Book Review: Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half
By Allie Brosh

My Edition:
Paperback, 369 pages
2013, Touchstone
ISBN: 9781451666175

Do you like funny stories about dogs, goose attacks, lies about how much someone enjoys hot sauce, identity, depression, getting lost in the woods and more dogs? Then you will probably like this book. Allie Brosh, from the blog Hyperbole and a Half, gives readers cleverly worded and charmingly illustrated anecdotes from both her childhood and adult life.

This was recommended to me by a friend when I asked her for a humor suggestion for my genre switch-up challenge. When I added this blog to my list I hadn’t ever read Brosh’s blog (and it doesn’t appear to be active anymore? And as funny as her work is, I’d prefer to read it in a book than stare at a computer screen for hours) though I had heard of it and seen her self-portrait before. Boy am I glad I picked up this book.

First off, it’s full color (most of the pages even have a solid background color!) and printed on nice glossy stock, so it’s also very heavy and could be used a weapon if necessary. I love the simplicity and MS Paint vibes of Brosh’s work and I know from browsing her (extensive!) FAQ page on her blog that she spends a lot of time on these drawings, calling it a “very precise crudeness” so if you think her work looks like shit, it’s on purpose!

More important than how this book looks, is how funny it is. Brosh tells incredible stories ranging from the strange things she did as a child (like lying about how much she liked hot sauce and eating her grandfather’s birthday cake – the entire thing), to her two hilarious (and terribly behaved) dogs, to how she deals with depression and self-identity. Most of these stories had me laughing out loud and even the way she speaks about depression, while meaningful and relatable, is also lighthearted to some degree.

I thought about quoting this book, but then I wanted to quote all of it, and then I realized that the pictures really do help emphasize her stories and I can’t quote those, so really, if you like to laugh, you should buy this book. It desperately makes me wish I was funny and that I’d done more strange things as a child so I could tell amusing stories and illustrate them. Basically, I need Brosh to write at least five more books, or publish her whole blog in book format or something because her work is awesome and I need more of it right now.

Check out her blog!

Book Review: Gone With The Wind

Gone With The Wind
By Margaret Mitchell

My Edition:
Paperback, 984 pages
2014, Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 978447264538

I can’t even blurb this book – but I assume most of you know the general plot. If not, Google will give you a better synopsis than I will because I’m too overwhelmed.

I seriously have no idea where to even begin with this review. This book gave me so many feels and had so many surprising events that it was a total emotional rollercoaster. I have watched the film, but it was back when I was in grade school so all I recall is Gable’s “don’t give a damn” line and Scarlett’s curtain dress. What I really remember is the hilarious Carol Burnett Went With The Wind’ sketch. I do plan to watch the movie sometime soon though.

After two months of reading (not daily though) and owning three different editions, I feel like I need another two months to process my thoughts. GWTW has to be the most epic book I’ve ever read or at least tied with the ASOIAF series, and not only was it physically heavy, but emotionally heavy as well. Woof!

Short and sweet: I absolutely loved it. 5/5 stars. There were a few bits that bored me, like the details of the battles (in this, I’m like Scarlett) and some of the family history. But Scarlett and Rhett are fabulously flawed characters and I wanted to kick the shit out of both of them and also desperately hoped they both got everything they ever wanted. The subject matter of the book is not always easy to read and it’s undeniably racist – but I like to think that Mitchell was not so much intentionally being racist as she was portraying some ideas that might have been felt by many southerners during the Civil War. It’s a tricky subject though and of course, I don’t pretend to know her motives, nor do I want to get into a debate about them. Regardless, the book is packed full of emotion and passion and, excluding the way the slaves were portrayed and treated, I think it’s fabulously written. I’m glad some of the lovely ladies I follow on Instagram did a read-along so I was finally motivated to read this.

Do I even want to try to write a long version? Going in, I had no idea what was in store for me in terms of plot or character development. I’m hesitant to discuss too much of the plot, lest I give anything away for those of you who, like Past Millie, still haven’t read this book.

In lieu of anything coherent, I’ll leave you with some of the notes I made on my phone that don’t contain major plot points:

Family heritage infodump – boring, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn
The BBQ, first big event – hark, a Rhett!
This book is racist
Good chemistry w/Rhett at confederate ball – Scarlett is a brat who made her own bed, yet I’m also rooting for her
Forget baby Wade exists until he interrupts scenes – kid is pathetic though not his fault
Ugh so racist
Scarlett is ruthless and cunning, yet ignorant and childish. She’s strong and fabulous and a total bitch
Her relationship with Rhett is fabulously annoying
She realizes that a woman can be strong and smart and do a man’s work – she’d been doing it unknowingly because she had to, but of course society doesn’t like that, her success seems to equal male failure and so those around her despise her. She’s supposed to quietly starve and wait for a man to save her
The stupid way they try to hide pregnancy, like, jfc, really?
She finally feels remorse…wait, nope
Will she and Rhett ever be together? Yeeep
Why did he marry her? Does he truly love her? He’s verbally/mentally abusive or just the biggest douchebag ever?
I just want Scarlett to learn a damn lesson!
This book is brutal
Scarlett is a bitch and cold hearted and money hungry, yet determined and hard working and a fighter, reputation be damned. Rhett is a cad and a prick and emotionally abusive but smart and proud that Scarlett is her own woman. They could have been happy if they’d let each other or stopped to understand each other even a little. I wanted them to get what’s coming to them, but hated it when it happened
They’re charming and infuriating and omg wtf was that ending?
This is not a love story! Lies!
Want to toss of cliff in the best way

If you’ve read GWTW, let’s chat!

Here are some bonus pictures of my editions – I have a crumbling old paperback (1970 Pocket Books) and a nice vintage copy (1955 Macmillan) that I started reading, but it was too musty and delicate for me to keep using. Therefore I had to buy a new Macmillan copy with Vivien Leigh’s gorgeous mug.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Ray Bradbury

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I don’t recall where I purchased these editions, but they were too pretty to resist. I’ve only ever read Fahrenheit 451 and I wish there was a matching edition of that because these covers are wonderfully designed. Both books were published in 2011 by Harper Perennial Modern Classics. The books are designed by Kellan Peck with a cover design by Adam Johnson. The Illustrated Man, ISBN: 9780062079978. The Martian Chronicles, ISBN: 9780062079930.

Book Review: A Pocket Full of Murder

A Pocket Full of Murder
By R.J. Anderson

My Edition:
Paperback, 368 pages
2016, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781481437721

Isaveth’s father has just been arrested for a murder she knows he didn’t commit. Determined to seek justice and prove her father’s innocence, she teams up with a wise street urchin and begins unraveling a plot that winds its way through the divide in social classes in her magical city of Tarrenton. The rich have all the magic they could want, while poor folk like Isaveth and her family can barely afford spells for heat and light. The unrest of the common citizens is at its boiling point and the murder pinned on her father will only make matters worse unless she can prove he didn’t do it.

-stares open-mouthed into the distance for a moment- Oh! I finally understand the title! Ahem, anyway.

I purchased this book at the same time as A Sliver of Starlight and if you’ve seen my Judging Post, you’ll know I was lured in by wonderful cover art. But I was also intrigued by the plot and A Pocket Full of Murder didn’t disappoint!

Here’s a middle-grade mystery adventure that deals with religious persecution, the struggle of the lower class, the use (and abuse) of welfare (known as “relief” in the book) and standing up for justice, no matter the cost. Looking back, there are some potentially heavy themes in this book, but they were folded neatly into the story of a young girl who aspires to uphold justice like her favorite champion in the talkie series and save her father.

Isaveth is lower class and she and her family struggle to make ends meet since the death of her mother and her father losing his job. On top of that, they are Moshites and because of their religious beliefs, they are often discriminated against. Anderson managed to write about Isaveth’s plights without feeling preachy or heavy handed and Isaveth is a determined, bright heroine.

The world Anderson created blends steam power (yes!) with magic to create a world similar to our own, yet also very Victorian feeling. I especially loved the baking element of magic. Different spells and potions are crafted before they can be used. The upper-class use a different type of magic because they have different materials available to them, like metals. Isaveth, unable to afford materials like that, follows her mother’s cookbook and through her “spell baking” she creates tablets and potions at home out of ingredients like flour and sunlight.

I’m very fond of the character names Anderson uses as well. I don’t know about you, but I’m very picky when it comes to character names. Especially in the fantasy genre, it can be hard to create an original or uncommon name without making the reader mentally choke on too many vowels or consonants (ie: Cealeanae from Throne of Glass). Isaveth, Mimmi, Annagail, Lilet, Eryx, Quiz – I liked them all!

If you’re looking for a magical mystery with a Victorian feel, I highly recommend this. I’ll be purchasing the sequel as soon as it’s in paperback – gotta make sure my editions match!

Check out Anderson’s website for more about her other books.

On Feels

After recently completing two books that gave me (very different) feels – Gone With The Wind and Armstrong & Charlie – I realized it’d been a while since a book truly moved me.

Some of you might be asking, what the fuck are feels?

-Puts on glasses and a tweed jacket- Well, class, “feels” is modern slang short for feelings. For example, if a book “gives you feels” or even “gives you all the feels”, it was a very emotional experience that is otherwise hard to describe. Now, I don’t classify anger at terrible writing as a feel, but some others may do so. Feels are open to interpretation, but for me, they encompass sadness and love and excitement and nostalgia and emotions along those veins. A book that gives me feels moves me in the best way (unlike books that move me to chuck them out my front door -cough-EdgeOfReason-cough-).

-Takes off glasses and tweed jacket- So, feels!

After finishing  Armstrong and Charlie and putting a cork in my waterworks, and finishing Gone With The Wind and wanting to hurl it off a cliff in the best way (yes, you can also want to throw around a book in a positive way, I’ve decided), I was reveling in all the feels I was feeling. I’ve read some excellent books this year (and I still want to scream in your face about how fantastic Warbreaker is) but nothing really hurt my heart or made me want to cry until the aforementioned books came into my life.

I missed having feels and it was great to be experiencing them once more. But I also realized, if most of the books I read treated me this way, I’d be fucking exhausted. I’d probably be an emotional wreck and a terror (or more of a terror, if you ask Sweetbeeps) to deal with and everyone around me would be like, Millie, get a friggen grip!

So like most things in life, there needs to be a balance. I’m glad that some books I read are mediocre, or some are awesome but not deeply emotional so that when I come across a book that gives me all the feels I can wallow in them without destroying my psyche.

I’ll wrap this up with an utterly random of some other books I’ve read that gave me feels: The Mists of Avalon, The Love Song of Queenie Hennessy (still can’t think about the ending without tearing up), Liesl and Po, Beastkeeper, Alias Hook, Pax, True Grit, The Road, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Monster Calls.

Do you tend to get the feels often? Do you agree with any of my recommendations? I’d love to hear what books give you feels so I can read them and feel more feels.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: Alice In Wonderland (XV)

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I saw this edition on Instagram a while back and made a note to try to find it, then forgot about it. Several months ago, the owner (@ursula_uriarte) posted details on her account and I was reminded of how much I wanted a copy. She suggested I contact the author, so I did and I was able to purchase a signed edition! Apparently, she had a Kickstarter for these a while back and had some leftovers. So happy to have this edition, as I’m wild about the art style. I wish I could frame, like, every picture. The illustrator is Tanika and this was printed in 2015 by MSK GmbH (Germany). My edition also came with a PDF copy which I selected German for because even though I can’t read it, it’s nice to have in the author’s native language.

Book Review: Armstrong & Charlie

pic from NetGalley

Armstrong & Charlie
By Steven B. Frank

My Edition,
ARC e-book, 304 pages
2017, HMH Books
ISBN: 9780544826083 (Hardcover)

Charlie is dreading sixth grade because when he completes it, he’ll be older than his brother Andy who passed away recently. To make matters worse, right before school starts, Charlie finds that most of his friends have switched to different schools. Armstrong has found out he’ll be attending a new school as well, courtesy of the new Opportunity Busing Program – he’ll be joining Charlie’s formerly all-white school and both boys will have a tough time adjusting.

Armstrong & Charlie is one of those books that I greatly enjoyed and just can’t find the words in me for a good review. I hate when this happens because we all know I can rant for days about terrible books, yet there are times when I read something I would gladly recommend and I choke up! Ugh! -_-

This book is set in the 1970s in California, which is a big change of scenery for me, especially for middle-grade. Armstrong and a handful of other students were selected to be bussed to Charlie’s school, Wonderland. This is a new experience for both boys and on the first day of school, perhaps because tensions are high and perhaps because the students are afraid of being misunderstood, Charlie and Armstrong get off on the wrong foot. This starts a feud between the two of them that carries itself throughout the school year, slowly morphing into a solid friendship.

I wanted to slap both boys just as much as I wanted to see them get the upper hand over the other. Charlie and Armstrong are both clever and stubborn and Armstrong’s wit had me laughing several times.

Towards the end I wanted to cry, but Sweetbeeps was in the room and while he wouldn’t have minded my waterworks, he would have been confused as to why I was sitting in front of my laptop sniveling and then I would have had to explain like, the whole book, and he wouldn’t have had time for that, so I just bottled it up.

I know this review is basically rubbish very vague as far as giving you any information on what I liked, but I warned you! I just want to shout in your face that I love this book. I found it poignant and funny and I think that this is a book that perfectly captures that awkward time in sixth grade where you’re not quite a little kid anymore, but also not a teenager yet. The running theme throughout the book is “different, yet the same” which is something we all could think about more often when it comes to our social interactions with others. This is an excellent contemporary (wait, is it still contemporary if it’s set over 40 years ago?!) read if you’re looking for strong social themes in your middle-grade or a story line that is a little deeper and more meaningful. Again, sorry this review is so awkward! But I really enjoyed the hell outta this book!

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions in this post are my own.
Steven has a great looking website and he talks a little there (and in the note in the back of his book) about how he experienced the start of the Opportunity Busing program at his middle school and the friends he made because of that change.

Book Review: Piratica II & III

Piratica II: Return to Parrot Island
(Being: The Return of a Most Intrepid Heroine to Sea and Secrets)
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Hardcover, 320 pages
2006, Dutton Children’s Books
ISBN: 0525477691

Art and Felix return to the sea with their old crew, this time as privateers in the government’s employ, to fight against Franco-Spainia in support of a revolution for the people. Not only does she have some new crew members, but she also has orders, and struggles to bend to the will of her employers and stay true to her code: never kill.

Sequels are always hard to talk about, but I’m going to do my best to avoid a lot of plot points.

I was excited for more Art and Felix…and Ebad and Honest…and Dirk and Whuskery (they are the bro-est of bros and possibly romantically involved, or at least easy to imagine that way, which is wonderful) and of course Plunqwette and Muck. The new crew members were too numerous and oddly-named for me to really absorb any of them, so at times it was hard to picture what was going on when new faces were involved. There’s also another female pirate, Mr. (Belladora) Bell, who adds a little tension between newly married Art and Phoenix. Goldie Girl is back as a low-key villain as well, and we meet a new face, Mary Hell.

The drama in this book mainly revolves around Art and Felix realizing they have different visions for their lives together and Art’s desperation to return to sea upsets Felix, especially because she’s involved herself in a war where casualties are inevitable. The couple also seems to have a lot of moments where they don’t understand each other, or really even stop and try to, and I think this added some realism to their relationship. Despite spending the first book together, they didn’t get to know all that much about each other and it makes sense that they might now question if they really are a good match.

Art is less of a wunderkind this time around – she’s unsure of herself and her judgments and she finds herself making mistakes. She thought she could avoid the war and somehow get back to the crew’s old adventures, but instead, finds herself in situations where she might have to break her rule about never taking a life or sinking another ship. Again, I think this gives Art more depth.

We get more perspectives in this book too, aside from just Art. Of course, there’s Felix again, but we get a look at what’s going on with the English naval officers, Parliament (which is actually called the House of Talking or something similar, lol) and even Muck!

I also want to add that the English naval ship names had me laughing. Here are some standout examples (playing on the idea that something happened when the captains, or whoever, were christening their ships, interrupting true names): Lily Achoo, Is That A Wasp, Ow Blast, I Knew I Shouldn’t Have Had That Last Sausage. Is That A Wasp gets me laughing the most because I can picture myself going to name a ship and then suddenly noticing a nearby bug. The end battle was a bit hard to follow because so many ships were involved and I really only cared about Art’s.

This is a solid sequel and if you enjoyed the first book, I recommend you keep reading.

~

Piratica III: The Family Sea
(Being The Gallant Take of a Fearless Heroine and a Fatal Secret)
By Tanith Lee

My Edition:
Paperback, 396 pages
2007, Hodder Children’s Books
ISBN: 9780340930854

After assisting England in the war, Art and Felix have returned home to raise their daughter, Africa. But Art yearns for the sea and when the couple finds their assets suddenly seized by the government, Art takes the opportunity to rejoin her crew, or some of them anyway, once again. This time she’s hired to guide the brother of an old crew member to the famed Parrot Island in search of further treasures.

Alright, I’ll admit I know next to nothing about the publishing world, but I’m mad that Dutton didn’t publish this in hardcover with the art that matches the first two! Nothing is worse than not being able own a matching series because some books simply don’t exist in that design! Argh! My solution is to also buy the Hodder paperbacks of the first two books so that I at least have one matching set. Not that I need an excuse to buy more Tanith books, or multiple copies of her books!

Right, on to the actual review. This book was bittersweet. It’s the end of a trilogy (and sadly with Tanith’s passing, no hope of it ever being revived -sob-) and it did not at all turn out how I expected.

There’s drama once more between Art and Felix regarding her obsession with the sea and her aversion to their daughter. To me, it seemed that Art was suffering from post-partum (I could be wrong), though there wasn’t a lot of depth brought into this aspect, perhaps because the novel is geared towards middle-grade/teens.

Man, it’s hard not to give away the plot. Let’s see…we get some new characters again, namely Moira, Queen of Scotland. I didn’t really care for her – she just didn’t leave an impression on me. And also for other reasons that are plot related that I won’t talk about.

It also seems that each book delves more into the viewpoints of characters aside from Art and I think we spent just as much time looking through the eyes of others than we did of Art, if not more. In this book, I’m not sure it worked as well though. I wasn’t excited by what other characters were experiencing through and I just wanted more Art.

The ending – ugh. Art is very changed from who she was at the start of the first book and it’s sad but in a good way. I was kind of left thinking “What? That’s it?!” and yet I enjoyed the slightly tortured feeling. Gaahd, I wish we could get more from this series, with a slightly older Art, like mid to late twenties. :[

This book was less atmospheric than its predecessors though, and that might be due to the constant location changes.  I hate to say, but the finale was middle of the road for me. This is still an awesome, fun and witty series that I would recommend in a heartbeat, and I think the conclusion is worth reading, it’s just not as gripping.

Judging A Book By Its Cover: The Secret Books Of Venus

This is my weekly post where I highlight and appreciate cover designs and the general physical appearance of books. We all judge book covers to some extent. I can’t say that I’ve ever decided against a book with terrible cover art if I liked the sound of the plot, but I have purchased special editions of books or multiple editions of books based on their cover art. If book covers didn’t matter, publishers wouldn’t put out so many beautiful editions!

I’m excited because I recently found a copy of Venus Preserved in good used condition (like new, really) and that completed my set for the Secret Books of Venus. Owning the two omnibus editions wasn’t enough because I prefer to read each book alone (also they’re more portable that way), so I set out to own each individual book. I’m not sure if other collections of cover art even exist, but I naturally had to have matching editions as well. Someday I’ll actually read the series!

The paperbacks are all published by Overlook Press, with cover designs by Yellowstone Ltd. and cover illustrations by J.K. Potter. The omnibus editions are published by SFBC Fantasy with cover art by Gary Lippincott.

Faces Under Water – 1998, ISBN: 1585672459
Saint Fire – 1999, ISBN: 1585674257
A Bed of Earth – 2002, ISBN: 1585674559
Venus Preserved – 2003, ISBN: 1585676535
1 & 2 Omni – 1999, ISBN: 073940699x
3 & 4 Omni – 2003, ISBN: 0739438425

                                                              hello, I’m full of glare

                                                                    me too!

Managing Your Hoard – Er – Library

For those of you who have a rather expansive hoard library like myself with a (possibly unreadably) large TBR pile, it can sometimes be tough to not only store your books but keep track of which ones you own and what book to read next.  Just wanted to share my thoughts on what it’s like to have a big personal library.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that I log all of my books on LibraryThing and that mostly keeps me from accidentally buying multiple copies of the same book (excepting, of course, when I purposely buy multiple copies). However, the site only works when I actually remember to check it. Sometimes I pick up a book and it sounds familiar, so I check my library. Other times, nothing about the book sounds at all familiar, so I buy it, then when I get home and log it on the site I get the notification that I already own a copy! This is rare and so far has only happened with books that I’ve yet to read, but still.

As for storing my books, well, I’ve mostly given up trying for any semblance of order. We have bookshelves all over the house and they’re all double stacked and vertically and horizontally stacked and generally cluttered. I’m actually pretty good at remembering where certain books are (or at least what shelf they’re on) but I know to the outside eye my collection is a hot mess – or maybe it has a quaint, homey, used bookstore kind of vibe.

I’d love to roughly categorize them and alphabetize them, but I would need a literal library for that, with room to grow. I do have a shelf that is strictly vintage books. And a couple cubbies on other shelves that are dedicated to comics, middle grade and historical fiction, but those types of books can also be found on other shelves.

Recently I culled about 80 books from the hoard, followed by another 20 about a month or two later. I rearranged several shelves and managed to spread out some books from overcrowded shelves. After sinking some time into this, I stood back proudly, hands on hips, feeling accomplished and said to Sweetbeeps: “See, doesn’t that look much better?”

To which his reply was a blank stare and a muttered: “Well, to you I’m sure it does. Honestly, I can’t tell.”

Womp!

I still feel good about my purge (which went a long way in telling myself it was okay to purchase sixteen books during Book Outlet’s recent sale) and lately, I have been trying to be more selective about which books I buy. I try to take a moment to consider the plot and if I’ll really make an effort to read it – though it could still sit on my shelf for a million years even if I’m making an effort – and I have managed slow down my buying by a teeeeeeny bit. Progress, right?

My TBR will forever be a mess and even my attempts at making a “priority TBR” (some of which is featured at the top of this post) and a log of books I received specifically for review don’t do much to keep me on track. I’ll always read what I want when I want and buy too many books. I’m ok with this.

So tell me, if you have a massive collection of books, read or unread, how do you manage to store them, organize them, and pick what you’re going to read next? Do you live with people that understand your hoarding, or at least put up with it? Pleeeeaaaase tell me I’m not alone!