Real Life Reading

No that’s not the title of a book I just finished. Unfortunately my real life/work/school reading requirements have taken over my free time reading this week. Rest assured that I am working on some new releases and old favorites and will publish some reviews asap. I’m not sure why everything converged on this week but when it crashed down yesterday I was like “ugh I’m not going to finish in time” and that’s just life.

NetGalley has been kind to me and lined up several excellent new releases as ARCs. Are you excited about any of these releases? screenshot-2017-01-31-at-11-26-05-am

Several of these come out on February 7th and I’m working my way through them as we speak. Keep combing those books lists and let me know if you see any books you are super interested in and I’ll add them to my list!

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Have a great Tuesday!

Throne of Glass (ToG #1)

glass

Fantasy series are so much fun. From Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, LOTR, His Dark Materials, you name it I will read it. I love elves and dragons and weird symbols and chants and magic. To me fantasy > science fiction any day of the week (although I still love sci-fi too!). So when I came across Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series I figured jumping into another universe to play would be soothing.

Something to remember when beginning a fantasy series of this length is that the first book can feel a bit name/concept heavy. If the author is planning for more than just a trilogy, you’re about to meet a hell of a lot of people or you’re about to get a full history of a location/religion/war(s) and it’s going to be a little bit discouraging. Maas provides us with a map inside the cover of all the places we will likely need to know about, as they have been conquered by the King who is holding a contest to see who will become his right hand assassin. As you read this book, you see all the pieces that will probably be brought into play in later books, and see small glimpses of a rebellion.

Celaena has been sent as a slave to a mine in Endovier, where “criminals” are sent to their deaths. She has been there for a year when the crown prince Dorian comes to fetch her to fight on his behalf in the King’s tournament. Maas decides to stick to the YA formula of giving our heroine two gentlemen who will pine for her: Dorian and the Captain of the King’s Guard Chaol (Kyle?) who is tasked with guarding and training her during the tournament. I like that they agonize over her instead of her agonizing over choosing between them, but I bet that happens later in the series. Dorian gets the upper hand in this book and we get some kissing – definitely not as hot as the Darkling/Alina action in the Grisha trilogy but it’s nice.

The cover of the book boasts that fans of Game of Thrones and the Hunger Games will LOVE IT!! Eh *shrug* I think it is it’s own thing. Just because people are competing doesn’t make something the Hunger Games, especially since the losers of each round don’t get murdered, and sometimes rounds are just skipped altogether. This book is nothing like Game of Thrones. Period. Jacket accolades tend to be alternate facts more often than not, but I do enjoy seeing how wrong they are sometimes.

The one mystery we have that I am looking forward to exploring more is this darkness/Wyrdmarks plot device. There is a spiritual In-Between where dark and light spirits alike lurk and seek to help or hurt those in the real world. Magic has been outlawed by the King but as we all know, just because you outlaw something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The use of ancient symbols and magical abilities must be on the horizon.

It wasn’t a great book on its own, but it sets a decent foundation for a longer series and it was good enough to keep me engaged and I’ve requested the next book from the library. If you’re looking for a good YA (well, she’s 18 and the gentlemen are in their early 20s, so late-YA) fantasy series headed by a badass chick who loves to read, consider picking up Throne of Glass and meeting some new companions who will keep you company.

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New Year Same Trash

trash

I remember once when I reviewed I’m Judging You someone accused me of shitting on the coffeehouse floor that we all convene in when I review the books of people that are actually a member of the Facebook group that I love more than my husband, I thought “well, she’s super famous so if she can’t take a ‘eh, it was pretty good’ review then she better thick skin it up.” It wasn’t even a scathing review, it was actually a pretty clear moderate review. So bring the Squatty Potty because Samantha Irby’s ~vintage short~ is out today and holy shit this coffee house is about to be LIT.

Observations I had and resolutions I could probably also stand to get behind.

  1. I had to put the Kindle down to laugh about “starting a journal” when baby carrots = medium pizza but really it was a large. I did Weight Watchers back in like 2006 and I would stick to that plan like glue and then after the weigh in and meeting I would stop at Dominos on the way back to my apartment to pick up the 2 for $10 medium pizzas I had ordered ahead of time AND EAT THEM BOTH BEFORE I WENT TO BED. #squadgoals
  2. Live music: Beyonce’s Lemonade album was the only music I listened to in 2016 and I still didn’t buy tickets to her OUTDOOR performance at Raymond James Stadium. SHARE THAT GRUBHUB COUPON
  3. Cooking classes: I got some of that jam. There is a video of me teaching people how to open and close an actual canned jar someplace on Facebook.
  4. I have an in-ground swimming pool in my backyard covered by a screened in frame to keep the Florida wildlife out and I still can’t get myself to swim more than twice a week. Oh, I’m sorry. “SWIM” (float around and get skin cancer)
  5. Start a Book Club: shout out for how thankful I am that this actually occurred
  6. Listen to more good music: I WANT TO DO THIS but I don’t know how to start. Again, I just listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade album on repeat for most of 2016 so I am pretty sure I missed out on a bunch of cool shit. Hit me up in the comments if you have music recommendations so I can do this.
  7. Ugh, I need to listen to This American Life too. *sadface* I still haven’t listened to the Lindy West one from when I reviewed Shrill but I have an Amazon Alexa now so I’ll just ask her to play it for me sometime. ALEXA PLAY THIS AMERICAN LIFE – “playing Mozart’s requiem on Spotify” – Oh Alexa…
  8. Grocery shopping: we have a new thing called Shipt here where someone goes and gets your shit and brings it to you. I am resisting this service because I already work from home and grocery shopping is the only thing that gets me out of the house anymore.
  9. Cleaning service: we had one at the last house we rented but have been too poor to get it back at this one we rent now so maybe soon I won’t have to scrub out my fucking kitchen sink anymore.
  10. Improve my credit: omg we’re going to pay off most of our credit cards this year and 3 of them are because I moved my poor ass across the country and then was basically living off them for a year 10 years ago. I can’t wait to get that weight off my shoulder.

Samantha Irby is all of us. She speaks to the garbage human in all of us. Go buy her trash book. 🙂 It’s only 99 cents and so easy! Just click here: NEW YEAR, SAME TRASH

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Not A Place on Any Map

map

“Home is not a word I understand anymore, not a place on any map.” – Alexis Page, Not a Place on Any Map

This beautiful book is a short read, and it is written as I imagine our own memories are stored. Short bursts of action, of feeling, of movement from southwest to west to midwest to northeast and abroad. We hear about childhood, relationships, sexual assault, drug addiction, prison time, recovery, and the struggle to accept happiness and home once it is found.

The writing feels so vivid while at the same time leaving out details. In some moments I wished for more so that I could be more connected to the story, to the trauma, but as I mentioned previously these read as memory. It is not surprising that the most traumatic elements are left in darkness. Memories protect us that way. They can’t block everything, but they do the best they can.

This book does leave me wanting more, but it is so important to remember that it is not the burden of the assault victim, of the prisoner, of the former addict to explain to the world how things are and how things might be changed. I deeply respect this writing because it speaks her experience without performing her life with full set, costume, and makeup in this age of social performance.

Not a Place on Any Map demands that its reader listen carefully. It demands that you ask questions. It demands that you investigate further. Alexis Page shows us her experience, and in the process lays the foundation for discussions surrounding some of our nation’s deepest problems. It shows us how easy it is to get lost, and in getting lost how difficult it is to find and trust home again.

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The Red Car

red-car

It will be difficult to explain how this book affected me. It is the typical story of girl making it through life but then circumstances take her on a journey through her past where she rediscovers herself and maybe even comes to desire a different future in the process. It’s the story of a shock to the system, waking a woman stuck in a rut and jarring her into the life she deserves. Few of us get that kind of wake up call.

Marcy Dermansky made me want more. I saw myself in Leah, although the major difference is that in my own career and education I was not so wishy washy about what I wanted to do. My success and survival often depended on the kindness of strangers and at least once a week I regret leaving Arizona because of how much I loved being there and with the people that I came to know and love.

This is the perfect book for the thirty-something woman who thinks she is like 87% settled but has some regrets. It’s like Eat, Pray, Love but for the broke, bored, depressed woman. A more relatable, realistic journey. Sometimes you make your own decisions to make things better. Sometimes someone helps you along. This was a beautiful book about escaping what makes you unhappy, while accepting that some things will never change, but in some cases new beginnings are possible.

It’s a short read too! Go for it and enjoy. 🙂

Crooked Kingdom

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“Hello, my name is Amanda the Angry Angel and I am a 33 year old Leigh Bardugo fangirl.”

“Hi Amanda.”

If you haven’t already, please check out my reviews of:

  1. Six of Crows (the book before Crooked Kingdom)
  2. Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)
  3. Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)
  4. Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3)

The way they are listed there is exactly how I would suggest you read them. I started with Six of Crows, and the story was so well told that I already understood what Grisha were, and that there were some pretty intense political conflicts happening. We get a present day story, and then you take a trip into the past to meet several of the characters that you will meet again in Crooked Kingdom. While Six of Crows is okay to read without having Grishaverse context, I would not recommend reading Crooked Kingdom without it.

The latest book in this universe does not disappoint. We are off to the races from the very start, picking up where we left off with our crew frantically planning for the rescue of their captured Wraith. The tag line on the front of the book states “when you can’t beat the odds, change the game” and throughout the book Kaz Brekker replaces the game he is losing with about ten other ones. It reminded me of a good episode of Sherlock where we get to watch the pieces fall into place with extreme satisfaction.

I could tell you about the plans or the excitement or the enemies or the intrigue, but for this particular discussion I would like to draw attention to an aspect of this book that is so important and I was hoping would show up.

I absolutely adore how Leigh Bardugo introduces LGBT representation, in that it is presented as though it is a normal part of the world. No pearl-clutching, no disapproving parents, no gasping and saying things like “well I don’t approve but if it makes you happy I support you.” Just, I love you you love me, aw they love each other that’s fantastic. She presents this as normal. This is very important and I cannot stress this enough.

I appreciate the YA writers that steep their LGBT in real world scenarios. Reactions from indifferent acceptance to shock to revulsion are all realities that teen LGTB youth still face from their families and friends, although I see this changing (thank goodness). But I think that there is something very critical to be said about presenting this as normal because it is normal. Let teens and young adults see that their identity should not be something to be hidden or revealed like a promposal or college choice announcement. Let them see that it is possible to just be who they are  and that’s okay. I want them to read this book and say “wait, Jasper’s dad isn’t shocked? Why isn’t Wylan’s dad more upset about him being gay than not being able to read?” and Bardugo lets them know that the answer to their question is that it is nothing to be ashamed of in her universe.

Leigh Bardugo’s writing is so important for so many reasons, but if I had to pick one to emphasize it would be her care and love in her LGBT characters. I cannot wait until that is an unquestioned reality in our universe.

All that being said there are still unanswered questions at the end of this book and out of the small reserve of hope I hold ahead of my country’s plunge into darkness, I have apportioned a bit for a third book to bring resolution to this magnificent story. Here’s hoping!

 

Movie in my Mind: Why the Book Was Better

It is the argument that people love to have: whether the book or the movie was better. Movie people roll their eyes at the book people who insist that the movie could never touch it, such nerds can’t they just relax and enjoy the effects? The book people are outraged at the movie people for being lazy and letting others do the work for them instead of reading the source material! That wasn’t in the book! They left out the best part! Instead of a firm dichotomy I believe that this is more of a spectrum on which we can all exist depending on our own experience. While that makes me sound irritatingly agnostic, please allow me to explain as I have walked the rainbow and played among the lilies.

I am not a firm “read the book before you see the movie” person, so when my friends suggested seeing Gone Girl I was very excited. It was receiving rave reviews and since I had not read the book I figured I would be able to enjoy the surprises that the movie had to offer. People that know my love of books know that I enjoy a twist but that I do not enjoy a mind fuck, which should be all you need to know about how I felt about this movie. When I left I knew I had seen a good movie but I was so furious about the plot and the ending that I was not willing to admit that to anyone. And I was damn sure not going through that again just for the pleasure of reading the book. Also, this put me off reading any Gillian Flynn, at least for a while, for fear her other books are in the same vein.

I do not have a clear memory of whether I read all the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies when they originally came out. I remember reading the books, but if I saw the movies it must not have been in the theaters. In the summer of 2015 I decided to alternate between reading the book and watching the partner movie because I was totally responsible and waited for the box set to come out instead of buying the movies individually. This experience was really fun and it was interesting to see what was left out of the movies as I progressed. My husband at one point said “so is this just a tour of what was left out for my benefit?” The movies and books were equally satisfying in their own way, and the two sides would be hard pressed to say one experience is more enjoyable than the other. They are different but equal.

One of my favorite books from my childhood is The Giver. This is a book I reread multiple times, asked for as a gift for Christmas, and I still have that gifted copy on my shelf today. An early dystopian future described first in drab greys and then expanding to vivid histories, colors, and emotion, the book is a journey through the flowering of understanding, an exploration of the consequences of control and sterility, and the despair of the lack of individuality and hope. Sitting at my computer now I can close my eyes and play the book for myself in my mind, not with words but with pictures and colors and characters. I had already seen the movie because I had already produced it in my memories. So when the movie version of the book started being teased in 2013 and 2014 I wanted nothing to do with it. Nothing they could create on the screen could match what I viewed as the perfect version my imagination had created, and it wasn’t anyone’s job to tell me what that book was supposed to look like.

Some movies are good on their own and you can read the book or not. Some movies and books are made for each other and enhance the experience of the other. And some books are such close friends that any intrusion on our experience is almost an insult to the effort we put in reading and rereading to understand the universe we were visiting. Mix the movie/book recipe using the approach that feels most comfortable for you, and don’t let anyone yuck your yum. I will say this though, while a movie may not motivate you to read the book, some movies truly owe their success to the literary world.

Idaho

idaho

Emily Ruskovich’s debut novel is set in Idaho. A mother murders her child and her other child goes missing. A music teacher falls in love with the murderous woman’s husband who comes from a family whose men suffer from early onset dementia. These are the characters we live with for the duration of this story.

Usually I have a real problem with books that don’t reveal everything, or books that don’t develop characters enough so that I feel invested in them. This book does not give you all the gorey details of everything, so for the first part of the book my mind was actively trying to figure out where the twist might come so I wouldn’t miss it. I will tell you now, there is no twist. The beauty of this book is that your own imagination will flesh out the characters, your wonderings will make them whole as they themselves wonder about what has happened and try to live in a world in which these two children are gone.

Ruskovich seems to want you to experience things in this book. The frustration and duality of being a mother. Loss. New love. Living with mental illness. The complexity of family. Loneliness. All of it is described vividly and gorgeously in this book. None of it really finds an end because they are all cycles. To give any of the stories an end would be to lose the color, the depth, and the emotion brought to bear by Ruskovich’s words.

A central theme to the book is memory. Wade doomed to lose his due to a family history of early dementia. Ann trying to imagine the memories she does not have about a history that no one will fully reveal to her. Jenny trying to live with the memory in which she kills her own child. Brief glimpses of the the two children, one dead and one missing, in their own memories.

Nothing that happens in the past is explained. Not even Jenny herself ever has that confession moment where we find out her true motivation for swinging the hatchet that day. We just understand that it was done. This is not a mystery novel, it is a novel about what we do when terrible things happen to us and we are left standing afterwards. It is about how we move on and continue living.

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The Underground Railroad

railroad

This book was hailed as one of the best, if not the best book of 2016. When I received it as part of my first gift package to review I was very excited to see what all the hubbub was about.

I am sure that most of you have either seen, watched, or heard of the show The Walking Dead. I read the comics for a long time and watched the first two or three seasons before I just had to stop. Recently the season premiere was so graphic that even when I simply read about it I wondered at the level of self-hate and morbidity that must exist for people to still watch this show.

After reading Colson Whitehead’s novel I know. Hear me out.

A very basic read of The Walking Dead is: zombies, band of people find someplace safe except it isn’t really. They move on after damage is done. They find a new safe place. It isn’t really safe. They move on after damage is done. Rinse and repeat with some character development and plot to keep things interesting. I got bored and things were getting too gross so I checked out and stopped reading and watching.

Cora travels the Underground Railroad from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina through Tennessee to Indiana. At each stop there is an idea that she can relax, that sure the white people still aren’t great, but there’s a real attitude of “advancement” or maybe they are just leaving them alone and that’s good enough. The deep truth, the underlying plague is that no black person is safe and you never know which white person is spying or ready to screw up your life.

All I could think of was the constant search for safety and peace and the rinse and repeat nature of The Walking Dead, increased exponentially when you consider that it has been happening in this country for hundreds of years. You think you are safe and doing what’s expected and then you’re raped behind the main house. You’re a free black, born in the north, but then a zombie grabs you and throws you into the south, your freedom an illusion that only you believed in. Don’t rise too high, don’t be too loud or too prosperous, don’t be proud or free or alive or beautiful or smart or the zombies will hear and they will eat you alive. The only difference is that while being bitten by a zombie in The Walking Dead allows you to become a zombie and be on equal ground with your murderer, being caught by the white zombies in this country only makes slaves.

This book made me so angry. It used to be that slaves weren’t allowed to learn to read. WE STILL DO THIS through white flight and “school choice” and funding cuts and we allow students to go straight from school to jail and OMG I’M SO MAD. And the part about the Valentine farm. The local economy RELIED on this large amount of people for commerce and it didn’t even matter, they still couldn’t stomach it because god forbid black people become more prosperous than white people. Break them down, burn them down, chase them off, enslave them, criminalize them. Never celebrate, never join in community, never share in prosperity. It is completely unacceptable for blacks to get anything over on whites in this country, and it is a terrible disease bourne of slavery that, as a character in the book says, may never be swept away or cured.

I could write a book about events that are happening NOW that would totally map the same events and pressures and struggles that the characters in Whitehead’s book face. Safety always remains out of reach, schools in name only, figures gain trust only to betray it, institutions for all as long as they are white (or look white). If they can just survive until the next safe neighborhood, the next good school, the next police outreach, maybe that will be the moment blacks in America can relax. Or maybe there will be zombies in the basement and they will have to run again. Most likely there will be running and someone will die, but survival is possible if we just try to find the next safe place, right?

I am white. I recognize this privilege and I know that I will never understand what it means to be afraid for myself and my family because of my skin color. But I listen to those who are and accept those truths and I. AM. ANGRY. The Underground Railroad is an important book because it reminds me, as a white person, that white people are fucking sneaky, racist, self-serving, discriminatory assholes that should always be side-eyed. Even when we mean well, we’re being fucking racist (see Ethel in the story). The racism in America can be overt but it is largely systemic and until we realize this and begin to say it aloud and make attempts to dismantle it we will force Africans and African Americans to continue to run from the zombies and face a world where safety and relaxation are only momentary respites between running for their lives and the lives of their children. I have the privilege of turning off the show  and going on with my life. Africans and African Americans in this country can’t turn it off. There is no rest for those who must again ride the rails to “freedom.”

Read this book and become enraged and inspired. Black Lives Matter here at Angry Angel Books and reading this book has only fueled my fire moving into 2017. Nothing has changed, but something must. Thank you, Mr. Whitehead. This book is a revelation.