Thursday, September 20, 2018

Young Jane Young

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

SPOILERS AHEAD


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

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD


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

SPOILERS AHEAD


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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Refuge

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While there are things on which author Terry and I greatly disagree, I can't shake the way her words reach into my heart. She and her mother were obviously very close, and the way she links her grief over the loss of her mother with the environmental loss of bird habitat provides a new perspective of looking at both. Cancer is a beast, regardless of when it hits your family and friends, but thinking of losing either of my parents at age 55 is just heartbreaking. My dad went through the second of his three battles with cancer at 56, my senior year of high school, and if I had lost him then, I can't even imagine the person I would be now. The inevitability of losing him now, at 76, is hard enough to comprehend, and so I read.

Nature is the sanctuary in which Terry processes and heals, in the open air, with the sounds and the scents of the earth as her comfort. The solitude is soothing, and that commune with nature becomes her refuge.

Some people might think it strange or morose that I've been reading so many books about cancer journeys this year, but it has been really vital for me in processing all the various emotions about my own impending loss. Terry puts it this way: "Perhaps this is the compassion and courage that comes to us when we realize we are not alone in our suffering." I don't always have the words to explain how I'm feeling, and sometimes I don't even have the energy to try to find those words. But I can read the words of others, and see myself in them, and say, "Yes! That's it!" As Terry says, "In the act of reading, words touch our hearts, relationships are forged, we breathe a book alive."

A few other notes regarding the environmental issues Terry raises. I have no doubt that the extreme rise in cancer in Utah, specifically in Terry's family, is specially linked to nuclear testing in their deserts throughout the 50s. It's a travesty that our government decided that testing weapons without knowledge of their fallout was more important than the lives of their citizens. Moreover, the fact that they refuse to admit their culpability in the matter is unexcusable. My dad's situation is similar: there is ample reason to believe that his prostate, colon, and brain cancers are all linked to his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam, yet the army only officially recognizes their culpability in one of those types. I would not be surprised if it is also proven in the future that my oldest sister's death from leukemia and my dad's first wife's death from uterine cancer were also linked.

The time period Terry covers in her book highlights the way the rising waters of the Great Salt Lake threatened to destroy not only the natural habit of the birds living on it and migrating through the area, but the homes and industry that we as humans have placed upon its shores. What we are facing now, though, is almost the most extreme opposite: the lake is at an all time low, receeding 22 feet in 25 years, and shrinking from 3,300 square miles to less than 950. As drought and global warming continue to worsen, how long do we have until the lake as we knew it no longer exists? Terry notes, "we will survive our personal loses; they are ultimately what give us our voice. I know they gave me mine. But the losses of the larger world-call it the pain of a grieving Earth-threaten our sanity and survival." Terry's takeaway is that we must remain engaged, vigilant, and proactive in campaigning to protect our Earth.

As I mentioned at the start, Terry's words really effected me; I think I underlined more statements in this book than I have in any other. Having gone back through my notes, here are my some of the lines that meant to most to me.

"In the same way that when someone is dying many retreat, I chose to stay."

"Restraint is the steel partition between a rational mind and a violent one. I knew rage. It was fire in my stomach with no place to go."

"It's strange to feel change coming. It's easy to ignore. An underlying restlessness seems to accompany it like birds flocking before a storm. We go about our business with the usual alacrity, while in the pit of our stomach there is a sense of something tenuous. These moments of peripheral perceptions are short, sharp flashes of insight we tend to discount like seeing the movement of an animal from the corner of our eye. We turn and there is nothing there. They are the strong and subtle impressions we allow to slip away. I had been feeling fey for months."

"You know, I hear the words on the outside, that I might have ovarian cancer, but they don't register on the inside. I keep saying it to myself, this isn't happening to me, but then why shouldn't it? I am facing my own mortality--again--something I thought I had already done twelve years ago. Do you know how strange it is to know your days are limited? It have no future?"

"In the long run I didn't think one month would matter. In the short run, it mattered a great deal The heat of the sandstone penetrated my skin as I lay on the red rocks. Desert light bathed my soul. And traveling through the inner gorge of Vishnu schist, the oldest exposed rock in the West, gave me a perspective that will carry me through whatever I must face. Those days on the river were a meditation, a renewal. I found my strength in its solitude. It is with me now."

"We wait. Our family is pacing the hall. Other families are pacing other halls. Each tragedy has its own territory."

"The curse and charisma of cancer: the knowledge that from this point forward, all you have is the day at hand."

"What is it about the relationship of a mother that can heal or hurt us?"

"I asked her if she thought my life was selfish without children. "Yes," she said. "But I'm not saying that's bad. By being selfish a woman ultimately has more to give in the long run, because she has a self to give away." "Do you think I should have a child?" I asked. "I can't answer that for you," she said. "All I can tell you is that it was the right choice for me."

"Suffering shows us what we are attached to--perhaps the umbilical cord between Mother and me has never been cut. Dying doesn't cause suffering. Resistance to dying does."

"We are all anxious, except Mother. She says it doesn't matter what they find, all we have is now."

"Why couldn't I have respected her belief that the outcome mattered less than the gift of each day. We had wanted everything back to its original shape. We had wanted a cure for Mother for ourselves, so we could get on with our lives. What we had forgotten was that she was living hers."

"I have refused to believe that Mother will die. And by denying her cancer, even her death, I deny her life. Denial stops us from listening. I cannot hear what Mother is saying. I can only hear what I want. But denial lies. It protects us from the potency of a truth we cannot yet bear to accept. It takes our hands and leads us to places of comfort. Denial flourishes in the familiar. It seduces us with our own desires and cleverly constructs walls around us to keep us safe. I want the walls down. Mother's rage over our inability to face her illness has burned away my defenses. I am left with guilt, guilt I cannot tolerate because it has no courage. I hurt Mother through my own desire to be cured."

"Death is not the enemy; living in constant fear of it is."

"It brings life into focus one day at a time. You live each moment and when you see the sunset at the end of the day, you are so grateful to be part of that experience."

"Don't be so strong, Tammy, that you won't cry when you want to. Let people help you and love you. I can't tell you how important it was for me to let people do things for me."

"Sometimes you have to totally rely on the arms, tears, and loving hearts of others, that this is truly where God's love lies, in the support of family and friends."

"I feel like a failure because I am losing my compassion. We are spent."

"A person with cancer dies in increments, and a part of you slowly dies with them."

"Faith defies logic and propels us beyond hope because it is not attached to our desires. Faith is the centerpiece of a connected life. It allows us to live by the grace of invisible strands. It is a belief in a wisdom superior to our own. Faith becomes a teacher in the absence of fact."

"But the feeling I could not purge from my soul was that without a mother, one no longer has the luxury of being a child. I have never felt so alone."

"An individual doesn't get cancer, a family does."

"Do not squander time, that is the stuff life is made of."

"Since Mother's death, I have been liberated from my optimism. I have nothing to hope for because what I hoped for is gone."

"The world is in motion. We are in motion. We have all lost loved ones. We have all danced with grief and we will one day dance with death. We embody the spiral, moving inward and outward with the loss of fear, a love transcendent, and the courage to create new maps."

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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Burning World

The Burning World The Burning World by Isaac Marion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


Warm Bodies was the perfect little novel full of hope and new life, and can entirely stand on its own, despite that fact that it is now the first in a series. What this book, the second in the series, does is dig deeper into the messy world of "what next?" If Julie and R's relationship is real, it's not going to be perfect, and they can't ignore the way the world is changing around them and affecting them.

What is it that R actually did at the end of Warm Bodies, when he came back to life? And what does that say about the plague itself, if it can be undone? On the one hand, it's a beautiful salvation; but on the other, you're either left to die again, for good (but at least as yourself), or to live and slowly recover the memories of who you once were. Marcus seems to have gone through the darkness of rememberance and come out on the other side stronger. But I think R was resistant for so much longer because deep down, he is subconscious knew how terrible he was in the past. R is afraid not only that those he loves now might judge and hate him, but that he might revert to that terrible person. That seems to be the struggle he is constantly fighting in his own head.

As for the plague, who even invented it? Was it invented, or did it form naturally somehow? This book opens up questions we didn't even know where there - who is actually at the head of Atvist now, and who is this "we" that is so connected to so many of the characters. Is it the same "we" that was talking to R and Julie as Executive in the Tower? R's demise seems almost to have been planned, perhaps by his grandfather, perhaps by someone else - why else would that older zombie pilot have been planted on his plane? Is R's grandfather alive still, some how?

The kids are a real puzzle as well. They all see to have a special connection with one another and also with the unknown "we." What is up with Sprout's magic eye? And what happened with Jane and X that was so overwhelming that R abandoned them after they had shown so much progress? And the most mysterious kid, whom I can only call Rover: who exactly is he? He seems to be the key to figuring out who "We" is, because they declare he is their best connection to the world. Part of me thinks he's somehow related to R, but maybe not.

As for R's real name, which is apparently super hippie: PLEASE don't let it be Rainbow.

I really hope there is a third book. I follow Isaac Marion on social media, and he's been very vocal about how the sales of this book will influence the potential publication of the 3rd one, which is mostly written, I believe. It sounds like even if a major publishing house doesn't pick it up, he plans on self publishing it, but this series deserves more than that, so I hope it can happen. My hope is that maybe the third one coming out can become a box set reprint of the other books as well. Either way, I'm all in. Regardless of how much is still up in the air at the end of this book (which I normally hate in book series), I love Marion's writing, and I am here until the end.

Here are a few of my favorite lines from this book, which is amazingly quotable.

"Embarrassment is just one of the many perils I accepted when I made the choice to live. Living is awkward. Living hurts. Did I ever expect otherwise?"

"We are an asthmatic orphan and a recovering corpse, driving a rusty car into a rabid world."

"So it's a tease? They come back to life just long enough to finish dying?" - Julie

"The plague's not immortality. It doesn't sustain life, just protracts death." - R

"Have I missed something? What I just saw was gruesome and tragic, yes, but also beautiful. I saw a woman pull herself out of her grave and climb up to whatever's next. I saw a woman save her own soul. What did they see?"

"If death is what I want, then nothing can ever hurt me."

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Sunday, August 26, 2018

Kristy's Great Idea

Kristy's Great Idea Kristy's Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was obsessed with the BSC when I was a kid - it was the series that I would rush into the bookstore for, in case there was a new book out, and I still have all my books of them at home somewhere. I had heard the series was out of print, but now that there are new graphic novel versions, a whole new generation of kids can get to know and love them, including my 8 year old niece Ella, who told me this is her favorite book. Hearing that makes my heart happy.

The challenge of family and friendship that these girls go through are still relevant in today world, and so I hope these graphic novels continue to be created. I'll admit that I was happy to see that the setting wasn't modernized - there are no cell phones, the girls still wait around a landline for their babysitting calls to come in. Hopefully kids today can learn about connecting to one another in less digital and immediate ways. Claudia's adventure watching Jamie Newton and his wild cousins seems particularly relevant - she didn't try to force them into listening to her, she ignored them and read quietly with Jamie until they came over to investigate.

All of these stories are relatable - how to navigate a blended family, negotiating with overprotective or strict parents, accepting without question a friend who has an illness or any kind of physical constraint. I'm glad this is the series my niece has latched on to.

And now I'm off to find my books so she can read them, too. She would especially love my favorite, super special #1, where the girls and their families go to Disney World and on a Disney cruise!

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

El Deafo

El Deafo El Deafo by Cece Bell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An adorable book about learning to accept and celebrate the ways we are different from others. This is one of my niece Maya's favorite books, and it's easy to see why. The art is super cute, the message is clear. It's ok to be different, and as you get older and figure out who you are, you'll feel more comfortable and confident in sharing your true self with others, and making real, lasting friendships.

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Death on the Nile

Death on the Nile Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced mystery. Having cruised down the nile, and been to many of the locations mentioned, I found the setting particularly enjoyable. I was partially right on my first guess of murderer, I just couldn't figure out how exactly they'd pulled it off. I've been meaning to read an Agatha Christie book for years, and now I can't wait to read more!

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Ask Baba Yaga

Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles by Taisia Kitaiskaia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quirky, funny advice book that, with it's concise yet poetic language, reaches through to the core of important life questions and forces you to examine your own heart, mind, and feelings. The rich imagery provides a backdrop to rethink your issues and see them from a new angle. I also love the styling of the book, and it's lovely illustrations.

Here are a few of my favorite lines.

"Everyone dies, alone in their own cauldron--yr death will be no more or less gruesome than any other's. & happiness is a thing that passes through you, not a thing you meet & hold in yr deathly grip for ever afterwards. You are afraid; of being the last at a party without the others, but the others have gone on into a wood they do not understand. It is the same wood you stand in, weeping. & the trees look at all of you the same, & say nothing."

"You feel he is the cub you helped raise, & his fur you love even as you don't wish it near you. ; So when he goes out yonder to eat his fill you anger that he can wander so easily & find what he seeks without you. ) Stare into the black puddle where he left his paw print, stare & mourn a little, let yr grieving mix with that abandoned water & drink it all down, the loss of him & the loss of you, too, a little, for he raised you also."

"No one pays attention to a quiet creek ; likely few have noticed yr still surface. & those who have & who love you will stand near & know you in yr new way, as long as it lasts.) They, will be the ones who matter. But do not flail & gasp on their account--you will only swallow water, & drown deeper. :Look to see what, it is that pushed you down,& hold yr breath for now."

"Breakage is a violence & a doing yr soft body cannot take. Why ruin the shell that protects you, that is yr home? , Rather, find in the forest a tender moss patch, one where there is water & a good feeding, where safe others sometimes go. Slip from yr shell (but keep it close)--nibble on a green thing. Look in the eye of a friendly creature. Retreat into yr shell. ; Do this every several days. It is the reaching for what is tasty that will coax you out; there must be no shattering."

"The sun is a miracle of heat and light. Be curious about this. ;The moon is Earth's constant companion, a shadowy thought which Earth keeps thinking--this dark body follows us eternal. But Sun is much greater, it places Earth. To be sunny is not to sew yourself a gold, cold garment.. It is to know the sun's necessity for our living. Do not fret, the moon will never leave you."

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Monday, August 13, 2018

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I know this is a "beloved classic" but honestly, I was pretty bored most of the time. I felt bad for the old man and his unluckiness, and his diametric love for and drive to kill the fish was interesting, but the fish chase drug on sooooooo long, despite it being such a short book. The sadness of the shark attacks at least brought with them some excitement, and I'm glad the old man held on to hope and kept fighting - he certainly did have people at home who loved him and missed him. I actually would have preferred to hear more of the old man and the boy's relationship, and less of his solitary hunt. Oh well.

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Ok, now that I have been reminded that this is on the Lost Lit List, I find it a bit more interesting, and I wish I had remembered that when I was reading. There are definitely some comparisons you can make - an epic battle against nature, and survival through hope come to mind. *Maybe* some day I'll re-read it, with that in mind. But don't hold your breath. ;)

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Everything, Everything

Everything, Everything Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


I feel like I can't objectively review this book because I saw the movie first, and so a lot of the emotional tension was removed by knowing the big lie. I knew Madeline wasn't sick. So when Maddy risks everything, her whole life, to go outside, and go with Ollie to Hawaii, instead of feeling the excitement and terror of that trip, I knew she'd be fine. Instead of feeling her love and desire to live a full life, I was just waiting for her to get to the moment when she would know the truth.

I do believe this book is worth reading, and I'm sure there are lots of people for whom it wouldn't matter that they knew the truth. I enjoyed the writing, and believe that love can push you to do incomprehensible, magical things. Maddy and Ollie's love felt natural and organic, and I am glad that the book ended happily. After all the crap Maddy went through in her life, she deserves a happy ending. After much therapy, both for her and her mom, I hope Maddy can forgive her, and they can one day build up the trust they once had.

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Friday, August 10, 2018

A Court of Frost and Starlight

A Court of Frost and Starlight A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love these characters, and I love reading about them, but this was pretty short, and with not really any conclusions, it would have made more sense to include parts of this in the upcoming 4th book in the series. Unless that book is going to be primarily focused on Cassian and Nessa (which the sneak peek seemed to hint at), and it would have been out of place to include Feyre's journey with her creative purpose, which in my opinion is the best part of the book. I love that Feyre is trying to find a way to process the terrible things she's gone through via her art, and also that she decides to reach out into their community to help kids who might be dealing with similarly difficult issues.

Nessa. Ugh. I get that she's been through a lot, but so has Elain, and so has Feyre, and they're still trying at least. I feel bad for Cassian, because he's clearly trying, despite not getting anything back from Nessa since the battle.

The Lucien-Elain-Azriel-Morrigan love square is a confusing configuration and I'm can't really figure out how that's going to play out. Mor has been dealing with the fallout of her torture for years, but is it too late for a chance with Azriel now? And what's up with Azriel and Elain's mutual affection? How does Lucien and his mating with Elain play in to things?

The character I'm ready to see the end of most is Tamlin. Seriously. His morose self-pity is so depressing to watch.

I'm ready for book 4, whatever it brings, whenever it brings it!

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Not That Bad

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Real and heartbreaking and unapologetically honest. This book of essays doesn't pull any punches, and should be required reading for both men and women. The only way we can attempt to break the cycle of sexual violence and rape culture is by facing it head on and acknowledging the way it has shaped who we are. As editor Roxane Gay explains in her introduction, this anthology is "a place for people to give voice to their experience, a place for people to share how bad this all is, a place for people to identify the ways they have been marked by rape culture."

I appreciate the wide variety of experiences chronicled in these essays. Like many of the essayists, when I compared the things I've experienced in my life with those mentioned in this book, I constantly found myself thinking, "wow, at least that didn't happen to me." And I really *haven't* had anything major happen in my life. But isn't that the whole point of these essays? You can't compare your experiences with anyone else's and deny yourself the right to your own feelings and reactions. Just because you haven't gone through the worst life has to offer doesn't mean you don't deserve the right to claim your trauma, to recover as you feel necessary. Your grief does not invalidate or steal from any one else's.

In The Ways We are Taught to Be a Girl by xTx, she walks us through specific lessons she learned growing up, because she was a girl, and what her takeaway was from each horrific lesson, each with a score that builds and grows the older you get and the more those lessons are ingrained in you. "A woman who is, at her core, not good enough, tarnished." "If they want it, they can take it. What you want or don't want is irrelevant." "If I was a good girl, I would've left. I didn't do anything. I let him. I let him. I let him. I. Let. Him. My fault." "If you do nothing, it's your fault. Even if you are a child. Even if you are scared." "You are not a treasure." "You wanted it and he knew it." And xTx still thinks, "I got off easy." Yet her reflections on those times, as she meets other women and learns of their experiences, have led her to the realization that everything she learned as a child was not "what you get for being a girl." Instead, "None of this was supposed to happen. Didn't have to happen. I wasn't supposed to have a score. None of us were."

In Zoë Medeiros' essay Why I Stopped, she discusses how differently people can process their trauma. Talking about what happened to her didn't help her, but there were a lot of other things that did, from watching specific tv shows to reading other people's stories. Eventually, she realized that "not telling my story doesn't mean it didn't happen. I don't have to be open about my experiences, about all of them or even any of them, to be a real survivor. I am a real survivor because I survived, even if some days it feels like I didn't survive at all." It's not anyone else's business, and no one else's place to decide what your experiences mean to you, and YOU are the one who gets to decide what you share. "You don't owe anything to anyone. Your story is not the currency you exchange for love, for understanding, for getting what you need."

In the same vein, Stacey May Fowles writes in To Get Out From Under It: "It seems that, if something makes you feel better, it is a healthy option. Want to sleep all day? That's okay. Drink too much? That can be a valid coping choice. Isolating yourself via a fear of the outside world? Self-preservation is important." My biggest take away is this: be kind to yourself. Allow yourself the space you need to process, to heal, to survive. And that's good advice for dealing with anything life might be throwing at you, whether it be sexual violence, depression, or a death of a loved one. Be as kind and generous to yourself as you would be to your best friend.

Once again, I encourage everyone to pick up this book. Yes, it is difficult to read at times. It might be even more difficult for you to read than it was for me. But it will hopefully be worth it. And I'll leave you with a few more quotes to help convince you.

"I was angry beyond belief, but I had nowhere to put that anger. The shelves of my heart were full." - All the Angry Women, Liz Lenz

"The surfaces of my empathy became calloused." - Introduction, Roxane Gay

"I didn't want to be a part of their mourning. I didn't want to be involved in someone else's grief when I knew so little about how to deal with my own." - Spectator: My Family, My Rapist, and Mourning Online, Brandon Taylor

"I know what it's like to feel invisible as a child and I imagine it feels the same as an adult. But it's a pretty sorry situation when the choice is either objectification by intimidating strangers or invisibility." - The Luckiest MILF in Brooklyn, Lynn Mellick

"H. says, "I'm here to listen if you want to tell me." And then, "If you don't want to speak, I am still here."" - & the Truth is, I Have No Story, Claire Schwartz

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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Joseph Anton

Joseph Anton: A Memoir Joseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was while reading I Am Malala earlier this year that I first heard that Salman Rushdie had a fatwa against him for many years after the publication of The Satanic Verses. Years ago, I had read Haroun and the Sea of Stories and loved it, and so I had placed several of his other books on my to-do list, though I had never gotten around to reading them. Malala's brief mention of Rushdie's fatwa made me curious about his backstory, so I downloaded his memoir to listen to next.

Salman's story is indeed quite fascinating, and I pity him for the life of seclusion he was forced to live for so many years. I agree that literary expression should not be censored just because people don't like what one has written, or find it offensive. In the end, it's just a book, and if you don't like it, no one is forcing you to read it. There's lot of books out there that I find personally and morally offensive, but I don't think they should be burned, or their authors murdered.

As for the writing of this book, the prose is certainly compelling and beautiful, though I still find it a bit odd that he wrote his own memoir in the third person. I feel like choosing to use that particular narrative device gave himself as the author some distance from himself as the character, and also provided a feeling of objectivity of the account that we don't always believe of personal remembrances. Everyone remembers events differently, and the use of the 3rd person narrator implies facts and objectivity where in actuality we have memories and subjectivity. I wonder how each of his wives (all of them now ex-wives) would describe these same events, and who would seem a more reliable narrator, Salman or the women. Marianne in particular is not described in particularly kind terms, and I'm left with the general impression that she is an unstable, compulsive liar, who only married Salman because he was rich and famous, and never really loved him. Is that true? Or just how Salman remembers things? What about the odd way he described Padma Lakshmi, now of Top Chef fame? From what I hear, her memoir is not very kind to him, either.

I particularly enjoyed the sections where Salman described how he crafted and created each book. He clearly loves writing and these works become like children to him. The thought and care and work that goes in to each one is fascinating. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is one of my favorites, and I loved hearing how his son encouraged him the write it, and helped him along the way. I completely understand why he refused to change anything in it for the publishers - how could he ruin what was a special, unique gift for his son?

There were also sections that were so detailed that they became repetitive and tedious - I'm not sure we needed to know about every house change, and every conversation between every person Rushdie ever spoke with, and the back and forth and back and forth and back and forth of what was negotiations with Iran and then what wasn't and so on. Clearly Rushdie had major issues with the way the British government handled the fatwa, the negotiations with Iran (or lack there of), his persecution in the press, and his protection.

I did appreciate how much he lauded his many friends for supporting him and helping him out so graciously over the years. His effluent praise was so frequently that I have to think that he wasn't just keeping a journal during this time, he must have been taking meticulous notes of where he went and who he saw and what happened each and every day. How was he moving these journals around with him? Did he ship them off to his agent for safekeeping? Did friends store them for him? I'm not sure he would have trusted anyone not to try to read them. His journals also never forgot a slight against him, and he chronicled each of those, as well, calling out people who hurt and offended him.

In the end, the book was just too long by a mile, and could had benefited from a drastic editing process. By the time I made it halfway through, I just wanted things to move along, but I knew I still had a ways to go, so I tried to push through as fast as I could. Maybe that's the primary drawback to an audiobook - you can multitask and listen while you're doing other things, but it's much harder to "skim" when you get to a section you're not as interested in. If I could pull out just parts about writing, I would recommend that book to everyone. As it is, I would have to say that, despite being glad that I read it, I would only recommend this book to big fans of Rushdie, or those interested in middle eastern culture, politics, and religion.

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Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Elementals

The Elementals The Elementals by Michael McDowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


A super-atmospheric horror story that is more frightening and insidious than any normal crime fiction could possibly be. This book creeped me out so hard that I had to stop reading it at night. Even in the light of day, I was getting shivers. I think that's a testiment to how well it's written. I honestly don't even want to write a long review because even thinking about it is creepy, haha.

It would be nice to think that the Elementals, whatever they truly are, were destroyed with the destruction of Beldame, first by fire, then by storm. But India's pronouncement at the end, that Leigh's babies were Savages, not McCrays, plus the creepy story about the mother buried alive who ate her dead baby (ugh gross) makes me think the Elementals are unbreakbly linked to the Savage family itself, and they will never be able to outrun them in the end. Eeeeeeek. 😳😱

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Six of Crows

Six of Crows Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD!


A fun, dangerous heist story, with a good dose of fantasy and magic mixed in. I loved that the narrator changed with every chapter - it let us get to know each of the characters personally, and see them each from an outside perspective as well. I basically want to give the whole crew a big hug, and then spirit them away to somewhere safe. I enjoy them all in their own ways, but I have to admit, I have a favorite.

I love Inej so much. SO MUCH. She is fierce and sneaky and deadly, but also kind and softhearted. She has been through so much, and was at a loss for a long time on what she wanted out of life, and if she even deserved happiness anymore after all the things she'd been forced to do (and all the things she'd chosen to do to survive). I loved watching her grow and develop a plan for her own future that isn't dependent on what a man wants. I love that, as much as she cares for Kaz, she's not going to sacrifice herself and her future for him if he's not willing to meet her at least halfway.

Speaking of Kaz, I have so much sympathy for him. He was also dealt a poor hand in life, and I'm still not sure how he actually battled, fought, and conned his way to the position he is in now. Clearly Kaz has skillz, but he also has a deadly determination to read his goal: making the man responsible for his brother's death and his own anxiety issues pay. Up until Kaz meets and gets to know and falls in love with Inej, that goal is the only thing that matters, and everything else is just either there to help him or in the way. Inej makes things different for him, though. With Inej, Kaz can see a tiny glimpse of the future he never even dreamed of, one where maybe he is happy, and healthy, and can finally work through the emotional and physical issues he's been dealing with since his brother's death. Of course, the second Kaz lets those thoughts sneak into his brain, his plans go awry, and Inej, despite her deadliness, is captured.

Pretty much the only thing I disliked about this is how it "ended" -- because it's not a true ending!! This is the first in a series, which I'm not opposed to, but instead of this adventure wrapping up, and us getting to see where people head next, we're basically being dragged into a whole new book if we want to make sure our favorites are ever going to be safe. Obviously, I'm going to keep reading, but I can't say I'm thrilled to be getting a "let's all rescue the girl" story instead of a "check out this amazing girl as she hunts down slavers" story.

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Friday, July 27, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating, intensely researched profile of one of my most prolific serial rapists and murderers in US history, with in-depth analysis of his crimes and the many investigations searching for "the responsible" over the decades. At the time of writing and publication, the Golden State Killer, aka East Area Rapist, or EAR, had not been caught. Although investigators held out hope that DNA evidence and tenacity would eventually bring them the right lead, this book held the only conclusion it's author, Michelle McNamara, could write for it at the time of her death: her prophetic look into the future, where she had no doubt he would eventually be discovered and apprehended.

"This is how it ends for you. 'You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark,' you threatened a victim once. Open the door, show us your face. Walk into the light."

Part of me wishes I had read this book right after its publication, so I could have know all the facts about the GSK, and speculated on who he was along with Michelle and thousands of others. What joy and shock would I have felt to read the headline, "Golden State Killer Apprehended" after knowing so much about the horrors he inflicted on so many? Reading this book now, knowing the name and face of the killer primary makes me feel relieved: he's not out there anymore. He's been caught. Hopefully the victims and their families can feel some sort of relief after so many years in limbo.

What I am also curious about, though, is how the details of this man's life compare to all the speculation and theories that Michelle, the investigators, and the Internet groups discussed over the years. There were theories about how and where he grew up, where he lived, what his job was. We know now he was a police officer for some of the years he was active criminally: how does that play in to the way he seemed to easily evade capture back in the day? I'm hoping that one day, perhaps once his trial is over and he is in jail, someone will write an article or book to help answer these questions, to help explain how he flew under the radar for so long, and to detail exactly how investigators finally caught him.

I have no doubt that Michelle's hard work and detail, persistent research helped the investigation to finally track down and catch this criminal, and I hope that somewhere, she could see it, and rest easy, knowing her work was done.

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Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Runaway Dragon

The Runaway Dragon The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another fun adventure! I love that not only is Meg determined to go on a quest, that quest is inspired by her need to repair her neglected relationship with Laddy. I'm happy to see her rely on her friends when she needs to, but also take a stand and believe in herself when necessary. And yay Bain! I was also moderately annoyed with him, but to be fair, it's pretty much impossible to fight off magic if you're a non-magical person. Even Lex had trouble at first.

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I Am Malala

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Ok, shoot me. But first, listen to me: what you are doing is wrong."

Not just the inspiring story of a brave girl standing up for what she believed in (education for all), but a cultural, political, and religious history of Pakistan and the Pashtun people. This book documents the horror of the Taliban's increased influence, control, and restrictions from the perspective of a girl who lived through it. Malala recalls countless times she and her family spoke up for what was right, even in the face of extreme personal danger. To this day, Malala campaigns for the right to education, even though many in Pakistan disparage her and believe she's only in it for the glory. Hopefully one day they will understand how wrong they are about her.

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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Carry On

Carry On Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


I loved Fangirl, and I loved this, too! We finally get to meet and love the characters Cath and Wren love so much, and it's worth the wait. Simon and Baz are adorable, and I love how their relationship develops over time. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything hopping into their story so "late" in the game, as I feared I would. We get just enough pieces of their history for context, without being mired in flashbacks. Hate and love are both passionate emotions, and are so intertwined that it's easy to see how one could be confused for the other.

Also, even though on the surface, this might seem overly referential to the Harry Potter franchise, there are unique differences that make these characters special in their own right.

In truth, this book flips the trope of "the chosen one" on it's head. By latching on to prophecy of The Chosen One in his quest for power and revolution, the Mage inadvertently brings about the great threat their magical world has always feared. Some of the Mages reforms are quite noble - open up the world of education and learning to all magical creatures, not just the old families or the most powerful - but he lost sight of his original goals in his quest for dominance. As for Simon and his friends, is it enough to live for the future, for the hope that one day, you'll be able to stop fighting and just live? Or do you owe it to yourself and those around you to live every day like it's your last, and find your happiness wherever you can? Also, what makes someone a hero, and what makes them a villain? Nothing in life is ever black and white, and it's possible to be both a hero and a villain, both the problem and the solution.

I'm delighted to see there is a sequel in the works, even though it might be years down the road, because I want to read more of the adventures of Simon, Baz, and Penny. Not so much Agatha, who struck me as the blandest character, only redeeming herself in the end. I'm hoping Simon learns more about his parentage, specifically his mom, and I'm hoping he can regain some sort of magical abilities. I'm hoping Penny's boyfriend moves from America, so we don't have to worry about her leaving anytime soon. I'm hoping Baz finds a balance in life that lets him accept himself and not worry too much about being or becoming a monster.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Both hilariously funny and brutally honest about the difficult mental health struggles Jenny deals with on a daily basis. This book made me both laugh out loud and cry, sometimes within sentences of one another. I appreciate Jenny so much for being so forthcoming and upfront about her life and the way she thinks, and for providing a safe space for a supportive community to develop. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"But it's not like all ninjas are automatically great at their job. Someone has to be the worst ninja in the class. That's just basic math."

"Your lack of spoons is not your fault."

"How can we be expected to properly judge ourselves? We know all of our worst secrets. We are biased, and overly critical, and occasionally filled with shame, so you'll just have to trust me when I say you are worthy and important and necessary and smart."

"What I got back in return for being honest about my struggle was an enormous wave of voices saying 'you aren't alone' and 'we suspected you were crazy anyway, we're still here' and 'I'm proud of you.'And louder than all of that were the whispers that became stronger every day from thousands and thousands of people creeping to the edge and quietly admitting, "me, too. I thought it was just me." And the whispers became a roar, and the roar became an anthem that carried me through some of my darkest moments."


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Monday, July 9, 2018

The Immortalists

The Immortalists The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fascinating story about family and what it means to truly live. If you know the date you will die, are you free to live your life without worry? Or are you pushed to be reckless and foolhardy, because you know what you do doesn't matter in the end? The Gold siblings were permanent split from one another the day they learned their fates, because each became consumed with their own worries and fears.

This story made me really sad a lot of the time, but in the end, I appreciated what I think it was trying to say. Don't sacrifice the quality of your life to ensure a quantity of life, because what is life if you lock yourself away and don't experience it? Be fearless. As Ruby has learned, "magic is only one tool among many for keeping one another alive." There's the physical act of learning to heal, as a doctor, but there's also the power of love. "I love you all." The best part of Ruby is that she means it.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Along for the Ride

Along for the Ride Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another classic Dessen novel, just what I was expecting. Auden has a lot of baggage from her childhood, and this is the summer she deals with it all, before heading off to college. She slowly gets to experience all the normal kid and teenage stuff she missed out on while her parents were assuming she was a "grown up" already, focused on studying and the future. And when she goes to live with her dad, she eventually gets the chance to confront both him and her mom with how their divorce affected her.

The "getting back on your bike" analogy didn't work perfectly for Auden and Eli's relationship, in my opinion, but I appreciated the sentiment, and learning how to fail and still continue to try is an important lesson, and one my perfectionist heart is still learning every day. It almost felt like they were placing all the blame for Auden and Eli's separation onto her shoulders, because she freaked out and pulled away and didn't communicate. Although yes, that is something Auden did repeatedly with multiple people, Eli holds some responsibility, too. When Auden didn't immediately respond and answer his questions and explain herself, Eli walked away, and never even tried to contact her again. If Auden hadn't gone up to him, would he have just left her alone for the rest of their lives? He could have at least made an effort to reach out to her.

It the end, it made me happy to see Auden with friends, and with a more balanced life.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

The Bone Cage

The Bone Cage The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A brilliantly insightful novel about what makes one's life meaningful, and how to pick up the pieces of your life when all your dreams have been shattered.

Elite athletes live a different life than most of us - many years spent so intensely focused on very particular goals, at the expense of their lives, their families, their bodies. So what happens when their bodies give out and their competitive days are over? What if they fought as hard as they could, and it still wasn't enpugh to reach their goals? What if a twist of fate sent them down a radically different path? It's just. It's so sad. How do you get past the feeling of things being left so incomplete, of never knowing if you were good enough to win? What next?

Those are the issues that Sadie, Digger, and their friends are wrestling with through out this book. In the end, I'm not sure anyone has it figured out, but all you can do is try: try to let go of the way things were, and try to build a new sense of self worth, one that is not tied to competition and your identity as an athlete. I want to give Sadie a big hug. Her journey is so rough and raw and real. It's entirely relatable, to see her look back at her team and suddenly feel like she doesn't belong.

Every athlete has to move on eventually, but it's how you do it that shapes the rest of your life. I like that there is no firm resolution in the story about that, because for everyone, that's going to look different.


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Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Runaway Princess

The Runaway Princess The Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightfully different fairy tale about a princess who wasn't content to sit around and let herself become a prize for men to fight over, and sets out to win her own hand (and save herself from a despicable, lying prince). I loved Meg and all her friends, and I can't wait to read more of their adventures, as I see there is a sequel, featuring Laddy! Also, despite the fact that I love that this book wasn't about romance or Meg finding her prince, I can't be the only one hoping to see Bain pop up again in the future, with his delightfully smirky smirk.

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Friday, June 29, 2018

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies

Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies by Michael Ausiello
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An honest and heart-felt chronicle of not just the last year in the life of Ausiello's beloved husband, Kit, but also the true story of their relationship, with all the high and lows contained within. Ausiello doesn't sugarcoat anything - he is upfront about both his and Kit's issues that made their relationship contentious at times. But he also shows how their deep love for one another, despite infidelity and jealousy, and especially in the face of certain death, kept them together through all the dark days, and helped them treasure the bright ones.

As a lifelong tv fanatic (my username on most social media outlets is rachlovestv), I've been a fan of Ausiello's writing from his early Ask Ausiello days - no one could give me the scoop on Veronica, Felicity, Buffy, and all my other tv friends quite like Mike. I wasn't aware of his personal story, however, and when I first heard of this memoir of his, my first thought was, "Oh nooooo! That's too sad!" followed quickly by, "I'm going to need to read that!" This book has come at the perfect time in my life, as well, and I happen to have been reading quite a few cancer memoirs over the last 6 months.

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Hamilton: The Revolution

Hamilton: The Revolution Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A delightful look into not just the genesis and creation of the hit musical, but at the history and hip hop that inspired its creator, and the journey the show went through from initial conception to Broadway. This is a must-read for fans of the show, but I'd also recommend it to musical theater fans in general.

The only downside to the audiobook is that Lin's annotations to the libretto are read straight through, without reference to what they are notating. Yes, a PDF is included with the audiobook for reference, but I mostly listen to audiobooks when I'm driving or walking or working on other things, not when I'm sitting in front of a computer, reading a PDF for reference.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Just Listen

Just Listen Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


Like most of Dessen's heroines, Annabelle has been through some Serious Sh*t, and although her silence is frustrating at times, I don't blame her for retreating into herself and trying to pretend that hadn't happened to her. It's true that becoming labeled as "the girl who was raped" or even harsher "the girl who SAID she was raped" is something people have a hard time forgetting. There's no other way this book was going to end, though, than with Annabelle finally gathering her courage and finally telling the truth about what happened to her, and spilling all the secrets she'd been keeping for the last six months.

It made sense that Owen was a big encouragement to her finally telling the truth: she wanted to be the person he saw her as, and Owen saw Emily as strong and honest. But she also needed the others around her to finally see her: her sisters, her parents, Clarke, Emily. I was a little frustrated by Owen when he got so angry at her not telling him what was going on. No matter how close you've gotten, if it's something she still can't say to you, don't you think that maybe it's a big deal, and you could be a little more understanding?

It might seem like stories like these aren't as relevant to my life as a 30-something, but sometimes we all need to be reminded that we are loved as we are, that those we love can be trusted, and that life will go on.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a fun adventure with Doreen (and her clone Allene)! If you are not reading squirr girl, you are missing out. She is such a positive role model of how to fight evil, but still always work towards compromise. If nothing else, this book shows how dangerous Doreen could be if she didn't love the world and love people. I love what she says st the end when she decides to forgive Allene. Nancy: "You think you can just decide not to hate someone?" Doreen: "I think -- I think you can try. I think that's the most revolutionary thing you can do, actually."

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I Am Princess X

I Am Princess X I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Both a story of grief and loss and a riveting adventure to save someone before they are lost for good. I loved the creative combination of prose and sequential art, where it felt like we were reading both May and Libby's stories simultaneously. I also loved how specific the setting was - I'm from Seattle, and I've been to so many of the places in this book that it was really easy to picture each scene.

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Sunday, June 10, 2018

Being Mortal

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating look at how best to care for one another and ourselves as we grow older and reach the end of our lives. From doctors trained in geriatrics to a different style of "nursing" home, this book covers both the history of end-of-life care over the centuries and the research studies that show the benefits of prioritizing quality of life over strict medical care.

The author also talks a lot about having conversations with your loved ones about what truly makes life worth living for you, in concrete specific ways. We are often left to make major medical decisions for our loved ones, and having these concrete answers provides a guideline so that you as the caregiver don't have to just guess at what they'd want.

This book feels really important, and i think everyone should read it, especially if you are a medical professional. I couldn't stop calling my mom, who is a retired nurse, nursing school professor, and geriatrics researcher, to tell her things - so much so that she went and bought the book to read herself.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Prince and the Dressmaker

The Prince and the Dressmaker The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely book about being yourself and learning to love who you are. Frances and Sebastian have a sweet friendship that naturally turns into something more as they become more and more comfortable being themselves around one another. Sebastian finds himself in the uncomfortable situation of having to choose between what his family, whom he loves, expects of him, and what feels right to him as a person. Although it takes some time to figure out, and he ends up being outed by a self-righteous jerk in the process, in the end, his family loves him and supports his decisions to dress in whatever way he wants and love whomever he wants in the most epic way possible. I was also happy that Frances stood up for herself when Sebastian disappointed her and tried to control her for his own personal interests, but I was even more happy to see her stand up for her own designs. Frances and Sebastian make a great team, supporting one another and encouraging one another to greatness. They would be great role models for any kid, or adult, for that matter.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

We Are the Ants

We Are the Ants We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


Both a deeply touching story of loss, grief, and misery, and an existential journey of self-discovery. Henry starts and ends the both saying the same words: "When we're gone, the world will forget we ever existed. It doesn't matter." What changes over the course of 6 months and this book is what he *means* by those words.

For much of the book, Henry wrestles with how to live in a world where his boyfriend, his other half, doesn't exist. What's the point when nothing we do matters in the grand scheme of the universe? When faced with the decision to save the universe or let it be destroyed, Henry figures the world is better off dead. Eventually, through his relationships with his family, with Audrey, and with Diego, Henry realizes that life can go on and HE can go on, but not without admitting the truth to the ones who love him: he is not okay, and he needs help.

While Henry lived in the past, Diego was focused on ignoring it. He didn't want to be the guy who went to juvie for beating up his dad, the guy whose own mom wouldn't support him, and kept returning to her abuser. Diego wanted to focus on the future, and figure out who he was and who he wanted to be. Diego wanted Henry in his future and didn't necessarily understand why Henry couldn't let go of the past.

What these guys learned together was the mantra Henry had inscrinbed on the journal he gives Diego: "Remember the past, live the present, write the future." It's all about balance: you can't live in the past, but you can't ignore what you've been through. You need to live in the now, and look to the future, and write your own story of who you want to become.

I don't want to talk about Marcus, but I feel like I need to mention him. As much as he is the villain in this story, I do have a tiny piece of understanding for him. Let me be clear: Marcus deserved everything he got, and much, much more, but his actions definitely came from a place of desperation and self-loathing, and I hope he gets the help he needs so that he learns from his actions and never hurts anyone ever again. And that's all I'll say about him.

I can't imagine that any of these characters are completely over their issues. Henry might always feel guilt over Jesse's death and moving on (I wasn't good enough, I loved him too much, I didn't love him enough), Diego definitely has some overprotective anger issues to work on, Charlie and Zooey will always mourn for and miss their Evie. But no one is perfect, and no one has everything all figured out. Like Audrey tells Henry, you might not be good enough for Diego, but he's not good enough for you either, and maybe that makes you perfect for each other.

In th end, it doesn't matter if the world forgets who we are, what we did, who we loved. "The universe may forget us, but our light will brighten the darkness for eons after we've departed this world. The universe may ........ we may not get to choose how we die, but we *can* choose how we live."

So the big question: was Henry really abducted by aliens? Was there really a button to press? Did the world end on January 29, 2016? Despite my curiosity, I can only conclude one thing: it doesn't matter. Like anything after the ending of this book, our future is unwritten, and you can change, grow, and be who you want to be, the best version of yourself.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Paper Princess

Paper Princess Paper Princess by Erin Watt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

SPOILERS AHEAD


This was... not what I expected. To be honest, I can't believe this is consider YA, with all the over-the-top hookups and sex talk. It's totally unsurprising to me, now that I've read this and done some research, that this is a collaboration between 2 authors who primarily write adult romance. I definitely see a lot of those common romance tropes here.

I like Ella well enough, but her instant attraction to Reed was unbelievable, and her reactions to pretty much everything that happened seemed oversize for each situation. I wish she would stick around and try to trust at least Callum, instead of running, despite the insanity she was facing at the end of the book.

I'm more annoyed, though, with Reed and the rest of these Royal boys. Can you please start acting in rational ways, or at least explaining yourselves? It makes absolutely no sense that Reed would go from loving, supportive boyfriend to unapologetic sex toy of a woman whom he hates in a span of a few hours. I honestly don't see any explanation that would justify or forgive that behavior. Gideon also makes no sense, trying to warn Ella off without actually saying anything. And the evil Brooke - what does she have over these guys that allows her make them her sexual play things? Based on the pec scratches, which I'm guessing is her calling card, she's also been having sex with Gideon.

I'll probably read the next book just because the way this one ended was so unsatisfying and I want at least some good thing to come for Ella, but I can't imagine what that could possibly be at this point.

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