Where the Crawdads Sing

Every once in awhile I read a book that is so beautiful, so well written, and so personal that I want to recommend it to everyone I meet. It’s the kind of book that is difficult to explain why you should read it, and all that comes out is a garble of “just read it, TRUST ME!” Well, my friends, Where the Crawdads Sing is one of those books.

The solitude of the main character Kya is what makes this book absolutely heart-wrenching. People help her along the way (and discriminate against her ruthlessly) but from child to old woman she is essentially alone and how she navigates that life is the lifeblood of this story. Watching her try to survive in the marsh as her family leaves her one by one, first her mother, then her siblings, and finally her father; seeing the few people who know what her situation is but don’t turn her in to the social services and instead help her survive – I didn’t know I was holding my breath through the entire first half of the book because even I didn’t want her to lose her marsh, her wildlands, her seagulls.

I was inspired by how she made a life out of nothing and how she found joy without other people. My heart broke for her when she trusted and saw that trust betrayed. I was furious when her naivete was taken advantage of. Despite all the bad, Kya finds joy in her simple life and it is a good lesson to receive from such a good book.

I haven’t come across many books about “white trash” in my reading, and so many aspects of Kya’s experience hit home for me, more than I want to admit. This book made me cry several times, not only because the story was powerful but because I remembered feeling what Kya was feeling in relationship to the larger world and the dangers it holds.

This book is powerful in an era where we are increasingly talking about how we need to understand each other better and do away with discrimination and oppression. And from an educator’s standpoint, Kya is an extreme example of the need to meet children where they are so they can learn in the way that is best for them, and I wish that we could teach all poor and secluded children the way Kya was taught. There are a multitude of themes to be discussed while reading and this would make an amazing book club pick in 2020.

If you are a woman, you need to read this book. If you are a man who loves a damaged woman, you need to read this book. If you haven’t already, please, go read this book. TRUST ME.

Chosen Ones

I have only read the first book of the Divergent series (and seen the movie) so I had no prior allegiance (LOL) to Veronica Roth. Since I did enjoy her storytelling in Divergent, I decided to pick up her first foray into the world of adult fiction and give it a shot.

I liked the concept of seeing how chosen ones live after they’ve defeated the big bad dude. The aftermath, the PTSD, the coping mechanisms, all were on full display in the group of chosen ones that we follow. Drinking, pretending, brave facing, adrenaline junkie-ing – it’s all here ten years later.

Where I feel like this book fell apart was in the execution of magic. How it was found and used, there is an entire history here that we miss because we weren’t there for the initial event. We get it in drips and drabs through chapters that are top secret documents we are privy to that document how things went down ten years ago, but I felt like it was a lot of exposition that couldn’t really be included in the action of the story because, well, the story was ten years later.

It would have been neat if there had been a duology or trilogy of YA novels that covered how they won as teenagers first, and then this book that is more adult that’s more of a “where are they now” kind of expose’. But that’s a lot of writing and not the point.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I’ll keep my last criticism brief: The love stories. Something I bring up a lot here at Angry Angel Books is that not everything has to be a love story. People can just be friends. They don’t have to have sex and googly eye at each other. And where the second half of this book fell apart for me was the rebound relationship that our MC Sloane has after breaking off her ten year relationship (and engagement) with her fellow chosen one Matt. Roth wants me to believe this is an immediate love connection and it’s real thin. Everything about this new guy and the chosen ones’ new circumstances felt so out of left field and unbelievable that I almost didn’t finish the book. Again, I think a lack of history that had to somehow get woven in through exposition via documents and history books and articles make this a skeleton that had no meat on the bones. Even the villain(s) was(were) kind of boring and unimpressive.

The ending was not well handled, and again keep in mind that I almost just put this one down and didn’t finish. I think as a whole it was a good idea, a cool concept, but it somehow needed more than 400 pages of a hardcover to accomplish that. I almost wish this had been a duology: the first book a more fleshed out version of the first half of this book that ends in the cliffhanger of [spoiler], then the second book is the second half, again, better fleshed out and more room for expansion, character development, and a satisfying ending because we are now invested in this world and its people.

I’d have to say skip this one. It was okay but if you have other choices for summer reads go try those.

The Janes (Alice Vega #2)

Two Girls Down (Alice Vega #1)

Alex Vega and Max Caplan are back for this Southwest human trafficking adventure! Two Jane Does are discovered in southern California, and the police department there hires Alex Caplan to investigate because they want to keep it off the radar to assist the DEA in their ongoing drug trafficking investigation. She of course calls in her partner Max Caplan, who is so lovesick agrees immediately even though his most recent job just offered him salary and benefits to come on as a full time investigator at their law firm.

This book starts a LOT faster than Two Girls Down and I was very thankful for that. Luna is a talented storyteller and for these kinds of thrillers I just needed her to get straight to the action. Corrupt cops and drug kingpins and human trafficking of children for sex dungeons – there is a lot going on here. And if you think you know where it’s going, you don’t. It’s what makes this book so fucking amazing.

I have to admit that at the start the way Caplan fawns over Vega, even creepily looking in on her through the blinds of her hotel room, kind of hit me the wrong way. It didn’t seem endearing, it felt like it was kind of dancing on the line between lovesick and obsessed and it made me uncomfortable. He’s got some boundaries though, and never acts on anything, so that’s something. I just feel like the way he was written early on kind of soured my view of how cool he was from the first book.

Eventually that resolves so it isn’t a major focus and we’re off to the races. This book has so many layers and every time I peeled one back I was shocked (and a little terrified) to find the next one. I devoured this book, I didn’t want to stop reading. It’s the first book I’ve taken in to read before bed in a long time because I had to squeeze just one more chapter in before I fell asleep.

You don’t have to read Two Girls Down before this one, but if you want to feel invested in the character development between Vega and Cap and Nell and the Bastard, you’ll want to read it first. You won’t mind though, they are both spectacular. Go get you some.

Wow, No Thank You

Wow No Thank You

New York Times review

Entertainment Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

There isn’t a lot to say about Samantha Irby’s new set of essays that hasn’t already been said by a lot of people smarter and more highly paid than me. I think that when I read her work, I see a life that is possible. Inherent permission to live a life that is unapologetic, that is focused on the true self and pursuing what makes that actual self happy (or at least less miserable). People focus so much on the things that we should to or are supposed to do, but they never realize that most of the time they don’t need someone’s permission to choose to do something else.

I also appreciate that Irby weaves in the obstacles and problems with the search for such a life in with humor and sarcasm. We’re all laughing and crying because, for the most part, women have experienced a lot of these struggles before. I would give literally anything to have my doctor agree to microwave my uterus so I don’t have to dread having another IUD inserted in 2021. I am not using it and all it gives me is despair, if you will not remove it please kill it and save us all the trouble.

I worry though that these high paid people, people smarter and higher up than me feel like they are vacationing in someone else’s life, which is basically what anyone does when they read a memoir sure. What I mean is that unless you’ve experienced poverty, a landlord that basically fucks with you, HUNGER, anything that Irby jauntily floats us all through with humor and self-deprecation, you’re not hearing the fear, the desperation, and the relief in a lot of these essays. A few of the above linked reviews talk about how these essays feel different. When I read that, I balked at it because it was almost like they were saying she wasn’t struggling enough to be as edgy as she was in the past. This most recent collection feels different because life feels a lot different when you don’t have to constantly worry about getting kicked out of your apartment and are getting proper healthcare and enough to eat. Life feels different when you have people around that love and support you and that you can love and support in return.

Irby’s books are a journey to this stability, and each collection of essays feels different because each one brings us closer to what every poor kid wishes for themselves and others: seeing that Irby is going to be okay. Does she still have health problems and other issues that we love to hear her complain about? Sure, but I feel a lot better reading them knowing that at the core of them, she’s relatively safe and happy. I can’t wait to hear more and will be preordering book 4. Wow, yes thank you. 🙂

Catching Up

I have arrived at the end of the 19-20 school year and the start of summer 2020 and I just wanted to put a small post out there to let you know that I am working on two new reviews with a third to come. It has been an easy escape to read, but difficult to work up the motivation to write down my thoughts on the books. Now that my only obligations are what I want to do, I’ll be getting those written up and out shortly.

Honestly I’m just glad that I made it through another day right now. I hope that if you are reading this that you are safe and healthy and finding a way to exist in this new world that is unfurling before our eyes. Thank you for reading and supporting Angry Angel Books.