Last month, on She Made Me Do It...
Flannery challenged Catie to read:
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Catie challenged Tatiana to read:
Feed by M.T. Anderson
As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann
True Grit by Charles Portis
Tatiana challenged Flannery to read:
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Flannery read A Northern Light and rated it: 3.5/5 stars (review forthcoming)
What it's about: Set in early 20th century Mexico, it's a story of Tita who is prohibited by her mother to marry the man she passionately loves. As Tita's lover decides to marry her sister to be closer to his beloved, Tita has nothing left but to suffer in silence. And cook delicious food that she infuses with magic of her explosive feelings.
Why I think she'll like it: The fact that Karen will read, literally, anything (from picture books to monsterporn to obscure fiction that maybe a hundred people ever read) makes recommending books to her both very easy and very challenging. I mean, I am sure whatever I suggest she will finish, but will she like it? That is the question. At first I was going to get her to read Darkferver, for completely selfish reasons, obviously, and see with anticipation what happens. But then I decided to make an effort to find something that had higher odds of being enjoyed by her. And if I know one thing that Karen loves, it's FOOD (have you read her weekly Adventures of Food and Fun yet?) Even if she doesn't like the story of Like Water For Chocolate, she will at least appreciate the recipes.
What it's about: A very realistic portrayal of twisted female friendship in high school. Regina Afton is a former member of the in-crowd who is now shut out and forced to face the ugliness of her own actions, as well as daily bullying from her former best friends.
Why I think she'll like it: I'm surprised that Karen hasn't read anything from Courtney Summers yet, because I think she'd really like her books. They're gritty, often disturbing, and never simple. This one is particularly scary. I know that Karen loves survival stories - and what's more extreme than surviving suburban high school...particularly when it's populated by evil, violent psychopathic girls? Karen enjoyed Before I Fall, (which - full disclosure - I haven't read) and this gets a lot of comparisons to that book. But I think this one is darker, and I know the ending is a lot more unresolved.
What they're about: The Wednesday Wars is about a Long Island Jewish seventh-grader who has to stay and spend time with his teacher while the rest of the kids in his class go to religious instruction. Okay for Now is about a side character from TWW who moves with his family from Long Island to a small town a few hours away. His home life leaves much to be desired but he is very much affected by several members of the town.
Why I think she'll like them: Technically, I've picked two books for Karen, but I'll only hold her to one. The reason I've included both is because they are middle grade books and both absolutely lovely. Also, I know how quickly she reads so I am confident she could knock both out in one day if she felt like it. Karen reads pretty much any genre but I specifically picked The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt for her because of one review she wrote. She gave When You Reach Me, the 2010 Newbery winner by Rebecca Stead five stars and said, " Sure... it is intended for children but it is a sweet, sad book about friendship and family and sacrifice that most adults could really appreciate." I had very similar feelings about When You Reach Me and these two books. They are intended for middle readers but I absolutely loved both of them because they carried so much weight despite their intended audience. I also know that two of Karen's good friends, Greg and Ariel, have both read this and 4-star or higher enjoyed it. To quote Karen on Greg's review thread, "Someday I will read this maybe." Muahahaha, that time has come, Karen. Knock knock.
i know, how have i never read this one? it is supposed to be one of the great examples of magical realism, and i love me some magical realism, so it is high time i read it.. thank you for the kick in the pants.
and i do love food. love it. it keeps me alive.
wednesday wars and okay for now
ariel has been talking up w-wars to me for aaaaages. i guess my only excuse for not having read it before is because i just don't read a lot of middle grade stuff, even though there are some that i have read as an adult that i have enjoyed. they are so short! i always look at the middle-grade stuff i have here, and i am like, "if i take that to work, i am going to finish it on the subway, and then i will have to take a second book, and that means i will have to sign TWO books in at work..." and it just exhausts me, having to choose a secondary book. but - ah - now i have two, and this makes the decision for me! awesome!
some girls are
i know i have read reviews of this before, but it never really called out to me. however, in a flash of synchronicity, i had planned to start this is not a test today, so - weird. and i just got burn for burn at ALA, which is another "mean girls" book, so it looks like it is time for me to branch out and read more realistic YA instead of the dystopian stuff that is my bread and butter.
Serena by Ron Rash
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
What They're About:
the go-between is about a young boy's exposure into the world of adult entanglements, and the effect one summer has on his adult life.
serena is basically macbeth set in a logging community in north carolina in the 1920s.
winesburg, ohio is a series of interconnected stories that take place in a small town whose inhabitants have larger dreams than their circumstances.
Why I Think She'll Like Them:
i am mostly responding to the heavy-on-the-thomas-hardy love we share. i think our reading tastes are the most compatible of the three of y'all, and these three books are among my favorites. the go-between is full of the situational complications of which hardy is so fond, and my memory of the book is that hartley describes the english countryside in a similarly glorious way as hardy; with nature itself mirroring and enhancing the action. i could be projecting, but i am pretty sure. however, i am entirely sure that the book itself is wonderful, and it is a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story of that first love, and the chasm between dreams and social position. in a lot of ways, it is like, "what if proust could have edited himself down to just the basics?"
serena is just gorgeous. do i need to say more? i will! this also has great descriptions of nature but they are not the nostalgic remembrances of a summer of promise, this nature will mess you up. it is very dark, and there will be violence, but it also has one of the best female leads in any book ever. it is at once about the evils of ambition and the danger of trees. trees!
winesburg draws on the frustration of circumstances as well, and it has a very steinbeckian feel. this also feels hardy-like to me, but like jude, where characters want to rise above what they have been dealt, and if they can't, at least they can tell their stories to the one that does have the chance to get out, so that a part of them will exist outside of their small-town existences.
Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
What They're About:
drama in muslin takes place in ireland in the 1880's and revolves around a group of women trying to make the most socially and financially advantageous matches for their eligible daughters.
lullabies is about a young girl in montreal, growing up on the wrong side of the canadian tracks with a junkie father and hooligan friends.
book of night women is about a slave rebellion on a plantation in jamaica in the 18th century.
Why I Think She'll Like Them:
drama in muslin is an easy sell. tatiana loves jane austen, and this is very much like austen, in a lot of ways. marriage is the ultimate goal, but these mothers treat it like a battle, and there are machinations and plotting and moore really brings the situation to life with his writing. the social and sexual politics of the smaller story work well into the larger political situation in ireland, and these poor girls are just little chess pieces to their scheming mothers, and there are ever so many balls.
the other two are more responses to tatiana's claim in her profile page that she likes book "that shock, delight, scare, make me uncomfortable, tickle my imagination, make me think or cry (but not in a Nicholas Sparks way), intense, but non-exploitative books."
i think both of these books are shocking, in their own way. lullabies is the gentler of the two, but it is apples and oranges. it is only gentler because the narrator is so young, she doesn't recognize a lot of what is going on around her for what it is. that is the strength of this book, we as readers see what is happening, but it is being interpreted by her innocent eyes, and everything is like a game to her. but the consequences are real. night women is rough. really rough. the violence is horrific, and nothing is spared. but lilith... she is an incredible character. a very complicated character, definitely, but a true original. this is in dialect, which i am not sure about, for you, if that is something that turns you off. but if you really want something intense that is going to make you uncomfortable in a true-feeling, non-exploitative way, this is your book. intense doesn't begin to cover it.
The only thing I can say is that I have never heard of any of these books before (the three of us seem to be in the same boat), and yet, the way Karen puts it, they all sounds right up my alley, particularly A Drama in Muslin. I also suspect she might have read my mind, because I've been craving books set in foreign countries for a while. So, yeah, I look forward to checking them all out, especially because I am not familiar with the novels and therefore had no opportunity to have a pre-emptive opinion (read: prejudices) about them, which hinders many of my reading experiences. Off to check which books my library has...
but these are my offerings.
Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls by Matt Ruff
The Sea Came in at Midnight by Steve Erickson
George & Rue by George Elliot Clarke
What They're About:
set this house in order is about what happens when two characters with mpd meet and try to get to the bottom of a long-buried family secret.
sea takes place in san francisco, mainly, in the pre-millennial days. it is about many many things, and is hard to describe using plot alone. this one is a risky recommendation, because it is so much one of my favorites, but it is so hard to say why.
george and rue is a fictionalized account of the author's ancestors and their crimes and punishments against the backdrop of racial inequality in canada in the 40s.
Why I Think She'll Like Them:
set this house could go on your "seattle" shelf, and i know you have read a few books about mental illness, and enjoyed them. this one has a less-than-gentle start, just in terms of situating the reader, but i think once it gets going, it is not difficult to understand. also, you know more about it going into it than i did, because i never read the back cover before i started reading it. oops.
sea came in. this book is a little tricksy, but incredibly rewarding if you let yourself go in it. i think you have a solid enough background in sci-fi/fantasy stuff that the structure of this, and the little magical/metaphysical flourishes will not turn you off, and since you have read a bunch of post-apoc stuff, this is a nice balance, because it deals with that impending sense of unidentifiable, but certain, doom. and it is mind-blowing.
george and rue. you like mystery books, what about crime fiction? what about beautifully-written crime fiction that is both violent and jarring, and emotional and sympathetic? i know you can handle the violence of it, based on some of your readings, and it is a fantastic book that more people should read. so i am throwing it to you.
If you'd like to ask Karen for more recommendations, join her reader's advisory group on Goodreads. You can follow her reviews or friend her here.