Vegetarianism

I was a vegetarian in college. Being a vegetarian was such a defining part of my character that people who knew me then still ask if I eat meat or not because they can’t remember. It’s an interesting thing. I recently joined Max and Raleen’s new book club on Goodreads entitled Uncovered Book Club, where Raleen’s choice of the month was Jonathan Safran Foer’s non-fiction work entitled Eating Animals. Having been a vegetarian and previously liking some of Foer’s writing, I decided to skip over endless books on my TBR to read this.

My biggest takeaway from this book was also my biggest shock. I expected the book to be about vegetarianism, it’s superior lifestyle, and the numerous environmental benefits that lifestyle has on society. In a lot of ways, this book did just that. Before he gets into the nitty gritty of the meatless lifestyle, Foer invites the reader to examine their philosophy around animals, and ultimately life. For example, how do we choose what animals are acceptable to eat and what animals are not? Foer goes through several iterations on how we could define acceptable animals to eat. He uses intelligence, companionship, and culture to attempt to create an algorithm for how US citizens (as he is one) choose their meat. I thought this was amazing.

Have you ever really thought about why we find it so unacceptable for someone to say they’ve had dog before, but people frequently eat rabbit when others have bunnies for pets? Why do we feel no shame in eating pig (and trust me, I think bacon is delicious) when often times pigs are more intelligent than our dogs and cats? Why do we as a country spend so much money euthanizing dogs and cats to put them in mass graves, while there are starving people in most major cities? Even though I had chosen a meatless lifestyle at one point in my life, I had never given any of this much thought. As I read about Foer’s experiences learning about a variety of chicken, pork, fish, and beef producers, I kept thinking back to his philosophical argument. This is important to me, because I consider myself a person who has reasons behind her moral stances, but this book exposed me to an area where my reasoning was weak if even there at all.

There’s nothing revolutionary about this book. A lot of the bad Foer exposes is bad that is known to most people. It definitely made me reconsider my diet and I’ve already implemented changes cutting out turkey, chicken, and pork completely out of my diet again. However, I did enjoy his discovery of range free livestock. I wasn’t very familiar with particular major company or brands, so it was nice that these individual farmers got a decent amount of space in his book.

Overall, I gave this book 4 our of 5 stars on Goodreads, because it helped me open my mind to something I wasn’t quiet seeing. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, but if you like philosophy I think this would be a good book to have in your queue. Foer writes with such conviction and such dedication, that it inspires to the reader to apply more rigor to their lives and their morals.

Until Next Time World…

Summer Book Recommendations

Hi all! I’ve been seeing a lot of my non-book obsessed friends asking on various social media sites about book recommendations for the summer. Since I literally blog about books, I thought I’d make a post about just that. I’m going to recommend ten books, most of which I have read of varying genres. For those of you who read my blog somewhat consistently, there will be some repeats. Now I’ll begin my list in no particular order.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ve talked about this novel a bunch on my blog, because it’s amazing! It follows the dual narration of a brother and sister, the catch is that they’re speaking from two different times. Jude, the sister is in the “present” and trying to uncover something that happened 3 years ago. Noah, the brother, is in the “past” three years ago. It’s a lovely tale of struggle, triumph, and family.

 

 

I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve already lent this book out to a co-worker this summer. This is a great beach read. A light comedy about a woman who loses her engagement ring and instead finds a phone in the trash. Hilarity ensues as we watch our heroine try to sort her life back together. This is definitely a good book if you want to read something that doesn’t require a lot of energy.

 

 

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I live for this book. It’s a series of shorter essays that all revolve around pop culture in some regard. It’s also the type of pop culture I am actually aware of, and not just obscure movies I’ve never seen. The author uses these pop culture references to talk about feminism, what it means to others and what it means to her. She gets a lot of bonus points for including queer topics and topics of race and gender. It’s really a remarkable book.

 

 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

This selection is for all you Harry Potter fans. V.E. Schwab has not only created one world, but 3* worlds of magic for you to fall in love with after the first page. This is going to be a trilogy, with the first two books already released. I’ve read both of the books, and they’re pretty good. It doesn’t take too long to get through either of them, so they’ll be fast and entertaining reads.

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Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

My love for Mindy Kaling knows no bounds. This is why I bought Hulu when they picked up her show, The Mindy Project. I’ve already reviewed her book; so you should already know it’s hilarious and perfect. It’s broken down into simple chapters that allow you to stop at any point without losing the cohesiveness of a story. It’s a perfect read for road trips, laying out by the pool, or relaxing in the shade of a tree.

 

 

 

Did You Ever Have a Family? by Bill Clegg

This pick is for those of you who like literary fiction. This is the fictional debut of Bill Clegg, who masterful crafts a story told through 7 different narrators about small town life, family, rumors, and finding peace after tragedy. I wouldn’t call this a lighthearted book, but it is definitely something that is easy to immerse yourself in. Bonus points: there are a number of beach scenes in the novel. A review of this book was my first this year if you want to check that out.

 

 

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Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

This is one of my favorite YA contemporary books. There are basically four distinct stories, where the connecting factor is a girl named Leila who is traveling across North America. There’s even a scene where a couple of teens try to illegal cross the border into Canada. If you’re looking for a fun feel good read with a happy ending, this is definitely the book for you.

 

 

 

The Love of Her Life by Harriet Evans

If you want a chick flick in book form this is it. I kept this book on my shelf for a couple of years (and a couple of states) before I finally got around to reading it on a road trip from Nebraska to Connecticut. I’m not sure what took me so long. This book is all love story, part mystery, and a real pager turner. There’s a movie by this name that doesn’t hold a candle to the book. It’s definitely appropriate for a fun beach read. It’s also a slightly longer book, so you won’t need to bring multiple with you unless you’re a fast reader.

 

 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doer

This is the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner. For those of you who like historical fiction, especially WWII fiction, this book is right up your alley. It follows two children, one from Germany and one from France, and their stories as they try to survive the war that is causing so much devastation around them. This is a pretty large book, and it starts off very slow. There’s a lot of scene setting that becomes especially important later on, but you have to get through the first couple of chapters. This book is definitely worth adding to your reading list, as it is sure to become a classic.

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Last but certainly not least is a pick for those of you who like thrillers. Even though this was such a widely popular series, I still meet people who have never taken the time to read this book. It’s full of great character development, mystery, a little chaos, and a hell of a strong female protagonist. I know a lot of people are worried that this book is very dark, and there are rape scenes in this book. However, Larsson created a world where his characters get even and ultimately remain honest while doing so. I think that if you haven’t given this book a try, this should be the summer to start.

 

This are my recommendations for your summer reading list. I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but I also feel there’s an abundance of book reviews that dedicate their time and effort solely to fantasy reviews so I’ll leave that to the experts. I also don’t read science fiction; so if you need recommendations on that, I’ll link you to HailsHeartsNYC‘s recommendations for science fiction.

The Sims!: A Booktag

I recently saw Booktuber, hailsheartsnyc, make a book tag based on The Sims. Since I love The Sims, I thought that this would be a fun thing to bring to the blog. Without further ado, let’s get to the tag!

 

THE QUESTIONS

1. The Original Sims~ Best Author Debut ~ Trail of Broken Wings by Sejal Badani

Trail of Broken Wings

I read this novel last year, and it immediately made it’s way on my all-time favorite books list. It’s a touching family drama about an Indian American family coming to grips with their overreaching father/husband and the lasting effects his presence had in their lives.

2. The Grim Reaper ~ Saddest Character Death ~ The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner 

The Serpent King

This is also a debut novel; it was released this year by Jeff Zentner. I’m not going to spoil the book for anyone, because I really do think it is worth reading. However, the character death in this book was so unexpected that gut-wrenching. I definitely recommend this book!

3. Sims Getting Stuck ~  A Character That Just Got In The Way ~ Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

Made You Up

I was really struggling and trying to remember the character’s name, but I can’t for the life of me. The main character, Alex, works at a diner of some sort with another male character. That character needed to go. I felt he often got in the way of the budding relationship between Alex and Miles. I also think that he was a flat character, and I didn’t need him in my life. This book also was written by a VERY young writer. She’s a boss a proves and good authorship is just good authorship. Definitely check this book out.

4. Simlish ~ Book With Amazing Writing ~ How To Talk To a Widower by Jonathan Tropper

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I’ve mentioned this book before on my blog, because Jonathan Tropper is one of my favorite authors. I really enjoyed the perspective of the main character in this novel, who was a writer. He was hilarious, and I think that Trooper always does a good job writing the writing that his characters are supposed to be creating. More people should read his novels!

5. Expansion Packs ~ Series Where the Books Kept on Getting Better ~ Shades of Magic Trilogy by V.E. Schwab

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This is sort of a cop out because the third book hasn’t come out yet, but I feel that these novels have just been getting better. I’m not a big magical realism person (i.e. Harry Potter is okay…), and so I thought the first book was just okay. However, I found myself really enjoying the second book, which I feel allowed us to gain more insight about the key characters. I’m excited for the third installment, and I’ll probably end up buying all these books.

6. Sims Romance ~  Worst Case of Insta Love ~ The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

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I wrote a review of this book earlier this year. It’s amazing, and it has the worst case of insta love. But you know what, it’s great. I actually don’t mind instalove. I want instalove. You want to be with someone and just know. While I don’t really think that’s a thing, it’d save everyone a hell of a lot of time if it was.

7. Cheats ~ A Book That Was Entirely Unrealistic ~ My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and other Black Holes

I enjoyed this book at the surface; I really did. However, this book sparked all sort of crazy thoughts about these books that are highlighting, if not glorifying mental illness. This book focuses on two teens, who are both battling depression among other things. The two are an unlikely pair, through their struggles they find a romantic connection and blahblahblah. UNREALISTIC. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling it, but let’s just say I’m not so sure that high school jocks would fall in love with a nerdy, lonely, and sad girl just because they happened to talk to one another. I’m not sure this book gives someone hope as much as it sets unrealistic expectations of HS romance and what there is to live for in life.

8. Needs Fulfillment ~ Character Who Made All the Wrong Decisions ~ Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom 

Not If I see You First

Parker, the protagonist of this novel, is blind. The novel revolves around her ability to be closed to the world due to her physical disability. She refuses to let it limit her ability, which I found inspiring. However, I was frustrated with her character throughout the book. I thought she made crazy wrong decision after decision. I know that’s one of the reasons people seem to dislike this book, because they dislike her character. But even though she was frustrating to read about, she was very realistic. We all make a lot of mistakes when we should know better.

9. Error code 12: ~ Series That Started Off Great, then Went Downhill ~ The Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella

Shopaholic Series

This one is kind of not fair, because I’ve literally read like 4 series in my life. And I already used one of them for the others series question. I LOVE LOVE Sophie Kinsella, and I would recommend every single one of her novels (including the ones as Madeline Wickham). However, The Shopaholic Series has got to stop at some point. Shopaholic and Sister was a little too much for me, but there are 8 books in total in the series. I still need to read the last one, but sometimes you can beat a horse to death.

10. The Sims vortex ~ Book or Series that Completely Engrossed You ~ Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

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One very exciting Friday night last year I had just finished another YA book and thought that I still had another couple of minutes to read. I picked up Everything, Everything and then it was over. I read this book in one sitting, no bathroom or food breaks, constantly text messaging my friend Katie to tell her about the book. Although the ending is a little wonky, I definitely would recommend reading this cute book.

Happiness

So this is definitely going to be a continued talk and review of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, because I really did honestly just like it that much. Another theme this book explored, in a very discrete way, is happiness. The scene that sparked my thoughts around this is when Louisa is talking to Nathan (Will’s personal nurse) about Will’s happiness. She asks Nathan if he thinks that Will is happier since she’s come around, and Nathan states that he thinks Will just likes when Louisa is happy. This isn’t a revolutionary concept, but it sparked an important question. Are you truly happy just by seeing other people happy?

I can think of a couple potential examples, even though I haven’t experienced a lot of them. One that seems to fit the mold would be parenthood. I don’t have kids, nor do I want them, so I can’t be sure – but it seems as thought parents thrive off of their children’s happiness. I’ve always said the love of a parent for their child seems unfathomable to me, because I’m not sure children have the capability of expressing such love for their parents. Parents, generally, seem happy when their children are healthy, receive awards, thrive in social situations, and become successful adults. A lot of people talk about parenthood being the most enjoyable part of their life. It’s easy to see how a small human’s whole presence can help contribute or take away from a parent’s happiness.

However, I can also think of a couple of examples that might be contrary to this. Postpartum depression is the first that comes to mind. Acknowledging that this is a very serious disease that effects parents, generally mothers, after birth, their mental and physical well-being is not wrapped up in how well their child may be doing. It’s important for these parents to work on their own well-being, as a separate issue than the well-being of their children. There is also the example of the absentee parent. The image that society presents of parents are those that are involved and concerned about their children’s lives. As unfortunate as it is, that is not always the case for families. For some, children are a burden that contributes to a person’s lack of happiness.

Another, and perhaps the most relevant to the novel, would be happiness that is derived from the happiness of a significant other. Can you truly live a happy life based on the happiness of your significant other? For me, I find that when my partner is in a negative headspace or mood that affects me much more than when he is in a good mood. On the other hand, my favorite thing about people is the passion they show when they’re talking about something that is of great interest to them. When my partner is excited about something, that enthusiasm is contagious. It is often seen as dangerous and detrimental to have one’s happiness tied up in another person’s. Young women are often (sexist, because it’s far less common for men to be arbitrarily told this) told not to rely on a man for their happiness. While this is usually said out of concern for the person, it seems this piece of advice and what is typically “expected” out of partnership often differ.

I’m not really sure where I fall on this topic, but the fact that Me Before You sparked this train of thought is a telling of how powerful the novel can be for a person. What do you think about this?

Until Next Time World…

Sometimes I Just Can’t…

Last week I took a road trip home to visit my mom. Being the avid reader that I am, I was really excited to get some “reading” done on my 36 hour drive to and from Georgia. Well, there was a debacle with the audiobooks I got from Audible, which meant that I was only able to really listen to one audiobook for the majority of my drive; thanks to my local library. Since I listen to all of my audiobooks and double speed, I was without a good story for the majority of my trip. When I stopped before the last 4 hours of my drive back home, I found out Audible is pretty great, and I could return the bum audiobooks easily. Uncertain about what to use my credit on, I decided to cave and listen to Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

I just finished this book yesterday, and I’m not sure I have all the words to express my true feelings about it. At the core of the book, it’s set up like a very unlikely love story. But the story allows the reader to reflect on how they love, live their life, and view their particular set of circumstances. I didn’t know a lot going into the book, other than it was going to be a movie, but I think that most other people are a little more in tune with popular best sellers. The overwhelming hype about this book from the book community and general pop culture set made me a little hesitant, but now I’m totally a fan girl.

I’ve talked about physical disability on my blog before, and I think this novel does a great job alerting the general population to some of the struggles of quadriplegics. Moyes didn’t stop and a general caricature of the condition, but consistently referred to the illnesses that frequently occur, the support systems available, and the mental states of the people who are affected. I think that this was great, because it added a grittiness to the book that usually isn’t seen in popular literature. Moyes did a good job of not making Will’s pain a stick, but an unfortunately intimate part of the reader’s experience with him.

I also think I read this book at a pretty good time, because I’ve been floating around the idea of a book talk around depression and suicide. I think that this book presents a different and interesting perspective to many of the fictional books I’ve been reading focusing on this topic. It explores the topic in a different, but real way. The concept of assisted suicide has, and probably always will be, controversial. Moyes again does a great job of approaching a touchy issues, giving the reader to examine their own thoughts on the issue at hand.

It’s not often that I truly read a book that makes my reflect on my own experiences. However, Me Before You did this for me. Two nights ago, when I was about half way through with the book, I dreamt myself into the world of Ms. Clark and Will. It was a very weird experience, that sort of left me unsettled. I think that this probably means there are some things that I need to examine in my own life, but it’s not every book that will allow the reader to transcend the story and find personal meaning.

I would HIGHLY encourage all of you to go out and pick up this book. I didn’t find it to be overly sad, but it did present some hard facts of life that many people have to face. It’s been added to my all time favorites list, and I can’t imagine the book that would bump it off.

Until Next Time World…

Privilege Meet Tragedy

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson could have easily been renamed Privilege Meet Tragedy, but it wouldn’t have been as flashy.  I received an electronic uncorrected copy of this debut novel for an honest review from NetGalley. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads. At times I thought it could be a bit slow and verbose, but the book gives you exactly what the description says it’s going to give you – a look into the lives of wealthy teenagers who experienced a tragedy earlier in life.

I’ve mentioned how I didn’t care for Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng on this blog before; however the comparisons of this novel to it are not unfounded. Both novels exercise the use of multiple points of view in order to tell a story where only certain people hold certain information. However, unlike Ng, I thought that Johnson did a better job creating differing voices for her characters and placing useful breaks within the story to switch narration. This makes the novel easy to understand and allows the reader to gain several perspectives.

Also unlike Ng, there is no mystery in this book. After the first part of the book, the reader knows what tragedy happened while the kids were in middle school, and all the circumstances that lead up to that event. At first I enjoyed the directness of the plot layout but as the kids moved to high school, there was not a cohesive story to follow. I don’t always think it’s necessary to have a firm storyline in novels. The Interestings, A Little Life, and Water for Elephants (more on this later) are all books I enjoy that don’t have clear plot driven stories. However the blurb for this book leads the reader to believe they will get a plot driven storyline from the book.

In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for her kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.

This blurb was interesting, which caused me to request the copy in the first place. I think my true issue with this novel is that Johnson tries to incorporate so many different characters, that there’s not adequate time to develop each of the individual perspectives. This distances the reader from the characters, and I came out of reading the novel feeling indifferent to each student’s plight.

Even though I just pointed out a lot of things that didn’t excite me about this book, I’m going to tell you now why I think you should still pick it up. Since I work with college students, I wasn’t really surprised by some of the actual events that happened in the book. However, I think a lot of people will be surprised with the challenges these kids face, especially when those teenage problems intersect with access to large sums of money. The stakes become higher and sometimes the consequences are more devastating.  I think that this was the point that Johnson was trying to explore in her novel. For her debut, that was a tall task, and ultimately I think that she was successful in proving that point.

Until Next Time World…

Very Food Insecure

I read All You Can Eat: How Hungry Is America? by Joel Berg in college. I’m not sure what made me pick up this book, but it changed the way I looked at my country and how it treats its least served populations. In this book, Berg writes about a report done on hunger in America that chooses to label people on the brink of starvation as “very food insecure”, failing to use the word starvation or starving at all. Based on this definition the protagonists in White Hunger are very, very food insecure.

White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen takes place in the late 1800s during a great famine in Finland. The book tells the story of a family trying to make their way to Russia in hope of food to survive the famine through the perspective of 4 narrators. The senator, the daughter, the mother, and the son all tell their stories that are interconnected to one great struggle. White Hunger was my fourth #manbookering read, and for a while it was my favorite. It’s not often that I read a book set in place before the western industrial revolution. That in combination of knowing almost nothing about Finland, made this book easy to engage with and hard to put down.

This book was gripping to me, because it didn’t sugarcoat the realities that these famines had on families, and particularly communities. In one of the first chapters, the family has to leave their dying father behind because he is too sick to travel and there isn’t enough food for the healthy individuals. The children are too young to really know what was going on, but are still upset about leaving their father. The mother is portrayed as strong, doing all she can to protect and provide for her family.

Although this book is set in a time period long ago, food insecurity is a real thing that people in developed AND developing countries. In the US, 48.1 million people live in food insecure households.* In Australia, 2 million people rely on food relieve services.** 1 out of 8 Canadian families struggle to put food on the table.***  When I was in college, I was passionate about food security and homelessness in the US. I once walked around for 10 minutes Washington, DC to buy the particular kind of food a homeless individual wanted. (Please note this was stupid, and I didn’t eat dinner that night.) But I think the more comfortable I’ve gotten in my life and my privileges the more I’ve forgotten about the number of starving people around the world. This book was a good reminder about how many people don’t have the luxury to forget.

*- US Hunger

** – Australian Hunger 

*** – Canadian Hunger

And The Winner Is…

Yesterday, they announced the winners of the first Man Booker International Prize for a single work fiction translated into English to The Vegetarian by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith. For those of you who do not know, the prize of $72,000 is split equally between the author and the translator. It wasn’t a great surprise that Kang walked away with this prize, being a favorite among the shadow jury of the award, and in many reading circles. Now that manbookering is officially over for a few months before the long-list is released for the original award, let’s see how I did with the list.

  1. Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan — finished 3 stars
  2. The Four Books by Yan Lianke — finished 4 stars 
  3. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk — currently reading
  4. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante — been on loan forever to start the first book in the series
  5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang — finished 2.5 stars
  6. Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila — finished 2 stars 
  7. Death by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe – waiting to read more of his collection of works 
  8. Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal — finished 4 stars 
  9. Ladivine by Marie NDiaye — in my possession, reading this week
  10. A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar* — finished 2 stars
  11. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler* — unavailable in the US currently
  12. White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen* — finished 4 stars 
  13. A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa* — sitting on my bookshelf 

I’m going to say – 8 out of 12* really isn’t that bad. I also can’t help that I don’t live in the UK.

Until Next Time World…

Read Harder Challenge 2016

I haven’t talked about the challenges I’m doing this year, because it’s all about reading more not necessarily completing the challenge. I do have to say I’ve done a pretty good job on this Read Harder challenge. Only 10 more books to go. 

Also – my apologies for the lack of posts. It’s hard to work, read, AND blog. I seem to be able to only master 2 of those at a time…and work always has to be one of them.