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Book Review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The vacationers

This is the book that everyone was talking about at the beginning of  the Summer. It was love-love-loved by lots of mainstream book reviewers, and everyone at the library was rushing to put it on hold because they’d heard it was the ultimate beach read.

It’s perfectly good, but I think I loved it less because it wasn’t as life-changing as all the hype made me think it would be. Plot-wise, it’s a classic slightly humorous, kinda gossipy NYT best seller about a wealthy white family from the east coast that goes on vacation and discovers things about each other and comes of age both as a unit and as individuals. I mean, it’s a solid book, an easy thing to recommend to someone who just wants to chill out and not think too much for a stretch of a few hours. You know how when you read a tabloid the nuances aren’t new but some of the people/places are? Kind of like that.

It’s not gonna change your life, but it will fill a few hours with well-written and nicely paced pleasantness.

 

Check it out!

Book Review: Nochita by Dia Felix

Nochita

Whoa.

I kinda bought this one on impulse when I went on vacation and read though the book I brought faster than expected.  Glad that happened!

If you like postmodern/experimental lit or queer lit or feminist lit or lit in general you should check this one out. There are two distinct parts and they’re about the same person but they’re both really different. The narrator is not always reliable, and don’t expect to ever fully touch down in the plot. But. What the author has done with language and feeling is really awesome, and was enough to keep me reading and fascinated. The idea of re-reading a book generally makes me feel a little sick inside (I will never be that person who says they’ve read Jkjsdfghkjl x many times because they love it so much), especially when we have so many choices– but I’m kinda tempted, now that I’ve got the plot down, to go back through this one and savor the language and style a little more.

It’s published by the City Lights/ Sister Spit Collab. Omg, buy it or check it out.

Book Review: Addicted by Zane

Addicted

I’ve been working with teen boys, and to my immense librarian pleasure, they actually read!

They’re super into urban fiction/ street lit, and general stories about people in intense situations with tough lives who either figure it out or succumb. One of the most commercially successful authors in the street lit genre is Zane, so I decided to check out  one of her most popular titles, Addicted.

It’s easy to see why this book is popular. The African American female protagonist is attractive and financially successful from her own company, the writing is often compelling, the subject matter is a little edgy, and there’s lots of hot sex (and aside from 50 Shades, there’s more detail than your average mainstream novel). I read the book voraciously and have no regrets about the time spent. I guess I could have been watching My Drunk Kitchen (which I am presently a little bit obsessed with), but what I’m saying is that this was a fine way to pass the time.

I do, however, take issue with a major part of the book: the causes of the character’s addiction (we’re talking about a sex addiction, btw). I’ll skip over the problematic fact that the protagonist’s set of sexual feelings and actions was labeled an addiction by her therapist, and talk about how this so-called addiction (which seemed more like a sex-negative excuse for some bad behaviors) was allegedly caused by some bad events from her childhood, and how her husband’s sex problem was also caused by his birth mother’s instability and profession. Oh, and then how the end of the book basically degrades into a crude bloodbath in attempt to simultaneously tie up loose ends, solidify the protagonist’s love for her husband, and bring justice to some bad guys.

But I can see why the teens like it. I just wish that each copy of the book could be distributed with a fact sheet. Or that the protagonist’s sexy romp didn’t have to be blunted by the author’s morals.

Book Review: Gender Failure by Ivan E Coyote and Rae Spoon

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Yay, this book is great. It’s co-authored by two classic contemporary queer writers/performance artists, and just came out this year. It’s based on a live show that the two did together, yet it totally reads like a book (i.e. you won’t be plagued by the persistent feeling that maybe something’s gone wrong and this isn’t supposed to be a book). If you’ve read lots of queer and trans coming-of-age, social critique, and memoir stuff, this book covers familiar ground. Yet it’s still totally fresh in the directions that it takes you. The format it also nice– it’s a vaguely continuous series of vignettes that switches back and forth between the two authors. So Good!

The book itself is 255 pages long, and I read the entire thing in a 30 minute BART ride + a 90 minute plane flight + 20 minutes of the light rail train away from the airport in Seattle. Whoa! Super engaging! The writing ranges from factual to heartbreaking to tender, and is quite good. I don’t really want to give anything away, so just check it out! Or buy it.

Book Review: My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

My year of meats

This book is totally awesome!

An out-of-work NYC documentarian (Jane) takes a job producing a new Japanese TV show about American wives’ cooking that is secretly intended to promote and increase Japanese consumption of American Beef. Yeah, you read that right.

And a TON of stuff happens in the year that this book covers. Like crew antics, a hot sort-of relationship, ambiguity, self reflection, abuse, wry commentary on America, insight on cancer-causing chemicals, a trip to the slaughterhouse, tenderness…

This book is very tightly written; though the summary might make it seem ridiculous, it actually all works really well. If I weren’t so tired I would gush more.

Check it out!

Book: Pregnant Butch by AK Summers

Pregnant butch : nine long months spent in drag

Yayyy for queer comics! Pregnant Butch chronicles our butch protagonist Teek through the journey of realizing she’d like to have a kid, acquiring sperm, being pregnant, and later giving birth. Both humorous and tender, this graphic novel simultaneously critiques both the birthing industry and our society’s weirdness with gender, in whole.

Totally great. Comics world kind of lacks butches, so this is a good addition. Find a library copy or buy one.

The Jacket by Andrew Clements

The jacket

Check out The Jacket by Andrew Clements– this isn’t so much of a book review as it is a book acknowledgement. It’s 2014 and you still don’t get to read about racism too much in contemporary children’s fiction (that takes place in the modern era). Sure, there’s plenty of historical children’s fiction that talks about racism as a thing of the past, and there’s certainly a bit of fiction about kids of Color that sometimes hints at racial injustice.

But this is a book by a (super famous & popular) white author about a white kid who does something to a black kid and then starts thinking critically about race and racism for his first time ever. While as an adult, the sequence of the protagonist’s thoughts is maybe a little too idealistic, it’s still admirable and lovely and totally groundbreaking in its deconstruction of race and racism in mainstream suburban white America. It’s 89 pages of 14-point font with occasional illustrations. You’ll read it in a single train ride and wonder why more mainstream children’s lit hasn’t gone there. Find a copy here.

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