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As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion

I had read a piece by Meghan Daum in recent months and really liked her writing, so I jumped in the queue for her new book of essays, The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion, in order to get it as soon as it was released. 

Ten essays, and a wide range of topics. Remember those big dreams but forgot why you loved New York in the first place? Love your animal but hate the rest of them? Can't remember if you want children or why you would want them in the first place? Love to cook? Hate it? Also, what is Joni Mitchell really like? 

Hands-down, I adore Meghan Daum. Other than Roxanne Gay, I would say she's my spirit animal. Can they both be my spirit animals? Is it possible to have more than one? I'm going to say it is, and call them equally my idols. Look, life is full of the hard and the not so hard. How we deal with this defines us, but it's also just a general part of living. Daum embodies all of this in her essays. Whether it's talking about being an honorary dyke, which resonated so strongly with me, or talking about how much she hates to cook, which did not at all because I adore cooking, it felt like she was speaking directly to me and that she just got me. It felt like this book of essays was written for me, but I also imagine that anybody who reads this book of essays feels the same way. While I don't know her personally, I have a feeling that Daum lays herself out on the line in her work. She is who she is, and she doesn't pretend to be anyone else. It may be why she is so maligned, as I've read in a previous essay of hers, but I also appreciate that in my essayists. When I read an essay on how much you love your dog, and it's well written, it makes me feel as though we are friends.

There were some essays that spoke more to me than others, which I mentioned above, and one also on her dating life. I have never really struggled with my disdain for dating. I have always been fairly unabashed in my vocal hatred of the practice. It's never particularly bothered me, even though I went through phases where I desperately wanted to want someone. She embodied my exact feelings on the matter. 

She discusses her dating life, which sounds suspiciously similar to mine (page 51): "But here was the thing about my dating life. I spent most of it with absolutely no eye toward making a permanent committment. What I was in it for, what I was about, was the fieldwork aspect. I wasn't looking to be delivered from the lonely haze of bachelorettehood into the smug embrace of coupledom. I was looking for experiences, for characters, for people who paid other people to chant and beat drums while they lay on massage tables wearing flashing LED sunglasses. I regarded my love interests less as potential life mates than as characters in a movie I happened to have wandered into." Sound suspiciously like anyone you know who runs a dating blog in addition to a book blog? [Awkward silence.] 

I love goofing around, having good stories to tell, and then going home and laying on my couch by myself not feeling like I have to entertain anyone or be a part of the team. I am a social being, but I am a loner by choice. Whether she is or not, she felt the same way to me, and maybe that's part of why I consider her one of my spirit animals.

There is an essay, called "Honorary Dyke," where Daum explores the idea of what it means to be a butch. She calls it being a phantom butch, which she describes in great depth. I don't want to quote the essay here because you should read it yourself, but suffice it to say that I found myself fully defined as a phantom butch about 55% of the time. To be clear, this isn't about how you look, but about how you act

Clearly I loved this book, and I would highly recommend it. 

For purchase below. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All My Puny Sorrows: A Novel

One book on everyone's list this winter has been All My Puny Sorrows, a novel by Miriam Toews. I picked it up over the winter break.

Yoli and Elfrieda are raised in a small Mennonite town in Canada where they are discouraged from education and frivolous pursuits by their strictly religious community. Each rebels in her own way: Yoli by floundering as an adult and Elfrieda by becoming a world renowned musician. They seem to be actively functioning adults except for Elf's repeated suicide attempts. This last one has thrown the family for a loop, and she is in a great deal of mental pain. When does someone have the right to take their own life? What is the family's responsibility for that person? Is Yoli responsible for keeping her sister alive, or does she owe it to her sister to allow her to ease the pain? There are no right answers.

Full disclaimer: this book is not exactly an uplifter. Suicide is a difficult topic to tackle in a sensitive and honest way, and I feel that Toews did a good job with this one. I know that it's personal story for her, and that is very clear in the storytelling. The hurt when she is rejected by her sister, and the state of panic that she feels when she finds out her sister has attempted suicide for the umpteenth time feels completely legitimate. The cross between, "Oh no not again," and, "Why can't this just be over," is exhausting and something that I feel is hard to capture in a book, especially a novel. Toews does a brilliant job of this.

So yes, while it's not the easiest to read in the world, it is a really wonderful read. It's something you may not want to pick up on the subway, but it is something that you may want to invest in on a day off and when you're in the mood for a deep and beautiful novel. You give to this novel and in turn you take away so much, making it worth the investment and the open-mindedness you will go into it with.

For purchase below.

Monday, March 23, 2015

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

Another one of the super hot books at BEA last year was Randall Muroe's What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. 

Randall Munroe is best known for his presence on the interwebs at xkcd. His latest collection of comics involves actual scientific answers to the crazy questions he receives through his website. It turns out Munroe left NASA in 2005 to be an internet cartoonist so he knows his stuff. Here he gathers together the craziest, coolest, most fun questions he has received and answers them in the most awesome, geekiest way possible -- using science. 

This was a book I wanted so much at Book Expo last year. The challenge with this is, when I spoke with the publisher, the publisher told me that Randall is not big into handing out advance copies of his work. What a super big bummer! Know what I'm saying? I am finally picked it up from the library this past week after discussing it with an old friend who came to visit me whose nephew is currently obsessed with it. In the midst of my crazy book reading expeditions, I had completely forgotten to request it from the library. Thank goodness we had a digital edition, so I got to chuckle out loud quite often on the subway this weekend.

Some of this book is super duper physics-based, which isn't necessarily up my alley, but Randall entertains such completely ridiculous questions that it's difficult not to thoroughly enjoy it even if you don't understand physics in the slightest. Questions about the earth, what will happen to us humans, and even things as crazy as self-combustion are fair game. Scratch that, I don't think self-combustion was addressed but it may as well have been. 

I definitely had some favorites from this book. The first one was the question of whether or not each person has one soulmate meant specifically for them. Never believed in this myself, so I was very interested to hear what Munroe was going to say. He pretty much proved that it is mathematically impossible that there is just one person meant for each of us. It was just as I suspected, but if you really want to be entertained you will read his full explanation. I also thoroughly enjoyed his discussion about rhinoviruses and whether or not if we all completely isolated ourselves for a season if they would disappear in full. The answer is well worth the read, and I'm not going to give it away here.

I loved his discussion of what "flyover state" really means, and a discussion about whether or not it would be possible to self fertilize was one of the most entertaining few pages I've ever read in my life. Note: don't try this at home. His discussion of how quickly one would need to move traveling to space set to the tune of "I'm Gonna Be (1000 Miles)" was positive delightfulness, and frightfully scary at the same time. I hope to god my subway train never attempts it. Finally, the discussion of lightning strikes had me super comforted and excited to read. All of his questions, and the set up of the book, it was really just delightful and I am so thankful I picked it up to entertain my commute this weekend.

This is a book well worth having on the shelf of the geek you love best. (Me. That's me.)

For purchase below. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful

Continuing on with YA Week (middle grades edition!), I picked up at BEA last year Shane Koyczan's To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful. It looked intriguing and I love recommending older books for older kids who are in high school but still want something meaningful. 

In 2013, a spoken word poet presented his manifest on bullying that ultimately reached over twelve million people. Shane's work is an anti-bullying poem that was animated with intensely lovely graphics, and those same lyrics are put on the page with new graphics done by 30 artists from all over the world. Each verse is an interpretation of personal empowerment.

This is an absolutely lovely poem that resonates with anyone who went through childhood. (That's all of us.) Bullying is a problem, to be sure, but I believe we would be hard-pressed to find a person who wasn't picked on at some point in their school career and who doesn't know what it is like to feel like an outsider and not in control of those feelings. The story of the girl called ugly who grows up to have a warped sense of beauty was especially powerful, and in the moment where Shane speaks to her to tell her that her children see the beauty in her heart first is a punch in the gut. It's a reminder that no matter how we see ourselves, our children will always look to us as their parent first. Putting aside our own hurt will only help our young ones develop a positive view of themselves.

The opening lines, where Shane tells us that he called pork chops "karate chops," which ultimately leads to a misunderstanding when called to the principal's office to explain bruises on his body, was interesting to me on a professional level. It was a huge reminder how willing we are as adults to jump to conclusions rather than dig deeper with questions. Now, I don't know how old Shane is, but I do know what was happening in the 1980's and the jump-to-conclusions epidemic sweeping the nation regarding child endangerment. It is easy to see how others wanted to find something wrong without asking just a few more questions of Shane--what do you mean your grandmother gives you karate chops? Oh, and how did you get those bruises?

Ultimately, though, this poem is a story of finding self-love and self-esteem in the darkest, most hard to reach places. The comparison of depression to a circus was pretty spot on, and the introducation and post-script were also excellent companions to using the story with older students as a way to express what uncalled-for mocking and even rudeness do to people. I say that this is more than bullying, because harsh words affect us as much as consistent, mean, sense of power differentials do. Humanity, man. We just need a little of it. 

For purchase below. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet

I picked this book up at Book Expo last year as a gift for my sister. It's a bit of an inside joke, yeti's are, so as soon as I saw this I picked up a copy, no questions asked. I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved Kevin Sherry's The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet.

Blizz Richards is a stand up guy. He's kind, loyal, great to his family, and has a big heart. He's also a yeti. You know, bigfoot? Lives in the woods? Never seen? Yeah. He heads to his bigfoot family reunion in North America only to be stalked by an evil man who will stop at nothing to get a photo to prove that Bigfoot is real.

Oh. Em. Gee. I am not sure where to begin with the amazingness that was this book. Like I said, I picked it up on a whim to be fun gift for my sister, then I sat around last night laughing my head off because this book is AMAZING. It is astoundingly clever with a well-told story that is completely plausible (he he he) and for both kids and adults. Some is very quick humor, so for those of you reading along with your kids you will have a good laugh, but it's still on point for your middle schooler. I love that there is a clear story that is written out and supported by illustrations that are utterly fantastic. I adore this book, and now that I have read it I don't think I'm going to share it with my sister. My bad.

For purchase below.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

I end Sassy Peach Goes to Prison week with one of the most important books of our generation, Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This is a book that you must read if you want to even begin to understand our American incarceration system. 

While many cry out that we have reached an age of colorblindness, our incarceration rate and racial makeup tell a different story. We have moved from a low population of dangerous criminals locked up behind bars in the mid-twentieth century to seeing one in 14 black men behind bars and an even higher number dealing with the penal system through probation and parole, outstripping the rates of incarceration of any other demographic in America. The War on Drugs is primarily the cause, and in this searing critique of our current state of incarceration, lawyer Michelle Alexander explains how we got to where we are today and the political undercurrents (and explicit actions) that have created the New Jim Crow that we have today in this country. 

This book is powerful, upsetting, and an absolute must-read for every American who lives and breathes. If you have questions about incarceration, why the numbers of inmates have ballooned of the past 30 years, where all of our good black men have gone, why we live in such a police state, or how we could even possibly treat people unequally based on circumstances, this book will answer your questions. It will also, however, make you angry beyond belief. There were some things that I already knew, but they were way more than I didn't. Things such as the role of our government in the planning to and execution of the enslave men and women of color is something that I not only did not want to believe, but has put fire in my soul so strong I don't see how you could not want to find ways to fight the system after reading this book.

The statistics are pretty clear. We've gone from a country that jailed minority of the population in order to keep dangerous criminals off the street to one that continuously rounds up specific groups of people in order to keep them off the streets. What astounds me about this is that we are spending money as a nation to continue to build prisons and operate them, while those who can least afford it often sitting in jail awaiting trial. I read just yesterday that 60% of people sitting our nation's jails are currently awaiting trial. Does that not make you angry? People who are not considered a danger to society, but instead are products of the war on drugs that we can all attest to being less than successful, or sitting in jail simply because they can't afford to get help. That only cannot afford to get out, they are then stuck in jail and unable to even attempt to work to be able to pay that. It is no different than indentured servitude. Addition to the one out of every 14 black men in prison, there are 10 times more who are currently on probation or parole, leading to an incredibly large amount of people who can't get jobs, housing, food stamps even for their children. People can't take care of their families, and in turn this leads to greater amounts of depression and more desperate searches for ways to feed mouths. It's a recipe for disaster -- possibly even a return to incarceration.

I recently had a discussion with a friend who made a comment that everybody in jail deserves to be there because they are a danger to society. I explained to her that the majority of people in prison are actually there for nonviolent drug offenses, some even for simply having a joint or two in their possession. Her husband, with whom I don't agree on much politically, even backed me up – having to explain that most of the people in prison are nonviolent offenders would probably never even come close to meeting her, little alone hurting her. She was genuinely shocked. I explained that she had been brainwashed by the exact forces that were aiming to do just that. When you sit back and realize how easily we are hoodwinked as human beings, believing what is fed to us about dangers to society, you will become angry. I hope that you take the time to read Alexander's astounding peace, putting in the time that it most certainly deserves. I hope you take away a desire to care for humanity in the same way you care for anything else in this world. You can't say that you care about social justice and not care deeply about what's happening in our justice system. It's embarrassing and it's worrisome, regardless of whatever side of the aisle you stand on. We continuously forget that we're humans dealing with humans, and I'm a firm believer or that if we all just realized that we were dealing with humanity, we could all potentially learn to be a little bit more sympathetic toward our fellow man. I hope that when you take the time to read this book that you read it with a willingness to figure out ways that you can make a difference.

I highly doubt that Ms. Alexander will ever have time to read this blog, as she's clearly a very busy woman, but if it ever so happens that you run across this blog, Ms. Alexander, please know that I am deeply grateful for your work, and that it will sit on my shelf in perpetuity and constantly come down as I reread it and give it the opportunity to relight my fire and passion for fighting for social justice for all humans.

For purchase below.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America

Today's post is no small talk. It's Jonathan Simon's Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America. 

Two and a half million Americans are currently in prisons across the nation. A large percentage of these are Supermax prisons in California--those designed to hold a large number of detainees but are still grossly overcrowded. The Supreme Court took on cases examining the constitutionality of prison conditions, culminating in a 2011 decision that examined the constitutionality of mass incarceration. What is the purpose of incarceration, and how is it carried out here in the United States?

This will shock no one. I'm a little bit of a social justice fiend. One of my main foci in the study of education is viewing education as a form of social justice. That being said, there is no way you can be deeply passionate about education and not be at least minimally aware of the preschool to prison pipeline. I am also incredibly passionate about prison justice, so I picked up this book in order to educate myself on issues related to and surrounding mass incarceration. This book, as you can see from the blurb, specifically focuses on mass incarceration in California in the supreme court cases surrounding it.

I found this highly technical book to be surprisingly accessible from a layman's point of view. It's all technical, all of the stuff surrounding court cases and prisons, so explaining it in a way that makes it accessible to someone like me, who doesn't have a law degree, is incredibly important to getting the work out there in order for people to understand what's happening in our country. I have since return edthis book to the library, so I can't remember the exact quote, but one man interviewed essentially says that our prison system was designed to keep incredibly dangerous people away from the general public, but what has ultimately happened is that we have used our prison system as a way to put away those that we find merely inconvenient. Piper Kerman repeats this in Orange Is the New Black, which I've specifically quoted in that post, and anyone who studies prison systems would probably repeat something very similar to you. The more I read books such as this, the more I become disillusioned with what has become of the divide between the haves and the have nots. 

Prisons and the prisoner divide, specifically related to race and class, should be discussed on a much broader level. There is a need for more people to just generally care, because the idea of mass incarceration from a middle-class perspective is very much, well, didn't they do something to deserve that? The inhumanity of treating fellow humans like cattle portrayed in this book is almost unbelievable. The lack of basic healthcare, men in wheelchairs soiling themselves because they simply don't have help to use the restroom, and having illnesses be ignored to the point of death is simply unacceptable. It almost feels, when reading this book, that you are reading about some human rights abuses in a Third World country. Again, though, isn't true stranger than fiction?

For purchase below. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison

This week is Sassy Peach Goes to Prison. I am spending the week examining books that focus on our incarceration system and the effects it has on the well-being and long-term of those coming in and out of the system.

Yes, yes, yes, we are all watching the phenomenal series on Netflix. But I wanted to see what the book was all about, so I picked up Piper Kerman's first hand account of her time in prison, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison.

Piper is about as WASP-y as they come. She is a happy, productive New Yorker with a lovely boyfriend and a great job. Life is peachy until she gets word that she is about to be indicted for drug running more than a decade prior. She was young, in love, and living a jet-setting life courtesy of her girlfriend's drug kingpin boss. Prison is something she never imagined. She must now navigate her fifteen months in the federal pen, from strip searches to short family visits, from arbitrary rules to learning new skills, from friendships to enemies, Piper slowly discovers a way of life she has never confronted before, and her insight into what makes a women's prison tick is engrossing and important.

Because the show is so good. Because the third season is about to start up this next summer. Because a white middle-class women in prison for a crime she committed as a reckless youth involving drugs in a lesbian relationship sounds absolutely fascinating. Because, ultimately, this is a first-hand account of what it means to be in a minimum-security prison in America.

I picked up this book, honestly, assuming that it would be super fluffy. It would be all about lessons learned, and how difficult it was to be a privilege woman in prison. I found this deep memoir to be so much more than all of that. It was incredibly introspective. And while it could easily be argued it's a bit on the fluffy side, I think that there are some major takeaways from Kerman's story. Most of the women she encounters have had incredibly rough lives. There are women who have never been given a chance, and often times being in jail is just part of living their lives. Abusive spouses, children born in prison, children on the outside being raised by grandparents or other family members – this is just daily life for so many of America's unseen.

If you haven't yet read this book, I urge you to pick it up. Go into it with an open mind, and a willingness to ingest Pipers story from the perspective of viewing our American penal system with an objective mind. Now, it's difficult to view our penal system objectively because even at a minimum security level, you see how Piper easily fell through the cracks. Her time in a super prison facility while waiting to testify against the drug lord is astounding, shocking, and frankly quite angering. If you've seen the second season of the series, it is portrayed a bit there, but reading it on the page and seeing Piper discuss the inhumanity of her daily life should be enough to make you want to punch the page and then go out to do something to make a better place.

As I walk away, I leave you with Piper's own thoughts on the heartbreaking notion of what our current prison system encompasses. I couldn't have said it better myself. 

"Prison is quite literally a ghetto in the most classic sense of the world, a place where the U.S. government now puts not only the dangerous but also the inconvenient--people who are mentally ill, people who are addicts, people who are poor and uneducated and unskilled. Meanwhile the ghetto in the outside world is a prison as well, and a much more difficult one to escape from than this correctional compound. In fact, there is basically a revolving door between our urban and rural ghettos and the formal ghetto of our prison system." (Piper Kerman, pp. 200-201)

For purchase below. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

F: A Novel

Honestly, I was originally intrigued by the title. What could a novel called F be about? Daniel Kehlmann shows us. 

Arthur is not the greatest guy in the world. After driving his three sons (including twins from a bit of a liaison) to see a hypnotist, he experiences a revelation and leaves his family (both of them) to seek out enlightenment through his writing. His book featuring character F changes the way the world understands existence. His three sons, however, have difficulty in their own lives. Martin becomes an overweight atheist priest, Eric becomes obsessed with his high-powered job to drown out the noise of the past, and Ivan paints himself in circles. How do we make ourselves come to grip with our experience and learn to be whole again?

Honestly, I picked up this book because the title was F. I didn't necessarily think it had something to do with the f-word, but I was secretly hoping that it might because, well, I'm me. That was not the case. However, that doesn't negate the novels merits.

I had a hard time getting into the novel in the first section, which is when Arthur takes his sons to the hypnotist. It wasn't until I got a little later in the book, and understood who Arthur became when he left his family, that the beginning section completely made sense. That being said, as soon as we jumped into the present day section and the oldest son's priesthood that I was completely hooked. It was fascinating to read about who the sons had become in the wake of their father's abandonment. Because he left so abruptly and with so little care for his kin, his sons are so completely screwed up that there doesn't appear a way out. It also doesn't help that Arthur keeps showing up randomly and managing only to continue the feeling of screwupedness in his children. I was most intrigued by the brothers and their own lack of self exploration as they moved into adulthood. We all know on some level that this kind of abandonment is something that may affect your long-term well-being, and I wouldn't say that these boys are taking it to an extreme. It was an interesting exploration of this type of outcome.

Now onto the father. His novels. Wow. As the book explored these and how that initial experience with the hypnotist caused him to question everything he knows or knew, I found him to be an incredibly fascinating man even if I hated him as a person. I have always been interested in this concept of whether or not you are a good or bad person doesn't change whether or not you are good at your job. It reminds me of actual conversation in college with a friend whose father had cheated on her mother, and at one point she was railing against what a horrible person Bill Clinton was for cheating on his wife. (There was some projecting happening.) My argument was that just because Bill Clinton might have been a bit of a cad doesn't negate his ability to do his job, just as her father's transgressions didn't prevent that him from being very good at what he did in his work. I felt that that is a very similar conversation to what happened in this book. Just some really interesting ideas that this book caused me to explore.

For purchase below. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Guest Blogger -- I Was Here: A Novel

Gayle Forman and I go way back. In fact, to this day If I Stay remains one of my favorite novels of all time. I found it so amazing that I actually thought about changing my first name to Mia. Really, it was just that good. While I decided to stick with Charlotte in the end, if I ever have a goldfish you can bet I’m naming it Mia. But that was 2009 and sometimes our favorite authors seem to lose touch. I think most people will agree that Gayle has been a bit hit-or-miss since If I Stay, with Where She Went being the hit and Just One Day, Night, or Year (take your pick) coming up a bit short.

So, with I Was Here, I desperately needed a heaping spoonful of If I Stay magic to rekindle my infatuation with all things Gayle Forman. Does this latest release deliver? Are there any honorary name changes in my future? Yes and no.

Like If I Stay, I Was Here is build around one of the most traumatic events imaginable. Meg Garcia has just been found dead in a hotel room after committing suicide. By the looks of things, Meg’s plans to take her own life clearly began months earlier, were highly organized, and left nothing to chance. Cody is blindsided by the tragedy and, believing there is more to Meg’s death than meets the eye, is desperate for answers. Early on, I found it odd that Cody never cried or experienced grief in a conventional way. For the first few chapters Cody just seemed resentful and angry. The sadness was really missing.

Later on in the book Cody describes Meg as her sun. As she begins to come to terms with Meg’s death, she feels left in total darkness and, with nothing to orbit, her life is now in freefall. Meg’s family had pretty much adopted Cody, and Cody had looked up to Meg as the stronger, more outgoing, big sister type. All through high school the girls had planned their escape from their small dead-end town. The plan had been for both of them to move to Seattle after high school, but Meg was the one who got the big scholarship. That left Cody cleaning houses for cash and saving for college, while Meg lived it up in the big city.

It’s clear that Cody was bitter with Meg for being the one that made it out after high school. And when, at the request of Meg’s parents, Cody goes to Seattle to pack up Meg’s things, her resentment builds as it becomes clear just how far they’ve drifted apart. As Cody begins to sort through the leftovers of the life that Meg left behind, her grief intensifies, as does her search for someone or something to blame for Meg’s death.

Before her suicide, Meg had been a fixture on the underground Seattle music scene and Ben was the lead singer of her favorite band. Their friendship eventually became more and neither could handle the aftermath. Meg wanted a relationship and Ben wanted to keep living like a rock star. Meg had trouble dealing with this truth (and reality) and spent weeks sending Ben stream-of-consciousness emails that reveal her lingering instability.

When Ben shares these emails with Cody, along with his own feelings of responsibility for Meg’s death, the two become unlikely allies. Ben then decides to do everything he can to help Cody find the answers she needs. Ultimately, Cody comes to peace with Meg’s decision to take her own life and is able to move on.

This is a book about suicide, but not. There’s more to it than that. The intensity of the relationship between Meg and Cody is a familiar dynamic we all have with our closest friends, but can never explain. I loved that Cody was on a mission fueled by raw emotion and, as you’ll see, finds love when she’s at her most vulnerable. Cody’s relentless search for answers is left unchecked throughout the novel just as mine would be if I lost someone so close to me. It all felt so real. I was so wrapped up in the story of Cody’s journey that I didn’t realize what it was all about until after I closed the book. It was less about the questions surrounding Meg’s death and more about how Cody processed her loss.

At times the story slows down, but still manages to take the right turns throughout. If I Stay remains my favorite, but I Was Here is right up there, with Where She Went as a close second. So, I’m keeping my name but Cody gets maybe a hermit crab or a goldfish named in her honor.

Book Chameleon

For purchase below. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

A Circle of Wives: A Novel

I didn't really remember what I was getting into with Alice LaPlante's A Circle of Wives. I read the blurb a while back, added it to my queue, and then just remembered that I wanted to read it. OH EM GEE. WHAT A RIDE. 

Was John murdered? A popular and well-respected doctor, he turns up dead one evening in a hotel room of an apparent heart attack. Things start to get suspicious, though, the more the police learn about John. The three wives meet each other at his wake, two of them oblivious to the others. What makes a man take three wives? What makes a woman accept her husband having others? Who would hate this man so much they would murder him?

I clearly misread the description of this book, because I thought it had something to do with religious polygamy. Then I read it, and who cares what I originally thought? This book was about polygamy, but not the religious kind. It was a kind that makes you wonder how on earth two of three women couldn't realize that they were married to a man who had other wives?

Now, I'm not sitting in judgment. I have referenced this before, but I've certainly had the wool pulled over my eyes. It's shockingly easy to have that happen when you want to believe things one way that it might even remotely appear another. But this story was really fantastic. It's told from the perspective of the three different wives and the detective who is investigating the murder of the husband while her own relationship falls apart. The wives were all different people, and they all served a need in the husband's life that wasn't the filled by the other two. It certainly begs the question of whether or not marriage is in outmoded concept with this thought. Is there just one person who can meet all of our needs for the entirety of our lives? (I'm not saying I have an answer. Even if I did, I probably I wouldn't post it here.) Obviously the dead husband didn't think so.

That was probably the most fascinating aspect of this book – the relationship between the husband and each of his wives, and then the relationship they build within themselves. They're not friends; rather, they have a relationship with each other even if they don't speak to one another. And the truth of the husband's death? Well, that may surprise you.

Hard copy for purchase below.