Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves

When I first started reading this book, I honestly thought this was going to be one of those super YA stories about a young woman who is on the brink of growing up and falls in love. Yes, it is all those things, but there is so much more to this than just vapid annoyance.

Trigger warning. Please note that this book has themes of:

  • Grief/loss
  • Mental health issues
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide
  • Drug abuse

Continue reading “Love and Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves”

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs

At first, I was a little skeptical about this book. A story that has the word “equation” in the title reminds me of Mark Watney in The Martian and how much math I had to do. Happily, there isn’t much math in this book but a wonderful journey of a family coming to terms with their late father’s last wish.

Continue reading “The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs”

Catalina by Liska Jacobs

I kind of went into this book without knowing what it was going to be about. The whole time, I couldn’t stop thinking about the title and how there’s this famous line from the comedy Step Brothers. It goes:

catalina-wine-mixer

And maybe this gif can explain exactly how I feel about this book and the events that took place. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

33257651Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that’s her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa’s ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she’s on vacation, a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.

But Elsa doesn’t want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and only wants to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.

At only 240 pages, I was worried this was going to be another one of those books where a young girl comes to New York with a lot of promise and only finds drugs and sex are what help her cope with her quarter-life crisis. I’m honestly so tired of stories that have people moving to New York and becoming drug-addled without a hint of trying to do anything for the big dream. However, this is completely opposite of that.

In fact, she was doing what she set out to do. She was working for the place of her dreams before she started having an affair with her boss. She then loses her job and travels back to California. While I never had an affair with my boss, I know the kind of upset you feel when you had a job one day and then it’s all completely taken away from you. There’s a small amount of depression that sets in and for Elsa, it comes with a nice sidecar of pain killers.

I kind of put this on the same level as Bridesmaids or any of those female groups that get together after a long time. They learn that they’re different or they learn that they’ve grown apart. I can imagine someone like Amy Schumer or Kristin Wiig playing Elsa if they adapted this to a movie. I can imagine her fiddling with pill bottles in the bottom of her purse wearing her best sequined dress and giant black sunglasses. I can see her waking up next to a random stranger hoping that they didn’t take it too far. I can see her even modeling bathing suits to the underage bellhop in the hotel she’s staying in. Like all those female friendship movies, there’s always someone that doesn’t care enough or only cares about themselves. I think that’s the perfect analogy to explain Elsa.

However, unlike those movies, Elsa doesn’t really learn anything other than the fact that she’s not her friends. She doesn’t want the same things in life and she doesn’t care about getting back to reality. She’s also deeply depressed. While you’re reading the story, Elsa goes back and rehashes on the events leading up to her affair, her job in New York. She talks about the relationship she has with her friends, with her ex-husband, and even her mom. I think it’s interesting how “rock bottom” can feel like the catalyst for change and sometimes it can feel like a good time to break open a bottle of booze. For Elsa, it’s the latter.

Even as she finds her best friend no longer cares about her and she has no one to looked to, she finds a way to be self-destructive. She doesn’t speak to anyone about what happened to her in New York and she doesn’t look for help. All she wants is to do is find those drugs to help her fall darker into her own pit.

To me, this didn’t read like a depressing story of a young woman on the verge of a breakdown. In actuality, all the characters in this story have something going on in their lives they’re not talking about. Since the story takes place in Elsa’s point of view, that’s all that you’re getting. However, the characters are super well-developed and you care more about them than you do about Elsa.

Speaking of writing, I thought this was eloquent and easy. The characters felt natural and almost real. I think the only thing I could comment on was how unfeeling and cold Elsa was. I guess that’s what the author was trying to do here. She was trying to make you feel for everyone and feel a little bit for Elsa, but in the end, you won’t really care for her very much. It’s obvious even with the way Liska Jacobs ended the book. She didn’t care for her friends and she clearly doesn’t care about herself, so why would the reader want to care about her too?

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

  • E-galley: 240 pages
  • Publisher: FSG Original
  • Rating: 4/5 stars
  • Buy Catalina on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

7c4cad00-597c-47cf-8d2d-fb9187fb51f5

Wow. I sat down with this book over the past few days and I couldn’t put it down. Honestly, I would try and use the bathroom and hold it for an hour only succumbing to the excruciating pain of holding it for that long. I’m lucky it’s the beginning of the year and there wasn’t much going on because I think both Cinder and Scarlet has cemented my love for this series. I legit just went onto Amazon and used my Christmas money to buy the other books.

Here’s a little more about the book

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. 

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

My thoughts

If you’re into books with a lot of adventure and action, then this is the book for you. While it does expand a little more on what will happen next in the Lunar Chronicles, I think this book just cements the predictions we all made at the end of Cinder. I won’t give those away, but let’s just say that the rumors were true.

I think the most significant part of this story is the wolves. I was impressed by how Marissa Meyer was able to take the wolves and Little Red Riding Hood and connect that back to the moon and Luna. It was a really interesting way of wrapping together two stories into one.

Similarly to Cinder, if you’re looking for the old fairy tale, you’re not going to find it. Yes it has the hooded girl and the grandmother and the wolf, but to say this is Little Red Riding Hood is an insult to both the authors. This is not that fairy tale and I’m so glad that it isn’t. It would make way more predictable.

What I loved the most about these stories (and hopefully in the other books in the series) is the strong female characters. They’re not damsels in distress and they’ve been touched by a lot of tragedy in their lives to waste away as some helpless person. They’re fighters and thinkers and stronger than their male counterparts. It makes you feel alive and wonder if you’re capable of that kind of strength.

The best part is that it’s not completely high fantasy. There’s a lot where you can relate to these characters and nothing feels forced or pushed on them by some hidden agenda with the author. They all have faults and they all have strengths and it makes the characters all feel real in this made-up world.

I think at this point in the series, I want to see what happens next. I couldn’t put this book down and I’m pretty certain I won’t be able to put down the rest. I feel like I’m right at the top of the hill and ready for my rollercoaster ride down to the end. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series!

  • Paperback: 452 pages
  • Publisher: SquareFish
  • Rating: 5/5 stars
  • Buy Scarlet on Amazon

Simone and Her Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.

My 2017 Bookish Wrap Up

My 2017 Bookish Wrap Up

Wow, 2017 felt like a whirlwind. I hit a ton of different milestones, came to some interesting decisions, and will be starting my new year with a different career path. While the world was in shambles, 2017 treated me pretty well and I’m thankful to be starting off 2018 with some great plans.

It was a great year for books (well, every year is a great year for books) and I’m so excited to share with you what I’ve read, what I’ve learned, and a little on what I will be reading next year.

First, let’s get to the numbers.

  • # of books I wanted to read: 25
  • # of books read: 43
  • # of books that were diverse reads: 18

My favorite books of the year

33dae608-2998-475f-bedc-e31aa4221450

It was tough to dwindle this list down and I had a tough time to get it to these eleven. I restrained myself and thought about what really captivated me about them. Here’s my favorites:

  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  • Artistotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saez
  • Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
  • Warcross by Marie Lu
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Isn’t it kind of funny that by the end of the year, you remember most of the books you read during this half rather than the early half. I feel like the books I read in the early half of the year don’t really represent the repertoire of reading I picked up in the second half. I think I’m going to try and keep my reading pretty even across the months.

Some interesting insights

I read some really interesting books this year. Books I didn’t think I would read because it just wouldn’t be available to me in the methods that I chose. I also received so many books from various different publishing companies and I couldn’t be more grateful of that.

I think my favorite books will have to be the ones I ordered from Book of the Month Club. I don’t want to gush or advertise for them, but the judges have wonderful taste and I always found every book I read to be intriguing and interesting. I would strongly recommend especially if you’re a bestselling books reader. You’ll be the first to read the best sellers!

32f9b722-3713-4aa5-8ed3-85b8a258d828

I realized that thrillers and mystery aren’t my favorite thing. I think I have a few that I will try and read but mostly because I heard good things. I don’t think I’m going to actively search for any more thrillers, but maybe horror will be in there? I don’t want to poop my pants while I read.

I also revived my love for Science Fiction and Fantasy novels, which also ties into my love of Young Adult novels. I’m so excited to continue reading more of these stories in the future.

My future plans

I’ve accumulated a fairly large pile of books. While my book buying ban will continue to go through 2018, I want to focus on reading what I already have. Being surrounded by books all the time is quite comforting, but sometimes it can be a real eyesore and a nuisance. I can’t justify buying any more books not only because I’m trying to save money, but because there’s already enough for me to read.

I also haven’t read ANY non-fiction. I love non-fiction every once in a while and I somehow just skipped over all of that this year. I do have some non-fiction in my TBR so I hope to read those and get some more stories that aren’t just based in the mind of the author. I think I already know where to start.

9de9bc9d-f67d-4759-b6b1-b8d10bd06301

I’m also going to focus on reading more books written and about POC. While I did read 18 diverse reads this year, this was still less than half of my reading. I am pretty proud that the majority of my reads were from female authors, I still feel like there’s more diverse books to read and share with people. I especially want to read books by Middle Eastern/South Asian authors and characters. I also want to read way more Latinx and Hispanic authors and characters. I feel like both of these areas have been really neglected by me and other readers and they should also get some of the spotlight.

The final resolution (can we call these that?) is to really share more with you all. I’ve been pretty busy all this year with work and other obligations, but I want to double up my efforts with my blog and share a lot more with you all. You know where to find me on the social media universe, so I’ll be sharing on all those platforms.

Happy New Year, bookish peeps! I can definitely see 2018 as a big book year for all of us!

 

 

Bad Ass Book Babes: @nycbookgirl

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 6.35.59 PM
Photos from Morgan’s Instagram page

Here’s another addition to the #BadAssBookBabes interview series! In this series, I sit down with different book bloggers and bookstagrammers who are just bad ass book readers. Some of them are fighting for a cause. Others are just trying to escape the dole drums of the world.

Recently, I emailed Morgan from @nycbookgirl and asked if she would like to be featured. Of course she agreed! It was so great to read her responses and get to know her a little bit more than on the internet. I hope you get a chance to know her too!

Introduce yourself and what’s you mission with your Instagram?

Hi! I’m Morgan, creator of the Instagram @nycbookgirl and blog www.nycbookgirl.com.  I started this account as a way to commemorate two things I love: the books I’m reading and the city I’m living in.  My blog posts are really a tribute to where I am in my life at that moment and how I saw the book as a result: part review, part journal entry.  When I’m not reading, I work in the theater industry in NYC as the assistant to a Broadway producer.

What is your biggest inspiration to read?

I read because I love the chance to escape into another world.  I read because it’s one of the greatest opportunities I get to learn: about other places, cultures, and people.  Reading is a chance to experience something else, something other than your point of view.

What is your big motivation to start your bookstagram?

I actually didn’t really know anything about the bookstagram world until my dad sent me some photos from the wonderful @bookwormstatus, another NYC based bookstagrammer.  After following her for a few months, I realized we were reading all of the same books and visiting all of the same places.  We met up for coffee and Ashley asked me if I had ever considered blogging.  I had kept a travel blog while studying abroad in college but hadn’t had any content since.  Meeting Ashley got me thinking and a few days later, I had a handle and a concept and I just began!  And I’m so happy I did.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee! I love a good mug of earl grey but I’m a total coffee addict!

What is the one thing you want to get out of reading?

I love reading because I love getting the chance to experience why someone else thinks the way they think and why they act the way they act.  Reading is often times an exercise in empathy.

Was there any time where you couldn’t read?

I was an English and Theater double major in college so I read a lot (thousands and thousands of pages) over four years, but rarely had any time for reading for pleasure.  There was always more that I could be reading for school, so I rarely was able to relax into anything that wasn’t assigned.  When I graduated and started clueing into the dozens of new books released every Tuesday, I was overwhelmed!  There’s so much I must have missed!

What would be the one piece of advice you’d give new bookstagrammers just starting out?

Connect with the people – send messages, watch stories, comment and reply.  The people behind bookstagram are the best part of this community!  And the more friends you make, the more you’ll enjoy it.

If you’d like to be featured in this series, use the hashtag #badassbookbabes for a chance to be considered! I’ll be keeping an eye out for you all 🙂

November 2017 Wrap Up

img_7082

November seemed to go quickly, but also jam packed with news, articles, and great reads. I had a blast this November and here are some of the highlights.

Thanksgiving at my in laws

I’ve never had Thanksgiving at anyone else’s house before. I’ve always had it with my family with the same meal and the same sides to be expected. The same guests too! But this year, I got to explore what other people observe for their Thanksgiving.

If you ask my friends, I always bring up how Thanksgiving is one of those meals that is the same for everyone but different as well. We all have the turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes. Coming from an immigrant family, many of my Thanksgiving included things like kimchi and rice and even a little lasagna.

I have this great pic from a feast like this many years ago and there, right in the middle of the table, is a pan of lasagna. I’m not sure who brought the lasagna, but it really isn’t Thanksgiving without it on the table.

So this Thanksgiving, I was thankful to have a place to go and share a meal with my other family. The food was slightly different than what I would see, but there were some subtle differences. Like my family never watches football…ever. Also, we don’t have the adults fighting over the desserts. Most of the adults passed over dessert making room for a cup of hot tea.

It was fun to hear family stories and laugh with people who welcomed me into their home. I think it was the most American Thanksgiving I’ve ever seen!

Alright, enough chit chat, let’s hit the books.

Books I read

Links from the Internet

This is probably my favorite part about the entire post! I get to share the articles and essays I found this month and LOVED! Make sure to definitely check these out when you have a chance!

I found this really great article from 1995 about what Little Women was really about. I was doing some research on an article about women and literature and I was just enamored by this detailed article about Little Women. Definitely check it out!

My favorite thing this month was reading this article about Colin Kaepernick and how GQ found him his own team while he still is banned from playing in the NFL. It must be really difficult to follow your dreams only to be thrown out from your dreams because of what you believe in. How do you manage to do both? Are they mutually exclusive? I don’t know, but this article was great to read!

This is a reminder for myself that I need to pick up I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez because this interview really blew it up for me!

I feel like I should mention this, but I’m super sad that The Mindy Project is done. However, I found this wonderful article about how great the show was and how it really appreciated the romantic comedy genre.

Continuing my work to become a better writer, I found this wonderful essay in NY Review of Books about writing memoirs especially after a family member has died.

I’m such a nerd because Mara Wilson aka Matilda wrote this article for Elle magazine about young female actresses and how they’re sexualized at way too young an age. It also dives into Millie Bobbi Brown and the controversy she didn’t mean to cause, but did because she’s 13 and yeah, that makes sense (eye roll).

I couldn’t be more happy for my friend, Maggie, @mugandnook for opening up and sharing her personal story about being a human with a disability. Thank you so much for sharing, Maggie!

I am so happy that people are seeing Lena Dunham for what she truly is and writers like Zizi Clemmons are taking a stand against her backhanded, racist comments. Take a look at the official statement in this article.

I love me some great essays lately and this one from TheMillions.com talks about how we shouldn’t forget that a walk in the woods in a book shouldn’t replace a real walk in the woods. This was a pretty interesting read!

I love Sophie from Main St. and Maple and how candid she is about her struggles to find work in a very male-dominated career. Good luck! I know that something will find its way to you and don’t give up! Come out to the coasts where women are totally wanted to help break down those barriers!

This was one literary piece from Electric Lit about how women turn themselves into trees when approached by unwanted desire. It’s moving and poetic and makes you want to tear the years of bark growing over you.

That’s it! Thanks for reading my blubber about the Internet. Honestly, I love sharing these articles with you!

Until next time!

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

 

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

I’ve only tried to make bread once in my life and while I did have a tasty loaf, I can’t say if it was the best bread in the world. However, I have an inkling that Lois can.

SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan is the story about a woman named Lois Clary who arrives in San Francisco with a computer science degree. She begins to work at a small tech company building mechanical robot arms to help people do ordinary things.

As a newcomer to the city, she didn’t have many friends so she spent many of her nights at home ordering food from the local restaurant called Clement Street Soup and Sourdough. Every night, she would order the same delicious spicy soup with their famous sourdough bread. And as she ordered, she became friendlier with the two brothers who owned the restaurant.

That was until one day the boys had the move back home due to immigration reasons. Before the two boys left, they gifted Lois with their starter for sourdough bread. It’s an ancient starter that has been passed along generation to generation. The boys left the starter with Lois to keep providing that she takes care of it everyday and makes sure to feed it.

As the skeptic that she is, she goes ahead and does what the boys say, but little did she know that this starter is about to take her on an interesting journey.

San Francisco tech and sourdough go together like peanut butter and jelly. These two things are so synonymous with the city that it makes sense to put together a whole book about it. It was an easy read with an interesting story, but it wasn’t a wow for me. It was good and I liked it, but I wasn’t thinking this could be the best book he’s ever written. What I liked in reading a story about carbs also lacked in some other technical things.

The story is kind of set up like little pockets of time. Each chapter represents one story and the entire book is a culmination of all those stories. It didn’t have the same beat that your average book would have, but each story spoke along the same lines. It’s about bread.

You see Lois get the starter and try to bake her first loaf of sourdough bread. She’s never baked or cooked anything in her life, but she was somehow magically able to bake a loaf of sourdough bread. I know that bread isn’t easy and from the people I know who have tried to make it, no one has done it perfectly.

Yet, you see her bake a loaf and her reaction seemed like this was easy and doesn’t really require much. I understand if Robin Sloan was trying to use the starter as the reason for all the great baking, but I don’t know if you can bake great bread right from the get-go without considering that maybe it’s the starter?

Lois immediately catches the baking bug and start not only making bread for herself, for her friends, for her office, for everyone. One person suggests that she try and sell it and thus begins her story to really make something from the bread. Throughout this, you get little hints and clues as to what might be the cause for her success and you see the magic of the starter. It’s like reading someone’s diary on how they got started with baking bread and all the different things they did to get the bread they wanted. It was more telling than it was showing which made it kind of dull for me.

Then all of a sudden, the sourdough changes on her and about three quarters of the way into the novel, the story really picks up. I was kind of confused by why this didn’t happen much earlier in the novel to help really push the reader along. I really wanted to see what happened with the dough, but even the ending was wrapped up into a neat little bow. I just wanted a little bit more, just another taste of that delicious bread rather than being told.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

However, the book did keep me interested because I did end up finishing it. I think it had something to do with the starter, finding its origins, learning how to hone it, figuring out where all of this leads. You get to read about all these things through the email correspondences Lois has with Beoreg, the guy who gave her the starter. It almost feels magical and alive and that was more intriguing to me than listening to her figure out how to make more bread. Like well kneaded dough, these pieces were sprinkled in like bench flour to keep you from getting stuck.

My favorite part is really the descriptions of the bread. The fluffy and doughy centers where people slabbed butter on top and I wish that this story was more about that than learning how to double the bread output Lois was making everyday.

I think what really drew me to the story was the idea that Lois was going into a vocation that she was good at, but not passionate about. Then, you see her start to make bread and become obsessed with creating a beautiful loaf that pleases a lot of people. She questions her job, she questions her motivation, and then she finally figures out what she wants. I think that’s a story that a lot of people can relate to especially when you work in a field that you’re not a fan of. You just want to see Lois succeed because you want to succeed and that’s a resonance I know far too well.