Weekend Update

I’m seeing the new Pet Sematary today and I’m so excited! This is a great year for horror and I want to see basically all of it. Pet Sematary is one of the releases I am most psyched for, though, and it’s finally here!

I also am taking a bit of a book vacation but, in possibly the most on brand choice ever, I decided to do some re-reading. I’m going back to review books soon but I’m enjoying this time.

I just started listening to Redhanded (a true crime podcast) and You’re Wrong About… (a podcast about things we all know about, which then explains why we don’t know anything about them). My other new favorite came from my friend Will’s recommendation. Unspooled has hosts watching the AFI 100 Best and discussing them.

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The Princess and the Fangirl

Finished The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.”

I really enjoy this series. It’s incredibly fun and sweet, and I love the fandom aspect. I feel like I had a huge smile on my face the whole time I was reading it (which was nice, because I also had major allergies—thanks, pollen!).

I wasn’t a huge fan of the leaked script aspect, but it made a convenient reason for why the two would need to switch places.

I hope there are more books in this world, but I’m really happy we got this one. This is the perfect book for a vacation read and I loved Jess. It takes a bit of time to get to know her (she’s very guarded) but once we do get there, it’s worth all the waiting and the effort.

 

20 by 40

So I’m 39 today.

HEALTH STUFF:

1) Eat more fruits and vegetables.

2) Drink more water.

3) Start walking to and from the lightrail station and get off the lightrail early, weather permitting.

4) Be better about sticking to a schedule.

5) Stick to two sodas a day.

IMPROVING:

1) Use Duolingo for Spanish or French.

2) Definitely do the documentary and nonfiction ones (see below).

3) Learn to cook.

4) Send cards to people.

5) At least one personal blog post a week.

READING:

1) Read one nonfiction book a month.

2) Read one non-review, non-book club book a month.

3) Do a better job catching up on review books.

4) Start borrowing from the library more.

5) Read at least two diverse books a month.

WATCHING:

1) Make the most of the Sinemia membership before the trial is up.

2) Finish the FNL watch.

3) Watch the other three Best of 2018 movies from the AFI.

4) Watch at least one Netflix offering a week or get rid of it.

5) Watch at least one documentary a month.

No Happy Endings

Finished No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The author of It’s Okay to Laugh and host of the popular podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking—interviews that are “a gift to be able to listen [to]” (New York Times)—returns with more hilarious meditations on her messy, wonderful, bittersweet, and unconventional life.

Life has a million different ways to kick you right in the chops. We lose love, lose jobs, lose our sense of self. For Nora McInerny, it was losing her husband, her father, and her unborn second child in one catastrophic year.

But in the wake of loss, we get to assemble something new from whatever is left behind. Some circles call finding happiness after loss “Chapter 2”—the continuation of something else. Today, Nora is remarried and mothers four children aged 16 months to 16 years. While her new circumstances bring her extraordinary joy, they are also tinged with sadness over the loved ones she’s lost.

Life has made Nora a reluctant expert in hard conversations. On her wildly popular podcast, she talks about painful experiences we inevitably face, and exposes the absurdity of the question “how are you?” that people often ask when we’re coping with the aftermath of emotional catastrophe. She knows intimately that when your life falls apart, there’s a mad rush to be okay—to find a silver lining, to get to the happy ending. In this, her second memoir, Nora offers a tragicomic exploration of the tension between finding happiness and holding space for the unhappy experiences that have shaped us.

No Happy Endings is a book for people living life after life has fallen apart. It’s a book for people who know that they’re moving forward, not moving on. It’s a book for people who know life isn’t always happy, but it isn’t the end: there will be unimaginable joy and incomprehensible tragedy. As Nora reminds us, there will be no happy endings—but there will be new beginnings.”

This book is exactly what I needed. It’s sad—heartbreakingly so—in parts. But it’s also hopeful and warm, and it’s so, so funny.

Nora is my imaginary best friend, and she’s very real in this. There are a lot of emotions (not all of them sad ones although obviously when you lose a baby, your dad and your husband in back to back losses, there are plenty of sad ones) and we feel them all with her.

I believe this will be on a lot of Best Of lists this year and it deserves its space on all of them.

Highly recommended.

Book Vacation

I have a couple more review books for March but then I am taking a tiny break. I hope to re-read a few (The Fault in Our Stars!), sneak a few ARCs in early and read Severance for book club.

But beyond that? This is what I’m thinking.

I try to do this a couple times a year and I am excited for this one.

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James

Finished The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Twelve-year-old Sunny St. James navigates heart surgery, reconnections with a lost mother, first kisses, and emerging feelings for another girl in this stunning, heartfelt novel–perfect for fans of Ali Benjamin and Erin Entrada Kelly.

When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a “New Life Plan”: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time.

Her “New Life Plan” seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. When the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.

This sweet, tender novel dares readers to find the might in their own hearts.”

I love Ashley Herring Blake’s books so much and I think this one may be my favorite yet.

There’s a lot going on with Sunny. I feel like any of these things are so much for a kid to deal with, but (a) she just had a heart transplant and is re-learning how to be healthy, (b) her biological mom is suddenly back in the picture and (c) she totally likes girls. (We think it’s in addition to boys, but she’s a kid and we don’t need to define her sexuality.)

Between all three of these things, she’s basically having this complete perfect storm of a summer. And I felt so awful for her because of that, because again, it is SO MUCH.

But Sunny is really sort of this perfect, brave girl. She’s scared of so much but she keeps going anyway. She gets angry a lot but works through it. I love people who aren’t too scared to do things, and that’s Sunny. She will figure it out as she goes and she’s good at it.

I adored this book. Highly recommended.

Internment

Finished Internment by Samira Ahmed. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today.”

Holy crap, this book. It’s just as intense as you would expect but the scariest thing is how plausible it feels.

We aren’t at this point. I don’t think we’re in immediate danger of detaining our fellow citizens based on their religion…but I definitely see how we get there from here.

This book hinges on Layla and I think a less strong character would’ve made the book fall apart. From the first page, I completely understood who Layla was and I respected her and her bravery. She knew it was dangerous and that she and her parents could very easily be tortured or killed, but she refused to back down. I hope that I would be that brave.

This is such a fantastic book and I cannot recommend it strongly enough.

Operatic

Finished Operatic by Kyo Maclear. (The illustrations are by Byron Eggenschwiler.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.

Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

This evocatively illustrated graphic novel brilliantly captures the high drama of middle school by focusing on the desire of its finely drawn characters to sing and be heard.”

This is one of my favorite graphic novels. It centers around a middle school girl who’s learning more about music. She develops this huge fondness for Maria Callas and it makes her brave.

I love the idea of little kids (and I’m sorry, middle schoolers count as little!) learning about opera. It makes me feel really happy, like maybe they’re not just listening to uptempo nonsense I haven’t even heard of. (This is probably the grumpiest thing I’ve ever typed.)

This also discusses Maria Callas a little, and basically all I knew was “legendary diva” so that was good, too.

This is all about music and I feel like I always think about how books and movies impact me but I don’t really think about that in terms of music. Part of that is because my personal pop culture choices skew heavily toward books and movies, then TV and my music choices tend to be the same artists I’ve loved for years and there are so many songs that can instantly change my mood (for better or worse) and I love that this book talks about that. Music is so powerful and this honors that.

If you aren’t into graphic novels, this may be a fun way to start. Recommended.

Captured

Finished Captured by Alvin Townley. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Alvin Townley, a critically acclaimed author of adult nonfiction, delivers a searing YA debut about American POWs during the Vietnam War.
Naval aviator Jeremiah Denton was shot down and captured in North Vietnam in 1965. As a POW, Jerry Denton led a group of fellow American prisoners in withstanding gruesome conditions behind enemy lines. They developed a system of secret codes and covert communications to keep up their spirits. Later, he would endure torture and long periods of solitary confinement. Always, Jerry told his fellow POWs that they would one day return home together.

Although Jerry spent seven and a half years as a POW, he did finally return home in 1973 after the longest and harshest deployment in US history.

Denton’s story is an extraordinary narrative of human resilience and endurance. Townley grapples with themes of perseverance, leadership, and duty while also deftly portraying the deeply complicated realities of the Vietnam War in this gripping narrative project for YA readers.”

I feel like “inspiring” gets thrown around far too often, but this actually is an inspiring story. There are a lot of heroes here, but it centers around Jeremiah “Jerry” Denton, who was a POW for seven and a half years. He was instrumental in helping his fellow soldiers keep hoping, and he managed to keep everyone’s morale as high as possible. (Which, given the conditions, is probably an actual miracle.)

This synopsis says it’s for YA readers but I think it’s also appropriate for middlegrade. There’s torture in here, but usually it’s phrased very vaguely (along the lines of “”They took him away” followed by When they were done…”) although there are a few more graphic descriptions. Even so, it never feels gratuitous and it is clearly meant to show that these are the things that temporarily broke Jerry and made him go along with what his captors wanted.

The general rule was that they wouldn’t tell the captors anything but that if they couldn’t withstand the torture anymore, they were to share things that were either false or inconsequential. Jerry had either the highest or next highest rank in every prisoner camp he was part of, so he told the men how to proceed. He followed that rule but he also told every man that the primary objective was to go home “with honor” and they all had to decide what that meant for them.

This is an incredible and heroic story, and I’m glad Scholastic sent it to me.

Recommended.

Beautiful Bad

Finished Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In the most explosive and twisted psychological thriller since The Woman in the Window, a beautiful marriage turns beautifully bad.

Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me.

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.”

This is the kind of story that is nearly impossible to put down. We know that things have gone very, very wrong but we’re not sure exactly what happened or who is to blame.

I never connected with Maddie but I think that’s because we are exactly the opposite. I enjoy traveling (in theory) but would prefer to be in more obvious vacation spots. She is brave and goes to dangerous places for fun. I was still concerned for her and for her son, Charlie.

This is the latest in a long line of domestic thrillers. It’s very entertaining but it’s not a book that will likely stay with you. This makes it perfect for vacations (especially with long plane rides). You won’t want to stop reading but once you’re done, it won’t ruin your fun.