Date Read: October 31, 2019
Title: Animal Farm : the Graphic Novel
Author: George Orwell; Odyr
Genre: Classics; graphic novel (not a genre!); adult fiction; parable
Audience: Adult; teen
Rating: 4 stars
Things I liked: The illustrations in this book are fantastic. And strangely ominous and sometimes downright creepy. Fantastic, really.
Things I disliked: Eh. Nothing really. Except (and I can’t say I’m proud of this) I haven’t actually read the book on which this is based. Yep, that’s right. I’ve never read Animal Farm. So I have no point of reference or idea how true to the original this is. Which means this “review” is gonna be pretty darn short 🙂 I think this is a fantastic way to introduce people to classics, or really to graphic novels. Highly recommended. And now I’m gonna go read the original.
Date Read: October 23, 2019
Title: A Head Full of Ghosts
Author: Paul Tremblay
Rating: 4 stars
Things I liked: This book destroyed me. I think I’ve used this phrase before (of course I have) and I mean it every time. This one…wow. I have so many questions. Was Marjorie faking her mental illness the entire time? Was their father REALLY planning on [SPOILER ALERT] killing them? Was Rachel a real person? That last question is me stretching a bit.
The ambiguity of how the story ends was fantastic. I’m usually not a huge fan of that style, but I guess it works here. I would also say that horror generally isn’t my thing, either, but I loved this one. (Okay, I gotta stop saying that specific genres “aren’t my thing.” Seriously, how would I know if I don’t read it that often? That is a reading/book pet peeve of mine, anyway. I don’t like reading/book snobs.) Because the story is told from the perspective of an 8-year-old there’s some doubt as to the reliability of the narrator, which ups the creep considerably. I was never quite sure I understood what was going on, and I still don’t really understand how much I missed. I’m not going to go over the plot much, because it’s a little bit hard to explain without any more spoilers than I’ve already given. Suffice it to say a lot of bad (objectively) stuff goes down, and I’m not sure even to this day who the “culprit” really was. If there was an actual culprit. Or if everything that happened was in fact of a supernatural origin.
Things I disliked: [SPOILER ALERT] The indifferent to downright terrible parenting is an overdone trope. It bores me, to be honest. Well, first it frustrates me, then it bores me.
All in all, a very well done horror novel. Again, I’m not overly familiar with the genre, but I know what works for me and this absolutely did it. I got stressed out enough to set the book down for a time, but ultimately I very much enjoyed the book. I should also mention that this book led to one of the best discussions my book group has had, so that was fun.
Date Read: October 22, 2019
Title: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Genre: Nonfiction; science
Audience: Adult, teen, some children?
Rating: 4 stars
Things I liked: I love how straight forward this book is. A kid asks a question (Will my cat eat my eyeballs?) and she answers it head on (Not right away). As I mention below, technically this is an adult book? I’m basing that on where my library and others in our system have placed it. However, I can see many teenagers getting a kick out of this book, and even some tweens. Her prose is approachable and humorous (I so badly want to make a bad pun here, but I will resist the urge), without getting into the technical bits too much.
Things I disliked: I was seriously thrown off by the audience categorization. Doughty says in the introduction that the book was written for anyone really, but the questions were actually asked by children, so I assumed this was a children’s book. I have yet to see a reviewer or library (at least in my system) put this in children’s nonfiction. I find that distracting, but I’m guessing that’s because I’m a cataloger and categorizing books correctly is my job. In other words, I need to chill out.
This is an excellent book. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in science. I’d put her up there with Mary Roach for nonfiction recommendations, especially for reluctant nonfiction readers.
I received a copy of this ARC from the publisher. Thank you to Norton!
Date Read: October 18, 2019
Title: Juliet Takes a Breath
Author: Gabby Rivera
Genre: General fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Things I liked: Juliet is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican lesbian who is spending the summer in Portland working with her favorite feminist writer on a school project. Over the course of her project, Juliet comes to one significant realization: she is the only one who can determine who she is and what it means to her to be a feminist of color. While I appreciate the questions Juliet asks and how she goes about trying to figure herself out (I don’t remember being this…questioning? Knowing it’s okay to question things?) I also didn’t enjoy the manner in which the story was told. Oftentimes it felt like I was being lectured. However, I can appreciate a book for what it is, respect the subject manner (I really wish this had been released when I was this age), and still not really like the story itself. I don’t know, I have complicated feelings about this book. Oh, this was supposed to include what I enjoyed. I enjoyed Juliet’s family and descriptions of people and places with which I’m not familiar. Harlowe’s good intentions with bad execution made me uncomfortable (as I should be), as I see this type of feminism quite a bit. Juliet’s questions made me question some of the parts of feminism I take for granted, which is always a good thing.
Things I disliked: For some reason, I completely missed the fact that this story takes place in 2003. This is probably more of a commentary as my attention as a reader, because the book literally has the year on the very first page of the book. So I spent ⅔ of the book not being able to figure out why Juliet wasn’t using her super powerful handheld computer (y’know, her smartphone) to do research when it turns out…they weren’t really in public use at that point 🙂 However, once I did figure this out it was fun to be back in 2003, sorta. I was roughly the same age as Juliet during this time, so that part was enjoyable.
Overall, I’d recommend this to teenagers who need something comforting when navigating tricky (monumental understatement, methinks) moments. This book is great for showing kids that they’re not alone. And perhaps adults, too.
Thank you to the publisher for the ARC.
Date Read: October 7, 2019
Title: City of Ghosts
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genre: Supernatural fiction; general fiction; ghost story
Audience: Middle grade
Rating: 3.5 stars
Things I liked: The setting! I mean, who doesn’t like a ghost story set in Scotland? The concept was interesting, too: Cassidy has a brush with death and is pulled back from the brink by Jacob, who just happens to be a ghost himself. After her near death experience (actually, I think she technically died) Cassidy can also see other ghosts. When her parents get the opportunity to film a TV show in Scotland, the family spends the next few weeks exploring the history of Edinburgh. Turns out there are a few ghosts in Scotland…it also turns out that Cassidy isn’t the only person who sees ghosts. Shenanigans ensue, and the kids end up in some fairly sketchy, dangerous situations.
Things I disliked: I’m definitely too old for middle grade. It wasn’t compelling to me, which again is fine as I’m not the target demographic. I feel like my niece, who is the target audience, would be frightened by the death parts of the story, but is this necessarily a bad thing? Yep, I don’t have the answer to that.
Why was I sometimes bored by this story? I also don’t have the answer for that. I think she’s a fine writer, but this book didn’t always work for me. I think I may have up-rated (is that even a thing?) this based on my appreciation for her other YA titles (This Savage Song in particular).
Date Read: October 1, 2019
Title: Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
Author: Lori Gottlieb
Genre: Memoir; self-help
Rating: 5 stars
Things I liked: There are times when you read the perfect book at just the perfect time. Ranganathan’s laws of library science were rattling around in my brain whenever I reflected on this audiobook (check it out here if you’re not familiar with this concept). Every person his or her book, and every book its reader! Actually, I have no idea why I flashed back to library school and that specific part of it (really, seriously, THAT was my takeaway from grad school?!?), but this book had this strange, but very positive, impact on me. I needed to read this right at the time I was reading it.
Gottlieb experiences a traumatic situation in her personal life, and decides she needs to see a therapist. Oh, I forgot to mention that Gottlieb is herself a therapist. This book is a collection of her sessions with her own therapist and sessions with her clients. One of her clients is a very young woman who was diagnosed with cancer immediately following her honeymoon. Gottlieb works with this woman until right before she dies. I actually cried.
Things I disliked: I honestly can’t remember at this point. I think my reaction to this book was incredibly personal, and I can’t say that anyone will feel like I did. I felt like I was being reminded that pain is pain and I shouldn’t compare my struggles to other people. My struggles/issues/problems are valid.
Highly recommended. Especially for anyone who needs a little push to make that call to a therapist.
Date Read: September 18, 2019
Title: Victoria the Queen : an Intimate Biography of the Woman Who Ruled an Empire
Author: Julia Baird
Audience: Adult (possible crossover interest for some older teens)
Rating: 4 stars
Things I liked: Pretty comprehensive biography of a fascinating, complicated, oftentimes off-putting woman.
Things I disliked: To be honest, Victoria herself at times. It’s so weird to read that the most powerful woman in the world thought that women shouldn’t be in the workplace. I literally can’t even grasp the amount of mental gymnastics needed in order to buy that load of crap (easy enough for me to say at this point, I guess). Great example of how we’re all victims to systemic misogyny.