These are the books I read last week. Most of them were library books, which doesn’t help me toward my goal of reading more of the hundreds of books I have on the Haunted Kindle, but it does help me toward the goal of not buying new books and my goal to Read Wide.
The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero looked right up my alley- creepy gothic house, ghosts, potential family curse- it really looked like a fairly standard haunted house story, which I was totally up for. It ended up fracturing off into a totally unexpected conspiracy theory/treasure hunt/secret society thing that was even better than I could have anticipated, though I did end up wanting more of the stuff that came at the end. There was all of this build up and then once the revelation was made, I realized that I wished the whole book was about the stuff that was revealed, rather than the build up. But it’s a fun book, and I really enjoyed it.
Wildflower by Drew Barrymore is kind of half way between a memoir and a series of essays. I was expecting more of a memoir, so I was a bit thrown, (and honestly, a little disappointed because I find Barrymore’s childhood/ teen years fascinating and wanted to know more about them, but it’s her choice what she shares and I’m just being nosy) but you do end up with a fairly coherent picture of her life by the time you finish. She comes across as a very conscientious person who is trying her hardest to be and become who she wants to be. Considering that she was basically raised by wolves, she’s done extremely well for herself. My one critique of the book is that she writes like she talks, which works for some people, but doesn’t always work here. She can pull off some disjointed sentences when she talks, and you know what she means, but written down, those same sentences come across clunky or ding-batty. But for the most part it’s a really enjoyable book.
Say You’re One of Them by Uwen Akpan is a book I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up if I wasn’t trying to Read Wide this year. I tend to stay away from books that I know are going to be sad or painful, and this one is about children living in various perilous situations in different countries in Africa, so sad and painful are pretty much guaranteed. But I went ahead and took it from the library, and I’m so glad I did. It was incredibly sad, and quite painful to read, but so eye opening. There are short stories set in Nairobi, Rwanda, Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, and Akpan (himself Nigerian-born) traveled to each of the countries to learn about the cultures, the people, and their struggles. Each country comes alive in its own unique way, and poverty, teenage prostitution, child slavery, and violent religious conflict come alive as well in a way that leaves you changed and unable to claim ignorance. Akpan’s goal in writing the book (he says in an included interview) was to “see a book about how children are faring in these endless conflicts in Africa. The world is not looking. I think fiction allows us to sit for a while with people we would rather not meet. ” This is why I’m trying to read wide this year, and because of this book my heart has been cracked open and it makes me want to get involved with groups like the new I Was A Stranger initiative and the International Rescue Committee. The stories are hard, but the writing is beautiful and I highly, highly recommend this book.
Margarettown by Gabrielle Zevin was a nice step down from the emotion stirred up by Say You’re One of Them. It’s the story of a man who falls in love with a woman named Maggie (Margaret) Towne, who due to a magic spell, splits off from herself at different ages, so that there is a 7 year old May, teenage angsty Mia, middle aged Marge, Old Margaret, etc. They all live together in a place called Margarettown, and if he’s going love Maggie, he has to love them all. It’s part fable, part psychological study, and it’s lovely and sweet and sad.
Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou is the third volume in her autobiography, and my goodness, Miss Maya Angelou had an incredible life! I had no idea! In this volume she tours Europe and Africa in the cast of Porgy and Bess, advances in her career as a singer and dancer, takes the name Maya Angelou, and reunites with her beloved son. This was interesting to read right after Margarettown because Maya Angelou is the epitome of changing names- she’s Maguerite, Rita, Maya, and more, and that’s just in this book. This was an exceptional read.