book reviews, crafts, cheap things…

Posts tagged “new york

Express Book Review: Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement

Widow Basquiat : a love story

Bummer that he was such a jerk (albeit with apparently charming moments). Being an arty person myself, and spending lots of time with artists, I have very little patience for people who feel like they can treat others badly just because they made rad art. But still, as I stood in Uniqlo looking at their brilliant and desirable SPRZNY line of artist shirts, I couldn’t bring myself to feel ok about buying the shirt I liked with Basquiat’s art on the front. He was just too mean to poor Suzanne. (Did I buy garments with other artists’ designs? Yes. Do I feel bad about the sweatshop factor? Yes. Will I probably continue to buy products from this line because it does a genius job of showcasing the artists I love? Probably. Siiiigh.  BUT there is hope! J Morrison is an artist who makes some really awesome artist themed shirts. Ethically. There are still a few left. I’ve bought  a few and they’ve made my life awesome. BUY THEM, cuz OMG. )

But back to Widow Basquiat— this is a beautifully written book. It poetically explores the lives of both Jean-Michel Basquiat and his longtime off-and-on lover Suzanne Mallouk. Even if you don’t care for the art, or weren’t in NY for the 80’s, you’ll love the story (if you go for that romantic artistic kind of stuff). Check it out!!


Book Review: Walks with Men by Anne Beattie

Walks with men

I’d never heard of Anne Beattie when I picked this one up off of the bargain rack for $3. To be honest, I thought the picture on the front cover was kind of hot, and I was attracted to the pretension in the description on the back cover. I still really haven’t googled Beattie– though I did look up the Amazon reviews for this title. I only read the bad and mediocre reviews, but it seems like most of them are from readers who are otherwise big fans of her work. How happy I am to have started fresh!

This was a slick little snapshot (112 pages)– a detached but romantic (to a person who had yet to be born in the era she’s writing about) series of events in one of those relationships that takes over everything. The last third gets a little weird, but it’s ok because you’re not really attached to Jane, the protagonist. I got the feeling that I was reading a disguised memoir piece, but didn’t really get around to looking into it. on another hand, I also got the feeling that I was missing something big– like something symbolic or something that I really had to be there (NY in 1980) for.

Find  copy at the library


Book Review: Adam by Ariel Schrag

Adam

About 25% into this book, I started to think Oh man, this book is hilarious but is gonna seriously ruffle some feathers.

(upon checking out the 1-stars on Amazon, the answer is yes! it did!)

The premise, alone, made people uncomfortable– and I’ll admit, is the reason why I waited for this book from the library instead of buying hot off the shelves of the store. Adam, a “typical” privileged hetero teenage boy from the ‘burbs in the Bay Area spends a Summer with his queer big sister in NYC. It turns out that her peers think he’s trans, so he plays it that way in order to get action with the older queer girls (and it works). It turns out that (even though this book definitely treads some dangerous terrain in the trans and queer department, and what the characters say and do isn’t always politically correct or right) I could’ve bought the book and been ok about it.

If you’re a person who’s ever thought about internal and external queer politics and you can read through the description without getting upset, I recommend reading Adam. I didn’t always fall in love with the characters, their motives, or their actions– but they were a really good backdrop for Schrag’s smartly pointed critiques of elements of our queer culture, different layers of privilege, sometimes superficiality, and deeper “queer insider” knowledge (it’s written by a queer insider through the gaze of an outsider discovering it for the first time). Her writing is hilarious and interesting– in addition to great pointed critiques, there are also a lot of really great cringe-worthy moments that sometimes feel kind of universal.

check it out!

 


Book Review: After Tupac and D Foster

After Tupac & D Foster

D Foster is the mysterious new girl that randomly wandered down Neeka and her best friend’s block one day and befriended them. Tupac is, well, Tupac. The three girls become BFF’s and bond over girlhood and a reverence for Tupac and his music (in terms of era, we begin before Tupac non-fatally gets shot the first time, and we end after his death from a different shooting). You may be thinking that sounds silly, or I don’t even like Tupac so why should I read this. But you should check it out! The author KILLS IT when writing about the effect that song lyrics or a performer’s persona has on you in those early teen years. The persona of Tupac is like a beacon and a friend in the lives of the girls, even though he lives nowhere near them and they listen to his music on a crackly tape of a tape, he’s just as present as, say, a mother or brother in their lives.

This children’s fiction (classified as “JF” at my library, probably best for 5th to 8th grade, but I’d also recommend it to older teens who are reluctant readers– or Tupac fans). It’s a short read, and is not just about ‘Pac– it also weaves in narratives of options for young black males, foster care, race, undeserved incarceration, having a gay family member, the fact of being female and growing up.
Check out a copy here!


Book Reviews: double teen-dream-problems edition!

So I had this giant stack of  well-respected adult literature that I was intending to read– and instead I gravitated toward teen stuff (and returned the adult stuff to the library).  So much for faking like I’m fancy and grown up. Here goes:

45 Pounds (more or less) by KA Barson

So teenage Anne has been told that she is 45 pounds overweight, her (super skinny) mom is a total jerk about it, and as a result, she has a pretty big complex. Her lesbian (!) aunt’s wedding is in a few months and she wants to lost the weight so she can look thin in the ceremony, so she goes through some extreme measures to start– and ends up having to get a job to support these new measures, and meanwhile there’s a boy she likes and her little sister is starting to get emotionally distressed about something, and there’s a mean girl out to sabotage her…

Ultimately lots of the right lessons are taught, but I really wish the “happy ending” could have been made happy without the stereotypical things that it ended with. I kind of also wish that we’d gotten to know Anne a little better. BUT this teenage “problem novel” is still solidly multi-dimensional, entertaining, and interesting.

Find a copy here

Hot Girl by Dream Jordan

Hot girl

14 year old Kate’s had a tough life. She’s been bounced around group homes and foster families, is a former gang member and former pot smoker and all-around tough girl– but she finally had a good social worker, good grades,  and an ok (but strict) family she lives with. But when her BFF goes away for the summer, she befriends Naleejah, a super-fancy girl who has tons of money and designer clothes– and sleeps with guys to get them. Naleejah gives Kate a makeover, and the kind of attention that she gets starts to change… Will she fall in too deep with her new friend and risk losing everything that she’s worked so hard to make stable in her life?

This is a decent YA novel. It features multiple characters’ complications and complexities, and is realistic in the sense that it doesn’t try too hard to clean up supporting characters’ messes. Kate is weird enough that we can actually believe that she’s a real person, and while some of the other characters might be jerky, they still elicit some empathy.

Find a copy here


What Purpose Did I Serve In Your Life by Marie Calloway

What purpose did I serve in your life

Amazon’s recommendation robots were pretty sure that I’d like this one. I had to order it all the way from Washington via InterLibraryLoan, and it wasn’t a loss (of time). The book itself is a combination of fictiony memoir and screen shoots of texts and/or instant messages. The author/narrator is 21-ish at the time of publication, and like many people, is sexual, complicated, flawed, and curious.

I guess Calloway is popular online, and I’m not really going to try to hunt down her blogs or whatever, but I really appreciate the book’s frankness. There are a buttload of sex scenes, and they are equally hot and awkward, but told in what feels like a really level voice. The moments of sadness/uncertainty/embarrassment are inserted so seamlessly that at first you’re not sure if she’s aware of them or not. The writing nicely captures how fucked up we humans are.

Find a copy here


Book Review: The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz

The infinite wait and other stories

I reserved this book from the library as soon as I finished Drinking At The Movies. Upon checking it out, I read it in like 2 seconds. This volume brings us from childhood to the present-ish, and back again. It’s in 3 segments:

1. Industry (crappy and awesome jobs through Wertz’s life. lots of food industry stuff that I could seriously relate to)

2. The Infinite Wait (moving to SF and getting a diagnosis and living and stuff. oh, san francisco. The author and I may have some different opinions about homelessness, but the rest was lovely)

3. A Strange and Curious Place (about the hometown and the hometown library. yay libraries.)

I liked this one just as much as I liked the other one; I pretty much sat down with it and didn’t get back up until I was finished reading it (when I was doing other things I was totally thinking about getting back to it). The illustrations are alluring, the pace is good, the plot is engaging, and I want more.

get one at the library or from the author


Book Review: Drinking at the Movies by Julia Werta

Drinking at the movies

I really like this graphic memoir by Julia Wertz (of Fart Party, which is not about farts). I’m really tired and I have a headache so I’m not gonna write much– but if you like attractively illustrated creative & cynical misanthropes, awkward bluntness, and truth that is sometimes hilarious and sometimes sad,  Wertz is totally your cartoonist. After finishing this book, I immediately sought out more.

get one at the library, get one from the author.


Book Review: The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

The ten-year nap

I picked this book up for $1 at a Friends of the Library book sale because I was in need of something mainstream-ish and satisfying. It worked! The Ten Year Nap is quite engaging– it looks at a snapshot in time for a group of women (in their late 30’s) who live in New York. The theme of it is that most of them had big dreams, went to college, had some success in the world– and then had kids. The book examines their complicated feelings about their circumstances while maintaining a bit of a narrative to keep it interesting.

It’s not perfect– for example, the women are all supposed to be friends, but I didn’t feel their chemistry. And parts of it were a bit weird about Asian racial stereotypes. And the ending was too clean. But, it was relatively complex, served its purpose of general amusement, and fit nicely into my current mental state of wondering if I’m making good choices in my life as I get a little older.

Find a copy at your library!


Book Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, someday, maybe : a novel

This is a nice novel about a struggling actress in NYC working toward “making it” as a professional actress.  She has goals, insecurities, romantic issues, acting class, job issues, etc.
It’s a pleasant summer read (perhaps not as “funny” as the advance praise on the back cover suggests) that covers a lot of ground without going too deep. I didn’t fall in love with the narrator, but I did like her and want her to succeed. There’s not a serious “Rising action- Climax- Falling action- Resolution” kind of structure to the story that we modern readers tend to love so much, but  it works out just fine. The ending is open-ended– either just like real life (or it’s poised for a sequel).

Surprise! It wasn’t until starting to read this (library) book that I read the inside of the jacket and learned that the author is a famous actress! I’ve never seen her shows, and maybe she talks about this in the interviews that I’m probably never going to read, but I wonder if this novel was semi-autobiographical… Kind of like Lauren Conrad’s actually pretty decent LA Candy (I never actually saw her tv show either).

 

Find a library copy of the book here!