So like, Totally

It’s the weekend! So I’m feeling a little restless, which means it’s the perfect time to do a book tag! So below you will find my answers to the “Totally Should’ve” book tag. This tag was started in the BookTube community on YouTube by Emmabooks. For your pleasure, or maybe mostly mine, I’ve taken out “totally should’ve” from each of the prompts.

 

a book that should have gotten a sequel

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I’m a really big Sophie Kinsella fan. Her books have been present in most of my HS/early adult life. Not only have I read her sophaholic series, but I’ve also enjoyed her writings under Madeline Wickham and her stand alone books. Twenties Girl is one of my favorite contemporary romances ever. I feel in love with the characters and the world that Kinsella created. If she ever decided to make a sequel for one of her stand alone books, I’d want her to start here. And if you haven’t read this book yet, I suggest that you do!

name a book series that should have had a spin-off

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I must admit; I don’t read a lot of series. However, I have read a couple of crime series. The Sue Grafton Alphabet Series is one that I’ve stuck with for several years. I think that Kinsey Millhone is a fantastic lead character in the book. But I think that there are a number of other characters in the book that might make fantastic protagonists in other books.

an author that should have written more books

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My vote for this section is the late, great Harper Lee. I reviewed Go Set A Watchman shortly before Harper Lee’s death, and it will probably be added to my list of all-time favorites. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan of To Kill A Mockingbird, I think that she had a great ability to write about race relations and politics in an approachable fictional way.

a character who should have ended up with someone else 

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I read Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings a little over a year ago, and really enjoyed the story. If I am remembering correctly, it is mostly if not completely, told from the perspective of Jules Jacobson. It follows Jules and a group of her friends from there high school days until their late adulthood. While reading the book, I always thought that Jules ended up with the wrong person. One of the characters in the book spends his entirely life basically pining after her, and I always sort of thought she should have reciprocated those feelings.

name a book that should have ended differently

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I’m a really big fan of Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. It was one of my top books of 2015. It was cool to read a book about a non-white person where race wasn’t the major focus of the book. I can only begin to remember how powerful that would have been for me as a young HS student. The book also does a pretty decent job of presenting non-traditional family relationships. BUT – that ending, oh no. My one criticism of the book is that the ending was a neat little, unbelievable package.

name a book that should have been a TV show

 

shoapaholic-series

I have to go back to Sophie Kinsella with this one. The Shopaholic series, although made into a movie, would have been better adapted to be a TV show. In the line and style of Clueless, I think that it might be a big hit.

name a book that should have been a movie

a book that should have had one POV (point of view)
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I’ve said this before, but I just wasn’t a fan of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. A lot of the reason that I didn’t really like the book is because of the multiple narrative views that were presented in a confusing way. The “main” narrator of the novel, seemed to be the brother. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if his was the only view that was presented.

a book that should have had a cover change

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Another one of my not-so-secret loves is Hilary Duff. Seriously, I love her and her work so much. And she’s an author! But the cover of her first book, Elixir, leaves a lot to be desired. Cover redesign anybody? Oh wait, they did that. It’s still not great.

a book that should NOT have had a cover change

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Sooooooo…..only one of these covers should be the real thing. I’ll give you a hint – THE ONE IN THE MIDDLE IS PERFECTION. Get out of here other covers.

a book that should have stopped at book one. 

This is hard, because I haven’t read a lot of series, as I stated before. So honestly, I don’t have any answer for this. Sorry!

The Anatomical Shape of the Heart

The Anatomical Shape of the Heart by Jenn Bennett is a fun YA novel that follows the story of a girl who has found art in the human body and a boy who has found art in the modern world.

I’ve been waiting to review this novel, because (again) I wanted to do a video blog on it. This is the second time I’ve mentioned wanting to do a video blog and yet not providing one. I should probably just work off the assumption that I’m never going to do one! What can I say, I must be camera shy (and lack the ability to edit videos). Moving on, I really enjoyed The Anatomical Shape of the Heart as a story. I think that Bennett did a great job developing a believable plot with interesting characters.

The basic premise of the novel is a love story. Beatrix, a high school student, meets Jack taking the late night bus home from a hospital one summer night. Beatrix is caught up in her own world, trying to get into college in order to become a medical artist (draw cadavers, etc), deceiving her mom along the way to pursue her dreams.The typical stuff, even if what she is specifically trying to do is really atypical. What I found really interesting was Jack’s story line.

I think that Bennett did good job of creating an air of mystery around Jack’s character. The only thing that the reader knows about him for the first half of the novel is that he graffits large gold letters on prominent places throughout San Fransisco. I read this book a couple of months ago, when I was in the middle of reading a lot of YA contemporaries focused around mental health. It was refreshing to see some characters grappling with issues that weren’t highlighted in some over characterized way. When the reader discovers who Jack really is and why he’s chosen to do this graffiti art, the story begins to pick up the pace. I found myself wanting to read just one more page before I had to tear away and go to work. 

Overall, I was really impressed with how Bennett kept me engaged in the characters and the story throughout the whole book. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to touch on some mental illness issues and how it affects those around the person. I’d also recommend this book to someone who wants to read a sex positive book about teenagers, because Bennett definitely wrote that well. 

Until Next Time World….

A Cup of Rage: rawr

Hey y’all. I’m trying something new and blogging from my phone. I just have no energy to get out my laptop to make everything pretty and symmetric and add links. So depending on when you read this post, it may be in a rough phase. I read A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar a couple of weeks ago as my second #manbookering read.

A Cup of Rage is a novella centered around the argument between male and female lovers. Something that I’ve noticed in the 4 MBI longlist books I’ve read is that the theme of sex is heavily reoccurring. This novella opens up with a fairly detailed description of the couples foreplay all the way up to actual intercourse, and it’s not particularly for the faint of heart. I’ve read some commentary praising MBI for being more sex positive and opening a space for erotica in awards. I’m not sure if it’s my prudish, American nature, but these stories just haven’t done it for me.  A Cup of Rage in particular does not present this sexual encounter as particularly sex positive. The narration is mostly told in the male participants viewpoint. He speaks, both internally and externally, about the importance of the power that he has over his female companion. This is off putting, because some of the things he does during this encounter seem to be solely for his pleasure in basking in power rather than to give her any sort of pleasurable experience.

I think that this can be problematic, because this behavior is not painted in a negative way, but at some points the narrator’s masocistic behavior is even praised. Moving into where the majority of the “action” takes place is during the argument. The reader is given the impression that this make narrator is secluded in a country side estate. At brunch he discovers that ants have broken through his hedges, thus exposing him to the world. His female companion then criticizing his reaction to the break in his hedges and a fight ensues.

Nassar’s writing style is that which he readily shows the reader the tediousness and nuances that the fight takes on immediately. It’s even more interesting when you consider that this style is translated from its original language. This novella has several footnotes that help as context to the writing, and particularly the fight. I quickly grew bored while trying to read the chapter about the fight. Through the first 6 or 7 pages I understood the existential manifestation this crisis had caused in the male narrator, but after that the fight and the prose took a dark turn. I thought that the male narrator’s comments toward his companion were extremely sexist and hinged on the power he held over her. When he began to lose some of that power, he ultimately resorted to violence that led to the end of the chapter.

Although this book did not leave me with immediately terrible thoughts, upon further thought – the plot of this book was unpleasant. On Goodreads I believe that I gave this book 2 stars. I think the translation was good and in general the writing style was interesting, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend picking up this book.

Until Next Time World…

Man Tiger

Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan was the first book I read in my journey to read the Man Booker International prize longlist. I thought that this would be a good endeavor for a couple of reasons. First, it’s become so obviously apparent that all of my thoughts and opinions are formed based on my limited experiences as a US citizen. I’ve spent my whole life in the United States, and although I have traveled to different countries and continents, my perspective is so grossly Westernized. While in college, I exclusively read BBC news in attempts to learn more about “world news,” but even that was insufficient. As the US is in full swing regarding its presidential election, I’m again reminded how biased all media coverage is, but specifically that in the US. So I hope to expand my world view a little more by reading books set in non-US (and often non-Western) settings.

Second, I was in a little bit of a YA k-hole. I didn’t read YA when I was a teenager. Harry Potter wasn’t even finished by the time I graduated high school. Last year I kind of really discovered this phenomenon. I’ve read a lot of YA books over the past year, and some of them have been excellent. But a lot of them have failed to challenge me intellectually or emotionally. So I thought it was about time I move my interests a little past YA into translated works.

Now that I’ve gotten all that nonsense out of the way – on to Man Tiger specifically! As I stated earlier this week, in my quick update, I think that this book was a solid three star read for me. The part that was most disappointing was the lack of story around Margio (the main character’s) affliction of having a Tiger live inside of him. At the end of the first “chapter” or story, you find out that he has a Tiger inside of him. But really that’s where the author’s coverage of the story stops. I’m not sure what this book is called in its original tongue, but I hope that title makes a little more sense than the English version.

I enjoyed how Man Tiger was broken up into chapters based on story. I also found the translation really excellent, because although the book sometimes switched POV and often switched between present, past and future, it was never confusing for me. I think that this is in stark contrast to Everything I Never Told You, which I thought was extremely confusing and annoying to follow. It’s unusual plot sometimes made it hard to become really invested in the book, but when I did sit down to read it I was always interested.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in translated works of fiction. I would also suggest that those who are doing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, that this would be a cool book to fulfill the “book by an author from Southeast Asia” section.

Until Next Time World…

March Wrap Up

March has definitely been a reading slump month for me. I read a measly seven books, and honestly only 5 of the following books are really full length. I wasn’t that interested in reading this month, probably because I was so tired all the time. I have been working A LOT, which doesn’t leave many hours for sitting on the couch with a good book. I’m hopeful for April, my birth month, to be a great reading month. I need to get a jump start on my #manbookering goals, but I also have a couple of weeks to develop some new graphics for my blog before my software warrant expires.

Since I have such a small number of books, instead of leaving you with a top 5, the red highlighted book was my top read of the month!

  1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Saenz
  2. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
  3. Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
  4. The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens
  5. Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan
  6. A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar
  7. Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

 

Until Next Time World…

Quick #manbookering Update

Hi All –

I wanted to give you all a quick update on my #manbookering progress. Although work and life have been extremely busy, I’ve been able to read 2 books of the long list so far, Man Tiger and A Cup of Rage. These books were respectively 3 and 2 star reads for me. It’s interesting how important a good translator is to getting across, not only the content, but also the prose of a story.

A Cup of Rage is obviously a smartly written book, and I believe the translator did a good job of translating that from Portuguese to English. I’m also in the Goodreads group related to this topic of reading the nominees for this award, and one reader stated that the book was tedious. It’s so true!

Man Tiger was the first MBI book I read from my local library. It was a slower read for me, especially considering that it is only 170 pages. It’s written in the form of vignettes, which allows the reader to get a glimpse of life from different time periods within the characters’ lives. Overall, it is worth reading, especially if you are looking to read a Southeast Asian author.

I’ll post a more thorough review of these two works later this week, but I wanted to give everyone a glimpse into my progress. Now I’m on to White Hunger!

Until Next Time World…

Man Booker International Prize…a journey

So I was inspired. By Maxwell at WellDoneBooks over on Booktube. He set up a goal this year to read more translated fiction and talked about potentially reading the Man Booker long (or short) list as a way to increase his totals. Last week, the long list was released to the public. And I immediately jumped on the chance to attempt to read the list and pick my “winner.” Every time I watch a video done by Max, I’m always impressed by the variety of books he reads and I’m trying to do better myself this year. Although, I don’t think that I often fit into a particular box; I do think that I can read some more books outside of my comfort zone.

So here’s a post to keep me honest with the internet and with my goals. I reserved or checked out all the books I could get from my local library system, and after I make my way through them I’ll have to figure out purchasing the rest. Here’s the long list in the order I currently plan on reading them. The ones with stars I have yet to secure a copy or purchase.

  1. Man Tiger by Eka Kurniawan (currently reading)
  2. The Four Books by Yan Lianke
  3. A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
  4. The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante
  5. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  6. Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila
  7. Death by Water by Kenzaburō Ōe
  8. Mend the Living by Maylis de Kerangal
  9. Ladivine by Marie NDiaye
  10. A Cup of Rage by Raduan Nassar*
  11. A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler*
  12. White Hunger by Aki Ollikainen*
  13. A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa*

 

I imagine that this is going to be a more challenging couple of weeks of reading for me. As I also recently picked up A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, which is waiting by my bedside table to finish. I have 8 more days in this month to make a dent in this collection. As I’ve been travelling for work, and recently sick – I hope I can get some much needed reading time before April arrives.

 

Until Next Time World…

The Audacity of Hope

Barack Obama. Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military. President of the United States of America. If anything, the political landscape of the current election has made him look like a true moderate. My mother is a huge Obama supporter. I am a mostly reluctant Obama supporter. This hasn’t exactly caused tension in our relationship, but it definitely has caused us to have different opinions on all those random “Thank God We Have Obama” t-shirts and memes I see around. My mom has been trying to get me to read The Audacity of Hope for a couple of years now, and I finally gave in to her wishes.

I was not disappointed. I went into The Audacity of Hope thinking that I wouldn’t like it at all. I really thought that the book was going to be a written version of his presidential campaign, and I wasn’t super interested in that. (Don’t get me wrong, Obama does do some politicking in this book.) However, The Audacity of Hope is a delightful and frank look at some of the partisanship that is occurring within our political framework. I found reading this book especially timely considering the political primaries that are occurring and how a divide is occurring, not just between Republicans and Democrats, but also within the respective parities.

Since this book is old hat, I’m just going to leave you with some insights that I found refreshing as a former student of political science. (And since I know I have quite a few non-American followers, please ask me any questions if something I write doesn’t make sense!)

1.) I appreciate that Obama went back to discuss the formation of the parties by the founding fathers. 

Sometimes I forget that politicians are actually intelligent interpreters of the law. As a political science major, perhaps that is embarrassing to admit. But I also watch the news where non-facts are often spun to narrate a story that usually has little to do with a person’s ability or education. I find myself making arguments for candidates and against other candidates with these non-facts rather than talking about their intellect or training that may have prepared them to do a job. These are the real things we should be talking about when we discuss candidates.

2.) Obama covers religion and how Republicans aren’t necessarily misusing it for political gains (as many Democrats try to spin it). 

Religion is something that is seldom truly discussed in politics. I think that because it is a sensitive topic, people shy away. At least that’s what I’ve found when I’m around my more liberal friends. Obama brings up an excellent point when he wrote about the Democratic party base shying away from religion and religious discourse because it “conflicts” with its base ideals. Despite the majority of the electorate being religious, including the majority of Democrats. I appreciate how Obama said that “morality” is important to both sides, but it’s important to understand how they manifest differently through the platforms.

3.) I appreciated that Obama talked about some egotism being involved in running for elected office.

Egotistical. This is a word that has been used to describe Donald Trump a lot this year. Obama admits that to run for office, specially national office, it does take a bit of egotism on the candidate’s part. You have to believe that you are truly what is best for the people, and that the other person is not better than you. I appreciated how real that statement was, and also how it should re-frame how we use that word when speaking about political candidates.

 

Until Next Time World…

Diversity of Gender

I live in the binary. Basically, I tend to categorize things into two piles. Things I like and things I do not like. Good things and bad things. Smart people and dumb people. Women and Men. Democrat or Republican.

To some extent, I think it’s human nature to put a label on something. Labeling allows our brain to categorize and better sort information to pull at a later time when we might need it. There’s been a big movement in the mainstream visibility of trans* individuals, largely due to Caitlyn Jenner and her fame. However, people who identify as gender non-conforming or gender fluid have not gotten as much public attention. I’ve been really interested in looking at how fiction approaches this topic, and this weekend I read Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin as my first foray into these types of books.

Symptoms of Being Human is the story of Riley Cavanaugh, the child of a California congressman. Riley is gender fluid, some days feeling masculine, other days feeling feminine, and other days feel a bit of both. Riley is struggling with these confusing feelings while also trying to survive high school and being thrown into the spotlight through her father’s public service. This book is the story of a teenager just trying to figure out which way is up.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Working with college students and known some individuals on both a personal and professional level who have struggle with their gender identity, I wasn’t exactly new to the topic. However, Garvin writes this story with such sincerity that I felt a little of what Riley was feeling while navigating the world. As you read along with Riley’s struggles and online blogging (!!!) life, you get a glimpse into how hard it really is to try to live up to others’ expectations.

Although there are many things that I could highlight in this book, I want to talk about this concept of the binary and categorization. A couple of chapters into the book, Riley misgenders a classmate. When I first read the scene, I was kind of horrified. Riley spent the first couple of chapters trying not to spiral out of control as people referred to Riley as “it” and other completely inappropriate pronouns/names. And then Riley is (although not to the same extend) passing on binary judgement of others. I stopped reading at this point, because I was attending a conference and had to go to some sessions. As I reflected on what I had read and discussed the book a little with some of my colleagues, I hoped that Garvin would spend more time addressing Riley’s own use of the binary.

When I returned to the book, I found that Garvin did just that. Riley reflected on using the binary to describe Bec, who later turns into a love interest, and comments on how prevalent the need to categorize is in our society. This is the point I want to drive home. Sometimes what is right is not what is easy. And it’s really easy to try to put others into convenient predetermined boxes. I think this book helps the reader recognize the danger of categorizing people. It’s something I have to actively work at not doing, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Until Next Time World…