Best Weekend

So my friend Liza made an impromptu trip to visit me! We spent three days together, laughing and talking and eating. I introduced her to The Good Place, because I am the best person.

Now she’s on her way to New York but I am very grateful to see her for the first time in three and a half years. đź’—

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Pumpkinheads

Finished Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?”

I absolutely adored this graphic novel! I feel like that format is very hit or miss for me but it really worked for this one, and it also made me very happy that fall is coming up. (If you’re a fan of the season, you’ll also love this.) It’s very evocative of the season and everything associated with it.

I haven’t been to a pumpkin patch (I don’t think ever, but definitely not as a teenager or adult; if I went at all, I must’ve been a toddler at best) but this makes me want to change that. (Especially around Halloween and especially if there’s any sort of maze involved.)

I also love the characters (especially Deja and her multiple quests). I’m more like Josiah (I pine from afar) so I appreciate Deja because she makes things happen.

This is just a really fun story and I hope for more collaborations between Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks. Highly recommended.

Permanent Record

Finished Permanent Record by Mary HK Choi. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…”

I feel like dating someone super famous is a common fantasy, right? You’d get to do whatever you wanted, go wherever you wanted—it would be an ideal life. Except this book really shows what a lie that is. Leanna Smart works basically all the time. And when she’s not working, she’s usually working anyway. AND there’s the fact that if she’s in public, there’s a chance she’d get mobbed. Now yes, there are worse things than potentially never having to run your own errands again, but think about the fun stuff you wouldn’t be able to do: no snack runs, no movie trips, no anything that could get you noticed. (Because noticed can lead to literally terrifying outcomes.)

Contrast that with Pablo, who is basically living the exact opposite life. He’s coasting along aimlessly, unsure of what he wants to do except he knows it isn’t what he IS doing. But he doesn’t have the energy to change his life. It makes me really sad, actually; he seems at least low-key miserable for most of the novel.

I think the ending is going to be polarizing, but I loved it.

I think I preferred this to Emergency Contact, but I loved both. I’m officially a huge fan of Mary H.K. Choi’s, and I can’t wait to read her next book. I hope it’s out soon.

Highly recommended.

Weekend Update

What I’m Reading: Permanent Record by Mary HK Choi. It’s excellent so far. Next up is Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell.

What I’m watching: I’m almost done with season 4 of Game of Thrones. I don’t know how much TV I’ll really get to watch because my mom is coming to visit.

What I’m listening to: I am currently obsessed with How Did This Get Made?

American Royals

Finished American Royals by Katharine McGee. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

What if America had a royal family? If you can’t get enough of Harry and Meghan or Kate and William, meet American princesses Beatrice and Samantha.

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown.
Two girls vying for the prince’s heart.
This is the story of the American royals.

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. And their country was born of rebellion.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.”

I loved everything about this book, but I think my favorite is how one major thing that’s changed (America being a monarchy) has changed a lot of other things about our history, too. It’s obvious that there would be ripple effects and that things would be different, but it’s so interesting to see it play out.

I also love the characters. It’s fascinating to see how the responsibility of her role (current and as the future queen) weighs on Beatrice and how seriously she takes that responsibility. We don’t see many people who really do put country before self, but she does. Her sister Samantha is a sharp contrast to that, but it’s hard not to feel for her because her whole life has been about how she is less important than her siblings (her sister will be queen and her twin brother is the only boy) and her code name is Sparrow, which is so mean (because she’s the spare).

Our other two narrators are Daphne and Nina. If you ask Daphne, she and Nina are in a fight practically to the death to win Prince Jefferson’s heart. If you ask Nina, she’s just living her life. Daphne is probably my least favorite of the four, but I respected her and her drive. She’s basically a Terminator; she will not stop.

This book is such over the top fun and I loved every page of it. I can’t wait for the sequel. Highly recommended.

Adventures in Streaming

HULU:

I stayed up to date on Four Weddings and a Funeral and on BH90210 (I. Am. OBSESSED.) and am now on season four (barely) of Game of Thrones.

NETFLIX:

I’m on season two of Mindhunter and I watched the Netflix movie Secret Obsession (SO RIDICULOUS and I loved it). I have, I think, seven episodes left of Mindhunter, and I think I’ll pivot and do something totally different after. (I’m 98% sure it will be The Crown.)

PRIME:

I’m caught up on Why Women Kill (my other favorite show right now) and I finished The Twilight Zone. It’s so uneven but the ones I liked, I REALLY LIKED. Most of them weren’t that great, though. I don’t know if I’ll do The Good Fight (to keep getting my money from CBS All Access) or if I’ll start a Prime show (Bosch? Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Good Omens?).

VUDU:

I’m caught up on Younger (one episode left in the season) and I finished Scream. I liked the third season more than the other two but that probably had more to do with the fact that Tony Todd was in some of the episodes and that the Ghostface mask and voice came back. But I didn’t like the reveal of why the killer did it. I found that to be incredibly insulting. I don’t know what my next show here will be, either. I’m leaning towards a one-and-done season (Feud: Bette and Joan or Fosse/Verdon or Escape from Dannemora, maybe?) since I’m still watching Game of Thrones.

Well Met

Finished Well Met by Jen DeLuca.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.”

I’m not a huge fan of renaissance festivals but I do love books set in Maryland and I also love books about people rebuilding their lives. So when I got a chance to read this one early, I jumped at it.

And this book was a complete joy to read. I loved Emily and how she throws herself into everything she does. She’s a wonderful person to have on your side.

Like Emily, I hated Simon at first. But as her feelings changed, so did mine. By the end of the book, I couldn’t believe either of us had ever hated him at all.

This is an incredibly fun read and is perfect for any vacation (or for taking your mind off of a hard week where you don’t have a vacation). Public transportation in my city isn’t doing well right now and my commutes are getting increasingly longer and more annoying, but this book made it all a lot more bearable. Recommended.

Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me

Finished Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother suffering from dissociative disorder, JL takes solace in the in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?”

I could spend literally every minute between now and its release date—April 7—trying to write this review, and I still wouldn’t be able to do this book justice.

First, you should know that this book isn’t for everyone. It’s dark and deals with hard topics and it will break your heart. It’s more Cameron Crowe than John Hughes, and when I say that, I mean great Cameron Crowe (Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Say Anything Cameron Crowe, not Aloha Cameron Crowe).

I love everything about this book. I love that JL is trying so hard to hold her life together with basically zero help from anyone (her dad’s gone, her mom’s useless and her grandmother is pretending so hard that everything’s normal that she can’t see how awful things really are). Max is great but that’s its own complication (he is causing problems with JL’s best friend and also he wants to have sex and she’s not ready). And the person she’s most used to counting on, her best friend Aubrey, is becoming a total jerk. It’s all the worst for her.

Ellen Hopkins once wrote a YA novel that featured one character and then an adult novel that featured that character’s mother. I mention that because I would really like an adult novel about Nana. (You probably thought I’d say JL’s mom, right? Nope. I want historical fiction about Nana.) And I would like a sequel so I know what happens with JL. I hope it’s amazing and she ends up finding her people. (I think she does.)

When I first met Gae, I was reading The Pull of Gravity (her first novel) and basically live Tweeting my reactions to her. That’s how we became friends. This reading experience was very different. I didn’t put the book down until toward the end and even then, it was only for two seconds. I loved TPOG but this is a whole different experience. I didn’t want to leave the story, even only long enough to tell her how much I loved it.

This story is such an amazing gift, I can’t even tell you. I don’t read perfect novels very often but this is one. Highly recommended.

Have a Little Faith in Me

Finished Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Saved!” meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that takes a meaningful look at consent and what it means to give it.

When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.

Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity.”

Oh, you guys. I love this book. It’s smart and funny and I had the goofiest smile the whole time I was reading it.

I am a fan of books about friendship and this has some of the best friendships ever. CeCe was definitely nervous about spending time alone with the girls in her cabin; she was sure they would consider her to be a heathen and probably worse. Instead, they hit it off almost immediately and I loved the way the four of them related to each other.

I love CeCe most of all. She does so much growing over the course of the book but I love the way that she’s always good at being direct about what she wants. It’s hard to do a lot of the time, and she’s a great example.

This is just a complete delight and I’m glad I got a chance to read it. Recommended.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You

Finished If I Don’t Make It, I Love You edited by Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A harrowing collection of sixty narratives—covering over fifty years of shootings in America—written by those most directly affected by school shootings: the survivors.

“If I Don’t Make It, I Love You,” a text sent from inside a war zone. A text meant for Stacy Crescitelli, whose 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, was hiding in a closet fearing for her life in Parkland, Florida, in February of 2018, while a gunman sprayed her school with bullets, killing her friends, teachers, and coaches. This scene has become too familiar. We see the images, the children with trauma on their faces leaving their school in ropes, connected to one another with hands on shoulders, shaking, crying, and screaming. We mourn the dead. We bury children. We demand change. But we are met with inaction. So, we move forward, sadder and more jaded. But what about those who cannot move on?

These are their stories.

If I Don’t Make It, I Love You collects more than sixty narratives from school shooting survivors, family members, and community leaders covering fifty years of shootings in America, from the 1966 UT-Austin Tower shooting through May 2018’s Santa Fe shooting.

Through this collection, editors Amye Archer and Loren Kleinman offer a vital contribution to the surging national dialogue on gun reform by elevating the voices of those most directly affected by school shootings: the survivors.”

This is a harrowing and at times overwhelming anthology featuring people most affected by school shootings (survivors and parents of victims, but some teachers and a few others, including doctors. A couple were related to the shooters). It is not an easy read, but it is an important one.

The last shooting mentioned (the book goes in reverse chronological order) is the shooting at the University of Texas in the 1960s that left 16 people dead. It’s this horrific event, obviously, and the next most recent shooting was in the 1980s. And then, of course, they became a lot more commonplace.

I haven’t even heard of a handful of these shootings, and I would like to say how completely horrifying that is—that these shootings occur frequently enough that they aren’t even covered, necessarily.

While these accounts convey fear and anger, there’s also a sense of hope throughout, that eventually these shootings will stop. Several people mention the Parkland teenagers as being a real catalyst for change. We’ll see what happens when they’re all old enough to vote (when all the kids who grew up with active shooter drills are all old enough to vote).

This is so necessary and I hope it was cathartic for the people who contributed. I also am hoping that the editors are doing well; it was clear that working on this book was traumatizing for them, too. That’s something that’s not discussed, the idea of secondhand trauma.

Highly recommended.