The Spy (Paulo Coelho)

Hello all…It’s been so long!

This final semester kicked my butt. I managed to read just two books in January/early February (which I did not review but would 100% recommend as they were both excellent – A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf and Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin) before having to turn all my attention to schoolwork. BUT I just moved into a new apartment, where my stack of to-be-read books is nicely organized, and a new library card has been secured so I am back with a vengeance! The current plan is still to read 26 books within the year; right now, that means I’ll need to read about 3 books a month, which is a pace I’ve done before, so I think we can make it happen.

TitleThe Spy

Author – Paulo Coelho

Page count – 186

Year Published – 2016

Recommendation – I want to read this one again to know for sure how I feel about it. My initial impression was that it’s an intriguing story (based on real events, which is pretty cool) that makes you think about narrative (un)reliability. From whose perspective a story is being told can greatly change what we hear and what we are encouraged to believe is true.

**CW for the book: suicide, rape/sexual assault, a firing squad scene**

This book is based on the true story of Mata Hari, a famous exotic dancer who was (wrongly?) accused of being a spy for Germany during World War I. The book opens with her final moments of life. The rest is a series of letters, mostly from Mata’s perspective, recounting her life and the events that led to her being accused of espionage.

While “innocent” isn’t necessarily the first word that comes to mind to describe Mata Hari, the “crimes” for which she was actually tried in the court of public opinion – and which were used to justify her espionage accusation – were her hunger for power and fame, and use of sex to manipulate men into providing for her lavish lifestyle. People love a beautiful woman for entertainment, but she crosses a line once she asserts her own desires and fails to pretend she’s ashamed of her sexuality.

The following is a snippet from Mata’s lawyer, to Mata Hari, addressing this:

“[I wrote] a book telling the injustice of which you were victim for the sin of being a woman, for the greater sin of being free, for the immense sin of stripping in public, for the dangerous sin of getting involved with men whose reputation needed to be maintained at any cost.” (p. 168)

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)

I’m doing something a little bit different with my “stats” section below. It seemed too crowded to put the title and year published on the same line so those are now separated out. And I’ve been ruminating for awhile on what to do with what I used to call the “Rating” line. I enjoy the Buy/Borrow/Bypass posts by Book Riot, but I don’t think it is actually as helpful in this format as I thought it would be. And just posting my Goodreads rating doesn’t feel like it’s giving you enough info. So I’m going to try a one- to two-sentence blurb about whether I would recommend this book and, if so, to whom. Any readers of this blog are welcome to comment with your thoughts about what you actually find helpful 🙂

Title – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Year published – 2007

Author – Junot Díaz

Page count – 335

Recommendation – My reaction to this reminds me of my thoughts on The Color Purple – I think everyone should definitely read this book at least once, but I don’t know that I need or want to read it again. Would be an interesting choice for a high school English class (and it would 100% get subsequently challenged/banned).

CW: the n-word, sexual assault/violence, suicide, depression – if those subjects could trigger trauma flashbacks for you, please make sure you’re in the right headspace before reading this. Continue reading “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Diaz)”

Shrill (Lindy West)

Please read this book. Especially if you’ve ever been someone who thinks that women are just “too sensitive” about online harassment, or if you think that fat people are “gross” or make comments about fat people’s bodies out of “concern for their health.” I think people believe those things because they’ve never really taken the time to truly listen to the voices of people actually living out those realities. Lindy West speaks about her experiences with humor and unapologetic grit – but also with far more grace and understanding than any of her tormentors deserve.

Title – Shrill: Notes from a loud woman

Author – Lindy West

Page count – 258

Rating – Borrow (Not one that I necessarily need to read again but would definitely recommend) Continue reading “Shrill (Lindy West)”

Waiting to Exhale (Terry McMillan)

This is what I’d consider a good “beach read.” I tried not to analyze it too much because I was so drained from my last book – which was interesting but, let’s be honest, a bit pretentious. This one was an easy, fun read about female friendships, love, sex, and how to navigate (in both healthy and not-so-healthy ways) the frustrations of romance and men. Keep in mind that it was published in 1992 so there are some truly funny dated pop culture and technology references.

Title – Waiting to Exhale

Author – Terry McMillan

Page count – 409

Rating – Borrow

This book weaves together the stories of four black women in their mid-thirties living in Phoenix: Continue reading “Waiting to Exhale (Terry McMillan)”

I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

This is a bit different than my other reviews because I actually listened to this book on CD instead of reading a hard copy. I’m not usually a fan of listening to books on CD; most people I know listen to them in their car, but I get distracted too easily, miss sentences, and feel like I lose too much of the story. I’ve been having trouble getting my hands on a physical copy of this book so I decided to give the CD form a go and…holy cow. This kept my rapt attention; there were even times I sat in my car for upwards of an hour after I got home because I could not. stop. listening. I would have to read it again to know for sure, but I think this is one of my favorite books I’ve read ever.

Title – I’ll Give You The Sun

Author – Jandy Nelson

Page count – 371 (13 hours, 3 min)

Goodreads rating – 5/5 (it was amazing!)

**NO spoilers – this beautiful story needs to unfold all on its own** Continue reading “I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)”

Beauty Queens (Libba Bray)

This was a fun read. I’ve heard it described as Lord of the Flies but with teenage beauty queens. But instead of tearing each other to pieces, they work together to overcome the obstacles set before them. Girl power at its finest!

Title – Beauty Queens

Author – Libba Bray

Page count – 390

Goodreads rating – 3/5 (liked it)

**I will NOT give away any major spoilers. Some things may not make sense if you haven’t read it, but I won’t reveal anything important.**

This story begins with a plane crash on what appears to be a deserted island. The plane was full of teenage beauty queens headed Continue reading “Beauty Queens (Libba Bray)”

milk and honey (rupi kaur)

I’ve never read a whole volume of poetry straight through before. I tend to skip around in them as the whim comes to me. I did alternate back and forth with a more traditional volume of fiction I’m also reading right now, but perhaps reading an entire book of poetry from start to finish is something I should do more often because this one was quite good.

Title – milk and honey

Author – rupi kaur

Page count – 204

Goodreads rating – 4/5 (really liked it)

The book is divided into four sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking, and the healing. Obviously these are simplifications but: the hurting is about abuse; the loving is about sensuality and relationship; the breaking is about loss; the healing is about putting yourself back together. Femininity is strung throughout all of this. Continue reading “milk and honey (rupi kaur)”