Thursday, May 26, 2016

Book Review: "Euphoria" by Lily King

Based loosely on events recounted in biographies about famed anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria tells the story of three anthropologist's experience in the field in the late 1930's.  The setting is the lush New Guinea jungles around the Sepik River.  Andrew Bankson has been studying the Kiona tribe for nearly two years and his loneliness has nearly killed him once.  But then he meets with Schuyler "Fen" Fenwick and his wife Nell Stone.  The three fall into a fast friendship (though Bankson starts to feel more than friendship for Nell).  Bankson wants to keep them close to him and his Kiona, so he brings them to the nearby Tam tribe.  Fen can't let go of the tribe he and Nell previously studied this leads to their combined destruction.

This is the last book for the season of our library book club, and I don't think we could have ended on a better note.  Of course, I may be biased with my undergrad degree in anthropology...  but I didn't necessarily study cultural anthropology - just the basics.  The concepts are all there, and this was the time when this social science was exploding.  New cultures were being discovered and studied ethically (though sometimes not).  This cast of characters presents that perfectly.  You have Nell, the brilliant scientist who really sees the big picture and observes subjectively and with confidence.  Bankson, who has zero confidence and even though he has been trained in school, still doesn't really seem to grasp what he's supposed to be doing in the field.  And Fen, who cannot extract himself from the culture at all and seems to be conflicted with joining a tribe or taking advantage of one for his own personal vanity and financial gain.

The narration of this book is perfect as well.  It takes a bit to realize who exactly is telling the story, and then see the quick jumps back and forth in time shows the emotional state of the narrator.  The language is spot on - and fun considering you've got an American, a Brit and an Aussie as well as all the native languages to the area.

I really don't want to give anything away.  This is truly a wonderful book - full of adventure, gorgeous setting, intriguing characters and a spot of romance.  I loved it.

*****
Euphoria
by Lily King
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014
261 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review: "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams

I would love it if anyone could explain to me why I haven't read this before now, because I don't understand how I missed this.  I mean, sure - I'd heard about it, I knew that it was well liked by many, but why did that not translate into "read this now"?  Somehow, I'll manage to forgive myself I suppose, but honestly...  don't let this happen to you.

Arthur Dent is kind of a nobody, miserable sort of guy living in England.  Then the most remarkable thing happens - his friend, Ford Prefect rescues him from the total destruction of the Earth.  (The Earth had to be destroyed because it was in the way of the new galactic freeway.)  Ford is really working on revising The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy when he accidentally got stuck on Earth.  So there they are, hitchhiking their way across the galaxy and they land themselves right in the middle of the biggest question of all about life, the universe and everything - or at least figuring out what the question is since the answer is already known.

Does this make any sense?  Not really, I know.  That is why you need to read it!  It is so much fun!  You'll meet incredible characters (I love Marvin the depressed robot) and you'll never look at mice the same way again.  Thumbs up!

*****
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
Del Rey, 2009.  First published 1979.
193 pages
Source:  Purchased New
*****

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: "Adulthood is a Myth" by Sarah Andersen

I took one look at this book and I had to read it.  Unfortunately, my co-worker already had it checked out so I had to wait my turn.  I didn't wait long though, and OH MY GOD is this funny and wonderful and all the good things!  The red on the cover?  IT'S FUZZY.

This isn't so much a graphic novel as it is a collection of comic panels.  They don't even necessarily flow from one page to another, but that isn't the point.  The point is that adulting is hard and not much fun.  Adulting while introverted...  even worse.  It can get awkward; it can cause self-doubt.  These panels show many different aspects of this theme, all in ways I could easily relate to.  They may have even happened to some degree.

On a whole, this reminded me a bit of Hyperbole and a Half though not quite as complex.  The art is quirky and fun drawings, all really in black and white.

The target audience is probably senior in high school through - how old am I?  Ok, maybe I am  slightly older than the target but I still loved it.  I posted photos on both my Instagram and Litsy accounts (I'm sarahreadstoomuch on both).  I only did one per account (different photos) but there were so many awesome ones to choose from!

Go ahead and check this book out - laugh and recognize that others have felt that way too when it comes to adulting, etc - and then thank me later.

*****
Adulthood is a Myth
by Sarah Andersen
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016
109 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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Monday, May 16, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: "Paper Girls vol. 1" by Brian K. Vaughan

In the very early morning hours after Halloween 1988, four twelve year old paper girls discover that something big is going down.  As in, possibly interplanetary big or time travelling big...  they aren't quite sure.  But it is big, and it doesn't look good.

I have been seeing this one all over different blogs and whatnot so I thought I'd give it a try.  I'll admit, I was a little confused at first by what was happening, or trying to figure out what was happening and I'm still not completely sure I've got it straight in my head.  It is kind of wild (in a good way).  It is funny too, and I always love good 80's pop culture references.

I love the diverse cast of characters too.  The current two main girls are Erin, who is the new girl and Mac who is the tough girl.  The other two haven't been spotlighted yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

This volume collects the first five comics of the series, and ends with a giant twist.  It compels me to continue reading out of curiosity, as I feel like this is a comic that will get even better as it goes along.

*****
Paper Girls Vol. 1
by Brian K. Vaughan
Image Comics, 2016
144 pages
Source:  Library
*****

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Book Review: "Thanks for the Trouble" by Tommy Wallach

Parker is at one of the fancy hotels downtown, doing his thing (stealing from unsuspecting guests instead of being in school) when he first sees Zelda.  She is a beautiful girl with silver hair who looks like she's about his age, maybe older.  What stands out to Parker though, is that she has a look on her face that can only be described as "perfect sadness".  He steals from her purse when she leaves her table for a moment, but accidentally leaves behind his notebook - his main form of communication since he lost the ability to speak.  He'd have let it go, but the beautiful girl is reading his notebook, and is no doubt reading the story he'd just written that was inspired by her.  He goes back to her, and what comes next is a weekend that changes his life.

I have heard next to nothing about this book, but was fascinated by the cover and bought it on an impulse.  I know, it goes totally against my focus to #readmyowndamnbooks but I had to do it.  (Another confession - I bought another book too.)  But let's not dwell on that, okay?  What's done is done.

Back to the book.  I really enjoyed this!  I kind of read it with a feeling of wonder, honestly.  Zelda is quite the unusual character in the most excellently unreliably sense.  Do I believe her story - who she is, where she's come from?  Is she another one of Parker's stories?  He is an aspiring writer after all, and we get to read some of his short stories too.  And what's this?  A Latino main character who's story is NOT all about his being Latino - he is just Latino. (period)  Fantastic.

I really enjoyed the writing as well.  I have honestly meant to pick up last year's We All Looked Up, but haven't gotten around to it yet.  Sorry.  I'm really going to have to now though.  There were passages in here that I had to read twice just because I loved the way the idea was being expressed.  That honestly doesn't happen all that often with me and YA literature.  So, yeah, I'd give this one a go if I were you.

*****
Thanks for the Trouble
by Tommy Wallach
Simon & Schuster, 2016
276 pages
Source:  Purchased New
*****

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Bout of Books 16 Master Post

Bout of BooksHere it is - the week long readathon known as Bout of Books!  I've done this several times before, and look forward to yet another one!  I've decided not to set an actual goal this time.  Instead, this is all about tracking my reading habits for a week.  I mean, I already read whenever I can... not much is going to change for a week long event like this (not like it used to).  I am going to simplify my daily log as well.

This is my master post.  I will update it every day, and post any closing remarks or thoughts here when it's all over.


Monday:
pages read today: 36
pages read total:  36
Notes:  I was busier than expected after work today, and then my allergies forced me to bed pretty early.  So not a big reading day, but it's only the first day!


Tuesday:
pages read today:  90
pages read total:  126
Notes:   I'm really getting into Euphoria by Lily King, which I'm reading for next week's book club meeting.


Wednesday:
pages read today:  75
pages read total:  201
Notes: My allergies are killing me this week.  I'm seriously falling asleep an hour or two earlier than usual which is cutting into my regular reading time!


Thursday:
pages read today:  77
pages read total:  276
Notes:  Finished Euphoria (SO GOOD!) and started Two if by Sea by Jacqueline Mitchard.  I wanted to get to a faster YA book, but considering the fact I'll be seeing Ms. Mitchard on Monday at a Massachusetts Library Association conference AND I'm bringing her into my library in a couple weeks - I decided to start her book next.  Let me just say, that it opens with a whopper of a first chapter, and while I didn't get much farther than that - I am very intrigued by the psyche of the main character Frank.


Friday:
pages read today:  80
pages read total:  356
Notes: I had the day off from work, so I got some reading in after tiring myself out with yard work!


Saturday:
pages read today: 22
pages read total:  378
Notes:  Had a long, tiring, but pretty rewarding day at work today.  You gotta love when a library program you've put together and stressed over for months is actually fairly successful.  In my case, yesterday was the Local Author Fair I put together.  I've made some notes for improvement for next time, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  I think the authors were too.  However, that left me with little focus or energy to read. Oh well, still a good day in my book!


Sunday:
pages read today:  21
pages read total:  399
Notes:  Incredibly busy day today - getting ready to go to the Massachusetts Library Association conference tomorrow (and be gone overnight!), cleaning the house, and working in the yard.  I was exhausted by the end of the day.  Also, Game of Thrones was on.


Closing thoughts:  I just didn't get into a good stride this week.  I don't think it has anything to do with the readathon, just this ended up being a really tough week for me to focus more on reading instead of everything else I had to do.  Hopefully next readathon will go better for me!
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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Review: "Forever... " by Judy Blume

Katherine meets Michael at a New Year's Eve party, and it wasn't long before they were dating.  Because he went to another school and lived in another town, they only really saw each other on weekends and had many phone conversations during the week.  Things got very serious and just knew they would be together forever.

This book deals very frankly and openly about Katherine and Michael's budding sexual relationship.  A co-worker actually described it as being quite textbook-like in the way it deals with sex and describing a few different situations that Katherine and Michael experience.  As it is so open in this way, this book has been challenged for years and years (it was first published in 1975).  Teenagers wondering about sex?  Gasp!

The book does an excellent job of taking some of that mystery away.  These characters discuss the idea of having sex before they actually do it, the wait until they are both ready, and they take proper precautions.  All good.  Unfortunately, in doing this so well - the elements of character development and actual story are not really developed.  Its really too bad, because on top of the outdated references, I don't think teens would stick with this book until the end.  I think that historically speaking, this is a very important book but it just isn't holding up to the test to time.  Blume is so well known and admired that perhaps a few will still pick it up... but, that's about it.

*****
Forever...
by Judy Blume
Antheneum, 2002.  First published 1975.
199 pages
Source:  Purchased Used
*****

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Book Review: "Hamilton the Revolution" (or #Hamiltome) by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

You knew I wasn't going to let this one get by me.  Yes, I preordered this and yes, I may have jumped up and down a little when it arrived at my house.  It came about a week after I saw the show in New York, and I think I was still a little high from the experience.  That said, I savored every page and read it very slowly.

This is the full libretto, that is to say the lyrics and stage direction as written by Lin.  It also has all of his footnotes in which he talks about a certain passage and shares the inside jokes from the stage, a story of where or how it was written or what may have been the inspiration.  In between each song, or maybe I should say introducing each song is an essay that talks more in depth about how the show was developed, the key players in the development and the actors who helped create the roles.

I was clearly very much in awe of this story and the show before reading this book.  Of course now I just want to see the show again.  (Well, I wanted to see it again as soon as I walked out of the theater...  but...  yeah.  I still do.)  This book has helped me understand more of the technical details that went into making this show all that it is.  Oh and the photography!  The photos are absolutely beautiful.  The entire book is in full color and shows scenes from the stage, scenes from backstage, and more.  Its all printed on heavy stock paper, not glossy paper, so even though it is also over-sized, it isn't super heavy.  It's a must have for fans of the show, but a fun book to flip through if you're merely curious about it all.

*****
Hamilton the Revolution
by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
Grand Central Publishing, 2016.
288 pages
Source:  Purchased new
*****

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Friday, April 29, 2016

Book Review: "Father's Day" by Simon Van Booy

Harvey's parents die in a tragic car accident when she is six years old.  Suddenly orphaned, the social worker finds the only living relative Harvey has left - her uncle Jason.  Jason has been long estranged from his family due mainly to his criminal record, and wasn't even aware than his younger brother had a child... much less that his brother was gone now too.   The social worker sees something in Jason though, and helps him find his way to taking care of Harvey.  Fast forward twenty years, and Jason is visiting Harvey in Paris, where she lives and works now.  Harvey has put together a Father's Day present for Jason during his visit, and plans to unveil the secret she thinks he's been hiding from her.

I hadn't read Van Booy before now, but I see why so many people love him so much.  This book was beautiful and careful with emotions and wonderful.  It took me a chapter or two to become completely enraptured with this story.

Harvey and Jason have much to offer and teach each other, but it's far more than that.  There is a lot of love here, and it mostly starts with the opportunity for second chances.  The relationships that come out of these second chances are amazing.  Some take some time and effort, but what doesn't?  I loved how the narrative moved so seamlessly between past and present.  It worked so well, and I especially liked how each perspective or memory was offered to the reader.  Its truly beautiful.

I strongly recommend this to readers of literary fiction and those who enjoy redemption stories.

*****
Father's Day
by Simon Van Booy
Harper, 2016
304 pages
Source:  TLC Book Tours
*****

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