Quick Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Continuing on with my reading of brutal texts while self-isolating, I finally got off the wait-list at the library for this book and decided to go ahead and go for it. This is about news agencies, like NBC, catching news stories about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape and keeping them from coming out. If you know about Harvey Weinstein and wondered how he could have gotten away with hurting so many people, this is a read for you.

But, it is not an easy read. (Or an easy listen. The audiobook actually contains a segment of a police sting recording.) This book was really upsetting. But, it is really good that we are talking about the structures that protect people in power and allow them to hurt others. Now we just have to change the structures. Ha. Just. No big deal.

Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Non-spoiler review: Brutal speculative fiction that unravels a mystery in a medically advanced future while following the lives and recollections of three boarding school students.

The rest of this review is full of spoilers.

So, the story is told by Kathy and is full of her recollections of being a Hailsham student along with Ruth and Tommy (whose lives we also follow). Kathy is a caretaker for donors. Caretakers themselves always become donors after they are caretakers for awhile. You spend the first however many pages hearing about Kathy driving from one recovery center to another, looking after her donors, and remembering what it was like being a Hailsham student, thinking to yourself, “What are they donating? They’re not donating what I think they’re donating, are they? And, they all went to the same school so… is this a book about raising people specifically so that they can be organ donors? What did I get myself into?” And, that is eventually what is revealed. It was a lot horrifying how relaxed and accepting and blasé everyone in the book was about this. It was mind-blowing, in fact. I realized, at some point, that this might be because the caretakers and donors seem to have almost no interaction with other people and they are raised knowing exactly what is going to happen. This is their trajectory, their lives. They have no reason to expect otherwise. This isn’t a love story about people from two different groups coming together to disrupt an unfair society. This is the story of two people from one group destined to die for the benefit of others who just want a little more time with each other.

Aside from the teachers at the school, one of whom are very adamant that the students aren’t be told enough about what will happen to them, there are no (from my recollection) named characters who aren’t themselves donors. Maybe the caretaker of the house that they lived in between school and becoming caretakers had a name. If he did, I don’t remember, though. The teachers at Hailsham spend a lot of time teaching the students humanities subjects and getting them to engage in art and creation because they have a broader outside goal of proving the humanity of the children to the outside world. (A world that has already decided that raising this children to be organ donors is worth the cost of their lives for the benefit of society.)

A large part of the book is Kathy and Tommy trying to get in touch with someone from their old school because they’ve heard that if you are in love, and can really prove you are in love, that you can get a deferral on donations to live a little of your lives together. It is so touching how pure and naive that is. The school has been closed, though, so there is some difficulty in finding their old headmaster.

There are some heartbreaking detours. Kathy, Tommy, and a couple of others, help Ruth find a woman who looks like her (and who may have been the source for her). This woman works in an office and that is Ruth’s dream job. There are other donors who were at other schools who hear that kids from Hailsham are special and I want to hear what it was like. So, horrifyingly, we’re only being told the best parts of this world. Some of the children raised to be donors get to live some of their lives as people. While we never are told stories from other schools, the implication is that many other places they’re treated like animals.

This was well-written. The prose was great. And, that made it even more horrifying to think about the subject matter. So, I would recommend it, but go into it knowing that is DARK and the ending will not make you feel better about humanity.

24 in 48: This should have been posted much earlier

So, I only got about 7 hours read yesterday. But, here are some of the things I’ve been reading.

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta

The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta. I love this so much. Two gender-fluid main characters. Soooo good. Witches! Warlords! Exciting!

Ready Made Bodhisattva by  Sunyoung Park and Park Sang Joon

Ready Made Bodhisattva by Sunyoung Park and Park Sang Joon. This is the English translation of a South Korean science fiction anthology. There are 13 stories here from ’60s through the 2010s. Sci-Fi from other parts of the world is eye-opening and mind-blowing.

You are a Badass Everyday by Jen Sincero

You are a Badass Everyday by Jen Sincero. This is another self-help book, along the lines of Girl, Wash your Face. We’ll see how much I love/hate it as I get further into it. It was fine this morning, while I was making breakfast, but there were a few things that I thought, “Oop. I’ll want to circle back to that.” That was, however, 9 hours ago, and I don’t remember what any of them are.

DNF: Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

I started this audio book in January because it was a popular self-help title, it was available from the library, and it was January. New Year, New You, BLAH BLAH BLAH. I thought, I’ll listen to it right quick, knock out a quick review, start the year off right.

Nope. That did not happen. It is the last day of an extra long February! I’ve had to check this out from the library three times! NOTHING ABOUT THIS HAS BEEN QUICK! (Also, the past two months have felt like an eternity? Like, 2020 has already been its own decade?)

First, I want to say that I’m behind the premise of this. Self care and taking care of yourself are much bigger projects than a good skincare routine: You have to pay your bills and exercise and feed yourself appropriately and sleep. (How do those two sentences go together? Well, I’m about to tell you.) But, whatever road you take to doing those other big and important things is a good road. Skincare, meditation, and weirdly astrology all helped me sort out* depression and a massive generalized anxiety disorder (Thanks, Grad School!) So, Hollis had me at the title. No matter where I am in the world or how bad my day has been I know that at the very least, I can run through the steps of my skincare routine and at least that will be okay. Like, not to brag, but I don’t wear foundation anymore. Like, maybe I color correct, toss a little concealer on under my eyes. I WANTED SO MUCH TO BE ON THIS BOOK’S SIDE.

I couldn’t do it. Hollis’s voice (not her actual voice, as I was listening to the audio book, but her tone and presentation) is off-putting. I can’t tell you how many times I said out loud, “No, I agree with you. I just don’t like you.” Maybe it was that I kept wanting her to put the stuff she was discussing into a bigger frame and talk about the larger cultural processes that might have you feeling like the world is out to get you and that never happened? I don’t know. This book just wasn’t for me.

Normally, even if things aren’t great, I like to stick it out and finish it. Take one for the team, if you will, so I can review the whole thing. But, it has been two months and I haven’t been reading other things because when I sit down to read (or pick up my phone to listen) I feel like I can’t listen to anything else because I have to finish this. But, I haven’t wanted to finish this, so instead of listening to this, or something else, I’ve gone down some real weird YouTube rabbit holes (and some real political podcast rabbit holes). So, I’m done. Over and out. I took How to Date Men When You Hate Men by Blythe Roberson to the caucus last week (as an ebook. I wasn’t trying to start a fight…about books. I am always happy to start a fight about politics.) and I’m already way more into that that I was into the Hollis.

So, if you want someone to tell you to wash your face, I guess you could try this book I couldn’t finish? Or, you could just hit me up on Insta, Twitter, or in the comments. I’ll very happily talk skincare with you whenever.

*More or less. Sorting out’s an ongoing, play-the-whole-90-minutes-plus-stoppage-time process.

Kate’s Top 5 of 2019

You’ll notice I am posting half the books Beth posted. She reads more than I do. She also reviews more than I do because she’s an objectively better blogger. In my defense, this year I did move to the other side of the US and start a new job. But, we all know that even without that, Beth still would have read more and reviewed more.

Thus ends the confessional/self-flagellation portion of this Top 5.

This year really feels like five years sandwiched together. So, when I went to look to see what I’d read this year, I was surprised that the books from earlier this year were read this year. Insanity. But, three of them still made the Top Five!

  1. Circe by Madeline Miller. Oh, man, this book. I loved it so much. I loved Circe’s voice, I loved her as a character, I loved the soft tone of the novel. The writing was so good. Ugh, more tales like this, please.
  2. Early Riser by Jasper Fforde. I read this this year. I can’t believe that was this year. I liked this bit of speculative fiction, even if I have some reservations about some of the biology. What if humans hibernated? Well, Jasper Fforde has a possible answer. This is a fun book.
  3. Firebug by Lish McBride. I ripped through this selection for my Pop Culture Homework Assignment. Absolutely shredded it. It is the tale of a woman that can start fires. She works for a vampire! What could go wrong? Many, many things and I loved the story woven around them.
  4. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. This book about sadness and loss and relationships and home and life was… *chef’s kiss*. So good! And, it’s not very long, so get out there and read it, people! I suspect that there will be more reading of Banana Yoshimoto books in my future.
  5. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Another book I read in the first half of the year. I also tore through this one. The characters were great, the central conflict was interesting and compelling. The writing was good. I’m interested in what Rogerson does next.

Wow, folks, that’s it. That’s 2019. I’m a little flabbergasted this year is over!