November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

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Oh man, you guys, I think this is my favorite book that we have read for this book club. There were just so many things to love about it: themes of inner vs outer beauty, male and female power, magical realism, beautiful prose, fabulous characters. Really, I could go on and on. Do you get the point that I loved Bone Gap?!

So here we go, diving into the November discussion. This is my second last audio discussion before the baby comes! Crazy pants. Hope you guys enjoy it. Remember to leave your comments below and check back to see what other readers thought!

Quick summary:

  • themes of external vs internal beauty
    • all the men who think Roza owes them something because she is beautiful and get upset when she doesn’t want them
    • Finn’s prosopagnosia and how it relates to his relationship with Petey
      • Isn’t that what love is, seeing things that others can’t?
    • how Sean respects her wishes and that automatically puts him on a different level than the other men she has encountered before
  • all the ways in which people leave: Didi, Hugh, Petey’s dad, Roza
  • Finn and Sean’s relationship
  • the magical realism elements were limited but pretty seamless, except for the random horse riding through weird, magical worlds, which I thought was a bit strange
  • the beautiful, beautiful prose that created such a rich and wonderful atmosphere and setting

(Remember, December’s book selection is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. You can find the other Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

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Happy Halloween! Let’s jump right into it, shall we? Without further ado, the October book discussion for The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. (It starts off a little awkward, like I’ve never done this before, haha.)

I think this one has the potential to be fairly divisive, and I am really interested to hear what you guys thought about it. Don’t forget to check the box that will send you an email when other people post here, so that we can respond to each other!

Also, remember that November’s book is Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Do you have your copy yet?

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October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

Announcement

As some of you know, I am currently pregnant with my first child. I am due December 21, and as such, am expecting a very busy Christmas season. For that reason, I have decided to make the last two book selections of the year myself, so that I can be as prepared as possible with discussion posts for each before I have my baby and my world gets turned upside down and inside out. 🙂 As well, I am going to be including a list of books that sound interesting that you may want to look into for the first few months of next year; I don’t know when I will be coming back with the book club. I am hoping for April, but I make no promises! As always, feel free to share your book recommendations with each other and I hope that you guys enjoy our last three selections of 2016!

book selections

Reminder, October’s book is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Added bonus of announcing November and December’s books rather than voting on them means that I can take a little bit of extra time to read Knife. Confession: I haven’t even picked it up yet. Whoops. It has been a busy month!

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November’s book will be Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which completely enchanted me with this summary on the Barnes & Noble blog:

Bone Gap is a dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale about a girl whose beauty makes her a target, and a boy whose sight works differently from everyone else’s. It’s about the dangers and delights of seeing and being seen. It alternates between the contemporary small town where teenaged Finn has been raised by his stoic older brother, Sean, since their mom skipped town, and the enchanted hinterland where Sean’s girlfriend, Roza, is being held by a terrifying figure out of fairy tales. Enigmatic Roza washed up on the boys’ property after some mysterious trauma, and both fell in love with her in their own way. When she’s kidnapped by the man she was running from, Finn is the only witness, and his inability to save her haunts him. With the help of a bee-eyed girl and his slow discovery of his own strengths, he sets out to bring Rosa home.

I mean, come on. They had me at “dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale.”

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December’s book is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, which tackles some thorny and deeply relevant issues.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

hiatus recommendations

As for books that you might want to check out during the hiatus, I have ten here for you. It was very hard to keep it at ten. But my psychology education tells me that more choices is bad and leads to decision paralysis and less enjoyment when a decision is made, so ten it is.

  1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  2. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  3. American Girls by Alison Umminger
  4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (This is the first book in the Raven Cycle series and this series is my favorite series EVER and I am therefore terrified to recommend it to you guys. Basically, if you don’t like it, I don’t want to know.)
  5. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
  6. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  7. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
  8. And I Darken by Kiersten White
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  10. The Diviners by Libba Bray

BONUS: If you want to start a really great series, I recommend the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.

Happy reading!

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

September Book Selection: Dumplin’

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Coming in with a full 75% of the vote, September’s selection is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I am so excited for this one, guys! I have been reading a lot of books lately about body positivity and fat positivity and this is just supposed to be an incredible read. (PS. Read “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” by Jes Baker if you haven’t already. It’s a (non-fiction) revelation.)

From Goodreads:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

***

As always, feel free to post any thoughts you have while reading on this post, and if you want to get caught up on our past discussions, go here.

September Book Selection: Dumplin’

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The votes are in and our book selection for August is The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. This should be an interesting read, with, I’m sure, some difficult situations and themes. Can’t wait to dive in! Have you picked up your copy yet?

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’sAnnie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

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Feel free to share your thoughts here while reading. 🙂

(Find the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

Book of the Month: Big Magic

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Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my idols.

I first read Eat Pray Love about six years ago and I remember thinking, Ugh, why do some many people like this book? It is so self-indulgent and overdone and who does this woman think she is? I tossed it aside, thought and talked about it with derision for years. Something about it stayed in my mind though, and a few months ago, I began to think I should reread it. Then, when I lost my baby at the end of the summer, I felt like I needed something to lose myself in. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything, couldn’t seem to focus on a task or a book or a project, so I decided to try out audiobooks. (I had always thought of them with derision, too, like, Audiobooks aren’t really reading! Why have I spent so much of my time being so derisive?! What a waste!) I scrolled through the available books in the library’s digital catalogue and there it was, on the first page: Eat Pray Love. Like it was waiting for me. It was a sign. So I downloaded it. I lay there in the dark, listening to Liz Gilbert’s voice, and it felt, somehow, like she knew me. Like she had seen into the deepest parts of my soul, felt what I felt, and wrote it down on paper. I lapped up every word like a woman who has been deprived of water. At one point, as I lay listening one night and Bryan puttered around our room, he went still, listening too. Then he said, wryly, “Oh no, I don’t see why you relate to this woman at all.” 

After that, I completely revised my entire opinion of Eat Pray Love and Liz Gilbert herself.

When I heard that she had a new book out on the subject of creativity, I was intrigued. Being a writer, creativity has always fascinated me. Not just how to get more of it, but simply how it works. Why do we have it? What does it all mean? I knew that Liz Gilbert was going to have some interesting thoughts on the matter.

Boy, does she ever.

My favorite one is this: ideas are sentient little beings running around, looking for the perfect person to bring them into corporeal being. Inspiration may visit you, thinking you are the artist for them, only to be rebuffed in some way: maybe you think the idea is dumb, or you aren’t the right person for it. Inspiration may visit you, and then realize that you aren’t ready for it, or aren’t serious about it, and so it leaves you. And sometimes it inspiration visits you, and you are ready for each other, and it is a wonderful relationship that results in art.

I love this idea. I love the idea that we are receptacles for inspiration, that we are not wholly responsible for generating our art, that part of being an artist is communing with some otherworldly muse that bestows its gifts upon you, rather than dredging all your ideas up from the centre of your cells, which, after all, have to be a kind of finite supply.

Her book is full of anecdotes (the Ann Patchett one will blow your mind, seriously) and quotes and thoughts on how to live a more creative life but it is mostly this: permission to just be an artist. To just make whatever the hell you want to make, despite the fear, despite the critics, despite the outmoded and dangerous idea of the Tormented Artist. To accept the gifts that your muse is dying to give you. To live the creative life that you have always dreamed of. It is optimistic but not saccharine. It comes from a playful and light-hearted view of creativity (which is not to say that all created things should be light-hearted and playful, but that the process of making them should be enjoyable, rather than painful). There is a kind of wonderful mysticism in her ideas about creativity as well that I find glorious and inspirational.

If you are a creative person (and I truly believe that every single one of us is, in some way, a creative person) then I think you will find that many aspects of Big Magic ring true for you. Here are a few great ones for you to nibble on for now:

What is creative living? Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.

Possessing a creative mind is like having a border collie for a pet; if you don’t give it a job to do, it will find a job to do – and you might not like the job it invents.

Your ego is a wonderful servant but a terrible master – because the only thing your ego ever wants is reward, reward, and more reward. Always remember this: you are not only an ego; you are also a soul.

Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. And fear hates uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.

And there are about ten thousand more where that came from.

 

Book of the Month: Big Magic

Book of the Month: If You Find This Letter

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Wow, how is it already the middle of September? Time is sure flying.

Anyway, here is my book of the month for August, just a few days late (ha).

I stumbled upon If You Find This Letter by Hannah Brencher mostly by accident. I had heard her mentioned peripherally a few times, and I had watched her TED talk several months ago, while running on the treadmill at my gym. But as soon as I read what her book was about, what her organization does, I was hooked. I needed to know more.

Her book does not disappoint. It is a lovingly written portrayal of how she came to establish The World Needs More Love Letters. She talks frankly about the darkness that led her there, and her writing is so beautiful, so honest, so hopeful, I could not put it down. I wanted to be reading it every moment. Her story is inspiring and accessible, and soon, I found myself writing and leaving love letters of my own. It was like I couldn’t help it; I needed to be part of what she had started.

Honestly? This book changed my perspective on the world. It changed how I think about how I interact with the world. It changed how I think about my place in the world. It made me realize that it is not about me. I do not think that you could possibly ask for more from a book than to change your entire world view, do you?

(Psst, find the rest of my book recommendations here.)

Book of the Month: If You Find This Letter

Book of the Month: How to Grow Up

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Michelle Tea is like the no-bullshit older sister I never had, telling me the straight facts about life, pulling no punches, but with a soft hopefulness that makes it all easier to bear. This is why I love her.

I came across Michelle the first time almost two years ago on xojane.com, where she was writing about the process of becoming pregnant through fertility treatments. This immediately became my favorite series to read, and I would check back obsessively for new instalments. It was not a fun or easy process for her and her partner, Dashiell, and I appreciated how honest and raw she was about the whole experience. When I found out that she had a new book coming out, I was over the moon. On our recent trip to Vancouver, I took it with me, and savored the essays contained therein over several days. It is one of those books that you want to rip through as fast as you can because it is so amazing, but you also want to take as long as possible with, lingering over lovely sentences and chunks of jaded, shining wisdom.

Tea never shies away from the gritty truths of her life; she never glosses over her problems with addiction, or the less than adult decisions she has made. Her essays shine with honesty and openness, and I think that is why I gobbled them up so voraciously. From examinations of how her propensity for strange fashion affected her childhood to ruminations on why she lived, by choice, in actual squalor for some eight years of her life, Michelle Tea’s words are heartfelt and often very funny as she takes us through the many different places she has found herself in on her journey to adulthood.

That journey to adulthood is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. It has been on my mind a lot for a long time, actually. Though I am 26 years old (certainly not a geezer, but far from my bright-eyed, naive teenage self), I hardly ever feel like an adult. I feel like a child impersonating an adult. I bump up against struggles pretty much on a daily basis that force me to define how I am going to live my life, what kind of adult I am going to be, and the growing pains are sometimes pretty hard to bear. While reading How to Grow Up, I found myself writing down whole paragraphs as inspiration, so many rang so true for me. Despite the fact that our lives have been very different, I still found myself nodding my head in agreement on every page. Through her own experience, Michelle Tea has managed to hit on the fundamental aspects of our humanity.

And she’s just a damn entertaining writer.

Highly recommend. One of my favorites from this year, for sure.

(PS. Find the rest of my book recommendations here.)

 

Book of the Month: How to Grow Up

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

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June’s book of the month selection is something a little bit different.

It is non-fiction. It is travel. But it is a meandering, in-depth sort of travelogue, a scouring of the history, culture, and collective consciousness of a country that managed to capture my own soul: Ireland.

Rebecca Solnit traveled around the country on foot in the early half of the 90s, ruminating on what makes Ireland so Irish. She covers a number of subjects, including ancient history, recent history, many public figures, and the roots of Irish restlessness, from their propensity for bird imagery to the necessity of mass emigration.

Solnit’s prose is not easy, but it is beautiful. She creates shockingly gorgeous sentences that probe to the depths of the matter, and are always concise, yet somehow view the issue from a slightly sidewise angle. I loved the way she made me think so differently about a place that I thought I knew a lot about. She weaves a few stories of her own experiences in the country amidst the other stuff, but those stories really just act as jumping off points for bigger things.

By the end of it, I felt like I understood Ireland a little better, as well as an aspect of myself that I hadn’t known was unknown. Not your average travel book, and definitely worth a look if you like a long, slow, savory reading experience.

What did you read this month? What was your favorite? Least favorite? 

(My least favorite was definitely Beautiful Disaster by Jamie Maguire. We have to stop perpetuating this ridiculous notion that possessive, violent men are sexy. Shudder.)

(Psst! Find the rest of my book of the month recommendations here.)

Book of the Month: A Book of Migrations

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

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I chose this book entirely by accident: I needed something to read on the plane home from Vegas, and this was the first e-book available from my library that I vaguely recognized. Boom, done.

And then I read it, and it decimated my world, guys. (In the best way possible.)

Before I Fall is great for a number of reasons.

  1. It follows the Groundhog’s Day formula without feeling tired or forced. It really works, mostly because no two days feel the same. There is very little non-essential overlap.
  2. The main characters are all complicated, not-entirely-likeable girls. I liked that these girls were allowed to be human beings who were often terrible, but sometimes not, who were regular high school girls who could be wonderful to each other and awful to others, and vice versa, just as easily as breathing. We give a lot of leeway to male anti-heroes but very little to females, which is lame. Unlikeable characters are often the most interesting. I did not like Lindsay at all, but she was certainly the member of the gang who intrigued me the most.
  3. The main characters are all best friends, and the story is about their friendship more than anything, a friendship which is real and dynamic and layered.
  4. The pain of reading it, knowing that there is no way out. That, no matter how many times she Groundhog Days it up, there is no real waking up for Sam. It lends the story an emotional depth that resonated strongly with me.
  5. Sam goes through a strong, believable character arc is the story progresses, going from spoiled, bratty, awfulness to someone with a little bit more awareness and compassion for the people around her. She is certainly no saint by the time the story winds down, but she is markedly different than when we began. It is quite rewarding.

This is quality fiction, y’all. It baffles me how people continue to discount young adult fiction. I find most of the stories I love the most are young adult.

This is where it’s at. 

 

Book of the Month: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver