What I Read In June

Embarrassing story to start us off–I gathered up all the books I’ve read to take the photo, and then realized I left one out. So I redid the photo, began typing up my reviews, and realized that my first review of Leviathan Wakes felt eerily familiar. I looked it up on the blog and completely forgot which books I read in June–which will teach me to not put off writing these posts until halfway through the next month, eh? So yeah now I’m too lazy to redo the photo for a third time. You get what you get, people 😉

MayJune Reads

Are You My Mother?

I read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home back in my college days and really loved it. A person who was pretty close to me at the time said it gave them a lot of insight into who I am as a queer lady, as well as my rather unique relationship with my dad. All in all, I would give that book a super positive review. I was excited, then, to pick up this one, a book she supposedly wrote about her mother. Giving a less-than-awesome book review is hard for me, because I don’t want to come across as insensitive. It would be so easy to just write “not really my style” and be done with it, but that’s lazy.

On one of the very last pages, there’s a dialogue between the author and her mother that is such a painfully accurate description of what you just spent the last two hundred pages figuring out. “It’s a metabook” her mother says, to which Bechdel enthusiastically agrees. Fact is, though, I don’t think that’s a good thing. She didn’t write a book about her mother. She wrote a book about herself, about how Alison Bechdel handles her mother’s strained response to the previous book, about Alison Bechdel’s journeys in therapy, about Alison Bechdel’s struggle to write this book.

She did, in fact, write an actual book. Just not one about her mother. Which, I suppose, is fine. The art style is brilliant, as usual, and the issues she juggled were complex and whole. They just weren’t, in my opinion, the fodder for an interesting book. It doesn’t help that I have an almost zero-tolerance for psychoanalysis, but reading entire chapters of Bechdel recounting an abstract dream and attributing it to the one word she saw on an article that relates to her mother and the conversation they had a few weeks ago felt like a waste to me. It felt like her talents needed a slightly stronger editorial hand, someone gently reminding her that while it’s all fine and well to journal about your feelings and strained relationship with your mom, that you probably need to include an actual plot in order for it to be a stand alone, solid book.

I feel like such a bitch for writing that.

The Brief & Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Definitely needs a few re-read throughs, but he did an amazing job writing about Dominican history through a family narrative–which isn’t all that original in structure, but amazingly effective and Diaz has a very strong voice that carried throughout the story. I’ve written briefly before about how each region of the world has a different approach to fantasy and science fiction, and latin america has a very distinct flavor that I usually have a harder time with. This book was a great way to ease into that flow, though, and I really enjoyed it. Also, it was my official June Pulitzer Read. Huzzah!

 

Faithful Ruslan

I cried. That’s the best summary I can offer. This is a Russian novel, one of those contraband ones that took decades to get published and then another decade to make it’s way to the states. The whole story is, essential, an allegory for what Russia was going through at the end of the Stalin era, when camps were closing and how those who spent their life in those camps, as prisoners and as workers, survived the shift. It’s told from the perspective of one of the camp dogs, animals that were trained to be brutal and ruthless. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel the need to compulsively shower Lyra with hugs and pets every ten minutes while reading this, but it was still an amazing book.

The back cover spells out the basics of the plot, which was based on a true story, so it’s no spoiler when I say that the book starts when the camps close and ends when a train of passengers arrive in the town where the dogs migrated to, waiting for their next shipment of people. It has an expectedly horrific ending but even knowing what was going to happen, the way the author ended the book took me completely by surprise. If you have a strong stomach and a love of Russian literature (I meet about 2/3 of the requirements) then this should definitely go on your list.

 

Land of Loss | Everworld Series Book 2

It’s no secret that I’ve been into Animorphs since they first came out, so I remember when i was in middle school and the KA Applegate put out a new series called Everworld, I jumped on that train so fast it’s not even funny. A few books in my mom tuned into the gore that is the series’ inner covers and asked if maybe I should wait a few more years for the series. I’m stubborn and told her no, I could handle it, and continued reading. Long story short, it was too much for me. My tender, gentle middle schooler heart could not handle the gory violence in the books and, defeated, I set the series down.

So…. when I found a couple books at Goodwill, I got super excited. Finally! I’m old enough now! Huzzah! I started reading them, wondering if now I would find them light and trivial and easy reads. They’re still violent. Shockingly so, considering I read them in middle school. Like holy crap violent. For a middle schooler. I like the premise

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