Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Amulet, The Stone Keeper, Kazu Kibuishi

I read this for the 2016 Challenge "Read a Graphic Novel" and my 11 year old owns them all (that are currently published, there is a new, highly anticipated one coming out later this year, I think).

Overall, I think I'd give it 3 stars. I was surprised by how powerful the emotions were, especially for a book geared towards younger readers. Part of me enjoyed being able to whiz through pages just by taking in images and minimal text. Part of me missed being able to decide for myself what the characters and things looked like. It was also kind of science fiction-y in a way that isn't instantly appealing to me.

HOWEVER, I recently was made aware of a condition that exists for some people who absolutely CANNOT think in images. I never knew this wasn't universal to the human race. So for all those kids who have a terrible time reading-and think it's more work than it's worth-maybe they have this inability to transform a description into a vivid as life image in their minds. Especially for that group of people, I think graphic novels serve a really great purpose.

I might explore graphic novels more in the future, just for a change of pace every now and again. I'll probably peruse through the rest of the Amulet series simply so I know what my kids are reading.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells

At first, I picked this book because of its blue cover...and it's on the Rory Gilmore List...But THEN I discovered that in the split narrative, part of it takes place in my home state! And I had been having trouble finding one in that category for the 2016 Reading Challenge. So this is my home state book. The part that takes place in WA.

So split narrative, between Sidda (Siddalee) who is nearing 40, a successful woman in the theater business writing/directing, and split with her mother Vivi, in Cenla (Central Louisiana). Vivi's portions are split between her childhood, teenage years, and current mother to 40 year old Sidda.

I give this 3.5 stars (3 on Goodreads) because it was gripping, entertaining, I have a STRONG urge to start using y'all in my everyday vocabulary (something I haven't done since hanging out with my friend Carolyn in middle/high school-she had transplanted from Texas in the 8th grade), it was poignant, beautiful, tragic, and vivid. BUT it did have quite a bit of language. It had a few too many scenes where Wells kept reminding you that the character was naked (I didn't need that THIRD reminder), and the naked parts didn't make sense. Seriously, would a 40 yr old woman wander around naked in a garden at a hotel in the middle of the night??

So anyhow, Vivi has disowned Sidda because in an interview in the New York Times, Sidda mentioned some of the less wonderful things about her mother, and her mother gets called "A tap dancing child abuser." Vivi has 3 best friends, Teensy, Niece, and Caro, who have been friends since their earliest days and call themselves the Ya-Yas. They grew up together, had kids at the same time, called all their kids the Petites Ya-Yas and it was like one big extended family. Vivi's mother, called Buggy, was a staunch Catholic with no sense of humor at all. I have to say I prefered EVERYTHING written from Vivi's point of view to Sidda's. I'm not sure why, but it just resonated more with me. I felt like Sidda was missing something (which she was). Sidda begged her mom to share with her some of the "divine secrets" of the Ya Yas. How was it that her mother had 3 best friends who were better than sisters, and Sidda didn't have any close girlfriends? Vivi eventually sends her a scrapbook with a bunch of stuff, newspaper clippings, photographs, letters. And Sidda unravels her mother's past and gains the insight and understanding she needs to truly love her mother.

I can't write a lot more without too many spoilers, but I can tell you that I was SO heartbroken to read about a time when women and depression/anxiety were not well treatable. The medication they had access to did more harm than good, and it was a condition not even understood at all. Having experienced post partum depression and anxiety I am so grateful it happened to me in a time when societal norms were starting to shift and it was becoming less of a shame to have it and to be able to be understood and TREATED.

This book also made me think about WHY in the DEVIL do we insist on hiding things from others? From the people we love? Experiences that IF we were to know about and understand could HELP those relationships to be what I'm sure both parties really want it to be? If Sidda knew what her mother had gone through in childhood, in her teen years (especially when her mother sent her away to that God forsaken Catholic boarding school that nearly killed her), the grief and despair she had be privy to, just knowing that her mother had had a mental hurdle to overcome, she could have UNDERSTOOD and none of the crazy bad stuff in their relationship would have happened.

I also liked how this novel showed that in order for reconciliation to occur, BOTH parties need to make an effort. The one who had done the wrong needed to repeatedly apologize and show in both written/spoken words and actions her penance. And the other side needed to accept it (eventually).

And finally, I think the loveliest of lessons: Yes, there were some real bad things. Yes, Vivi did some horrible wrong things. But she did some right things too. And Sidda had spent too long focusing only on the things that had been done wrong. And I know I'm guilty of that too. I feel like sometimes the negative things a person has done outweigh the things they do right. Something about the weight of certain wrong things seem more of an issue. But I can see that I really ought not do that. EVERYONE has things they do wrong, and EVERYONE has things they do right. And I want people to give me grace and not focus on those wrong things, and if I want that, I need to extend that same grace to others, especially to family. It's definitely something I'm going to be working on.

In this book I laughed, I cried (oh how I cried!!), I cringed, I was appalled, heart broken, thinking constantly in a southern drawl. I would definitely recommend this book to others if you can skim over the language and a few scenes. I'm grateful for the lessons I learned. And I wish I could meet the Ya-Yas!

Looking up the picture for this post, I found out it's a movie! (And only PG-13), so I'll see if it's at the library so I can watch it :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Birthmarked, Caragh M O'Brien

Some ladies in my neighborhood started a book club and this was the first book. Luckily it also fit into my 2016 Challenge as a Dystopia.

I give this 3.5 stars, rounded up in Goodreads to 4 because it was entertaining and captivating. I read it in just a few days.

This one doesn't have a whole lot of back story about how the world became what it currently is, but it takes place near what used to be one of the great lakes that is now dried up and referred to as the "unlake". There is a society built inside a wall and people who live outside the wall. Reminiscent of 'Divergent' there are genetic problems-for the people inside the wall, it was starting with a too small population and the genetic fall out of inbreeding. So in exchange for meager supplies for survival outside the wall, there is a quota of babies born each month that are forced into being given up for adoption by citizens within the wall. Gaia, our protagonist, is an assistant midwife to her mother, who is the midwife to citizens outside the wall. All is as it should be until Gaia's parents are arrested and then of course, everything she thought she knew about the "system" is shattered and the adventure ensues.

While not terribly original, there's no love triangle, there were some twists and turns that I wasn't expecting. And while Gaia is incredibly naive, it's fairly believable, given her circumstances. I still don't get this society though. For instance, on genetic fall out is that hemophilia is surfacing at an epidemic rate and several children die from bleeding out. However, the doctors in the society are forbidden to keep a blood bank or anything that could save them, because that would take too many resources and they can't focus on the "one" because they have to think for the good of "all". One Dr. gets arrested because she is attempting to find a way to treat it, because of that ideology. But doesn't helping one help all? I mean, if they DID find a cure by trying things out on one, couldn't they reproduce it on a large scale for all? So far, it seems that the governing body only sees a solution in increasing the gene pool's diversity by increasing the baby quota instead of just opening up their city to everyone and doing away with the wall. There is a fun little code to crack, but it's much simpler than the one, say in, "Gregor the Overlander" series. This one was obvious to me quite quickly, whereas the other one had me guessing for awhile.

I didn't realize this was a series until I got near the end and realized that there was no way there could be a solid ending. But I guess there are 3 books and 2 novellas. Luckily for me, they're all published so I won't have to wait. I'm definitely interested enough to see what happens, but I'm not chomping at the bit to get them. I'm going to finish the other two books I have going first. And the one on hold at the library that'll be coming soon (the last Selection one, the sequel to The Heir). Then I'll come back to these maybe in between books for the annual challenge and the Rory Gilmore challenge.