Monthly Archives: January 2017

03) The Cure for Dreaming

By: Cat Winters

Date Finished: 01.12.17

by Cat Winters

As I walked into my local bookstore to buy a calendar and absolutely nothing else, my eye drifted to a towering bookcase I had never before seen. It was pressed against the front window and flanked one side of the only entrance, and yet it was a surprise to me. My feet immediately abandoned their mission to investigate. This mysterious case housed shelf after shelf of used YA books. Some titles were familiar and/or interesting but this one hooked me. I left with a shiny copy of this novel and no calendar.

Take a look at that cover again, friends; savor that title. How could I resist?

I didn’t buy it entirely on impulse; I read about half of the first chapter and a few random paragraphs in the middle to make sure it was more than just a pretty face. The writing isn’t terribly complex but it is readable. The plot seemed interesting enough to make up for any lackluster writing, and it was…almost.

The book is set in Oregon and centers around the suffragist movement. Olivia is just independent enough to horrify her traditional father. He hires a hypnotist to cure Olivia of her wayward thoughts which results in her seeing the world as it really is — controlling men become monsters while compliant women fade into transparency. The book is unapologetically feminist which works within the setting. What doesn’t work so well are the characters.

Even our girl Olivia — the feisty, irrepressible heroine! — falls a little flat. Winters did provide a varied cast of minor characters; together they make a good ensemble but their personal quirks come across as inconsistent rather than complex. One of the big draws of the book was the concept of Olivia seeing people’s true selves in a physical way. However, this only worsened the problem, reducing everyone to a melodramatic caricature. It also made Olivia look stupid for needing supernatural intervention to realize certain people are shady.

And yet… I’ve seen worse. MUCH worse. The book held my interest enough that I finished it in just a few sittings and would consistently read past the “one more chapter” mark. The plot takes a few tangents but overall it was pretty tidy. Despite the stock characters, you do like who you’re supposed to like and dislike who you’re supposed to dislike. Even if you question Olivia’s choices, you always want her to succeed. And while the writing won’t knock you head-over-heels, it is respectable.

This is the kind of book that will ring the doorbell rather than honk from the end of the driveway, and the conversation will be pleasant enough. You won’t think the evening was a waste but there probably won’t be a second date.

At the end of the day: Sure, yeah, okay

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02) Brown Girl Dreaming

By: Jacqueline Woodson

Date Finished: 01.09.17

by Jacqueline Woodson

Will the words end, I ask
whenever I remember to.

Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now,
and promising me

infinity.

As Jacqueline Woodson writes, “It’s easier to make up stories than it is to write them down.” Presently, it is easier for me to say, “Just read it; you’ll understand,” than to explain what makes this book so good. But I will try to give you something.

One, it’s beautiful. The story is told through a series of free verse poems. This structure lends a kind of buoyancy* to the tale so that while the subject matter is not always light the writing will keep you supported.

Two, Woodson masterfully says so much with so little (a clear advantage to poetry). She packs quite the emotional punch by describing the impact of events more than the events themselves. With just the right details, she shows how tragedy can alter a person. With just the right imagery, she makes you feel the difference between the sudden and the inevitable; she tightens the tension between the inevitable and the equitable.

Three, it adeptly captures the perspective of a child. This is non-fiction but there is little commentary on the events. The window through which we see Woodson’s world is that of a child standing on tiptoe to reach the sill and not of an adult stooping to look down.

Finally, the cultural context of the segregation cannot be overlooked. From the beginning there’s a theme of “emancipated but not free” when speaking of her family and her heritage. “So there’s a war going on in South Carolina,” Woodson writes, “and even as we play and plant and preach and sleep, we are a part of it.” She explores the different types of protests without making judgments on what is better or more effective. She keeps observing and listening and telling stories until she finds her own way to make a difference. This book is a textbook on resilience, not just in herself but in her community. And this book is vital for spreading the empathy and compassion we desperately need right now.

At the end of the day: Absolutely for me

*This word felt right although I couldn’t explain why. I looked it up on Merriem-Webster to make sure I wasn’t forcing a metaphor that wasn’t there and found this definition: “buoyancy: the ability of someone or something to continue to be happy, strong, etc., through difficult times.” That definition could be the entire review.

01) Hamilton: The Revolution

By: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Date Finished: 01.04.17

by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This is a book for the fans. If you haven’t listened to the soundtrack yet, please don’t cheat yourself. Read less. Listen more.*

I wasn’t sure if the content was more about the show or the man — frankly, I would have devoured either way — but I was pleased to find that it’s almost exclusively a history of the musical and its creators. There plenty of biographies that cover the life of Alexander (one by Ron Chernow comes to mind…) and this book is for the fans.

There are two authors. Jeremey McCarter wrote the prose sections, the three or four pages that discuss the process from inception to Broadway, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, wrote the lyrics (which are published in full). Fortunately for us, Miranda also provided commentary in the margins of every song. As for McCarter, his pace is perfect; the emotional journey of the show’s creation matches the emotional journey of the show almost beat for beat. Each chapter also focuses on a specific person (director, choreographer, actor, etc.) involved in creating the show. These vignettes are masterfully curated with each subject resting in their featured chapter like Goldilocks lying in Baby Bear’s bed. The resulting mix is flawless — an objective narrative from someone who was peripherally involved and a delightful stream of consciousness from the maestro himself.

I wonder (and I’d be interested to hear) what the book is like for someone who’s not a theatre professional. It’s easy for me to envision the room where it happened** because I spend most of my time in such rooms. (At one point, the commentary mentioned a complex calling sequence for the stage manager and I instinctively starting saying, “GO” at the end of every line.) As a theatre artist, this book was both encouraging and inspiring.

For those of you who haven’t gone off the Hamilton deep end yet, let me assure you that the show lives up to the hype. I beg you to listen; however, I encourage to do so in your time. Set aside an evening so that you can hear it in one sitting; it’s much more emotionally damaging, er, moving that way. The book will be here for you when you’re ready.

At the end of the day: For me

*I couldn’t resist poorly adjusting this quote for my own purposes. It is, of course, very unfair of me to use a show quote when addressing the people who don’t know the show but it’s staying.

**Another show quote. This one’s far more legitimate.

Dusting The Shelves

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Hello. My name is Chanis and it has been 659 days since my last post.

There are plenty of reasons and excuses I can give for my long silence but the simplest is this: the stress outweighed the joy.

I’ve had moments of missing the blog but lately it’s been more than that. I’ve been craving the blog. The start of a new year seems as good a time as any to wipe the dust off the old Bookjacket and crack it open again. So. Here goes.

A (RE)INTRODUCTION
This started with a challenge to read a certain number of new books in a year and a desire to keep track of my first impressions of a book. After a year or two, I found that mixing old books in with the new was a more effective method of meeting my goal. Which is to say: anything goes, really!

Check out the About page for more details about the history/purpose of this blog. There’s a Ratings page which is a comprehensive list of every book I’ve talked about on the site based on how much cash I’d shell out to keep those books in (or out of) my life.

There is also a page called My Shelves. At the time I thought it would be a good way to acquaint people to the kind of books I favor. It may have been a swell idea but the execution of said idea was horribly ill-conceived. I saved pictures of every book cover, put them in alphabetical order (by author and then by title except that books within a series were kept in story order), made collages, AND gave them matching backgrounds. Well done, Past Chanis. There is no way I’m keeping up with all that.

A LOOK AHEAD
So what’s in store for 2017?

The numerical goal: 26 books
The personal goal: To read all the books I own but haven’t read
The blog goals: To post within a week of finishing a book & to keep the posts simple

I expect there will be a high volume of middle grade novels in the mix this year due to a new book club at work. I like variety in the abstract but it requires a lot of upkeep.

A LOOK BEHIND
I have decided to list all the books I read during my absence and give them each a three(ish) sentence review. Because I can. It will make this post excessively long but if you continue, well, you know what you’re getting into.

2015
Going Bovine by Libba Bray: A mix of Holden Caulfield, Percy Jackson, and probably Don Quixote. Not every book is for every person and this book is 0% for me. I cringe to admit that Going Bovine reminded me of Percy Jackson because Percy Jackson is completely relevant to my interests and Going Bovine is 0% for me.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart: AHHHHHH I SO LOVED THIS BOOK! I’m pretty sure I have a post written about it because it was so completely, amazingly, gratifyingly good. E. Lockhart is brilliant, this book is brilliant, and nearly two years later I still like to sit and think about how brilliant this book is.

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale: The last book of the Princess Academy series. It is just as lovely and thoughtful and not-what-I-expected-but-totally-better-than-I-expected as the others. Princess Academy on its own is absolute magic; this is a very satisfying extension of that world.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: If you want to laugh until you cry, are gasping for air, and your stomach aches even when the topic is depression, get this book immediately. You can also check out the Hyperbole and a Half blog — I do believe everything in the book is on the blog — but it is oddly thrilling to turn the brightly colored pages and to hug a physical object when you’re LITERALLY laughing out loud. This is for me and unless you’re physically sickened by swear words it’s probably for you, too.

Cinderella’s Shoes by Shonna Slayton: This is exactly the book you want after you’ve read Cinderella’s Dress. It delves more deeply into the story and lore of the original Cinderella and sends Kate across a post-war Europe. It’s beautiful and sad and full of magic and full of life.

Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller: Yes, THAT Jason Segel. I read it because he came to my town for a book signing and it seemed like the thing to do. It’s a story that respects children, assumes that they can handle uncomfortable subjects, and although it’s not a feel-good book, the experience of reading this book felt very good. I would recommend it for pretty much anyone.

Sideways Stories From Wayside School, Wayside School Is Falling Down, and Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger by Louis Sachar: I re-read these because I worked on the play and I remembered loving these books as a kid. They are stranger, darker, and far more brilliant than I remembered.

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor: The novel to accompany the genius and bizarre podcast. This was my first audio book experience because Cecil Baldwin (the voice of Night Vale) did the narration and it seemed appropriate to listen rather than read. I enjoyed it but don’t know how well it reads for someone who’s not already a fan of the podcast.

Frog and Toad Are Friends, Frog and Toad Togetherand Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel: Again, I re-read these because I worked on the show and had fond childhood memories of the stories. My remembrance of these books was quite different from reality. The stories are completely lovely even if my memory was inaccurate.

Winter by Marissa Meyer: The last book of the Lunar Chronicles — and the only time I ever looked forward to winter. I made a weekend out of this; reading it late into the night, sleeping for a bit, and then reading until I finished. It’s a good book and a great conclusion to the series but there’s not enough Cress and Thorne.

The Princess in Black and The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale: I bought the first book for my niece, found out she already owned it, and decided not to return it. I sent the second book to my niece but I had to read it before wrapping it. A fabulous series for young/reluctant readers.

2016
Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath by Scott Westerfeld: This series was actually the subject of my very first post (read it here). This time around I listened to the audio books which are narrated by Alan Cumming. How do you make a flawless series even better? Alan. Cumming.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab: And this is the book that introduced me to the magic comes from V.E./Victoria Schwab. When she conceived this book, she asked herself, “Can I take two villains and make you root for one of them?” The answer is YES.

Paper Towns by John Green: Believe it or not, this was my first John Green novel. I enjoyed the Paper Towns movie more than the Fault in Our Stars movie (*dodges thrown objects*) and so this was the book I chose to read. There is a line that says something like, “It is a treacherous thing to see a person as more than a person” which I’ve almost certainly misquoted but the sentiment resonates deeply with me.

A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: These books cemented my Schwab obsession. It was a slowish start for me as I adjusted to the style of ADSOM but ultimately, this series is probably better than Vicious. I recommend reading Vicious first so that you can properly appreciate how brilliant it is and then move onto ADSOM so that you can marvel in the increasing genius.

The Islands at the End of the World and The Girl at the Center of the World by Austin Aslan: These are by a local author and I finally got around to reading them. They are far more doomsday than I usually read or watch so it took a while to get used to the style and the construct. I did enjoy the stories though and plan to read his next books more promptly.

The Chronicles of Narnia (all except The Last Battle) by C.S. Lewis: I’ve read each of these multiple times but I recently discovered that there’s a set of audio books narrated by Kenneth Branagh, Derek Jacobi, and the like. The narration is as wonderful as it sounds but, with all due love and admiration for Patrick Stewart, it’s difficult to get past the opening of The Last Battle and I abandoned ship. Traditionally The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is my favorite but I found the audio of The Magician’s Nephew to be the most compelling.

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale: I need an emoji for this — one that I’m not sure exists — with gritted teeth and Xed out eyes. I read it on an overnight flight and that may be the only reason I finished it. Guys, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bigger Shannon Hale fan but this book made absolutely no sense to me (and, when combined with travel delirium, it made the Seattle airport super creepy).

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti: This is the book I read on the flight home. It was interesting and I’m glad I read  it but it’s nowhere near the genius of the Leviathan series. The sequel (Swarm) came out recently and it’s on my to-read but not necessarily my to-buy list.

Thanks for reading! The irregularly scheduled programming will start soon!