Back in my childless teacher phase, I read at least a book a week. They were almost always young adult and I would do book presentations for my class of gifted youngsters (future X-men). Now I am in two book clubs and am so overwhelmed with reading those two books a month that I hardly have time to read anything else. But I try, oh I TRY, to carry on! Thank you, father, for the kindle a few years ago. I can usually manage to read a chapter in the dark whilst rocking Booberry to drowsy. And thank you to the Multnomah County Library for making it possible for me to save a few bucks and read some of these for freesies. Because babies are expensive, yo, and they lick my books. Booberry personally threw up on three board books last week. One wasn’t even hers. So it’s good that libraries exist and have e-books even though I miss the smell and the tactile satisfaction of paper books…mmmm….sensory bliss. It’s ok. I’ll have to get my jollies with board books and get on the e-book wagon.
Here are some books I read this year that I want to discuss. In no particular order:
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowl. She is so hot right now. And this book is great. It’s a quiet young adult (some mature content) romance about a ginger (you know I have a thing for those) girl and a non-ginger boy. The ginger thing isn’t a big part of the story really. It’s about LOVE. And I enjoyed it.
Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. I have read 2/3 of the trilogy. This is also one of those trendy ones I heard about on the internets or somewhere. IT IS WEIRD. The pitch: it’s like X-files mated with Lost and did shrooms. Which sounds like the best thing ever, right? But the style is self-proclaimed “weird.” It’s about a scientific expedition into a mysterious Floridian Area X that has creepy, maybe alien, maybe nature-gone-mad elements. There’s repetitive imagery and lots of mysteries. And deadly fungus. I had to take a break before doing the third book because the book sorta took me over like one of its spores and I couldn’t sleep.
Where’d ya Go Bernadette by Maria Semple. I read this AGAIN. Why haven’t you read it yet? It’s like if Desperate Housewives were written as a novel by a writer for Arrested Development (which Maria Semple was) and set in Seattle. It’s light and easy to read without being stupid or “a girl book” as The Doctor would say.
Red Rising by Pierce Brown. This book got a lot of good buzz but didn’t actually catch on the way other YA violent sci fi has for whatever reason. Reviews often say that it’s like a Hunger Gamesy Harry Potter. But it is SIGNIFICANTLY more violent than either of those. Like, cringing while I read violent (which last happened to me during American Psycho to give you reference). BUT IT’S COOL. I am planning to read the sequel. It’s about future colonists of the planets and has a Brave New World class structure with Capitol on crack type physical enhancements. And there’s a school for training but it’s not wizards it’s WARRIORS. It’d say it’s more male than a lot of YA today but I don’t mean that in a good or bad way.
Sleep Donation by Karen Russell. I HATED HATED HAAAAATED Swamplandia. I threw it across the ROOooooom when I finished it, I hated it so much. But I very much enjoyed this novella and wish to see the movie/read the whole thing should she ever flesh it out. It had a Fahrenheit 451 vibe to it and is about what happens when people stop sleeping. Cool concept well executed.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. I like alllll her books. I recommend all of them. This one is her newest and it really stuck with me because the characters seemed very much like people I could know/be. It’s about twins who are psychic but not in a YA paranormal way, just in the way some people seem to think they’re psychic and you either believe them or you don’t. One sister grows out of the novelty of her power and lives a pretty straight forward suburban life. The other makes money on her gift and predicts a big earthquake which sends the community into a panic. The plot is about the days leading up to the predicted event. It’s quieter than my normal YA adventures and is much more grown up, albeit a light read.
Looking for Alaska by John Green. He’s having a moment, of course and I love him and his books and his vlog and his run on sentences. This is one of his earlier novels I hadn’t read. It has echoes of Fault in ours Stars greatness but is more like a dark Abundance of Katherines. It’s heavy. It has a pixie dream girl, of course. It’s moody. I liked it.
Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri. NOPE! Worst ever. I voted for it in book club and could barely finish it. The only reason I did is because there wasn’t an adequate Wikipedia summary. I like her short stories and this is the first full novel I’ve read. HATED. Everyone in book club for the most part took issue with the main female, a cold, depressed person whose grief basically ruins everything for everyone for their whole lives.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry. Because I voted for the horrendous Lowland, I was coerced into picking this dud as the next book. Nerds love it. I am a nerd. It was a huge waste of valuable reading time for me. It takes place between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. So basically, it’s filler. SO ANNOYING. Enjoy it if you like fan fiction.
On Immunity by Eula Bliss. Maybe the most important book I read this year. As you know, I get really RAGEFUL when I think about anti-vaxers and their bioterrorist ideas about killing us all with pox parties. Sometimes I think about Booberry getting measles (her heat rash yesterday set me off…she had epic heat rash and I was concerned) and I get whipped into a panicked frenzy and murderous ideas come popping up. So I try to keep it civil. This book helped. A journalist and mom, Bliss wasn’t sure about vaccines so she did her REAL research (not reading Bob Sears’ blog) and has come to the conclusion that, DUH, vaccines are a good idea. The book explains why from a historical, lightly scientific, and emotional standpoint. Basically this book gives me ammo when anti-vaxers start talking about “natural immunity.” Too bad I bought the kindle version—otherwise I could just throw the book at them. Like at their faces.
Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. My first non-political allegory graphic novel! The Doctor picked this for book club and I devoured over two days. I let Booberry crawl around her room with her toys while I read it in the glider. She kept coming up to me and wanting me to read it to her…but it has boobies. Breastfeeding boobies, sure, but also sex and monster boobies. It’s about star crossed future lovers who have a mixed race baby and have to flee their enemies and raise their girl in the midst of interplanetary war. It’s super fun and amazing. Plus it’s fast and has cool pictures.
Next up: Station Eleven. The premise is that it follows a group of traveling Shakespearean actors in a post-apocalyptic North America. Basically, I’m pretty sure this book was written JUST FOR ME.