Book Review: A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill

OUT SEPTEMBER 17TH! Thank you to Pantheon for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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From Goodreads

There are monsters in the world, unspeakable evils that rob us of that which is most precious to us. Life can break your heart and rip you apart, but Noah Turner has more to contend with than the familiar horrors of human existence. Noah can see monsters, like real monsters. Big harry creatures. And they can see him too.

Shaun Hamill’s A Cosmology of Monsters is an incredibly touching story about the Turner family. What starts off as a cute love story quickly turns to sorrow as Harry and Margaret Turner and their three children face tragedy after tragedy over the years. But in the midst of their struggles (struggles that many of us would recognize and be acquainted with), a fantastical element rears it’s furry, sharp-toothed head. A true monster has had its sights on the Turner family for decades, and Noah, the youngest, decides to let it into his home, his family, and his heart. What Noah doesn’t know is that his father also saw monsters, and his mother knew something was wrong.

I knew from the cover art that this was a book I needed to pick up. Once I read the synopsis I was hooked, and I couldn’t put it down. This stunning literary horror debut hit me in all the right places. I was up way past lights out flipping the pages, fully invested in the Turner family’s story and the monster(s) that haven’t stopped haunting them for generations. I couldn’t get enough of the throwback 80s/90s vibes mixed with Lovecraftian horror! Despite it being a horror/fantasy novel, I found it oddly relatable.

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The Books to Read When You Want to Save the World and Yourself.

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The obsession is real.

The other day, I was a little extra tired after being out later than normal for my husband’s birthday the night before. I got home and started making dinner, and my husband walked into the kitchen and asked, “Weren’t we going to go to empanada night?” Our favorite bar was hosting an empanada food truck and we had been excited for it all week. I basically had a breakdown right there because I forgot about the empanadas, desperately wanted to go get them, but was so tired and had already started making food at home. I freaked out and felt a panic attack building, and I eventually said, “I’m so overwhelmed all the time, just thinking makes me overwhelmed. I’m exhausted.”

I just planned a wedding, and that process took so much out of me. I wasn’t expecting it to be as bad as it was. I had panic attacks and horrible bouts with my anxiety. I thought I’d be back to my normal self after the wedding was done, but I’m not. I’m burnt out. And this moment has made me realize that I’ve been burnt out for a long time, not just because of my wedding.

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We got married in a library!

My anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed, even when it appears that I’m not, have prevented me from doing so many things I expect of myself. It causes a kind of paralysis that then spirals into guilt and frustration, and it just gets more fun from there. Recently I’ve realized that my anxiety and existential struggles are, in ways, directly connected to our modern American culture of achievement, consumerism, and “disruption”. With the attention economy (social and traditional media) following us everywhere we go thanks to invasive technologies, this frantic culture has infected every aspect of our lives. I’m overdue for a refocusing of my life.

Luckily, I’ve happened upon four books that, when read together, validated what I was feeling and helped me start to build a plan for how to get out of this headspace. I realized that I needed to take a step back and refocus in a way that allows me to build meaningful awareness and take pointed actions in my life. These books are The Year of Less by Cait Flanders, Braiding Sweetgrass by Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino, and How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. I recommend these books to everyone.

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Book Review: Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

OUT NOW! Thank you to Random House Publishing Group for providing me with an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Trick Mirror cover art. Image from Goodreads.com.

My girlfriends and I are in our early 30s. We have grown up in a strange time and continue to struggle to navigate an increasingly complicated society. Social and environmental consciousness, extreme debt, global connectivity, and political turmoil occupy our attention. Couple all this with internal conflicts specific to us at this time in our lives (the questions of marriage and motherhood, careers, our identities as grown women, the concept of permanence in a community), and it’s no surprise we felt drawn to Jia Tolentino‘s work at The New Yorker. We couldn’t stop talking about her piece “What It Takes to Put Your Phone Away”, where Tolentino attempts to live as analog as possible for a time.

It led us to additional questions…how had our childhoods informed our adulthoods? How much of our past has already been erased or made obsolete? How much will never be erased? Can we take a step back from the fast-paced world we live in, from technology? Can we protect our autonomy, our privacy, our free will? DO we know ourselves?

In her debut essay collection Trick Mirror, Tolentino asks these questions, compiles context, recognizes our struggles, and sympathizes with us. It is a masterful examination of the Millennial experience. Through smart examinations of social media, the Great Recession, the student loan crisis, Amazon and Facebook, reality TV, mainstream capitalistic feminism, and other hallmarks of a Millennial upbringing, she shows us a potential answers to the “why” questions many of us ask ourselves late at night with friends after a couple drinks.

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The Shameful Book Club: 1984 by George Orwell for March

 

1984-book-coverI don’t know what I expected from this book, and honestly I’m not sure how I feel now that I’ve read it. I think this has been made clear by my delay in writing up this post. The dystopians I’m used to usually involve teens and slick latex jumpsuits. And many of them have some empowerment and optimism attached to their plots, even when the price is high. When 1984 sales spiked after the election, I was excited to read it for my Shameful Book Club March read, which is science fiction. I should have known, however, that I was going to get something more complex and less glossy. Fair warning, this post is not graceful. My brain is all over the place on this book, and I’m definitely not educated enough on the book or the era it was written in to speak on it in any new or insightful ways, but these are my thoughts all the same.

Quick summary for those who don’t know: Winston is part of the Ingsoc (English Socialism) Party, an outer party member who lives in what was once London, now called Airstrip One, in the super state of Oceania. He works in the Ministry of Truth and his primary job is forging documents of all kind to ensure that everything on record consistently praises the Party and Big Brother (the ruler of the party who might not even be a real person). This is the Ingsoc idea of “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past,” which is totally true, and ALSO used as a banger Rage Against the Machine lyric. Man, I miss those guys right now. Winston knows he’s engaging in revisionist history, but he lacks the courage to do anything about it, at least when we first meet him he does. At this point in society’s downward spiral, if you step out of line at all or commit even the smallest act of “thought crime” (individual thought or free will), you will be swept up by the Thought Police and disappeared. You’re constantly being watched and brainwashed by the telescreens that have a dominating presence in every room in every building, pumping out propaganda and recording your every move. Sounds familiar, right?

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The Shameful Book Club: July’s Crime is the Killing Floor by Lee Child

New format time! I’m revamping the Shameful Book Club starting this month to make it simpler and less time consuming in order for me to try to maintain it while in school. July’s genre is and will always be CRIME!! If you’ve seen Spike Lee’s masterpiece Do The Right Thing, you know the heat can bring out all the bad behavior and angry feelings even in the best of us. And if you haven’t seen Do The Right Thing you absolutely should, because it’s unfortunately very very relevant. And if you have seen it, rewatch it.

11170621_oriIn honor of my move to Pittsburgh and my deep love of the Jack Reacher movie starring Tom Cruise (to all Reacher fans’ dismay), I thought I would start in on the beloved series by Lee Child with Killing Floor. This is not the book the movie was based on (that was One Shot), and Reacher is not actually in Pittsburgh for this story, but I enjoy making loose connections!

I got this one on Audible so I could listen while I packed, and I will say that the reader Dick Hill was amazing! Props to you, guy! He had great voices for everyone and did a very good job at catching Reacher’s sly sense of humor.

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The Shameful Book Club: Southern Novel Update

adventures-of-huckleberry-finnIt’s been about a month and a half since I started my quest to catch up on classic novels I’ve always lied about reading. The category of my  first installation of the Shameful Book Club is “Southern Novels.” In the 1.5 months that I have been reading these (among others), I have knocked out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Color Purple, and about half of The Sound and the Fury.

I enjoyed Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn quite a lot. I (admittedly) listened to it on audiobook, read by Elijah Wood (delightful), and experienced more than one occasion of pulling up to a stop sign with the windows down and having passerbys side-eye me for the amount of racial profanity coming from my car stereo. Regardless, I found Huck Finn very funny and insightful.  It had the excitement of a child’s adventure, but the social weight of a critical work of fiction. In a way it’s America’s Odyssey, and I felt like I was reading/listening to something that was a mashup of The Goonies and Mud. It’s a snap shot of America and a very particular time and place that deserves to be preserved for many reasons (some of those being cautionary).

Baby Elijah as Huck

Baby Elijah as Huck

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