Where is the love?

Over the last few days I have been seeing a lot of people talk about the best books of the year so far- both in YA and adult categories.  While I thought long and hard about doing this as well (and still might), it got me thinking about some of the books that I have loved in the past- I mean went fan-girl bananas for-but haven’t seen much chatter about.  So I present to you my list of hype worthy books that never got the hype they deserved.

  1. I Shall Not Hate, Izzeldin Abuelaish.  This book is one of the most inspiring that I have ever read.  Izzeldin was a doctor working in hospitals on both sides of the Gaza Strip.  In this book he is very candid about the war, prejudices, his treatment on both sides, and the loss of his daughters who were killed.  I still tear up when I talk about it.  I cannot imagine having something like this happen, but what really floored me is his reaction.  It would be easy to lay blame, become hardened, hurtful…. instead he is still an advocate for peace.  He did not let this tragedy destroy him, or his remaining family.  He chose not to hate, and instead insist upon peace, love, and understanding.
  2. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende.  This has long been my favorite book.  With a touch of magical realism and a flare for words Allende brings to life this intriguing woman.  We follow Eva as she tells us the story of her life, loves, and discoveries.  The characters are unique and charming, and the world she built in the jungle is so real that on cold nights I open up that book just to feel the humid heat.  How does this book not have a fandom?!?
  3. Kids of Appetite, David Arnold.   This was definitely a YA fave from last year.  We open to Vic and Mad stalling for time, each in their own interrogation room (seriously, what an opening)!  As he attempted to fulfill his father’s last wish, Vic is engulfed in a group of street kids.  Having a birth defect, he had never been able to really interact with people easily, but Mad, Baz, Zuz and Coco take him into their little family and life changes for all of them.  I don’t want to go too far into it, you can read my review here.  All I am going to say, is that this book needs hype.  Everyone should read it!  I loved it and am still mildly obsessed with it.
  4. A Taste For Monsters, Matthew J Kirby.  Another favorite from last year, this book blew me away.  Evelyn Fallows is a down on her luck young woman who had been disfigured badly in her previous job.  As a madman called Leather Apron is terrorizing London, Evelyn finds safety in a hospital as a probationer.  She looks after John Merrick, also known as the Elephant Man.  As the two get close, she notices that Merrick is visited by ghosts- Leather Apron’s victims- looking for closure.  Kindhearted man that he is, he wants to help and give comfort, but it is taking a toll on him.  To protect her new friend, can Evelyn find the strength to find the answers herself?   Seriously guys, this book is fantastic and I just didn’t find that many reviews on it.  How are we not talking about this book still- and always?
  5. Passenger, Alexandra Bracken.  I guess there were a lot of books from last year that I am still obsessed with.  On the night of her big performance, Etta learns a secret.  Her family can jump through time!  Practically kidnapped and thrown back in time, Etta tries to come to terms with this new reality and discover who is friend and foe.  With an amazing caste of characters and gorgeous world building I feel like this deserves at least Hunger Games level hype.  The sequel, Wayfarer, was even better, allowing for some fantastic character development.
  6. Learning to Swear in America, Katie Kennedy.  An end-of-the-world novel where our hero is a socially awkward teen genius from Russia who is just now learning the ins and outs of dating and human interaction.  Yuri and his friends were fantastic, well developed characters that you loved to death.  The book was both hilarious and heartfelt.  I remember seeing it reviewed here on WordPress and thinking…. I have to have this.  It took me over completely.  I am still waiting for I<3 Yuri shirts and memorabilia.
  7. The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, Scott Stombach.  All his life (seventeen years), Ivan has lived the a Belarus hospital for Gravely Ill Children where he spices up the day to day hum drum by manipulating everyone around him.  He is a brash potty mouthed little demon that is both hilarious and annoying, often getting the better of his nurses.  Then Polina shows up.  While she is, indeed, terminally ill, there is such a life force to her that Ivan knows she doesn’t belong.  As the two get to know one another they both grow as people, maturing before our eyes.  The personal growth I saw in Ivan was mind blowing.  This was just a really great read- and I may or may not know how to call someone a “beef whistle” in Russian.  Seriously, lets get some merchandise out for this one.  I would totally wear that shirt!
  8. The Eagle Tree, Ned Hayes.  I have to say, this is one of the most unique narrators I have ever read.  March Wong is autistic, and has a lot of trouble being understood.  His obsession of trees, and climbing them, has landed him in some hot water in the past and with the threat of having him taken away, his mother is trying to curb that.  It is his love of trees, though, that allows him to find his calling and branch out, allowing others into his world.  I felt like Hayes did an exceptional job with this book, making March the hero of his own story and bringing the struggle that people with autism and their loved ones go through.  March needs a fan club.
  9. Love in Lowercase, Francesc Miralles.  Samuel is a loner.  A linguist and a genius, he never did learn how to interact with others and has no one in his life.  When Mishima, a stray cat, arrives at his apartment and refuses to leave, Samuel is forced out of his comfort zone and into an intriguing world with unforgettable characters.  Again, where is the merchandise?!?!  Where are the Samuel/ Mishima fan clubs?
  10. Invisible, Shari Shattuck.  Ellen is severely overweight and self conscious.  She has learned to make herself so unnoticed as to be invisible.  Having lived her adult life hoping never to be seen, Ellen isn’t ready for the moment when everything changes.  Coming off the bus, Ellen notices a young blind woman being robbed and rushes in without thinking.  Temerity doesn’t care what Ellen looks like, only that Ellen was there.  She takes her new friend in hand and with the help of her brother Justice starts giving Ellen the things she needs for a better life- basic nutritional education and a whole lot of confidence.

I may love this one best because it has such a great message.  No one made Ellen change her life- there was no boy that would fall for her if only…. instead this is about a woman not only beginning to learn how to love and take care of herself, but a testament to the power of friendship and encouragement.  Sometimes I think Ellen has partially inspired my own drive to become healthier.  Both she and Temerity need fan clubs.

Of course, I could name a hundred others… but you get the point.  Which books do you think did not get the hype they deserved?  And what are you still obsessed with?

Amber

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Believe Me, Eddie Izzard

believe meTitle: Believe Me: a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens.

Author: Eddie Izzard

Pages: 368

Genre: auto biography, nonfiction

Is this part of a series?  No.

Published: June 13th, 2017

             I received an Arc of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review.  My apologies for being late.

Eddie Izzard is a hilarious British stand-up comic ( “cake or death?”).  I have always enjoyed his stream-of-conscious comedy and respected him for being “out” as a transvestite at a time when it was very hard.  We say Transgender now, but I don’t know if that completely covers it- he feels both masculine and feminine and refers to himself often in the book as an “action transvestite”, loving sports and GI Joe and girls…. and sometimes their skirts and makeup.

Reading this book gave me a new respect for Izzard as an individual and a professional.  Loosing his mother at a young age to cancer, Eddie and his brother then went to boarding school- not the easiest thing for anyone, especially a grieving boy with confusing feelings about himself.  We face the drama of puberty, flirting, self discovery, and hacking one’s way into the comeday set (street performing, the London circuit, tours, America and acting); all the while trying to make it so that his sexuality is not the only thing he’s known for.  It is sad, honest, and often hilarious as Izzard bears all to let us into his world.

This is a five star book for me.  Five Stars  In fact, I loved it so much I bought it so that I could check the printed version and give quotes.  I loved the flow of the book- a tiny bit choppy and out there as if you are just sitting listening to him talk.  He speaks here much like he does in his stand-up (and, indeed some of my favorite zingers here were one show or another).  As someone with a transgender person close to me, knowing what they have been through even now, it was nice to hear Izzard’s take.

As far as the Adult Content Scale, it was maybe a three.  There is a great amount of language, but not much else.  General.svg

Now, for the quotes:

(On having the confidence to ask a girl out)  If you don’t have the confidence to walk out the door and say, “Hey, who wants to have a relationship with me?  I’m a teenage guy with no real experience or confidence!  But it’s going to be fun,” then it’s just not going to happen.

(How he came out as trans during one of his routines)  I had one joke about being TV that I had been carrying around for about four or five years.  It was this:  “If you’re a comedian, it’s good to have something to rail against.  So if you’re from the working class background, you can say ‘Oh, the rich people!  They’re always in control.’ If you’re a woman  you can say “oh, men!  They’re always getting paid more!’ If you’re from an ethnic background, you can say, ‘Oh, white people.  They’re always making it hard for every ethnic group.’ But if you’re a white, male, middle class, stand-up, you have no one to rail against.  So thank god I’m a transvestite!” …. When I finally told the joke it got a laugh, but people didn’t actually believe that I was a transvestite.  They thought I was joking!

(On his choice to go in “girl mode” sometimes).  …How I dress and what I look like is not a character.  It’s me.  I’m just talking.  And sometimes I just happen to be wearing lipstick.

(On his constant drive to push himself) Most of us think that while we are here on earth if we eat cake and watch television, that’s fine.  That’s what we’re supposed to do.  But that’s now what our bodies are built for.  I believe we can all do more than we think we can do.

(His outlook on our differences) …If you look at what makes us all similar instead of looking to find what makes us different, you’ll see that there is one thing that is the same for all of humanity: And that is love.

……..We are all worth fighting for.  Running and hiding and separating, building walls, hating the Muslims, hating the Jews, hating immigrants-none of this builds a better world.  The twenty-first century is a key century for us on this planet.  Either we make a world, where all seven billion people have a fair chance in this century-or forget it.  I don’t think we are going to make it as a species.  Despair is the fuel of terrorism and hope is the fuel of civilization, so we have to put more hope into the world than despair.  Hatred and separation and building walls is not the way to progress.

….Some people say I am a nonbeliever.  But I am a believer; I believe in humanity.  I believe in people.  I believe in our ability to make the world a better, more compassionate, and more civilized place.

Link to book:

Amazon

Amber

 

Weekly Wrap-up! June 19th-25th

Personal life:

This week Warren and I went to the Miami Oklahoma pow wow.  Having never been to one, we had no idea what to expect but were told to show up at about 6:00 pm.  As I worked at 6:30 the next morning we were only going to stay a short while before heading off.   Needless to say, this was far too early.  As Warren now works closely with the tribe it was expected that we attend one of the days- either Friday or Saturday.  As Saturday is Family Game day, we decided on the first day.  There were vendors there, with beautiful bead works weaponry and blankets; along with several mouth watering- and diet crushing- concession stands (we ate before heading out, but I am still bummed that I missed out on Indian tacos and Fry Bread whatever that is).  There was some music- singing and drums of the war songs and Gourd dancing along with getting a good look at previous tribe princesses (a bit like Miss America where you are an ambassador for the tribe going to other tribes).  I loved it!  I would have loved to stay, but we left before the Grand Entrance at 8:30.  Next year I will request the next day off in advance so that we can enjoy more of the fun.

outgoing2016Here we have the previous Princess crowning the new.  These young women were beautiful, I got to watch them dance a bit to the singing and interact.  I loved how poised and respectful they were, it made me happy to see the confidence that this brings the girls.

 

 

 

Bookish Life:

Sadly I read a total of twelve and a half hours this week, which is far below what I used to read.  I did finish Eddie Izzard’s Believe Me (review to come after I finish here).  I loved that book.  I am severely behind on my TBR and decided to complicate matters by buying another book.  Lizzie Velasquez came out with a book called Dare To Be Kind.  Born with a rare genetic condition, Lizzie knew she didn’t look the same as everyone else.  At 17 she found a viral video of the “ugliest woman”, and found that it was her.  She has then become a motivational speaker and fighter against bullying.  Here, we will read about unlocking our better selves to make a better world.  How could I pass this up?

So, that’s me for the week.  What’s new with you?

Amber

I may seriously never leave my new library!!

pic of front.jpg We just got a new town library and it is absolutely gorgeous!  I am so excited!  Not only is it at least five times larger than the previous one, but there is more parking, lots of computers, study rooms- yes, rooms that students can rent out and put themselves in so that they can study in peace, conference rooms, a storm shelter and IT support on hand.  Holy cow!

Did I mention how gorgeous it is?!?  Sky lights and open layout, comfy chairs scattered everywhere.  Tables…. freaking vending machines!!!!  That’s right, we have an eating area where I can see myself having a lot of snacks (brought from home, of course, so that I don’t blow my diet), while I read several papers or magazines.

Warren is excited because we are also supposed to get a 3D printer here, along with other tech in the green room (it isn’t open yet, I think they are still getting equipment).

Here are just a few pics I took in my quick tour:

While I love all this, it does hurt that it is so far from me now- it used to be a five minute walk, now it is across town.  Having our area loose fast access has made me consider things like the Little Libraries that are popping up everywhere.  I am blessed in that I have a car and can get anywhere, and have free time.  Some of my neighbors aren’t so lucky.  I had considered taking some of my books- ones that I don’t mind possibly loosing- and setting up one a Little Library outside my house with the idea of people being able to take a book to read and return, or leave a well loved book for others.

In a perfect world this would work flawlessly.  Everyone would only go to the book area and leave the rest of the house unmolested, books would return, and nothing would get broken or vandalized.  But I worry that this would not be the case.  Is it fair of me to invite strangers so close to my home- a home I share with my husband (and his possessions)?  Also, would this affect the neighbors?  And for the love of God, I don’t want to be part of the Little Library site because I would have to enter my information and address!  You have to pay them at least once, maybe more, and I don’t see how they could make this any safer.  I just want a weather proof cabinet outside that proclaims that it has Community Books- take a book, share a book.  That sort of thing.  One would open the cabinet and see a small selection of books.  They would take one to read, and return it when finished for the next reader.  I want to believe this would work!  I also don’t worry about “getting the word out” because it would be small and, with luck, just for my community.  What do you guys think?  Crazy, right?  I haven’t even asked the husband yet because I know he’s gonna nix it lol.  Let me know your thoughts in comments!

Amber

I am so very behind and feel awful!!!!

I-am-so-sorry-sad-puppyUgh!  I hate myself this month.  I had several read-for-reviews from First to Read and Netgalley and I swear I don’t think any of them will be out on time.  I don’t like doing that and, honestly, rarely do.  I just can’t get my act together.  I am especially worried about FTR, because it won’t let me post a review after the release date, so I basically failed.

It isn’t that I don’t want to read the books- I do!  I am just having trouble finding time to read right now, which is completely out of character.  Also, I may have been bad and started a free trial of Comixology- I swear I have only read a few Guardians of The Galaxy and X23!

Hopefully I will have a better work-exercise-housework-read-socialize routine down for next month.  One can dream, right?

Have you guys ever missed a bunch of release dates at once?  How did you feel?

Amber

Weekly Wrap-up! June 13th-18th.

Personal Life:

This week has been a bit stressful for me.  My best friend Kris, lost a dear friend to cancer.  I feel for him, and want to be there for him, but we live very far from one another.

My husband has started meds that have severely messed with his appetite, making him not wish to eat.  The first day he admitted to only eating an oatmeal until I got home at 5:00 pm, and the next day tried to mask this fact by claiming he didn’t know how much he had eaten.  Sunday he said that he was outside working all day and didn’t want to over heat or get sick; but was sure he had some berries and lunch meat.  I worry because he is taking in very few calories unless I am monitoring it.  Today he had an oatmeal in the morning and small soup for lunch- 500 calories total.  I don’t want to harp or nag, but I want him to be healthy.  He says this is how he has always eaten and then he has a big dinner or he feels stuffed and lethargic all day.  He did have a lot of the pizza we had tonight (I had a portion with a medium salad, he had half the pizza).  I have tried to talk to him about this, I don’t think it’s healthy to eat so little through the day.  Certainly not for over half your daily nutrients to come from pizza.  Maybe I am over reacting… I tend to do that.  When pressed about how he eats his meals he said that people had different metabolisms and that his blood sugar had tested fine.  I know that he is on this med for blood pressure, but that he also wants to loose weight if he can.  I just don’t see how this can work….

Bookish Life:

I am currently reading Eddie Izzard’s Believe Me.  I am loving it, but have had very little time to read this week.  I feel bad because this one is also going to be a late review for an ARC- all of them probably will be this month.  I just can’t seem to catch up!

believe me

So that’s me for the week, what’s up with you?

Amber

The Party, Robyn Harding

the partyspolier alertTitle: The Party

Author: Robyn Harding

Pages: 352

Genre: mystery, adult fiction

Is this part of a series?  No.

Published: June 6th, 2017

          I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley and Scout Press.  Sadly, time got away from me and I did not read it before it’s release.  My apologies for being late to The Party….

Jeff and Kim Sanders have their issues, but they have a good life.  Money, friends, respect, and two good children.  Hannah, their sweet daughter with good grades, is turning sixteen!  Invitations have been sent- four of her “best friends” for a slumber party.  The girls have been told the rules of the house- no drinking, boys, drugs or porn.  What could go wrong?

The answer to that, is everything.  Rules are broken and extremely bad choices are made that result in a life altering event.  One of our girls’ lives will change forever, each of them will feel the effects.  As the Sanders’ world unravels, secrets come out- no one is innocent.

I am glad that Goodreads labeled this correctly as adult fiction.  The blurb on Netgalley and the writing style often made one think of YA, and that would be a mistake.  I was on the fence about this book.  Like several other books I have read this year, it showcased the worst in teens- how cruel they can be.  Laden with bullying and backstabbing, this book cut me to the quick.  Throughout the novel one question came through my mind- would I want my niece- now 14- to read this?  Even though I trust her to be smart, to make good choices…. the answer is a resounding no.

As an adult, I can respect the nuances in the writing and how each of these characters were exceptionally crafted disasters.  I can love the plot, and watching it unfold.  As someone with a teen in her life, I hate it.  None of those girls- none of them!- showed any real growth throughout the heartbreaking story.  I despised the ending, but could it have ended any other way when there had been no lesson learned?  I guess I just hit on my main issue- there was no lesson learned.  I could sit Jules down and talk about each and every part of that book, but I can’t show her an epiphany- a moment where a character changes for the better.  Now, these characters weren’t all bad- and they did a lot of good things- but I feel like most if not all of the good they ever did was in self interest or pity.  Not because it was right, or they felt empathy.  For me, this is a three star book.  Three Stars   It was good, and I enjoyed it; but it could have been so much more and I was left dissatisfied.

On the adult content scale, this is a doozy.  Mild violence, sexual innuendo and some sexual content, drug use, alcohol, bullying and hate.  I give it an eight because it disturbed me, and I don’t know how it would affect a teen.  adult content road sign

The book is out.  Have you read it?

Link to book:

Amazon

Amber