Waiting on Wednesday: From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

From Where I Watch You by Shannon Grogan

Expected Release Date: August 4, 2015

Sixteen-year-old Kara McKinley is about to realize her dream of becoming a professional baker. Beautifully designed and piped, her cookies are masterpieces, but also her ticket out of rainy Seattle—if she wins the upcoming national baking competition and its scholarship prize to culinary school in California. Kara can no longer stand the home where her family lived, laughed, and ultimately imploded after her mean-spirited big sister Kellen died in a drowning accident. Kara’s dad has since fled, and her mom has turned from a high-powered attorney into a nutty holy-rolling Christian fundamentalist peddling “Soul Soup” in the family café. All Kara has left are memories of better times.

But the past holds many secrets, and they come to light as Kara faces a secret terror. Someone is leaving her handwritten notes. Someone who knows exactly where she is and what’s she’s doing. As they lead her to piece together the events that preceded Kellen’s terrible, life-changing betrayal years before, she starts to catch glimpses of her dead sister: an unwelcome ghost in filthy Ugg boots. If Kara doesn’t figure out who her stalker is, and soon, she could lose everything. Her chance of escape. The boy she’s beginning to love and trust. Even her life.

(summary via Goodreads)

First off, the cover is super gorgeous.  But more than that, the book sounds so compelling.  Early buzz has been largely positive, and I can’t wait to get my hands on this one and read it.  I love the exploration of oppressive faith and the secrets of the past, as well as the complicated relationship between sisters.  I can’t wait.

What are you waiting on this week?

 

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

Joe Goldberg meets a beautiful wannabe writer when she comes into the bookstore where he works.  Her name is Guinevere Beck, and he becomes instantly obsessed.  He’s able to find out all sorts of things by stalking her social media and then stalking her real life, and he knows that she will be his.  He just has to take care of some of the complications masquerading as people in her life.  As he controls more and more of Beck’s life, he also works to be the perfect man for her so that their life together can finally begin.

One of my favorite library instruction sessions is all about social media and privacy, and I’m tempted to bring up a book like this when I discuss social media with students.  It’s a perfectly ridiculous example of a worst-case scenario: a man uses social media to find out absolutely everything about his victim and uses the information to his advantage in every way possible.

That’s what’s so brilliant about Kepnes’s fantastically creepy thriller: it has a hint of the wholly unlikely, but readers can’t shake the feeling that it could be all too real.  It’s deeply unsettling, extremely compelling, and oftentimes darkly funny.  Readers who like their narrators unreliable, their stories dark, and the morals murky at best will find a lot to love here.

In her narrator Joe, Kepnes has crafted a man completely unhinged but unaware of it.  He is able to exude charm to the outside world while keeping a running commentary of snarky comments and pop culture observations inside his head.  The result is a man who is both abhorrent and kind of awesome.

Beck is also complicated, but because readers are never treated to time inside her head and view her only through Joe’s eyes and thoughts, she remains something of an enigma.  She’s spoiled and kind of a brat, and has a tendency to treat people badly (though pretty much every character in this novel is the literal worst), but readers can tell that she has issues with intimate relationships just by how she engages with the world.  Because of this, they also know that her relationship with Joe is doomed.  I mean, he’s also a sociopathic murderer, but Kepnes writes her characters so well that readers will have to actively remind themselves that they aren’t rooting for Joe.

Perhaps the only true criticism is that the novel goes on for a bit too long, and some heavier editing could have cut a bit of the flab that keeps the story from being as tight as it wants to be.  It starts to drag about two-thirds of the way through, just ever so slightly.  Still, readers will race through this one to see what happens in the shocking conclusion.

Recommended.

You by Caroline Kepnes. Atria Books: 2014.  Library copy.

 

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

Let’s get to the links.

My Wedding Was Perfect – and I Was Fat as Hell the Whole Time(The Guardian)

I love Lindy West for a lot of reasons, and she never ceases to impress the hell out of me with her writing and fearless devotion to being totally honest and unapologetically herself.  This piece about her wedding and being a “fat bride” is so excellent:

There’s an awkward three-way tension between wedding culture and feminism and fat acceptance – because of what “acceptance” demands of women in our culture, a lot of fat activism takes the form of fat women trying to “prove” that they can wear the trappings of male fantasy and traditional gender roles just as well as thin women. Fat women can be pretty. Fat women can get married. Fat women can “get” conventionally attractive husbands. But how is that constructive? Male approval isn’t where my self-worth comes from – and that realisation was a huge part of what made my current relationship healthy and fulfilling.

And this:

Choose your rituals, but make them yours. If you want to look like a flower market ate fat Betty Draper and then barfed her up in the middle of a haunted forest (YEEEESSS!), great choice. If you want to get married to a burrito while wearing a barrel with suspenders, I’m cool with it. If you think the very concept of marriage is hot garbage, that’s legit. But regardless, remember that you absolutely do not have to “fix” your body, chase after “flattering”, be somebody’s dark secret, or beg for permission to be happy.

Bad Blood: Taylor Swift’s Misguided Feminism (Ravishly)

If you aren’t caught up on what happened, Nicki Minaj was snubbed for a nomination in a major category at the MTV VMAs.  She tweeted her displeasure at this, and implied that if she were “a different kind of artist” (read: white, thin) she would have been nominated.  Taylor Swift, who was nominated in the category, felt personally victimized and tweeted out an obnoxious response.  This launched a thousand think pieces.  This is one of the best and most accessible ones:

Taylor Swift’s feminism (I don’t even like to call it that, but my feminism leaves room for any and all women to consider themselves feminists, and I stick to that because I have, you know, actual principles that guide my politics) is the kind of feminism that makes me want to shut my head in a car door a few times. It lacks critical thinking or inclusion. It’s about nothing but gender, and in the most limited of terms.

And this:

In being so reactionary, in not considering the many different ways womanhood is experienced and the context of Nicki’s thoughts and concerns, Taylor Swift did the very thing she so condescendingly accused Nicki of doing. She pitted women against each other. She detracted from the real and important conversation, and made the news and media coverage about two ladies fighting. And guess who was the victim in these news stories? Just guess.

Not a very long read, but definitely a worthy one.  I’ve always enjoyed Taylor Swift’s music while finding her mildly problematic, but this makes her seem like the goddamn worst.

White America is Addicted to Black Death (Dame Magazine)

This is a hard read, but it contains important questions and truths that need to be examined.  Taking the focus on a white artist who has created an installation recreating the death of Michael Brown as a way to help “the healing process,” this author takes issue with basically all of it:

Why must Black agony be appropriated and sold to the highest bidder? Is the oppression and degradation of Black people always going to be on the auction block? One piece of the exhibit, a Confederate flag with the names of the nine victims of the Charleston church shooting, has sold for some $4,500. Moore and the gallery owners claim that a small percentage of the money will go to a worthy cause.

Also, this very important point:

In reality, the exhibit is a show of privilege, as evidenced by the fact of who is empowered to do such “artistry,” and who is not. Can you imagine an exhibit by a Muslim artist of 9/11 victims? A Nazi Holocaust exhibit by a German artist?  Or a Black-Caribbean artist’s rendering of Colin Ferguson’s mass slaughter of commuters on the Long Island Railroad?

Upsetting, thought-provoking, and wholly worth our time and consideration.

 

Movie News and Randomness

Here’s some movie news to get you through this Thursday.

1. Joy Trailer

The film stars Jennifer Lawrence and reunites her again with David O. Russell.  It looks…unconventional, kind of?  It’s about a woman who rises up from a poor childhood to invent a miracle mop.  I will see it because I love Lawrence, but I don’t expect to be blown away by the film.

2. The Young Kieslowski Trailer

Super indie with this one, with virtually no names I recognize, but I’m interested to see the exploration of two teens in the aftermath of an unwanted pregnancy.

3. Sisters Trailer

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are sisters (go with it) and have to clean out their childhood home.  Instead, they decide to throw a rager.  The film looks dumb and super funny, and I can’t wait.

4. Goosebumps Trailer

I just.  What? Why. What? WHY.

5. Slow Learners Trailer

It stars Adam Pally, and I am there.  That’s really all I need.

Waiting on Wednesday: All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder

Expected Release Date: July 28, 2015

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn’t leave, the world will end. But Emerson’s world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city’s quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people’s wishes — and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day — maybe even their own.

(summary via Goodreads)

I’m a sucker for end of the world stuff, and I love the idea of exploring the last day on earth from this perspective.  I hope it’s done well and that it’s properly sad–something about the last line on the blurb makes me a little nervous that the book won’t end the way it maybe should–but either way, I’m sure this will be an absolutely riveting read.  I can’t wait!

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz

Just like all the A-Z books that have come before this one, this book illustrates the alphabet.  But instead of A standing for something obvious and lame, it stands for Angela Davis, the iconic–and radical–political activist.  Z is for Zora Neale Hurston, famed writer.  You get the idea.  This list of 26 amazing women who have shaped history and defied stereotypes is a thing to behold.  Full of diverse individuals representing all sorts of countries, colors, and professions, this is a primer that should be on every bookshelf.

Believe the hype.  This colorful, riveting look at women throughout history lives up to the good buzz it received prior to publication.  Because of its focus on a diverse array of women, there’s something here for every reader, and it should do exactly what it aims to: empower young people, both boys and girls.

The portraits are colorful and stand out, and the short text accompaniments to each featured woman provide just enough information to whet the reader’s appetite without overwhelming them or getting bogged down in the details.  Accessible, memorable, and full of useful information, the book’s epilogue lists ways that readers can stand up and speak out and get involved in their own communities.

Highly, highly recommended.  This is a pure joy to read from start to finish and is sure to inspire even the most jaded of readers.  I can’t wait to buy this for all the little kids in my life.  It will definitely work for a range of ages, but elementary school students seem to be where this one will fit best.

Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz. City Lights: 2015. Library copy.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

A huge storm hit late Friday night and knocked out our power for the next 40-ish hours, so J. and I had quite the weekend.  We didn’t get power back until late last night, which meant that much of my planned pop culture consumption was derailed.  BUT I did see two movies and get some reading done, so here’s what I consumed this weekend:

trainwreckTrainwreck: I was excited for this, and it actually exceeded many of my expectations.  Like all Judd Apatow movies, it’s a tad bit too long, but it’s also funny, smart, and surprisingly full of heart.  I thought it was laugh-out loud funny and well worth your time.  Amy Schumer is a goddamn treasure.  It’s a sweet, fresh take on the romantic comedy.  Highly recommended.

Infinitely Polar Bear: This gem of a movie was a knockout.  It’s so sweet infinitelypolarand sad and beautiful, and Mark Ruffalo is amazing in it.  About a dad struggling to raise his daughters while dealing with manic-depression in the 70s, this heartfelt drama is so, so excellent.  If you have a chance to see it (it’s in limited release right now), please go do so.  It’s one of my favorites of the year.\

The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen: I finished this excellent biography of the Tsarnaev brothers, the men purportedly behind the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.  Gessen takes a wide-angle approach to the topic, going back in time and tracing the nomadic immigration of the Tsarnaev family before the births of Tamerland and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  It’s a very well written, respectful, and excellently researched book, and it’s absolutely riveting.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?