May 22, 2018

What's that joke about a gorilla and a typewriter?

I love a good Swedish to English translation (except for that one time I attempted Wallander) so I thought that The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius would be no exception. However, I cannot unequivocally state that I loved this book...or that I loathed it. The book is told from the standpoint of a gorilla who has been christened Sally Jones. She's been around humans her entire life and therefore not only understands what they are saying but can read as well. She's a gifted engineer who the reader discovers has the ability to figure out most mechanical devices be they accordions or airplanes. (This is integral to the storyline.) Her best friend is a (human) man she refers to as Chief and who took her on as a partner when he got his own ship. But all of this was before they ran into some trouble. Without giving too much away, the two are separated and Sally is forced to adapt in order to survive. At its heart, this is an adventure story with a lot of drama. What I enjoyed were the illustrations which were done by the author and accompanied the heading of each chapter as well as a gallery of character portraits at the very beginning. Some of the issues I had with this novel were in its dealings with race, religion, and ethnicity. It was hard for me to pinpoint if the problems I had could be explained by viewing it through the lens of the time in which the novel took place but I found them unsettling nonetheless. Overall, I wasn't totally blown away but I wouldn't throw it out of an airplane door either. 4/10

Source: American Library Association

Examples of the illustrations. [Source: Playing by the book]


What's Up Next: Golda Meir: A Strong, Determined Leader by David A. Adler

What I'm Currently Reading: The House With a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 18, 2018

I'll never look at pickles the same way again

One of the drawbacks of reading so many books is that I have extremely high standards since I've read some truly excellent pieces of literature...and also some major duds. I say all of this because I read We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 2 years ago and so I know she has the capability to write amazing young adult fiction. I chose Fly on the Wall specifically because the review that I heard on BookTube led me to believe that it was a retelling of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis and because I had enjoyed Lockhart's previous book. What I didn't expect was for it to be chock full of really explicit sexual content. Why on earth did she have to describe penises in such revealing detail? And why did she keep referring to them as gherkins?! (And if I ever hear someone call them that or refer to breasts as biscuits I'm going to slap them across the face.) The main character and the person who we view the story from is named Gretchen Yee and she is the prototypical teenage girl filled with angst. She attends a high school that focuses on the arts and her specialty is drawing comic book style characters (hence the cover imagery). Her obsession with a boy in her school leads her to make a foolhardy wish to be a fly on the wall of the boys locker room so that she can find out how he really thinks about her. (And this is where she begins to ogle the boys as they undress for gym class.)  I guess the story is supposed to be a character study or a revelation that what we think we know about people can be turned on its head if we see them at their most vulnerable. However, for me it was a letdown and vaguely nauseating. This was a 0/10 for me and I'll have to give serious thought to reading anything else from this author in the future.

PS There were also a lot of plot holes in the storyline and the ending truly fell flat.

A/N: Thanks for coming back after the longest break (3 weeks!) I've ever taken off from blogging. Your readership means a lot to me!

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius

What I'm Currently Reading: The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

May 4, 2018

Blogger on break

I meant to write this up a week ago but things being what they were time got away from me. As the title of this post suggests I'm away at the moment and therefore not able to keep up my regular schedule (or actually to sit down to read much of anything). I'll be back to my twice weekly postings that I've been doing mostly on time some time around the middle of the month. Thanks so much for sticking around and I'll see you all soon to talk books!

Hope you have a great weekend!


April 21, 2018

Nothing too terrifying I'm sad to report

I picked up Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey with the hope that it would be like the 13 Alabama Ghosts books I remember so fondly as a child (they still have the first in the series at the public library in my hometown). I don't fully believe in ghosts but I do fully enjoy reading ghost stories. Tales of haunted places in particular are fascinating because they're usually told with a kernel of truth at the center. However, Dickey seems to contradict himself at every turn in this book by retelling these ghost stories and then almost immediately debunking them. Further compacting the confusion, each chapter ends with a somewhat mystifying takeaway about why there seems to be so many 'ghosts' and 'haunted places' in the United States. (And this is despite the U.S. as we know it being a relatively young country.) He covers the gamut of places that could possibly be haunted. There's the typical cemeteries and old houses but there's also factories and even the rarer entire city haunting (Detroit for example).  Overall, I didn't feel satisfied because I think I was hoping for less analysis and more storytelling. I suppose this might be of interest in terms of a tour guide for places to check out yourself but it wasn't my cup of tea. 4/10

Of possible interest: Dickey is a member of the Order of the Good Death started by Caitlin Doughty which I'm sure you'll all remember from earlier blog posts. I have to say that I didn't find his writing nearly as compelling as hers. :-/

Source: Goodreads

What's Up Next: Fly on the Wall by Emily Jenkins

What I'm Currently Reading: Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 17, 2018

How to awaken the heart: an instruction manual

My pals over at Wunderkind PR sent me a copy of today's book and asked that I give an honest review. Spoiler alert: I said yes. :-)

How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz is a collection of poetry which primarily focuses on her relationship with her mother (also a writer) and the grief she experienced after her death. Please don't think it's all doom and gloom and buckets of tears (although there is that too) because she also delves into the pockets of happiness that can be found amidst the overwhelming sadness of losing someone so dear. Cristin speaks to that part of the heart that is attuned to the people in our lives who get us so completely that even the idea that they might not be there pulls the air from one's lungs. From her poem "O Laughter" comes this gem: Sometimes the pain bursts out of me like a flock of starlings. Perfection! If I had to express this book in graph form it would be a steep incline immediately followed by a steep decline and finished off with a steady incline that disappears off the side of the page. Simply put, this is an absolutely lovely little book with beautiful prose and if it doesn't stir your heart I wonder if you even have one. 10/10

PS I'd also like to note that 1. I loved the finish on this book. It's like that velvety feeling that some books have and it was an absolute treat to hold it. 2. I enjoyed Cristin's book so much that I'm actively looking to read her other works (including a nonfiction book).

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

What I'm Currently Reading: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 13, 2018

Looking for death in all the right places

Here I am talking about death again. Part of me worries that 'harping' on about this subject and these books will turn away the average reader to my blog but the larger part of me (and the one who runs things) believes that if I am going to be authentic with my reviews then I have to follow my mood with what books I voluntarily choose to read. That being said, I'm here to talk about Caitlin Doughty's second book From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death. As the title suggests, this is a bit more of a travelogue piece about the death industry. This book explores in depth the way that death is viewed, celebrated, and treated in different countries and cultures. [A/N: I don't know that it needs to be necessarily spelled out but just in case: This book is not for those who shy away from talk of decomposition and graphic depictions of death in general.] Caitlin visits places both far-flung and just around the riverbend all in search of what she terms the Good Death. (For more info visit her website to see if you'd like to join her group.)  She attended an open air cremation where the body is laid atop a pyre and the ceremony is experienced by all members of the community (Colorado). In Japan the families are brought in after the body has been cremated so that they can extricate the bones by chopstick to place them in an urn for safekeeping. She experienced Fiesta de las Ñatitas in La Paz and spoke to those who celebrate these saints by collecting and displaying shrunken skulls (and in some cases mummified heads). One of my favorite places that she described was the Corpse Hotel in Japan where you can visit your deceased family member in the comfort and splendor of an upscale hotel. Overall, From Here to Eternity is a fascinating look at the way that death is addressed by various cultures around the world. It serves as a sobering reminder that death is not accepted but rather feared here in America. If you are interested in the ways that others approach death and how they treat their dead (some cultures revisit the dead to clean and redress them as a sign of honor and remembrance) then I urge you to read this book. 9/10

P.S. I'm not done with books on this subject. Keep an eye out for at least 1 possibly 2 more in the not too distant future.

Source: Goodreads
What's Up Next: How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz

What I'm Currently Reading: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

April 9, 2018

Starting National Poetry Month with a bang

I'm cognizant of the fact that I don't read enough books by women of color and that I read very few works of poetry. I decided to kill two birds with one stone by reading Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric. (Also, it's National Poetry Month so it was a no-brainer.) This book is especially relevant right now with the state of our world being what it is: a shambles. Citizen is essentially Claudia's exploration of what it is to be a black woman living in America as told through poetic verse. It is beautiful, tender, terrible, tragic, and real. She doesn't shy away from such topics as police brutality or the prevalence of feeling like an outsider. This book is a personal revelation and a public admonishment all rolled into one neat package Coupled with her verses are historical quotes and pencil drawn (I think?) artwork. What better way to begin your foray into poetry than by reading a book that challenges the status quo and speaks from the heart? If you'd like to maybe see the world through a different set of eyes Citizen is your golden ticket with many stops along the way. 9/10

I made a note of this quote on page 89 to give you an idea of just how powerful her words are:
Those years of and before me and my brothers, the years of passage, plantation, migration, of Jim Crow segregation, of poverty, inner cities, profiling, of one in three, two jobs, boy, hey boy, each a felony, accumulate into the hours inside our lives where we are all caught hanging, the rope inside us, the tree inside us, its roots our limbs, a throat sliced through and where we open our mouth to speak, blossoms, o blossoms, no place coming out, brother, dear brother, that kind of blue.

Source: Amazon

What's Up Next: From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty

What I'm Currently Reading: The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **