True Crime + LA + Libraries = Heart Eyes | The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Library BookOn April 28, 1986 there was a huge fire at the LA Public Library. While this was obviously a big deal, the news got lost as Chernobyl happened the same day. When Susan Orlean moved to LA with her husband and son, she discovered this largely untold story and started doing some investigating. This book details the history of the LA Public Library, the fire itself, and the arson investigation that took place afterwards. Woven throughout that narrative is Orlean’s love letter to libraries themselves.

TL;DR – Orlean seamlessly intertwines several narratives. LA history, arson investigations, and the day-to-day of public libraries are all presented as equally fascinating.

eBook | Hardcover

First, let me say for anyone thinking about purchasing this book, it is GORGEOUS. Definitely bookstagrammable. However, if you decide to get the hardcover on Amazon (link above) just be warned that it does come with that “Reese’s book club” stamp (eye roll) which is not removable. If you would like an unmarred copy, I’d suggest getting a copy in person and B&N or something.

On to my review. My love affair with non-fiction continues! My husband helped me to discover recently that I’ve really been enjoying non-fiction books written by journalists (see Malcolm Gladwell, Michael Lewis, and recently Kirk Wallace Johnson). Susan Orlean was a journalist for the New York Times before writing this book so she fits right in my wheelhouse. Plus libraries, so it was always going to be a slam dunk.

This story is actually so fascinating, but the parts I loved most about this book were the descriptions of the day-to-day life of the library. At the very beginning when she’s writing about the library opening for the day, I legitimately got chills. I loved seeing all the different departments from her perspective and I could definitely relate to some of the stories.

I also really liked how she opened each chapter with some catalog listings that fit what the chapter was going to be about. I just thought it was a really nice touch and I liked guessing what kind of stuff was going to be in each chapter.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. If you love libraries, read this book. If you love true crime, read this book. If you love LA, read this book.

Overall Rating: 5
Language: Moderate
Violence: Mild
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

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Monday Minis [Mini-Reviews]

This month has been great for me so far reading-wise. I’ve gotten super into the Lumberjanes comics lately (I’m planning on writing a full review on the series when I’m finished). I’ve also been reading some non-fiction and book club picks. Here are some mini-reviews for you on some books that I’ve finished the last couple of months.

mini-reviews

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Dividing EdenRight off the bat, I’m super aggravated by the way that Andreus’ curse is dangled in front of our faces. They literally never explain what his “curse” is and it sounds like he just as asthma maybe? Which doesn’t actually seem like a big deal…but maybe I’m wrong because, again, THEY NEVER EXPLAIN. Overall, Andreus was such an annoying character. He was just so stupid and I literally don’t think he made a single good choice. Carys was better, but both she and Andreus mentioned how Carys is really good at making deductions and seeing things that others wouldn’t, but we never really see that happen either. Lastly, I would think that the bond between twins is stronger than it’s made out to be in this book. Carys obviously still cares about her twin, but Andreus drops her as soon as humanly possible once the competition starts. Again, he is so stupid. 2/5

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

On a SunbeamThis is a book that I picked up on a whim at the end of my shift one day. I don’t have a ton to say about it, but I thought it was really interesting and the artwork was beautiful. It’s really amazing how graphic novels can convey so much in one panel when it would take pages in a novel. I liked how the beginning of the book really stuck to the different color schemes to help the reader tell the two timelines apart. As the stories came together, the color schemes did as well and I thought that was really cool. I also really liked the fish ships and the world building in general was just really interesting. From what I could tell, it seems like this world (galaxy? universe?) is only populated by women, so if you’re looking for queer romance, this book is saturated with it. Lastly, I really enjoyed how much depth the secondary and minor characters had. It was surprising, to be honest, I mean even the school bully had this depth that didn’t get totally explored, but was touched on. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

Bonnie & Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal

Bonnie and ClydeI didn’t know very much about Bonnie and Clyde before reading this book. The author does a really good job throughout helping the reader to see what parts of their story is known as fact, what is believed to be true, and what is complete myth. Newspapers at the time weren’t super concerned with reporting that absolute truth and were more interested in the drama that was inherent with Bonnie and Clyde. A lot of times if something went down and the cops couldn’t figure out who it was, the newspapers would blame Bonnie and Clyde. Another thing I found interesting was that the cops at the time seemed to be SUPER incompetent. There wasn’t really any training. A lot of people just joined the force because they needed a little extra money and their regular work wasn’t cutting it. That’s part of the reason why Bonnie and Clyde were able to evade capture for so long. The last thing I really liked about this book was that the author had panels on each person that Bonnie and Clyde killed. Over time, Bonnie and Clyde have become wildly glamorized, but it’s important to remember that they killed A LOT of people. 4/5

ebook | Hardcover

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

CoralineI saw a few clips from the movie a while back when it came out, and that kind of turned me off to reading the book. It was just kind of…weird. And I think I remember the other Miss Spink and Miss Forcible were wearing some pretty scandalous outfits? Anyway, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, but then I did and I’m glad I decided to! This book was creepy and weird in all the best ways. I loved the cat–he was probably my favorite character–and Coraline was not far behind. She was super spunky and also a believable child. I think she had some intelligence and seriousness that made her feel more mature, but it wasn’t unbelievable that a child would act like that. I would have liked a little bit more of a hunt with Coraline looking for the marbles, but the story also felt really tight as it was. I just think it would have made it a little more fun, but I guess it wasn’t really a fun situation to be in. I liked how the story ended too, with part of the other mother making it into Coraline’s world. I think there’s some symbolism there (and throughout the book) that I’m probably missing, but I enjoyed it. I just need to figure out how to get my husband to like the name Coraline now… 4/5

ebook | Hardcover | Paperback

This is for the true crime podcast lovers | Sadie by Courtney Summers

SadieSadie will not stop until she finds the man who killed her sister. With Mattie gone, she has nothing good left in her life and nothing left to live for. As Sadie follows the killer’s trail she’ll have to confront her own demons and figure out what it means to get justice for her sister.

Hardcover | eBookAudio

TL;DR – Trigger warnings galore, but will satisfy anybody who is already a fan of true crime podcasts.

This book was so much harder to read than I thought it would be. I put it on my TBR because of the podcast element and really didn’t know what I was in for. The majority of the book is from Sadie’s perspective, but there’s also a “podcast” running throughout hosted by a man named West McCray. You can actually download the podcast and listen to it with the book. I imagine that the audio for this book would be phenomenal because of the mixed media element. But anyway, like I was saying, beyond the podcast stuff, I didn’t really know what to expect. Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, abandonment, pedophilia, and honestly, probably more.

Now that that’s out of the way, while I liked the podcast element and thought it was fun, it definitely read like fiction. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but you can tell when a podcast is fiction and when it’s not. It’s the language that’s used and the way sentences are put together. The interviews just don’t sound as authentic. That was the case with this, but it probably wouldn’t bother anyone who doesn’t listen to nonfiction podcasts regularly.

I thought this book was really well written. Plotwise, I think it could have read like Sadie was on this ultimate, messed-up roadtrip, but it doesn’t. Summers does a great job presenting clues for Sadie to follow in an organic way that doesn’t feel forced or convenient. While Sadie isn’t necessarily a likable character, I find that she’s still sympathetic to me. One of the main things I felt throughout this book was an overwhelming sadness. As a mom (and as a person in general), I feel so sad for kids who don’t have a functional family and who don’t have their every day needs met. I feel so sad for kids who don’t have a loving parent or guardian who tell them every day how loved and wanted they are. I feel so sad for kids who don’t feel safe in their own homes–in their own ROOMS. And it makes me so mad to think that there are sick people out there who are preying on kids and who make them feel like there’s no one who will help them.

Overall, this book is a hard one to read and I don’t recommend it lightly. I think if you’re going to read this book, you should know what you’re in for. I really only had one issue and it was just that the reason Mattie was killed doesn’t really make sense to me. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the guy came back to town and I don’t feel like that really matches his M.O. Was he looking for Mattie or was it spur of the moment? Did Mattie somehow contact him? Anyway, that was really the only sticking point for me. In the end, it’s a powerful book that still has me thinking about it even though I read it weeks ago.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Heavy
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Heavy
Sexual Content: Heavy

Non-fiction Mini-Reviews

Since starting my new job at the library, I’ve begun reading more and more outside of my usual YA books (it’s just so hard to say “No” to books when I’m surrounded by them all day). I’ve even been reading non-fiction! Here are some short reviews for a couple of the non-fiction books I’ve been reading lately.

35901186The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson
This book was fantastic! I originally heard Kirk’s episode about the Tring heist on This American Life. I was worried the book would be repetitive since I already knew the gist of the story, but it has a ton of additional information (as promised).

I’m not sure if this is the author’s intent, but I really just feel so mad at the fly-tying community and at Rist. There’s just very little remorse to be found and a wild disregard for what these birds really mean on a scientific (and just basic human ethics) level.

Overall, I found this to be a quick read especially for a non-fiction book. It’s a quirky true crime story that I think a lot of people will find fascinating. What’s true? What’s a lie? And where are the rest of those bird skins??? 4/5

We Were Eight Years in PowerWe Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
While I may not agree with all his points, I appreciate Coates’ writing and apparent passion. It feels trite to say, but this topic obviously means a lot to him, and that comes through with every single word in every single essay. He’s asking hard questions–questions that may not have a satisfying answer. And while he accepts that fact, he still feels that those questions need to be asked, and I agree.

I only have a couple of criticisms. The first is that his writing was hard for me to absorb at times. The language he chooses and the way he strings sentences together didn’t always translate in my head. That being said, I still could get the gist of what he was saying, but the lyricalness of his writing was sometimes lost on me.

The second is that as a POC who is not black, I felt a little bit like a third party reading this book. The focus of his essays is on black vs white relations in the United States. At times, it felt like Coates had blinders on to any other race that might exist in America. While I understand why his viewpoint here is so narrow, it made me feel a bit like an outsider while reading. He just kept talking about what this group of people did to this other group of people without mentioning where MY group of people fit in. 4/5