Review: The First Rule of Punk

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Review for "The First Rule of Punk" by Celia C. Perez (2017)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I loved this book!

Maria Luisa (or as she wants you to call her, Malu) is a Mexican American girl who loves punk culture (zines, clothing, music). She is uprooted from her life in Florida and moves with her mother to Chicago, where she comes up against a principal and social queen who hate her punk look, her punk band, and pretty much everything about her. With the help of her dad, as well as people in her neighborhood, Malu learns to be herself and embrace the many aspects of her personality–punk, the Spanish language, and her Mexican heritage.

When people say that ‘we need diverse characters in YA literature’, this is truly it. I have read many books with punk characters as well as many books with characters of color, but never a YA book that blends it together quite like this. I also loved the inclusions of Malu’s zines all throughout the novel, which really gave it a touch of realism. I also loved the fact that I learned quite a bit about Mexican culture through reading this, without it sounding heavy-handed or preachy.

Do read this this. You’ll thank me.

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Review: Eat Only When You’re Hungry

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Review for "Eat Only When You're Hungry" by Lindsay Hunter (2017)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a short little book that packs a helluva punch. I’ve loved Lindsay Hunter ever since her first novel Ugly Girls. Her writing is concise, smart, and she’s just not afraid to go there. This book is no exception to her genius.

Eat Only When You’re Hungry is the story of Greg, a overweight, depressed, middle aged accountant, who rents an RV and travels cross country to try and find his missing drug addict son, Greg Jr (GJ). For the entire novel we’re mostly in Greg’s head, flashing back and forth between his RV trip and his earlier marriage to GJ’s mother Marie, past scenes of his son’s gradual decent into addiction, and his present stale marriage to a fellow accountant, Deb. In many ways and more, Greg is just as messed up as his son, GJ: he has an unhappy childhood and in turn is a uncommitted father to his son, a bad husband to his first wife, and is a bad husband to his current wife. He eats junk food constantly to numb his pain, or any kind of reminder of his past failures.

As I mentioned earlier, this is a short book (about 200 pages), but an absolute beast to read. I liked it, but make no mistake–this is some dismal subject matter here. Addiction is always a scary subject, and I certainly applaud Ms. Hunter for exploring it. Booze, love, control, drugs, food, sex–everybody in this story has some kind of craving for something. The words kept me going, though I can’t say that I loved my experience with this book. None of the characters are particularly likeable, and many of the character’s actions are repetitive to the point where you just want to scream “enough already!” Bad choices outweigh good ones, and the cycle of fucking up and coming back again to the same poor choice is, as you come to realize, the language of broken people who don’t realize how broken they really are. It’s also the nature of hunger, which is reflected on multiple levels in this novel–hunger for love, for attention, for a sense of belonging.

I definitely recommend this book. Great writing, deep insight. A-

Review: Today Will Be Different

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Review for "Today Will Be Different" by Maria Semple (2016)
Rating: No Rating (DNF)

DNF on page 87.

“Today will be different,” declares Eleanor Flood. She wakes up and decides to be polite: spend time with her son, have sex with her husband. Of course you know that today won’t be different, but anyway, so begins this book.

Zzzzz…

It’s interesting that even the author calls this book what it really is on page 7: “a normal day of white people problems.” It helps to know that even the author knows her character is complete bullshit: a rich doctor’s wife with too much time on her hands, grudging time with her son, her dog, her husband, pretty much everyone around her. It begins somewhat funny, but it declines into one a really bad joke. A book trying to be witty when it isn’t. Bleh.

And oh yeah, the plot is all over the place. Between learning about the main character’s long lost sister, her husband’s secret, her dysfunctional childhood, her former career as an artist–you just don’t care about what else is going to be thrown in during the course of one day in poor, rich Eleanor Flood’s life. I wouldn’t mind this clusterfuck so much if it were not for the fact that she’s not even a likable person–she’s ridiculously self absorbed, uninteresting, and obnoxious while pretending to be friends with people.

Perhaps other people find this book amusing, which is why it’s on the NYT Bestseller list. I normally don’t read books on the list though. I’d feed this book to wolves.

Review: The Book of the Unnamed Midwife

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Review for "The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" by Meg Elison (2016)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is so full of Win I don’t know where to start. Post-apocalyptic feminist fiction. Sign me up.

This novel takes place in a not-too distant future, with an unnamed female nurse-midwife waking up in a deserted hospital after a plague has ravaged most of the world’s population. The plague takes on the form of a fever, striking everyone but mostly women in childbirth, who give birth to dead babies and in turn die as well. Because of the extreme scarcity of women, the world has become a dangerous place for them. There are no rules or civility, and women in the world after the plague are regularly raped, mutilated, and enslaved by lawless bands of men, traded for goods and services, treated as property. It’s harsh stuff to read, but the Unnamed Midwife avoids this fate by dressing as a man and battling for survival. She helps all of the women she meets by rescuing them from their slavers, offering them birth control, and assisting with births. The story follows her as she journeys from San Francisco to the North and beyond, through hell on earth and finally, to something like hope.

This book takes post-apocalyptic fiction and completely turns it into something that I haven’t seen done before. I usually hate it when these kinds of stories don’t explain things (i.e., the cause of the plague, etc) but here I didn’t mind the not knowing, because it’s the story itself that’s so much more important. The midwife is very open about her own sexuality and although (I think) she identifies as bisexual, her constant changing of gender roles through her practice of dressing as a man turns this notion on its head. Either way, I loved it.

This book is a series, and there is a second book available (“The Book of Etta”) that came out earlier this year. I ran to my library and got it a couple of hours after I finished with this. There is also a third book (“The Book of Flora”) that is set to be published early next year, which I plan to read as well.

Meg Elison is an incredible writer and this is an equally incredible book. Do read this. You won’t regret it!