Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

If you find me
Carey lives in a broken down camper in the middle of the forest with her little sister, Jessa, and occasionally, her mom. Her mom is a meth-addict who stole them from Carey's dad, presumably because he abused all of them. Jessa is selectively mute, from an incident that happened one night when their mom was gone. One day, her mom leaves for good, sending a letter that she can no longer care for the girls. The authorities show and whisk them away to Carey's dad, who is maybe not what she thought. There is, of course, an adjustment period to this new life, as Carey learns to live as a normal teenage girl. While this book was good, it could have been great. I understand that as a YA book, the author didn't want to delve too deeply into child abuse. Yet, I felt that a LOT was glossed over, so much that very few of the characters were developed as fully as they could have been. Good story but could have been better.

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set
This is the graphic novel story of the Boxer Rebellion. It is brilliantly executed. One story is told by Little Bao, who channels the gods of old to form a band to strike back against the "foreign devils" whom he thinks are here to steal his native land. The other is told by Four-Girl, christened Vibiana who runs away from her family after converting to Christianity. The two sides of the Rebellion, told by these two characters, creates a beautiful story that leaves you able to see both sides from a rational point-of-view. I read Boxers first and would probably recommend that because Saints goes a little further into the story, but I would definitely suggest both!

We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel
This book reached into my chest and tore out my heart. This is not a happy book, but it is beautifully rendered. I would, first of all, not read any reviews on this book. Fortunately, I did not before reading but after reading looked at a few, and they definitely give away a major plot point that is better left unknown until you are reading.
Eileen wants better for herself. She is picky with men, to the consternation of her friends and family. Then she meets Ed Leary and marries him, despite her once upon a time wish to rid herself of her Irish last name. As time goes on, Eileen learns that Ed doesn't dream as big as she does, is okay with just a teaching position, is okay with living in the same apartment in which they've always lived. This is a long novel. You follow the Leary family through most of their lives, and you become attached. You feel their sorrow--and there is a great deal of sorrow--and occasional joys. I cried at the end. The characters were real and just as frustrating as real people are... and you so badly want them to have the most in life, even when it's clear that won't happen.

What are you reading?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

*On Thursday. Oops. I thought I had this scheduled to post yesterday, but it did not.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post
I requested a bunch of books recently because a school board in Delaware banned its entire reading list. This was the first to be banned, then when they were accused of banning it because of the themes, they responded by banning the rest of the list. Every book I read this week is off of the list.
Cameron Post is the protagonist in this coming of age story. She is also a lesbian, coming of age in rural Montana. The story follows Cameron from the time she's 12 until 17. Cameron falls in love with her best friend, then is discovered and sent away to God's Promise, a religious conversion camp. I loved this book. The voice of Cameron, her overwhelming guilt but also acceptance of who she is and who she always will be is incredible. It had the kind of ending that sometimes frustrates me but was just right for this book. I found myself rooting for Cameron Post beyond the book, basically for all the Cameron Posts of this world, struggling to gain acceptance.

I would call this a coming of age story with a twist, too. Butter is a morbidly obese teen. He has a real name, but everyone calls him Butter. In the beginning of the story, Butter has no friends, except a girl named Anna. Anna goes to his school, but he's created an online persona to get to better know Anna (who has no idea that she's talking to Butter). Frustrated with his life after an embarrassing moment in the school cafeteria (where he sits alone with his spread of food), Butter creates a website stating that he's going to kill himself on New Year's Eve. How? By eating himself to death, of course. Butter's website suddenly gains him popularity, with a group of kids who may be friends. Or who may just want a front row seat to the train wreck.
This book was not a comfortable read. It contains heavy themes of bullying and suicide, but it was beautifully written and well done. The author did an amazing job of making Butter a person, not just a kid who eats too much.

More Than This
This book opens with a fairly uncomfortable scene of Seth, a teenage boy, drowning. In his last moments, breathing in water and trying to fight the ocean, he bashes his head fatally on a rock.
Except that in the next chapter, Seth is alive. He is naked and thirsty and hurts everywhere. He also seems to be in his old neighborhood in England, an ocean away from where he died. Even more, his old neighborhood seems to be a ruined post-apocalyptic world where he's the only one there. Is this his own personal hell? Or is it something else?
The twists this book took were completely unexpected, going into it having no background information. It kept me reading through an entire day.

The Scorpio Races
On the island of Thisby, a race is held every year when the capaill uisce (cap-pall osshke) come from the sea. A vicious breed of water horses who eat meat, attacking other horses, each other and humans with their sharp teeth. Yet, despite the brutality of these horses, it is said that if you can get them from the sea, they make the best mounts--mounts who are violent and will always be drawn to the water. Some race for the money, some for the glory, while some just try to stay alive until the end. Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. Puck Connolly is a girl who gets mixed up in the Scorpio Races, though she never dreamed she'd ride. Sean and Puck clash with their own personal conflicts, but become entwined in one another as the Scorpio Race draws near. This was a longer book, with a steady build-up to the actual race, which left me anxious and ready to see who would survive. I definitely enjoyed it, especially the folklore elements.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Whistling Past the Graveyard
I requested this one based on Corrin's recommendation and loved it. 9 year old Starla runs away from her grandmother, who spends most of her days telling Starla that she's a horrible child and grounded her for fairly minor infractions. Her destination is Nashville, where she believes her absent mother is a star singer. On her way, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman with a white baby. In the 1960s south, Eula is the wrong color, especially with a baby she took from the church steps. As the story unfolds, Starla and Eula become entrenched in one another's lives in a way no one would ever have expected, least of all the two of them. The author did an excellent job developing not only the two main characters, but secondary characters as well. I loved the voice of this story.

Big Little Lies
I love Lianne Moriarty's books because she has a really good handle on how to write a book from the perspective of different characters. I also love them because I can just shut off my brain and get really involved in the story, which is definitely what I did for this book. Written from the perspective of three friends (Madeline, Celeste and Jane), the story starts out in present time talking about a school trivia night that ended in murder. It then flashes back to six months before the trivia night and begins building toward that, interspersed with police statements from other characters. The police statements are never from the main characters or their spouses, so you have no idea who died on trivia night or who was involved, just a twisted web of gossip to unweave. My favorite part of the book was what lays beneath the surface of each person, how a person who may seem to have it all may really be one step away from losing it. Despite this book being over 400 pages, I finished it in one [lazy] day.

Painted Horses
I wanted to read this book based on the comparison to The Son and Lonesome Dove (please read Lonesome Dove if you haven't!!). Catherine Lemay is an archaeology student in the 1950s world where careers for women are still frowned upon by society. She's sent by the Smithsonian to investigate the site of a possible dam in Montana. She's never been to the west before and Native American artifacts are not her thing, but she's willing to ride out into the middle of nowhere to look for artifacts. If none are found, the dam build can go ahead and the canyon will be flooded. In the midst of this, she meets a mysterious man named John H. who lives in the canyon. Catherine's story is told in conjunction with John's and while there were parts that didn't hold my interest quite so strongly, the ending of the story was a series of beautiful twists and turns that made this one a book that I was glad to read.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What I Read Wednesday

Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves
I was interested by this book because we adopted a shelter dog in January who definitely showed signs of anxiety when we brought her home. This was the first time I became aware that dogs could suffer from what is typically thought of as a human condition. Fortunately, after a few months of showing her that we were safe and weren't leaving, her anxiety lessened. The author of this book did not have the same experience, as her dog never became less anxious, even with dog therapy and medications, to the point where he jumped out their fourth floor apartment window.
In this book, she speaks not only of her dog but of countless other animals who suffer from human conditions, such as night terrors, homesickness, separation anxiety and rage. While this book shows that we've come a long way in humanely treating animals and understanding them, it also shows that we've barely began. This was a fascinating read.

California: A Novel
Cal and Frida live off the land in a ruined world. They escaped from LA to live in the woods, after weather and humanity destroyed most of the civilized world. After their closest (only) neighbors commit suicide, Frida begs Cal that she needs to know what is beyond them, she needs to know that others are out there. Exploring leads them to a town surrounded by large metal spikes, a seemingly huge maze designed to keep out anyone who might dare to enter. Here, Cal and Frida's world is rocked by revelations that connect to her brother Micah, a suicide bomber who died during the beginning of the end of the world.
In the beginning of this book, I felt that it was going to be on a Cormac McCarthy level and tore through it, but unfortunately, it fell apart a little at the end. It felt like there should be a sequel, but I'm not sure there is. I don't mind open endings, but this one was a little too open, a little too rushed.

The Fracking King: A Novel
Winston Crwth (rhymes with truth) is at the Hale School for boys on a scholarship from Dark Oil. The name is not a misnomer, as Dark Oil is responsible for so much fracking around the school that the water out of certain sinks can be combustible. This is a coming of age story mixed in with an environmental truth story mixed in with satire. Think Carl Hiaasen. Winston uses his Scrabble tournament skills to attempt to schedule a meeting with the governor so he can force her to admit that fracking is destroying the water in Pennsylvania. Although I wished that tertiary characters better developed in this story, I loved the character of Win so much that I could overlook the rest.

The Walking Dead Volume 20: All Out War Part 1 TP
I also read part 2 but I'm not going to link to both. If you're a fan of The Walking Dead, I would definitely recommend making your way through the graphic novels--even if you don't typically like graphic novels.

I am a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell and was looking forward to this one. Unfortunately, it fell short for me. Georgie and Neal are struggling in their marriage. When Georgie tells Neal she can't accompany him to Omaha (where his mother lives) along with their two daughters, it's the last straw. The Omaha visit coincides with Christmas, which makes it a bigger deal than just skipping a vacation. While dealing with work stress and her staying at her mother's house because she can't stand to be alone, Georgie calls Neal from the old yellow landline in her room. After a conversation, she discovers that she's not talking to present day Neal, but to Neal from 1998. A Neal with whom she was once on a break, shortly before he proposed to her. I don't mind magical realism, I don't, but the book from this point on was so trite and contrived that it absolutely lost me. I guess they can't all be Eleanor&Park or even The Attachments, but this was not the book I expected.

What are you reading?