“You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)” by Felicia Day

I loved this book for some very important reasons:

1. Not to brag (and really, I’m not!) but Felicia Day and I are almost the same age so her discovery of the wonders of the internet, of being able to not be weird because there are like-minded people on the internet, of getting lost in the worlds of the internet kind of basically mirrors my own. I mean, I’m not internet-famous, Hollywood-famous and no one is going to read my memoirs (yet! we’ll go with that, ha!). I’m not a gamer. I know some of the things she references because of just paying attention on the internet.

2. My vice is fandoms of the YA book series variety and, honestly, I have met some of the best friends I will ever have through finding a shared love of Twilight (yes, Twilight… shush, haters). I’ve never met them in person but I’ve been talking to them for years (and years is far longer than I’ve talked basically anyone I knew in school). And that’s okay.

3. I’m introverted enough to need someone to occasionally say that all this is okay. To say “me too!” And that is basically what I found myself saying over and over as I read Felicia Day’s book. “Me too!” It felt darn good!

I don’t usually read memoirs because I don’t… get them. Not unless you’re like eighty and solved world hunger or something. But people my age or younger, writing books about their lives? I generally say “you do you, I’m gonna read that book over there instead” because… I don’t know, maybe it makes me feel unaccomplished. Maybe it’s jealousy. Who can say? The point is, I was very pleasantly surprised by this. It was almost like she was as startled to be writing the book as I was to be reading it. That’s a good thing.

And, in the best sense of irony, I bought and read this book because one of those best of friends I met on fanfiction.net and Twitter through a shared love of Twilight who told me I would like this book. And I loved it! So thanks, everybody!

“Behold the Dreamers” by Imbolo Mbue

I didn’t realize I managed to read Imbolo Mbue’s BEHOLD THE DREAMERS just three days but, apparently, I did. Thanks for keeping track, Goodreads addiction of mine!

I think I didn’t realize because I got lost so fast and so hard in this fantastic story of what America means to those who are born here and to those who come here. It seemed like I spent weeks in the fictional lives of Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian illegal immigrant, and Clark Edwards, a high powered Wall Street man, as they traverse the uncertain world just before the and just after the 2008 economic recession. And it seemed wholly appropriate to start the book, left too long on my to-read list, just after recent events made news.

I think I appreciated Mbue’s novel more because I read it when I did. I didn’t mean to read a politically, socially relevant to current events story. I meant to read a book by a POC for the reading challenge I’m doing. I accomplished both and I could not be more pleased with it.

Mbue is an immigrant to America from Limbe, Cameroon – the hometown she gives Jende and Neni Jonga – who now lives in New York City. This makes the story that much richer, because she tells a story of her people, a story she knows. And I feel more educated for it. My favorite kind of fictional book is the one that teaches me something and this book taught me a lot.

It isn’t always an easy read. I found myself wanting to shout at Jende for how he treats his wife, Neni. I wanted to hate Clark Edwards because I do not like the power of Wall Street. But… when I sat back and thought about it, none of that made sense. Jende’s chauvinistic, domineering, my-way-or-the-highway persona is… real. Not being a Cameroonian immigrant, I completely trust Mbue on this. The way he treats Neni, as though he is lord of all things, and the way he is subservient to Clark Edwards to an extreme, as though he truly believes Clark is his better, is no doubt indicative of how immigrants straddle two worlds when they come to America. And Clark, though he is one of the main power players at Lehman Brothers, has motivations for working constantly and not seeing his family enough and his motivations are his family. He’s doing what he knows how to do, straddling two worlds as he tries to be two men. I have to imagine, not being a rich New Yorker, that his is not an uncommon, yet human struggle among families there.

I am so glad I read this book and I encourage everyone to read it too. It’s so important and so good.

And now I want to try Cameroonian food too, after Mbue’s mouth-wateringly vivid descriptions!

(I received a copy of BEHOLD THE DREAMERS through NetGalley and Random House in exchange for an honest & original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “Tidewater: A Novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony” by Libbie Hawker

BBW2016_twitter_0.jpgJust in case anybody didn’t know this… don’t believe Disney when it comes to your history!

Now, granted it’s been a long time since I say Disney’s “Pocahontas” and granted I am reviewing a “based on true events” sort of historical fiction book – it is that in part because there is precious little in the way of recorded history for this time period in American history, I realize I might not have much better to offer. But I think I do.

Reading Libbie Hawker’s incredibly detailed and researched, down to a glossary of terms and a pronunciation guide for the words Pocahontas would have known, made me think. It made me look up parts of history I thought I knew. It taught me things I never expected to learn. And it made me want to read more about Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony, and read this book again. It isn’t just “history” either, it is also a story. Hawker is incredibly adept at giving personality and substance to what could be obscure details and descriptions of dugout canoes. Her words made me feel like I was in Jamestown and in Werewocomoco.

That is what a historical novel is supposed to do.

And I felt things for this story. I wanted it to end well for them, though I knew how it ends. I want them to be happy, to find love, and to find peace. I cared.

(I received a copy of TIDEWATER from NetGalley and Running Rabbit Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

Reviewed: “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green

I have always avoided jumping on the bandwagon of the latest must-have books, especially when it comes to young adult-y type books that seem to be flooding out of publishing companies. This is good, because when I do get around to it, I can enjoy it witho20821174.jpgut being influenced by the hubbub of the thing. This is bad, because when I fall in love with something, other people have more or less moved on.

Both things hold true now that I’ve finally read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. Finally.

In my defense, I couldn’t put it down and I read it in three days flat. So there’s that.

Anyway, this book gets four stars out of five from me:

One star because, although there was no ugly sobbing involved, my heart is heavy and my mind is a little bit changed for having read this story of dying children with no power to save themselves.

A second star because a book about dying made me laugh and smile and hope and dream.

A third star because the characters supporting Hazel and Gus; Isaac, Hazel’s parents, Gus’ family, Lidweij, Patrick, and even Peter, are so well-developed and beautiful in their own fallible human way.

A fourth star simply because I didn’t expect to like this book so much.

It falls one star short because now I want to read “An Imperial Affliction” and I can’t (I’m fairly sure it doesn’t exist to anyone but the characters on these pages).

Reviewed: “Book of Numbers” by Joshua Cohen

23308445.jpgHaving read a handful of reviews of this book on Goodreads before I started it, but after I got it through NetGalley, I realized there are two sorts of readers of this book… those who haven’t finished the book and probably won’t ever and those who are hyper-critical of those who haven’t finished because this book, according to this latter group, is one of the greatest ever written.

That made starting it all the more daunting; because I don’t like quitting books and I don’t like people judging me before I start something.

So I was determined to at least the finish the book so I could complain, or rave, about it with all due process of reading.

This did not happen.

Much like the narrator’s life, he is inexplicably given the same name as the author as another fictional character in the book, I got nowhere fast.

This had almost wholly to do with the pretentious, self-centered, cheating to the knife’s edge of being a criminal, vaguely racist, slightly misogynistic narrator, Joshua Cohen. Women always do him wrong, he never does women wrong. He spent paragraphs describing the shape of his mother’s (his own mother’s!) thighs and butt after her husband died and comparing them to his super health conscious girlfriend (that he was kinda sorta freeloading off) and neither got good marks from him. He describes an Asian food truck worker as Asian because (paraphrasing) “it’s too hard to tell Vietnamese the others, and even men from women.” Joshua Cohen (narrator, not author) wrote one book that never actually got published (apparently because of 9/11 though the exact why is something I never understood) but he fancies himself really good at it, though he rarely does it. It’s all about him. Joshua Cohen (author, not narrator) makes this clear by using giant, complex words that all but scream “I’m a writer and I have a thesaurus!” in simple sentences where not knowing the obscure word isn’t a problem because context clues fill in the blanks.

And Joshua Cohen (narrator, not author) is strangely not the most interesting part of the book.

The narrator wrote a book relating to his mother’s family history during the Holocaust. The narrator was in New York and lost friends on 9/11. That is the story I wanted to read.

So, in conclusion, fine. People who have reviewed and loved this book and been so harsh on those who couldn’t finish it… I’m a quitter too. I don’t care. I bet you and I don’t have many favorite books in common anyway. You keep yours, I’ll keep mine and we can both be happy, yeah?

(I received a copy of BOOK OF NUMBERS through NetGalley & Random House in exchange for an honest and original review.)

Reviewed: “Coming of Age at the End of Days” by Alice LaPlante

23168306If Alice LaPlante meant for Coming of Age at the End of Daysto be a commentary on how religion, especially of the evangelical, end of days sort, can prey on the weakest in society, she succeeded.

If Alice LaPlante meant for it to be a commentary on the value of faith and religion in an uncertain, vulnerable world, she missed the mark with me.

I wanted to take Anna Franklin away from Lars and the religious he surrounded himself with. I wanted to shake sense into her. I wanted to know more about the people who seemed to be trying to save her. I wanted them to succeed.

I came to the story not expecting what I got. Maybe it’s that I’m agnostic that keep me from fully understanding it but… I don’t.

This book gets three stars only because it was just interesting enough for me to see it through to the end.

(I received a copy of this book through NetGalley and Grove Atlantic in exchange for an honest & original review.)

Reviewed: “The Beach Hut” by Cassandra Parkin

61It’s hard to put into words what I thought of Cassandra Parkin’s The Beach Hut. It isn’t because it was a particularly bad book or a particularly good book. It’s just… a strangely interesting book. And I can’t quite figure out what made it so good.

It’s hard to figure out who the Main Character(s) are. The story starts out focusing on siblings Ava and Finn, years ago. And then it switches to father and daughter Donald and Alicia, present day. Ava and Finn appear quickly in Donald and Alicia’s world, with sporadic flashbacks to things they experienced Before. The confusing part there is that they Ava and Finn also spend a lot of time simply discussing what happened years ago while they live in the present. Donald and Alicia, on the other hand, both seem afraid to look back to when their wife/mother died. They tiptoe around each other, as teenage daughters and single fathers do, and their relationship, as it eventually is revealed, is really built on a shake web of lies and half-truths. Alicia is drawn to the free-spirited, and yet just as secretive as her father, Ava and Finn because her father forbids her to know them. And in his quest to know his daughter better, to know the secrets she keeps, he gets to know Ava and he falls in love, possibly just lust but he confuses it for love, with her.

Ava’s secrets are the deepest and the most heartbreaking. It is Ava who ensured her little brother’s survival. It is Ava who teaches Alicia to be free. It is Ava who teaches Donald to start to let his daughter go.

Finn is the most interesting character in the story, and the stories he makes up are so good that Parkin should write them as standalone books. Ava is the most relatable. Alicia and Donald… I understand their roles in the story but I wanted a story just about Ava and Finn, to be completely honest.

I received a copy of The Beach Hut through NetGalley and Legend Press in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.