notemily

I am often mistaken for a librarian.

thoughts while reading hyperbole and a half

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened - Allie Brosh So this depression part is really hard for me to read. I'd read it before online, but somehow in the book it was harder to turn the page than I'd anticipated. Because I remember that shit. I remember trying to do enjoyable things and wondering why they weren't enjoyable anymore. I still have weird aversions to things I tried doing at the time, because they sucked, and even though that's not their fault (sorry, books I picked up while depressed and never finished), I still associate them with bad things. And now I'm someone who, while not entirely un-depressed, at least knows what un-depressed looks like. I know that it's possible for me to be okay. So now I'm worried that I'm one of those "positive thinking" people who tries to tell other people that everything's all right when it really, really isn't. I have to remember to not do that. Because my main argument against letting depression continue is that it's stealing my life. Every time I get out of a bout of depression, I'm like "I could have been doing so much more with those days." But I never feel this way WHILE it's going on. I only feel it when I'm on the other side and I can look back and marvel at how low I was. They've done studies that emotions are tied to memory. When you're depressed, all you know is depression. You don't feel like you'll ever get out of it because you can only imagine yourself in a depressed state. You think about all the bad things that have ever happened to you and forget about the good ones. So someone saying "you should work on getting un-depressed so you can actually live your life!" makes no sense because living life at that point doesn't seem like a worthwhile goal. So I have to remember not to say that. Reading this also makes me feel slightly panicky, as if by reading about depression I'm inviting it in, and it's going to grab me again and not let go.

A small complaint.

The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert The End of Everything: A Novel - Megan Abbott The Beginning of Everything - Robyn Schneider The Interruption of Everything [Hardcover] by McMillan, Terry - Terry McMillan The Truth of All Things - Kieran Shields

I want to talk about titles. Can we ban "of everything" and "of all things" from book titles (or at least novel titles)? They're so all-encompassing as to be entirely meaningless. It's gotten so I'm slightly offended when I see a book with such a title because it sounds like the title was focus-grouped. Isn't one of the generally accepted rules of writing to be specific? Why does that not extend to titles?

SPOILER ALERT!

So I keep thinking about The Husband's Secret. [MAJOR SPOILERS]

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty

I kind of want some fanfic or something about Polly, dealing with the loss of her arm, growing up. Does she blame her parents? Does she ever find out what her father did (or thinks he did--thanks epilogue)? Does she hold resentment towards Rachel? What is she like as a teenager? Is she filled with anger, or does she accept her situation as best she can? How do her sisters react?

 

I hate all the "we can't tell the children because CHILDREN" hand-wringing in this book. CHILDREN KNOW THINGS. They can sense it, as Tess sees that Liam senses there was a problem between her and Will. And if you don't tell them straight up, they're going to find out some other way, and they'll resent you for not being honest with them. Like seriously, the reason John-Paul doesn't confess (and Cecelia doesn't ask him to) is because they don't know how they would tell the kids. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? I hate the idea that their kids grew up never knowing this shit, always wondering what their dad's black moods were about and why their parents had so much tension in their marriage, maybe even blaming themselves. How much do you want to bet Polly is going to blame herself for her parents' problems? She gets in an accident and all of a sudden they hate each other. She won't remember that the problems started a week earlier than the accident.

 

At the end of the book, literally the last line, the author says some secrets are better left hidden, "just ask Pandora." Okay. Secrets about your sex life? Secrets about how you secretly dislike someone you have to spend lots of time with? Medical problems? Sure, keep those to yourself. Secrets about MURDER? A LITTLE MORE IMPORTANT. The author writes this whole book on secrets and what happens when a secret is found out, and then ends it by implying it should have stayed secret forever? Grrrr.

 

So I kind of want a second-generation book that talks about Polly coping with finding out what happened. Who knows, maybe Rachel tells her.

 

I'm not sure what the point of Tess's "oops this kid might be someone else's" ending was, but that'd make a good second-generation story as well. Kid needs a kidney or something and finds out her dad isn't actually her dad. Oops.

 

Big, important things shouldn't stay hidden. Get that shit out in the open, so at least you know what you're dealing with.

The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty I'm still not sure how I feel about this book. I don't read a lot of straight-up realistic fiction that doesn't have a modifier such as "historical" or "YA" in front of it. It's definitely well-written and tightly plotted, but I'm not feeling the OMG FIVE STARS vibe from it. More like three and a half, if Goodreads had half-stars.

This book is certainly compelling. For the first part of the book you want to know the secret, and once you know the secret, you want to find out what happens and how these people's lives will be turned upside down by it. The suspense is such that I finished it in a day, because I HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN.

Things I like: Interconnected stories. Three women tell this story, and their lives cross in various ways throughout the novel. One of the stories (Tess) felt somewhat disconnected from the others, though, since it didn't have to do with the Big Secret. I expected her to get more involved in the lives of the other two women, but instead she just had her own storyline going on. It wasn't a bad story, mind. I just wasn't sure why it had to be in this book.

Things I like: Realistic details. There are all the great details you expect from good realistic fiction--descriptions that pull you into the setting, a bit of humor, and plenty of moments that have you going "that's SO TRUE!" I've never been to Sydney, and the idea of Easter in fall is weird to me, but I felt like I was there in that one week while the leaves turned and the kids hunted for eggs.

Things I don't like: Improbable coincidences. There are a bunch of them sprinkled throughout this book. The climax hinges on one, and the Big Secret hinges on one. I understand that part of the point of the book is events coming together in just such a way that something improbable happens, and if one of those elements had been different, the future would have taken an entirely different turn. But at some point, I start finding it difficult to suspend my disbelief.

Things I would like to say to every adult in this book: TELL THE KIDS. TELL THE FUCKING KIDS. Every kid in this book KNOWS there's something going on with the adults, but none of the adults will just fucking TELL THEM, preferring to protect them from the truth. Except they know there's something! They can sense when there's drama, so you're not really shielding them from anything, just keeping them in the dark. They're going to find out eventually, and not from you, and they'll feel betrayed. Isn't it better to just be straight with them? It'll give them something really juicy to tell their therapists when they're older.

I have Eleanor & Park stuck in my head.

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

I don't know what it is about them but they won't leave. I heard two random pop songs on the radio on the way home, and both of them made me go "OMG this is perfect for them!" One of them was talking about green eyes and wanting to know you better (this is apparently Taylor Swift), and the other was I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER, something about holding hands. Now EVERY song is reminding me of them and I'm making playlists in my head. (Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks" is so obviously an Eleanor song.) It's like when you have a crush on someone and every song reminds you of them and you just want to find excuses to insert them into every possible conversation.

 

I still want to know what happened to the little gray cat, what the postcard said, and how in hell Rainbow Rowell makes holding hands sound so sexy.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
GROSS SOBBING.

I can't even. I just can't. I love Eleanor. This book broke my heart. Fuck.
 
Chimes at Midnight - Seanan McGuire Every time I finish one of these books, I want to go back and read the entire series to look for clues I've missed. I love the way each book answers some old questions and raises new ones, enriching and expanding the world of Faerie. And I love the Luidaeg, so much--the way she's slowly becoming a bigger part of the mythology that underpins the series, the glimpses we get of what she was like before we "met" her, and her unusual friendship with Toby. I could read an entire series just about the Luidaeg.

So did anyone NOT know who Quentin's parents were since long before they started this book? Yeah, I didn't think so. It was still cool to find out, though, and we finally get some of the answers to one of the questions that's been unanswered since the first book--that is, WTF is up with the Queen. Not ALL of the answers, of course, because that would be too easy.

New characters in this book: Arden Windermere is pretty awesome. Madden was delightful in his own doggy way--I loved him looking forward to a ginger biscuit. Mags, the Librarian, was great and reminded me of a lot of librarians I know: she's always hoping someone will ask her a really interesting reference question.

Things still unsolved: What's up with Marcia looking like she's seen a ghost when she encounters Arden? Who was the old Queen really, and why did she never tell anyone her real name? What did Eira do that was so awful? Is Toby really part human or was she born truly Fae (as Arden and the Luidaeg imply), and if she's the latter, who is her actual father? Why did Amandine withdraw to her tower? And, I'm sure, a bunch of other things that I'm forgetting.

Also, how do you REALLY pronounce Luidaeg? That pronunciation guide in the book is obviously fucking with us. "K" is not a syllable.

I think this will turn out to be one of my favorites in the series.
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps - Kelly Williams Brown I have mixed feelings on this book. I wanted to love it, but mostly I just kept wishing it was written by Captain Awkward. (Sidenote: WHY HASN'T CAPTAIN AWKWARD WRITTEN A BOOK YET.) I've learned more about being an adult from that blog than from anything in this book.

I was actually enjoying this book a lot until I got to "Step 276: Keep an eye on weight gain." *insert scratching record noise* Wait, what? I thought I was reading a chill book and now it's going to fat-shame me? Especially after I LOVED "Step 103: Curb your instinct to comment on other people's bodies aloud." How about you curb YOUR instinct to tell me what to do with my body, book. News flash: There are fat adults. There are fat adults who are very good at being adults. Being fat is not a character flaw. Tell me to eat real food, tell me to exercise if you must, but don't tell me not to be fat.

Also, since when are prenatal vitamins "critically necessary" for women even if you're not going to get pregnant anytime soon? I don't consider shiny hair and strong nails to be "critically necessary," but they're the only justifications provided for that particular bit of advice.

That said, this book did contain some actual useful advice, especially in the practical arenas of cooking, cleaning, moving house, etc. It's when the book gets into more personal arenas that I start to disagree with it. A lot of that stuff is much more subjective, and the advice in those areas isn't going to work for everyone, yet the author acts like it will. Still, maybe it's helpful for those ten years younger than I am who are just beginning to figure this stuff out, and I'm just coming at it from my own perspective about what works and doesn't work for my personal adult life.

I did like a lot of the humor in this book. Choice quote: "Dryers are like the American presidency. Clothing goes in looking youthful and vigorous, and emerges slumped and gray-haired."

Also, she's right about the Scorpios.
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) - Hilary Mantel This book doesn't take place in Wolf Hall at all!

No but for serious, this is excellent stuff, and I fear some of it goes over my head. I feel I would need to read it a couple more times to really get it. The writing is beautiful, and Mantel succeeds where many writers of fiction about historical figures fail: she makes the characters seem real, seem human. Some of the best characters were Cromwell's wards, his surrogate sons and his real one. I want a book about Rafe now. Or, failing that, one about Marlinspike.

Yes, the book can be confusing, especially since everyone is named Thomas, Mantel eschews quotation marks for dialogue as often as she uses them, and you have to keep in mind that the word "he" always refers to Cromwell unless stated otherwise. (I actually wondered at one point if she had originally written the book in first person and then gone back and changed "I" to "he" everywhere.) It's sometimes difficult to tell who is speaking. But the character of Cromwell makes slogging through all that worth it for me. He is a character, for the most part, without blinders or rose-colored glasses. He has no illusions about the world. He is a man who Knows What Must Be Done to get a certain outcome, and he does it, unafraid to get his hands dirty with the grunt-work. He is not flawless--sometimes he's a bit oblivious to the emotions of those around him. I like that Mantel telegraphs them to us, the readers, even though Cromwell doesn't think about them until they're shoved in his face.

I'm reading this book on a sort of odyssey into fiction about 15th-16th century England, in hopes of gaining some kind of Understanding of the period. It was a time of fundamental uncertainty, in which you had to change rapidly with the times, and those who couldn't change, or refused to change, often met with bloody ends. The book ends with Cromwell at the peak of his power, but we know he doesn't stay there. Interested to see where the next book goes.
The Other Boleyn Girl - Philippa Gregory I started reading Philippa Gregory with the Cousins' War series, and I liked those well enough. I didn't understand why all the reviews were so scathing and disappointed.

Well, now I get it. This book is worlds better than PG's most recent books. WORLDS. The characters feel like real people, not like puppets of historical figures. The writing is rich with description and detail. The dialogue is snappier and more natural. Compared to this, her recent books seem flat and uninteresting.

(Which is really a shame, because I love the Wars of the Roses era, while Tudor stuff doesn't interest me quite as much. If anyone knows of great books set in 15th-century England, please let me know.)

This book is the best kind of historical soap opera. There are beheadings, poisonings, possible incest, illicit gay affairs, secret pregnancies, and scandals galore. (I don't much care how accurate it all is, because it makes for great storytelling.) Mary Boleyn makes a great protagonist to witness all of this. While she starts out young, naive, and excited by all the flirting and glamour of the court, she quickly becomes disillusioned when her family uses her as a pawn to get themselves closer to the throne. Her own happiness matters not a bit to any of them, least of all Anne, her sister and rival, who schemes and manipulates her way into the king's favor at any cost.

It takes a long time, since she's naturally obedient and trusting, but eventually Mary develops the confidence to fight for her own happiness, and realizes there are more important things in life than being a Boleyn or being close to the king. Her simple romance and her times at her farmland home provide a welcome contrast to the glitzy, cutthroat world of the royal court. PG's later books could benefit from more depictions of life outside of court and away from royalty, I think, but that's hard to do when you make your protagonist a member of the royal family, as most of the Cousins' War protagonists are.

The heavy-handed foreshadowing that Gregory is so fond of is present in this book, but it doesn't go overboard. I do like the parts when everyone says Anne's baby is worthless because it's a girl. Um, I'm pretty sure that girl will grow up to prove you wrong a hundred times over.
The Kingmaker's Daughter (Cousins' War) - Philippa Gregory Poor Anne Neville. It was not fun to be the daughter of the Kingmaker, the man who changed sides so easily in the hope of being the power behind the throne. She followed her father in his loyalties--what else could she do?--until he died and she was finally free to make her own choice.

Or was she? I enjoyed the courtship of Anne and Richard as portrayed in this book. It was delightfully romantic, but underneath that, some part of Anne understood that she was never truly free to make her own choices, that she was always a piece in someone else's game. She clung to Richard as her savior, but he was the only option she had. I like to think that they loved each other, but it seems realistic that there must have always been doubt in her mind, given all the scheming and dealing that went on during the Cousins' War.

Maybe it's just that I read [b:The White Queen|5971165|The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348040140s/5971165.jpg|13560666] first, but I can't see Elizabeth Woodville as the villainous witch* she's portrayed as here. I realize that this is how Anne might have seen her, but I still don't understand the enmity towards her and her family that everyone (except Edward) seems to have felt. So she had a big family and she wanted to use her position as queen to give them advantageous places in society. Wouldn't you? She had power, and she used it, and in my mind, she won. I know she lost her first husband in battle and her second husband to illness (or possibly poison), and her sons, father, and brothers to the wars, but she died in her bed, at a respectable age for the time, having seen her daughter crowned queen. And her blood still runs in the royal family today. I'd say she did pretty well.

*(The magic stuff annoys me in this book way more than it did in The White Queen, because in TWQ we actually see the magic being done, while in this book I just want to shake everyone and scream MAGIC DOESN'T EXIST at them. Your sickly son suddenly dies? GEE MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE HE WAS SICKLY. Your sword arm hurts? MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE YOU HAVE SCOLIOSIS, RICHARD. I know, I know, they had no idea about medicine and shit. STILL.)

The story takes us up to the very end of Anne Neville's life, which I like, since many of the books in this series seem oddly unfinished. Since we know Anne didn't live to see her husband defeated by Henry Tudor, it doesn't seem unfinished to end the book before that happens. I think I'd rank this somewhere between The White Queen and [b:The Lady of the Rivers|9542439|The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War, #3)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327946219s/9542439.jpg|14428801] in quality.
The Lady of the Rivers (The Cousins' War, #3) - Philippa Gregory I think [a:Philippa Gregory|9987|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1351685194p2/9987.jpg] does her best work when she stays away from the royals themselves and makes her protagonists less well-known characters--basically, because she's allowed to make more stuff up. In some of her books, it feels like her characters are just biding their time until the next historical event happens. There are points in this book that feel that way, but by choosing Jacquetta of Luxembourg as her protagonist, Gregory allows herself the space to tell some compelling stories.

The romance between Jacquetta and Richard Woodville is utterly charming, and it's the book's greatest strength, in my opinion. It produced no less than fourteen children, so their marriage must have been a passionate one, and Gregory makes their story into a lovely fairy tale. I liked those bits the best, especially towards the beginning of the story, when they were falling in ~forbidden love~ with each other because she was a duchess and he was a lowly squire.

However, the rest of the book chronicles England's descent into the Wars of the Roses, and it's a depressing tale of crisis after crisis and battle after battle, with the victor switching from York to Lancaster and back again. Imagine how depressing it must have been to live in such a country. Jacquetta sticks close to Queen Margaret of Anjou for most of the book, so we get to see the queen through her eyes. We also see poor Henry VI and his descent into... whatever it was that plagued him. (My pet theory: encephalitis lethargica, with post-encephalitic parkinsonism.) It's a sad, bitter tale of a royal couple who are utterly unable to rule their country with anything close to fairness, Henry because he's barely aware of anything but his own prayers, and Margaret because she has made so many enemies and is determined to punish them all with death. The Yorks, on the other hand, are for the most part merciful and just, and run the country much better than the king and queen do. It's hard not to cheer for them, even though Jacquetta and her family are honor-bound to remain on the Lancaster side for as long as possible.

Philippa Gregory really, really likes to write about Jacquetta's visions and premonitions (and later, her daughter Elizabeth's), and they are always right, and it gets a bit tiring after a while. Like, of course she's always right, because you already know what happens, and WE already know what happens, so it's not actually that impressive. I did, however, enjoy the bits with the tarot cards and Fortune's Wheel. It's a good theme for the Wars of the Roses, since pretty much anyone involved in them rose and fell on the wheel multiple times before it was all over. Margaret of Anjou makes such an awful ruler because she can't accept any sort of defeat or loss. Henry VII in [b:The White Princess|12326627|The White Princess (The Cousins' War, #5)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1361537023s/12326627.jpg|17305270] is similar, and a ruler who must win at any cost, even the cost of the fair and just governing of their own country, is not what any country needs. Cough cough, American Republicans.

Some of the visions are annoying because they don't come true until chronologically later books in the series, and the book ends right as the events of [b:The White Queen|5971165|The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348040140s/5971165.jpg|13560666] begin, which is an odd place to end. The book gets away from this a bit, but its main theme at first is that women who desire power, or dare to wield it, get punished severely. (The book opens with Jacquetta witnessing the burning death of Joan of Arc, and reflecting that the execution is public in order to show young women like her the consequences of attempting to be a powerful woman in a man's world.) Jacquetta fears being tried for witchcraft herself, but we never get to the point in her story when she actually is, so it feels half-finished.

Anyway, I have two minor logistical complaints to mention: The family tree in the front of my edition says that Jacquetta's son Louis died in infancy, when in fact he doesn't die until age twelve. And secondly, a character uses the phrase "can't tell a hawk from a handsaw" to refer to Henry VI, which is ridiculous because that phrase comes from Hamlet, and Shakespeare wouldn't be born for another hundred years. I can generally forgive the modern language in the book because it would be nearly unreadable otherwise, but don't use obvious Shakespearean phrases in a pre-Shakespeare novel!

On to [b:The Kingmaker's Daughter|12326644|The Kingmaker's Daughter (The Cousins' War #4)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1332688725s/12326644.jpg|17305288] and Anne Neville! I'm reading these in no order whatsoever.
The White Princess - Philippa Gregory The "White Queen" TV show has reignited my obsession with the fifteenth century, so here I am again devouring Philippa Gregory books. Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about British history and history in general, so I can't speak to the historical accuracy of this book.

This one is compelling, but also pretty depressing. It continues where [b:The White Queen|5971165|The White Queen (The Cousins' War, #1)|Philippa Gregory|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348040140s/5971165.jpg|13560666] left off, this time with Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII, as our protagonist. Even though Henry VII is an asshole, to his wife and to his country, it's fascinating to watch his descent into absolute paranoia, as he becomes convinced that everyone he knows is trying to bring him down and put a York king on the throne. Honestly, with everyone who was trying to take his throne, I'm kind of surprised that he kept it.

The story of the missing princes in the Tower also continues, with the younger prince, Richard, haunting Henry at every turn, either as someone else pretending to be him, or (maybe) as himself, miraculously having survived his imprisonment in the Tower. Gregory has Elizabeth Woodville switch Richard out with an impostor in The White Queen, and she strongly implies that he comes back in this book as "Perkin Warbeck." From what I understand--again, not a history expert--the "official" version of the Perkin Warbeck story has so many holes in it that it's almost certainly not the actual truth of whoever this young man was, so I have no problem with Gregory proposing that he was Richard of York. Honestly, it's as likely an ending as any other one to the Princes in the Tower story. Certainly at the time, enough people believed he was Richard (or wanted a York king and thought he was close enough), and threw their support behind him, that he was a giant inconvenience to Henry.

Elizabeth grows more and more horrified as her husband becomes obsessed with this boy to the point of taxing the country into starvation in order to finance wars against his supporters, and executing anyone who has anything to do with him. She compares him to her father, Edward IV, who ruled so easily because people loved him, while Henry is basically trying to bully the entire country into supporting him. It's easy to hate Henry, but the book ends on a poignant note, as he realizes just how far his obsession has taken him and the price he has had to pay for his kingship.
Along for the Ride - Sarah Dessen Like all of my favorite YA books, Sarah Dessen's books make me want to be a teenager again. To have that transformative experience that comes when everything in your life is changing, and you can't help but change, too.
The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen Dear Sarah Dessen, HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SO GOOD. NO BUT FOR REAL THOUGH. Sincerely, a fan who read almost all of this book in one sitting and cried like a baby.
Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism - James W. Loewen This is a difficult book to read. Not the language, or the way it's written (although the endnotes are annoying; I recommend using two bookmarks), but the subject matter. Loewen lays out, in methodical detail, all of the ways white Americans have utterly screwed over black Americans with residential segregation. If you had any illusions about America being "post-racial," they will be shattered by this book.

This is absolutely essential reading for every white American. I wish they taught this book in schools.