Today is my birthday! I’m officially 26 years young. Sigh. It’s not an exciting birthday. I’m finally at that point where I just wish they would stop. But still, birthdays are good because you can constantly use it as an excuse to get out of doing things. “But it’s my birthday!” is an awesome excuse.
Anyway, today I’m excited to be linking up with Michelle, Cat, and Alison for a great new reading link-up. This is exactly the kind of link-up that I’m happy to participate in. It’s just monthly and it deals with one of my favorite topics — books.
Today I’m going to be sharing the books I read this month as well as my brief thoughts on each of them. I’m excited to see what others are reading!
This was a pretty book-heavy month for me. I finished 7 books, which is probably a record for me since I really started to get back into reading at the beginning of last year. Compared with January of last year, I am on a role. I struggled to finish 2 books in January of 2015. This year, I’m rolling.
Anyway, here we go:
1. Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway
This book touched me a lot more than I expected it to. I bought this book on Kindle for something like $1.99 because it looked like a quick read and had good reviews. It is a YA novel, so I didn’t expect it to have that much going for it in the way of character development and emotion. That is a stereotype that you’d think I’d be over by now after having read John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Laurie Halse Anderson, and many other outstanding YA authors.
Emmy and Oliver is the story of two young neighbors who were torn apart at a young age and then put back together. Emmy and Oliver were great friends until Oliver’s father kidnapped him when he was in second grade. He isn’t found until he is in high school, where he is sent home to a mother he barely knows and friends he hardly remembers.
Emmy and her two best friends — Caro and Drew — quickly accept Oliver back into their group, but it isn’t that easy for Oliver to adapt. This book captures the emotions of a girl who is just trying to make things normal for the confused boy that she considers her first love. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s full of so much heart and so many real feelings. I think that Benway captured the voice of the teenagers very well. They felt like kids in the modern world — smart, but still young and learning.
It’s a beautiful story and I recommend it to anyone. It’s also a pretty quick read, which helps.
2. Party Monster: A Fabulous But True Tale of Murder in Clubland by James St. James
This book is insane. The most insane thing is that it’s a true story. I watched the movie based on this book a few years ago and thought it was a fun, trippy, crazy movie. I started thinking about it recently and decided it might be fun to read the book.
I read this book in two days, mostly during down time at work. This book is a trip and a half.
A little background. In the late ’80s and ’90s, there was a booming nightclub scene in New York City. Clubs would hire these young people — who became known as “club kids” — to draw crowds to the clubs. These club kids would dress in wild attire — many of the men dressing in drag, crazy hairstyles, lots of color — and basically they got paid to dress super wacky and make the clubs look fun.
James St. James — the author of this book — was a club kid. He was also friends (more like frenemies, really) with Michael Alig, a club kid who ended up sort of taking over the whole scene. St. James, Alig, and their friends got really into drugs and a generally unhealthy lifestyle. At one point, Alig and this guy they called Freeze got into an argument with a drug dealer named Angel. They ended up killing Angel, then putting him in their bathtub for like a week while they continued to party before they decided they needed to do something about it. The two of them then cut up the dead body and threw the pieces into the Hudson River.
This shit actually happened! It took them almost a year to catch this guy! Anyway, St. James writes this book as he remembers the events — which very often contain a drug-induced fog. It’s a really wild read, but it’s super interesting.
3. Wool Omnibus (Silo #1) by Hugh Howey
I’d heard a lot about this book and decided to read it as my free Kindle book for January. This was a pretty hefty read and it took me a little while to really wrap my head around the world this takes place in, but I got hooked once I got past all of that.
This is one of those post-apocalyptic world stories, which we seem to be inundated with these days. This one had a fairly interesting, unique spin on that genre from others I’ve read. Basically, humans now live in this silo — a building that goes some 150 levels underground. People are told not to question the workings of the silo and you’re not allowed to express interest in the world outside. The world outside is filled with toxins and anyone who leaves the silo will die once they breathe these toxins.
Still, there are those who question. Anyone who expresses interest in the outside world is jailed and then sent to “clean.” “Cleaning” is a death sentence that allows the criminal to go outside into the world where they clean the camera lens’ that allow the silo’s population to see the world outside. They are then exposed to the world’s toxins and killed. The story’s hero is Juliette, a young woman from the lower levels (she works in mechanical) who is hired as sheriff when the silo’s previous sheriff had to go to “cleaning.” Juliette is not a popular choice for this position. Her promotion starts a chain of events that will leave the silo in a completely different state than before.
The whole idea of this is incredibly interesting and Howey does a great job of explaining how the silo functions without it becoming boring. The characters are all well-developed and there is an element of mystery as well. What you think is going on in the beginning may not be exactly as it seems later on.
There are several of these silo books and I’m interested to read another one soon. Highly recommended!
4. Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam
This book is kind of creepy. It’s about a 50-some-year-old man who befriends an 11-year-old girl. Yeah. He then convinces the girl to go on a road trip with him. Yeah. And they go on the road trip.
It’s kind of a hard read in terms of content. There isn’t any, like, graphic molestation or anything. But there are just some scenes that are really just uncomfortable.
One thing I will say for this book. For all its creepiness, it’s an interesting story. There’s a lot of psychological stuff going on between the two main characters — mostly pressure put on the 11-year-old girl by the older guy that may seem innocent but is not really that innocent.
I recommend the book more than not. It’s an easy read. The author has a unique voice. I’m not sure still if I like the voice. She tells the story kind of like, “Let’s say that our guy then told the girl that she was his best friend.” Like that, if you know what I mean. It’s kind of odd. But the characters make the story at least worth reading. But prepare to cringe at least several times.
5. The Cotton Queen by Pamela Morsi
I borrowed this book from a friend many months ago. Amanda, if you’re reading this, I promise you will get it back. What I liked most about this book is the back and forth in point of view. The story spans many years and takes place from the perspectives of a mother and a daughter.
The mother, Babs, grew up at a time when women were expected to be housewives and mothers. Where women had to look beautiful but did not have careers. She had her daughter, Laney, in 1958. Babs’ husband died in the military when Laney was just a few years old.
It’s a beautiful story of a family that maybe just doesn’t understand each other. The central conflict in the story is that Babs was proud to take part in a local beauty pageant where she was the runner up for “Cotton Queen.” She forced Laney to participate in this event as well, which Laney wanted no part of.
The story goes back and forth between Babs and Laney, whose priorities about life are totally different. Laney doesn’t think she and her mother are anything alike. The only thing is that Laney doesn’t know a lot of what Babs went through to give Laney a good life. It’s a really interesting story and touches on such intense subjects as death, rape, post-partum depression, and much more.
6. The Bette Davis Club by Jane Lotter
I read this book on kind of a whim. It had a neat looking cover, a cool title, and really beyond excellent reviews on Amazon. I was really happy I decided to get the book because it was a ton of fun, very clever and funny, and still had a good message.
The book revolves around Margo Just, a 50-something, single New Yorker who is in L.A. for her niece’s wedding. Her niece, Georgia, and half-sister, Charlotte, are in the movie business and super rich. Also, they’re backstabbers and drama queens. Georgia runs out on her wedding, taking her $40k dress and several of her mother’s prized possessions with her. Charlotte hires Margo to go with Georgia’s would-be husband to find the girl and bring her back home.
First off, this book is a ton of fun. I would use the word “romp” to describe it. Margo gets herself into all kinds of crazy situations with really colorful characters. Despite the fun, though, the book does have a serious message. Margo has had difficulty in her relationships — both romantic and family related. She also has some other demons that she needs to face.
I was sad to find out that the author of this book, Jane Lotter, died not long after writing it. She died of cancer at the age of 60. I’m very sad to hear that. She was a really talented lady and, if her writing is any indication, had quite the zest for life. RIP.
7. Junior by Macaulay Culkin
I found out this book existed when I bought Party Monster. Macaulay Culkin was in the Party Monster movie, so this was a recommended book on Amazon. Despite the less than stellar reviews, I had to buy it. I’m glad I bought the book. It took me less than a day to read.
I wouldn’t say that Junior is a good book by any stretch of the imagination. It’s written in a very interesting voice. The book (which accurately claims that it is not a novel) is a series of random thoughts, drawings, seemingly endless lists, and letters to people — mostly the protagonist’s father.
Culkin claims in this book that the character Junior is not him and only he knows exactly how much of what is written is true, but it seems very much like there is a lot of autobiographical information here. If you look past all the inane ramblings, there is some real pain and some insightful words strewn about.
“Junior” talks a lot about his father. He talks about his father’s anger and control issues. He writes several letters to his father, one of which just eviscerates him. “Junior” also talks about how it feels to be a monkey in the circus. I don’t think I’m reaching here when I make the comparison between “money in the circus” and “child star in Hollywood.” He refers to himself several times as “Monkey Monkey Boy” and, honestly, that just made me sad. It always hurts me when child stars “fall from grace.” Because kids don’t know what they’re getting into. Their parents should shield them from all that dark stuff, but so often the parents are just looking to make money off of their kids. Tangent over.
Anyway, I thought this was worth reading. It’s not going to win any literary prizes, but it’s an interesting look into the soul of “Junior,” who may or may not be very similar to the author.