Patrick Ness: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions…

So much of YA is the dramatic story about murder and tragedy among the popular kids. Vampires and werewolves and magic trolls in dungeons. This isn’t that story. This is something else, running parallel. This is the story of Emily the Background Slytherin and her friends (OMG KEVIN RUN). Those kids in the background who might actually do the assignments for graduation, whose lives go on no matter what might roam the halls or blow up the school.

But most importantly, this story is about a boy with OCD, a girl with an eating disorder, and  has both racial and LGBTQIA+ representation. Friends of mine who also have similar anxiety to mine insisted that I read this book ASAP because of the discussions that take place and I’m so glad they did. From start to finish, the OCD rep is just so incredible.

Mikey (I sort of cringe at this name because of those old cereal commercials) has severe anxiety/OCD–he gets into obsessive loops where if he doesn’t do a task exactly “right” something horrible will happen. Life becomes catastrophic inside those loops, getting worse and worse, and he becomes stuck.

Even though this is sort of a parody of YA fantasy, Ness does a wonderful job of blending his “Indie Kid” parallel with Mikey’s. The build up to the climax is so subtle that you hardly know it is coming–I sort of skimmed the chapter headings, but I thought they detracted from the actual story line, so I mostly just followed it through the main book.

I loved that Ness gives Mikey such a strong support system–his chosen family–instead of using the “hero comes to save him from his anxiety” trope. There’s a lot of talk about how one of his fears is that he is the least needed person, or no one would miss him if he were gone–I feel that SO HARD. And even though Mikey acknowledges at one point that he KNOWS he is lucky to have so many people who love him, to someone with anxiety, it’s so hard to convince ourselves that this is reality most of the time.

I could go on and on about everything that was amazing about the anxiety/OCD rep in this story. I want to quote the entire psychiatrist appointment to you. But, then you wouldn’t have to read the book, and I really think you probably should go read it. It’s going on my MUST READS list for sure, guys. So, yeah. Do it.

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WWW Wednesday 4/19/2017

 

What are you currently reading?

Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally

For Study:  Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith

Dune by Frank Herbert

Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Unforgettables by GL Thomas
Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Damion Searls: The Inkblots: Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing

The captivating, untold story of Hermann Rorschach and his famous inkblot test, which has shaped our view of human personality and become a fixture in popular culture

In 1917, working alone in a remote Swiss asylum, psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach devised an experiment to probe the human mind. For years he had grappled with the theories of Freud and Jung while also absorbing the aesthetic of a new generation of modern artists. He had come to believe that who we are is less a matter of what we say, as Freud thought, than what we see.

Rorschach himself was a visual artist, and his test, a set of ten carefully designed inkblots, quickly made its way to America, where it took on a life of its own. Co-opted by the military after Pearl Harbor, it was a fixture at the Nuremberg trials and in the jungles of Vietnam. It became an advertising staple, a cliché in Hollywood and journalism, and an inspiration to everyone from Andy Warhol to Jay-Z. The test was also given to millions of defendants, job applicants, parents in custody battles, workers applying for jobs, and people suffering from mental illness—or simply trying to understand themselves better. And it is still used today.

Damion Searls draws on unpublished letters and diaries, and a cache of previously unknown interviews with Rorschach’s family, friends, and colleagues, to tell the unlikely story of the test’s creation, its controversial reinvention, and its remarkable endurance—and what it all reveals about the power of perception. Elegant and original, The Inkblots shines a light on the twentieth century’s most visionary synthesis of art and science.

So often when we think about study psychology, we talk about different methods–but we rarely think about the people who dedicated their lives to figuring out the science behind those methods. Aside from Freud and Jung, how many psychologists can you name? Not many! We see inkblots everywhere in our culture, and not even just as the tests themselves anymore. They are mimicked in art and on album covers, on tshirts and in the media. But I never knew who Hermann Rorschach was–when he lived, how he died, where the inkblots came from.

It’s all pretty fascinating, actually. Rorschach had a troubled childhood, but he was a good person, and genuinely wanted to help people. Medicine wasn’t enough, he wanted to see them for who they were. He worked his whole life with schizophrenics in asylums, trying to determine whether it was a life sentence or not, how he could get inside their heads and bring them back. He didn’t create the first Inkblot Test, but he perfected the cards used today.

The Inkblots is a very dense book. It is not only a biography of Rorschach himself, but also a biography of the Inkblot test. Hermann died young, and so the Searls shifts halfway through to the modern history of his test (WWII-current). The discussion of the Nuremberg trials and how the Rorschach test was used there stopped me in my tracks. Some of the results were so surprising…and poignant to today. I’ve certainly put more reading on my TBR surrounding that subject!

This isn’t a book to be missed for anyone interested in the history of psychology. As I mentioned before, it is dense–definitely not a fast read or something you’re going to fall in love with on vacation–but certainly fascinating. Also, Hermann Rorschach was HOT, and that’s all I have to say about that.

Blogging for Books and Crown Publishing provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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Viet Thanh Nguyen: The Refugees

With the coruscating gaze that informed The Sympathizer, in The Refugees Viet Thanh Nguyen gives voice to lives led between two worlds, the adopted homeland and the country of birth. From a young Vietnamese refugee who suffers profound culture shock when he comes to live with two gay men in San Francisco, to a woman whose husband is suffering from dementia and starts to confuse her for a former lover, to a girl living in Ho Chi Minh City whose older half-sister comes back from America having seemingly accomplished everything she never will, the stories are a captivating testament to the dreams and hardships of immigration.

This second piece of fiction by a major new voice in American letters, The Refugees is a beautifully written and sharply observed book about the aspirations of those who leave one country for another, and the relationships and desires for self-fulfillment that define our lives.

You know how I mentioned before that I took five books with me on the cruise? Wouldn’t you know it that I finished Dune at the airport with a 4 hour wait before our flight…and 3 hours left to go…and PACKED THE REST OF MY BOOKS IN MY CHECKED LUGGAGE!

Of course I did. Oops.

This is why airport planner people add bookstores. Because no matter how fancy our cellphones get–we still need books in airports. Luckily for me, The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nguyen was 40% off! I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about this gorgeous cerulean new release, so it was no hard decision on what to grab from the shelf.

The Refugees is a collection of short stories, in the style of James Joyce or Colm Toibin–short snippets of life without a lot of context before or after. (Take that Joyce comparison with a grain of salt…I hate Joyce, but loved this. Style comparison, not author comparison.) Nguyen explores refugees of both country and soul. Every story features a Vietnamese character–while some characters have left Vietnam, others are returning–and all are experiencing some major upheaval in their life. It seems as if Nguyen doesn’t just mean “refugee” in the strict traveling sense, but also that the person is literally leaving one life for another.

Because this is a collection of short stories, know that there is no transition or connection between them besides the common refugee theme. They are written in first-person narrative, and to read them all back to back can sometimes be jarring to someone who doesn’t normally read this style. I am used to flowing right through chapters, so I probably should have read one story a day instead of doing this book all at once, to give myself a chance to separate each from the story before. That isn’t so much a flaw with the book, however, as with myself.

Regardless, I am thrilled with The Refugees, and if I could go back and choose a book from MCO, I’d still choose this one.

DiversityBingo2017:  Immigrant or Refugee MC

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WWW Wednesday 4/12/2017

I AM BACK. Things are mostly back to normal around here. Thanks for being patient as I take my break. I’m still mostly on a Twitter break, not sure I’ll ever go back to a full Twitter binge like I was–I’ve found it is way better for my mental health to only check in there once or twice a day, rather than stream it all day long. But I’m up to my normal reading/blogging schedule!

If you missed it, I posted my first review of Oasis of the Seas. I still have lots of thoughts left, so I probably will do at least two more posts. Watch for those in the coming weeks!

What are you currently reading?

As I Lay Dying by William Faulker

For Study:  Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau

For Study:  The Norton Anthology of American Literature by Nina Baym

 

What did you just finish reading? (As always, click on the link below to see what I thought!)

Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith

Dune by Frank Herbert

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

 

What do you think you’ll read next? 

Schroder by Amity Gaige

Richard III by William Shakespeare

Shadow Tag by Louise Erdich

Sally Bedell Smith: Prince Charles

From the New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth the Queen comes the first major biography of Prince Charles in more than twenty years–perfect for fans of The Crown.

Sally Bedell Smith returns once again to the British royal family to give us a new look at Prince Charles, the oldest heir to the throne in more than three hundred years. This vivid, eye-opening biography–the product of four years of research and hundreds of interviews with palace officials, former girlfriends, spiritual gurus, and more, some speaking on the record for the first time–is the first authoritative treatment of Charles’s life that sheds light on the death of Diana, his marriage to Camilla, and his preparations to take the throne one day.

Prince Charles brings to life the real man, with all of his ambitions, insecurities, and convictions. It begins with his lonely childhood, in which he struggled to live up to his father’s expectations and sought companionship from the Queen Mother and his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten. It follows him through difficult years at school, his early love affairs, his intellectual quests, his entrepreneurial pursuits, and his intense search for spiritual meaning. It tells of the tragedy of his marriage to Diana; his eventual reunion with his true love, Camilla; and his relationships with William, Kate, Harry, and his grandchildren.

Ranging from his glamorous palaces to his country homes, from his globe-trotting travels to his local initiatives, Smith shows how Prince Charles possesses a fiercely independent spirit and yet has spent more than six decades waiting for his destined role, living a life dictated by protocols he often struggles to obey. With keen insight and the discovery of unexpected new details, Smith lays bare the contradictions of a man who is more complicated, tragic, and compelling than we knew, until now.

The monarchy might be an outdated institution in a lot of ways–to Americans it all seems romantic, but I know it has become controversial in modern times. Still, I can’t help but remain interested in the traditions of it all, the pomp and circumstance, and of course…the castles.

I really only knew Prince Charles from the background–stoic and frowning behind the Queen, Diana, William, and Harry. And Camillia has always seemed the Other Woman; Diana, the hero. But, in Charles’ life, it was just the opposite.

Diana certainly wasn’t a villain–just a woman in desperate need of good mental health care–and I wonder if she would have lived today if things would be different. I hope so. She wouldn’t have been any  more compatible with Charles, but maybe the stigma would have been a little less, the awareness a little more–and they would have gotten her the help she needed.

Maybe.

Either way, this book certainly shows Charles in a light we don’t often see–in that there is actually a light shown on him. It just goes to show that even the shyest introverts usually have the brightest, most complex personalities. I always thought he was such a fuddy-duddy, but I’m quite interested to see what becomes of his reign…should the Queen ever die, god forbid. Part of me wonders if she might outlive her son, at this point.

Netgalley and Random House provided this ARC for an unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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First Time Cruiser’s Review of Oasis of the Seas

When R first broached the subject of going on a cruise, I freaked out more than a little. I tried to talk him out of it, and suggested we do an all inclusive resort instead. It’s the same thing, right, only not surrounded by endless water and people! I already felt claustrophobic and I wasn’t even onboard yet.

However, we had too good of a deal to pass up–so it was now or never. We settled on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the seas Western Caribbean tour–Labadee Haiti, Falmouth Jamaica, and Czumel Mexico. Thus began two months of obsessive research. (I have to give a huge shout out to Matt at RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com because without his site, I never would have felt prepared or comfortable with cruising.)

Oasis of the Seas is a MASSIVE ship. It’s one of the biggest in the world, and more than a few veteran cruisers told us we had spoiled ourselves by not sailing on a smaller class first. It definitely took us a few days to orientate ourselves–thank goodness I had watched so many Youtube tours and already kind of knew what things looked like! She is separated into “neighborhoods”–each with it’s own personality. We could be found in the Royal Promenade and Central Park most often–though I suspect in our next cruise I’ll take more time in the Solarium, too.

Why those two locations? They hold our favorite watering holes–and unlike many cruisers, for us that didn’t mean pools. Have you met us? We have more freckles than the sky has stars. We had two great loves on Oasis:  Schooners and Vintages. If we weren’t in one, we were in the other–and on the rare occasion we separated, we usually met back up at those places.

Schooners holds Trivia every few hours. The topics are random, but we made most of them–and even placed second in the 3 day Progressive trivia! Go Team “Move Over Rose!” (Yes, that IS a Titanic reference on a cruise ship, thank you very much.) The bar has a nautical theme and is draped with ropes, ship decor and mermaid figureheads. Most any drink can be made there, but their official menu leans on old-fashioneds and Tom Collins. My recommendation:  the New-Fashioned, which is a raspberry version!

In the hours before dinner, you could usually find us at Vintages. This bar, placed in Central Park near Chops and Giovannis, feels more upscale than others. And yes, in it you’ll find classy wood cases of outrageously expensive wine (and even the world’s largest bottle of wine). But Royal Caribbean stocks great wine for every budget, and there was at least one of every style for us to drink that met our package requirements. The guys behind the bar were spectacular servers–Xavier, Benjamin, and especially Dali showed us every courtesy while we were there. Dali leads wine tastings on sea days–French, Californian, and Italian–we didn’t do the French and regret it! He’s a proficient teacher–it’s more than just a quick swill, move on sort of tasting. We learned about regions, how to pair with cheeses, how to work with a sommelier–for beginners like us, it was an invaluable experience.

While we are in Central Park, let me tell you about the meal that made me cry. No, I’m not kidding, it actually brought tears to my eyes. I haven’t had a meal do that to me in a long time. Royal Caribbean has become famous for its specialty restaurant of late–they’ve really been building them up more and more. Everyone knows Chops and Sabor–those two came highly recommended. But the fanciest one on Oasis is 150 Central Park. We purchased a First Night Done Right package, which gave us the opportunity to try one restaurant for only $15/per person–but RC had to choose our reservation. And we got 150!

Our meal started with bread and butter…with a twist. The butter was unsalted, and a white flower bowl was delivered. Inside was different salts from around the world–smoky, salty, and one even tasted like hard boiled eggs! You blended the salt with the butter before spreading it on your bread. It was a pretty cool gimmick. Just make sure you clear your knife of the egg one completely, because it will haunt you! BLECH.

The dinner comes with three courses–appetizer, entree, and dessert. I chose tuna tartare, scallops, and a bourbon chocolate tarte. R had squash soup, short ribs…and I think he had the tart too. I was pretty wrapped up in my own meal so I don’t remember his very well. My tartare was good. Not the best I’ve ever had, but good. There was a bit too much sauce, I think, and so it outshone the fish.

The scallops, though. That’s what made me cry. They were done in this smooth, creamy broth that I just wanted to swim in. I could eat that dish forever and still cry over it.

And then…AND THEN. The bourbon chocolate tart. I ate the tiniest bites to make it last as long as possible. I didn’t want it to be over. Every ingredient sang.

The service was wonderful too, and I’m kicking myself right now because I can’t remember the young man’s name. He was delightful and friendly, and started our cruise in such a magical way.

I’ve saved the best service for last. Nothing else on the ship compared to the main dining room in experience. Our waiters, Roman and Noelise introduced themselves as soon as we entered and from then on we were in love. They went out of their way to make us feel like both friends and royalty–a combination that is not easy to accomplish.

Eating in the main dining room was my favorite part of the cruise–and it’s a part of the week I won’t soon forget. The food was amazing of course–but it’s the people that made it truly unforgettable. We were seated at a huge table, and the first night we were there, it was just us and one other couple. They were our age, and we hit it off immediately. The next night, an older couple joined us and we all just fell madly in love with each other. Between the six of us and our two incredible waiters–I’d wager we had the best table of the week, hands down. We all scheduled our events around dinner, and even went to shows together afterwards! On the last night, we all stood in a circle and danced, maybe shed a few tears for the ending week, and gave lots of goodbye hugs.

On cruises, you probably won’t learn everyone’s name that you meet. In fact, you are way more likely to hear “where are you from” than what’s your name?” But it is the stories that you will treasure most as souvenirs. There are 6,000 people on the ship, and you will find some kind of bond with at least two people every day. It’s so easy to be nice–everyone is on vacation–so sit down and have a friendly glass of wine with your shipmate. No one is a stranger on a cruise. Who knows who you’ll meet. You may never see that person again…or you may make a lifelong friend.

And always be kind to your servers. You get to leave after a week. They do this every day without a break for months. It’s hard, exhausting work.

This was long, I know. And I have SO MUCH MORE I want to talk about. Don’t be surprised if you see more about my cruise in the coming weeks. I have so many people asking about it, so I wanted to get some thoughts down right away. Royal Caribbean did not sponsor this–we just really loved our time on Oasis of the Seas. So much that we’ve already booked Harmony of the Seas for next year! It’s going to be a long wait!

If you have questions about my cruise experience or have something you want me to discuss in upcoming posts, leave a comment!

Happy cruising!

Frank Herbert: Dune

Here is the novel that will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination. Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, who would become the mysterious man known as Maud’dib. He would avenge the traitorous plot against his noble family;and would bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream.

I thought I would read so many books on the cruise–I took five! Unfortunately, I started with Dune, and got stuck on it for the entirety of the trip. We voted this into April’s AdultBooklr readathon unanimously–but I’m terribly disappointed.

I was immediately struck by how terrible the writing is. It’s such a famous book–I was expecting something spectacular. Instead, the writing is lazy in the basics with way over complicated structure. And I bet Frank Herbert’s Thesaurus is well-thumbed. There’s nothing wrong with using unique or creative vocabulary–but he was reaching all over the place.

It’s obvious that Herbert drew inspiration from many sources all over the world for his characters and settings. If done properly, that could have been really cool. Instead, it was just a mess of cultural appropriation and awful tropes. And I do mean MESS–I don’t even know where to start with explaining them because everything was so entwined and the plot so complicated. (This was absolutely the wrong book to read when I couldn’t take detailed notes.)

I finished because of the readathon, but it was hard to keep my attention on Dune. I had intended to spend much more time reading on the ship, but never wanted to pick up in this tattered brown catastrophe.

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Ashley Poston: Geekerella

Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Who needs fluffy Doctor Who Cinderella fan fiction?

I NEED FLUFFY DOCTOR WHO CINDERELLA FAN FICTION.

YES I DO YES I DO.

This book is GLORIOUS, people. The story follows a fangirl blogger and the incoming lead on a sci-fi serial in a You’ve Got Mail sort of situational romance. It has all of the traditional Cinderella elements we know, but modernized and nerdified.

HOORAY FOR DIVERSE CHARACTERS! One of the leads is POC, and there’s also LGBTQIA+ people. It is a Cinderella story, so there is emotional abuse, but that is to be expected.

I read Geekerella in a matter of hours. Once you start this, you won’t put it down. It’s just the right amount of fluff and substance. And if you’re part of the world of geekdom, you’ll find this instantly relatable. And who can resist the bright purple cover?

NetGalley and Quirk Books provided this ARC for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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VACATION!

I know I haven’t been around much lately. I’ve been on a bit of a social media break, as my mental health hasn’t been great. I’m taking a bit of a vacation, to read, relax–and GO ON OUR FIRST CRUISE!  Yippee! I’ll be back in a few weeks with some new material.

In the meantime, Happy Reading!

(I will never ever be this tan.)