Tag Archives: penguin

Comics for a Strange World by Reza Farazmand

comicsforastrangeworldDespite not being familiar with Reza Farazmand’s previous workPoorly Drawn Lines, I decided to read this collection of comics after recognizing the artist’s style from my Instagram Explore pages. I follow quite a few artists who draw lil comics on Instagram and while I don’t specifically follow Farazmand, I had stumbled upon enough of his pieces to recognize his work and some of his recurrent characters. 

This collection of comics, with each page typically consisting of a set of four images that compose a single comic, was slightly funny, but not laugh out loud funny for me or revelatory in the way that I found Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half even though that collection didn’t make me laugh much either. Each of the comics can function as a standalone, unrelated from the rest of the book, and the characters don’t often repeat, save for Ernesto the Bear and Kevin the bird that pop up frequently on Farazmand’s Instagram account (and were probably prominently featured in his previous collection too).

The collection is loosely organized into the following themes, but doesn’t always flow smoothly from one piece to the next: The Human Experience, Social Creatures, Changes, A Strange World, and Thoughts on Things.

Comics for a Strange World is a smidge existential, a touch sadistic, and full of dry humor. While I remember chuckling a few times while reading, none of the comics really stuck around in my mind after I finished reading it. I did photograph a few of the pages to send to my friends and I’m including one here that I think that we probably all could use help remembering sometimes. 

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Comics for a Strange World will be released at physical and digital bookstores in the U.S. on October 24, 2017!

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

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How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

howtobehaveinacrowdHow to Behave in a Crowd is a novel about a family with a set of precocious, “exceptional”, excelling siblings, ranging in age from around 10 to mid-20s. The Mazal family and their attributes is very reminiscent of the Glass family, of Salinger lore — a group of siblings that are just so smart and specialized in their studies, but floundering in a world that requires more skill sets than pure intellect. Everyone’s a little too smart, everyone’s a little too annoyed with the rest of society, everyone is a little too much of a self imposed shut in because they think their intellect is too “alienating.” While this could put off a lot of readers, I still found How to Behave in a Crowd entertaining and I silently laughed to myself several times with sentences that perfectly set me up to be caught off guard. 

All of the children are prodigies in academia or musical performance, except for the youngest and the narrator Isidore/Dory, who seems to have more emotional and social ability than the others. While his siblings often discount Isidore’s statements, it also seems like they wish for his social adeptness in the same way that Isidore wants to be as academically excellent as each of his siblings.

The dialogue about life and other people is what really makes this novel shine. Two of the Mazal siblings are in the midst of completing PhD programs and I found their strings of consciousness quite amusing, since I’m partially through my own PhD studies at the moment. In the same way that you’ll have a favorite Glass if you read Salinger’s collection, you’ll have a favorite in the Mazal family too. I think my favorite Mazal is Aurore, which isn’t too surprising given that my favorite Glass is Franny.

At times I wondered if How to Behave in a Crowd may have been better as a short story because most of the pages seem to be dazzling examples of the author waving her pretty pen and witty commentary without actually moving the plot anywhere. The novel is kind of like a great conversation you’re really engaged in while it’s happening, but you can’t remember any of the specific details the next day, but just how you felt while having it. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, I simply mean that a lot of the writing seemed superfluous and unnecessary for the story at large. I still enjoyed the paths it took me along anyway.

Some of my favorite quotes were:

“I have an opinion on everyone who seems to have a good time being a teenager.” – Aurore (p. 152)

“She was good at turning everything you said into yet another example of how complicated she was.” (p. 208) Isidore on Denise.

“One only cried if one expected something from the world and was disappointed.” (p. 83)

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

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 1.43.58 PMThis book had me feeling some type of way: I had a nightmare the first night that I started reading the book AND it was the first book to make me cry in quite some time, so maybe my liquid emotions and anxiety dreams can speak for my feelings about the book? They’ll have to do.

We Are Okay, a novel that weaves a tangle of grief/becoming an orphan, desperately wishing for familial closeness that is lacking and desiring the loving families of your closest friends, was riveting in its details of the narrator, Marin, coming to terms with her new life and losses. While the story was beautifully constructed, I marveled at how well LaCour described Marin’s basic daily life, giving space to the minute actions and emotions one does as they navigate new life circumstances. The book hit close to home for me and rattled a lot of closed doors that live inside my body. Chapters 26 and 27 wrecked me in the best way. We Are Okay was good. Would the novel be good to someone who didn’t strongly identify with its contents? I don’t know. Would it hurt as much to read for someone who didn’t strongly identify? Hopefully not.

We Are Okay was gentle and brutal and beautiful simultaneously. I hope you give it a shot.

“I wonder if there’s a secret current that connects people who have lost something. Not in the way that everyone loses something, but in the way that undoes your life, undoes your self, so that when you look at your face it isn’t yours anymore.” (p. 68)
“The most innocent things can call back the most terrible.” (p. 65)

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

unrulywomenBuzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen covers a range of “unruly” women, using celebrities to describe how society reacts now and has historically to different types of unruly women. In the author’s own words, the women in the book, “spark feelings of fascination and repulsion” and are “explicit and implicit alternatives to the ‘new domesticity.'” (p 10).

The entire collection felt like an extended long read and each section is broken into chapters that feature a specific celebrity and then culturally and historically situates their corresponding label. I was familiar with all of those profiled which probably helped me eagerly approach each of the essays. Because of how this felt like a series of long reads, I recommend reading each piece as a stand-alone and not concurrently. Set aside 20-30 mins to read a chapter and then come back to the book the next day to read the next standalone piece. Otherwise, it feels repetitive and the book as a whole becomes less shiny.

For me, the standout is the piece on Kim Kardashian and her “performance of pregnancy” which discusses how publicly being pregnant has evolved since the beginning of pregnancy depictions (the Virgin Mary), to how pregnancy was omitted and banned from media enactments, to how Demi Moore’s naked, 7-month pregnant body on a magazine cover completely changed the public performance. Petersen discusses the emergence of “cute pregnancies” with cute, slim bodies and compares and contrasts Kim Kardashian to Kate Middleton, who was cutely pregnant at the same time as Kim’s unruly pregnancy. Compared to the rest of the pieces, this chapter had the best integration of the history of celebrity than any of the other chapters.

I found Petersen’s piece on Jennifer Weiner to be the most unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere and I found myself sending multiple quotes from the essay to a friend. The Weiner chapter had the most sociological influence, demonstrated by comparing mass market books to the “high” culture of books marketed to the “educated” classes. As someone who reads a lot, this was a very necessary reflection on what’s allowed to be a “good book.”

Overall, I recommend this book – as long as you spread out consuming each of its chunks instead of devouring it in one sitting.

I ranked the pieces in order of my perception of their quality below. I didn’t necessarily rank the pieces on the celebrities I liked the best as the highest (i.e. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are probably my favorites, but their chapter was my least favorite):
1. Kim Kardashian (Too Pregnant), 2. Serena Williams (Too Strong), 3. Jennifer Weiner (Too Loud), 4. Nicki Minaj (Too Slutty), 5. Hillary Clinton (Too Shrill), 6. Melissa McCarthy (Too Fat), 7. Caitlyn Jenner (Too Queer) (later in the chapter, Petersen categorizes her as probably least unruly, but counterparts on her show are), 8. Madonna (Too Old), 9. Lena Dunham (Too Naked), 10. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (Too Gross).

For more, check out http://www.girlwithabookblog.com!

Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

A Million Junes by Emily Henry

amillionjunesIf you were a fan of Emily Henry’s debut, The Love that Split the World , you will love A Million Junes, a story that exists in the same magical realistic world that will likely become the thread that weaves all of Henry’s works together.

When I began this novel, I was struck by the tale as old as time: Montague vs. Capulet; Hatfield vs. McCoy; Coopers vs. Blossoms (yes, I’m Riverdale trash); two families that have hated each other for generations finds the current youthful generation having ~feelings~ for the forbidden other. While this is the basis for the love story, there is SO much more than the romance in this little novel that I adored and quickly consumed! Henry’s first novel received some critique for featuring an instalove storyline, which also occurs in this novel… but isn’t that how some teenagers, and even certain adults, feel sometimes? Henry cleverly has her narrator refer to her blooming affection as an “insta-crush”, which perhaps acknowledges and circumvents the critique from before.

While the love story is foregrounded in this novel, this is primarily a story about grief and losing someone who was instrumental in making you who you are as a being. Losing that person causes a tangible feeling of missing a piece of yourself when the loved one passes. I will always be partial to these stories since my mother died when I was young, but this book felt like a solace for my little, grief-mangled heart. I would have loved to have this book as a teen. Grief can fill your every thought mentally, but can also overtake you physically. This novel did a great job of exploring that and illuminating the many sources of support that you need to depend upon to lift yourself through your grief and the mistakes you might make and harm you might cause as you struggle with your loss. I loved it. Have I said that yet? I LOVED it.

Also full of love? The best friendship featured in this novel. The two best friends frequently worked on putting each other back together and being a major pillar of support to each other, a side of friendship that I’m not sure everyone even opens themselves up enough to experience. The best friendship here built a base of support like a pseudo family for someone who can’t depend on actual family, either by choice or necessity, for that support. My best friends have always been the ones to help put me back together and remind me who I am when I feel lost. I loved that June, the main character, turns to her best friend in especially trying, emotionally charged situations when June is trying to uncover how she really feels.

Stylistically, Henry writes so beautifully that I think I would probably be in love with how she writes a grocery list. I want to be best friends with the author and talk about life and Big Things like loss and mourning and love, whilst sipping delicious warm beverages in the coziest coffee shop. Is that too much to ask for?? Probably, but that’s how this book makes me feel.

Snatch up this book on May 16, 2017, published by Razorbill!!

Some of my favorite quotes are below:

“This is how grief works. It watches; it waits; it hollows you out, again and again.” (p. 201)

“Talking about all this has stirred up memories I do my best to leave settled on the floor of my mind.” (p. 47)

“I wanted to forget this feeling forever. The feeling of being ripped into two people: the you of before and the one you’ll always be once you know what it is to lose something.” (p. 161)

“They don’t know that, the more time passes, the more you forget, and the more you forget, the more it hurts — less often, sure, but worse. You want to dig your fingernails and teeth into the ghost that’s slipping through your fingers.” (p. 114)

“But she always said what she loved best about dad was that, to him, she wasn’t a mystery at all.” (p. 54)

“You know life’s not like this. Even when it’s good, it’s hard and terrible and you lose things you can’t ever replace.” (p. 109)

Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

bright lines book release at greenlight bookstore

post-shower + very clean Bri with Bright Lines!

I’ve just returned from attending my first ever author event at Greenlight Bookstore, my local independent bookstore that I absolutely love and adore. I know everyone in New York raves about The Strand, but if you would like a less claustrophobic and a more personal bookstore experience, visit Greenlight.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll already know that I LOVED Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam. If you’d like to read my review of the book, click here. It’s a beautiful book that follows three amazing characters who are each on different, but related paths of self-discovery. Most of the book takes place in Brooklyn, very near to where Greenlight Bookstore is located which gave the event an extra magical vibe tonight.

The event began with an invitation to eat some of the delicious food provided by the author and her sister. I abstained because I had just finished eating my weight in grilled corn ten minutes prior to the event, but the food smelled amazing. After guests indulged in the food, author Mira Jacob led a conversation with Tanwi Nandini Islam about her book, life, and writing process. Islam also read a few excerpts from her book — all early portions from Anwar’s point of view.

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Tanwi Nandini Islam clapping in excitement

The event was wonderful and Islam was so kind + gracious + humble for the positive attention her book has received so far. The store was packed to capacity with people excited to hear Islam talk about her debut novel. Many of the audience members were close friends and family members of Islam and it was honestly so amazing to be surrounded by their joy of her success — I almost felt like I was intruding on a family’s holiday celebration, but I still felt welcome and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Tanwi Nandini Islam signing Bright Lines

Tanwi Nandini Islam signing Bright Lines

Even though I had already read the novel, I decided to buy a copy to give away to a reader of my blog as part of a cool new project I’m planning on starting soon. I’ll give more details on it soon as I finish working on bringing the project to fruition.

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The note says, “Let’s light up the work with our love + art.” Isn’t it great?

bright lines by tanwi nandini islam

brightlinesIn a week, on August 11, 2015, a fantastic book entitled Bright Lines by Tanwi Nandini Islam will be released. This is hand’s down the best book I’ve ever received as an Advance Reader’s Copy from the First to Read program. If you know what’s good for you, you will snatch it up/request it from your local library instantly! Bright Lines features many dynamic characters who are all fully fleshed out — each of the characters all exist with their own qualities and back stories and aren’t simply devices to advance the plot, which unfortunately has been rare for me to find in books at times.

The novel shifts perspectives throughout the story from the patriarch of a family, Anwar, to his biological daughter, Charu, to his adopted child, El, who is the orphaned child of the patriarch’s deceased brother-in-law. Each of these characters struggle through their own individual turmoil and to find themselves, proving that a “coming of age” experience can occur even when you’ve passed middle age as it does for Anwar.

The novel takes place about ten years ago in Brooklyn, specifically an area that I spend a lot of time in today. This shared geography definitely added to my enjoyment of Bright Lines, but I think the setting is so well described that any reader will be able to easily imagine the environment where the characters reside. These illustrative descriptions of the setting continue when the novel shifts momentarily to Bangladesh, both when Anwar reflects on his youth in the country and when the family chooses to return for a family vacation.

Anwar owns an apothecary and isn’t always present in his own life and his family’s dilemmas because he spends a lot of time toking up. At times, his herbal habit influences him to be a bad father and spouse. He ultimately attempts to remedy his mentally and morally absent behavior, but the reader is left to decide if it’s too little to late. Charu, Anwar’s teenage daughter, experiences the most familiar “coming of age” story that I’ve read before, but Nandini still writes Charu’s story in an interesting way.

The journey I was most engrossed with was El’s, Anwar’s adopted child, who moves from their home country of Bangladesh to America. El explores their sexuality, gender identity, and place within their adopted family, each of which is beautifully detailed by the extremely talented Nandini. None of El’s story  seems rushed or superficial and I felt like I was authentically accompanying El on their self-discovery.

Please, please, please read this book! Each of the stories are radically different and are beautifully interwoven. Plus, as a reader, you’ll get to enjoy exploring Brooklyn and Bangladesh with Nandini’s characters. 

If you’re in the Brooklyn area, come join me at Greenlight Bookstore on the book’s release date for a conversation between the author and Kiese Laymon. More details can be found by clicking here.

Disclaimer: I was provided with an Advance Reader Copy of this book for free from the Penguin First to Read program. All opinions expressed in the following review are my own and have not been influenced by Penguin.

Expected Publication Date: 11 August 2015 by Penguin Books. Format: Ebook.

Author: Tanwi Nandini Islam web/@twitter/instagram