Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Love, Simon

Have you seen Love, Simon yet??

My husband and I went to see it this weekend and I L-O-V-E loved it.

And, confession: I have not (yet!) read the book. If you aren't aware, the movie Love, Simon is based on the YA book Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Balzer + Bray, 2015).

I'm sure you're all aware of this movie and this book; librarians can't stop talking about it. When I told my husband we were seeing it this weekend and that everyone I knew said it was great, he said, "Are they all librarians?" Umm...... yes.

But afterwards, he agreed with all my librarian friends that this was an excellent weekend viewing choice. More than just entertainment, it's so important that this movie was made, that this movie exists for today's teens and future teens. That more teens than before can see themselves in the media and know that others have experienced first love many different ways. But it's also just a great movie.

I laughed and I cried. I cried so much. I had all the feels. For Simon, for Simon's parents, for Simon's friends. This movie got how people (teens, yes, but all people) can manipulate their friends, that feeling when your back is against the wall and you do something that you know isn't right, but you do it anyway because it feels like your only choice.

I feel like a cheater-pants for posting about this movie without having read the book (yet!), but I couldn't keep it inside. I laughed, I sobbed, I just want to see it again AND read the book. And probably all of Becky Albertalli's books.

If you haven't seen it, I urge you to go! And then pick up the book (which I will be doing, too) to experience more of Simon's world.

Monday, March 26, 2018

A One-Sitting Read

One of the categories for Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge is "a one-sitting book". That's really hard for me. I tend to be a distracted reader. I need to take breaks. I need to put it down for awhile and do something else. I very rarely finish a book all in one go unless I'm doing a weekend reading challenge. Even when I was serving on the Newbery Committee, I was much more likely to read half of a book and put it down and start another and then finish up the first book the next day.

So, when I tell you that this book was nearly a one-sitting read for me, I want you to know what that means. My husband and I are currently working our way through Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix (which I have never seen and am hugely enjoying) and I even turned down watching episodes to read this book.

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir from a woman with an unusual upbringing. Brought up by off-the-grid end-of-days-preppers on a remote mountain in Idaho, Tara was never vaccinated, never saw a doctor or dentist, and didn't even have a birth certificate until she was 9 years old. And she never went to school. Her mother attempted homeschool from time to time, but there was always too much work to be done at her father's scrap metal business for a real education to take place.

When abuse from family members escalated, Tara knew that she needed a way out. Some of her older siblings had found ways out: marriage, jobs... and her older brother Tyler had gone to college. Tara began to dream of going to college, too. But that dream seemed impossible. She had never taken an exam in her life, but now would have to ace the ACT to be considered by colleges. She had never studied or written an essay. She had never heard of the Holocaust or the Civil Rights Movement.

It's not really a spoiler to tell you that she makes it out. In fact, Tara Westover went on to not only complete her Bachelor's degree but to study overseas and eventually earn a PhD. It only makes her unusual upbringing that much more fascinating to know how she ultimately went on to live a very different life.

I mean, what Tara and her family members endured... I couldn't look away from this book, even as it completely disturbed me. I completely take for granted that if a horrifying accident happened to me or someone around me, we'd go to the hospital. That wasn't an option for the Westovers. And they just kept surviving medical trauma that I thought for sure would kill them.

Like, I knew Tara would eventually be at least relatively okay because I knew she had gone on to write this book. But I had to read it to believe it and to see how she would possibly escape.


Hand this book to folks who enjoyed memoirs about others with unusual or traumatic childhoods like The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls or A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. Although this book is published for adults, I think there's a great deal of crossover appeal for teens, particularly teens who enjoyed either of these readalike memoirs.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Random House, February 2018. 352 pages. Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Celebrity Book Clubs

Okay, I love me a celebrity book club... as long as their taste is similar to mine. When I was young and stubborn and first working in a bookstore, I eschewed Oprah's Book Club as a herd mentality way of choosing books. Of course, what Oprah's Book Club really did was spotlight literature and get generations of viewers interested in books, which I now recognize is totally awesome.

Lately, Oprah is joined by more and more celebrities using their power to spotlight their favorite reads. Of course, librarians know about Sarah Jessica Parker's ALA Book Club: SLJ Picks. Reese Witherspoon also shares her picks on Instagram in her Hello Sunshine book club.  Emma Watson has a feminist book club on Good Reads. And I'm sure there are more and more to come.

I'm particularly excited that a lot of the recent choices have been diverse titles by #ownvoices authors! I know they don't need any more publicity, but here are a few I have been digging recently:

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (2017). William Morrow. 304 pages. Audiobook narrated by Meera Syal. Review copy provided by my local library.

Reese Witherspoon's latest book club choice is a story about a British-Punjabi new adult who, floundering about her career choices, starts teaching a writing class at a local Sikh temple. From the publisher copy: "Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind."

I just started the audiobook of this title because I needed an audiobook that would REALLY COMPEL me to keep listening (otherwise I do no cleaning and get no exercise, so...). I think this one is going to fit the bill. I'm one chapter in and loving it so far. 

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (2018). Algonquin Books. 320 pages. Review copy purchased with my Book of the Month subscription - want to try it? Use my referral link here to get a free book!

I am in the middle of this one right now and pretty much all I want to do is stay home and read it. Oprah's latest Book Club choice is about an African American couple and what happens to their relationship when, after a year and a half of marriage, husband Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's totally character-based, which is my jam, and I'm just fascinated with where the story's going. It may have extra appeal for me as a wife coming up on our second wedding anniversary: what would I do if this happened? How would we handle it? 

Funny story: this book was available to preorder as "Oprah's Book Club Choice" before the title of Oprah's choice was announced. Of course I ordered multiple copies, knowing that a new Oprah pick would be super popular. I came in to the office one day to find four copies of this book on the processing cart and I said, "Oh, no, what did I do now? Why did I order four copies of this book?" only to find out that - of course - it was Oprah's pick. I was so happy because it had already been looking forward to this book. And I am enjoying it so, so much. 

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017). Penguin. Review copy purchased from Book of the Month

This one was a Reese Witherspoon pick from back in the fall and it's recently been announced that it'll be made into a series on Hulu. My family book club read this one last fall and had some great discussions around it; you can bet one of the book club ladies sent me the news of the new TV series as soon as she heard. 

Little Fires Everywhere tells the story of two families, intertwined by happenstance, who change each other's lives in dramatic ways. It also tells the story of a young Chinese mother who abandoned her baby, only to change her mind and fight against a white adoptive couple for custody of the child and how the fight divides their community. 

What do you think about celebrity book clubs? Any favorites you've discovered through celeb recommendations?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Honest Truth

So I just got a survey from my alma mater, Indiana University, which is up for re-accreditation next year. And one of the questions was "Why did you choose to attend Indiana University Bloomington for your degree?"

And I gave the honest answer.

Which is this:

My boyfriend lived in Bloomington and I wanted an excuse to move back there. We broke up two months after I moved back, BUT I got a  great education and have yet to break up with libraries. 

So, y'know. We all have different paths and at least the ex was good for something.