Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

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The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West
Published: November 5th, 2019 by Hachette Books
Genre: Non-fiction, Essays, Politics, Current Events
Format: Hardcover, 260 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:

In this wickedly funny cultural critique, the author of the critically acclaimed memoir and Hulu series Shrill exposes misogyny in the #MeToo era.

THIS IS A WITCH HUNT.
WE’RE WITCHES,
AND WE’RE HUNTING YOU.

From the moment powerful men started falling to the #MeToo movement, the lamentations began: this is feminism gone too far, this is injustice, this is a witch hunt. In The Witches Are Coming, firebrand author of the New York Times bestselling memoir and now critically acclaimed Hulu TV series Shrill, Lindy West, turns that refrain on its head. You think this is a witch hunt? Fine. You’ve got one.

In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated, and sometimes tragic, politics of not being a white man in the twenty-first century. She tracks the misogyny and propaganda hidden (or not so hidden) in the media she and her peers devoured growing up, a buffet of distortions, delusions, prejudice, and outright bullsh*t that has allowed white male mediocrity to maintain a death grip on American culture and politics-and that delivered us to this precarious, disorienting moment in history.

West writes, “We were just a hair’s breadth from electing America’s first female president to succeed America’s first black president. We weren’t done, but we were doing it. And then, true to form—like the Balrog’s whip catching Gandalf by his little gray bootie, like the husband in a Lifetime movie hissing, ‘If I can’t have you, no one can’—white American voters shoved an incompetent, racist con man into the White House.”

We cannot understand how we got here-how the land of the free became Trump’s America—without examining the chasm between who we are and who we think we are, without fact-checking the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and each other. The truth can transform us; there is witchcraft in it. Lindy West turns on the light.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed West's first book "Shrill" a lot better. I liked her personal story and her thoughts about everything. This collection is more "personal essay" rather than "personal story," which is fine but I just wanted a bit more from her.

Each essay has something fantastic to say, though. But some were more misses for me. Like I don't care about "South Park" and didn't really think the essay had a lot to contribute.

But overall I love West's down-to-earth style. She pulls no punches and gets you thinking. Where are my privileges and how can I show up to help and be an ally? How can I show up and be my own damn adult and get shit done?!

Some thought-provoking quotes:

"When faced with a choice between an incriminating truth or a flattering lie, America's ruling class has been choosing the lie for four hundred years."

"I got older, too, my conscience matured and solidified, and eventually I realized that the taste of it had changed in my mouth. "Common sense" without growth, curiosity, or perspective becomes conservatism and bitterness. I moved on."

"The truth of abortion is that people need abortions and always will. You cannot legislate abortion out of existence--you can control only who has safe abortions and who has dangerous ones, who is considered a full person in the eyes of her government and who is a state-owned incubator, who is free and who is not."

"Today, the anti-PC set frames political correctness as a sovereign entity, separate from real human beings--like an advisory board or a nutritional label or a silly after-school club that one can heed or ignore with no moral implications--as though if we simply reject political correctness we can keep, say, the Washington Redskins without harming native communities. But the reality is that there is no such thing as political correctness; it's a rhetorical device to depersonalize oppression.

Being cognizant of and careful with the historic trauma of others is what "political correctness" means."

"Of course now I know that there is no effective activism without the passion and commitment of ordinary people and it is a basic duty of the privileged to show up and fight for issues that don't affect us directly."

"We've won this war before, and we will win it again.

Tomorrow can be the first day.

The witches are coming, but not for your life. We're coming for your lies. We're coming for your legacy. We're coming for our future."




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Covid 19 Family Update

We're still trying to keep the sanity here at our place. Online schooling has been tough. G has a really hard time sitting and learning on the computer for hours on end. Typing is also a problem. There have been quite a few tears. But we take breaks, laugh, give hugs, pet kitties, make goodies, and pet kitties.

G has been enjoying "Brain Games" on Disney+. He usually watches two during lunch and maybe one after dinner. He's absolutely loving the games and discussions on how our brains work and perceive nature.

I'm also not letting him play with other kids outside right now. I really want us to do our part to quarantine and stay home. So it's been really hard on him to not play with a few kids. It's a bit easier since more and more of the neighborhood kids are also staying inside. But he is an only and it makes it a bit harder. He's getting online more with friends. He's had a few Facetime calls with friends and a cousin. He's been playing some online games with friends from school.

I've learned Audible is providing a huge portion of their library for free during this time for kids and parents alike. Scribd is offering its online library for free for a few more weeks. I've already started two books! I think I may sign up permanently once the free offer ends.

Coursera is offering a course on the novel coronavirus and giving daily updates. I just started the course and have been enjoying learning more about infectious disease in general and Covid-19 in particular.

A really great YouTube channel is Science Mom. She is uploading almost two-hour daily videos on science along with projects and experiments.

Reading: Right now I'm still working on The Histories by Herodotus. I'm over halfway! It's actually fairly interesting. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by Daniel Quammen. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I bought this one a few months ago and I read somewhere that this would be a good quarantine read... I'm enjoying it but it's a lot darker than I was expecting so I'm not sure but I'm hoping it comes with a good ending! And on Scribd I'm listening to Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland.

Watching: DH and I started Altered Carbon on Netflix, season two. So far it's pretty good. Season 3 of The Sinner. I don't know how I feel about this latest season. It's a bit weird and kooky but I'm hooked so I'll stick with it. But season one is the best. And before our libraries closed down I picked up season one of American Gods. I haven't dived in yet but I am planning on it this week. And I may pick up Emma even though I've seen it and Invisible Man cuz it looks scary and I may need that this weekend!

Favorite Pics: I don't usually post this many but it's helping the sanity. And Spring is around the corner, hopefully! It's been gloomy the last few days with scattered showers and wind but I figure that's just Spring doing it's thing!

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Warren the 13th and the Thirteen-year Curse by Tania del Rio

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Warren the 13th and the Thirteen-year Curse by Tania del Rio
Published: March 24th, 2020 by Quirk Books
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 224 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

Summary: 

At the conclusion of the second book in the Warren the 13th series, The Warren Hotel had transformed into a giant ship, and set sail for the open seas! When Warren 3 opens, Warren is adjusting to the demands of running a floating hotel and is planning his 13th birthday party when disaster strikes--the hotel is shipwrecked on a strange island. To make things worse, his octopus-like friend Sketchy is kidnapped by a traveling circus! Warren and his friends must solve a series of riddles to find the next location of the circus and rescue their friend before it's too late. Along the way, they meet a new cast of characters, including some elderly pirates, a sea witch, a talking clam, and a giant sea monster. As Warren pursues Sketchy's kidnappers, he will learn the truth of his friend's mysterious origins--as well as one final secret of the Warren Hotel.

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed the third book in this fantastic series. Warren the 13th has a good heart. He loves his friends and his family. He tries his best. And he gives everyone and I mean everyone the benefit of the doubt! What a great example. I've really enjoyed his growth and the growth of everyone in his hotel.

This book they're out for a pirate adventure! We love pirates and enjoyed all the treasure hunts and pirate-related themes throughout the story. This one has some fun puzzles to try and solve along with Warren and his crew.

The story ends on a bittersweet note and it made G tear up. But it all ends good and he can't wait/hopes for another chapter in Warren the 13th's life and his traveling hotel!

The illustrations are as amazing as ever! Lots of fun drawings to help bring the story alive.

My Son's Thoughts: (lightly edited)

Okay, to start I think this book was really good. I think all the parts of this book were interesting cause usually at the beginning of books it's not as interesting. Every single chapter of this book was just as interesting as the last.

Now down to the specifics. I enjoyed the part where they start saving sketchy and I also enjoy the end part where even when Rustyboots and his granddaughter are kinda evil, Warren still thinks they're worth saving.

If there is anything that I don't like as much, it would be at the end... because it made me sad but that is meant to happen. So honestly I think it's amazing that [the author] did that. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I hope [the author] makes a fourth book.

P.S. I would really a fourth book and maybe a fifth!

*We received this book from the publisher Quirk Books in exchange for an honest review. They sent the book with a beautiful poster of one of the illustrations in the book and some fun Warren the 13th tattoos.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Cat Thursday-- Memes!


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats!

Here are some of my favorites for today:








Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I'm Scrambling... Like We All Are

It's been a crazy week. G's school has been canceled for two weeks but I'm betting it'll close even longer. So we are scrambling to figure out online class stuff for his school and schedules here. Also, it's hard to find supplies at the stores. We're self-quarantining and trying to limit our outdoor times by just playing by ourselves outside and only going to the grocery store when needed. But the panic is real. Being at the store today, my emotions told me to buy ALL THE THINGS! While logically I had to keep telling myself we just need these few items, we have plenty of other things at home to last awhile... It's so hard to be human sometimes with these brains!

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We managed to make Krispie treats! 


I'm trying to let G know what's going on but without freaking him out. We've been listening to the podcast BrainsOn. It has some great information on the Covid-19 virus as well as some episodes on critical thinking when it comes to media.

We're just trying to figure it out and not be so hard on ourselves. I read an opinion piece in our local newspaper about journaling and recording this experience of living through the worst global pandemic in recent history. Future generations (if there are any... ) will want to know personal experiences about this time. So I figured it sounded like a good idea. I've been encouraging G to write about his thoughts and I'm following along with him.

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We got a book from the publisher Quirk Books for free in exchange for a review. G and I will be reading this one aloud soon! Lots of fun stuff to promote the book. We can't wait to read it!

I've been on Facebook more in the last few days than I have in months. But I am OK with that. It's helping me to connect with people. There are funny memes. There are groups forming to help those who need supplies. I'm seeing humanity again. I'm connecting with people I care about and hearing about their positive experiences and also their struggles. I've got a group chat with a bunch of my friends that keeps it real. I'm getting great ideas for what to do with G now that school's canceled. We were finally introduced to Fiona, the Hippo, from the Cincinnati Zoo. We have loved her videos.

We're hunkering down. We know it's going to get worse before it gets better. We're trying to help out where we can and trying to stay connected and informed. We're all in this together.

Here are some great resources for having kiddos at home during this time:

Imagination Soup-- Her resources are priceless. Booklists for every age group and resources for just about everything.

Big Life Journal-- It's an amazing resource to teach kids about the growth mindset. It's got a free podcast and lots of free downloads. It's been invaluable to help mitigate stress and anxiety.

KiwiCo-- It's one of those box subscriptions with science, art, history, culture, etc. But they have some great tips and free ideas.

This is just a small sampling. But PBS has a ton of stuff from the Crash Course series to smaller videos on science and culture. Lots of museums offer virtual tours. The Met Opera is offering free performances as well online. Khan Academy is top-notch as well. Disney+ has a ton of fun documentaries on different subjects. So many ideas.

I just had to get some of this out of my head. May you all stay safe and healthy! And I hope you find more time to read some good books!

I won't lie... I am reading
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And we watched this over the weekend

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Someone told me to STOP and watch Schitt's Creek instead. I definitely need to do this.

Here's some kitty love. Nala has been super clingy lately and loves to climb up on my back and rest around my neck. I wonder if she'll continue to do it when it gets hot. I'm guessing I'm a heat source and I give her some head scratches!

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Cat Thursday-- 120-year-old Cat Photos


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats!

According to an article from PetaPixel, a YouTuber Mathieu Stern found a 'time capsule' in the basement of his family's old home. The box contained two glass plate negatives dating to about 1900. Being a skilled photographer he was able to develop them using an old photographic printing method called the Cyanotype.

The photos that follow are pretty sweet. What cute kitties! Click on the above link for more info on how he did it.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Spring Into Horror Sign Up


'Tis that time again for the month-long Spring Into Horror marathon hosted by Michelle over at Seasons Reading. I'm always excited for an excuse to read more horror and mystery.

Here are a few I'll try to get to (in no particular order):


  • Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland
  • The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters
  • Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
  • The Likeness by Tana French
  • Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Mini Movie Reviews: The Peanut Butter Falcon

I am finally getting back to movie reviews! Well, mini ones, at least.

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Storyline:  A look at how Alabam attorney Bryan Stevenson struggles to create more fairness in the legal system. 

My Thoughts: I was disheartened and enlightened by this documentary. There are people fighting the good fight. But the system is so broken and corrupt.

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Storyline: The gang is back but the game has changed. As they return to rescue one of their own, the players will have to brave parts unknown from arid deserts to snowy mountains, to escape the world's most dangerous game.

Tagline: The next level.

My Thoughts: Not as good as the first one but I still enjoyed the new characters and adventures. Awkwafina rules!

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Storyline: A pop singer's songs and artistic identity have been stolen by her ex-boyfriend/manager and shamelessly pasted onto his new girlfriend/protege. Locked together in a small concert venue after hours, the three of them confront the emotional abuses of the past...until things turn violent.

My Thoughts: As it does in every Into the Dark episode from Hulu things get pretty crazy really fast. It's not one of their better ones but it's worth a watch. Revenge is sweet.

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Storyline: A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.

Tagline: Based on an Actual Lie.

My Thoughts: I loved this movie. Awkwafina continues to show her acting chops. And I loved the ethical quandaries of whether or not to let their mother/grandmother know. Sweet and beautiful. I really wish it had gotten more award buzz.

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Storyline: Sarah, a socially isolated woman with a fondness for arts and crafts, horses, and supernatural crime shows fins her increasingly lucid dreams trickling into her waking life.

My Thoughts: It was interesting. But I didn't know what it was trying to say. As someone who deals with family who has schizophrenia, I didn't like what it implied. The actors were great but the material was not there, unfortunately.

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Storyline: Zak runs away from his care home to make his dream of becoming a wrestler come true.

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story with Zak. He was truly a delight. We get to see Shia LeBeouf gain some perspective too along the way. Though the romance was forced, it didn't detract from the overall feel-good story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow


Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
Published: October 15th, 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Investigative Journalism, Nonfiction, Memoir
Format: Hardcover, 448 Pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

In a dramatic account of violence and espionage, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ronan Farrow exposes serial abusers and a cabal of powerful interests hell-bent on covering up the truth, at any cost.

In 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood's most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family. 

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained - until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood to Washington, and beyond. 

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability and silence victims of abuse - and it's the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power - and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

My Thoughts:

I was riveted. Disturbed. Horrified. I cried. Just when you think the world isn't as bad as you think it is... no, it's worse. Thank the gods there are humans who are willing to risk everything to bring into light this awful darkness.

And now I know how there are still executives and people running all the companies that are still protecting predators and committing predatory acts themselves.

This is an important book. I'm thankful Ronan and his associates are putting themselves out there to get these stories into the light.

And if you're wondering about the title... catch and kill refers to what the tabloids do to stories. They are paid by people like Weinstein or Trump to get the stories from the accusors with the stories to tell. They pay them and make them sign NDA's and then they effectively kill the stories. And they can't talk about them later when they don't come to light because of the NDAs. So they catch and kill. Awful. Farrow talks about how connected people are and how they are willing to overlook and protect in order to keep going in their business or to have a future in a different industry.

It's an eye-opening look at how journalists and reporters and the news and magazines that employ them are in jeopardy. Many are being threatened and stalked. This all amounts to killing our democracy when we do not have freedom of the press. One of the spies that contributed to the story is an immigrant from Eastern Europe and knew the value of freedom of the press and was horrified when he was employed to stalk and harass journalists. He came from state-controlled press and news and knew he had to come forward to keep America's press and media as free as possible.

Monday, March 9, 2020

February Wrap-Up

February was busy busy! G had his birthday. Eleven years old. I can't believe it. He took some friends to the local trampoline park. Cupcakes were made. Fun was had! Then the week after that we went to the grandparents' house for a little family party.

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Spring is popping up slowly but surely! It's a lot warmer, though we are still getting a few snowstorms. But last weekend was very nice with temps in the mid-60s. But I have hope since my crocuses and tulips are starting to spring up!

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G climbed the big jungle gym and made it to the top!


To finish off the month I and my lady friends hit the local karaoke bar and lit it up! It was so much fun to get out--literally, out of the house. Ha! I have been hibernating since January. I even made it to a movie with another friend yesterday! Emma! I loved it. Another great adaptation.

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7 Books Read:
  • In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • In the Woods by Tana French
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
  • Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow (This was a very tough read. In line to pick up G from school, I bawled like a baby... I need to read some funny books this month)
  • The Courtier and the Heretic: Spinoza, Leibniz, and the Fate of God in the Modern World by Matthew Stewart


2 Books Listened to:
  • Midnight Son by James Dommeck, Jr. on Audible.
  • Red at the Bone by Jaqueline Woodson


Watched:

TV:

  • Ares on Netflix. It's a Dutch series and it is phenomenal. It's creepy and mysterious but has a fantastic ending. Each episode is less than 30 minutes so it's very bingeable and highly entertaining!
  • The World According to Jeff Goldblum on Disney+. It's a fun docuseries on various topics like how tennis shoes are made, ice cream, to bicycles. All done with the Goldblum charm and curiosity!

Movies:

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  • True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality. Super sad but important.
  • Jumanji: The Next Level
  • Into the Dark: My Valentine
  • The Farewell. Another favorite. Should've done better during awards season.
  • Horse Girl
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon. My favorite last month. So cute.
  • All three Lord of the Rings movies. G finally watched these with us. He had basketball practice that next Wednesday and while defending he yelled: "You shall not pass!" Yes! He gets it! lol.





Made:

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I finally finished G's blanket! I technically just finished it like March but I'm including it now cuz I am so freakin' proud of myself for finally finishing this thing off! It took over a year and some help from my fellow crocheting neighbors. Thanks, ladies!

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Reading Goals:

I'm all over the map right now! My main goals are to finish The Histories by Herodotus this month and reread Little Women the annotated version. I'm also trying to get one classic book read each month so I have some catching up to do. I think I'll add some re-reads as well. After watching Emma yesterday I am in the mood to read me some Jane Austen again!

Currently Reading:

  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Parting the Waters: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement 1954-1963 by Taylor Branch
  • Trickster's Choice by Tamora Pierce
  • The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (reading with G and we should finish this month)
  • Warren the 13th and the Thirteen-year Curse by Tania del Rio (sent for free in exchange for a review and reading aloud with G)
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen (I just can't get enough of human pandemics, apparently)



Currently listening to:

I'm not currently listening to anything right now book-wise but I have been listening to lots of podcasts. I'm trying to stay current on news and politics.

I have plans to listen to "Freedom Is a Constant Struggle" by Angela Y. Davis, "Furiously Happy" by Jenny Lawson, "We Are Never Meeting in Real Life" by Samantha Irby. And maybe a couple of others but that's all I want to commit to right now!

Looking forward to:

DH's birthday is Wednesday! We'll be hitting a nice spot to eat and celebrating with some ice cream cake from Coldstone. Then Saturday we'll be celebrating with friends, drinks, and food!

St. Patrick's Day and the Spring equinox are coming up next week. I plan on making some special food like bangers and mash, and soda bread. And maybe some blonde Guinness since neither of us enjoy the dark kind.

I'm hoping for better weather soon so I can get into my little garden and weed, trim, and plant!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Cat Thursday-- Cat Crashes Orchestral Performance!


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats!

This week I bring you a story from Limelight about a cat who crashes an orchestral concert in Turkey! Here are a couple of videos about the incident. One is a news report; the other is footage captured by an audience member.


This cat does not want to be caught! Look how she keeps everyone at bay. Love!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia

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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
Published: October 15th, 2019 by Penguin Books
Genre: Fantasy, Juvenile Fiction, Myth
Format: Hardcover, 496 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars



Publisher's Summary:

Seventh-grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s journal. Tristan chases after it — is that a doll? — and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

My Thoughts:

Rick Riordan and his publishing company along with Disney Hyperion are producing some amazing myth-based stories right now. They're giving platforms to people of color and allowing readers more opportunities to see other stories and people come to life.

Tristan Strong is a powerful showcase. Tristan is a kid who's grieving the death of his best friend Eddie. His dad and grandfather have taught him how to box but he loses his first match and they send him to live with family down south for the summer.

Soon Eddie's journal begins to glow strangely and he starts seeing things. He wakes up one night to find a small moving doll named Gum Baby stealing his best friend's journal! This sets him on a journey to save his world of stories. Along with Gum Baby, we meet Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, John Henry, High John, Anansi, and other gods and goddesses all come into play.

Kwame Mbalia is able to weave a story that is poignant, powerful, and heartfelt. He does not shy away from the power of stories and gets to tell them. Racism and slavery are powerful metaphors throughout as well as grief and trauma.

The story is funny. Gum Baby is a wise-cracking, loveable, fierce and loyal. She has the best lines in the whole book.

I didn't read this one aloud with G but we both read it within a few weeks of each other and he loved it too. He even cried over Tristan's best friend Eddie. It's got it all. I am definitely reading the rest of the series!

Monday, February 24, 2020

In the Woods by Tana French

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In the Woods by Tana French
Published: May 17th, 2007 by Penguin Books
Genre: Crime Fiction
Format: Kindle, 430 Pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense.

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children. He is gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox (his partner and closest friend) find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.


My Thoughts:

In my opinion, Tana French has a beautiful way with characters and world-building. I was thoroughly engaged in every character detail and their experiences in her world. Small-town Knocknaree in Ireland becomes a character itself, with its haunting forests, devilish sounds, and shadows.

The two main protagonists, Detective Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox are two sides of the same coin. They're almost like close siblings but not quite. I actually found Ryan as the first-person narrator rather annoying but I was ok with that because I enjoyed the enigmatic Cassie as seen through his eyes a lot more. To me, she's the real star of the story.

But the actual plot does pale in comparison, unfortunately. There is a murder that may be connected to the disappearance of Ryan's childhood friends when he was 12. But he can't remember anything about that experience. He was the lone survivor. But he takes the case and lies about his identity in order to stay on this present-day murder and hopefully find out what really happened to his friends and regain his memories. It's a long shot. The fact that Cassie covers for him is pretty unbelievable. Also, how they finally solve the crime was very disappointing.

But what can I say, I love a good character study. And French has a lot to say about human nature and various foibles and strengths. And overall the plot and the crime were interesting enough that I'll definitely read more her series.

I'm also grateful that she doesn't focus on one detective in every book. That's one of the reasons I don't read a lot of books in one series; it gets boring after the third or fourth book the same character is always in peril, getting kidnapped, beat up, stalked, etc.

I feel like French's books are literary fiction with murder as a plot device to talk about her characters and the world they inhabit. I know some readers aren't going to appreciate the poetic nature of her stories. I do and look forward to continuing her series.

Friday, February 7, 2020

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Source
In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
Published: November 5th, 2019 by Graywolf Press
Genre: Memoir, Non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 272 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

My Thoughts:

Machado has created something beautiful, haunting, and unusual. She hauntingly describes her abusive relationship. We are thrown into the haunted "dream house" with her. Her chapters are short and she uses each one to brilliant effect. One chapter uses a Choose Your Own Adventure to see if she does something different in her interactions with her partner. It's truly horrifying.

She describes the art of the memoir as "...an act of resurrection. Memoirists re-create the past, reconstruct dialogue. They summon meaning from events have long been dormant. They braid the clays of memory and essay and fact and perception together, smash into a ball, roll them flat. They manipulate time; resuscitate the dead. They put themselves, and others, into necessary context." She uses all of these devices in each essay, laying bare her expertise, her heart, and her anguish.

A lot of her essays focus on the dearth of resources and first-hand accounts of abuse within lesbian relationships. The stereotypes have been two women together are a utopia! There's nothing wrong here, move along. She describes how being a minority, one has to be twice as good, work twice as hard to be seen as human. But this is a disservice since that means people will have a hard time believing the abuse and recognizing it when it happens. "It's not being radical to point out that people on the fringe have to be better than people in the mainstream, that they have twice as much to prove. In trying to get people to see your humanity, you reveal just that: your humanity.

I'm not queer, I've never been in an abusive relationship, nor experienced abuse in the way that she has and yet Machado writes in such a way to make you experience and feel what she's been through. She makes you care and makes you see how we're all human. Her memoir is one I've never quite experienced before.

I'll end with this quote:

"...our bodies are ecosystems, and they shed and replace and repair until we die. And when we die, our bodies feed the hungry earth, our cells becoming part of other cells, and in the world of the living, where we used to be, people kiss and hold hands and fall in love and fuck and laugh and cry and hurt others and nurse broken hearts and start wars and pull sleeping children out of car seats and shout at each other. If you could harness that energy--that constant, roving hunger--you could do wonders with it. You push the earth inch by inch through the cosmos until it collided heart-first with the sun."



*Linking up with Non-fiction Friday