- Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
- Flying Lessons & Others edited by Ellen Oh
- Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
- Solo by Kwame Alexander
- Landline by Rainbow Rowell
- We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
- Blue Rider by Geraldo Valério
- Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
- An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
- Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
- Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
- Shattered Glass by Teresa Toten
- Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
- The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
I almost did not finish reading this book but I decided to continue to the end. Yes, this was an early example of a fantasy novel and I was impressed to learn that it was published as early as 1726 in England. I learned about the vocabulary, technology, and worldviews popular at the time. I found the audiobook reading long and tedious, monotonous and droning. Although the author Jonathan Swift was Irish, his story was written in the form of an account by Englishman-- full of pomp, self-righteousness, prejudice, and colonial attitudes. There were certain things described in this book that made me feel like it was an early anthropological, ethnographical, and eugenics study. It wreaked of privilege. Generally, wherever this man went, he was treated well, accepted, coddled, and catered to. Each time over the fifteen years, he left his wife, sometimes while pregnant, and children alone. His descriptions of languages, peoples, customs, and cultures were like racist colonial travel logs. The fictional peoples he described as barbarous and ignorant appearing as codes for the lands and peoples the English colonized. In fact, Gulliver's character indicates why he decided not to colonize these peoples but that the English may try to do so. My stomach turned. What were my ancestors doing in early 1700s? Being colonized, captured, enslavaed, or resisting. Aside for the privileges the narrator embodied based on race and gender, this book also described some things that sounded like a sexual fantasy or fetish being enacted. For example, the narrator's clothes are removed, he is examined, and then put to bed. In another, he is bathed, clothed, and put to bed. He describes women's breasts and genitalia as well as mentions that he copulated with a Yahoo. Then when he finally returns after five years, he cannot bare to be around his long-suffering wife and children who thought him dead (meaning he did not write them) and are happy to see him and seek his company. Stomach-turning.
This was a cute little, quick little e-audiobook read. I appreciated that even though these were short stories, they felt very complete. I felt closure at the end of each, relieved to know that each story wrapped up in good time. There was a nice mixture of diversity. A few stories were about an African-American experience. One was about First Nations/Native American, another Latin American, East Asian, and South Asian. There were stories that seemed open to LGBTQ themes plus differently abled people. There is even a story that involves ESP. My favourite story of all was Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains which featured a humorous storytelling uncle/narrator. I loved this read. This was the first anthology related to the We Need Diverse Books mandate.
I feel like this book wins for emotional intensity. Jacqueline Woodson is a gifted writer and one of my poets. I feel like this was an adult coming of age novel which is very different than Jacqueline's style of writing YA and middle grade. One thing that reminds the same is the quietly emotional nature of this book that reminds me of her other work like Feathers and If You Come Softly. I read this audiobook very quickly and I feel like there may have been things I missed, which I think upon a second read may seem crucial. The storytelling/narration from the perspective of August, a teenaged Black girl was very impressive, as she describes interwoven stories with the lives around her. It's a story about loss, acceptance, denial, and dreaming dreams especially when no one has them for you. In the inner city, there is a concept called "getting out of the hood" for the purpose of social advancement and that path is wrought with its own losses, violence, and isolation. Jacqueline Woodson paints another Brooklyn, set in the 1970s? 1980s? during the period of white flight. Her protagonist August is brave, reflective, thoughtful, and coming to grips with the loss of growing up without her mother but other mothers and friendships abound. It is a beautiful portrait and felt like a long short story.
SPOILER ALERT: Beautiful and poetic. I wanted to slow this book down. And so I did by dialing down the speed of this audiobook read by Kwame Alexander. I loved the vocalist and guitarist used for this reading that interspersed and gave life and music to Kwame's story. This story is about a boy with a broken heart and his journey to Ghana. Full disclosure, I have met Kwame and spoken at length with him in 2015 at SCBWI NYC and in 2017 in Dubai. This story seems like it is very close to his poetry style and who he is. I know Ghana is important to Kwame as he goes there each summer and works there. I felt that there was a lot happening in this story and at times, aspects of the story should be slowed down, for example the revelation that Blade was adopted (I am not sure if I missed when/how that was revealed) as well as what happens to Sia. I do love the music. As a musician and a writer largely influenced by music, I appreciated this book about a young musician. I loved the spoken word piece that is featured close to the end of the novel. I am looking forward to Swing, his new book about music, set to be released in October 2018.
Agonizing. Claustrophobic. Circuitous. Groundhog Day-like. During the span of a week, Georgie McCool is losing her mind. By the end of this book, I felt like I would lose my mind too. She played and replayed every scenario of her marriage and the pending separation/divorce that Georgie believes is inevitable. She has chosen to stay at home in California to work on tv show pilots with her best friend/work hubby, Seth. Neil is emotionally distant, even-keeled, and her reliable husband who has that type of wet blanket personality that draws in Georgie's fire. She is a comedy writer and struggles with her responsibilities of fulfilling her motherly, wifely duty but is racked with an insane amount of guilt because she skipped out on their family's Christmas trip to Neil's hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. This book was good but I am also reading We Are All Made of Molecules and both books feature one Black male in a relationship with a supporting character and another supporting character dealing with coming out. I decided to read this, my first Rainbow Rowell book, after having seen this author speak a few years ago at the SCBWI NYC conference as she has a few young adult titles. I am not sure if this was an early work but it felt too slow at times and too close to home. Nevertheless, the book is okay and really gets into the psychology of marriage, middle class white couples' relationships, and the many ways we can drive ourselves crazy and push people away when we don't have all of the answers, the whole picture, or read other people's minds. And there is a little scifi/magic too.
Spoiler alert. Excellent. I am really proud of Susin Nielsen and loved this book. I must admit. I initially disliked Ashley, one of the principal characters of this book from whose perspective the story is told. She is a mean girl, judgemental, and self-righteous, through and through. The other is her "sort of" stepbrother Stuart. This was a novel that had me sitting on the edge of my seat until the very end. Stuart is a loveable nerd, thoughful, conscientious, and often socially clueless. The characters evolved... and I love how. This novel deals with a lot of issues... loss, blended families, homophobia, sexual assault, narcissistic personalities, cyberbullying, bullying, etc. But the book never feels heavy. I am still left with questions like how is Ashley dealing with the feeling of being violated? I know she channels it into something positive but I still felt that more could have been handled there. And I still wonder why the school system did not do more to protect students from someone like Jared. Lastly, I was reading Rainbow Rowell's Landline at the same time and noticed that both of these books had a supporting 1 Black male and 1 gay characters. I wondered if this was a "trend" which I will be following. Nevertheless, I love the power shifted and I think another title for this book is We Got the Power. Nevertheless, We Are All Made of Molecules is not bad either. I have also heard Susin Nielsen speak at CANSCAIP PYI as well as at a young adult author showcase at the North York Central Library. Way to go for this award-winning Canadian middle grade novel.
Picture books can be magical. They are experiences to be had. What a delightful worldess story told solely through illustrations-- colourful, vibrant, and blinding. Blue Rider is a horse that breaks the monotony of a grey conformist society. This book is a flash of genius. As a Groundwood book, Blue Rider shares my publisher.
Omg. This book was amazing. I do not normally read psychological thrillers but Teresa Toten, you have outdone yourself. This book was an e-audiobook and it had me gripped. Nine hours is a long time but the story moved along well and was chock full of twists, turns, and disgusting details to give you goosebumps. The timing of this book is relevant especially with the #metoo movement and allegations that have come forward. This book is aligned with a lot television shows that are popular right now (such as Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl) in regards to the ultra rich and private schoolgirls' lives. As a Canadian, I am proud that this book has come from a writer in my city (even though the book is set in New York City). What is even better, full disclosure, is that I know this author and she is someone who I can speak to at any time. This book is full of mysterious people who manipulate and scheme to get to the top. My only complaint was that it seemed a little too convenient that the two lead characters, Kate and Olivia, each lost a parent as well as teenage boy love interest Johnny, also did. And then there is the trauma that both lead characters experienced. Too coincidental? Or perhaps this is what brings them together. Great work, Teresa!
Excellent read. Delightul! I loved this book about coincidences, life, embracing happiness, and relationships. The story is about two Will Graysons but there is a character who steals the show and that is Tiny Cooper. The story is told from two perspectives... each one unique and coming into their own. The depressed gay Gothic Will Grayson swears so much at the start of the novel but I felt a huge shift mid- to end-of-novel as he utters nary a swear word making it harder to distinguish him from the other characters. The other straight Will Grayson rejects all relationships and I am not quite sure why as the rules he holds to do not quite make logical sense. But, Tiny is unapologetic, bold, brass, and shiny. He is gay, he is large-bodied, and he is staging a huge musical about his life. Go big or go home is his modus operandi. There are quieter characters like Jane and the tenuous relationship he has with Will and other supporting ones but my favourite was Tiny who was laugh out loud funny, sweet, and reminded me of a friend of mine. I think everything that John Green touches is gold and this one sparkles. I also loved the audiobook read with the effective musical renditions from the reader. What a range to do a depressed Goth who swears a lot to the singers who belt like there's no tomorrow. Great work!
This book was okay. It isn't my favourite John Green book, by far, but okay. I notice a couple of recurring themes with his books. John Green likes 1) having multiple characters with the same name such as Katherine, Colin, and in the previous book, Will Grayson, 2) big questions (philosophical and/or religious), 3) unique/quirky kids who are smart, nerdy, or, in this case, prodigies, and 4) only children-- does anyone have siblings? Anyway, this book was about Colin Singleton finding himself among a series of broken relationships with Katherines along with his friend Hasan, a Sunni Muslim of Lebanese descent, Lindsay, a resident of Gutshot, Tennessee, and the town people of that town. After a break up, he and his friend Hasan embark on a road trip that lands them in this wayout town. I loved the local storytelling which sounded so authentic thanks to a great narration in the audiobook. The weaving local folklore and fact such as the odd things Colin obssesses about, the tomb of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the tampon string factory, and Katherine's douchebag of a boyfriend Colin, add colourfulness to the plot. But I did feel bored at some parts of the story and it didn't help that I had to skip several tracks due to damage on one of the discs.
Wow! I finished e-audioreading my first Octavia Butler book which was also turned out to be the last one she wrote. I must admit that I was a little hesitant in reading her books because I thought they would be very challenging to get into as I often find is the case with science fiction novels. However, this was definitely not the case. Octavia's book was intriguing. I got into it right away. Fledgling is what I would like to call magic realism (?). It is Interview with a Vampire meets Black Panther meets Bladerunner meets Twilight series. Shori is a vampire known as an Ina. This is a community of sentient, almost human, human parasites that has coexisted with people for millennia. She emerges from the rubble of a battle in which her memory has been erased and she is the last remaining of her family. These vampires are conscientious, socially responisble, sophisticated, and for the most part, believe in coexisting with humans. There are allegories and parallels with true life galore including ageism, racism, and anti-miscegenation. This story feels very current with a lot of speculative fiction novels that I have been reading that showcase the Hero's Journey, one person/agent against their society, and through circumstances against their will become the centre of a major conflict. I enjoyed this book very much and felt that it sustained my interest throughout the almost 12 1/2 hours of audio. The actor, Tracey Leigh, was an amazing and versatile reader. I look forward to reading more books by the late Octavia Butler who is considered a pioneer in the afrofuturist subgenre of speculative fiction. This is also timely with a resurging popularity in her work as director Ava Duvernay adapts Butler's books for the small screen.
Good read about getting over traumas, guilt, and shame but done in a humorous way. I love how author Susin Nielsen does that. Petula De Wild is a teenager who has tragically lost her baby sister. She's crafty and goes to an art therapy support group for teens. She meets Jacob who also has a tragic secretive past. Petula is going through a very difficult time. Between her loss, PTSD/OCD/anxiety, and familial challenges, Petula is going through a tough time but her character evolves. If you liked The Fault In Their Stars by John Green, you will like this book. A quick and interesting read. This was an e-audiobook.
Spoiler alert: Today, I finished reading (by audiobook) my 100th book of 2018. Interestingly, this 100th book was published 93 years ago yet, it reads as timelessly and truly today. The story is about a self-made millionaire named Gatsby and his love of Daisy told through the narration of Nick (?) After hearing this story discussed and literary analysis completed in "Reading Lolita in Tehran", I felt compelled to read this book. Sure, I am familiar with the cultural references to 1920s fashion and flapper culture, lavish parties, French bob, and cigarettes. However, I did not know much the book other than it was on the list of possible selections for my OAC/Grade 13 English Novel study. (In the end, I believe that I selected The Color Purple.) This book was a much shorter read and simpler story than I anticipated. Sure it was full of symbolism and I hugely related to Gatsby (a highly ambitious, self-starter, trying to prove and improve himself, and make a mark in the world). In fact, Gatsby routine/regime referred to close to the end of the novel, totally reminded me of myself as did the unrequited love he experienced. Gatsby maintains an affair with Daisy and although she clearly loves him and he is infatuated with her, she stays put. Without giving away the ending, he protects her until the very end which is tragic. He is selfless and tries to entertain everybody, highly paranoid but he has morals, at times questionable, such as having an affair. The world and time he lives in, the company he so wishes to keep and keep up with, seems so superficial and unfeeling. It is a cold reality and one I have experienced. I grew to have a lot of empathy for Gatsby. This classic book will stick with me for a long time, I know. This audiobook also features letters that F. Scott Fitzgerald sent to his editor, agent, and others. I did not listen to all of them but they proved how much he believed in his work, his persistence, business-savvy, and publishing industry knowledge. He demanded $ 25, 000 for this book and indicated various ways that it could be published (e.g., in serial format) and by which publisher. Given that this was in the 1920s, just before the Great Depression in the US, Fitzgerald showed a lot of guts and kutzpah, a lot like the real life Gatsby.
What an interesting book. I liked it very much. Aza is a teen, who along with her friend Daisy, is trying to solve the whereabouts of a billionaire in order to get an award. However falling for his son, Davis, was not a part of the plan. Aza also has mental health issues-- anxiety along with OCD and what seems like auditory hallucinations (voices in her head). She takes medication and sees a psychiatrist. John Green's writing of mental illness was very effective to the point where I felt like I was also inside of this character's head. Aza is reminiscent of other lead female characters also dealing with anxiety in such recent young adult novels as Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen and I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez. This book was okay and I love John Green's thoughful characters but sometimes I feel like they would all know each other somehow. They are usually reflective, super-intelligent, intellectual (sometimes heady), privileged somehow, quirky as in obsessed with something or the other, and have engaged, well-meaning parents. Nevertheless, they are refreshing, comforting, and I know what I'm getting when I pick up his book... or rather audiobook as was the case with this one.
Spoilers: What a world! I felt compelled to read 1984 as it is one of the classics in the speculative fiction genre, a type of book that I am currently in the process of writing. This was an audiobook and centres on the main character Winston and the ways he bucks the oppression of a totalitarian socialist regime under which he is heavily surveilled by Big Brother. Winston does this in several ways. He has an affair with Julia. He maintains his own personal thoughts. I voted okay for this book which is a psychological thriller as much as it is a textbook of some of the worst dictatorships of our time. I felt at times that it was to didactic and text-heavy as Winston read through texts, it felt like a textbook. Then when O'Brien finally does capture him and Julia in the act, he gets his piece too. I appreciated the story that is in this novel but felt like there was just too much theory being spewed... it lost me. The torture under which Winston went was extensive and detailed. I was shocked at the vocabulary, sexual references, cursing, and technologies described in this book which was published way back in 1948. I had not realized that so much had been predicted, that people could write so freely in this way back then. It was okay. The narrator was great overall.
I love how Tayari writes. Her stories are so Black-- relatable, authentic, and full of hardworking southern people trying to do right. This was an audiobook and, from it's 2011 copyright date, Tayari's predecessor to American Marriage (2018). I just realized that I have a copy of this book on my shelf but I am glad that I will have it read before she comes to my home city of Toronto, next month. This story is about two families, two teenage girls named Dana and Chaurisse who live in the shadow of families secrets and lies. Their father James is a bigamist (married to more than one woman) and some are in on the secret and others aren't. It's interesting how shame can keep silent but so painful when "all things are brought to light". I liked this book very much. Bigamy is a common occurrence but very hurtful and secretive. It is a four and a half star really. I look forward to reading other Tayari Jones' titles. I also think this is one of those books that could be classified as young adult since it is told from both perspectives of the teenaged girls, however I know they mostly observe and talk about "grown folks" business, really the marriages as they observe them and how adult decisions each impact their lives. Not sure why this book is called Silver Sparrow though.
I read this book because I wanted to know what makes a Pullitzer Prize-winning book. Oscar Wao was a hopeless romantic. Told against the backdrop of Trujillo's dictatorship in the Dominican Republic with raw and at times vulgar vernacular, I read this magic realism multi-generational multi-voiced tale as an audiobook that combines folk legends and superstition between Dominican Republic and Patterson, New Jersey.
** spoiler alert ** Spoiler Alert: Shattered Glass was my second Teresa Toten read and was complited with e-audiobook. I found the read too fast at times and unfortunately, the speed could not go any slower. However, I saw a commonality with the other Toten book I read which was mystery. This one was about Antoinette "Toni" Royce at sixteen in 1964. She is a sixteen year old, recently manumitted, orphan who is trying to unlock secrets from her past. The themes of fire and shattered glass are recurring both as the reason why she was released from her damaged orphan home as a teen and also the reason why she was first sent to the orphanage, she is the survivor of a terrible incident. What I loved about this book was that each chapter was the title of a song from the era. I went on youtube to listen to them while the story unfolded. I really liked that. Toni is very innocent to the workings of downtown Toronto and through her eyes, I learned a lot about my city's past.
Willow Dean is fat-- unapologetically bold and confident. She is beautiful and the envy of my adolescence-- she has two fairly good-looking guys vying for her. Bo, who insists on calling her by her full name, is her co-worker. Mitch, the jock, is head over heels for her. She gets to break a heart and choose love which I think is the hallmark that Will, as she often called, breaks the mould on how pleasantly plump people are portrayed. Go big, or go home! This was audiobook and I met the author, Julie Murphy, last fall at a book signing at Indigo Yorkdale in Toronto. I did not know much about this book other than its cute title (dumplin' was one of my favourite Jamaican foods as a kid) and an obsession with Dolly Parton, as I then learned that this book was being adapted to film. I did not expect to read it so fast however, I let it play in the background as I marked tests and other activities. Set in the backdrop of Texas, it is Blue Bonnet beauty pageant season and guess who is leading the pack of all misfits and plain girls everywhere? None other than Willow Dean. This is a delightful, light-hearted book. I am also looking forward to reading the sequel, Puddin', to this book.
Can I just say I'm done with this book? I listened to the audiobook and an essay by Anthony Burgess about the different versions of this story that exist in each country. There are some with different endings and others that have the more complete version. I decided to call it quits after disc 8. I couldn't bother seeing what lay beneath disc 9 with all of its additional parts. This book at first was narrated by a man with Cockney accent and different speech. By disc 5 or 6, I began identifying certain words: Gulliver- head, horror show- big? real?, magoomney?, in and out, viddy- see, etc. It took a while. Certain words were repeated over and over again which helped me to glean the meaning through context. Otherwise, it sounded like nonsense speech that sort of made sense. There was also a lot of blood, violence, and torture as well. I am still not sure what A Clockwork Orange is but it sounds kind of like a Maslov dog. Anyway, I can't say I was into it. Kind of difficult to continue reading but good luck to anyone who will try.
This book was a masterpiece and an e-audiobook. Every book I have read by Christopher Paul Curtis is launched out of the ball park. He never disappoints. Deza Malone is adorable and so true to life. She is smart as a whip, optimistic, strong, and loves to learn. She is poor but I forgot this several times because it is her resilience, tenacity, and resourcefulness that keeps her going. Despite the fact that her father and brother are absent, she rises. I know this book was a spin-off of Bud Not Buddy and there is a tiny glimpse, as in blink and you'll miss it, of Bud however it gives me another sense of what the Great Depression was like and how it affected people. I will continue to be a fan of Curtis' work. Amazing!