Young Love?

foreverflowers in the attic

Recently I read two books that I’ve been hearing about for a long time, but never read in my youth, when I was apparently supposed to.

Judy Blume is a goddess of YA Lit, with a ton of good titles under her belt. Forever… is lauded, and rightfully so, mostly by us liberals who like that it depicts a teenaged couple, who has sex, responsibly, and doesn’t have something horrific happen to them, whether as actual punishment or as might-as-well-be punishment. I believe there are other YA books that do that now, but they’re still few in number, generally speaking, and, this one first came out in 1975, so it was groundbreaking.

It’s an easy, quick read, simply written. This is your average teenaged couple, borderline boring, honestly, if they were actual people. These are not the witty characters from more modern YA novels. But they are in love, and it’s sweet, and they’re responsible, using condoms at first, and later birth control. and their parents DO care about them, they’re just not overly strict, and they help their kids make their own decisions in a smart way. (At least, the girl’s parents do. We get very little from the guy’s parents, though we’re told they’re a bit stricter than hers.)

And, spoiler, though they are in love and they have sex, the “forever…” is trailing because they are young, and their lives take different paths, and it’s not happily ever after but it’s not the end of the world.

Now, Flowers in the Attic is a whole other ball game, kids. I knew that it wasn’t as wholesome as some other things, but I didn’t really know that much about it going in. It is all kinds of effed up, you guys. But that’s why it’s a compelling story!

Dad dies, leaves mom and four kids. Mom has been a housewife this whole time, has no workplace skills, and therefore, no way to support herself and her children (especially given the unnecessary luxuries they indulged in when dad was alive); grandparents are super rich, but mom’s been disowned/disinherited. The plan is to hide the kids while mom tries to get back into granddad’s good graces. Grandma is in on the plan, but Lord, if that woman ain’t psycho evil. Kids are locked up in, you guessed it, the attic, only it’s sort of an upper story bedroom with a closet and door that leads to the attic. Still, they’re shut up and shut out.

Grandma brings food every day, and mom comes to visit, every day at first, and then less frequently as time goes on. Mom provides tons of BS about why it’s taking so long for her to fix everything and get the kids out, though she keeps bringing them tons of presents and is always wearing nice new clothes and fancy jewelry.

Things escalate, mom hides a lot of things, but what you want to know is that the two older kids are, I believe, a 12 year old girl and 14 year old boy going in, 15 and 17 by the time they get out. They’ve got some budding urges, and no place or person to direct them toward. Well, no place or person APPROPRIATE.

So there’s that. It certainly draws you in. Even without that last bit, I think I would have been interested, but of course the scandalous nature makes it better. I’m unsure whether or not I will continue with the series – mostly just wanted to see what the fuss was about. Of course, it was all brought up again in the last year because I guess they made a TV movie of it? Probably won’t watch that one.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bonedays blood starlightdreams gods monstersnight of cake and puppets

A series of three books, plus one e-novella, recommended to me by one of my favorite people ever, Lauren.

I suppose it’s considered YA, though I wouldn’t classify it as such, not quite. Definitely fantasy though. Angels and demons – demons, meaning chimaera (which is a hard word to spell, especially since there are various spellings), which sound BEAUTIFUL, like, hauntingly, awe-striking, scary sort of beautiful.

It’s an intense ride of a series – you will be invested in these characters, I promise.  For awhile, you’re not 100% sure who the good guys are, mostly because it tends to change, and so your allegiance and your emotions are shifting all over the place. It’s fantastic! Your heart will ache, ache, ache at several points in the story, which makes everything so much more satisfying in the end.

ADORING the fierce women characters. Zuzana is amazing, largely in that she’s one of few likeable human characters, but also because she’s a sassy little fairy of a girl. Also love Liraz, who is just a badass, and Naja, who, despite being forced to imagine her physical appearance which has serpent aspect, UGH, is just this quiet yet strong force, helping Karou. and of course, Karou herself. She makes me want blue hair, Katy Perry-style. The male characters are good too – lots of humor from Mik and Hazael, Akiva sounds super hot (sort of has a tendency to brood though, very vampire-like), and Ziri… oh, sweet, sweet, sacrificing Ziri… and don’t even get me started on Brimstone, who’s like, a minotaur combined with a teddy bear who seems like your dad, I don’t even know.

The writing is mostly wonderful; skews a bit cheesy at times, but in a way that totally works, because she’s presenting it as a sort of legend, and one must really sell that, in a “what if this were presented orally” way.

Book 3 seemed to move a little slower, for reasons I’m still trying to figure out – maybe it’s just there was more planning and talking involved, even though there is fighting, when Books 1 & 2 have a lot of backstory (which is completely necessary as it’s both gorgeous and there’s an amnesia-esque situation) as well as action. Also Book 3 brings in an entirely new perspective that you’re confused by at first, like, this girl is obviously important but damn if she didn’t come out of nowhere and her purpose is not immediately clear. So at first, every time her part of the story comes around, you’re thinking, girl, shhh, and tell me what Karou and Akiva are up to.

I also didn’t actually know what the term “revenant” meant until reading this series, so if that sort of thing interests you, there’s that too.

If you do read the series, I definitely recommend the e-novella too. It’s a precious account of the night Mik and Zuzana, our resident humans, got together, and it’s just really great.

Update!

Whew, you guys… things have been crazy. We are finally, mostly, moved in to our apartment in Dallas. Trying to get the Austin house sold and find myself a job before we start looking for houses up here. Prayers and/or references/recommendations on the job front would be AMAZING and quite appreciated!

We finally have internet at the apartment as of a couple hours ago, thank goodness (after way too long a wait on TWC). Much easier to job hunt this way, rather than using the sad computers at the local library (though the material selection is great, I’m happy to tell you) or paying for a drink at Starbucks so I can use Aaron’s ancient laptop there.

Also, of course, I can catch you guys up on all the wonderful things I’ve been reading. Smile Many reviews/discussions coming your way, if I can get focused. Also that blog change I was talking about… still tossing some ideas around about that, changing the name and focus and such.

Gotta prioritize though. Gotta try to put more job applications out before I do something fun, like, blogging. Also, there’s Puppy, who likes lots of attention when I’m home. He sleeps a fair amount though, which is helpful, and, you know, adorable.

For the record, Aaron, the husband, is LOVING his new job, which is just fabulous. It’s nice to hear him say “Good” or “Great!” when I ask how his day was, rather than “Awful” or “Okay” – which, “Okay” was the best we could really hope for at the previous job. He is so much happier, and I’m so thankful and PROUD!

We live in an interesting part of Dallas. Supposedly up and coming. Lots of construction near our apartment – looks like the rail line will be coming down our street at some point, which is neat, but we may not still be here when it’s done. Who knows. There are some slightly sketchy areas near us, but overall it’s okay, I guess. We’re very close to DT, so Aaron’s commute is short. The library is less than 10 minutes away, and I think I’ve found a grocery store that doesn’t scare me? I do miss HEB though.

Okay, enough of this. Back to job listings and applications, and if I feel I have time later, some book blogging. Smile

the winds of wint- i mean, change. the winds of change.

Man. I wish Winds of Winter was completed and ready for me to read! Moving on…

~~~~~~~~~~

If I’m to continue posting, I think the blog might need a makeover.

Make Me a Tree has shifted. Rather than using my blog to work through my personal struggles, I’m mostly talking about books, with the rare life update thrown in.

Don’t get me wrong – I obviously love discussing books and reading. It’s pretty much my favorite. And it’s certainly not a bad thing in its own right.

But it’s far from what I initially set out to do with my blog. I feel like I’m doing a disservice to the theme, to the message. It deserves better!

Part of the problem too is that my theme and message, once upon a time, were very much faith-related. I’ve become rather disenchanted with the Church, and am preferring to keep my grievances and struggles to myself, or to only discuss them with close friends, rather than in a public forum.

So I’ll be looking for a new blog name and concept in the coming weeks. Don’t be alarmed if things look different. :)

 

I do have some personal news though! My husband has gotten a new job with a firm in Dallas so we are moving! Lots of things to do, and I’m feeling a bit stressed. We’re sad to leave Austin, but in the end, we think this will bring many positive changes!

Also, our 2 year wedding anniversary is fast approaching and Sherlock will be 1 year old in a few days! Time goes by so quickly!

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

unlikely pilgrimmage of harold fry

This was a sweet little audiobook I picked up – narrated by Jim Broadbent!,  whom many of you may know as Professor Slughorn from the HP movies, or as Harold from Moulin Rouge, or a number of other screen works! I didn’t love him as a narrator, but his voice did seem to suit the tone, probably just because the main character is an old man. Winking smile

Harold Fry is recently retired. His marriage is not great, but it’s hanging in there. His life is rather boring, honestly. He receives a letter from an old friend, Queenie, who did a HUGE favor for him, for which he never repaid her or thanked her. Queenie is dying of cancer.

Harold somehow gets it in his head that if he walks to Queenie, as long as he walks, she will stay alive, and it will be this huge wonderful thing – rather than him jumping in his car and rushing to her in a few hours.

So he does. Harold sets of, with no provisions really, to walk from the very south of England to the very north, probably over 500 miles, to the care facility where Queenie is living out her last days.

As expected, Harold meets many people along the way and encounters many problems. He has a Forrest Gump thing going on at one point, with a group of people walking with him. He comes very near to giving up a couple of times as well.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that the whole book was a treat. It’s not an overwhelming thing, that will have you raving to your friends, but it’s very good, and will give you warm heart fuzzies, for sure.

Differences Lead to Discord

across the universeamerican dervish

Discussing: Across the Universe by Beth Revis and American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar

Across the Universe has been on my TBR for awhile; I stumbled across American Dervish on a recommendation list for audiobooks on the APL website. Reading Across the Universe in print and American Dervish on audio, the two ended up overlapping, and I was stunned at how well they fit together!

In Across the Universe, people on board the ship Godspeed are heading towards life on a new planet, because our Earth will soon be no more. Amy, along with her parents, and some other crucial people, are cryogenically frozen for the journey, so that they can help get society ordered once they reach the new planet.

Meanwhile, a there is a population of un-frozen people who live and die on the ship, keeping it running, and taking care of problems that arise along this hundreds of light-years long trip. This population has been sort of bio-engineered – everyone has the same skin tone, and hair and eye color – people are different enough to tell apart, but no one stands out. and everyone has been, essentially, brainwashed, so everyone thinks the same as well, for the most part.

Elder is part of this population, but he is a tad different – he is being trained as the next leader. When, through unknown circumstances, Amy becomes unfrozen, Elder’s teacher and current leader, Eldest, begins lessons regarding the causes of discord, things that would disturb the perfect peace on the ship, and the number one cause of discord is differences – Amy, with her vivid red hair, pale white skin, bright eyes, and memory of the original Earth – poses all kinds of danger to their community, at least, in the mind of Eldest.

In American Dervish, Hayat is a young Muslim boy growing up in the Midwestern United States. His parents are not super devout, nor is Hayat himself, until his mother’s best friend, his Auntie Mina, shows him the wonder of the Islamic faith.

Mina falls in love with Hayat’s father’s friend and coworker, a Jewish man. As Hayat’s faith deepens, through select passages of the Quran and the influence of older, prejudiced Muslims, Hayat is given the idea that Jewish people are scum. As a result, Hayat, in his youth and innocence, makes some terrible choices that cause “devastating consequences” (Goodreads summary) for everyone he loves, as well as himself.

Though obviously untrue in real life, it is clear in the story that there are many Muslims who believe many problems would be solved if only everyone in the world were Muslim.

 

We could get into a huge debate about the benefits and detriments of a homogenous world population – but I don’t want to do that right here or right now. It’s too much. I was just intensely struck by how well these stories weaved together, and that I happened to be reading them so near each other.

Across the Universe is a good YA novel; it is part of a trilogy, and I haven’t decided just yet if I will finish the series. The first installment was good, but the narrative didn’t quite grab me as I thought it would; but there are a few smaller matters that pique my interest, so maybe!

American Dervish was AMAZING and I am so very glad I picked it up! It is heart-wrenching though – prepare yourself emotionally if you pursue this reading!

Short & Sweet Reviews

Some book reviews on books that I liked but don’t have much to say about (read: am too lazy to actually write a review/discussion on, because ALL THE THINGS are vying for my attention).

smarter than you think

Smarter Than You Think by Clive Thompson

Interesting, but not quite as good as I hoped. Addresses people’s fears that technology is making our lives worse, particularly our social lives. Lots of talk about how technology allows for more collaboration, without requiring people to be in the same room – so people can be in different parts of the world, or on different schedules, or work better “alone” but like to bounce ideas off of others, etc – and so bigger, cooler things can happen. Kind of funny to listen to a book talk about Twitter and Civ from a pseudo-scientific perspective.

(Aaron was sad that the book came out before Twitch Plays Pokemon happened.)

wishful drinking

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I’ve heard Carrie Fisher give a couple of interviews and she’s always clever and/or funny, so I had been thinking about this one for awhile. I read the audiobook, which she reads herself – she sounds SO much like her mom here (Debbie Reynolds – who I will admit, I know who she is, but only because of her guest roles on Will & Grace – I’m slightly embarrassed), especially compared to the high class sort of voice she adopts in Stars Wars (which she talks about how she came to talk like that).

It was indeed funny, but it had a slow start – the beginning was advocacy for electroshock therapy, which would have been fine, but it was a long beginning. Once she got past that though, she hit her stride talking about her family and her likeness as Princess Leia being used everywhere and her addition problems. She’s honest about her problems, and stops just short of being self-deprecating, so the reader can respect her. She doesn’t spend all that much time on the Star Wars stuff, but when she does, it’s entertaining. LOLed a lot.

please look after mom

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

Came across this one when looking at the APL website’s recommendations for audiobooks; noted it would fill my desire to read more diversely this year. The author and the characters are not only not white, they aren’t even from the U.S. They are from South Korea; the book is translated from Korean. One thing that struck me was how much bigger South Korea seems as a country when hearing about it through the words of someone who actually lives there. It seems so tiny on a map (especially for someone from Texas). But this family makes it seem so much bigger.

The story is told in about 5 big chunks – we get the perspectives of oldest daughter, oldest son, father/husband, and mom, and then the epilogue – honestly I was kind of confused, might have gone back to oldest daughter, or it may have been youngest daughter. Interestingly, the story is told mostly in second person, which I don’t recall ever reading before. I think Mom’s section is first person, but the others are second (which is part of why the epilogue threw me a little). You’re getting a specific character’s specific, but they narrate it as “you did this” and “you said that.” It creates a real personal effect. When that character feels guilty, YOU kind of feel guilty! When they feel relieved, YOU feel relieved!

This story will tug at your heartstrings, especially if you have any relationship at all with your mom (or maybe just either of your parents). I think it would be significant regardless of whether that relationship is close or distant, good or bad. Liked this one so much more than I expected to. The audiobook narrators were excellent.

this book is overdue

This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

…I’m probably going to buy a copy of this soon, as I read this as a checkout from the library.

I want to shove this book into the hands of every person who asks me “Why would you want to go into a dying field?”

So, SO good. Though it disheartened me a little, by highlighting how much more computer knowledge I probably need in order to be a librarian in today’s world…

ocean at the end of the lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Continuing with my year of Gaiman, I picked up what I believe is his most recent release. Another audiobook, narrated by Gaiman himself, which was just perfection. One of my favorite audio performers for sure, though I’m sure it helps when it’s the performers own writing – he knows where he wants all the little nuances and such.

This book – whoa. I really liked it, but I couldn’t tell you precisely why. It’s very strange, occasionally unsettling, as Gaiman’s work often is. I kind of want to give specific examples, two scenes in particular that made me very uncomfortable, but I would hate to spoil them for those who haven’t read it yet – I feel they might be less affecting if you know they’re coming.

Our story is told from the perspective of a 7-year old boy, but he’s actually remembering what happened, as a 40-something year old man. His memory has been altered on purpose, so that under normal circumstances, he doesn’t remember the events that occurred, but it’s still interesting to think about the natural disconnect in our memories as years pass. He went through some pretty intense stuff for a 7-year old.

I kept thinking about how often we don’t believe children, because they’re children, and wondering how often we’re wrong for doing so – both in how much magic we’re missing, and how we fail to protect them at times. Our narrator tries to tell his parents that he doesn’t like his new nanny because she’s a monster, and they just brush him off – in this case, she is actually a monster, because fiction, but I shudder, thinking about how often in real life similar things happen.

It’s a quick read too, if you’re looking for such. It started as a short story, and morphed into a novel, but it’s still less than 200 pages in print, if I remember right, and less than 6 hours on audio.

One quote from the book, that really struck me, and I’ve now seen it on the interwebs quite a few times – “You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”