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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.

NYT bestsellerish roundup– The Interestings and All Fall Down

I have been reading so much but not posting as often! I blame job, travel, summer, and illness.

I’m still kinda sick (immense ear pressure– ouch!)– and on my way out the door to work, so I’ve quickly grouped together two of the recent “best seller” types that I’ve read.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The Interestings

This is  one of the more stylish book covers I’ve seen in a while. It was in my bag one day and it matched a bunch of the other things in there (zipper pouch, glasses case…). And as a reader, you really get a lot of “value” from this single volume. Basically, the story starts back in the 1970’s at arty summer camp, and follows a select few of the campers (who have all kept in touch) into adulthood in the present day. I don’t think I felt the passion that the author wanted me to feel, but I still enjoyed reading about most of the interesting things that happened, and getting hyper-personalized peeks into characters’ lives. I felt like some of the plot devices were kind of trite and draggy, but again, all the different little parts were compelling and well-written enough that I will still be recommending this book to people as something nice to read on the plane/beach/park/lunch break.

get a copy here

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

All fall down : a novel

I’m usually silly-obsessed with Jennifer Weiner’s books. They’re full of little pops of brilliance and allusions to contemporary pop culture and they have a delightful really personal feel that makes you really, really love the protagonist. All Fall Down has some of that. But it’s about painkiller addition, which is a kind of ugly subject that nobody’s really talking about. It’s the story that nobody really wants to read: privileged white woman has a lot going on, gets hooked on pills, hits a pretty ugly bottom, goes to rehab, and starts to get a little better.

But it’s a solid story, and a culturally relevant one. And I think that it takes someone with the mainstream clout of Jennifer Weiner to get a book like this out to the world on a mainstream publisher.

I don’t mean to say that it’s a drag to read– I read it in about a day; I put off doing other “important” and “fun” things because I wanted to find out what happened next. It’s a good book. Just different from her other stuff. Find a copy here.

 

Book Review: The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

The opposite of loneliness : essays and stories

I hate to get all sentimental and shit about an NYT Best Seller, but this collection is pretty great. It’s a bummer that Keegan died young and unexpectedly because it would have been awesome to read more of her stuff. And to see how much more awesome her writing would get with age.

These essays and short stories are full of optimism, self-awareness, some darkness, idealism, and realness.There’s simultaneously universality and incredible specificity. Some are clearly fulfilling a school assignment– others not so much.

One of my favorite elements is that the introductions to her essays are brilliantly structured. It’s like there’s an explosion and its trails lead you into the topic and suddenly you’re just there.

ch ch check it out (though you’ll probably have to wait in the reserves line for a while)

Double-teen Book Reviews Edition!

I am so busy, so here is a 2fer.

Book Review: Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust BY Leanne Lieberman

Lauren Yanofsky hates the Holocaust

I appreciate that this book plays with a topic that is so often ignored by YA lit: religion. And in particular, discomfort with religion.

Our protagonist Lauren has grown up Jewish in a pretty observant family; she had a bat mitzvah, she used to go to the Jewish youth group, and she had to beg her parents to allow her to exchange the fancy Jewish private school for the ordinary public school. Oh, and she might be questioning her belief in the religion– but that’s to the side of the main point. The main point is that the boy who she’s been flirting with plays Nazi games when he gets drunk and this really appalls her because you see, in addition to it being generally messed up, she has built up multiple layers of holocaust-related trauma. And it’s starting to  seem like the entirety of her and her religion is based around the holocaust and her friends don’t understand… My description may seem clunky, but the author actually deals with it all pretty smartly.

This is a really solid book in lots of ways. It’s well-written and has surrounding friendship drama plots, coming of age stuff, imperfect relationships and choices, problematic parenting, familial imperfection.

This unusual book is quite good and it won’t take you too long to read. Check it Out!

The Secret Ingredient by Stewart Lewis

The secret ingredient

Olivia is 16 and lives with her 2 dads in LA. The family owns a fancy little restaurant that Olivia (genius cook that she is) cooks the weekly specials for. But Oh No! the bankers are coming after the family’s restaurant and house because the business hasn’t been doing so hot. Meanwhile, Olivia gets a really cool part time job, bends some legal rules to try to meet her birth-mom (she’s adopted), spends time with a boy from her past, and encounters a lovely little dose of magic. What will happen?!?!

This is a nice read that covers lots of ground and has a good amount of dimension. I wish there was more character depth and physical description of people and outfits, but that’s just me. There are some really good and detailed descriptions of the food– and I guess that’s closer to where the plot’s at anyway. I’d been missing magic, and this had a tidy little dose of it. Get a copy!

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Fangirl was so worth the 3 month wait at the library. This book is a lovely package: there’s romance and family and relationships and new things and life changes and personal development. You’ll love this book in the park or on the train, on the couch, or in a waiting room (or at least I did)…

Plus, it’s about a twin. The wonderful World of Sweet Valley predisposes me to love anything about twins. Especially twins with different personalities.

Cath’s a twin who writes online fan fiction about a popular Harry Potter-ish book character. She followed her sister to a college a few hours from home, and instead of continuing to be twinny BFF’s, her sister becomes a popular partygirl, and Cath becomes a lonely dorm room fan fic writer who has thousands of fans online but no friends in real life. On top of her sister’s new habit of binge drinking, her dad’s  fluctuating mental health, and her MIA mom’s reappearance in the periphery, Cath might sorta be finding her voice, finding herself, and falling in love.

Fangirl is super well-written, and you’ll be sad its world is over when you get to the last page.

Get a copy!

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