Thursday, September 20, 2018

Young Jane Young

Young Jane Young Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This book is a testament to the immortal nature that is Internet infamy. Nothing can ever be truly forgotten if it can be googled. In the past, moving to a new area would have been enough to start over, but the internet doesn't allow that. Your online presence still stick to you forever, and that's honestly a good thing for kids to learn these days. When Aviva was young, though, the Internet was so new, the potential fallout for her indiscretions was unfathomable. I don't blame her for escaping town, legally changing her name, and starting a new life. I would imagine that Jane would have told her daughter about her past and her father eventually, when she was older. I wonder, though, if she had been honest with her from the start, how much of Ruby's adventure to Miami could have been avoided (although that would have made for a less interesting book).

I appreciated that this book was told from the POV of multiple women, though I was a little confused in the beginning. This truly is a story about women, and their role in society and politics, specifically in relation to men. It's ridiculous how the Senator was able to skate through the scandal with little to no lasting effect, yet Aviva is the one whose life was permanently altered, despite the fact that the Senator was the one with all the power in their relationship and the one who should have known better. I appreciated Aviva calling out her feminist professor on the double standard of them not standing up and defending her in any way. I also appreciate the relationship that Jane was able to develop with Mrs. Morgan, who is a true badass feminist that I would love to meet.

In a way, I kind of hated everyone in this book, but I was especially by Jane's daughter, Ruby. From calling her mom a "slut" to not giving mom benefit of the doubt when she's been her best and closest friend her whole life, Ruby really annoyed me. I get that she is young, and has probably wondered about her father her whole life. Suddenly finding all this information would be shocking, and maybe make you do some crazy things you normally wouldn't. I'm just glad that Jane's mom was able to step in and bring her home, and that Ruby finally decided she didn't care who her father was (though I don't think that is true). The separation between Jane and her mother, Rachel was rough on them both, and I hope Jane realizes that she doesn't need to completely cut out that part of her life anymore to move on. I kid of hope she actually tells Ruby who her father is (because we all know now, and so does he).

Rachel had been going through her own stuff as well, what with her fight with Roz after Roz chose to believe her creepy gross husband instead of her lifelong best friend. She needed Jane back in her life, and I'm sure she and Ruby will become fast friends.

As for Embeth, I don't have much to say. She didnt have the easiest life, either. I'm still not convinced she actually loved her husband, or if it was just easier to stay with him. She seemed oddly fixated on her old best friend when she ran into her, enough for me to think that SHE was the person Embeth truly loved, but I guess sometimes you just try to make your life as happy as you can, within the constraints you believe you need to live.

All in all, I can't say I was crazy about this book, though I'm glad I finished it. I appreciate the way it examines female relationships from different perspectives, I just wish I hadn't been so annoyed by everyone for so long, haha.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1

Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1 Princess Jellyfish, Vol. 1 by Akiko Higashimura
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the first few chapters, I wasn't sure I was going to read past this first volume of manga, but eventually the characters grew on me. I'm a sucker for a transformation story, especially for girls who are somehow socially awkward. Add in the fact that the one doing the makeovers is a cross-dressing rich boy who is starting to have feelings for one of the girls, and I have to keep reading.

There's actually a lot of stuff going on here relationally. Tsukimi is still dealing with losing her mother as a child, and her obsession with jellyfish seems somehow to be rooted in the fact that she doesn't feel she grew up to be a beautiful princess, as her mom predicted.

Kuranosuke's family has a lot of issues, too. His mother is out of his life, and he's been trying to find her. His cross-dressing seems to be related both to her disappearance and his own love of fashion, which she perhaps inspired. Suke says he does it so he won't have to go into politics, but I think he also likes provoking his father, and perhaps punishing him in a way.

Suke's brother, Shu, also has some issues with women, but his seem to stem from the fact that he caught his father in the act of cheating on his mother with Suke's mother, and has been unable to touch a woman romantically. The most horrifying moment of this manga so far is Evil Inari drugging Shu's drink, staging things in her apartment so it looked like they'd had sex, and then forcibly kissing him multiple times without consent. He's clearly traumatized, and when Suke sees him after, he says he looks like a woman who has been attacked. I'm not sure what it means that he rushed off to hold Tsukimi's hand and gage his reaction, but I'm really hoping he gets fired up and takes down Inari and her development company for their assault.

Even with all the other stuff going on, I have to say my favorite part is this budding love triangle. Although in general I hate the whole makeover trope of "take off the girl's glasses and suddenly she's beautiful," this seems to be enough of a variant that I can kind of believe it. If you change someone's hair, makeup, and clothes, they really can project a different image to the world. Plus, add in the fact that when Tsukimi can't see people, she isn't afraid to talk to them, especially about her faborite jellyfish, and she would totally seem like a different person. I appreciated that later on, when she was wearing her glasses but still had on her fancy clothes and makeup, she still looked beautiful. Shu obviously fell for Tsukimi at first sight, and she has started to like him as well. Suke is shocked when he starts getting jealous and thinking how cute Tsukimi is, and I am here for it!

What started with me figuring I'd just finish this volume off so I could add it to my list has turned in to me planning how soon I can get the next volume from the library. Oh, makeover love triangle stories, how I love thee! 😅

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Something New

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard about Lucy Knisley's work over the years, but somehow, I was unprepared for how delightful and relevant to me this book would be. Like Lucy, I'm someone who has never felt the desire to be married, but I love the traditions of it: the coming together to commit your life, the celebratation of ones family and friends in a unique experience that will probably never be echoed again. You might go to a lot of weddings over the years, but the common theme is "the feeling of luck. To be able to don a doomed dress and cluster close to the couple, to watch their happiness bloom on their faces. To see them make serious promises of love to one another is a very lovely gift..."

Some of my favorite panels from the book are early on, when Lucy is talking about the idea of marriage itself. I've often wondered this myself: "Why is it so hard to get my extended family to come to my book signing in their hometown, and so easy to get them to fly across the country to watch me marry a man they don't know?" In the end, I think the ephemeral nature of the event of a wedding is the big draw: there will always be other book signings, but there will only be this one wedding. It does leave me thinking, though - if I never get married, will there never be a big enough event that all my friends and family will come celebrate with me?

I also loved how Lucy and her sort-of sister Taylor bonded over being on "the beautiful spectrum of nerdism." They were less interested in transitional female roles and more in ambitious goals: for Taylor, that mean creating the world's most efficient public transportation service, and for Lucy, drawing Darth Vader and maybe becoming a Jedi. Lucy had the remarkable ability to separate what she loves and enjoys (food and eating, yum) from what truly fuels her drive and passion: creating comics. There's lots of things I love doing that I think I would hate if I was forced to do them for work, and I like what Lucy had to say on the topic: "There's a difference between being a nerd, a fan, an enthusiast... and being an expert."

I will also admit to being fascinated by the minutiae of weddings. I have spent many hours watching reality shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings, and reading blogs and listicals about wedding horror stories from the point of view of the guests, the family, the caterers, and the bride and groom themselves. There are so many emotions and expectations tied into a wedding, and it's not surprising to see fights arise, not just between the couple getting married, but between family members as well.

The important things are what Lucy holds on to, and what she continually reminds those getting married to focus on: you wedding is YOUR wedding, and it's up to you to decide how much or little traditional aspects you want to include, despite what members of your family or bridal party have to say. But don't forget to let them help you, even if it means letting go of the control over things that are less important to you. Treasure the day with your friends and family, soak up the love and memories, and be happy.

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The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Deep, moving, heartfelt, capturing both the heartbreaking pain and sadness of losing someone you love, and also the painful awkwardness of growing up and falling in love. Add in ghosts and mystical birds and magical incense that takes you into memories, and you have a modern day fantasy that feels more real than not. Leigh's grief itself is so real to me, tangible in a way.

The key message I hope people are left with is this: depression is completely normal and treatable and doesn't always have a reason. Sometimes it just is. As a society and as individuals, we need to destigmatize depression by talking about it openly, so that if you or someone you love needs help, there will be no shame or embarrassment in asking for it. The best thing you can do is love them and support them and try to get them the help that they need. But if, for whatever reason (or no reason at all), their disease takes them from you, it is NOT your fault. There's nothing you could have done different to save them. You are not to blame.

Despite all the mystical yet completely believable elements in this book, when we reached the end, and found out the truth about Feng, I was shocked. Looking back, it makes sense, but it was totally unexpected. With Leigh's insomnia, increasing instability, and exhaustion, it would be easy to play off her visions and experiences as fantasy, the side effects of grief and trauma. But to me, there is incontrovertible evidence that *something* mystical was actually taking place: the box of letters and photos that was burned in Taipei yet ended up on Leigh's doorstep. Her knowledge of Feng and all those past memories that there is no other way for her to know. All of Axel's email drafts being sent, and the strange photo on his phone. I can't bring myself to believe it was all a group hallucination, part of a joint grieving process.

There's something about the way color is used to express emotion in the book that feels really unique, both in the way Leigh and Axel describe their feelings in terms of color to one another, and in the way Leigh works through her mother's depression and afterwards her own grief: "Once upon a time we were the standard colors of a rainbow, cheery and certain of ourselves. At some point, we all began to stumble into the in-betweens, the murky colors made dark and complicated by resentment and quiet anger. At some point, my mother slid so off track she sank into hues of gray, a world drawn only in shadows." "My mother's dying soaked down through the carpet, through the wood. When it was done with the bedroom, it took over our house, and then it moved on to me. It soaked through my hair and skin and bone, through my skull and deep into my brain. Now it's staining everything, leaking the blackest black into the rest of the world." As Leigh tries to find her mother, the bird stands out as a bring spot of red, while Leigh is surrounded by tones of gray and black: the incense burning, the ashes left over, the cracks in the world around her, and eventually the ink that she sees invading their apartment, so similar to the darkness she has felt creeping over her life. Her decision to start incorporating color into her art, which had previously been dominated by shades of grey and black, is a real turning point towards hope and healing.

There's also the message of not being afraid to do or say what you want. Dory's parents' disapproval of her artistic goals and American marriage are echoed by Leigh's father's disapproval of her obsession with art. Similarly, the bravery with which Dory's left her family and cane to the states to marry a man her gut told her to trust is an inspiration to Leigh to finally tell Axel the truth: that she's loved him for years, and can't imagine life without him. In the end, Dory's parents came to regret their harsh words to their daughter, which cost them their relationship with her and kept them out of Leigh's life up to this point. I'm guessing that seeing the eventual consequences of denying who your child is and what they want to do was part of the impetuous for Leigh's father to finally relent on his obsession that she pick a more "practical" life goal.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

When Dimple Met Rishi

When Dimple Met Rishi When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a sweet, real story. I love that Dimple and Rishi bring out the best in one another, and encourage and support each other in their goals. There's a great lesson here: your life doesn't have to be just one thing. You can have both love and a career, and having someone you care about doesn't mean you stop caring about your work and your goals. Love is an enrichment to your life, not a distraction from it.

I wanted to punch those Aberzombies. I had a bad feeling that nepotism was going to come in to play at some point, though I thought it would be at the talent show, not the final contest. That part is really true to life as well - not everything is going to be fail. Sometimes you'll be dealing with a deck that's stacked against you. The important part is that you keep your goals in focus, continue to work hard, and be persistent in pursuing your dreams. Eventually you'll find the right person who believes in you and is willing to give you the chance you deserve.

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Doomsday Book

Doomsday Book Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


An exciting adventure filled with the heartbreaking loss of reality. I love the idea of time travel being used by historians to investigate and learn more about the past, and though this book doesn't go too deeply into the science of it all, you get just enough to make the theory plausible.

The real heart of this book is the journeys of pain and loss that the characters go through in both centuries. Through unimaginable loss, neither Kivran nor Mr. Dunsworthy either give up hope. Kivran was as prepared as she could be to travel to the Middle Ages; she knew as much as she possible could about the languages, customs, clothes, and lifestyle. Had she made it back successfully to 1320, the year she intended to visit, who knows what her experience might have been. Instead, a twist of fate in the form of a long-dormant flu virus caused her to end up in 1348, in the middle of the Plague.

Whatever Kivran thought she would learn in the past, it is the people that she met in that time that taught her the most. Although she only knew them for a short time, their kindness toward her and the inevitability of their loss bound them to her in a way nothing but such a traumatic experience could. Until the last breath of Father Roche, Kivran didn't stop trying to save any of them, and though she failed in that regard, in the end, she was a saint of sorts, as the Father kept insisting. Through her knowledge of medicine, she helped soothe their passing as much as she could, but she also insured they would never be forgotten by documenting the end of their lives. From Agnes to Rosemund to Father Roche, she recorded it all, "lest things which should be remembered perish with time." Kivran would be able to testify to not just how devestating the Black Death was, but to the individual care and fortitude of the people it killed, and the priest who did his duty to his congregants when he could have just run away.

I wish the book had gone on a little longer, if only we could see some of Kivran's reintegration into future society. There's no way she doesn't have some sort of PTSD after everything she lived through, and then to come back to all the death at home would be also traumatizing.

The epidemic that the inhabitants faced in the 21st century echoed that of the last in many ways. As one of our modern-day poets has said, "Death doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints. It takes and it takes and it takes. And we keep living anyway, we rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes. And if there's a reason I'm still alive when everyone who loves me has died, I'm willing to wait for it." Death took both the sinful cleric and the kind, pious Father Roche. Death took both the prideful Mr. Gilchrist and the compassionate Dr. Ahrens. The struggle that those left behind have to deal with is figuring out how to move on, what to do next. Kivrin in particular is not only mourning people who have been long-dead, but her experience was so singular, it might be hard for anyone to truly understand what she is dealing with.

I'll admit to still being a little devestated by the loss of Father Roche. Part of me still thought Dr. Dunsworthy and Colin would somehow get to the past in time to some how save him, or to bring him in to the future with them. When he actually died, I had to reread that section a few times, because it just didn't seem fair. In the end, though, I guess Father Roche had the best, most peaceful death one could hope for in the Middle Ages: to die in the arms of a saint, with the certainty he would soon be in heaven. I'm still sad, though.

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Friday, August 31, 2018

You're on an Airplane

You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir You're on an Airplane: A Self-Mythologizing Memoir by Parker Posey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think Parker Posey is a hilarious actress, and parts of this book made me laugh. But the whole premise/set up of this book, that she's randomly chattering to someone she meets on a plane, is just strange, and didn't work for me, especially in audiobook form. There were sound effects, and it was weird.

I liked hearing stories about her family, living and working in Vancouver, and her adventures in acting, especially the notes about filming specific projects, like Best in Show. I wish there had been more of that, and less random musings and stories. Also, I didn't appreciate her excitement over working with Woody Allen, who I find to be suuuper creepy, and Louis CK, who has multiple sexual harassment accusations against him.

In the end, there are a few lines that stuck with me. "I had a lazy attitude for things I didn't feel were important" is a little too on-point for my comfort, and something I am working on, haha. I think my favorite quote is something Nora Ephron said to Parker: "You know Parker, you will always feel the same, you will just keep getting older." So true. I might be 37, but some days I still feel 25.

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