books and reading · reviews

What I Read This Week

These are the books I finished this week. Without further ado:

33259027The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare: The Duke of Ashbury was badly injured in the war. Half of his body covered by scars, he needs an heir, but he’s convinced no woman could ever love him. So he arranges for a marriage of convenience with Emma Gladstone, a seamstress and vicar’s daughter. His terms are simple: no kissing, and once she gives him a male heir, she’ll live in the country house apart from him. But neither one counted on actually liking the other.

A classic beauty and the beast retelling, this was so smart and funny. I devoured it in a few days, and found it to be wholly charming. The first in a new series by Dare, I’ll definitely be checking out future installments.

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Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips: It’s nearly closing time at the zoo as Joan and her four-year-old son Lincoln are getting ready to leave. But as they reach the parking lot, Joan all of a sudden turns around and sprints back inside the zoo, looking for cover. Over the next three hours, Joan will try to keep herself and her son alive as she uses her knowledge of the zoo and her son to keep them both safe from the danger that is literally hunting them.

A tense, gripping novel about a mass shooting, I couldn’t put this one down. I think on the whole it’s exceedingly well done, and Phillips particularly writes about mothers and children well. This will be a popular title this fall.

What did you read this week?

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books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Thinking About This Week

These are the articles that caught my attention this week:

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell their Stories (The New Yorker)

This is a really long piece, but I read the entire thing in one sitting, unable to take my eyes away from the horrors the piece reports. It’s absolutely upsetting, and absolutely worth your time. If you read one piece this week, make it this one about the women who are coming forward about the sexual harassment, assault, and rapes they experienced at the hands of Harvey Weinstein:

Weinstein’s use of such settlements was reported by the Times and confirmed to me by numerous sources. A former employee with firsthand knowledge of two settlement negotiations that took place in London in the nineteen-nineties recalled, “It felt like David versus Goliath . . . the guy with all the money and the power flexing his muscle and quashing the allegations and getting rid of them.”

Here’s How Not to Critique Romance Novels (Jezebel)

I’ve been reading a lot of romance lately in an attempt to expand my reading horizons, and this piece at Jezebel about a very misguided piece in the NYT about the genre is super great:

Gottlieb writes in the tone of affable authoritative critic willing to entertain an unexpected interest, but to somebody who reads a lot in the genre, he comes off as a dilettante, failing to serve both romance fans who might be looking for an informed review of new titles and non-readers interested in educating themselves about a phenomenon with which they’re unfamiliar.

How Essential Oils Became The Cure for Our Age of Anxiety (The New Yorker)

I should be clear: I think essential oils are at best an annoying white-lady-wellness thing and at worst part of a very dangerous anti-science cult, but this article about how they’ve permeated the mainstream is very very good:

Multilevel-marketing companies are structured in such a way that a large base of distributors generally spend more than they make, while a small number on top reap most of the benefits. It is often expensive to invest in an initial stock of products, as well as to make required minimum monthly purchases—around a hundred dollars for Young Living members who want to receive a commission check. According to a public income statement, more than ninety-four per cent of Young Living’s two million active members made less than a dollar in 2016, while less than one-tenth of one per cent—that is, about a thousand Royal Crown Diamonds—earned more than a million dollars.

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner

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Julia gets kicked out of her deaf school after her best friend turns her in for graffiti she did on school property. Julia can’t believe it, especially because she was covering up a slur about said best friend. Her moms send her to a “mainstream” school all the way out in the suburbs and forbid her from engaging in any street art. But it’s Julia’s only outlet, and when she realizes that another artist is tagging her stuff, she sees it as a challenge. Determined to figure out who is changing her art, she ends up embroiled in a graffiti war.

Gardner’s novel is smart, compelling, and features a heroine who is prickly, angry, and realistic. The novel presents Deaf culture well, allowing Julia to narrate the book with an authentic voice, and allowing the reader to experience the frustrations Julia faces in the hearing world. Spoken dialogue is punctuated with blank lines, representing the words that Julia wouldn’t be able to lip read. Throughout the book, Julia’s art offers additional insight into her world.

A varied cast of characters, including an at-times patronizing interpreter, teachers who have no idea how to best meet Julia’s needs, and an eager white girl Julia refers to as Yoga Pants, help round out the novel. There are moments where it feels as though there’s too much going on in the narrative, but Gardner’s strong grasp of Julia as a character helps readers wade through the myriad issues that pop up. The ending isn’t as tight as it could be, but it’s still a fun read all the same, offering readers insight into Deaf culture as well as the world of street art. Put this in the hands of people who liked the TV show Switched at Birth, because there are a lot of similarities to be found.

You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner. Knopf, 2017. Library copy.

books and reading

What I Read this Week

I’m in a bit of a reading slump right now. But these are the books I read this week:

26857685How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry: Emilia returns to her rural English town to run her father’s beloved book store after his death. Each of the patrons who frequent the shop have their own stories to tell, and each is searching for something. But can Emilia even fulfill her promise to her father and keep the shop running?

Light and fluffy, but steadily plotted and very readable, I devoured this over several nights. This is not particularly memorable, but it’s a fun read, and bibliophiles will particularly drawn to the characters in this one.

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Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart: Jule is a fighter and on the run. Imogen is an heiress on the run. The two are best friends and embroiled in some dangerous shenanigans. But what is real and what isn’t? Where is Imogen, really? Why does Jule seem to be the only person who knows what’s going on?

Told backwards and extremely reminiscent of Lockhart’s We Were Liars, this was compelling but ultimately a disappointment. It feels way, way too gimmicky, like Lockhart (or her publisher, or whoever) was trying to recapture the magic of We Were Liars, which was much more successfully executed. This will find a readership, but I found it pretty hollow.

What did you read this week?

books and reading · reviews

Book Review: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

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Suzette is home for the summer after being away at boarding school.  Reunited with her step-brother and good friend Lionel, she also wants to rekindle friendships she largely left on pause while she was away. But Lionel’s been diagnosed with Bi-Polar disorder, and he tells her he wants to go off his meds. Suzette feels responsible for Lionel, but she also feels guilty, because she’s crushing on the same girl that Lionel has started dating.

The long-awaited follow-up from Brandy Colbert doesn’t disappoint. Filled with interesting and layered characters, as well as a fully engrossing narration by Suzette, this is a strong sophomore effort. Although it could easily fall into the trap of being an “issues” book, Colbert navigates a whole host of tricky topics with total sensitivity and confidence. Easily covering issues like mental illness, bisexuality, and identity politics, Colbert has crafted a novel that’s compelling, memorable, and very realistic.

Perhaps the novel’s weakest point is the sheer number of characters present in the novel. There are moments where it feels as though there are too many characters stuffed in the book’s pages, and as a result there’s too much going on. But the characters that do appear are well-rounded and interesting, and Colbert’s clear love for them helps ground the narrative. A strong sense of place also helps make this novel stand out.

On the whole, a very thoughtful look at coming of age and grappling with all sorts of real-life, messy stuff. Colbert is one of the best authors writing YA right now. This one is not to be missed.

Recommended.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert. Little, Brown: 2017. Library copy.

books and reading

What I Read This Week

This week was a bit of a slog for me. I’m not racing through things, so it was a light week, relatively speaking. Here’s what I read:

1285429Lucy Peale by Colby Rodowsky: After Lucy and her sister meet some boys on the boardwalk at Ocean City, she ends up pregnant after being raped by one of them. Kicked out by her fundamentalist father, she ends up living under the boardwalk until she meets Jake, an aspiring writer who takes her in.  The two form a friendship as she deals with her pregnancy.

I read this book many times as a child, and I had a sudden urge to re-read it recently. I was pissed when I realized I’d gotten rid of my copy, and distraught when I found it’s not in my library system. I had to ILL it, and it was worth it. It’s a strange little book, but I can’t separate my nostalgia from it, so it holds up for me.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris: Cass saw a car breakdown on a deserted road on her way31450633 home one night and felt guilty when she didn’t stop. She felt much worse when the next morning, she found out the woman in the car had been murdered. But she’s also got problems of her own, like where she put her keys and why she can’t remember inviting people over for dinner. As she grapples with the fact that she might be sinking into early onset dementia.

I listened to this on audio, and it was some hot garbage. I didn’t expect it to be good, but I did expect it to be entertaining, much like Paris’s first effort Behind Closed Doors. It was not. A flimsy plot that doesn’t hold up to literally any scrutiny, a whodunit that’s obvious from the second chapter, and nonexistent character building. It was so DUMB. UGH.

32051305Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun: Part memoir, part essay collection, Calhoun provides different speeches about marriage. Combining insights from her own marriage as well as information from experts across multiple fields, Calhoun aims to provide “toasts” that would be horrifying to hear at an actual wedding but are full of truths all the same.

Sweet and at times very slight, this was a quick read. Calhoun’s got some interesting insights into the institution, and she’s unflinchingly honest about her own humanness and what that means (sometimes she slips). I had a bit more trouble with the transitions from her personal recollections to the quotes and insights of experts, but on the whole it was an interesting read about marriage.

What did you read this week?

books and reading · pop culture

Internet Things I’m Reading and Thinking About this Week

These are the internet stories that got me thinking this week. Without further ado:

Keeping ‘Insecure’ Lit: Cinematographer Ava Berkovsky on Properly Lighting Black Faces (Mic)

Before you scan past this based on the title, it’s worth noting that it’s a very interesting look at what it means to light faces that are darker than white people in movies and TV. It’s especially interesting to read about how little it’s even taught in film school:

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in a phone interview with Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.” These rules are a start, but they’re far from a complete picture.

Why We Fell for Clean Eating (The Guardian)

This is right in my wheelhouse: an expose about the clean eating movement (which is total crap) and how Instagram has fueled it even as scientists have debunked it. The article also looks at why we were so quick and desperate to believe in the magical properties of clean eating:

Clean eating – whether it is called that or not – is perhaps best seen as a dysfunctional response to a still more dysfunctional food supply: a dream of purity in a toxic world. To walk into a modern western supermarket is to be assailed by aisle upon aisle of salty, oily snacks and sugary cereals, of “bread” that has been neither proved nor fermented, of cheap, sweetened drinks and meat from animals kept in inhumane conditions.

Skip It: Why It’s O.K. to Start a TV Show in the Middle (NYT)

A sweet, light take on why it’s okay to skip ahead to when a TV show gets “good”. The argument is made that it only works for some shows, but in an era when there’s too much good TV for any one person, it’s almost necessary. I admit that I clicked on this article because it had a picture of Buffy, so your mileage may vary:

It’s also misleading to treat most series, even the greats, like fully formed wholes set down according to careful design. TV is an improvisatory art, in which shows shoot a pilot and then beta-test themselves out in public. (A classic example, Mr. Sepinwall notes, is “Seinfeld,” which became great around Season 3.)