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
I’ve decided that not only do I want to meet these authors, I’d like to have tea and crumpets with them. As long as they pay, of course.
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Roxane Gay
- Ottessa Moshfegh
- Angie Thomas
- Tiffany D. Jackson
- Katherine Faw
- Jason Reynolds
- Toni Morrison
- Haruki Murakami
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.
Alright, alright…we’re halfway through 2018. I set my yearly reading goal at 140 books back in January, right now I’m at 86. Here are the best books I’ve read this year so far, in no particular order:
- Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson – Beautiful autobiographical novel written in verse about the coming of age of a Black girl in the 1960’s and 70’s.
- Calling My Name, Liara Tamani – Set in the 90’s, this is a beautiful fiction book about the coming of age of a Black girl growing up in Texas.
- Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi – This book is a bit of a shape-shifter. To say it’s about identity or mental health is to deny its true power, so I’ll say it’s about certain subjects that are so thought-provoking it defies explanation. Let that sit for a minute.
- Sometimes I Lie, Alice Feeney – Pleasantly surprised by this one. Suspenseful, engaging, and full of drama. Loved this!
- Where the Dead Sit Talking, Brandon Hobson – “Quiet” kinda book that packs a helluva punch about the dysfunctional life of an adopted Native American teen in 1980’s Oklahoma.
- Heads of the Colored People, Nafissa Thompson-Spires – First collection of short stories this year that I actually liked. This is definitely one to read.
- Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson – Another recent read that manages to be hopeful, frightening, and inspiring all rolled into one. Great book.
- Convenient Store Woman, Sayaka Murata – I was recently blown away by this one. This writer is definitely one to watch!
- Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? – Kathleen Collins – Kathleen Collins was a Black playwright, filmmaker, and writer who died of cancer in 1988. Several years ago, her daughter gathered many of her still-unpublished writings and issued them in this volume. The stories in this book are definitely revelatory and quite profound–the reason you haven’t seen a review for this on here is because I still just don’t have words for it yet. I read this back in March and it is extremely good. Definitely check it out!
- The Best We Could Do, Thi Bui – Another recent read that completely blew me away with its beautiful drawings and message.