Regular Rumination

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

Posted by in Books, review

Sometimes I like to tell you the  story of how I came to read a book, because the story is so coincidental, and the book is so amazing, it’s as if divine intervention put the book in your hands.  You didn’t choose it, it chose you and there’s really not a whole lot you could have done about it.  Now, I requested Love is the Higher Law from the library, so I had some hand in it, but I never expected to read it the day I picked it up from the library, I never expected to read it one sitting, I never expected to love it.  I requested a random book from David Levithan simply because I know Will Grayson, Will Grayson, a join effort by Levithan and John Green, is out and I wanted to be at least a little familiar with Levithan.  I picked Love is the Higher Law, because I had seen a good review over at Bending Bookshelf and I had little interest in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist.  Plus, Love is the Higher Law is an awesome title.  I only started reading it as soon as I got it because the library lost one of my holds and went searching for it.  So, what does a person like me do when they have to wait somewhere for a long time?  We read.

And I read.  And then I got in my car and all I wanted to do was keep reading.  Then I got home and I read and I read.  I cried a little.  And then I read some more until the book was over and all I wanted to do was keep talking about it.  Maybe I’m a sucker for books about September 11, but I can’t help it. 10 years later, I still want to tell you where I was and what I was doing.  And I still want to talk about how none of my sisters remember it at all because they are so young, and that, among everything else, will probably define where our generation ends and begins.  Because I remember what it was like before.

The point is that, not only do I want to tell you, but I want to hear it.  I want to hear where you were, and what you were doing and how this huge thing changed your life.  That’s what David Levithan does with Love is the Higher Law. Essentially, this book is about grief.  It’s about grief that’s bigger than one person, than one family, than one city.  It’s about a grief that holds over an entire country, but that each individual person feels acutely in some way, shape or form.  Yes, this book has plot and there are characters, but who the characters are doesn’t really matter, because it could be you or me or your next door neighbor.  The thing about grief is that it is the most universal and yet most individual feeling in the world.  Explaining what grief feels like seems impossible, it’s too much bigger than words.  Somehow, though, David Levithan manages to make this a story that’s even bigger that September 11 by the end.  This book is about 3 New York teenagers who are trying to sort through their feelings about what happened, while at the same time dealing with going away to college for the first time and trying to find love.

Claire, Jasper and Peter become friends through coincidences.  Claire and Peter are acquaintances at school, who are both at a friend’s party.  Jasper is there too, a friend of another friend.  Jasper and Peter have a flirtation that does not end well.  Jasper and Claire randomly meet each other again and have beautiful conversations.  They form an odd friendship, the three of them, but it is the best kind of friendship.  How it began is too coincidental, too strange to even seem real.

The narration switches from three main characters and I think out of all of them, Jasper was the strongest.  I would have liked more Claire and Peter, but Jasper really carried this book.  More than anything, I think the alternating voices give different perspective to the event itself.  Claire was at school, but ended up leaving to find her little brother.  They walked with the rest of the elementary school to a safer part of the city and her description of what that was like was absolutely terrifying.  Jasper was house sitting for his parents, who are visiting family in Korea, and slept through the whole thing.  Can you imagine going to sleep and waking up to find the entire world has changed?

If I could, I would quote this whole book to you.  But I will settle with this conversation:

She went on, “There’s the drown of things and the swim of things, I guess.  I’ve been going back and forth, back and forth.  I feel the weight of it. [...]  Have you talked to people about this?”  Claire asked me.  “I mean, about what happened?  I’ve tried, but it never works.  I don’t know what I want from it, but I’m never satisfied.  I can’t talk to my mom about it.  And even my friends are strange to talk to, because they’re all caught up in their own versions, and every time I bring it up, they make it about them.”

I almost forgot she’d asked me a question.  Then she paused, and I said, “Oh.  Me?  I haven’t really talked to anyone….  I mean, what’s the point?”

This wasn’t really a question meant to be answered, but Claire looked out to the water and gave it a shot.

“I think the point is to realize you’re not alone.” (103)

I think everyone should read this book, because we’re not done talking about September 11th.  We’re going to have to explain to kids what it was and what it meant and how things were different before.  How will we do that?  How will I explain to my children where I was and what I was doing and how confusing and terrifying it was for a 12-year-old? There are no answers to those questions, I know that.  The readers who are the target audience for this book are kids like my sisters, they were there, but they probably don’t remember it too well.  This book will explain something, will explain the loss we all felt.  But they aren’t the only ones who should be reading it, so please, get out there, grab this book and read it.  It’s beautiful and heart breaking and one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

So go read this!:  NOW| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Also reviewed by: Mrs. Magoo Reads, Book Addiction, Reading Rants!, The Book Obsession, Read this Book!, She is too fond of books, Bending Bookshelf, The Reading Zone, Read What You Know.

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The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet by Myrlin A Hermes

Posted by in Books, review

The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes carries the subtitle “Shakespeare turned topsy-turvy” and that is indeed an apt description; this is a book that takes everything you know about Shakespeare and his plays, especially Hamlet and completely turns them on their head.  Horatio is a scholar at Wittenberg University, but he is also a poet.  When he is commissioned to turn a love story into a play by a baron and his wife Lady Adriane, Horatio never expects for his life to get quite so turned upside down.  He meets the beautiful Prince of Denmark, named (you guessed it) Hamlet.  What follows is a love circle of Elizabethan proportions, when Horatio and Hamlet begin to see more and more of each other.  Lady Adriane, obsessed with Horatio’s love poetry to Hamlet, seduces him into being her lover.  When a mysterious man named Shake-Speare enters the picture, things get even more confusing.

When I started reading The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet, I really loved it.  The beginning is solid and the writing is very readable.  Plus there is enough mystery to keep anyone reading.  The best part about this book is the way that Hermes takes things that most everyone knows from Shakespeare and cleverly integrates them into the novel.  I haven’t read most of Shakespeare’s plays, so I’m sure there were even more references that I didn’t get, but I really enjoyed them when I did.  For the most part, I really loved Horatio and he was a wonderful, insecure narrator.  Unfortunately, this novel did not quite live up to all of its promise.

Unfortunately, the relationships in this novel confused me.  I certainly understood the love that existed between Hamlet and Horatio, it was a touching romance and that was what I really wanted to read about.  I did not understand Lady Adriane or her motivations at all, and when everyone starts doing every one else, well then I really didn’t understand anyone’s motivations.  That is not to say that I don’t think there shouldn’t have been betrayals, because that’s what makes an interesting story, but there was no reasoning behind them or, if there was, it went completely over my head.

I did not love the alternative perspective that seemed randomly placed within the novel.  In terms of a writing technique, it was only useful for one scene.  Though I have read Hamlet, which is the most important play you have to have read for this book to be funny, I am less knowledgeable about some of Shakespeare’s other plays and I wonder if that would have made a difference.  Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Hermes’s wit and her writing style.  I would absolutely be interested in reading her previous novel Careful What You Wish For and anything she writes in the future.  There are a lot of folks out there who really loved this novel, but it just didn’t live up to the promise that I had for it at the beginning.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

I received this book as a part of the TLC Book Tour for the novel.

Other tour stops: Book Addiction, Life in the Thumb, Steph and Tony Investigate, Raging Bibliomania, Wordsmithonia, Eclectic/Eccentric, Books for Breakfast, Worducopia, Write Meg!

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TSS: Some serious thoughts

Posted by in Books, Sunday Salon

It has been an interesting week, both in blogging land and in my personal life with the start of a new semester and it seems that I really have had a lot to think about.  I’ve been somewhat silent on many of the issues at hand, at least on my blog, I have been vocal in the comments, but it is important to me to publicly say what I think, because adding one more voice to the crowd is important.

There is first, of course, the question of whitewashing on book covers.  Magic Under Glass is a book I have not read, but it is clear that Bloomsbury made another big mistake.  I do not condone this and while I will not be boycotting the publisher (though I completely support those who are), I want to make it very clear that this is not okay.  It is completely unacceptable and I have a responsibility, as a reader, a reviewer, a purchaser of books, to make it clear to all publishers that yes, I (a white, middle class 20-something) will read and review and love books by POC.  This is not about liking a book just because an author has skin darker than mine, because no, I will not like every single book by or about a POC that I read and I will be completely honest about that, because to do anything less would be just as bad.  This is about reading about and becoming aware of  different cultures, and trying to understand.   With understanding, comes respect.  Thankfully, the blogging world is quick to respond to such things, and several new resources have arisen in the past week to help readers like me, who want to diversify their reading and make a point to put POC authors and books about POC characters in the spotlight.

Readers Against Whitewashing
Diversify Your Reading
POC Reading Challenge

Join one, join two, join three.  Or don’t join any, but do something if this is important to you.  Because no matter how small your voice is, and I know that in this big publishing world my voice is very small, you have the opportunity make someone listen.  So take advantage of that, use your blog for good.

But it is not all about POC.  It is about reading books that make a difference.  No, reading is not always about making a statement, but sometimes it is.  Why was I embarrassed when I was reading Twilight in public?  Why are some adults embarrassed to be reading a young adult book in public?  Because the book you choose to read says something about you, it informs the observer about you, whether you like it or not.  It just might get someone else reading the same kinds of books you are.   Not every single book I choose to read will make a difference, but I should make a point to tell you about the ones that will.  That is my philosophy and that is what I plan to keep doing this year.  One of my new years resolutions was to use the reading challenges I have joined (Women Unbound, GLBT Challenge, POC Reading Challenge) to make my reading more diverse and to raise awareness about people and cultures and issues that are different from my own.  Or even to explain, in the best way I know how, things that make my experience unique: by giving you a book to read.

Other thoughts on Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online, 1330v.

Thoughts on the publisher’s decision about Magic Under Glass: Chasing Ray, Reading in Color, Color Online.

More thoughts on diverse reading: A Striped Armchair, Shelf Love.

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In other news, I have some giveaways to announce the winners of!  Chosen by random.org:

The winner of René has two last names/René tiene dos apellidos by Rene Colato Lainez is:

EMILY!

The winner of Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias is:

SOFT DRINK!

The winner of a button from The Strand New York is:

ASH!

Email me your addresses to regularrumination@gmail.com and they will be on their way!

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Nicaragua & LGBT rights in Meet Me Under the Ceiba

Posted by in Books, review

It is purely serendipitous that the book I’m reviewing  the day after posting what the GLBT Reading Challenge means to me is a novel that has GLBT rights at the forefront of its plot and motivation.  Meet Me Under the Ceiba, written by Silvio Sirias, is the  chronicle of the murder of a young woman named Adela by an unnamed researcher who became fascinated by her death.  Through a series of interviews with her family, friends and even her murderers to try to piece together the events leading up to her death and her last moments.

This book is not necessarily a mystery: we know who her murderers are from the very beginning and we know exactly why they killed her.  The narrator uncovers small mysteries that paint a clearer picture of Adela’s last day on earth, but what this is really about is giving Adela a fair representation, trying to uncover the lies that have been protecting her murderers.

Adela, a lesbian, was passionately in love with the beautiful Ixelia, a gorgeous young woman who had been abused her whole life and was eventually sold by her mother into a relationship with Don Roque, a powerful and cruel older man.  When Adela tries to rescue Ixelia from her fate, crosses the wrong paths and Don Roque and Ixelia’s  mother, Doña Erlinda, decide to get rid of her once and for all.  Adela’s story is tragic and heartbreaking; you spend most of the novel hoping that something will change, that Adela will be uncovered as alive.  She was so obviously loved in her small community.

I learned a lot about the state of LGBT rights in Nicaragua and it is very difficult to read about.  In Nicaragua and much of Latin America, being part of the LGBT community means that in the eyes of some people, you are less than a person.  During the investigation and the trial, many people simply referred to Adela as “la cochona”, the dyke, never using her name.  Adela is reduced to nothing but her sexuality, she no longer has an identity.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba begins with a quote from Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García  Márquez: “none of us could continue living without an exact knowledge of the place and mission assigned to us by fate.”  There is certainly some inspiration from Chronicle of a Death Foretold in Sirias’ narration, but it is more straightforward in Meet Me Under the Ceiba.  There are many intriguing levels of narration since the story is told completely in flashbacks and interviews, the painful reality is that because Adela is no longer here, we will never really know what happened to her.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is an important novel.  It addresses Nicaraguan LGBT rights and also the failure of the judicial system.  Most importantly, it paints a tragic portrait of one woman’s unfortunate death in the hopes of stopping future deaths.  Siarias’ story is based on the true murder of Aura Rosa Pavón and at the end he describes which aspects of the story were fact and which were fiction, but in the end I am so grateful that Sirias told this story, because it is absolutely one that needed to be heard.  I definitely recommend Meet Me Under the Ceiba, not only for the important issues that it puts out into the open, but also because it is a highly readable novel that will keep you an edge.

Silvio Sirias will be visiting Regular Rumination today to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave a question in the comments!  The author has generously offered to do a giveaway!  If you are interested in reading Meet Me Under the Ceiba, there are a couple ways you can enter this giveaway.

To enter:
+1 for a comment, +1 for asking Silvias a question in the comments, +1 for a tweet or a blog post, +1 for following
Please leave a separate comment for each entry!   This contest is open until Sunday, January 17.

Meet Me Under the Ceiba is part of BronzeWord Latino Book Tours and will be making the following tour stops this week: Book Lover Carol, Brown Girl Speaks, The Tranquilo Traveler, Pisti Totol, Mama XXI, Farm Lane Books, Sandra’s Book Club, Latino Books Examiner, Una in a Million.

I received Meet Me Under the Ceiba for review from the BronzeWord Latino Book Group.  You can purchase Meet Me Under the Ceiba on Amazon.

8:15pm: There’s still plenty of time to ask questions and have them answered, but I just wanted to say thank you so much to Silvio Sirias for visiting Regular Rumination today!  It’s been so wonderful having you here.

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31

GLBT Mini-Challenge

Posted by in Blogging, Books, Life

This month’s mini-challenge is to talk about why this challenge and issue are personally important to us.  I have been very fortunate in my life because I have been exposed to all kinds of people.  While I did  not necessarily grow up in a big city, it is a kind of melting pot because of the influence of the military.  I went to school with all kinds of people, of different races and cultures, and also of different sexual orientations.  It wasn’t always the most welcoming place (there is racism, sexism and homophobia, just like any other place in the world), but it was a really great place to grow up, especially when it came to diversity. I am not necessarily joining this challenge to be exposed to different types of people, but rather to put in the spotlight books that are important reads.  Books that  everyone should be reading because one of the best benefits of reading is the opportunity to be exposed to an infinite number of differences.

Over the summer I had a conversation with my middle sister, who hasn’t really had the chance to grow up in a diverse place like I did.  One day she made an inappropriate comment about being gay and I sat her down and had a conversation with her.  I explained to her that accepting gay people does not necessarily mean you are going against your religion and God and that there are plenty of people who believe in God and still support gay rights.  I explained that there is no excuse for making hateful comments, even if you don’t agree with the way someone is living.  I explained that no one should ever hate because someone else is in love.  That is what I really can’t fathom.  I think my sister understood what I was saying and at the very least she hasn’t repeated what she said around me again.

The more we are reading GLBT books, the more acceptance there will be.  The more librarians are giving GLBT themed books to young readers, the more opportunity those kids will have to make a difference in the world.  I am confident that in our lifetime same-sex marriage will be legal.  The fact that it isn’t makes me physically ill and it is something that I really do not understand.  I don’t often talk about my personal beliefs on this blog, but this is one that I see as a human rights issue, not a political issue.   So that’s why I joined this challenge, because maybe if I read a book, someone else will read it.  And then they’ll pass it on to someone else, and maybe, just maybe, it will do something small to change the world.

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