The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

The American Dream. Many people talk about it, but no one really knows what it means. Some people work their entire lives to try and achieve it and some people succeed. Sadly, sometimes it takes death to figure out that not only you achieved the American Dream, but excelled beyond it.

Continue reading “The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea”

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:

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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

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Indecent by Corinne Sullivan

I’m not typically a fan of giving books one star because there are some themes and merits that a book may have that I don’t want to discount. However, I really didn’t like this book at all.

Let’s get this over with

36644043Shy, introverted Imogene Abney has always been fascinated by the elite world of prep schools, having secretly longed to attend one since she was a girl in Buffalo, New York. So, shortly after her college graduation, when she’s offered a teaching position at the Vandenberg School for Boys, an all-boys prep school in Westchester, New York, she immediately accepts, despite having little teaching experience—and very little experience with boys. 

When Imogene meets handsome, popular Adam Kipling a few weeks into her tenure there, a student who exudes charm and status and ease, she’s immediately drawn to him. Who is this boy who flirts with her without fear of being caught? Who is this boy who seems immune to consequences and worry; a boy for whom the world will always provide?

As an obsessive, illicit affair begins between them, Imogene is so lost in the haze of first love that she’s unable to recognize the danger she’s in. The danger of losing her job. The danger of losing herself in the wrong person. The danger of being caught doing something possibly illegal and so indecent. 

Exploring issues of class, sex, and gender, this smart, sexy debut by Corinne Sullivan shatters the black-and- white nature of victimhood, taking a close look at blame and moral ambiguity.

I went into this story hoping that it would strongly resonate with me; a young woman who is introverted and a little scared of the world being thrust into the private school life with a job that will help grow my career. Of course I would never sleep with a student, but I felt a lot for the way that Imogene felt. I do pick at my skin because I’m insecure about the way I look. Things, in my mind, need to be perfect. I do spend a few hours in bed, but not because I’m sad or lonely. I do it because it’s my refuge and I thought I could relate to Imogene that way. However, that was the extent of my connection with this character.

First off, I really wish this book was more about the whole illicit student/teacher relationship where the young man falls in love with the teacher rather than the other way around. While I get what the author is trying to do here with this particular set up, I don’t think that it’s good for women to be written this insecurely. Yes, we’ve all shamefully stalked our exes online, but why build it out to this extent? Why make her pine for a boy who just wants to have sex with her? Where is her sense of self? Where is her “girl power?” Perhaps instead if they did love each other and they were up against the odds of the school, their families, their friends, then this would be the story of whether or not it is “indecent” to love a student. It feels like she has no control and doesn’t want any control over her own actions and emotions. She just wants to play the victim in her own life rather than stand up for herself.

Speaking to that, there was pretty much no growth. Imogene, the main character, goes on doubting herself and the relationship she has with her 17-year-old love interest, Kip, and trying to understand why a 17-year-old rich kid who plans on going to Yale would want her. I don’t mind that a student and a teacher has an affair. That’s fodder for some good reading material, but I didn’t relate to her feelings for him. I didn’t understand why she put herself in bed after having sex with him. I don’t understand how she’s not able to do her job while she’s having sex with him. I don’t understand the obsession and trust me, I’ve had my fair share of obsessions.

Then on top of that, why would he want to be in a relationship with her? There was no signs that this guy was in any way interested in her outside of the occasional sex. I mean it. I’m pretty sure any person could read this book and see the signs were so clear that he was only in it for the sex and nothing else. Is it considered victimhood if you’re posing as your own victim? I don’t know how dense you need to be to see that this guy doesn’t want anything from you than a good time.

And then there were the boys that were interested in her. Men who were in her age range (early to mid 20s) who wanted to take her out on a date. Men who wanted to be seen in public with her. And yet, she’s seen pining over him. She’s stalking him online. She’s stalking women he’s friends with online because her insecurity levels are so high that that is all she can muster. Even after they were found out and this ridiculously long proceeding of figuring out who did what and what it all meant, she’s still crying about him. Why?

Also, it felt like Imogene was a mash up of all the fears and doubts any woman would ever feel about themselves. She hates the way she looks in the light, but she’s willing to go down on her knees and give oral sex to Kip. She’s extremely judgmental of everyone else around her; her coworkers, her friends, her students, the teachers, even her own family. I don’t get why this girl hates on everything, doesn’t get close to anyone, and doesn’t grow in any way from the personal experience?

I’m sorry, but I don’t like people who are like this. I don’t like people who aren’t able to look inwardly at themselves and see a chain of behavior that needs to be resolved. She went to therapy for four years to understand why she picks on her skin and that doesn’t change anything about her habit. She just seems unable to be a better person and I personally feel that this shouldn’t be glorified even for the sake of the whole victimhood theme.

It really pained me to read this. It took all that I could to not want to put this down. Eventually, I skimmed the last good chunk of this book because I just didn’t care anymore. I may have been just as shy and scared when I was 22, but I wasn’t imagining things that weren’t there and having illicit affairs with students I was teaching. I was more determined to grow my career at that point and date men who were serious about themselves. Then again, I don’t date 17-year-olds who go to boarding school and plan on sailing ships at their family’s legacy school.

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

  • Hardback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin’s Press (March 6, 2018)
  • Rating: 1/5 stars

October 2016 Library Book Haul

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I started loving books or going to the library, but I did. I don’t even think it had anything to do with the books, but the fact that there’s this public place you can come to and study, rent books, and escape from reality. Because the truth is that only a certain kind of person goes to the library and those people are the dreamers.

Scratch that, the truth is that homeless people go to the library because it’s warm and there’s a free bathroom.

But I go to the library or a bookstore or any place you can patron that has books because I’m just your typical book lover. I love to read books, be around books, and generally want to be a book.

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There’s a magic when you arrive. The air is musty from the older reference books and the temperature is cold to keep the publicly used computers nice and cool.

My childhood library was amazing. There were three stories of books all ranging from children’s to research and I remember spending my time from when I was really young (maybe 6-7) to when I graduated from high school there. I’d be a part of the reading program every summer and at one point wanted to work at the library. I ended up spending my lunch periods in high school helping out in the school library and putting books back on the shelf. I was that lame.

It took me a while to get back to the library mostly because there was a scene in the movie The Squid and the Whale where the young kid masturbates in the stacks and then wipes his semen on the spines of the books. That swore me off from those books for a few years. I didn’t want to touch nasty books especially when I live in the same city as the characters from that movie.

But I’ve managed to quell my OCD thoughts from what might be on those books and started to take advantage of the library system again.

All of this to say, I’ve got some great reads from the library and I’m sharing them with you now.

272461151. Siracusa by Delia Ephron – New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn, his wife Taylor, and their daughter Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. 

Ephron delivers a meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none can see coming.

I was going to read this right after I finished Commonwealth, but I’m starting to see that maybe this one is a little too close to what I’m reading now. I might hold off while I get a palate cleanser in there.

268938192. The Girls by Emma Cline – Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

I’ve been going back and forth with this one. In fact, this is my second time borrowing this book from the library because I haven’t made up my mind if I should read it or not. It’s because I like stories about Charles Manson, but I don’t want to read about the horrendous acts he made those people do.

Coincidentally, my office decided to have a book discussion on this read in a few weeks, so I figured I’ll read it with the intention of going to this book discussion and see how I feel about it.

286868403. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven – Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

Ugh, I can already tell by the looks of this novel that it’s going to thrash my soul. I love Jennifer Niven and I was a huge fan of All the Bright Lights. Jennifer Niven has a tendency to hit some serious issues as well (depression, suicidal thoughts), so hopefully this won’t throw me into a panic.

274144344. The Lovely Reckless by Kami Garcia – Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

I think this one will be the book I read next since it’s a little bit more light-hearted (ish) and not too close to Commonwealth’s plot. I’m actually really excited because I loved Beautiful Creatures and sometimes I guiltily re-watch the movie.

What about you? Do you love the library?