Piecing Me Together

Finished Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. I received a copy for review. 

Jade has big dreams but she’s not sure how to make them come true. She knows she wants to be an artist (she’s currently into collages) and she knows she needs a scholarship to go to college. But…how to get from here to there? Enter a mentoring program. (Which is sort of helpful and sort of not). 

I loved this book. It’s incredibly complicated (Jade is black and attends a mostly white school. Once she started going there, it’s affected her relationships with her neighborhood friends. And it’s hard to be friends with people at her school because they don’t get it, either. 

Most people don’t consider themselves racist. Racism is for people like Steve Bannon, right? But there are a lot of ways to be racist. Like, for example, assuming Jade is going to shoplift from a store and making her leave a bag when white women all over the same store are still toting theirs. 

This novel could start a lot of great conversations. Highly recommended. 

The Lost Woman

Finished The Lost Woman by Sara Blaedel. I received a copy for review. 

This mystery has a ton going on but the non-spoiler version is that people are turning up dead and one of the victims was already sort of presumed dead (she was reported as a missing person years before). There isn’t a connection (until, of course, there is) and that connection is shocking and also perfectly feasible. 

Most mysteries may not be good for book club choices (what can you discuss, really? Motives? And I am not slamming mysteries; I think they’re wonderful) but this one would be. There are a lot of things to talk about with this one, though. 

Of course though, any long-term series hinges on its leads. That is probably the real secret to Sara Blaedel’s success. I’m not sure there are many better leads than Louise Rick.

Highly recommended. 

All the Lives I Want

Finished All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey. I received a copy for review. 

The subtitle of this essay collection implies that it is a fun, frothy set essays on celebrity. Possibly it discusses the way that we feel we know celebrities, that they are our friends (or enemies) when all we know are their carefully created personas. 

Instead, these essays are about famous women we all have opnions on, including Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith and my beloved Winona Ryder. They take a more scholarly approach (think the sociology of celebrity) as well as a very personal relaying of their relationship to the author’s life. 

This is not the journey I expected to take but one I loved anyway. 

The Mothers

Finished The Mothers by Brit Bennett. I received a copy for review. 

This is a really hard book to describe and still do it justice. Luke (a pastor’s son) and Nadia (a really smart girl who is grieving and uses sex as an escape) accidentally get pregnant. Nadia has goals for her life and motherhood is not one of them. She decides to get an abortion and that decision reverberates for years. 

My favorite thing about this is the fact that the narrators are the older women from the church and that is just as fabulous as you’d expect. 

My second favorite: the abortion is dealt with seriously and it is both absolutely the right decision and a hard one that they still grapple with. (My third favorite: Nadia doesn’t kill herself because of it or hate herself forever.)

This is such a clever book and it’s so hard to imagine it’s a debut. I am so excited to see what her future books will be like and my expectations are high. 

Recommended. 

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful

Finished A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom. I received a copy for review. 

Mel is 16 and is bipolar. Her family knows but no one else does. She’s sure that no one will want to be her friend if they know. As a result, she keeps her friends at a distance. Except, of course, that only works for so long. 

Eric Lindstrom is becoming one of my favorite authors. His books deal with damaged people (and people who aren’t damaged for the reasons you may initially think they are) and he does present them as PEOPLE, not as diagnoses. 

I loved Mel but I love every character in this novel. And I can’t wait to read what he does next. 

Highly recommended. 

All Our Wrong Todays

Finished All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. I received a copy for review. 

Tom is from an alternate reality. We were supposed to have a great world by now: time travel, flying cars, better everything. And then he ruined it and we got the present we DO have. (Thanks, Tom.)

There’s a lot going on in this novel, but most of it centers around love. Not just LOVE-love, but familial love and lowercase-l love and…well, all the kinds of love. And there’s the eternal question: do a handful of people matter more than billions? The global good is fine and all, but what if it meant you’d lose your whole family for an ideal future that maybe isn’t looking as great without them? (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

This novel is fun and sweet but it’s also clever. It’ll probably be one of the best choices you make this year. Recommended. 

The Impossible Fortress

Finished The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak. I received a copy for review. 

All Will wants to do is create computer games. It’s 1987 and no one thinks he can do it. But he’s made a really good game (The Impossible Fortress) except that there’s a major lag in one part. He has no idea how to fix it…and then he meets Mary. She’s the only person he’s ever met who loves computers the way he does (and she’s also awesome in general). There’s a lot more going on (centering around Vanna White’s issue of Playboy) but that’s the highlight. 

The easiest way to describe this is Stand By Me meets Ready Player One. And if you love either of those, The Impossible Fortress will delight you like nobody’s business. I love Will and Mary so much, but I loved all the characters. This is the kind of book that I really want to see made into a movie (primarily because I want to spend more time with the characters–a sequel would be great, too).

I love things set in the 1980s and this is no exception. Highly recommended. 

Graphic Novel Roundup #1

For the 24 in 48 readathon, I read a bunch of graphic novels (including the Alison Bechdel ones I recently reviewed). I’m a really recent convert to this genre, and I’m glad I had help picking these. :)

I read Marbles by Ellen Forney, Stitches by David Small, Becoming Unbecoming by Una and Ghost World by David Clowes. 

The first three are all nonfiction. I think so far this aspect (nonfiction graphic novels) are working for me the best because the illustrations add a lot. (I’m not describing it well, I know, but I have read seven books in 24 hours so my brain is mush.)

Of these four, my favorite is Becoming Unbecoming, which juxtaposes a serial killer who murders prostitutes (The Yorkshire Ripper) with the author’s sexual abuse. If you’re not sure what rape culture is, that’s a great place to start. 

Marbles is about the link between artists and mental illness. Ellen Forney was diagnosed bipolar and she has an incredibly hard time initially because she’s an artist and what if medication ruins that? This graphic novel really worked because I think it’s easier to understane mania if you can see it. 

Stitches is another messed-up childhood story. That sounds dismissive but I don’t mean it to. David Small’s family seems absolutely horrible and abusive but by the end, I found some sympathy for them. (A testament to him, because I didn’t want to at all.)

Ghost World was probably my least favorite but I still enjoyed it. It’s also the most famous (maybe) especially to non-fans because of the movie. 
My next batch is the inverse: three works of fiction and one of nonfiction, in that order. I didn’t plan that. 

Are You My Mother?

Finished Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. 

If Fun Home is about Alison Bechdel and her father, this is (obviously) about her relationship with her mother. (And also a great deal about psychoanalysis, which was really interesting.)

It’s not exactly noteworthy that mothers and daughters have a complicated relationship, but the way it’s portrayed here IS. It’s universal but also unique to them. It perfectly describes pretty much every mother-daughter relationship I know, but at the same time, there are also parts that are theirs alone. 

Alison Bechdel is amazing and I admire the way she lays herself completely bare. (Yes, her parents have been exposed, too, but nowhere near as much as she tells her own stories.)

Highly recommended. 

Fun Home

Finished Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. 

This details Alison Bechdel’s childhood and especially her relationship with her father, who committed suicide when she was 20. (He was also a closeted gay man, who had a complicated relationship with his wife and children.) 

There are some correlations between Alison and her dad (both love literature and that really formed the crux of their relationship; both are also gay). 

It’s an excellent graphic novel but it also broke my heart. I wonder how much better and easier Bruce Bechdel’s life would have been if he had been born later. 

Recommended.