Netgalley/ARCs, Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

5 stars of 5 ★★★★★

Pub. Date: July 29, 2014

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

*This eBook was provided free by the publisher through Netgalley in return for an honest review.

This ebook short gets straight to the point: We should all believe in equality. We should all strive for equality. Thus, we should all be feminists.

Here’s the summary(via Goodreads):

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay—adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun. With humor and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century—one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviors that marginalize women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences—in the U.S., in her native Nigeria, and abroad—offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a bestselling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

A great work for students new to the Women Studies field or for anyone that just doesn’t get it or needs to be reminded of the principles on which feminism stands. It’s a short read, and it’s not littered with jargon or theory, just real life experiences by a real live woman.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson

5 stars of 5 ★★★★★

If you’re a time travel enthusiast like moi, you’ve probably come across the “let’s kill Hitler” troupe, either as a joke or actual plot pillar. It’s usually used to establish that there’s fixed points in time that cannot be changed.  In Life After Life, it’s different. Here’s the summary (via Goodreads):

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions

Ursula Todd has lived and died many ways. She’s like a video game character. She dies and then reboots at the moment before the fixed point, were given her sense of déjà vu, she tries to guide herself around whatever catastrophe befell her previously.

There’s so many catastrophic events to choose from in her life, too. She’s born in 1910 and anyone with any sense of history can tell you how the world shook in the 20th century.

It’s a fascinating tale and I loved it so much because of the deeply real characterization of the Todd family. I love stories of families and this family was remarkably real.

Plus, dogs play a major role in this story, and they’re even treated as part of the family, which I love.

I would recommend this book to anyone that loves family centric stories, magical realism, historical fiction, and even time-travel. It’s a very good read.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “Cold Comfort Farm” by Stella Gibbons

5 stars of 5 ★★★★★

The quote that sums up the entire book: “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” -Aunt Ada Doom

Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm is a Modern Classic written in the 1930s. It follows Flora Poste, who after her parents’ death, sets about finding relatives who would agree to take her in turn for her meager yearly allowance. She has her choice of relatives, too, as they all agree to take her in. There’s one family, though, in Sussex, on a farm called Cold Comfort, that tells her she has rights and that a horrible wrong was done to her father. This, and Flora’s inability to pass up a challenge, creates the basis for one hilarious novel. Here’s the summary( via Goodreads):

When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time.

This new Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Lynne Truss discussing Stella Gibbons’ unconventional life and career and her joyously satirical voice.

I loved this novel and was thrilled to find out that Gibbon’s was a prolific writer. I’ve added quite a few of her other novels to my to-read list. There is a movie version, which is quite good, and what made me want to read this novel. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking for an intelligent, yet funny novel with a little bit of odd thrown in.

Book Lists, Favorites List, Reviews, Series Reviews, Young Adult books, Young Adult Reveiws

My 5 Star Books: Young Adult Books

If you say you don’t like YA, you’re wrong (and I don’t like you, nana-nana-boo-boo). Young Adult literature is the most rapidly evolving genre of our time, and due to its ever changing nature, we now have Middle Grade and New Adult genres, which were once subsets of YA.

The Young Adult genre is not all Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Teen Harlequin anymore. Adventure types, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, all these genres exist inside the Young Adult World.

So with that said, here’s some of my favorite Young Adult Books, the ones I rated 5 stars.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: “Dodie Smith’s first novel transcends the oft-stodgy definition of “a classic” by being as brightly witty and adventuresome as it was when published nearly fifty years ago.”

This is one of my favorite books ever by one of my favorite authors ever, so yeah it gets 5 stars. Crumbling castles, once rich-now poor families, interesting family dynamics, some weirdos, and a reclusive writer-dad that is suffering from some serious writer’s block, all told by a narrator who’s so relatable, you’ll fell like you’ve know her since preschool, this book is amazing. Dodie Smith’s adult work is glorious too, but that’s another list. Oh, and Smith wrote 101 Dalmatians so yeah, go ahead and buy this one. You’re welcome.

Angus, Thongs. and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison: “In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s ‘Fabbity fab fab!'”

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison: “Picture the scene: Dother Hall performing arts college somewhere Up North, surrounded by rolling dales, bearded cheesemaking villagers (male and female) and wildlife of the squirrely-type. On the whole, it’s not quite the showbiz experience Tallulah was expecting… but once her mates turn up and they start their ‘FAME! I’m gonna liiiiive foreeeeeever, I’m gonna fill my tiiiiights’ summer course things are bound to perk up. Especially when the boys arrive. (When DO the boys arrive?) Six weeks of parent-free freedom. BOY freedom. Freedom of expression… cos it’s the THEATRE dahling, the theatre!!”

Both The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson and The Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series are hilarious, cute, and well worth the read.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: “Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however,nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.”

His Dark Material series is a classic tome of YA fantasy and is a must read for any fantasy enthusiast.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: “Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other”

I loved this tale of friendship, love, and war. I also really enjoyed Rose Under Fire which is kind of a sequel to CNV.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper: “Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

A Brief History of Montmaray is a heart-stopping tale of loyalty, love, and loss, and of fighting to hold on to home when the world is exploding all around you.”

This is a really great series with a little of all the things I love. The series just gets increasingly better, and the last book is mind-blowingly good. I’m still hung up about it and it made me love the name Rupert even more.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

This was really cute and thought provoking and is just an A+ book all around.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: “It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.”

You’ve heard of this one. You’ve probably even read this one. It’s magnificent and one of the few books that made me cry like a baby (Fun Fact: I’ve only cried over one other book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff: “Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.”

I discovered this one in 2014 and loveeeeed it. The movie, though, sucks. It’s a short read, but it’s so wonderful.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: “Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.”

This book is fluff, but marshmallow fluff on ice cream with brownie bit thrown in fluff, a.k.a. the good stuff. It’s adorable, it’s poignant at times, and it just makes you feel better after reading it. Plus, there’s supposedly a Simon Snow spin off in the works, so all you Drarry fans get ready.

These are ten of my top favorite YA books. I love them all in individual ways and smile when I see them in bookstores or other people’s shelves. They’re old friends.

Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “Graduates in Wonderland” by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Five stars ★★★★★

I loved this true (if slightly edited) account of two twenty-somethings finding their way in the world. I feel like I know Rachel and Jessica, and even if I am slightly jealous of their lives, I am so glad they’re lives are possible through hard work and determination. It gives hope to people like me( who really, really wants to work in publishing in London but lives in a black-hole the shape and size of a southern US state).

Through a series of emails, we follow two Brown graduates and their lives in Beijing, Melbourne, London (Jessica) and New York, Paris, and London (Rachel). We see their quest for employment, love, friendship, and understanding of their place in the world through a series of emails to each other. they find that sometimes you have to do things you never thought you’d have to do, just to make it as an adult, and as someone that’s experiencing the same kind of hardships, I appreciate to see other people royally screwing things up and coming out the better for it.

I recommend this book to anyone who is trying to figure out the next stage in their life or those who want to live vicariously through others.

Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “I work at a Public Library” by Gina Sheridan

★★★★★

If you seriously think librarians do nothing but sit around all day reading books, then please read this book. If you think libraries and librarians are or should be obsolete, please read this book. If you know a librarian, give them a hug and ask, “Which crazy patron did you have to deal with today?” Librarians are superheros. You disagree? Then read this book.

Libraries fill a different space in each person’s life. They can be the place where you get free books, the place where you get free internet access, the place where you take your kids for Story-time, the place where you took your one and only yoga class, the place where you took your new tablet/e-reader and were shown how to use it or took a computer basics class, where you took your resume for critique and got a job with take resume, should I keep going? ‘Cause I can.

Libraries are the hub of communities. They are the one true place where a person regardless of whatever variable are equal and are around people they may not meet in regular day life. Libraries are 3rd spaces in communities, meaning a place that isn’t home or school/work. Libraries are needed and always will be. Will they change? Yes! Just like every other aspect of society, they’re going to change.

If you’re even a little bit curious about anything I’ve said, read this book full of stories from librarians across the country (even the world) and what a normal day is like for them. If you can’t afford/don’t want to buy the book, check out the Tumblr here. It’s hilarious, even if you don’t work in a library. I recommend it and the book.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews, Young Adult books, Young Adult Reveiws

Review: Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter

5 stars ★★★★★

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter was exactly what I needed to read. It’s a poignant story about two girls who aren’t exactly friends, but whose lives are bringing them closer together, until they become life long best friends. Here’s the summary(via Goodreads):

It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship

There’s so many hard topics covered in this story, set in Guernsey, UK, in the 1990s. Eating disorders, neglectful parents, dead parents, school drama, boys, and more are here in this story. It reminded me of My Mad, Fat Diaries and I loved it just as much as I love that TV series. The pain and hardship the two main characters-Flo and Renee-face and battle through is inspiring. I really appreciated reading about characters who lost a parent at a young age, because I can relate to that and it’s not something one reads about often.

I loved this book. I really did. It’s everything that’s right about YA literature today. It shows two typical girls as best friends who have a deeply rooted friendship that is often reserved for guys( because Aristotle said only guys can have true friendships and society still believes this). I recommend it. Read it. Feel it. Love it.

P.S. There a sequel that I will be adding to my buy immediately list. It’s called Goose.

Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews, Young Adult Reveiws

Reveiw: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

5 stars of 5

I loved this collection of graphic novels (graphic non-fiction) by Marjane Satrapi. It chronicles her life in pre- and postwar Iran, and her life abroad as a refuge. It’s amazing to see how life in Iran completely changed during a short period of time. Here’s the summary:

Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi’s best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips.

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom–Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.

This was one of my first forays into the comics world, and I am really glad to have given the genre a chance. I selected this title as December’s Teen Book Club Read, because of its inspirational content. It’s not a straight forward account of overcoming diversity, because it’s mixed with actual teenage, young adult shortcomings and self-consciousness. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

P.S. Persepolis means “City of Persians”.

Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

5 stars of 5

This book was hilarious. It was witty. It was intelligent. That’s why I gave it 5 stars. It’s also written by two authors which I hold in high esteem. That is not why I gave it 5 stars, because I try to to gauge a book’s worth by its strength alone, not factoring the author into account.

Good Omens is about the end of the world and how, no matter how hard Heaven and Hell try to formulate fail-proof plans, humans are just going to f*** it up somehow.

Is that a bad thing, though? An Angel and a Daemon, who have been living on earth since the beginning, are asking that very question themselves. Plus, they like their lives as an antiquarian bookseller and resident cool-person, and neither occupation would be possible anywhere else.

As the time for the apocalypse draws near, the plans so carefully put in place by heaven and hell start to fall apart and it seems that the world just may end, but who knows which side will win( neither side is so sure they will win anymore).

I recommend this book to anyone who likes apocalypse satire, humor, fantasy, or just poking fun at written-in-stone beliefs.

Not really wanting to read it? You can listen to it here for a short time: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04knt4h

Audiobook reviews, Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Audio Book Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Everyone loves Amy Poehler, right? She’s one of the founders of the popular Smart Girls at the Party web series and web site along with one of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade. She and Tina Fey are like a packaged set. She was on SNL for years. She’s funny. In short(hehe Amy’s only 5’2), she great. Her book is too. Don’t believe me? Here’s the summary:

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.

I listened to the audio-book version and I think it has to be even better than the book version. I mentioned in a previous post various narrators that make an appearance, but Amy Poehler is a performer. Listening to her perform in your car is just cool.

She imparts great wisdom, too. There are gems like, “I think we should stop asking people in their twenties what they “want to do” and start asking them what they don’t want to do” and “You can only move if you are actually in the moment. You have to be where you are to get where you need to go.”

There were so many good points in this book. It’s similar in style to Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in that it’s funny and wise.

I recommend it. I especially recommend the audio-book.