I can certainly understand why this book is on the Banned Books that Shaped America list—it is quite violent, but at least it’s not completely gratuitous. Though London writes detailed scenes of human and animal brutality, Buck’s is a story of strength, dignity, loyalty, and, above all, survival. Honestly, given the tragedies that were committed and occurring in the early 1900s, I’m surprised it’s not worse.
No. 8 on my challenge.
Fun fact: this is the first audiobook that I have listened to and it took me a very long time to finish it because the narrator’s voice was so soothing that he kept lulling me to sleep.
This short novel was the first work published by French author Françoise Sagan. She was eighteen, and this detestable story featuring a detestable teenage child was (apparently) based on her own experiences.
Seventeen-year-old Cécile is spoiled, demanding, ungrateful, careless, lazy, and self-absorbed—a true enfant terrible. I genuinely dislike her. And yet, I can whole-heartedly relate to her. Not to the way she puts her own happiness and comforts above all else and others, or how she sabotages her doting father’s relationships to suit her own motives, or the carefree summer days she spends on the beach and in the water at a gorgeous French villa, torturing a law student with her sexual awakening, mind you. To those points I certainly cannot relate. But to her teenage woe, the direness of her self-perceived situation, and the strength of her emotions (however misguided they may be)? As a woman who was once just a fledgling—I unfortunately can. I wish I couldn’t. But, having been a child herself when she wrote Cécile, François managed to perfectly capture the best and worst things about being a teenaged girl: everything is raw and urgent and absolutely critical.
So yes, I can recognize pieces of myself in the horrible Cécile. I can also recognize that this novella of only 130 pages is brilliantly and beautifully written. And, despite Cécile—and perhaps even François—I really loved it. Thank you for the recommendation, Lara.
No. 18 on my challenge.
I keep a book journal. In it, I keep track of everything I read, the dates on which I cracked it open and slammed it shut, give it a rating out of five stars, and write a few lines. It was my blog before I started my blog. I read The Hate U Give in one day last September, and though I didn’t immediately share my thoughts with you lovely people, I did write three pages worth of notes in my little red “What I Read Journal.” Here’s what I thought then, and still do now:
Maybe it’s because I’ve just read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or because I’ve recently come to enjoy and appreciate the music of NWA, or because of everything happening in the US right now, but I feel like all of these things and more have converged so that when I did read this incredible book, I would have better context and the message might ring louder and truer. This novel deserves to be read by everyone. Forever. Thomas did a remarkable job depicting all sides of the conflict—victims, cops, white friends, black culture . . . this is not a one-sided manifesto—it is an important commentary on violence, racism, the cultural divide, community, friendship, and family and so much more. It’s shocking and engrossing and is really about how, if you want change, you have to speak up for yourself and for what you believe in; you have to fight against those who oppress you and fight even harder against your own fears. This book is frustrating, and heartbreaking, and frighteningly like real life, but it is funny, and hopeful, and a damn. good. book.
Oh, and I gave it seven stars. For real.
No. 1 on my challenge.
I have to admit, this book is the reason I stopped writing reviews last year. It’s an important book, people. It’s been lauded since 1965. Proof:
“Extraordinary . . . [a] brilliant, painful, important book.”
—Eliot Fremont-Smith, New York Times, 1965
“Will surely become one of the classics in American autobiography.” —John William Ward, historian, 1967
“A mesmerizing page-turner.” —Variety, 1992
“Required reading.” —TIME, 1998
It’s so celebrated that I didn’t know how to write anything that a) would do it any justice, and b) would not make me look like an ass. I still don’t. But what I do know is that getting to read this book was absolutely worth my process of stealing it from my hometown library, carting it half way across the country, getting snitched on by my mother, and subsequently scolded by my librarian (and one-time babysitter). It’s important for a reason. Malcolm X was a truly remarkable man and, though I don’t agree with much of what he preached for most of his career—the Nation of Islam is a whole other kettle of fish that I can’t even pretend to understand—there are some extremely powerful messages to be found in his life story and lessons to be learned from the life (or lives) that he lived. I am glad I read it. You should, too.
No. 7 on my challenge.
Well hello there!
It’s been a hot minute, friends, and I just want to start off by saying HAPPY NEW YEAR / 30th BIRTHDAY TO ME / VALENTINE’S DAY / ST PATRICK’S DAY / EASTER / SPRING! How the heck are ya? I missed you!
As you may or (more likely) may not have noticed, I failed at my 2017 book challenge. I failed hard, people. Not only did I not complete the totally doable list of 26 books, I also didn’t post (or even write) reviews for the majority of the books that I did read, AND I didn’t finish reading an embarrassing number of the books that I started to read. So yeah. Not great. But we’re well into 2018 and I’m back, Baby! What’s more: I HAVE been reading and I CAN do better . . . or at the very least I can update my blog. So, coming up:
- The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
- Call of the Wild by Jack London
- Judging a Book by Its Lover by Lauren Leto
- The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
- The Revenant by Michael Punke
- Girl at War by Sara Nović
- Etta and Otto and Russel and James by Emma Hooper
- One Day Closer by Lorinda Stewart
- Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
And now, for my next
trick paragraph, I can tell you that in 2018, instead of tackling another challenge with my dear friend Rosie, I decided to join not one but two book clubs (and—unrelated, but a super fun time nonetheless—a choir) with another dear friend, Jessica. So I’ll have to review those, too:
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
- The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
- The Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese
- Next Year for Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
- The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Furthermore, because I’m a rebel, I think I can read whatever the heck I want to read whenever the heck I want to read it, whether it’s on a list or not. So you’ll be getting reviews for these, as well:
- Blameless by Gail Carriger
- The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrille Zevin
- I Can’t Make This Up by Kevin Hart with Neil Strauss
- Astray by Emma Donoghue
Finally (thanks for sticking with me, folks), as you may know, I don’t review books that I’ve read for work, but I do like to list them
to subtly suggest ya’ll read them, too. So if you want to know what we’ve been working on, check out this page.
“I longed for her to ask me, ‘Well, what is the matter?’ and to ply me with questions, force me to tell her everything . . . then I should no longer be in torment.”
What seventeen-year-old girl hasn’t thought this?
If I had never read the Hunger Games trilogy or the Lunar Chronicles or the Mortal Instruments, or watched the Divergent movies or The 100 television series, I would most certainly have been blown out of the water by this dystopian YA novel.
However, this tale—about a teenaged girl living in a downtrodden society ruled by an elite race of [super-]beings with special skills and a fondness for killing for/as sport, who accidentally discovers that she is also special and is then thrown into an adventure that includes self-discovery, empowerment, battle training, a few unnecessary deaths, a violent stand off (or three), a love triangle, and an unexpected (yet totally expected) twist at the end—hits a lot of the same notes that all of the above series hit, which makes Red Queen just another iteration of a novel that I have read many many times.
That said, it is a very good iteration. I appreciate the world, the premise, the characters, and the pacing, AND there were approximately three “twists” that I honest-to-goodness did not see coming.
So, if you’re over this trend of YA dystopian novels in the vein of the Hunger Games and the Lunar Chronicles, you could probably skip this one. But if you can’t get enough of strong female characters in the vein of Tris and Clarke (and even Clary) who face ridiculous challenges and surmount incredible odds to fight for justice and freedom and to protect their family and their fellow downtrodden comrades, then, by all means, jump on the bandwagon and discover the spitfire that is Mare Barrow.
No. 16 on my challenge. The talented Victoria Aveyard was but 25 when this, her debut, was published in 2015. She has since published six subsequent novels in this series / universe and has two more on the way.