30183198Title: History of Wolves
Author: Emily Fridlund
Pages: 288
Year: 2017
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads synopsisLinda has an idiosyncratic home life: her parents live in abandoned commune cabins in northern Minnesota and are hanging on to the last vestiges of a faded counter-culture world. The kids at school call her ‘Freak’, or ‘Commie’. She is an outsider in all things. Her understanding of the world comes from her observations at school, where her teacher is accused of possessing child pornography, and from watching the seemingly ordinary life of a family she babysits for. Yet while the accusation against the teacher is perhaps more innocent than it seemed at first, the ordinary family turns out to be more complicated. As Linda insinuates her way into the family’s orbit, she realises they are hiding something. If she tells the truth, she will lose the normal family life she is beginning to enjoy with them; but if she doesn’t, their son may die.
Superbly-paced and beautifully written, HISTORY OF WOLVES is an extraordinary debut novel about guilt, innocence, negligence, well-meaning belief and the death of a child.

I got an ARC of History of Wolves from my BN, or rather my old BN, because tomorrow I start at a new BN in Union Square, New York City. I’ve been living in New York for a week now, and I love it, but I am really nervous for tomorrow!

Anyway, I wasn’t completely sure how I felt about this book as I was reading it, but as I got near the end, I realized that this is kind of a little bit of a literary masterpiece. And I don’t say things like that a lot. I truly felt like this book is a piece of artwork that should be on display in a museum or something. History of Wolves is so complicated and so mysterious. None of the characters were actually likable, including the child Paul, possibly with the exception of Lily, but everyone felt very real. The book is honestly so descriptive and so visual, and I really feel like that will have some influence on my writing from now on because I was really sucked in by the amount of detail that we get in moments that seem so insignificant but actually do so much for the reader. The way the story jumps in time too is really excellent. The whole trial and the science/religion thing was like the best small town gossip of all time. History of Wolves really just makes you think. I don’t know exactly what about. Maybe just life and the way/how much or how little we take in what’s in front of us, and how much or how little we do about it.

This is a debut novel, so I am excited for Emily Fridlund to write more, and I’m kind of surprised this wasn’t picked up by a bigger publishing house. They missed out for sure. I can see this being taught in English classes in college, probably. I definitely recommend this one even if it’s not your usual style because it is really, really well done.

29069989Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Author: J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany, Jack Thorne
Pages: 328
Year: 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown UK
Time taken to read: 4 days
Rating: N/A

Goodreads synopsis: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

For those of you who don’t know, this book chronicles the events of Harry Potter and his son Albus, nineteen years after the Battle of Hogwarts. It’s the script of the play that premiered in London on July 30th, which has confused a lot of people, but yes, it is not a normal book. I don’t particularly like reading scripts, but I think it worked very well here, and it was very easy to visualize what would be happening on a stage. I had the pleasure of working at my lovely Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, on the night of the release. I got to spend several exhausting hours at a table with a Sorting Hat, sorting people into their Houses. I couldn’t buy the book for myself, but I did spend a couple days sitting on the third floor reading a copy and then placing it back on the shelf for someone else to buy.

I don’t feel up to giving this a star review because it’s a script and it’s Harry Potter and I just don’t know how to judge it. I sort of feel like I don’t want to accept it as the truth of what happens in Harry’s future. It’s one possible path, sure, but I don’t know that it’s what happens in my version of his life after Hogwarts. You could argue that I don’t get to have my own version because they’re not my characters, but I don’t think I’m hurting anyone by saying that this isn’t necessarily what I think happens to a bunch of people who aren’t even real.

In any case, if we’re just going with what happens in The Cursed Child like normal people who read books, I thought there were a lot of things about it that were too…”of course.” I can’t think of the word I want, but it’s like how of course Albus is in Slytherin and of course he becomes best friends with Malfoy’s kid. Stuff that’s so ironic that of course they were going to do that. So opposite of the obvious that it’s obvious. I think Rose should have been in Ravenclaw, and Delphi and how she came to be in the world is weird as hell. And I know that this is just because it’s a script and a play can’t really be longer than a couple hours, but everything got wrapped up so fast and so easily, which was a little frustrating. Also, didn’t we tell J. K. Rowling that the whole Time Turner thing didn’t really make sense? So why did she make this all about Time Turners? Yet, with all my complaints, I think it’s really cool that this exists. I don’t feel like it’s necessary for me to own it or read it more than like twice in my lifetime, but I will probably read it again.

13542593Title: The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language
Author: Mark Forsyth
Pages: 304
Year: 2012
Publisher: Berkley (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 3 months, 4 weeks
Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: Do you know why…a mortgage is literally a death pledge? …why guns have girls’ names? …why salt is related to soldier? You’re about to find out… The Etymologicon (e-t?-‘mä-lä-ji-kän) is: Witty (wi-te\): Full of clever humor, Erudite (er-?-dit): Showing knowledge, Ribald (ri-b?ld): Crude, offensive. The Etymologicon is a completely unauthorized guide to the strange underpinnings of the English language. It explains: how you get from “gruntled” to “disgruntled”; why you are absolutely right to believe that your meager salary barely covers “money for salt”; how the biggest chain of coffee shops in the world (hint: Seattle) connects to whaling in Nantucket; and what precisely the Rolling Stones have to do with gardening.

I bought this book years ago, and I think I put off reading it because I knew it was going to be amazing and I knew I was never going to remember anything I read in it. I’m obsessed with words and fun facts, and this is the best book for fun word facts, but I struggle with my memory, especially when it comes to reading. It happens with fiction too–I can’t remember even just the basic plots of books I’ve read more than once. So I felt sad going into this book because I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold onto anything in it. But I tried to write down a lot of the facts I found to be most interesting though, which has helped, and I do plan to read it a few more times to try to solidify the information in my brain a little bit more.

My favorite fact was the one about Starbucks, because ya girl has been a Starbucks barista since 2013, and I love working there (even though after every double shift I feel like it’s taking a couple years off my lifespan). Every barista knows that the Starbucks logo is a siren, and every English major knows the name comes from Mr. Starbuck in Moby Dick. However, only those who read this book will learn of the Vikings in the year 793 and the sedge stream they found and Old Norse and how that led to the Starbuck family and their whaling achievements and a teacher in Seattle who wanted to start his own coffee shop called Pequod. Truly fascinating stuff.

The book starts off with the origin of the word “book,” and, as this is a “circular stroll,” it ends with the origin of the word “book” too. I was nearing the end of The Etymologicon this morning, and my sister was peering at the front cover. Once I realized that we had come full circle and were back at the beginning, I said, “Dang!” and she said, “Isn’t this non-fiction? How can non-fiction be ‘dang’?” Because language is amazing, that’s how. Even if you’re not a word nerd like me, this is a great read for sure.

9361589Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Pages: 387
Year: 2011
Publisher: Doubleday (Penguin)
Time taken to read: 12 days
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. […] Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. […] But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.

I bumped this up on my to-read list because one of my managers at Barnes & Noble told me that she loved it and that she was interested in my opinion on it because it seems like people either love it or hate it. I definitely didn’t hate it. I have a handful of criticisms, but I really liked it a lot. I really liked the third person omniscient narration and the way the book wasn’t exactly written from beginning to end but jumped around on the timeline of the circus. It made everything more fantastical, like everyone was time-traveling as well as doing magic. You know, it was actually less like time-traveling and more like time just not being linear, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Anyway, I know this was a good book because I was really feeling things, especially near the end. Like, I almost teared up. I liked Herr Thiessen a lot, but I can’t really figure out why. He just seemed really cool. I liked Bailey’s character because he wasn’t exactly the chosen one, but he was important. It was like his role in the circus was an accident and meant to be at the same time. And Poppet was my other favorite, which I think was because of a combination of her curly red hair and her ability to read the stars. That’s also why I liked Isobel–she could see things about people but didn’t always share how much she knew. And her heartbreak nearly destroyed the circus, and I almost wish it had because she was used. Marco said it himself–he never loved her but he just never got around to telling her because he didn’t really care what happened to her. He treated her like garbage, which is a big part of why I’m not giving this five stars. I think after all of Celia’s years of abuse in her childhood, she deserved someone less flaky and dismissive.

As for my other criticisms, I thought the ending was dragged out a lot longer than it needed to be. Once I was about forty pages from the end, I was like, oh my god, just tell me what happens already. A lot of the descriptions fell flat for me. Like, when the cloud maze was being described, I had no idea what I was supposed to be looking at. I couldn’t picture it at all with what was given to me. Other than those things, it was a very unique story. It definitely swept me away and made me forget that I am a person with a real life that is not fiction (as far as I know), so I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

18249281Title: The Infinite Sea
Author: Rick Yancey
Pages: 300
Year: 2014
Publisher: Penguin
Time taken to read: 1 week
Rating: 4/5

Goodreads synopsisHow do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity. Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race. Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

I finished this book a week ago, so I’m going to do my best to remember my feelings on it.

According to my review of The 5th Wave, I do not like Evan. I don’t particularly remember feeling this way, but I believe it. I didn’t not like him in The Infinite Sea, although I didn’t actively like him either. The character I really didn’t like was Ringer. I guess I just don’t buy her hardness. It’s not that easy to never smile, or maybe that’s just me because I’m compulsively polite, but either way it was irritating. I don’t like people who think they’re better than everyone else. I don’t think that attitude makes her cool or interesting as a person or a character. It just makes her obnoxious and exhausting to read about.

As for the plot, I don’t think I even understand what happened. It sounded like now they’re questioning whether or not there actually are aliens, which is interesting but dumb if it’s true. I’m glad Yancey isn’t ignoring the obvious question of why the aliens or whoever are doing all this. I feel like a lot of books have these crazy plots that are fun and interesting to read about but actually make no sense, but at least it seems like we’re going to figure out a concrete reason for all of this.

Poundcake was my favorite character in this one. His background was honestly so heartbreaking, and his final moments made me sad in all the right ways. He was written absolutely flawlessly in my opinion, and I will miss him greatly in The Last Star. I liked Razor too, and I like that Yancey kind of pulled us back and forth wondering if he was good or evil. At the end of The Infinite Sea he seemed to be one of the good guys, but personally I hope that turns out to be another fake-out.

I gave this four out of five stars because I was tearing through the pages, desperate to find out what happens, but the writing was definitely lacking in this one. It was a bit repetitive, mostly via Ringer, but I have high hopes for book number three, whenever I have time to get around to that one.

30076808Title: the princess saves herself in this one
Author: Amanda Lovelace
Pages: 156
Year: 2016
Publisher: Self-published
Time taken to read: 2 days
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsisa poetry collection divided into four different parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, & you. the princess, the damsel, & the queen piece together the life of the author in three stages, while you serves as a note to the reader & all of humankind. explores life & all of its love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, & inspirations.

Though I have yet to publish a book, I think I’ve studied YA enough that my editorial opinions are trustworthy. However, this is not true for poetry. I like grammar because grammar has rules, and those rules make sense, and you can break the rules but only if you know them well enough to be able to break them in the right way (so, following a different set of rules, basically). Grammar and poetry do not mix as well as grammar and fiction, and so poetry doesn’t make sense to me. There must be rules for poetry, but I don’t know them. I mean, I know the rules for poems like villanelles, but free-form poetry must have rules too that I have yet to study. So going into this collection, I decided not to try to judge it by any rules but to judge it by how it made me feel and to listen to my gut.

My gut is confused. I don’t disagree with anything said in this collection. I can relate to a lot of the pain and sadness, and I believe that I have felt many things that Amanda Lovelace has felt. And I have expressed those things in a very similar way, and that’s unsettling to me. I don’t like the poetry I’ve written, and hers sounds a lot like mine, especially so I suppose because of the similar subject matter.

The beginning of the collection is very personal and a little uncomfortable for me. It freaks me out a little bit to read descriptions of self-harm, honestly, poetic or otherwise. I think the fairy tale theme is a little worn out, but I love princesses, so I was mostly okay with it. I thought the end was sort of strange. She starts making a lot of political commentary, and it’s all things that I agree with for sure, but it felt really out of place, almost forced, like she just wanted liberal points. Again, I don’t disagree with her statements, but it just didn’t feel right. The biggest criticism I saw on Goodreads was that her poems are just broken up sentences, and apparently that’s not what poetry is. Like I said, I don’t really get poetry, so maybe that’s not what it is, or maybe, like Lovelace says, poetry is whatever you want it to be. Maybe that’s true for self-published poetry, but I sort of agree that her lines seemed to lack effort.

My favorite poem in the collection was the one addressed to her sister (I believe), where she talks about her sister being in the company of perhaps their favorite deceased female authors. The poem after that is a good one too, which talks about body image things, as do quite a few of the poems. I’m not surprised that this collection is self-published. It seems like a thing that she made for herself, like it’s just an outlet for her emotions. I do plan to start reading more poetry, so hopefully I find something a little better.

18339662Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Pages: 227
Year: 2014
Publisher: Delacorte (Random House)
Time taken to read: 4 hours
Rating: 3/5

Goodreads synopsis: A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island. A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth. We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I bumped this up on my to-read list because the lady who interviewed me at Random House said it was phenomenal, that every page had twists and turns, etc. As noted above, I read We Were Liars in four hours, because I wanted to get to the twists and turns, and I found a few, but I don’t think this book lives up to its hype. It was a good book, but it wasn’t amazing. I’ve heard that you shouldn’t actually read anything about the book before reading it, you should just go into it, which I think makes sense, so if you haven’t read this book, maybe come back when you have. Or not. It’s not really that great. (There are spoilers ahead, though, FYI.)

I found it really difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. I mean, they have their own island. It’s not like Cadence’s condition doesn’t suck, because it does, and I do sympathize with that, but pre-accident Cadence I don’t sympathize with. I don’t even really like Gat, as much as he tries to make them aware of how narrow the other kids’ field of vision is. Spoiler ahead: he also agreed to light a house on fire, which is such an indication of privilege. It’s like burning a pile of money to “make a statement” when you could actually just give it to people who need it. They know that they don’t like their family’s system, but they don’t actually know how to make it better or break free. And yeah, they’re just (drunk) kids, but most kids don’t commit arson.

But a house on fire doesn’t make them liars. In fact, no one was lying, because three of them were dead and one couldn’t remember anything. I read on Goodreads that there were a few chapters that explained the title and the name the kids gave themselves, the Liars, but it was cut because it was too “slow”. Now I feel less like an idiot, as I thought I had completely missed something or wasn’t connecting something that made all of that make sense. Lots of people on Goodreads have found ways to make a connection, all of which make sense, but it definitely wasn’t strong enough in the book alone, which is why I’m only giving it three out of five stars.

However, I did like the style of the book, where it sort of turned into stanzas at some points. And the writing on a micro-level was great. I really like the imagery and descriptions, like how Cadence says Mirren is “sugar, curiosity, and rain.” I liked the metaphors too, although I think sometimes it was unclear whether or not something was a metaphor. For example, Cadence always talks about bleeding and her veins opening and something about her wrists and Gat wrapping her wounds, and I thought she was self-harming for a while, but eventually there was a line, though I don’t remember it, that indicated that it was just a metaphor for being really upset, and there was no literal bleeding.

At least I wasn’t able to guess the ending.

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