Tag Archives: book bloggers

Mini Review: The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

duffI acquired this from my library’s $1 book sale and snatched this up after enjoying the movie based on the novel. The DUFF follows Bianca, a high school student, who feels like the least glowing member of her group of girlfriends, especially after this is pointed out by the resident “hot guy” of her high school. Whilst this is going on, Bianca is also going through some tribulations at home: her sober father begins drinking again after some issues with his marriage emerge and Bianca must confront a previous, unhealthy relationship of her own and uses sex to distract herself. It took too long for me to get into The DUFF and it took over 100 pages for Bianca to challenge certain things (like her being labeled as the D.U.F.F. or “designated, ugly, fat friend”) and embrace empowerment. Once Bianca started challenging language that was being used and questioning how both girls and boys unfairly judge girls, the novel became a lot more digestible. The dialogue was full of suicide jokes (ugh) and while The DUFF was an okay story, it never really redeemed itself. The best thing about this novel is that its and another book I just finished (The Sky is Everywhere) frequent mentioning of Wuthering Heights has inspired me to add that classic to my To Read list.

Publication Date: 7 September 2010 by PoppyFormat: Paperback.

Author: Kody Keplinger web/@twitter

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Mini Review: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

theskyiseverywhereAfter being obsessed with Jandy Nelson’s most recent novel, I’ll Give You the Sun, one of my favorite reads of 2016, I was so excited to receive Nelson’s debut, The Sky is Everywhere. Unfortunately, I think my expectations were set a little too high for this. Nelson continues her magical way of slipping in different media formats into her books (this time around it’s poems and conversations written on slips of paper, crushed up paper cups, sides of buildings, etc.), but the actual story didn’t grip my heart in the same way as I’ll Give You the Sun. All that considered, this was a nice, innovative read about a young teenager who is struggling with understanding her own identity after experiencing the sudden death of her sister. I enjoyed reading The Sky is Everywhere, but I didn’t find myself fully consumed by the story like I was with Nelson’s other work.

Publication Date: 9 March 2010 by Dial BooksFormat: Paperback.

Author: Jandy Nelson web/facebook

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

turtlesallthewaydownAcquiring Turtles All the Way Down by John Green was a bit of magical experience. While I don’t think we’ll ever have a book as demand as the Harry Potter series, encouraging midnight release parties and the like, the demand for Green’s latest novel was pretty high and the text was highly protected, no Advance Reader’s Copies or anything. Despite the publisher enacting a veil of secrecy around the book, I somehow found it accidentally on the shelf of a big box retailer a weekend before its release date. Of course I snatched it up, especially because I knew I shouldn’t have been able to procure it. Both my boyfriend and I had been eagerly anticipating this book and because I brought into both of our lives before the rest of the world got to enjoy it, we decided to take turns reading the novel aloud to each other. If you have never done this with someone you cherish, you should. It was one of the most oddly intimate things I’ve ever done and it felt special to do it with this novel specifically, considering the main character has certain mental health struggles that we had both experienced in different ways. I found it easier to talk about some of my experiences in context of the character and that was fantastic. If you have had experiences similar to what the main character Aza regularly lives with, I think you could give this to loved ones to help convey what may motivate certain thoughts, actions, and behaviors in your life in a simpler way than trying to articulate it yourself. In a weird way, this novel helped me think about some of my behaviors in a way I hadn’t contextualized them for myself before, which is pretty powerful. 

I’ve been a fan of Green’s works for more than 10 years, so it would take a lot for me not to enjoy one of his novels now. My positive bias accounted for, Turtles All the Way Down was great and fantastic and I loved it. The characters were witty and the storyline was completely engrossing. I loved dissecting it aloud as I moved forward with reading the book.

I put off writing this review for a long time, as if delaying the review would retain some of the magic of how I acquired and read this text, and that has unfortunately negatively affected the actual substance of my review because I remember the feeling of reading this book more than I remember all the odds and ends. I remember feeling comforted and understood and loved and all of that was special. I wish I could have read this book as a teen because I think it would have added some clarity to parts of my life that were all too confusing to me then, and I hope it is able to do that for teens who read it now. 

Publication Date: 10 October 2017 by Dutton Books for Young ReadersFormat: Hardcover.

Author: John Green @twitter/facebook/instagram/YouTube

Text Me When You Get Home: The Evolution and Triumph of Modern Female Friendship by Kayleen Schaefer

textmewhenyougethomeText Me When You Get Home‘s title is based off of how lady friends will often end an in person hang out by telling each other to “text me when you get home,” like a subtle “I love you” and acknowledgment of the potential for danger that lurks beneath any women’s experience moving from one place to another. As someone who does this regularly with my friends, I LOVED the premise of this book (anecdote: I also paid more attention to how my friends reacted to me saying this at the conclusion of our hangs while reading: women always responded positively, straight + cis men literally guffawed at the thought [unless they were related to me], men who weren’t straight or cis reacted less strongly than women, but still positively). Despite loving the premise of this book, I felt like something was missing from these essays detailing the histories of female friendships, how they currently exist, and what influences them. 

I’ve been paying attention to how this subject matter is covered for a while, so I was thrilled to see a formal gathering of everything related to girls’ and women’s friendships. Text Me When You Get Home compiles existing thoughts and dissects them further, but there are some important pieces missing. I felt like there should’ve been a better historical dive (such as exploring Victorian lady friendships in more depth than the brief description within the conclusion) or that there had been further explanation of how friendships did exist before the 1950s ideal of romantic marriages took over instead of detailing one example of letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto. I would have also liked more emphasis on how the rise of dating culture had an inverse effect on women’s friendships with each other. This piece is brushed upon a fair amount, but if there had been discussion about how these friendships HAD existed and then disappeared, it would have made this book a little stronger.
I was familiar with most of the media examples explored (except for the film Girls Trip, which I promptly watched on a flight after reading this book; do recommend!), so there wasn’t a lot of new information for me. This is probably why I found the book a bit disappointing because I’ve read similar thoughts expounded upon before. However, if this is your first time exploring the topic of lady friendships or you have found yourself newly enjoying your lady friends after casting off their potential previously, this is a great book for you. If you’ve been embracing the many wonders of close lady friendships for some time and recognize the special and multitude roles they fulfill in your life and love reading about lady friendships, both real and depicted in media, this might feel a lil redundant and late to the party. 
Kayleen Schaefer, the author, used to work on staff at magazines, and she describes her initial condemnation of superficial women’s magazines (and acknowledges this), but this felt a little odd to me. Her previous self thought it was trivial to read or write about things like women’s hair management, etc., despite writing about the same topics for a (now defunct) men’s magazine. Unfortunately, Schaefer doesn’t ever really assert that caring about these topics, from either a women’s or men’s perspective, shouldn’t be frowned upon and that maybe she’s still viewing topics of worth through a male lens. She does combats this slightly, but it felt like walking through molasses to get there: “I was undermining and dismissing my sex by not seeing us as complex people who shouldn’t have to conform to anyone’s standard of what’s cool or not,”  (p. 108; from Advance Reader’s Copy and may not be how this is worded in the published version).

What I liked best in Text Me When You Get Home were other people’s quotes (Judy Bloom, etc.), so I almost felt like this would’ve worked better as a colorful coffee table book with selected quotes from interviews conducted by the author about friendship on bright pages instead.

To reiterate, I do think this will be a good read for someone who is a novice in exploring lady friendships. If you’ve already been wading in the waters for a bit (literarily and with your own relations), it might be worth passing on this and finding a good long read instead. I read a really nice long read on the history of victorian friendships and the intimate letters that women used to write to each other, sharing a special closeness to their best lady friends that they didn’t with their husbands, but unfortunately I cannot find it anywhere. I did manage to find a nice long read by Megan Garber on depictions of female friendships in the media that I had shared among my friends when I first read it and now I share it with you.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Dutton via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Dutton or NetGalley.

Publication Date: 6 February 2018 by DuttonFormat: E-book ARC.

Author: Kayleen Schaefer web/@twitter/@instagram

Educated by Tara Westover

educatedThis memoir had an effect on me and I want to recommend it to everyone. Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about family obligations, systems of control, and the power of education. It was a hard, but good read. 

Westover grew up in a strict, Mormon household in rural middle America with parents who had their own interpretation of Mormonism that they proselytized to their children and used to condemn others’ interpretations of divine faith, including other Mormons. The parents did not trust the government, which extended to not birthing most of their children in hospitals because they were part of the evil “medical establishment”,  not legally recording most of their children’s births until many years later, not immunizing their children or permitting them to visit doctors for care in favor of homeopathy, and not enrolling their children in schools for fear the schools would brainwash their children with nonsense. The denial of all of these things to their children, particularly access to an education as the children weren’t really schooled at home either, was a way to indoctrinate the children into the parents’ belief system, bound the children to their parents’ sphere of control so that the children may never leave, and limit the children from access to other ways of thinking that would allow the children to be able to question their family’s way of life. 

Westover’s tale highlights how important access to an education is as she details the life circumstances of her siblings — those who managed to be admitted to college, after secretly studying for standardized testing, went on to receive doctorates, whereas the others never received high school diplomas or GEDs and subsequently had limited job options and continued to be employees of their parents’ businesses as they had been since they were children. The memoir is broken into three parts, beginning with Westover’s childhood, transitioning into Westover’s teen years when she enrolls in an undergraduate program, and the last pieces include her venturing to another part of the world for education purposes and having her worldview expanded even more than her undergraduate experiences initially opened. While education definitely plays a central role in this memoir, a large part of Westover’s story involves controlling family dynamics, the emotional abuse that often rains down from the controlling heads of household, unfettered physical abuse that family members conveniently ignore or outright deny because acknowledgement of its actuality could challenge their pleasant forms of reality, and outright misogyny about a women’s place in the family and in the world that is shielded from question by religious morales. 

While Westover’s education granted her access to many things, it also created many conflicts with her family and led to estrangements from certain members. Becoming “educated” isn’t always cost-free and Westover’s story illuminates some of the challenges that can be associated with advancing oneself, whilst one’s family tries to hold them back. This was a book that I needed to read and I hope that it is enlightening for others. 

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Random House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Random House or NetGalley.

 

Publication Date: 20 Feburary 2018 by Random HouseFormat: ARC e-book.

Author: Tara Westover web/facebook/@twitter

Mini Review: I Hate Everyone, but You by Gaby Dunn & Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyouThis book was ANNOYING!! Is it normal in teen friendships for one friend to be mostly terrible and one to be mostly great and for an outside observer (or reader in this case) to root for the two to stay friends? I think not. Instead of encouraging these two misfit friends to grow with other friends who align more with their interests, we see the two main characters (Aza and Gen) repeatedly force themselves to continue being friends with their closest friend from high school. While hints about this not being the best friendship came up a few times, I would have liked the toxicity of the friendship to have directly been addressed instead of slightly implied and magically resolved so that people reading this novel don’t think that represents a normal, healthy friendship that they should continue to contribute to.

I laughed a lot with Gen’s dialogue and found her to be a pretty enjoyable character that I would’ve liked to have seen in a different story. I really liked the novel format of the book, which is entirely consists of relayed emails and text messages. I really loved the concept of two high school best friends who are navigating the friendship growing pains of each friend individually going in a different direction, but I did not like the execution of this book at all. The two authors are pretty famous on the internet, particularly YouTube, but I was unfamiliar with them before I had read the book so my impressions of them didn’t make me read this with rose-colored lenses. The main characters also both have names that begin with the same letters as the authors’ names… make of that what you will.

 

Publication Date: 5 September 2017 by Wednesday BooksFormat: Hardcover.

Author: Gaby Dunn YouTube/@twitter/@instagram and Allison Raskin YouTube/@twitter/@instagram

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

IMG_7999Have you ever fantasized about having sex with a mermaid/merman/merperson? Then this IS the book for you! Unfortunately, I have not and it was not.
I’ve been reading Melissa Broder’s work for years in different formats and styles (see her book of personal essays and corresponding twitter account, her poetry, and her monthly existential horoscope). I enjoy her voice and am willing to follow her down most paths, but I couldn’t get behind most of this storyline (falling in love with a mythical creature in a non-fantastical world).
The novel follows Lucy who is in a rut with her PhD dissertation, her long term relationship, and her life generally. She spirals when pieces of her life begins collapsing and escapes to her sister’s home on the beach where she begins group therapy, bonds with a dog, and falls for a merman.
Aside from grimacing during some of the sex scenes (this may just be me; I find most sex scenes to be gratuitous and unnecessary for my own interests, but they are probably delightful for people seeking steamy descriptions), I fell in love with so many of the sentences in this book. Broder has a beautiful way of writing about depression that really connects with me and I love reading her bits on this and generally moving through life. Single sentences are haunting and poetic and I’ve included some of my favorites below.IMG_8004
Overall — if you read this description and were like “OH YEAH!” you should pick up this book. If it didn’t sound like it was up your alley, you’re probably right and should skip it. Also feel free to enjoy these sexy merman ornaments that I found while wandering around Manhattan two weeks ago.
Quotes are from an advance reader copy and may differ slightly from the final published format.

“I felt tears rise up. I had not cried in years. I had felt, for a long time, that if I started crying I would not stop — that if I finally ripped, there would be nothing to stop my guts from falling out.” 

“I didn’t want to be seen too closely, or I might have to look at me too.”
“Part of me was reacting to the pain. But another part of me liked being melodramatic, babying myself.”

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital copy of this book for free from Hogarth Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and have not been influenced by Hogarth Press or NetGalley.

Publication Date: 1 May 2018 by Hogarth PressFormat: ARC ebook.

Author: Melissa Broder web/@twitter