A Separation

separation

Have you ever been with someone and you knew it was over? Maybe even worse than that, you both knew it was over? In our current society I am almost certain that this happens all the time. Couples that would otherwise leave each other or divorce are forced to stay together for a multitude of reasons, the least of which being financial, but others probably include comfort or familiarity.

In A Separation, Katie Kitamura uses  wealth to help remove these chains to help us work through the story. These are two people who can afford to leave each other, and based on Christopher’s affairs, they probably should. Our wife never gives us a name (or if we discover it it’s so quick that we miss it) and speaks in first person as she narrates us through her search.

She and her husband live in London, but they have agreed to separate and not let anyone know just yet. When his mother Isabella calls to ask where he is, our narrator is sent on a journey to a small luxury hotel in Greece where he was last known to be, according to his mother. It’s a fire-razed area due to arson committed by local feuding farming families, and if you aren’t careful or even looking for it, you’ll miss all the symbolism up front prior to the discovery of Christopher’s body about halfway through the book. This is not a spoiler, you already know that’s what’s coming.

The first half of this book takes you through her decision and resolve to finally end things, to let go and start anew. The second half shows us what we do when we are forced to let go, the steps necessary for moving on. The entirety is told in a narrative voice that reflects the profession of a translator, which the narrator is in the story, and conveys events as they happened in a prose that is almost completely emotionless. Not to sound like a pretentious asshole, but I kind of liked this because it presented a blank slate onto which I could project my imagined emotions based on the character on display at the time and based on my own experience of being cheated on.

So that’s what you can expect from the book itself, but what do I think personally? The first half of the book was very exciting. Despite the deadpan prose I KNEW the husband was dead and I couldn’t wait to find out how. Seeing her make her way around the rural town in Greece revealed a soap opera-esque setup where his only destiny could have been murder. After we discover his murder, the book becomes very mundane and not until the very end do you get the whole picture of this book’s intention, which I believe to be that even a separation comes with commitments. You can move on from something, but if you don’t do it well you will always be chained to it. It is essential to be decisive, to stand up for yourself and what you want, or you could be a slave to something for the rest of your life.

Full disclosure though, if I got 3,000,000 pounds because my estranged husband died and no one knew we had “separated” I would take the money and use it. I know where my limits are and if the man didn’t want to be legally beholden to me he should have taken the ring off it. JUST SAYIN’.

Read it or not, it’s a meh in my book.

Ill Will: Angry Angel Abandonment

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This book is presented from several different points of view throughout, and in several different time periods. It focuses mainly on Dustin and those around him in his youth and in his adulthood. On a Yellowstone trip with his family when he was in his teens his parents and his aunt and uncle were murdered and his adopted older brother Russell was convicted of their murders due to (false?) testimony given by Dustin and his two cousins.

We bounce back and forth between the story leading up to those past murders and present day, where Dustin is a therapist with two sons, one of which (Aaron) is in contact with Russell, who has been exonerated by the Innocence Project after 30 years in jail. Dustin has a client, Aqil, a police officer on leave who has been mandated to receive counseling for something he won’t reveal to Dustin, but instead brings a theory related to college age frat bros who seem to be ULTRA intoxicated and drowning on a regular basis and without reason.

You’ll be asking who really committed the murder of the parents and relatives that night in Dustin’s youth? Is this series of drowning drunk college students really a serial killer? What happened to Aaron’s friend Rabbit? Will Russell seek revenge? All of these questions are steeped in a very regular, normal, slightly disturbing American reality, where families seem to do the best they can. A quote from the book that kept me hanginging on was that poor people pass down damage like rich people pass down inheritance, and I knew that something intense must be coming.

And then it’s possible that you’ll get bored and put the book down. The reason I don’t read a lot of thrillers is because sometimes authors require me to hold out longer than I want to, when I want the reveal right goddamn now thanks I have things to do. I mean, how long should we really put off the climax? (I’m sorry)

So tonight I put it down. When it got to the point where it felt like I was forcing myself to read I said to myself “I’m doing this so I can enjoy reading and if I’m not enjoying it then I need to do as I counsel others to do and put it down.” If you have more reading stamina than I do you might want to pick it up and give it a go when it is released on March 7th. But this book has been abandoned due to reduction of suspense, boredom, and excessive delay of climax.

 

Back Burner Books

I love my Bitches Gotta Read Facebook group. They are truly my bitches and I love seeing what everyone is reading, what they are enjoying, and what they are throwing across the room. This week there were many different discussions, one of which was about books that you had put off and had finally read and were thankful for it.

I think about books I’ve put off all the time. A few summers ago I finally said “Bitch, you are going to read The Stand” and I did and now people can’t be like YOU HAVEN’T READ THE STAND WHAT? Alas, my “wish it was on my to be read list” is just as crazy as my actual TBR list.

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series

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I’ve talked about this before, but when I was younger I managed to make it through the first two books (Gunslinger and Drawing of the Three) but my brain kept telling me to stop because it wasn’t time. So now that the 3 book series is now complete at 7-8 books it’s always in the back of my mind as an achievement I would like to unlock at some point.

Les Miserables et al.

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This is my favorite musical. It was one of my must-dos when we went to London along with seeing Stonehenge and not walking so goddamn much. But the book, ugh. IT IS SO BIG. I even downloaded the e-book and that percentage just wouldn’t move. I have a lot of trouble with classic classics, due to both the rich language and the length of most of them. Count of Monte Cristo falls into this category too, and I love a good revenge story. The Jane Austen stuff too, and the Brontes’ work.

A Man Called Ove

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I have taken this book out of the library and then returned it. My grandmother sent me a copy for me to have. I have started this book at least 7 times and I have thrown it down in a flurry of tears every time. I am not sure if it’s due to my past experiences losing loved ones or fear of losing more or if I see myself reflected too truthfully in Ove and the kindness the other characters show him cuts too deeply – I cannot read this book right now. I know I need to, I know I will love it and it will stick with me, but it can’t even be on my TBR pile.

The Wheel of Time Series

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Oh Robert Jordan, you couldn’t even stay alive long enough to finish writing this series, someone had to finish it for you. I wish I had someone to finish it for me, because OMG. I feel the same way about reading the Game of Thrones series; since the books are truly different from the show I do want to read them, but later. I always get through the first Wheel of Time book, and then I stop. Then like 2 years later I read it again to remember the two million characters I need to keep track of, and then I stop. Maybe the next time I’ll stick with it.

Lord of the Rings Series

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Stephen Colbert loves this shit and every time he nerds out about it I want to read the books to have something in common with him. I have to admit that I have never even cracked these books. I have read The Hobbit, but attempting the LOTR trilogy always felt like it would be such a trudge, but its place in the fantasy classics makes it something I should read, so it sits next to other things I should read but just am not ready to yet.

Summer is always the best time for me to knock out some of these series. I also find success by just picking one thing to do and getting it done. I think this summer will be either the Dark Tower or LOTR, but we’ll have to wait and see. What books do you have on the back burner?

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1)

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Welcome to the next book 1 of a series! I seem to be starting several right now; I’m going to need to step up how I categorize them on this blog so you can track a particular series even if I don’t review one right after the other. The Lunar Chronicles is a welcome addition to my growing series family.

I will start with a small note: I usually have zero patience for adaptations. Writing a story about Cinderella or using Sense and Sensibility really offers you the choice of being truly new and different or just slapping on a coat of paint and calling it “new and edgy” (while the rest of us roll our eyes). To use such a familiar or famous foundation for your plot requires innovation or ingenuity to the point that we know the story we’re being told but it’s different enough that we’re not constantly irritated by the author’s laziness.

Marissa Meyer sets her book in China. This change alone brings a breath of fresh air to the story. We meet Cinder, a cyborg that was adopted by her family in the midst of a war, and the father does pass away like the Cinderella story, but he was not her father. She lives with her stepmother (which is an odd term to use so they intermingle it with legal guardian) and two sisters, the younger of which is actually her friend.

This is also in a future where there has been a 4th World War and a colony has formed on the moon. So there is the Earthen Alliance and the Lunar Kingdom, and the Lunar Kingdom is pressing for marriage to the Emperor of the Eastern Commonwealth or Earth may face war with Luna. People from the moon also possess the ability to alter the biology of others in order to force them to do their bidding. Not quite magic, but close enough and it’s a very real threat to regular humans.

I absolutely adored this book. It did so many things very well and you want to keep reading to find out how things turn out. There is a lot of suspense, and you have to remind yourself “hey dummy, this is just Cinderella, you know how it ends” to calm your heart and continue. This book has everything: a plague, space, love, royalty, underdogs, rebellion, pluck, all set in a world we know and recognize.

This book was published in 2012, and I feel the urge to apologize for taking so long to get around to reading it. Lunar Chronicles, welcome to Angry Angel Books, we’ll be spending some time together. 🙂

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Red Queen (#1)

red-queen

I’ve had a few duds recently so I decided to retreat to a genre I know never fails to entertain me: YA Fantasy Series/Trilogy. I’m on book 2 of the Throne of Glass series, but today’s review goes to the first book in the Red Queen series. Mare is our main character in a world where people are divided between Red Blood (Muggles) and Silver Bloods (Grisha). I apologize for the mixed similes there, but they are accurate in terms of abilities. Society is set up like Voldemort probably would have enjoyed. The Reds serve the Silvers in all manner of jobs including military service. The Reds live in squalor while the Silvers rule over them in decadence.

This book also harkens back to one of my first reviews for this blog, Uprooted, where a normal girl doesn’t realize she is special until some accidental circumstances pull it out of her. We discover that Mare is some weird combination of Red and Silver blood, something scholars and Silvers haven’t seen before (or at least won’t admit to have seen before) and we are off on a deceptive scheme plot line where Mare is saved only by virtue of the desire of the people who would destroy her to instead disguise her. I enjoyed learning about all the different types of abilities that are possible in this world, and Mare’s hasn’t been seen for a long time.

It is unfortunate that this also pulls out the popular multi-boy-interest trope (Gale and Peeta, vampire and werewolf, etc) between a boy from her village and a royal prince. Luckily her ties to either of them aren’t too lovey dovey (yet) so even though you can see it coming, it’s bearable. And I mean, what are you gonna do? The chicks dig it. There are also echoes of “people like you” that are seen in Seraphina when the half dragon people are sought out to bring peace. Grisha power from the Grisha Trilogy (#1, #2, and #3). Legilimens from Harry Potter. And Mare’s adoption and forced betrothal feel like what I imagine The Hunger Games would have felt like if champions were forced to live in the Capital and marry someone there. There are a lot of themes in this book that will make you think “wait, I remember something like that in _________.”

The ending is very satisfying. This is the first book I have read in awhile where I have said YES that all makes sense, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. I strongly recommend this book if you haven’t already begun to read the series. It has parts of every YA recipe you already love, overlaid with a new story and new characters. Enjoy!

Universal Harvester

universal-harvester

I have not watched Stranger Things. The husband watched it and I caught glimpses of it as I moved from room to room doing other stuff. It seemed very normal ’80s type stuff with creepy undertones. What made it seem creepy was that things were juuuuuuuust not quite right.  It’s like how you look at a picture on the wall and you know, you KNOW it’s crooked but it’s SO CLOSE that you try to ignore it because you don’t want to get up, you’re comfy dammit.

This book is like that. I really enjoyed being taken back to the days of ’90s video rental places (RIP Blockbuster). Someone has been recording snippets of very dark home movies on certain tapes and returning them, and other customers are starting to find them and complain. Honestly I’m surprised the characters don’t start sculpting things with mashed potatoes. Our main character is Jeremy, who lost his mom to a terrible car accident when he was a teenager. He lives with his dad and works at the video store. The store owner Sarah Jane gets wrapped up in our endeavor too, and Jeremy’s crush Stephanie joins his team when something doesn’t seem right and requires investigation.

Parallel to the present day story is the story of the Sample family, Dad, Mom, and daughter Lisa, who is our present day creepy lady in an old farmhouse with a dark secret and a very photogenic barn.  Set in the ’70s Mom Sample runs off with a strange, gross, strip mall church congregation and the effects on Lisa may have been…not positive?

Of course we also have a family that discovers the rusting remains of all these events after they decide to buy the very same farmhouse to retire in. They decide to investigate and find that all of our past characters still live nearby.

Over all of it we get the occasional 4th wall thrown in our face because there is a narrator that we forget about until they burst back in, pulling us up into the sky above the action, implying that other timelines went a different way but this one we are observing is the most important or interesting or devastating one.

I expected this to be a kind of alien story. It wasn’t.

I thought it might turn into “The Ring.” It didn’t.

Maybe a horror story where there are crazy murders in remote farmhouse basements? Nope.

Some reviews say it’s a story that drags out the missing mother trope. Well, okay but you have to dig kind of deeply for that. It reads like a thriller, but there are no sociopaths or serial killers to be found. I finished the book today and if I have any feelings about it they center around the idea that it is very difficult to completely escape a small town, and that even when you do part of it stays with you wherever you go, like a key in a junk drawer that no longer has a matching lock.

This is an enjoyable read until you realize that it’s not going anywhere you expect it to, indeed it seems to go nowhere at all. Perhaps something about my experience kept the emotional connection out of my reach. I would encourage you to seek out other reviews on the web about this book. They are mixed, and for good reason. This book is mixed up and perhaps never truly decided what it wanted to be before publication. It’s a shame too, because there are many satisfying ways it could have gone – and it’s the hope that one of those paths would come to fruition that kept me reading.

The Impossible Fortress

fortress

This debut novel takes on a magical journey through the life of a troublemaking, bad-grade-getting, computer nerdish teenage boy in the ’80s. Think you’re ready? You’re wrong. There are spoilers because this is one of those books that I would rather spoil it for you than have you waste time reading it. So if you want to read it without spoilers, stop here.

The book started innocently enough, with a boy (Billy) who can’t concentrate on school because he’s so into making programs and games on his Commodore 64. His mom gets SO UPSET when his report card is bad she takes away the power cord and hides it. But she very conveniently for the plot has a night job at a grocery store (like an honest to god grocery store, open 24 hours?) so he uses the combination that he figured out to retrieve it to use his computer anyway in the evenings while she’s gone.

Still with me? Cool.

So our hero has a couple of friends. One with a deformed hand that he was born with that they call “The Claw” (classy) and the other who seems to have unlimited access to money. Now our group is REALLY into Vannah White, and this story just happens to happen when her notorious Playboy issue came out and these guys. want. that. magazine. They try to think up different ways of getting it, from asking a skeevy stranger to buy it for them to eventually going in with the high school bully on a plan TO ROB THE STORE because unlimited $$$ buddy:

(a) did a presale of photocopies of the pictures and
(b) lost all the money he collected

Still with me? No? That’s good because I’m already angry about the minimal time this book took to read and I’m reliving it all for your benefit right now.

Nothing so far has been extra spoilerish but some spoilers are coming now so seriously stop if you are actually planning to read this book.

So the shop owner who carries the Playboys has a daughter, who we discover is also a computer geek. When the boys do their first “dress up like adults and pretend to be 18 to buy the magazine” shenanigans he talks to her and she tells him about a contest for video game design. He tells her he has one going and they agree to work together on it for the contest. When the murder of boys decides that ROBBING THE STORE is the best way to get to the nakey Vannah, they decide that our main character is gonna “how to lose a guy in ten days” the passcode to the alarm out of her.

  1. Her mom died of stomach cancer and the tape she made them before she dies plays on a loop in the store. (Guardians of the Galaxy style)
  2. They make fun of her for being fat BUT SHE IS PREGNANT WITH THE BABY OF THE OLDER TEEN THAT CONVINCES THEM TO ROB THE STORE AND SHE LIED AND SAID HE STOLE TO GET HIM OUT OF THE STORE BECAUSE HE USED TO WORK THERE AND IT GOT AWKWARD AFTER THEY SEXY TIMED. omg I’m so mad about this book I need a breath.

Okay I feel better. So throughout this book we have three major things happening. Billy and Mary are working to design his game The Impossible Fortress for this contest to win a newer computer. Billy, Clark, and Alf (yes, Alf) are planning to get this Playboy magazine by robbing the store with the older kid who got Mary pregnant. And Billy is falling for Mary whom he betrays and then has to win back because their game is a finalist in the competition.

This book is trying WAY TOO HARD. And halfway through the book I wished I had been keeping track of all the 80s references, it was like this book was cowritten by a cluster of Member Berries from South Park.

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Half of the young adults reading this book aren’t going to get half of the references, and the other half they are only going to get because Care Bears and Pound Puppies are actually still on tv. I could barely follow some of them. This book digs deep into the 80s and presents them to children that hold computers in their hands, the coding for which is so advanced beyond anything that was done in this book. And what was the purpose of including teen pregnancy? To be controversial? It’s completely unnecessary. I ask the same of the purpose of this book.

I feel like I would rather direct you to Ready Player One with its dystopian future and its too convenient ending than have you read this book and feel as empty as I did at the end of it. It went everywhere and then nowhere and you’re left wondering what the fuck just happened. They are luring you in with nerd culture but they hand you nothing. Don’t fall for it. Jason Rekulak has a debut novel here. Perhaps his next one will be a good novel.

All The Lives I Want

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Recently I read Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Reading those essays took me on a tour through the lives and struggles of different types of women. Sometimes they escape, sometimes they don’t, but each scenario feels real and possible. Each woman is someone you might know or could possibly meet. It feels very close, the cuts are deep, because it could be you.

When I began reading All the Lives I Want I felt sad because it was instantly about pop culture. I am not the US Weekly, Real Housewives, Kardashians kind of woman. I think this is a function of my childhood and my young adult life, in which my access to television and magazines was fairly limited. I read the first few stories thinking “how am I going to enjoy this book when the references, for the most part, are not relatable to me?”

It was almost surprising how wrong I was. The same themes I found in books like Difficult Women and Shrill were here, just couched in different settings. Massey asks who a woman’s body really belongs to when she talks about the public’s obsession with Britney Spears. Through a discussion of Amber Rose’s fame we get both a discussion on the shame assigned to certain feminine professions (when it shouldn’t be) and the differentiation of ruling the world (typically done by men) and running the world (which Beyonce was correct in saying was done by girls). Reading further in I found Sylvia Plath, whom Massey weaves into an almost dissertation style presentation of how emotions are women’s work, but even then too much emotion gets labeled as childish instead of mature and justified reactions.

This book and Massey’s writing are brilliant. She takes pop culture and smashes it together with feminism and presents it in a language of a scholarly article that has been well researched and peer reviewed. There are so many topics explored in this book it made my head spin to move from one to the next nodding in agreement. I was guided through the connections between people entrenched in pop culture and the issues that we rail against even now, yet somehow we still do not afford these individuals in the public sphere the same courtesy or mercy we would expect for ourselves as women or perhaps simply as human beings.

This made me think of my recently read book Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, about the idea of bodies being stolen and broken and about how we are all capable of it. As women we seem to be very intense right now about how our bodies belong to us and we can be whatever size we want or wear make up or not or whatever, until we pick up a magazine or have a catty conversation about some celeb’s beach body or whatever. How could she get that big? UNRECOGNIZABLE! She’s in the public eye so she has a duty to keep up her appearance. For who? For us? When does she get to be herself? Do you truly know her? And in her desire to keep her job and her fame, does she get the chance to know herself? Defend herself? Stand up for herself?

Alana Massey lends her voice to a feminist storm that is raging right now, reminding us that no woman is safe and all women, no matter their profession or publicity, deserve to be heard, protected, celebrated, and supported.

Between the World and Me

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a name that everyone should be familiar with. He is a major contributor for The Atlantic and his current work on the Black Panther comic books is absolutely amazing. His two books are absolute must-reads, his previous memoir The Beautiful Struggle (about growing up in West Baltimore) and our book for discussion today, Between the World and Me, a letter to his teenage son.

His description of histories and paths was so important. His blackness and experience was similar to, yet different than his own father’s, and he impresses upon his son that the teen’s experience will be different still, but understanding all that came before will help to light the new path that he will walk. So much of this book reminded me of the documentary 13th (on Netflix) – his son would need to always watch out for The Dream, the idea that there is one ideal, one myth, one danger; he would need to explore multiple questions and accept that there may be many answers or none yet at all.

It is a letter that drips with the need to belong: to a social group, to a dream, to a country, to a community, to a family, and the awful and beautiful things we are willing to do to ourselves and other people to emphasize and strengthen that belonging. His description of his self-realization of how he was capable of destroying the bodies of others after he had focused so long on his own body almost made me cry. When he used the words human spectrum I found words for something I had always tried to explain to myself, that as long as you are happy and not bringing harm to others, you should simply be allowed to be.

The overarching theme of this book is the idea of disembodiment and the different forms that it takes in the lives of black people. That the one common theme is that the black body is always available to be broken, and the constant slavery that exists is the idea that the shackles were never removed, that at any moment someone can decide to break a black body for any reason and there are rarely any consequences.

You need to read this book. Then make sure you own this book. Then buy extra copies and give them away and make people read them. Then make them watch 13th on Netflix. Because what even the well meaning white “allies” don’t understand is that this exists and every time anyone utters “not all white people” or “all lives matter” they are willfully ignoring and disrespecting a very real situation that has become embedded in our laws, in our behavior, in our courts, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and in our minds. Unless you make every attempt to understand and recognize this reality that black people face every fucking day, you are complicit.

This is the perfect moment to read this book. Please go get it in whatever way is most accessible to you. It is a short read, but well worth your time.