with the cover- a picture of a happily rabid raccoon, which is an actual  taxidermied raccoon that she owns. And poses with her cats. And sleeps with. And uses to scare her husband. I’m hooked.

Then there are the stories. She makes it known from the get-go that she suffers from a myriad of mental and physical illnesses, all which rotate through her like a diseased carousal. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed. Some days her scalp is erupting. Some days she is crying in the middle of the grocery store. Some days her daughter points out her introversion and awkwardness to a room full of adults. While these are all situations that many of us can sympathize with, we certainly don’t do it with the candor and hilarity that Jenny does.

In addition are conversations she has with her husband, a seemingly sane, albeit boring-jobbed work-from-homer (much like my own husband). From naming their new cat Mr. President, to her new support pony (Pony Danza!), her gall bladder surgery and a nurse named Labia, and their visit with the accountant, their relationship isn’t that different from many of the ones we have with our own spouses- theirs is just WAY more colorful.

But she also steps back from ridiculously funny and gets ridiculously real. She shares the heartbreak of her illnesses. Of her joy in seeing none of the signs of them in her daughter. Of what it feels like to accept an invitation and immediately regret it. To feel like a hypochondriac. Imposter syndrome. To panic in the face of a life perceived to be wasted. All the things that even those who don’t suffer from mental illness can and do feel on a regular basis.

For the funniest bits, see their trip to Japan and her Japanese toilet commentary, her trip to Australia in kangaroo and koala costumes and bloody hotel carpeting, their new house in the country club and the swan attacks, 3 cat skins, and all the opossums. LOTS of opossums.

FAVORITE LINES

“You may ask how I know and I’ll tell you how. It’s because right now? YOU’RE READING. That’s what the sexy people do.”

“…that usually your kids’ positive qualities come less from your making them awesome and more from just not intentionally squashing the random things they’re inherently born with that make them awesome.”

“I believe it was Sartre who said, ‘Hell is other people,’ and I suspect he wrote that after spending an hour with overinvolved parents who won’t stop yelling at coaches, instructors or crying four-year-olds who really just want a snow cone.”