Mini Review: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

biglittleliesBig Little Lies was a delightful & quick read that I recommend for anyone interested in pop thrillers. Of the pop thrillers I’ve read (Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train), Big Little Lies is by far the best of the batch! Lots of little jokes are wormed in around the several disasters that crop up throughout the book. I was able to predict the biggest plot twist, but everyone I know who has read it wasn’t able to. Despite being able to predict the big twist, I was still extremely satisfied with how the book wrapped up, a rare feeling when figuring out a plot point before you’re meant to. There are lots of funny bits about family life in suburbia and a slew of delightful characters that made me want to constantly return to this book as a distraction from real life. Plus, there are plenty of true facts about domestic, physical, and emotional abuse woven throughout the novel that will hopefully help readers understand how these terrible things can take multiple forms and cause readers to be more aware of these very serious, but unfortunately very common issues that plague so many.

If you or someone you know may be in a situation that involves domestic violence or abuse, please visit this website for a list of resources.

Mini Review: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

scrappylittlenobodyThis audiobook memoir narrated by actress/author Anna Kendrick was… fine? Maybe I would’ve found it more endearing if I had been a bigger fan of Anna Kendrick. As it stands, I tend to enjoy her in movies and find her Twitter feed humorous, but I’m less invested or interested in what makes her tick and what her experiences are outside of the roles she portrays. So why did I even listen to this audiobook you ask? I honestly thought I would’ve become more interested as I listened along, but it never happened. I frequently forgot I was even reading this book until I would sign onto GoodReads and see that it was still on my currently reading shelf while I was eating lunch before my weekly therapy appointment… and then I would listen for an hour while I ate lunch alone and forget about the audiobook until the next week. This is an audiobook best enjoyed by people who already adore the actress.

Mini Review: The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket

reptileroomI’m very slowly making my way through an A Series of Unfortunate Events reread — a series I loved as a child since I was a tinge morbid and macabre. I’m slowly purchasing these books individually and sequentially through thrift store finds. Despite purchasing this in April 2015, I didn’t start the second book until Netflix released their adaptation of the series. I want to complete re-reading the first four in the series before beginning the Netflix series as the first season covers Books 1 – 4. Luckily, I’ve already snagged books 3 and 4 so I can easily snap them up whenever I’m feeling exhausted from graduate school reading.

These are so quick and fun to reread as an adult because you can catch references to prolific writers/artists/creatives that likely went over your little kid brain. I only gave the second in the series 4 stars as it’s not one of the books that I found most memorable upon reflection. That said, it was still a quite enjoyable read though!

Mini Review: Once Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris

onceuponamarigoldMy high school bestie is recently engaged and I was trying to think of something I could send her to commemorate her snazzy new life stage. Enter: book we both loved during our childhood that has a marriage-centered plot. While this book doesn’t stand up as well in adulthood as I remembered it, it was still fun to re-dive into this read that we both enjoyed as kids. I scribbled in the margins things relevant to her own wedding planning so hopefully she views this as a fun gift and associates fond memories with it when she rereads it or sees it on her bookshelf in the future. Rereading was a bit of a slog through the first 100 pages, but it picked up quickly thereafter and was closer to the book I remember reading. It’s a very sanitized love story that an 8 – 10 year old would find cute.

This book is the first in a trilogy, but I never read the subsequent books as a child and have no desire to complete the series as an adult either.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

hillbillyelegyI began reading this book for fun and then found that it was relevant to some of the work I’m doing so yay — a very pleasant surprise! A lot of people have chosen to read this book to understand the “hidden right” post-election cycle. I chose to read it to see how the author’s experience lined up with my own background. Despite not growing up in Appalachia, many of the situations that the author described were extremely familiar to me. I grew up in a working-class family and spent 5 years of my childhood in a rural town, population: 800. While the author categorizes his experiences as being particular to Appalachia, I would say they also extend to rural southern living conditions, including my area of Northeast Texas.

I related a lot to Vance’s description of trying to learn how to portray himself as being of a different social class than the one he was born into — like Vance, I was the first in my family to go to college, becoming upwardly mobile, and I found myself struggling to fit in when ‘everything from your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst.’ (p. 207)

He also spends time detailing Christianity in Appalachia and how he (at one point) and many of the churchgoing people have (either at one time or persistently) felt like persecuted minorities by ‘elite liberals’ who some believe are making the world a scary and foreign place. His commentary on Christianity and many of the contradictions present in Appalachia were revealing in that many of the residents don’t belong to a church, but vastly report high church attendance because of perceived social pressures. His own experience emphasized that the persecuted minority feelings are salient in the churches, but less so in how individuals believe and practice faith in their own homes.

Chapters 14 (particularly) and 15 were most relevant to the work that I do, but the links from the previous chapters are needed to feel the full heft of the messages in those later chapters. These chapters discuss the traumas that working-class children regularly experience because of a myriad of factors: unreliable income, inconsistent parental support, violence in the home, etc. and the massive effect they have on child outcomes and development of mental and physical health conditions later in life. I also found the writer’s description of his limited relationship with his parents for survival purposes particularly refreshing — it’s something I have also adopted for my own self-preservation purposes, but haven’t read detailed in another work so precisely.

I’ve read many similar books that attempt to describe the plight and lives of America’s working-class through studies and home observation vignettes, but I found this memoir to be the most revealing and authentic… perhaps because it was written by someone who experienced this lifestyle rather than being written by a researcher looking in and trying to understand class and lifestyle differences. While the author doesn’t push for specific policy changes, he does admit that we collectively need to strive to make things better, particularly for working-class youth while their worlds and expectations for themselves are still malleable.

Mini Review: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

thebelljarHow have I gotten this far through life without anyone forcing me to read this book?? I started reading a friend’s copy and instantly felt compelled to highlight meaningful bits as I moved along. I had to acquire my own copy as I knew it would become a staple that lives on my bookshelf forever. My lovely friend (thanks Gabe!) bought me a copy while I visiting Brooklyn for the holidays. I love love loved this and felt like Plath describes a specific depression experience in young adulthood well. Since I also spent a bit of a time in New York in my early 20s and felt out of place while interning whilst all of my friends loved the glam of the city, I found those bits intriguing. I don’t particularly recommend reading this during the winter gloomy season as the holidays are approaching, as that time is already dark enough without needing something to plunge yourself deeper, but I’m not sure I would’ve liked it nearly as much if I had read it during a summery time.

Selected quotes:

“Either I got better, or I fell, down, down, like a burning, then burnt-out star.” (p. 209)

“I didn’t want my pictures taken because I was going to cry. I didn’t know why I was going to cry, but I knew that if anybody spoke to me or looked at me too closely the tears would fly out of my throat and I’d cry for a week. I could feel the tears brimming and sloshing in me like water in a glass that is unsteady and too full.”(p. 100-101)

“I felt now that all the uncomfortable suspicions I had about myself were coming true, and I couldn’t hid the truth much longer. After nineteen years of running after good marks and prizes and grants of one sort and another, I was letting up, slowing down, and dropping clean out of the race.” (p. 29)

“If you expect nothing from somebody you are never disappointed.” (p. 59)

Mini Review: salt. by Nayyirah Waheed

saltWhat a way to start 2017! I began embracing and newly appreciating poetry in 2016 which led me to Salt. I’ve been following the poet (Nayyirah Waheed) on Instagram for a bit where she regularly posts poems from salt. A lot of my favorite poems have been featured on her Instagram feed, but there are a ton of hidden treasures within the book that you won’t find by simply following Waheed.

I’ve included one of my favorite poems below that I’ve returned to repeatedly and shared with friends when I’ve felt like they needed it too.

 

in our own ways
we all break.
it is okay
to hold your heart outside of your body
for
days.
months.
years.
at a time.

– heal