I’m only 5 minutes in, but I’m into this.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT I SLEPT ON THIS BEAUTIFUL BOOK FOR SO LONG?? HOW? How??? It’s lovely and wonderful and good and heartbreaking and uplifting in all of the right ways. 10/10. If you’ve not read it, you should go read it (or get the audiobook and then Lin Manuel Miranda will read it to you.) That’s it. That’s the review. Done.
Okay, fine, I’ll say a little more. This is the story of Aristotle, who is a weird kinda angry teenager who goes to the pool and meets a weird kinda know-it-all teenager named Dante. They have very little in common, it seems, other than they are both kind of loners and they’re both Mexican. It’s the story of their friendship. It is about how their friendship grows and how they grow and how they deal with big life stuff. No magic (except the everyday magic of friendships, love, relationships, and personal growth), no monsters (except for the very real human monsters we’ve all met), just two teens living their lives and learning truths that feel like unlocking the secrets of the universe. Maybe it is that the world feels very dark and precarious right now, but reading a novel about just normal life stuff that had a good ending felt really great.
So, I still agree with the first paragraph. 10/10, would definitely recommend.
This is this month’s book club pick. Book club is next week. Will I have it read before then? It is anyone’s guess, folks.
Remember, 3,000 years ago, when Larry Wilmore told Milo Yiannopoulos to fuck off? Well, Malcolm Nance was also on that episode of Real Time with Bill Maher. Crazy, right?
Anyway, this book turned out to be a really timely read as it is about Russia, the 2016 US elections, hacking, foreign interference in American politics, and the first family. You know, the people getting patents in China while also working in the White House and shooting endangered sheep. I’m glad I read it because it gave a lot of detailed background on things (like the FBI investigation Crossfire Hurricane) that have been popping up in the news lately. So, if you’re looking to go into Christmas armed to do battle against your conspiracy-theory-believing Uncle (understanding, of course, that a lot of cognitive research notes that “just presenting people facts” is not a particularly effective way to change people’s minds. I know, humans! Why are we like this?!), then this is the book for you. If you’d like a very clearly laid out description of Russia and their involvement in the 2016 elections, I also recommend this. If you’re teetering on the edge of “fuck it” or “burn it all to the ground”, then give this one a pass.
Another awesome book from my local library!
This podcast is an audible original and I picked it up for free when it first became available. My carpool buddy and I listened to the Dirty John podcast last fall and were really taken in by it, so when we heard about this one, we thought it might be something we would try. True crime isn’t really a fave genre for either of us, but it is nice to try new things.
West Cork is the story of a murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier that happened around Christmas in 1996. It is also about the town of West Cork and the prime suspect. We were definitely taken in. The murder of Sophie is so tragic and the progress of the case was part infuriating and part just plain upsetting (which seems like a feature of true crime). It was interesting to be reminded about how technology has progressed so quickly. This was a time before cell phones and everyone having 6 email addresses and facebook. Sophie was out at her quiet vacation home in the middle of nowhere without any of the technology we have to stay connected today. Not that it would have made a difference necessarily, if the crime had taken place ten years later.
Some of the descriptions did get a little graphic, but overall Bungey and Forde do a really nice job of showing you the community of West Cork, the crime, and why the conclusion to this case so far has been no conclusion.
So, if you’re into true crime or you want to try something investigative, this is something you might want to check out!
This book was really cute. It is the story of Sara, who comes to America, specifically to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet her pen pal only to find out that her pen pal has died. Sara and her pen pal Amy exchanged books and bonded over their mutual love of reading. Sara had worked for a bookstore in her home country of Sweden, but it has permanently closed its doors. So, she has the time to vacation and to decide what is next in her life.
Since Amy isn’t there to meet her, the town steps in. They set her up in Amy’s house (as Amy would have wanted) and get someone to drive her around (a couple of someones, actually, both of whom have their own little subplots). Everyone is so kind and generous to her that she decides she needs to find a way to pay everyone back. She finally lands on opening a bookstore in a store front conveniently owned by Amy and using Amy’s books. This, of course, changes the lives of many people in town. The book is quite long, but it has at least 4 sub-plots that are all resolved in the narrative and that takes time.
When I posted about this being my current listen, I said that I picked this book because it is set in Iowa and I was pretty sure it was written by someone not-from-Iowa. I thought that was a wonderful novelty. Having lived in Iowa many years, I’m always interested in hearing what people who haven’t had that experience think about the state. And, I have to say, I found it a little confusing. First, I was pretty sure that the town was supposed to be in Southern Iowa, but then it mentioned that it could be a bedroom community for Cedar Rapids, which is not in Southern Iowa. (And, is the next town over from where I went to high school). Second, there’s a gay kid who comes to town to investigate the bookstore and then make friends with the gay guys that run the local tavern because he has no other outlet for meeting gay people. But…he has a car and lives near-ish to Cedar Rapids and can’t make it to Iowa City which isn’t that far beyond Cedar Rapids and has an actual gay bar (not just a bar owned and operated by a gay couple) and has had a gay bar since the ’90s? Also, while we’re talking about the bar owned and operated by a gay couple, this book was set around 2011 and there was at least one comment about that couple and marriage, but gay couples could get married in Iowa in 2011. That bothered me a little. I was also a little bothered by some of the representations of Iowans. Like, I love the Iowans I know, but we’re super nosy and will tell people what we think, so I don’t know how its possible that no one knew Sara was coming and that no one made it clear to Amy beforehand that she had to A. tell Sara she was dying and B. make specific arrangements for Sara, should she be dead by the time of her arrival. (I admit it. I am often that person telling someone exactly what I think after I’ve nosed around a little.)
The audio book is read by Fiona Hardingham and Lorelei King and it had me wondering the entire way through, do people outside the US have an understanding that American accents fall into two categories: typical American and Southern? Do people outside the US think that everyone in rural American speaks with a Southern accent? Because, that is not true. There are features of Iowa English that make it unique (as is true of every regional area) but those features don’t really overlap with Southern English. They’re probably closer to Minnesota English (and Canadian English), Wisconsin English, and Indiana, Illinois and Northern Ohio than the South. You’re more likely to hear someone say the word “milk” and have it sound like “melk” then you are to hear someone say “pin” and “pen” the same way. Also, Iowans have all the r’s. This is something that interests me to no end and I may do a series on accents, language and representation in the things we’ve read here on this blog.
Anyway, it was cute. So, if you’re willing to go on a meandering little walk through a small town that’s allegedly Iowa (but that actual Iowans wouldn’t believe was Iowa) and you don’t mind a bunch of little divergences, then I recommend this. If that sounds irritating to you, then give this a pass.