Since my last check-in post, I read one of the books on my list, bringing my total read to six out of twenty-four and my total attempted to nine. 1/4 read! I’ll take it.
Here are the books on my list:
1. I already posted this on Twitter and Facebook, so I’m also posting here. But a few years ago, I did a 32 things to do before I turn 33 project, and I’m looking to do something similar for my 40th birthday. I am looking for suggestions of cool things to do by my 40th birthday or before my 40th year is up (this is still very much in the conception stage, obvs.)
I did wind up completing quite a few things on my 32 list, so I need to rebuild. Here are some things I’m already planning to do/considering doing:
NOTE: I am not jumping off a bridge or out of a plane, so please do not suggest bungee jumping or skydiving. They are both an automatic no. Anything else will be seriously considered! So please post some suggestions in the comments.
I live in the L.A. area if that has any impact on what you might suggest.
Which is why, after saying I was back to my regular blogging schedule I…didn’t post anything last week. And this post is a day late. Oops? NO EXCUSE, amirite? Especially since my students had their second blog posts due then. Oh well. I’m here now and that’s all that matters. (Also, to be fair, I did post twice that other week.)
So, a lot has happened since my last post:
1. I actually finished two books!
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well, the darkest timeline is SUPER dark, which I wasn’t really prepared for.
The best part of this book is the development of the relationships of the characters we know in the movie, especially connecting Cassiem (the first thief Jafar takes to the Cave of Wonders) to Aladdin (even if it does completely blow the canon from the third movie. And yes that is an actual thought I had. I know the straight-to-video sequels suck, but are they not Disney canon? Ahem. I digress.)
All in all, a fairly fast read. I would recommend it to any fan of the movie just because it’s a Disney sanctioned AU fanfic, and it’s an interesting take on the story.
I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.
The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.
What I Liked
– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.
– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.
– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.
– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.
– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.
– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.
– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.
– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.
– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.
– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.
– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.
What I Didn’t Like
– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.
– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.
Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.
Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.
On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.
In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.
This was a little hard to get into because the first chapter is told in dialect, and I was tired when I started it. It’s told in alternating POVs by everyone affected by Benjie’s drug use and offers some interesting perspectives on family, race, and economic equality.
It’s a slim volume but took me longer than I expected to read–probably because it took me a little while to figure out.
That ending is killer, for sure. Worth it just for that.
(I also wrote a full-length review of this on the blog. You can read it here.)
2.5 stars, rounding down
I liked that this was actually more about the girls’ relationships with their families and each other than anything else–even though the cover and back of the book description led me to believe otherwise. The beginning was a little slow and the emphasis on sixteen was a little weird, but this was firmly grounded in reality and the summer romance was more of a summer friendship, which is a thing I dig. Slice of life, man. It works for me.
The title of this should really be “The Friend of the Boy Who Drank Too Much. Also: Hockey” or possibly “How to Tell If You’re the Friend of the Boy Who Drinks Too Much Who Is Your Hockey Teammate.” Too much?
This was fine but I will probably forget that I read it. Julie was cool, though.
I feel the same way about this book that I did about Tiger Eyes. Super authentic and relatable, and I wish more current YA were written this way.
Football, football, football, football. There is a lot of football in this book. Just…a lot. So there’s that.
I will say, though, that Lee gets the shock of moving from a multi-ethnic big city to a small lily-white town in the Midwest pretty right. I agree with other reviewers that the ending was rushed, but I did like the family stuff and most especially all of the stuff with O-Ma and Mrs. K. Those ladies are the best.
I’m still listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (and read by Lin-Manuel Miranda). That Dante kid is pretty great, huh?
As I mentioned before, I’m moving this summer and am therefore trying to read all of the (unread) books on my shelf to see what’s making the move with me. One of those books is The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes. I actually read this many, many years ago when I was a kid but remember absolutely nothing about it except the cover. So we’ll see how that goes.
Happy reading, everyone!
This was fine, but a little dry mostly because it’s very interior and about a kid who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else thinking about how much smarter he is than everyone else. The only problem is that set up leaves little room for interaction with other characters and is, you know, kind of boring. But it was interesting enough for me to finish, so.
Sister Carlotta’s sections were pretty great, though. And I wasn’t that fond of the chapter beginnings. They were unnecessarily vague in places and would have worked better as actual scenes.
Suuuuuuper cute with lots of laugh out loud moments. I am extremely tickled that Olivia finds Grandmère to be a comforting presence, but that’s the benefit of a different POV.
These books are just similar to and different from the original Princess Diaries series to delight old fans like me. Although, I do wish Olivia’s nemesis wasn’t basically a mini-Lana.
[wrap-up-posts week=”20″ year=”2016″ listtype=”ul”]
I’m already smashing my stack because I totally pulled Ender’s Shadow right off my shelf. (It was gifted to me several years ago–so long ago that I actually can’t remember when. And, yes, I just got around to reading it. That’s just how I roll.)
In more #SmashYourStack news, I have decided to tackle A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich by Alice Childress (which I just found out was made into a movie starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield! So there’s that).
My daughter is so confused by my reading choices right now. Most of the books I’ll be reading from my own shelves are from the ’80s, and I had a small pile of them on my bed.
Her: “Why are you reading all of these old books?”
Me: “Because we’re moving, and I want to read them so I don’t have to pack them.”
Her: *makes a face*
Linda Cooney is up next, basically. Ah, nostalgia. (I bought almost all of these books from the Friends of the Library book sale so will re-donate them to be re-sold to raise even more money for the library.)
Call it the Hamilton effect, but I totally just started listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz because Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned on Twitter that he narrated it. I can’t find the Tweet, so here is the FB post:
I had started this book a couple of years ago but didn’t finish because I had hit my no assigned reading during the summer wall (my book club selected it). However, I always planned to get back to it. Turns out LMM was just the boost I needed. And now I get to take him on my morning walks with me.
(And I just found out LMM narrates The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I finished earlier this year. I totally would have listened to that one, too!)
Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far, so that’s nice.
Happy reading, everyone!
I tried to pretend I was going to write about something else, but…nope. I am thoroughly, 100% on the Hamilton train. So much so that I have tried to figure out HOW exactly I am going to get to Broadway to see it if I can ever manage to get tickets. I may or may not have set up a Google alert to know when tickets are available is what I’m saying.
I will probably not see it until it starts touring, and I’m okay with that. But the point is that I’ve considered going to New York to see it.
True story: When I told my friend about the A to Z Challenge and that I was planning on blogging about fannish pursuits, she immediately said, “You’re blogging about Hamilton, right?” And I, of course, assured her that it was definitely going to be H to which she responded, “…or you could do all 26 days on it. A is for Angelica, etc.”
I also seriously considered THAT. So yeah. I have Hamilton brain.
Here are some things I have done re: Hamilton that show I may or may not be obsessed:
I speak in Hamilton quotes. I wake up with the songs running through my head. IT HAS EATEN MY BRAIN.
And to my credit, I only posted on FB telling people to check it out once. ONCE.
So, if you haven’t listened to Hamilton yet, it is not too late to see what all the fuss is about. You can listen to the entire album on YouTube or Spotify. I mean, the whole album is there just ready to be listened to. I usually tell people to give it until the fifth song because if they don’t like it by then, they probably won’t. For me, I knew I was going to love it about halfway through the first song.
And now I will go back to texting my friend about it. A RHTOD just occurred to me…
For the A to Z challenge, I’ll be blogging about fannish pursuits (aka things I’m a fan of or have strong feelings about). Tune in Monday to see what I picked for I!
*Affiliate links in this post. If you buy something from Amazon after clicking, I get a kickback.