What I’m Reading Now: Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

before the devil breaks you

Finally!

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Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Narrator Reading Challenge UPDATE

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We are now halfway through June so I can accurately say we are halfway through the year.  It’s time to check in and see how we are doing with our reading challenges.  This year we decided to split up our Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Reading challenge into two different.  One for authors and one for narrators.  I’m doing the Narrators and I have to say, I’m doing pretty well.  Now, I think there may be a few arguments over some of my books but who doesn’t love a good debate?  Going off my list of the books I’ve read, I discovered that there were a few things we should have discussed before setting the challenge out.  For instance, can you use the same book for different categories if they have more then one Narrator?  I’m going to go with yes because you are getting different perspectives from different characters.  So  here we go.

  1.  Book with a Queer Narrator: The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan.  Narrator: Apollo.  Ok, so this maybe a stretch because as Kate asked me Can we apply modern categories of sexuality to ancient Gods?  Well I don’t know, but in The Dark Prophecy, Apollo is currently exiled to Earth as a mortal and while being on Earth has shown equal interest in both Men and Women.  So, in the context of the book, I’m counting it.
  2. Book with a African American Narrator: March Vols. 1-3 by Congressman John Lewis. Narrator: John Lewis
  3. Book with characters from various socio-economic backgrounds Silver Stars by Michael Grant.  Narrators: Frangie, Rainey and Rio
  4. Books with Asian American Narrator: Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han and The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. Narrators: Lara Jean and Daniel.  I decided to count both since they are both Asian Americans but they have very different perspectives on growing up in America.  Lara Jean is definitely your more typical middle class teenage girl who grew up in the suburbs.  She’s also mixed because of her Dad is white so she straddles both sides.  Daniel grew up in New York City and is the son of two immigrant parents. (I thought about using Natasha from The Sun is also a Star as my African American Narrator but technically speaking she’s not American as her family was living in the US illegally)
  5. Book with a Narrator who has survived abuse: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. Narrator : Feyre.  I really could have picked any character in this book but since it’s all from Feyre’s point of view she gets the top billing.
  6. A Book with a Mexican Narrator: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. Narrator: Cristina.  I admit I maybe stretching it a little thin with this one.  Cristina is one of six narrators in Lord of Shadows and not one of the two main characters but she is an important to the story as a whole so for now I’m counting it but it might change before the year is out.
  7. A Book with a Muslim Narrator: Ms. Marvel Vols. 2-4 by G. Willow Wilson. Narrator: Kamala
  8. A Book with a Jewish Narrator: Silver Stars by Michael Grant. Narrator: Rainey I know that I have already used Silver Stars before but Rainey is a fascinating character.  I love reading her.
  9. A Book with an atheist Narrator: Believe Me by Eddie Izzard. Narrator: Eddie Izzard.  He doesn’t go too much into his atheism but he does make it very clear he doesn’t believe in any god.

9 out of 15 is pretty good.  Even if you take out the few iffy ones, I’m still over halfway done with my challenge.  How are you doing?

March: Discussion Part 4

9781603093958_p0_v6_s192x300Today is the last day of February and as such the last day of our group read of John Lewis’ March. Were you able to finish all three volumes of March?  What are your final observations?  What will you take away from John Lewis’ story?  I was really moved by his story but it also illustrated my own privilege.  There are many small things that I have taken for granted. Obviously, I was raised in a different time and place but I’ve never had to worry about where I had to sit on a bus or be concerned about what truck stops to stops at when traveling with my family.  My life would never be threatened because I wanted to register vote.  Even now,. as more and more states tighten of voting laws, I don’t feel that my constitutional rights will be threatened but I do worry for minorities and marginalized groups having their rights stripped away.  We have not come as far as we think we have.  Old prejudice are hard die and I worry about how much farther we will fall back.  It’s also makes me think about what I’m willing to go to jail for or willing to be beaten for.  I’m not really sure.  This year, I’ve already participated in my first protest march and have called my Congress representatives more then I have ever in the past.  I’m not sure I have the bravery of John Lewis and Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks and so many others.  I seriously hope that it won’t come to that.  That we will be able to keep our protest peaceful and those we opposed will to as well.  The importance of this book is so we don’t forget the mistakes of our past.  To remind all of us about our history so we are not doomed to repeat it.  Knowledge is truly power.

 

 

March: Discussion Part 3

9781603093958_p0_v6_s192x300I would like to discuss the format. What do you think about John Lewis presenting this story as a graphic novel instead of a straight narrative story?  I personally, I loved it.  I think it was kind of genius. It’s one thing to read about the sit-ins, marches and the violence that followed but it’s another thing to have it visualized.  The illustrations are truly powerful and really make his story and the story of the Civil Rights movement come to life.  The graphic novel format also makes it more accessible.  How many kids or teens willing read history books?  All three books were quick reads but still powerful.  Giving the readers a full look of all the challenges that John Lewis and the movement faced.  The sacrifices that they made, knowing that they could be arrested or killed.  The visual aspect of the novel makes all of these more powerful because the illustrations are simple, yet specific.

Do you agree with me? What do you think of the presentation?

March: Discussion Part 2

9781603093958_p0_v6_s192x300 Hello, Beth here.  

I have had many reactions to this trilogy so far. I’ll admit it’s not an easy read as there are a lot of hard truths here. The question I keep asking myself is how can I be shocked when I know what’s going to happen? I know my history. I know this was not one of America’s proudest moments in our history. I studied in school about the protests and violent reaction to them. I’ve read about Emmit Till, Medger Evers and Freedom Rides.  So why am I’m still shocked to read how violent they were? How am I still shocked to read how angry, hurtful and full of hate people can be? It’s not like they were asking for huge things. They wanted to eat at the counters of stores they just bought merchandise in. They wanted to go to the movies. They wanted to ride the bus. They wanted to vote. How are any of these extraordinary requests? How am I still shocked by these when the news lately are full of people saying angry, hurtful and full of hate? Why do I feel like we are repeating history?

What is everyone else’s reactions so far?

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

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I picked up this book in a sale at the library. It seemed like it might be pretty fun. Well, as much fun as you can have in a war. Nazis steal treasure (from pretty much everywhere) and Allied soldiers get a wiggle on and go after it. The narrative starts prior to World War II with members of the art community saying that war is bad for art and that we should remember that if fighting ever happens again. It followed the stories of a couple of museum people and some art conservators. One of them actually writes out a plan on how to preserve monuments and art during wartime. Then, World War II breaks out, the Allied forces have some pretty disastrous PR following the destruction of some monuments and so decide that maybe they should do something to preserve the cultural heritage of Europe. This turns out to be a great idea because Hitler is obsessed with art and has his surrogates all over Europe cataloging and seizing all kinds of property.

So, this book follows six of the folks assigned to Monuments duty during World War II. The bulk of the narrative focused on the recovery of the Ghent altarpiece, the art at Neuschwanstein Castle and all of the art that was stored at the salt mine at Altausee. It was really interesting hearing about all of these pieces of art. It was also interesting hearing about the storage, transportation and care of the art. (Spoiler Alert: pieces often didn’t get the treat they deserved.)

I’m not going to lie to you, some of this book was a little boring. But, overall I’m glad that I read it.

So, if you’re interested in war, treasure hunting and the Allied forces defeating the Nazis, you may want to pick this up.

Review: Crecy by Warren Ellis

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I’m pretty sure that I read this graphic novel when it first came out but, I recently moved and in all the packing I came across it and decided it was time to pick it up and read it again.

 

 

The year is 1346 and then English army is outnumbered outside of the village of Crecy. They’ve run a shock-and-awe campaign, attacking villages and just generally making mayhem but now they have to stand and fight. French forces with mounted knights and hired crossbowmen go up against English longbows and other fighters a battle that would have a major impact on the Hundred Years war. The story is centered around one longbowman as he moves through the French countryside and prepares for battle.

 

This is a quick read about a piece of English history. It is pretty good. A little sweary and sometimes a little gross, but that is in line with the subject material. So, if you’re looking for a little history but you aren’t into reading a long tome, I say give this a try.

 

 

This Month in Reality…and the Oscar Goes to…

When Beth and I talked about what to do for this month, I got really excited about travel memoirs. But, then, everyone in the Northeast is probably dreaming of warm beaches and sunny locales. (Although, it has been sunny this week. I love the look of the sun on clean, white snow. It makes the world so bright and beautiful. Of course, this beauty has also been accompanied by dangerously cold temperatures and wind. Win some, lose some.) But, then we got to talking about something that has always been a fun night for us: The Oscars. It is fun to watch people win, the speculate and to discuss the films that we saw (and didn’t see). We’ve been known in the past to drink a lot of wine, make and eat a lot of food and be pretty irreverent in our cheering and jeering (which, this year, we’ll be doing over FaceTime.)

In honor of this glorious night of fancy dresses and finger food, I give you the low-down on three books that inspired Oscar-nominated films. All of these books I listened to rather than read and all of them came from the Buffalo and Erie County Public libraries. Go, Library Card!

12 Years a Slave

This is the tale of Solomon Northup, a free black man from New York who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. Written by Northup after he was rescued and returned home this memoir is a painful inside look into the institution of slavery. It is every bit as harrowing as you expect it to be but that is what makes this such an important piece of history. Slavery was very real and it destroyed many, many lives and we still live with its legacy. The audio book was read by Louis Gossett, Jr. Northup’s strength and courage are inspiring but the situation that he finds himself in is utterly despicable. This book is totally worth the read.

A Beautiful Mind

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this when I picked it up because I remember being only a little into the film. This biography follows the life of John Forbes Nash, Jr., a brilliant mathematician who had a promising career ahead of him until he fell ill with schizophrenia. The first part of the book details his early life and schooling. He’s great at math, he gets scholarships and it becomes apparent that he’s good enough that he has a serious shot at a prestigious academic career in mathematics full of groundbreaking research and accolades. He works for the Rand corporation. He fathers a child. He has homosexual encounters that cause some upset in McCarthy era America. He gets married and fathers a second child. He holds a position and almost receives tenure at MIT. He is, like most geniuses, a lot a bit arrogant and kind of a dick. He’s a possible candidate for the Fields medal ( which is like the Nobel of math). And then his illness strikes. Much of the rest of the book chronicles the harrowing struggle that is schizophrenia and how he, and the people around him, worked to manage it, manage him, or sometimes, failed to manage either. This was a terrible tale of losing ground, gaining ground and then losing it again. Towards the end of the book, when Nash’s work in game theory was being considered for a Nobel prize, it was also a tale of how people tried to use his illness as an excuse to not give him the prize. This was a harrowing picture of mental illness and how the mentally ill are perceived. It did have a small light at the end of the tunnel, though. Nash seems to have had a long remission from schizophrenia later in life which allowed him to return to his work and he did receive the Nobel memorial prize for Economics in 1994. This is an important book for how it sheds light on schizophrenia and perceptions of the mentally ill.

Wild

This book broke me open put me back together and then broke me again. A memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s 20s in which she gets married, loses her mother, graduates from college, does a lot of drugs, gets a divorce and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail had me laughing and sobbing and laughing again. I spent a lot of time texting and calling my mother after reading this book, so grateful I was to have that opportunity. I like hiking memoirs (and travel books in general) so I enjoyed the descriptions of the hike and her monster backpack. This story was beautiful and poignant and I’m so happy to have read it. Unlike the two previous books, I feel like I can say that I enjoyed this one. (The other two I’m happy to have read but I can’t really say that I enjoyed them.)

We hope that if you have Oscar plans that they are enjoyable and that your favorites win!