Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On books regarding sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I've been wondering what I could do to help promote healthy sexual relationships and helping survivors and I think that literature is a great way to spread awareness and to bring more empathy. With this in mind, I'm going to highlight some books dealing with this topic. This post is based off of the Goodreads list Breaking the Silence: Talking about Violence Against Women.


Speak laurie anderson rape sexual assault
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - "Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. 
    In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

This is a book that I've actually never read, but that I was surprised to see a HUGE amount of my Goodreads friends have. Apparently I'm the last person to hear about this book - it was highly rated by everyone I know who's read it and it was near the top of every sexual assault Goodreads list I looked through. If you're looking to understand more about rape or sexual assault, this is the perfect place to start - especially if you want to know how school can play a part in perpetuating or stopping sexual violence.


I've read 7 of the top 100 books on this list and I was kind of surprised that I'd read so few. I read a lot and I try to read a lot about women's issues and social work issues. Sexual violence fits into both categories - so why have I read so little from this list? I have two theories about this: 1) The books on this list are mostly fictional and I may have read more non-fiction on this subject and 2) Most of the books on this list are books that are widely known and regarded, so it may just be that I haven't gotten around to them OR that I've read less known books on the same topic. I'd be really interested in how this list would change if it had more attention - 188 have added books or voted on books on this list, but only 22 people voted for the top book. 

Anyway - I'll be talking about the top 3 books that I've read here today and looking at how much each book can help us understand how to help survivors and to spread accurate messages regarding sexual violence.

The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood sexual assault rape
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (#10) - Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now...
It's been years since I read this book - probably 8 or 9 years at least. So it's a little difficult for me to remember all the details. However, this book very clearly deals with non-consensual sex and is upfront about how harmful this can be to survivors. It also makes interesting comparisons between healthy and unhealthy sexual relationships. A reread of this would probably benefit me greatly.

The Help cover Kathryn Stockett domestic abuse
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (#11) - Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:
    Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

    Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

    Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

    Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

    In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women — mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.
This book captivated me from the beginning and I read it in two days. I couldn't put it down. The story of poor Minny is especially encouraging - Minny is outwardly a loudspoken and sassy woman, but she's being beaten by her husband at home. While the violence described all sounds like domestic violence, there could be sexual assault that Minny doesn't reveal and this book serves as an important reminder that it often isn't clear outwardly if someone you know is suffering.

Room Emma Donoghue cover rape abduction
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (#12) - To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world....
    Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience - and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

    To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. 

    Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work. 

    Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

This book centers around the repeated rape of Jack's mother and the consequences of her imprisonment. While so much of the story is told through Jack's perspective, it's still obvious to adult readers what is happening and how much his mother has suffered. It becomes more clear as they begin to navigate the world outside Room and start seeing what it takes to begin making life normal again. 

What books from this Goodreads list have you read? What other books would you recommend to gain more understanding about sexual assault and violence? What are you doing to spread awareness during SAAM this year?

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Friday 56 & Book Beginnings #5

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice where every Friday you pick a book and turn to page 56 or 56%, and select a sentence or a few, as long as it's not a spoiler. For the full rules, visit the the page HERE.

Book Beginnings is a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader that asks you to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you're reading.

The Argonauts

(Description taken from Goodreads) An intrepid voyage out to the frontiers of the latest thinking about love, language, and family 

Maggie Nelson's The Argonauts is a genre-bending memoir, a work of "autotheory" offering fresh, fierce, and timely thinking about desire, identity, and the limitations and possibilities of love and language. At its center is a romance: the story of the author's relationship with the artist Harry Dodge. This story, which includes Nelson's account of falling in love with Dodge, who is fluidly gendered, as well as her journey to and through a pregnancy, offers a firsthand account of the complexities and joys of (queer) family-making.

Writing in the spirit of public intellectuals such as Susan Sontag and Roland Barthes, Nelson binds her personal experience to a rigorous exploration of what iconic theorists have said about sexuality, gender, and the vexed institutions of marriage and child-rearing. Nelson's insistence on radical individual freedom and the value of caretaking becomes the rallying cry of this thoughtful, unabashed, uncompromising book.

Book Beginnings: October, 2007. The Santa Ana winds are shredding the bark off the eucalyptus tress in long white stripes. A friend and I risk the widowmakers by having lunch outside, during which she suggests I tattoo the words HARD TO GET across my knuckles, as a reminder of this pose's possible fruits.

The Friday 56: I am not interested in the hermeneutics, or an erotics, or a metaphorics, of my anus.

What are you reading this week? Have you read this book? What beginnings make you interested in continuing a book?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

On books about realistic moms

Moms are often given a bad rap in books - especially YA books. The mom is mean and evil or nonexistent or (at best) can't understand their child. Books about parents of adult children are even more confusing as that relationship becomes more nuanced and distant. Here are a few books that represent moms realistically and might give some power and strength to moms out there:

Ship of Magic (Liveship Traders, #1)

  • Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb - Ronica Vestrit is a mom who is trying her hardest. She's spent years managing the family business while her husband sails around trading, while still trying to raise her two daughters well. Once her husband passes, Ronica is tasked with making some tough decisions, especially regarding her daughters. She makes plenty of mistakes and has a lot of learning to do about her children, but she's willing to admit to her mistakes and to give her daughters opportunities to make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons. Ronica is the kind of mom so many people have (or should have)- tough, no nonsense, and independent, but still humble enough to admit her shortcomings. Ronica's story arc throughout the series helps you (and her kids) see her as an active member of the family, not just as the mom.

Woman No. 17
  • Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki - Told from the viewpoints of a wealthy mother struggling to connect with her children and a young artist trying to emulate her own mother, this story is all about motherhood. Lady Daniels is trying to write a memoir about raising her selectively mute teenage son while struggling to connect with him and tolerate her other toddler son. Esther has just graduated from college and been hired as a nanny by the Daniels, all for the purpose of spending the summer on her most ambitious art project ever - becoming her mother for the summer to better understand the woman who helped raise her. This story tells all about motherhood and learning about yourself, with all it's complexities and difficulties.

Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate

  • Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate by Anne Østby - Five friends retire together to Fiji and work to support each other, especially as they all go through the growing pains of growing old. Most relateable is Sina, whose relationship with her adult son is struggling as he continues to mooch off her and she struggles to set boundaries. This story shows some of the difficulties of being a good mom while sometimes having to play the bad guy in order to help your child grow.

  • My Monster Mama Loves Me So

    • My Monster Mama Loves Me So by Laura Leuck - This lovely and delightful picture book helps children to identify ways that they can tell their mom loves them - and is still an adorable read for adults.

    Have you read any of these books? What realistic moms do you enjoy reading about? What books give you a positive look at parenting? What books can you relate to as a parent?

    Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    April 24-hour Readathon!

    GUYS! I just signed up for my first Readathon and I couldn't be more excited.

    Every April and October, you can participate in Dewey's 24 hour readathon. Basically, you read ALL DAY, take breaks to tweet and blog, and eat lots of treats. It's a great opportunity to interact with the blogging community and to catch up on your TBR. This year, the readathon takes place on April 28th (mark your calendars!). And stay tuned on here for reading updates on the 28th (or check my Twitter for a live feed of my reading!)

    As I was wondering how to prep, I came upon this Ich Lese Blog post about how to prepare for the readathon. She suggests going through your TBR and getting a diverse set of books so you can jump around to different things as you get bored or tired. She also suggests stocking up on treats, which I highly recommend. In light of this wonderful advice, here are a few books (and snacks) that I'll be getting for the April 28th readathon (if I don't get around to them before that...).

    Stoner  Ship of Destiny (Liveship Traders, #3)  Saga, Vol. 4 (Saga, #4)  Catholic Roots, Mormon Harvest

    All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)  Eligible (The Austen Project, #4)  Diary of a Beatlemaniac: A Fab Insider's Look at the Beatles Era

    And now the snacks...

    Image result for mountain dew  Image result for gardettos  Image result for fruit rollups

    Image result for peppers bell  Image result for hummus

    How do you prep for a readathon? What books are you planning on reading for the upcoming readathon? What snacks are you going to get? How many readathons have you participated in?

    Tuesday, April 10, 2018

    Series Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

    Image result for mistborn

    I first read the first Mistborn trilogy years ago at a time when I had forgotten how much I love fantasy. This series definitely re-awakened that love in me and got me reading fantasy again and for that, I will always love it. After this series, Sanderson wrote another trilogy in the same world with the same magic system, but hundreds of years after the events of the first trilogy. He's apparently now working on a third trilogy in the same world with the same system. While these books are all considered part of the Mistborn series, I'm breaking them up by trilogy - and today, we're starting with the first trilogy. Here is the description from the first book (taken from Goodreads):

    In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

    In Brandon Sanderson's intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


    • UNIQUE MAGIC SYSTEM - This magic system blew my mind. Some people are born with the ability to ingest certain kinds of metals (just little flakes of them - not eating a block of titanium for breakfast) to use in various ways (i.e. pushing or pulling metals, influencing feelings, etc). A small group of these folks are able to ingest all the metals to use all the powers - and these people are called mistborns. It's an incredibly specific magic system that is a lot to understand when told outside the story, but Sanderson does an excellent job of making it easy to understand within the tale.
    • MEMORABLE CHARACTERS - Our main character, Vin, is tragic and tough and such an excellent heroine, especially as she develops and gets more in touch with her feelings. Kelsier, her mentor, is heroic and a bit reckless while still being a genius and revolutionary. Their band of misfits changes as the trilogy progresses, but each character is unique with memorable (and realistic) characteristics that make them grow dearer and dearer to the readers as time goes on. In addition, each character has an arc and has chances to grow and change throughout the books - for better or for worse. It's wonderfully refreshing to have characters as static as much as these characters are.
    • PLOT TWISTS - Sanderson is well-known for his twists and that was one of the impressive parts of this series to me. The first book all deals with trying to overthrow a despot. The remaining books confront the consequences of the characters' actions. Perhaps all is not as it seems, especially as you compare the beginning of the first book to the end of the third. The plot twists blow your mind - and completely make sense within the story.
    • TAKE PLACE IN A LARGER UNIVERSE - Sanderson is a unique writer in that he connects all his writings. Most of his work is connected by being in the same universe - or the Cosmere. As you read more of his work, there are small connections you can make. And it's rewarding to see characters or magic systems you loved being mentioned in other books.

    • SO MANY DETAILS - Sanderson's fan base is dedicated and really really REALLY in-depth. If you don't believe me, spend five minutes on 17th Shard's forum (the official fansite) - these people tear apart every word in each book to try piecing together what will happen in the future and all the details of each magic system. And this is the kind of series where you can do that. Even after reading most of Sanderson's work, I'm still a bit fuzzy on a lot of the details of how things ended up and why certain events were significant. While this confusion never detracted from the main plotline, it certainly made it difficult to completely understand the magic system or what exactly is going on for each character. Now, for some readers, this would be a pro, not a con. But for me, I don't want to have to read a paragraph 20 times to understand some small detail that hints at another book's future. I want to enjoy the series and the story and the people. 
    • BITTERSWEET - Each book ends on a twist, but some of those twists make you really really sad. Like the end of this series - some things work out perfectly and some people you really like die and it's so sad, but somehow not as sad as it could be and you're really glad they succeeded in some things, but it isn't as happy as you want it to be and there are too many emotions to handle.

    Have you read this series? What are your thoughts on it? What pros and cons would you add? What makes you want to read an epic fantasy series?

    Monday, April 9, 2018

    Music Monday #5

    Music Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren Stoolfire at Always Me that asks you to share one or two songs that you've recently enjoyed. For the rules, visit the page HERE

    I've loved participating in this meme - not only does it give me an opportunity to talk about one of my great loves (music snobbery for the win!), but I get to learn about new music from other people's posts and it just makes me happy.

    Lately, I've been really into this song by Gotye - it's older, but new to me and I'm so glad I got exposed to it.

    This next song is very very different, but I've been appreciating it lately in a very different way than the Gotye song. I'm still not entirely sure what this song is about, but it keeps getting stuck in my head - and I'm so grateful I discovered it.

    What have you been listening to lately? Do you listen to the bands I'm sharing today? What music recommendations would you give me based on these songs?

    Thursday, April 5, 2018

    On books to read if you enjoyed "Wild Bird" by Wendelin Van Draanen

    If you enjoy realistic contemporary YA about character overcoming shortcomings and learning from their mistakes, this is the blog post for you. If you're just someone who recently loved Wild Bird, you're also in luck - there are actually some similar books out there! 

    Wild Bird

    3:47 a.m. That's when they come for Wren Clemens. She's hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who've gone so far off the rails, their parents don't know what to do with them any more. This is wilderness therapy camp. 

    The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can't put up a tent. And bitter won't start a fire. Wren's going to have to admit she needs help if she's going to survive. 

    In her most incisive and insightful book yet, beloved author Wendelin Van Draanen's offers a remarkable portrait of a girl who too a wrong turn and got lost--but who may be able to find her way back again in the vast, harsh desert.

    • Bad by Jean Ferris - After getting caught robbing a convenience store, young Dallas is sent to a residential treatment center where she'll learn to confront the darkest parts of herself - and the decisions that led to her going to treatment. Both books are about girls who enter treatment because of their bad behavior - and their parents being unsure about how to deal with them.

    Challenger Deep
    • Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman - After a mental breakdown, Caden is sent to a psych ward to get his head back together. Caden encounters all sorts of characters on the psych unit, but he's also left to battle the demons in his head - all of which take the forms of a vicious sea captain and his heartless crew. This book differs from Wild Bird slightly - while it's still about a teen in treatment, Caden's reasons for entering treatment differ greatly from Wren's.

    The Rules of Survival
    • The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin - Matt is a teenager who essentially acts as a parent to his little sisters - and also as protector from their cruel and abusive mother. When their mom gets a new boyfriend who seems like he might be able to help the kids, Matt is stuck with a difficult decision - does he need to handle this on his own or is it time to get adults involved in protecting his sisters? Matt's situation is very different from the situation in Wild Bird, but it is still about a teenager dealing with problematic living situations and unhappy circumstances and having to decide to change and overcome those circumstances.

    What other books would you add to this list? Have you read any of the books on this list?

    Tuesday, April 3, 2018

    On bookish yarn projects #11

    If you're a bookish person with a love for crocheting, you need this book. Written by Cindy Wang (aka the Geeky Hooker), this book is full of crochet projects of book characters from classic novels - perfect to match your books while they wait on your shelves. Below are a few examples of the available patterns:

    Image result for literary yarns
    Captain Ahab and the White Whale from Moby Dick

    Image result for literary yarns
    Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables

    Image result for literary yarns
    Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter

    What bookish characters would you like to crochet? 

    Sunday, April 1, 2018

    Best and Strangest: March

    This month has been busy - school, work, family, trips out of town. With all that, I haven't had time to do nearly all the reading I've wanted to do (though let's be honest, I never get to do all the reading I want to do). However, I was still able to finish 11 books this month, which isn't a new record or anything, but is still pretty solid. Below are my picks for the best and strangest of the month, followed by all the other books I read in March:


    Alas, Babylon

    • Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank - This is a book that I can't believe I'd never heard of until now. It was recommended to me by a friend who grew up in Florida, where the novel is set (she actually grew up 20 or so miles from the town that the story focuses on). I wasn't sure what to expect of it, but I absolutely loved this book. The stories of survival after a nuclear apocalypse made me wonder how I'd survive in such a situation and prompted many interesting discussions with friends who had read it about what would be different today and what benefits we could get from our location. I've had this on my mind for weeks after reading it and that doesn't often happen to me with books. The Cellist of Sarajevo was a fascinating follow-up read.



    • Puckoon by Spike Milligan - Oh how I love David Bowie. I was delighted at the prospect of #BowieBookClub and I still am thoroughly enjoying, but Bowie and I have wildly different taste in books. Puckoon is full of British/Irish humor and would be bizarre just based on the wild plot (a town is accidentally divided down the middle in the midst of a war), but there are so many small additions that make it worth reading. My favorite part is Dan Milligan, who spends most of the novel being propelled into action by the author and complaining that the author made his legs look weird. If you want a bizarre read, look no further than this.


    Arrows of the Queen (Heralds of Valdemar, #1)

    Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal

    Wild Bird

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

    The Cellist of Sarajevo

    Redwall (Redwall, #1)

    The Sisters Mederos

    Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings

    The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists

    What have you read this month? What was your best read? Your strangest read? Have you read any of my March books?