book review, nonfiction, memoirs/biographies

Review: Dreams From My Father

My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t end there.
At least that’s what I would choose to believe.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, Barack Obama

AUTHOR: Barack Obama

GENRE: Memoir

RATING: 4/5 stars

BACKGROUND: This book was published in 1995, way before Obama stepped onto the federal stage as the senator from Illinois and before he was President of the United States. This does not concern any of Obama’s public life, but instead his background and his family’s background. This seems to be before he was acknowledging a career in politics, as he does not mention it. The main focus of this book is rather Barry Obama’s quest in finding his own identity: his racial identity and his identity outside of his race.

THOUGHTS: I thought that this story was intriguing, not just because it is the story of our former president but rather it is a story of someone who is caught in between cultures and races. Barack Obama was brought up by his white mother and his white grandmothers, in the absence of his father who spent most of his time in Kenya, but was treated by everyone else that he knew as what he appeared: a black boy.

Obama’s writing was clear, succinct, and admirable for someone who is not a writer by profession. His capacity to relate emotions in a particular moment and his ability in describing events or landscapes took me by surprise, though anyone who has listened to any of his speeches is probably less surprised to hear what a good writer Obama is.

I think the honesty of the book is also refreshing. In a world of turbulent politics dominated by twistings of the truth and fake news, this brief, honest look into Obama’s early life and his early mistakes was intriguing. His struggles in becoming the best brother, the best son, and the best black advocate he could be struck a cord with me; even though the man is intelligent and successful beyond belief, he struggles with the same idealistic struggles that most young people go through.

Anyways, I can fully recommend this read for anyone who wants to know a little more about our former president. It is pretty clear of our typical political debates, besides a couple of chapters about his advocating in Chicago. But even that does not sound like the pushing of an agenda…just a description of the feelings that he went through at a particular moment in his life. This book is truly a memoir, and not of the same stock as those books published after a politician’s term, or before a politician’s election. If you enjoy memoirs in general, you should definitely check this one out!

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Is There a Wrong Way to Read?

So the other day my friend was gracious enough to lend me Eleanor and Park and as she was leaving, she told me that her policy on her books she lent out was nonexistent. As in, I could dog ear it, I could do whatever to it, etc.

Years ago, I had borrowed a friend’s copy of Wicked by Gregory Maguire and ended up pretty much destroying the front cover because I had been dragging it around with me to Washington D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia. She was less than thrilled (I was in middle school okay) but she was not pissed. I managed to tape up the tear and color it back in with a sharpie so that the tear wasn’t too noticeable except to the two of us.

Now I normally do not dog-ear pages in a book, especially if they are not my own. I also typically do not write in books unless I am studying them for school and it’s just easier to annotate that way rather than stick in a million post-it notes. I like to keep my books as pristine as possible, but there are times that they get eaten up by the horror that is my backpack.

For my AP Language and Composition class in high school, we had to read an essay titled Never Do That to a Book by Anne Dilliard. Dillard describes two kinds of reading: “carnal” reading and the kind of reading that I do. It is a humorous essay, and if you can get your hands on it, I would definitely recommend reading it. Carnal readers are those who dog-ear the pages, who write all over the pages, and who expose their books to the elements. Those other kinds of readers are those who refuse to let dust get on their books, and make sure that book covers remain uncracked and brand-new.

Basically, what I got from this essay is that there is no one way to love a book and to take care of them. Even though some readers may seem like they disregard the care of their books, it is really how they express their love for reading.

So I want to know…how do you read? Do you think you could read any other way and enjoy it in the same way?

 

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book review, fantasy, reading recommendations

Book Tour: Corruption

Author: Adam Vine

Narrator: Kevin Meyer

Series: Corruption Cycle, Book One

Length: 13 hours 57 minutes

Publisher: Lilydog Books

Released: July 18, 2017

Genre: Dark Fantasy

A dishonored swordsman running from his past.

A city shrouded in dark magic.

An antihero born.

Daniel Harper was champion, until a single mistake destroyed his fencing career forever. With nothing left to lose, he flees to Eastern Europe, where he can start over… where he can be someone else.

In the exotic, lantern-lit crevices of a nameless city, Daniel meets two people who open very different kinds of doors than the ones he is searching for: the troubled flower girl Kashka, who holds the key to a nightmarish otherworld; and the enigmatic street magician and self-professed love tourist Ink, who has the power to bend others to his will.

As Daniel plummets into a downward spiral of hedonism and dereliction, he is tormented by macabre visions of a frozen world in endless darkness where an evil tyrant has stolen the sun, where humanity’s remnants fight to scrape out a cruel existence underground, and wandering spirits inhabit the bodies of the recently deceased. Daniel is doomed to return to this Night Country every time he falls into a deep sleep. But the longer he spends there, the more Daniel realizes his curse is anything but an accident….

Adam Vine was born in Northern California. By day, he is a game writer and designer. He has lived in four countries and visited thirty. He is the author of two novels and many short stories. When he is not writing, he is traveling, reading something icky, or teaching himself to play his mandolin. He currently lives in Germany.

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Narrator Bio

Kevin Meyer is a devoted Midwesterner, raised in rural Wisconsin and transplanted to Tulsa, Oklahoma over three decades ago. A career-long voice-over and music radio guy, his iPhone playlist ranges from Alice Cooper and Waylon Jennings to Twenty One Pilots and The Zac Brown Band. Favorite reads are dominated by political biographies (Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy)… and Stephen King.

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I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Adam Vine. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

RATING:

4/5 stars

THOUGHTS:

Kevin Meyer, as narrator, did a terrific job as a voice actor. There was enough distinction between actors to make it clear which character was speaking (and there were a lot of characters) and his tone varied appropriately so that I listened intently for every plot point. There were times throughout the audiobook that I felt as though I was listening to a radio drama rather than being read a story. This kept the story engaging and entertaining, although the plot on its own was already pulling, the voice acting added an extra dimension to it and made it easier to digest as I said before, there are a lot of characters and complexities in the plot. I felt as though if I read a physical copy of this book instead, I’d have a less clear perception of the whole story.

The production overall was of good quality; the sound was clear, which of course, is the most important quality of an audiobook for me. The audio progressed nicely, so that pauses were of the appropriate length.

Like I said, I enjoyed listening to this book and I think I got more out of the story by listening to it rather than reading it. I would definitely recommend it for those audiobook aficionados out there.

Not to mention, the plot of this book and the overall skill displayed by the author Adam Vine were phenomenal. The world building that Vine engaged in and the imagery that so often accompanies fantasy books were exceptionally well thought out. One of the best things I liked about this book is that it was ambiguous- the villains were given humanity, the so-called good rebels succumbed to the uglier parts of humanity, and our protagonist struggles between defining himself as a good person or a bad person. I also appreciated reading from the perspective of an insecure, average, middle-aged man who deals with issues of masculinity, love, and career. I think that is a perspective that is often hard to come by in literature and I really appreciated seeing that it got its voice in Corruption.

Guys, if you like fantasy, you have to step inside the world that Vine has created. It is so complex, and riddled with things like technology, religion, politics, astrophysics, sexually transmitted diseases/memories, genocide, cultural clashes, cultish followings, and the like. There was so much thought put into the creation of this alternate reality and it was a joy being plunged into the complexities, beauties, and issues of a world that exists in another place and time. If you enjoy fantasy, this is a MUST READ for you.

One of the biggest compliments that I can offer a series is that I desire to and cannot wait for the next installment. I can say this for the next installment in the Corruption cycle, and that’s possibly the best recommendation I can give you to read this book!

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Sep. 13th:
Notes from ‘Round the Bend

The Literary Apothecary

Sep. 14th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

It’s Novel to Me

Sep. 15th:

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Shh I Am Reading

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Blogger Nicole Reviews

Jazzy Book Reviews

Turning Another Page

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The Bookworm Lodge

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book review, young adult

Review: If I Was Your Girl

You can have anything once you admit you deserve it.

If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo

I am still venturing into the genre that is LGBTQ YA fiction, and it’s because of books like these that I want to keep reading this genre.

AUTHOR: Meredith Russo

GENRE: Young Adult

BOOK FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school and has one goal: survive high school as a transgender teen and graduate, then move to the Northern states for college where she might have a better chance at living her truth. However, her plan becomes skewed when she meets a kind, nice boy named Grant and she can’t help but let herself become closer to him. However, she struggles with how close she wants to be to her new boyfriend and her new group of friends…and how much she wants to let them know about her. Trigger warning: outing scene of multiple lgbt characters, sexual assault, bullying, suicide

THOUGHTS: Okay so first of all, I want to say that I am a cisgender individual so if you’d like to know how a transgender person felt about the representation in this book, I would point to On Wednesday’s We Wear Capes for a co-authored review in which one of the reviewers is a transgender individual and can speak to the representation accurately.

I loved this book, and not because it was perfect. It was far from perfect- it fell into some of the many cliched traps that YA books often fall into. The whole plot line in which the new, quiet, kind, Southern, and charming girl moves into town and instantly gets the boyfriend on the football team and the gaggle of popular girl friends felt a little unrealistic to me. It’s the kind of thing that you’d expect from any other YA book. BUT this might have been intentional on Meredith Russo’s part, because that whole traditional storyline is subverted by the very fact that Amanda is transgender. So the normal events in the book, such as going to church with her Southern Baptist friend and dating an athlete in high school, suddenly became events ringed in tension and potential danger.

One thing that I really valued about this book is that it is an own-voices novel, as Meredith Russo is also a transgender woman, and this meant that she could speak to all of the small things about the process of getting surgery, taking hormones, and learning to inhabit the gender that people truly are but were not born into. This story could have easily and rightfully been a narrative full of drama, since the life of a transgender individual is inherently more dangerous than the life of a cisgender individual, especially in an environment such as the American South. However, Russo based most of the novel in ordinary teenage girl experiences, which I really admired. It speaks to the potential for the future of transgender teens in a more accepting society.

One thing that I absolutely adored in this novel, even though it played a minuscule role, is the treatment of religion. Church was a place of danger for Amanda- she was in the presence of many Christian fundamentalists, after all. However, Amanda learns to come to terms with religion with her own faith in a small way; she chose to believe that God still loved her no matter what society told her. I loved this because I feel like the subject of religious LGBTQ individuals is not represented enough- in literature as well as in media in general. LGBTQ religious individuals’ stories are important too.

I had to give this book such a high rating because of how emotional and touching it was. It made me laugh multiple times, it made me freeze with fright and it made me cry. It was so realistic that it made the story so touching. It was also of some personal value to me because I have been at a loss several times in conversation with a transgender friend because of my misunderstandings of their experiences, and this novel allowed me to better educate myself so that I can be a little more prepared in the future. I am grateful for that and for being able to hear a perspective that is so different than my own.

I’d recommend this to everyone.

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miscellaneous, reading recommendations

My BEST Assigned Reads

Assigned reading, you either love it or you hate it, right? I have been lucky enough to encounter some of the best books that I’ve ever read through school. Here are my absolute top five favorite books that I had to read for school (in no particular order):

  • Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood

persepolis

I read this one for school last year and it absolutely blew my mind. Persepolis is an illustrated memoir by Marjane Satrapi detailing her childhood during the Iranian Revolution. It is full of topics such asdialectical materialism, as well as the horrors that accompanied such a drastic political change. It forever altered my perception of modern Iranian society and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

  • Jane Eyre


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This is one of my absolute favorite classics. I related to Jane and her tragic, heartbreaking story and I adored the darker elements of this novel as well. All in all, it has a strong female protagonist that manages to defy and conform to many of the expectations set for her in Victorian society and a romance with a tall and dark man with a mysterious background…what more could you want?

  • To Kill a Mockingbird

to-kill-a-mockingbird

Although I don’t have one true favorite book, if I had to name one, it would be this novel. I read this my freshman year of high school, but if I were to reread it now I am sure it would have the same pull and effect that it had on me several years ago. Most of you probably have read this book so I won’t go into it that much, but I adored it absolutely.

  • Middlesex

middlesex

If you have not read this book, drop what you’re doing and go read it now. This is a book by Jeffrey Eugenides, the same guy that wrote The Virgin Suicides. It is so complicated that it is hard to think of a good synopsis. There are elements of legacy, immigration, family, gender identity (or mis-identity) and the story spans three different generations of a Greek family in America. The main character is Cal, who was brought up as a girl but is neither entirely female nor entirely male because of his familial history and his complicated genetics. It’s a longer read, but it is absolutely worth it.

  • Macbeth

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I could talk about this play f o r  h o u r s on end. It is my favorite Shakespeare (so far) for so many reasons. I had the absolute joy of getting to study it twice- once in my senior year of high school and once last year for a Shakespeare class that I took. I am sure many of you had to read this in school as well and while I think Shakespeare is a genius in general, I feel as if this play is so much more complex and has so much more to offer than some of his other plays (I am really only throwing shade at Taming of the Shrew tbh. I really like Shakespeare but I cannot like Taming of the Shrew even if I tried).

What are some of your favorite assigned readings?

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book review, reading recommendations, young adult

Review: Two Boys Kissing

Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.

Two Boys Kissing; David Levithan

I ticked another book off my extremely long TBR list…and managed to pick this delight of a book. I am making an effort to read more LGBTQA books or books about the LGBTQA experience.

AUTHOR: David Levithan

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / audiobook

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: The novel is narrated by the general gay man that died during the height of the AIDS crisis, and in this novel, the gay men of the past narrating observe the gay boys of today. The novel follows seven different gay boys: one (Cooper) that is dealing with the depths of despair and feels unaccepted by the community around him, two  (Avery and Ryan) that are trying to navigate a new relationship, two (Peter and Neil) that are trying to navigate an older relationship, and two (Craig and Henry) that are trying to break the world record for the world’s longest kiss. In doing so, Craig and Henry are trying to make a statement to the world: that two boys kissing is not scary, that two boys kissing is normal and acceptable. Their feat touches on the lives of the rest of the boys in the novel in some way, whether in a minuscule way or in a way that is meaningful and lasting. Ultimately, this novel maps out the past, the present, and speculates on the future of the American gay experience.

Trigger warnings: There is an outing scene, and talk of suicide.

THOUGHTS: Okay so I absolutely adored this take on the contemporary gay generation. I am familiar with the AIDS crisis and its victims through fiction and theatre only – the men that were wracked with disease are only those that I have seen on stage, on screen, and in cherished books. This approach to the perspective of those men was unique and gave their story more hope than others would have by allowing those men to see how radically the gay experience has changed in America from the realities that they had known. At first I was a little hesitant about how this approach would work out but it played itself out beautifully.

This was my first novel by David Levithan, and I will definitely be reading more of his work because his writing was sublime. This novel had a tone of breathy wonder, of saddened acknowledgement, of weary resignation, and of renewed hope. I honestly just want to brew tea with Levithan’s prose and drink it all day long, it is that good. This book is so well written that even if I had not liked the storyline or the characters (and to be clear, I LOVED both), I still would have enjoyed the experience of reading it. The prose is heart and tear jerking, full of universal truths and general musings on life and existence itself, and the narration was so wonderfully done that even though this book is Young Adult, it lacks the immaturity that other Young Adult books are subject to because they are narrated by teenagers.

I also think Levithan did a good job of captivating the general contemporary gay experience- some of the minor prejudices approached in everyday life, what it means to be a person of color as well as a gay boy, what it means to have a supportive or unsupportive family, what it means to hate your sexuality or love it, etc. All of these gay characters are approaching their sexuality from a completely different background and mindset, which makes the novel that much more honest. Of course, I can only talk about this with the authority that a straight, not-gay-boy, person can have so please keep that in mind.

I adore how this is an own-voices novel, as Levithan himself is a gay man that was born in between the generations that he writes about, so he is in the perfect place to discuss each different and separate experience while still having a degree of separation from each generation as well. It is a lot more powerful to know that an author is drawing from his own experiences and his own interactions to draw inspiration for a book, especially for a book as relevant and significant as this one is.

I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone and everyone, no matter your reading preferences. It is a short read, and I’d be surprised if you managed to make your whole way through without feeling the prick of tears at least once.

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book review, memoirs/biographies, nonfiction

Review: Lighter than My Shadow

I held on, waiting to be recovered, wondering how long it would last. How would I know when I get there?

Lighter than My Shadow, Katie Green

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AUTHOR: Katie Green

GENRE: Memoir, Graphic Novel

RATING: 5/5 stars

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

SUMMARY: In this hand-drawn autobiography/memoir, Katie Green investigates her personal battles in her relationship with food and how her eating disorders triggered other events in her life, including one in which she was abused by someone she trusted. Green starts in the early stages of her childhood and ends at her current state, and details the process of how she became ill, but also details the process of her recovery.  Trigger warnings (because if you have dealt with an eating disorder or are a survivor, then I certainly don’t want you to endanger your mental health): anorexia, binge eating, images of both unhealthy and healthy sexuality.

THOUGHTS: This was the kind of book that I could not put down. I initially picked it up, thinking I’d get through the first hundred pages or so just to start it, but by the time I bothered to look at the clock again, I had gone through all 500 pages and it was way later than when I had hoped to go to sleep.

You remember that kind of feeling you got as a bookish child when you read under the covers with a lightbulb because you had to keep reading even though it was past your bedtime? This book made me feel like that, and that is not a feeling I can say I always get now, even though I remain a very bookish person.

Katie Green does a magnificent job at illustrating her eating disorder, whether it was the literal shadow following around, or the melting of her body “into oblivion”. At times, the imagery was so powerful and stark, and sometimes it was more subtle and suggestive. I have not read many graphic novels, but the images that Green provides played out her story beautifully. I especially admired how she managed to convey metaphors in her illustration.

I also have to commend Green for the kinds of details that she chose to include in her novel focusing on eating disorders. There are so many important aspects included in this book that can really speak to and enlighten those who have not gone through eating disorders, such as myself. Details like the loss of her menstrual cycle, how eating disorders are not simply just a desire to not eat, how her eating disorder ruined her image of her own body and therefore her connection to the healthy aspects of her sexuality, and how progress and recovery is not a straightforward, easy process are all things that I adored about this book.

Additionally, I feel as though many books about eating disorders do not really focus on the process of recovery as Lighter than My Shadow does. Recovery is probably the most important part of this story, which I find so admirable, and while I have a limited perspective on this subject because of my own personal experiences, I believe this book has something important to those who are in recovery or are suffering from eating disorders, as well as to those who have no personal experience with eating disorders.

I cried, I definitely cried. It was that good, y’all. Go pick up this book when it is published on October 3rd!!

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