Persephone, by Kaitlin Bevis

Persephone is a young adult fantasy based on the Greek myth of Persephone. The reader doesn’t need to know any Greek mythology before reading the book; everything that needs to be explained is taken care of throughout the narrative. With some knowledge of the myths, you’ll notice little references that aren’t pointed out explicitly – for example, Persephone (in this novel) often snacks on pomegranate seeds, and her mother, Demeter, owns a flower shop. In addition, the book takes place in present-day Athens, Georgia.

I really enjoyed it and read it pretty quickly. I love stories that are modern versions or retellings of myths, and this was a good one. The plot was only semi-wrapped up; it leads directly into the second book in the Daughters of Zeus series, Daughter of the Earth and Sky. I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue the series, though. I would have preferred the book as a stand-alone novel, because at present, there are five books and I’m not sure that I’ll devote the time to reading them.

I will say, because this is a huge pet peeve of mine, that there was one sentence in the book that made me cringe, reread it to make sure I’d read it properly, and cringe again. The sentence in question is a quote from Hades: “Her soul returned to her body, and she’s alive enough to where I can’t reach her.”

The author has a Masters Degree in English, according to Goodreads, so I’m not sure why she allowed that “alive enough to where” to slip in there. What’s wrong with the word “that”? A much less clunky (and much more specific, precise) way to say it is “She’s alive enough that I can’t reach her.” The whole “to where” thing just drives me up the wall.

The book didn’t grip me enough to convince me to keep reading the series, but for me, that’s not unusual. I’ve also only read the first book of the Jackaby, Red Queen, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Wrath and the Dawn series. That, and the previously mentioned “to where” phrasing (it just REALLY bothers me!) led me to only rate this book 3 stars. It was a good, solid book.

Ryan Topps

Well, “dealing” with Ryan turned out to consist of three major pastimes (in order of importance): admiring Ryan’s scooter, admiring Ryan’s records, admiring Ryan. But though other girls might have balked at dates that took place in Ryan’s garage and consisted entirely of watching him pore over the engine of a scooter, eulogizing its intricacies and complexities, to Clara there was nothing more thrilling. She learned quickly that Ryan was a man of painfully few words and that the rare conversations they had would only ever concern Ryan: his hopes, his fears (all scooter-related), and his peculiar belief that he and his scooter would not live long. For some reason, Ryan was convinced of the aging fifties motto “Live fast, die young,” and, though his scooter didn’t do more than 22 mph downhill, he liked to warn Clara in grim tones not to get “too involved,” for he wouldn’t be here long; he was “going out” early and with a “bang.”

Pulchritude

Pulchritude. From the Latin, pulcher, beautiful. That was the word that first struck Joyce when Millat Iqbal stepped forward onto the steps of her conservatory, sneering at Marcus’s bad jokes, shading his violet eyes from a fading winter sun. Pulchritude: not just the concept but the whole physical word appeared before her as if someone had typed it onto her retina–Pulchritude–beauty where you would least suspect it, hidden in a word that looked like it should signify a belch or a skin infection. Beauty in a tall brown young man who should have been indistinguishable to Joyce from those she regularly bought milk and bread from, gave her accounts to for inspection, or passed her checkbook to behind the thick glass of a bank till.

Twins

But the fact was Millat didn’t need to go back home: he stood schizophrenic, one foot in Bengal and one in Willesden. In his mind he was as much there as he was here. He did not require a passport to live in two places at once, he needed no visa to live his brother’s life and his own (he was a twin, after all). Alsana was the first to spot it. She confided to Clara: By God, they’re tied together like a cat’s cradle, connected like a see-saw, push one end, other goes up, whatever Millat sees, Magid saw and vice versa! And Alsana only knew the incidentals: similar illnesses, simultaneous accidents, pets dying continents apart. She did not know that while Magid watched the 1985 cyclone shake things from high places, Millat was pushing his luck along the towering wall of the cemetery in Fortune Green; that on February 10, 1988, as Magid worked his way through the violent crowds of Dhaka, ducking the random blows of those busy settling an election with knives and fists, Millat held his own against three sotted, furious, quick-footed Irishmen outside Biddy Mulligan’s notorious Kilburn public house. Ah, but you are not convinced by coincidence? You want fact fact fact? You want brushes with the Big Man with black hood and scythe? OK: on April 28, 1989, a tornado whisked the Chittagong kitchen up into the sky, taking everything with it except Magid, left miraculously curled up in a ball on the floor. Now, segue to Millat, five thousand miles away, lowering himself down upon legendary sixth-former Natalia Cavendish (whose body is keeping a dark secret from her); the condoms are unopened in a box in his back pocket; but somehow he will not catch it; even though he is moving rhythmically now, up and in, deeper and sideways, dancing with death.

Brown Girl Dreaming

other people’s memory
Jacqueline Woodson

You were born in the morning, Grandma Georgiana said.
I remember the sound of the birds. Mean
old blue jays squawking. They like to fight, you know.

Don’t mess with blue jays!
I hear they can kill a cat if they get mad enough.

And then the phone was ringing.
Through all that static and squawking, I heard
your mama telling me you’d come.
Another girl, I stood there thinking,
so close to the first one.
Just like your mama and Caroline. Not even
a year between them and so close, you could hardly tell
where one ended and the other started. 
And that’s how I know you came in the morning.
That’s how I remember.

You came in the late afternoon, my mother said.
Two days after I turned twenty-two.
Your father was a work.
Took a rush hour bus
trying
to get to you. But
by the time he arrived, 
you were already here.
He missed the moment, my mother said,
but what else is new.

You’re the one that was born near night,
my father says.
When I saw you, I said, She’s the unlucky one
come out looking just like her daddy.
He laughs. Right off the bat, I told your mama,
We’re gonna call this one after me.

My time of birth wasn’t listed
on the certificate, then got lost again
amid other people’s bad memory.

 

 

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

I’ve been excited to read this book for a while now, based solely on the cover design. I had no idea what it was about. In the end, I gave it two stars, which based on my rating scale, means it was not for me, but you might like it. It was a quick read.

I think the main reason I didn’t give the book a higher rating is because I really didn’t enjoy any of the characters. They were all, with maybe the exception of Bea, selfish and self-centered. That’s not to say that selfish, terrible people can’t be well-written and enjoyable, but these just weren’t. None of them had anything special going on, or any really defining characteristics. (And this is just a personal pet peeve of mine, but OMG, the bland, boring character names made it impossible to remember who was who. Jack, Paul, Walker, Walter [yes, really], Nora, Louisa, Maggie, Melody… even when I was three-quarters of the way through the book, I had to keep reminding myself who each person was.

The plot itself was fine, but it felt like a lot of fuss over nothing. So Leo blew the money. Oh no! Now Melody’s kids might have to go to a state school. Jack was irresponsible with the money he does have, and now he and Walter (Walker? I don’t remember which one he was married to) might lose their summer house.

Seriously, these were the MAJOR PROBLEMS that the family faced. And then those problems were solved in about two sentences when Bea offered to share her money with her siblings, and they both immediately accepted. Problems solved!

Jack is an addict, which is an actual problem and could have really been explored more, but it wasn’t. He got Stephanie pregnant then disappeared, but it was cool because she makes tons of money and really prefers to be a single mom anyway, so NBD. Like, that would be an actual major problem for the majority of people in the US, but nah, it’s played out and wrapped up in a couple of pages, and life goes on!

There was nothing wrong with the writing. It was a quick read and I only considered abandoning it once or twice, but decided to stick it out because overall it had good reviews.

Let’s talk about White Teeth

1. Zadie Smith is good at writing various dialects. Here is an example of how Hortense, from Jamaica, speaks:
 
“Well, don’ look so shock. It a very satisfactory arrangement. Women need a man ‘bout de house, udderwise ting an’ ting get messy.” You get the idea. I can’t help but read it in her accent, and it’s great. It sounds as though she actually knows people who speak like this; not like she’s just trying to copy what she THINKS it should sound like.
 
2. I don’t know what to call this rambling-ass prose, but I like it (Hortense is a crazy-ass Jehovah’s Witness):
 
“But Clara needn’t have feared. Irie’s atheism was robust. It was Chalfenist in its confidence, and she approached her stay with Hortense with detached amusement. She was intrigued by the Bowden household. It was a place of endgames and aftertimes, fullstops and finales; where to count on the arrival of tomorrow was an indulgence, and every service in the house, from the milkman to the electricity, was paid for on a strictly daily basis so as not to spend money on utilities or goods that would be wasted should God turn up in all his holy vengeance the very next day. Bowdenism gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “hand to mouth.” This was living in the eternal instant, ceaselessly teetering on the precipice of total annihilation; there are people who take a great deal of drugs simply to experience something comparable to eighty-four-year-old Hortense Bowden’s day-to-day existence.”
 
3. I just love this paragraph:
 
“‘Yeah, he fucked off and left me. He didn’t love me. He just couldn’t deal with love. He was too fucked up to know how to love me.’ Now, how did that happen? What was it about this unlovable century that convinced us we were, despite everything, eminently lovable as a people, as a species? What made us think that anyone who fails to love us is damaged, lacking, malfunctioning in some way? And particularly if they replace us with a god, or a weeping madonna, or the face of Christ in a ciabatta roll – then we call them crazy. Deluded. Regressive. We are so convinced of the goodness of ourselves, and the goodness of our love, we cannot bear to believe that there might be something more worthy of love than us, more worthy of worship. Greeting cards routinely tell us everybody deserves love. No. Everybody deserves clean water. Not everybody deserves love all the time.”

4.

“He’s gassing himself, Abba.”
“What?”
Arshad shrugged. “I shouted through the car window and told the guy to move on and he says, ‘I am gassing myself, leave me alone.’ Like that.”
“No one gasses himself on my property,” Mo snapped as he marched downstairs. “We are not licensed.”
Once in the street, Mo advanced upon Archie’s car, pulled out the towels that were sealing the gap in the driver’s window, and pushed it down five inches with brute, bullish force.
“Do you hear that, mister? We’re not licensed for suicides around here. This place halal. Kosher, understand? If you’re going to die round here, my friend, I’m afraid you’ve got to be thoroughly bled first.”