My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Rosa_HC-REV-678x1024Book – Che has a short list of things he wants. He wants to stop following his parents around the world and go back home to Sydney. He wants to spar, the step his trainers say he needs to take his boxing to the next level, which he promised his parents he wouldn’t do. He wants a girlfriend. But first, most of all, he wants to keep his ten-year-old sister Rosa under control. Rosa isn’t a normal kid; she’s a psychopath, and Che’s parents refuse to believe it. But he’s seen her kill pets, and he’s sure she’s going to do it again, and worse, if he doesn’t keep both eyes on her at all times. And even that might not be enough.

This might technically be a YA book, but if you love psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, you do not want to miss this. This book is full of terrific characters and relationships, but the relationship between Che and Rosa, where he sets boundaries and she pushes them, he tries to teach her how to have empathy and she tries to see how well she can fake it, is heartwrenchingly real. The last pages broke my heart and left me reeling. This modern-day variation on The Bad Seed is one of the best books I read in 2016.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

51PUTD03R7L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_BookMy Brilliant Friend is a complicated, but insightful coming of age story of two girls that are best friends.  Elena narrates the story which begins in the 1950’s in a working class neighborhood in Naples.  Being somewhat shy and timid Elena is fascinated by her classmate Lila who is very clever and daring. They have dreams of writing a book together some day and both compete at excelling in school. Their friendship is put to the test when they get to the step of continuing on to middle school.  One of the girl’s family lets her continue while the other is held back to help in the family business. However, living in a small village their paths still cross and they still rival each other in popularity, good looks, boyfriends, achievements, etc. The girls, now becoming young women also learn some surprising revelations about one another.

This is the first book of the Neopolitan series and it is beautifully translated from its original in Italian. I am excited to read the other three books that follow, since the first one ended when Elena and Lila are just sixteen. I had the pleasure of listening to this from a Hoopla download.  All the Italian pronunciations by the reader enforced the novel’s strong sense of place.  I highly recommend this especially if you enjoy leisurely paced, lyrical, and character driven novels. The next book in the series is The Story of a New Name.

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to to Covergirl, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement by Andi Zeisler

indexBook–Andi Zeisler, co-founder of feminist nonprofit Bitch Media, has spent her career examining popular culture through a feminist lens. Zeisler argues that lately feminist has become a coveted ‘cool’ label. In contrast to the 1980s retrenchment of conservative values that repudiated feminism, now it’s a label that everyone wants to claim. Popular celebrities regularly affirm that they are feminist, brands like Dove are embracing body positivity as a marketing technique, and even innocuous products like underwear are being marketed using empowerment jargon. According to Zeisler, if everything is suddenly feminist, than it’s as if nothing is feminist. Using feminism to categorize everything from pop music to sanitary pads dilutes the meaning of the word and sidesteps the systemic inequalites that feminism should rightly address. Because people face an unequal range of opportunities, feminism is not as simple as people just making the choices they would have made anyway then calling themselves feminist for it. Zeisler calls this “Marketplace Feminism,” though others have called it choice feminism.

While I did enjoy this book, I thought it suffered from too many examples and observations and not enough solutions and conclusions. Any reader who frequents the feminist blogosphere will be more than familiar with most of the examples that Zeisler uses to illustrate her points. We Were Feminists Once would be a great read for someone just getting interested in feminism or who just wants a brief overview of the quasi-feminist listicle-generating culture that Zeisler critiques.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun

18114114Book – “No one likes bad news, but it’s something to tell.” Older-than-his-years teenage Leo and his friends live in a desolate town in British Columbia. The logging industry is failing, and the town along with it, but they, like the town, are clinging on by their fingernails, even though all they have to cling to are dead-end jobs, disappointing futures, and each other.

Things happen little by little – first, a beautiful and mysterious girl turns up at one of their get-togethers; then a magician (or con artist) moves in to the ratty hotel where one of Leo’s friends works. Slowly pressure begins to build until the town – and the already-pressured relationships of everyone in it – erupts in fire and smoke, and everything changes.

Harun takes the real-life tragedy of the Highway of Tears and weaves it together with folktales and a touch of the fantastic in beautiful prose to make an outstanding novel. Her writing is full of understanding for people in places with nothing left to lose, and she tells a terrific story. Fans of Helen Oyeyemi and Margaret Atwood should be sure to check this out.

Pets on the Couch : Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry by Nicholas H. Dodman

pets-on-the-couch-9781476749020_hrBook – Nicholas H. Dodman has penned quite a few bestsellers on the subjects of animal behavior and psychiatry, his latest book being Pets on the Couch : Neurotic Dogs, Compulsive Cats, Anxious Birds, and the New Science of Animal Psychiatry. Dodman is a world-renowned animal behaviorist, who has appeared on countless television and radio shows to share his work.

In Pets on the Couch, Dodman discusses different diagnoses for troubling behaviors in pets. He starts off with the story of a dog who is sweet as pie, but awakens from sleep as a violently aggressive fiend who rips blankets to shreds, and attacks nearby witnesses. Dodman diagnosed this particular patient with a seizure disorder, and prescribed an appropriate medication, one meant for humans. What I found most interesting about Dodman’s approach to treating animal disorders is that he prescribes human medications as treatment. He describes the strong emotional/psychological connection that humans and animals both share which is why he considers human medications appropriate methods of treating psychological and mental disorders in animals.

While critics felt Dodman claimed he was the first to discover that animals and humans share similar psychological and emotional connections, I was far more interested in the content itself. At times I did wish that Dodman expanded more on the examples/animal cases he provided, and also wished he was able to provide more of these examples. Fortunately for me, Dodman has written many bestsellers on animal behavior, so I have no doubt I can find plenty more stories of his experiences.

 

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

51PVod7DwzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book – A girl doesn’t become a librarian without some fairly solid organizational skills.  When it comes to home management, however, I have always sworn that I won’t turn into my mother–a woman I deeply admire, but who very nearly cannot leave the house if the vacuum cleaner is not in the closet and who has a hard time falling asleep if there are dishes in the sink.  Not, I insisted to myself, that I would ever allow my house to be actually dirty, but was it really the end of the world if a basket of clean laundry took a day (or two, or five) to get folded?  That I even had clean laundry was an accomplishment, surely.  And my room was, after all, already much neater than so-and-so’s.  And besides, it had been a busy week.  And over the weekend, I’d have one massive cleaning session, and then the entire house would be beautiful and shiny at the same time.  And [insert today’s excuse for not cleaning here].

How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind is for those of us who do genuinely want to live a tidier life, but whose home-keeping has not yet graduated into the land of Martha Stewart and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  A non-traditional, chatty and readable handbook from a self-professed recovering slob and blogger, White’s book is effective for non-neat-freaks because it’s by a non-neat-freak.  It’s full of simple strategies to set and keep small but meaningful habits that add up, slowly but surely, to a cleaner and happier place to live.  She does a particularly good job of analyzing and codifying mental blocks like “slob vision” (not noticing out-of-place items until untidiness reaches critical mass) and proposing practical solutions which, unlike the admirable but overly ambitious goals of many advanced housekeeping manuals, are actually sustainable for everyone.

The verdict?  On the busiest week in recent memory, my laundry is all folded and my sink is empty of dishes.  And as far as I’m concerned, that counts as a definite win.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church

25810606Book – Seventeen-year-old Meridian Wallace is a bright, energetic woman and the only child of doting parents. Her parents encourage her curiosity and academic pursuits. She starts college at the University of Chicago in 1941 to pursue her degree in ornithology, the study of birds. She falls in love with a brilliant physics professor, Alden Whetstone. He’s more than twenty years her senior, and she is attracted to his intelligence and their stimulating scientific conversations. When he is tapped to work at Los Alamos on a top secret project, Meridian follows him and postpones her acceptance to grad school for a year. She marries Alden and begins an independent study of crows. As the years go by, Meridian continues to submerge her own desires and dreams to accommodate Alden’s career. She finds companionship in some of the other women and then, in the 1970’s meets Clay, who introduces her to new experiences and encourages her independence. This book fascinated me with its depictions of the changing times and society’s expectations, particularly toward women. I sometimes hoped that Meridian would make different choices, but thought that her struggles and decisions were realistic. This book is an engaging, thought-provoking read.

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

1101875321.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Book – I’ve been hearing about Stanford’s life design course for a few years now, one of those bits of news that makes me nostalgic for being in college. Run through Stanford’s Institute of Design, it teaches students how to develop a life they will enjoy to the fullest, using design mindsets and principles. It sounds terrific – and the class has been full every year for nine years.

Well, for those of us who no longer have any hope of getting into a Stanford class, waitlisted or not, the course designers have written a book. It’s not the same – you’ll need to develop your own group of peers, and you’re probably starting from a very different place than a college junior or senior – but it’s a great start. After introducing the basic concepts, the book dives right into exercises you can try (based on one of the five core design principles, bias to action, or as the authors put it: Try Stuff). If you want the full schoolwork experience, you can even download worksheets from their website.

There isn’t a lot of direct advice in this book – the authors aren’t trying to get you to do anything specific with your life, but to think differently about your life and the choices you make about it. Maybe that means making a few small changes so that you appreciate what you have all the more; maybe it means quitting your job and moving to Alaska. Either way, a few hours spent with this book would be a great way to kick off the new year.

The Hating Game: A Novel by Sally Thorne

indexBookThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne has such an intriguing title that I had to pick it up.  Introducing…Lucy and Joshua, two people who absolutely despise each other.  Lucy hates Josh’s cold, unfeeling personality and the starchness of his always perfect wardrobe.  Joshua hates Lucy’s quirky positive demeanor and colorfully wacky sense of style.

Unfortunately for this pair of arch-nemeses, Joshua and Lucy not only work in the same publishing office, they’re forced to share the same cubicle.  Lucy can’t think of anything worse in her life than having to see and work with Joshua every day.  Just to get through their time together, Lucy and Joshua play a series of childish games, like the staring game: maintain eye contact until the other one cracks a smile, or breaks down in tears.  Fun stuff, right?

When a promotion looms on the horizon, it is Lucy against Joshua in a fight of sabotage and power to get to the top.  Lucy promises herself that if Joshua becomes her boss in the promotion, she’ll quit on the spot.  But something begins to change between these rivals, something that’s slowly turning their hatred into something…new.  Suddenly their silly games fall by the wayside, opening up to something real that neither of them could ever imagine.  Full of comedy, ridiculous hate-filled staring games, and so much more, The Hating Game is a perfectly crafted tale of opposites attract and competitive angst.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins

51N8TdfrZ6L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book–Looking for a light, frothy read over the holidays? My True Love Gave to Me is the collection for you. Including stories from some of the biggest authors in the young adult literature world, these stories will appeal equally to young adults and adults looking for a clean read. I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, but some of my favorites were “Midnights” by Rainbow Rowell, where we follow two best friends over a series of New Years Eves until they fall in love, “Your Temporary Santa” by David Levithan, where the main character’s boyfriend dresses up as Santa to surprise the main character’s sibling, and ” Angels in the Snow” by Matthew De La Pena, about a lonely young man who is stuck cat-sitting far away from his family over Christmas. This collection spans genres from realistic fiction to fantasy, so there should be a story here for everyone.

If  you enjoyed this collection, you’ll be pleased to know that there is also a version to entertain you this summer: Summer Days and Summer Nights, also edited by Perkins, brings 12 more stories by twelve different authors with a similar seasonal theme. Not only that, but if you really liked any of the stories, consider checking out the authors’ novels!  We have plenty of them here at the Library.