Even though 2018 isn’t officially over, I wanted to take the time to do a quick round up of all of the five star reads I’ve come across this year. Most of these have been previously reviewed here (as shown with a link), and if they haven’t, the review will be forthcoming in the next few weeks.
BTW, there are more than 10 here. In no particular order, they are:
- American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment – Shane Bauer
- The Circuit – Francisco Jimenez
- We the Animals – Justin Torres
- In My Father’s House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family – Fox Butterfield
- What Girls Are Made Of – Elana K. Arnold
- Any Man – Amber Tamblyn
- The End of Eddy – Edouard Louis
- A Lucky Man – Jamel Brinkley
- My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
- Heavy: An American Memoir – Kiese Laymon
- Brother – David Chariandy
- Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? – Kathleen Collins
- Illegal – Eoin Colfer
Is this thing on???
I’m still around, guys. My third round of dissertation edits is due on Tuesday, September 4th, which has left me little time for this site. I will be back to reading and posting with some exciting stuff by the middle of next week.
Ok, so today’s Top Ten Tuesday is technically “Books You’d Mash Together.” Since no one is paying me to write fiction ideas here, I’m going to suggest a few plot mashups that I’ve found noteworthy over the past few years.
- I Am Still Alive – Kate Alice Marshall. Currently reading this, it’s about a teenage girl surviving in a remote section of Canadian wilderness after the murder of her father. Mashup: The movie The Revenant and Gary Paulsen’s novel “Hatchet.”
- I Stop Somewhere – T.E. Carter. I personally didn’t like this book, but it’s deals with sexual assault, its aftermath, and the afterlife. Mashup: Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” and Jay Asher’s “Thirteen Reasons Why.”
- The Ritual – Adam Nevill. Four buddies go hiking in the wilds of Scandinavia and find a murderous Satanic cult. I read this book long before it became a semi-scary movie on Netflix, btw. Mashup: The Blair Witch Project (minus the irritating teenagers) meets Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” meets The Wicker Man meets Deliverance.
- Boo – Neil Smith. A young boy wakes up in heaven, then discovers that he was the victim of a school shooting. Even worse, his killer may also be in heaven. Mashup: Alice Sebold’s “The Lovely Bones” and Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”
Not Quite Mashups, but Similar in plot…
- City of Saints and Thieves – Natalie Anderson —–> Ocean’s 11 (film)
- Crimes in Southern Indiana – Frank Bill ——> any episode of “Breaking Bad”
- The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir – D. Watkins ——> HBO’s “The Wire”
- Bleed Like Me – Christa Desir ——-> Sid and Nancy (film)
- The Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard ——> Jeffrey Eugenides’ “The Virgin Suicides”
- Brother – Ania Ahlborn ——> The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (film)
Ya’ll know me…I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum. I read and review what interests me, I don’t care about what books are trendy or popular. Occasionally, however, my curiosity gets the best of me and I pick up a book that everybody else likes too. Below are some “popular” picks that weren’t all that bad after all…
1. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
I loved this whole trilogy. I don’t care about allegations of plagarism, nitpicky little observations people make about the movies, yadda, yadda. These are all decent books. Sue me.
2. Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon
Another popular pick I loved immensely. I think I even reviewed it here
3. Wonder – R.J. Palacio
This book had me crying at a Panera Bread restaurant at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Not out of pity, but due to an incredible empathy the author manages to make you feel for the main character. This is not easy to do. I wholeheartedly and steadfastly recommend this book to everyone. Yes, everyone.
4. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green
I’ve read the blogs of those who do flips over John Green books. I’m not one of those people. As a matter of fact, this is the only John Green book I’ve read. However, I really really liked this book. I can see why it has such a wide appeal, for adults and kids alike.
5. The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls
Another popular nonfiction book that I really, really liked. I haven’t seen the movie and don’t plan to.
Ahh well, there’s 5. Til next time, folks…
Ahh, memories. This is a good topic this week…
Certain books will always remind you of the past and the time period of your life you were in when you read it. I’ve listed a few that make me a bit nostalgic for that special moment.
Top Five Books That Are Linked to Special Moments in My Life
Frog and Toad Are Friends – Arnold Lobel
This is one of the very first books I remember reading when I was a kid.
“I Can’t,” Said the Ant – Polly Cameron
Another book that makes me misty-eyed. I remember my Dad used to read this book to me and my younger sister every night before we went to bed. He used to do different voices for each character, and we both thought that was the greatest thing in the world.
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Hamlet has always been my favorite Shakespeare play, ever since I read it in high school. I remember reading this out loud when I was pregnant with my son, hoping he would “hear” it and the words would soothe him during the evenings when he would kick me like crazy. He is now a teenager and he loves to read, so I think that this book was an excellent choice.
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
I first came to know about Plath when I was in 7th grade. I remember reading one of her poems (ironically entitled “Spinster”) and at that moment being really, really moved by it. I went to the library and looked up some of her other poems, and from there it became an obsession. I did my undergraduate thesis on Sylvia Plath. I’m very proud of that work.
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison’s first book. This was the book that truly “awakened” me to the world of Black literature (before this point my reading was mostly White/European authors) and women’s literature. I read this book and thought: this is what I want to read and write about for the rest of my life. And it’s still the topic that I’m writing about today.
The ID Channel calls,
Ok, ok…before I begin Top Ten Tuesday, the weekly meme by That Artsy Reader Girl, I have to confess to you guys that I’m a bit biased, as my choices for favorite short stories are a bit old-fashioned. Even though I read short stories and novellas all the time, I just don’t think anything comes really close to classics. Also keep in mind that I used to be a middle school teacher, so naturally a lot of classic stories pop up in kid’s textbooks. When you’ve read something umpteen times over the years, you can quote it with your eyes closed. Naturally you grow to like it too.
- “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson – A small town’s terrifying ritual gone amok. I used to teach this story to my 7th grade students and pass out a small slip of folded paper with an ‘X’ on it to illustrate the plot.
- “Patriotism” by Yukio Mishima – Japanese writer’s story about a man and his wife committing seppuku (ritual suicide) in response to a military defeat. Strangely beautiful and mad deep.
- “The Tell Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe – Another story I used to teach to my students. They used to love this!
- “Wild Child” by T.C. Boyle – Historical fiction account of Victor of Aveyron, the first documented “feral” child, in 1800’s France.
- “1922” by Stephen King – Greed and betrayal and rats. The Netflix movie was pretty close to the novella, thankfully.
- “Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes – A little boy gets more he bargained for when he tries to snatch a woman’s purse.
- “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant – Another one in my 7th grade curriculum about fakery and the power of an authentic life. There’s a twist at the end that always gets me, every time.
- “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – Magical realism to tell a satirical tale about ignorance vs. power of freedom, or flight.
- “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin – Story about a woman who loses her husband, then gains him back, and then dies–all within an hour. Powerful feminist message here too.
- “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury – Science fiction story about a class of students on Venus, where it rains constantly and the sun comes out for only one hour every seven years. My 6th graders used to like this one–lots.
Another strange Top Ten Tuesday topic is official today, it’s “Series I’ve Given Up On.” I don’t read serial fiction much anymore, so this topic isn’t for me. There was a time, though, as a young grasshopper when I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High, Nancy Drew, and The Babysitter’s Club, but we won’t talk about that, will we?
I’ve decided to explore some graphic novels today. Whether you call it a graphic novel or a comic book, I find the medium to be highly underrated. There is always a visual element to storytelling, and some authors/illustrators are doing it quite well. The following graphic novels I’ve either read or have been on my radar for a while:
Top Eleven Kick-Ass Graphic Novels
- Maus, Art Speigelman. Maus is probably one of the best graphic novels ever produced, nearly 25 years after its first publication. It’s the story of the author’s father’s experiences during the Holocaust, told through very brilliantly drawn cartoons. Even though the Jews are represented as mice (the Nazis are cats), you still cannot help but to be deeply moved by it. When I was a classroom teacher I used to read this with my 7th graders and they loved this book.
- Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi. Another classic graphic novel all about a very precocious girl growing up during the Iranian Revolution of the late 1970’s and 1980’s. She’s feisty and definitely not your typical “little” girl narrator.
- Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman and David Polonsky. A story of a soldier’s repressed memories during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The soldier follows up with various people who were in the conflict, trying to fill in the holes in his memory. The story is never completely there, but this is still a fascinating book.
- Deogratias, Jean Phillippe Stassen. A graphic novel about the Rwandan genocide. I didn’t like this book so much, there’s a lot of switching back and forth through time and I found the narration too confusing to follow. I do, however, recommend that you read it if you’re into graphic novels and form your own opinion on it.
- Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner. I wrote a review for this book and you’ll find it here. Fashioned as a diary, this is a graphic novel about a 15-year-old girl growing up in the 70’s who begins having really creepy sex with her mom’s 30-something-year-old boyfriend. This relationship is not presented as grooming or pedophilia, but one in which the main character actively and happily takes part in. It’s disturbing, but it’s a book that provokes a level of thought that I didn’t think was possible.
- Rent Girl, Michelle Tea. Kinda funny but not-so-funny graphic novel about a lesbian’s adventures as a sex worker for mostly male clients. Totally raw and terrifying.
- Zahra’s Paradise, Amir. This one I haven’t read yet, though it’s on my radar. It’s about a protester’s death during fraudulent elections in Iran in 2009. The death was captured on social media, and this book is a fictionalization of this story.
- Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty, G.Neri. I also wrote a review for this book and you’ll find it here. Graphic novel that revisits the true story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old child who died in Chicago in 1994. A member of a gang, he racked up 23 felonies and 5 misdemeanors before carrying out a violent hit, which mistakenly ended the life of a 14-year-old girl. Several days later, Robert was murdered by members of his own gang who feared he was an informant. It’s a meditation on inner city gangs and violence without sounding preachy. Gorgeous drawings too.
- Nat Turner, Kyle Baker. This one’s on my radar. It’s all about the 1831 Virginia rebellion led by Nat Turner, a slave who, upon hearing a voice from heaven that instructed him to do violence, rose up with a group and killed 55 slave holders before being captured and hanged. Even though don’t like the fact that it takes much of its info from William Styron’s Confessions of Nat Turner (a bogus, historically inaccurate account), this one’s still worth a read.
- The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui. This one’s on my radar and currently in my possession. With all the news lately on refugees and immigration, I think it is completely fitting to read this graphic novel about a family’s escape from the war in Vietnam and their subsequent life in America. I’ll have the review when I finish it.
- That’s right. I have 11. Anyway, the last book is Black Hole by Charles Burns. I currently have possession of this book and will be reading it over the next few weeks. It’s all about those awkward years you spend as a teenager. It’s good and thick and a really dark read, but I’m liking it so far.
Ok, that’s it. Read more graphic novels, ya’ll.