Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Guardians: An Elegy by Sarah Manguso

The Guardians: An Elegy by Sarah Manguso

Release Date: February 28th 2012
Pages: 128
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Also by this Author: The Two Kinds of Decay
Buy It: Book Depository
The Guardians is an elegy for Manguso’s friend Harris, two years after he escaped from a psychiatric hospital and jumped under that train. The narrative contemplates with unrelenting clarity their crowded postcollege apartment, Manguso’s fellowship year in Rome, Harris’s death and the year that followed—the year of mourning and the year of Manguso’s marriage.
So the first thing I want to talk about is what I was afraid of when I first picked up The Guardians; and that was that it might get bogged down in science instead of lifted up by poetry, something Manguso's first memoir The Two Kinds of Decay suffered from a bit too much. And unfortunately it does, sometimes veering into too much fact, like describing side effects of certain anti-psychotics, going into a detailed history of akathisia, even quoting two paragraphs directly from a Czech doctor, Ladislav Haskovec. At the end of the description she links it back to her friend Harris, as the common outcome includes suicide, specifically by jumping, but by that point I was wondering why I was reading all of this info dump of facts.

The other major time info-dump happened was much later in the book, where there are several pages quoting three published cases on the same side effect. The Guardians is so short, barely past 100 pages, so that in a way I felt cheated having to read three full pages that weren't Manguso's; more science, more quotes. She even quotes herself at one point, a page from a novel she didn't finish.

But– the reason I felt the need to detail the fault of this memoir so precisely is that the rest of The Guardians, the part in Manguso's own words, it's absolutely breath-taking and original. There are countless times when I had to pause reading to write down a quote, something beautiful and heart-breaking that twisted inside me. At one point, Manguso writes:
"Then, when he dies, you’ll wonder how his death could have burned you entirely away– yet there you are, walking out of the fire in a form you no longer recognize."
Her powerful description of grief reminded me sometimes of The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke, another memoir and one I absolutely adored. Both O'Rourke and Manguso have this powerful, sharp and broken way of describing grief, of reminding the reader of the pain. The other author that comes to mind, because of the topic but also the fragmented way of writing, different memories combining into one tragic story– is Joan Didion, who dealt with grief in two memoirs, The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. It especially reminds me of Blue Nights because it is both the story of the person who died, in this case her friend Harris, and a story of a personal journey– as Manguso marries her husband.

Ultimately, Manguso's poetic prose is what make The Guardians such a wonderful yet heart-breaking book– she has a genuine and beautiful way of capturing moments and feelings, which is why I am disappointed every time she veers off into the scientific instead.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Readin'


My computer is filled with files on books I want to read, or own, or series I need to finish. I'm a compulsive list-maker, but it helps with my sense of accomplishment when I finish. Even though reading is something I love and would do regardless of a list or not, I was thinking it might be fun for me to make a record of some books I'd like to read this summer. I'm out of school till September, for the first time in years, and I plan to take full advantage of that! But if I make my list too long, I know I'll end up tempted to stray, so here it is. Ten titles to read June to August 2012, and like always, these are in no particular order. I'll be sure to check back in early September and let you know how I managed!

1. That Summer by Sarah Dessen
It seems like a lot of Sarah Dessen's books take place over the summer, so she seemed like the perfect author to start with. Though I've only read two by her so far Keeping the Moon and Along For the Ride, both were definitely summer books. This was her debut, but I'm still hoping for more of the authentic characters and easy to read writing that Dessen is recognized for.

2. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Two birds with one stone, since one of my 2012 goals was to pick up my first Ockler title. I prefer to read books in the order they were published, even in the case of standalones, so I'm happy to try out this contentious title first. Honestly though, I refuse to pick up a book just because it's been banned a lot, and this is a case where it's really the blogger love and recommendations that have got me eager to read it. 

3. The Last Summer (Of You And Me) by Ann Brashares

I adored the Traveling Pants series, but had less love for Brashares' adult title My Name Is Memory. Still, I'm willing to give this, which was actually her first adult novel, a try and I hope that Brashares takes on adult relationships as thoughtfully as she does with teenagers. 

4. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
This is actually the first in a trilogy, so I'll probably end up reading all three if I enjoy it. I've heard great things about it, and it's bound to be filled with romance, friendship and the usual taste of drama.

5. The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt
The first book I read by Reinhardt, Harmless, wasn't my favourite but there were some aspects I enjoyed so I'm willing to give her books a second chance. Plus, I haven't even read it and I already feel sympathetic towards the main character, Drew, who has a pet rat and her dad's Book of Lists.

6. Farewell Summer by Ray Bradbury
I love Bradbury, and I still think of his novel Dandelion Wine as one of the most perfect summer books there is. When I was checking out books with "summer" in the title I came across this one, and even though I hadn't heard of it I instantly had to add it to my list. Then, I found out it's actually a Dandelion Wine sequel, so I'll probably need to reread that too. Hopefully it has the same whimsy and beauty as the first book.

7. The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra Elan McVoy 
McVoy is one of those authors I've heard great things about (especially from Jordyn) and though, as I said, I prefer to read titles in the order they're published, I'm going to have to make a couple exceptions for the sake of my summery list.

8. Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz 
Another author I've been wanting to read, and though this is her second book, I guess I'll also be reading it first! The description calls it "not your typical beach read" and although the cover sorta argues otherwise, I'm excited to give Moskowitz a try.

9. Shadowed Summer by Saundra Mitchell 
I actually own two books by Mitchell (but not this one), but they're part of a trilogy that hasn't finished yet and I'm kinda waiting for the last book to be published before I read it. So I'll stick with this one instead. It's a summer ghost story, which I'm pretty sure I haven't read anything like before, and it's a tiny little book (less than 200 pages) so I have no excuse for not reading it.

10. A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
A final "author I've heard a lot about but I really planned to read her first book first" for my list. I'm pretty curious about books with MCs that seem unlikable (at least at first) and I'll be interested to see how Keplinger handles it. And, if I fall in love with the novel, I've got two more by her waiting on my shelves.

Have I got you lusting over summer yet? Have you read any of these books? Are there any I'm desperately missing and should ambitiously add to the list? Do you promise to remind me about this in August so I can scramble to actually read these before my self-imposed deadline? Is this enough questions for ending a post?

If anyone wants to join me on this mini summer readin' challenge, leave a note in the comments. Happy reading everyone, and happy summer :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

It's Monday, what are you reading? (26)

I'm actually moving starting early Monday morning (we have a 54 hour drive ahead of us, back to Nova Scotia from Alberta) so I'm posting this early. I've got a couple posts ready, but if I'm not around much this week it's because of the travel. My boyfriend and I are also stopping by Montreal for a couple days, because that's where my family is. Anyway I'm hoping to get a couple books read anyway, as this list clearly shows, but I'm not sure how soon I'll be able to review them.

Last week I finished reading: 
The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
Definitely liked the first book Peeps better than it's sequel. Somehow Westerfeld makes five points of view work, but the story itself had trouble keeping my interest.

The Guardians by Sarah Manguso
Like Manguso's last memoir, I wish she'd cut some of the science (pages detailing a medication side effect) but it was worth it for the 80% of the book that was pure poetry– a much higher percentage than her first memoir, The Two Kinds of Decay and probably the reason I preferred this one.

Teen Boat! by Dave Roman and John Green
Whoops! When I got this in the mail I thought the illustrations were by some guy named Dave Roman (actually a well-established author of graphic novels) and that John Green, like Looking For Alaska John Green, was the writer. Turns out John Green is also the name of an illustrator, with a few titles under his belt. Once I got that through my head, I was in for a cute and enjoyable boat-ride of a book.

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
I'm not sure how I feel about this one... there were aspects I really liked, and some things I just didn't quite get. I need to ponder it a bit more.

Take A Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg
Buddy read with Ambur! Even though she hasn't read it yet... she will soon, and we'll discuss it next week. It was cute, it didn't blow me away but it was an easy, fun read.

What I plan to read this week:
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
I read almost half of this one and it's awesome, I wish I had gotten a chance to read more but moving got in the way. Excited to finish it soon.

First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky
Another one I expected to finish but got busy with the move, lovely writing and description though sometimes it feels like there is a lot of saying what people are doing and very little of them actually doing it, just a quip or two of dialogue thrown in the mix. But again, only just started so it'll be interesting to see how it progresses.

Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer
Surprise mailbox ARC, but I want to finish it before I visit my family (this upcoming weekend) because my stepmom is a huge Jodi Picoult fan and I think she might enjoy this. I'm a tiny bit skeptical of the whole "teenage daughter writes book with massively best-selling mother" but hopefully I can read the book without thinking about that.

The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Córdova
I have an ARC of this one and it looks amazing! I wanted to spread out my mermaid reading, but it's time for another one, and I hope it's just as awesome as I think it will be.

What are you reading this Monday? 

Friday, May 25, 2012

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits

Release Date: May 8th 2012
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Random House Canada
Buy It: Book Depository
Spanning four generations, from pre-World War II Transylvania, to 1960s Paris, to contemporary New York, Markovits' masterful novel shows what happens when unwavering love and unyielding law clash--a rabbi will save himself while his followers perish; a Gentile maid will be commanded to give up the boy she rescued because he is not of her faith; two devoted sisters will be forced apart when one begins to question their religion's ancient doctrine.
Like the characters it contains, the text of I Am Forbidden is fractured, pieces of a story that sometimes last only a paragraph; a technique that allows Markovits to cover over sixty years in three hundred pages. The concise story-telling means a lot gets covered, but it definitely takes awhile to get used to even if it's technically chronological.

Unfortunately, there were times when the brevity was such that I felt rushed, like the story moved so quickly I could barely get a sense of certain characters, especially in the last quarter of the novel that features Judith. That said, Markovits real talent lies in the ability to immerse the reader, almost instantaneously, in the foreign world of her story. I don't just mean the geographical setting is foreign, though it often is, even when it takes place in New York. What was so foreign to me, even as a Jew, was the Satmar religion, an extremely orthodox sect of Hasidim and one that Markovits herself grew up in and therefore has the kind of insight into that makes I Am Forbidden so authentic and unique.

Overall, this was an incredibly beautifully written book, and once I got involved in it I devoured 2/3rds in almost one uninterrupted sitting. I couldn't imagine what it would be like to grow up in the kind of closed community that these characters are a part of, but the way that Markovits writes it, I was there, I was a part of it, and I knew exactly.

I Am Forbidden is emotional, powerful, original and story is feels like it must have been such a part of Markovits it is hard to imagine what else she could possibly write– though of course, she already has a previous novel published in French, she is just that good of an author, one that makes the reader believe that no other world ever existed, except for one she created.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck

Release Date
: May 1st 2012
Pages: 249
Format: ARC
Source: Raincoast Books
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Buy It: Book Depository
When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing. She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?
This was a story that started with a main character I didn't especially like but ended with one I definitely respected, and I think that subtle but authentic growth is the shinning aspect of While He Was Away.

That said, there are some things that really bothered me about the story. For one, time passes strangely, like Penna will say something isn't as bad as it used to be when she's talking about the past two days, or that the tattoo has suddenly healed when yesterday it was covered with a gauze bandage. In another instance she talks about how absent her mom has been– "It burns me that I've waited for Linda, wondering where she is."– when really she only didn't come home one night. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be teenage exaggeration, but it got on my nerves and didn't help my sympathy for Penna.

Also, when there is even one statement that is factually wrong (as far as I can determine, and from my own personal experience) it really bothers me in a novel and makes me doubt how probable the rest of the story is. In While He Was Away this statement is when a character in the novel breaks a bone, and Penna is told "They have to wait to get all the food out of her system before they set the bone." I've had a few broken bones, and I even did Googling to check, and I've never heard of somebody having to wait to have a bone set because they ate a meal– it seems like cruel and ridiculous punishment. I'm not a doctor and I could be wrong, but it was the sort of thing that nagged at me even after I finished the novel.

Both those complaints are minor in light of what really bothered me about this novel: Penna's relationship with David. I just didn't believe it. Maybe it's because he's around for less than 24 hours in the book, but even the flashbacks didn't give me a good feel for him as a character and made it difficult to care about him on Penna's behalf... which is sorta the point of the book. Penna herself is annoying because of her dependency on David, but as I mentioned, there is some really strong character growth near the end of the novel, and it was great to see her become her own person. There was also a bit of a twist near the end regarding David and Penna, that I definitely didn't expect.

I really liked the interactions between Penna and the friends she makes, and the grandmother storyline was interesting, when it came to her family history not her own personal romance which was so incredibly cheesy at points that it felt nauseating and also way too convenient to be believable. Penna had some darker past hinted at a few times, and I wished it had been developed further because I think it would have given her character the depth it felt like she was lacking, at least at the beginning.

Another aspect of While He Was Away that I liked was the relationship between Penna and her mom Linda, which was complicated and broken at times, but ultimately very powerful. Penna's relationship with her mom was one of the major ways she grew, and I was pretty touched by how things worked out for them. The Oklahoma setting was also well written and unique to read about. However, in the end, it was Penna herself that saved the novel. Somehow Penna slowly blossomed into a strong and confident young woman by the end of While He Was Away, one that I never could when I first began reading but the transformation that Schreck wrote was admirable, believable, and something I really enjoyed reading about.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In The Next Room is on FACEBOOK

Hey fellow book lovers, I got a Facebook page set up for In The Next Room and I would love if you would join it! I still have a few kinks to iron out but it's ready and waiting for your attention. Being a fan will also get you an extra entry in all my future giveaways, and I've got some awesome ones planned now that I'm back from hiatus. There will also be links to other great giveaways and to posts on the blog, so you don't miss them.

To follow, click here:

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Release Date
: November 1st 2011
Pages: 208
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Random House Canada
Also by this Author: The Year of Magical Thinking
Buy It: Book Depository
Reflecting on her daughter but also on her role as a parent, Didion asks the candid questions any parent might about how she feels she failed either because cues were not taken or perhaps displaced. "How could I have missed what was clearly there to be seen?" Finally, perhaps we all remain unknown to each other. Seamlessly woven in are incidents Didion sees as underscoring her own age, something she finds hard to acknowledge, much less accept.
I'd read at least one Joan Didion novel in the past (Play It As It Lays– there may have been others but I can't remember them offhand) but my most recent by her was a memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking which is about her husband's unexpected death and was, as expected, both beautiful written and incredibly depressing. So when I learned that her next book was another memoir, this time about her daughter's death (her daughter had been very ill in Magical Thinking), I was pretty conflicted. Of course I was going to read it, but I had to wait for the right mindset. Even after my friend Laala told me it wasn't nearly as depressing as her previous book... well I was still skeptical.

So that's why it took me about six months to finally read Blue Nights, but when I finally did I was incredibly surprised. As much as there are sad moments and many deaths in this memoir, what it really is, is a celebration of life. Didion's daughter, Quintana, once told her, on death "don't dwell on it", and that seems to be exactly what she's tried to do in Blue Nights. Instead, Didion reflects on some of the important moments in Quintana's life: her wedding, what it was like to adopt her, some memorable childhood memories. 

What definitely comes through in the pages of Blue Nights is the love Didion continues to have for her only child, but that is expected. What is more interesting, and complex, is her reflections on whether she was a good parent, whether she did everything she could. I think every parent must worry about those same things, and Didion examines them with a honest and eloquent voice. There is a lot of repetition in this book, and sometimes it felt like too much; the same memory told again when I was hoping for something fresh. At the same time, I wonder if that's because of Didion's grief, that obsessive way that you go over some specific moments when you loose a person; I could understand that, but still feel like she had a whole lifetime with her daughter to draw from, and I wish there had been a little bit more of it shared. 

Intertwined with Quintana's story is Didion's own reflections on aging and mortality, her own examination of herself, which was also really interesting to read about. I'm still in my early twenties, and so it is hard to imagine myself fifty years from now. There are some really powerful segments where she talks about the differences between how she continues to see herself, and how she really is. Didion writes: 
"A doctor to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I had lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.
I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the red suede sandals with four-inch heels that I had always preferred."
Blue Nights manages to celebrate and examine, rather than fall into the dark pit of tragedy, and though I wished for less repetition, what I found among it all was a beautifully written memoir that combines Didion's own story with that of her daughter in a unique and incredibly moving book. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Wishlist Lust (2)

Books I'm lusting over that didn't make it onto my previous 2 lists (sequels and stand-alones). It has nothing to do with how much I'm lusting, it has to do with short lists and new amazing books I'm discovering and adding to my wishlist every day.
1 Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso (August 14th 2012)

I love a good contemporary YA novel, and this one takes place in a juvenile correction facility– a location just begging for an exciting story and it looks like Lascarso is going to deliver one in what I hope will be an angry and powerful debut novel.

2.  Every Day by David Levithan (August 28th 2012)

I've read quite a few books by Levithan but I seem to like him more when he writes with a co-author than his solo books. Still, they are always unique and easy to read and this one has an intriguing premise with a genderless main character who wakes up in a new body every day. I'll definitely be giving it a try when it's published. 
3.  Blind Spot by Laura Ellen (October 23rd 2012)

I actually have a short story I never quite finished writing about a girl with degenerative blindness and when I heard about this novel dealing with the same issue, but combining it with a murder mystery, I was instantly intrigued. I love the cover, the premise, the fact that the author herself has the same disease as the main character, and I am incredibly excited to read this unique debut. 

4.  Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien (October 2nd 2012)

One of my very favourite dystopian series is coming to an end this fall, and I can't wait to see how O'Brien connects the themes from the first two novels in this final book.
5. Live Through This by Mindi Scott (October 2nd 2012)

What a dark and secretive story! I haven't read Scott's debut Freefall yet but I don't really remember it catching my attention like her followup has. I already want to know more about this relationship that crossed the line, and what it means for the main character's future and the crush she's getting closer to.

6. Break my Heart 1,000 Times by Daniel Waters (October 16th 2012)

Creepy cover, creepy story. It's about a future where ghosts don't move on, but one man's daughter never came back as a ghost. Another girl is trying to investigate why these ghosts exists and she's the perfect host for his dead daughter. A paranormal dark and twisty mystery, I hope the writing lives up to the strong premise of this novel.
7. Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio (September 25th 2012)

I have no idea how Jio can write this fast, but here's her third novel in less than 2 years and it sounds just as good as her first two which I loved. They're adult books that mix genres, combining a historical and contemporary storyline with romance and mystery.

8. The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli (September 4th 2012)

I absolutely adored Soli's debut The Lotus Eaters and it still sticks in my mind over a year later as one of the most beautifully written books I've read. I was incredibly excited that just because she writes so thoughtfully, doesn't mean that I have to wait a decade for her second novel, and I'll definitely be picking this one up in September.
9. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (June 19th 2012)

I pre-ordered this one ages ago and have been eagerly awaiting it ever since. It's told from the perspective of a marine that has just come home from Afghanistan where his best friend was killed and is trying to pick up the pieces of his life. Doller's writing is incredibly beautiful from the snippets I've read and I can't wait to dive into a full length story from her.

10. All These Lives by Sarah Wylie (June 5th 2012)

I always love a good twin story since I am one myself. This one is about a girl who thinks she has nine lives and sets out to get rid of them, hoping her twin sister who has cancer will end up with one. It sounds like a really emotional story. 

What's on your wishlist?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Chameleon Couch: Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa

The Chameleon Couch: Poems by Yusef Komunyakaa

Release Date: March 15th 2011
Pages: 128
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Buy It: Book Depository


Somehow, I hadn't managed to read a single collection of poetry so far into 2012, and with nearly half the year slipped away I had the opportunity to pick up the latest book by Komunyakaa. I hadn't read any of his previous collections, but The Chameleon Couch was nominated for a National Book Award, and the author had previously been awarded a Pulitzer Prize. With credentials like that, my expectations were understandably pretty high.

As soon as I opened the book to the first poem, I was awed by the delicateness of Komunyakaa's words, his soft and sharp contrasting imagery. In that first poem, "Canticle", which remained one of my favourites of the entire collection, he writes:
"Because I mistrust my head & hands, because I know salt
    tinctures my songs, I tried hard not to touch you
even as I pulled you into my arms."
The poem itself finishes with these lines: 
"   I only want to hold you this way: a bundle of wild orchids
broken at the wet seam of memory & manna."
His words are filled with these beautiful images that bring his poems alive, vivid on the page. The collection is divided into three parts, but what they all have in common is their haunting insight into personal moments and the time when everything changes. "Ignis Fatuus" was another poem I found especially powerful, and in it Komunyakaa writes:
"A foolish fire
can also start this way: before
you slide the key into the lock
& half turn the know, you know
someone has snuck into your life."
Komunyakaa also has an amazing ability to bring alive inanimate objects, like "Ode to the Shaukuhachi" brings to life the instrument and later in the collection, "Ode to the Guitar" does the same. "A Translation of Silk", another one of my favourites, ends with the following words:
"Humans crave immortality, but oh,
yes, to think worms wove this
as a way to stay alive in our world."
This shows how even when the source of his fascination is non-human, he still manages to bring out the emotional aspects of it. The Chameleon Couch is filled with beautiful images, but they aren't just flat words, they bring the shape into existence and give it personality. In one of the final poems, "The Thorn Merchant's Godson", Komunyakaa writes:
"The gift
is the weight of a pocket watch
ticking like a fat slug of gold
pressed against his groin."
It is the kind of image I can exactly picture, bringing the moment to life with his tiny details and metaphors. That said, there wasn't exactly the kind of connecting themes I often find in poetry. There was a lot about music, and part II had many references to the Holocaust– boys with stars pinned to their sleeves and other Nazi imagery like Auschwitz– but there wasn't the kind of common thread that easily strings the poems together. Maybe that was the reason there were a few I simply didn't get, like "A Poem Written Inside A Big Round Machine".

Many of the poems in part III of the collection were more story than poem, steeped in history, but they are further proof of the way Komunyakaa brings moments to life. In "The Hedonist", much of which seems like a story in poetic form, he still manages to include his own sharp brand of imagery, writing:
"I am flesh
born to another dream of flesh. If I am clay,
  it is the same merciless clay you are made of,
with a red vein of iron running through it, the same
  naked prayer in the dark holding the song together." 
Still, even in Komunyakaa's darkest poems he brings a little bit of light to the surface. "Kindness" and "Goodness" are perfect examples of this. In "Goodness" he combines the imagery, the storytelling, and the bleak hope that seems to define his poetry, writing: 
"I’d love to believe nature
is never truly unkind, that she
only wills the tiger bee its stinger
to guard the rally of honeysuckle
climbing the rusty iron-spiked gate
where mercy pulled all the fruit
down to the lowest branches."
Overall, this is a collection filled with images and stories, and though I didn't grasp them all, there were plenty contained within it that left a lasting impression. The poet doesn't play with form, most of the poems appear the same stylistically, rather it is the images and rhythm of the poetry that makes it so unique. Ultimately, The Chameleon Couch was a wonderful introduction to Yusef Komunyakaa and was a lovely reminder to myself to pick up some more poetry before the rest of the 2012 is gone.

It's Monday, what are you reading? (25)

Hosted by The Book Journey
I've decided that since I'm going to be posting these on Sunday nights from now on, I'm only going to be including books finished by Sunday, not by Monday. Otherwise I have to wait for Monday night to post... and I post a review on Monday too, and it just ends up with cluttered and I prefer it this way, so that's it.

Last week I finished reading: 
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Technically finished this last Monday, but I posted before I had so it makes it into this week's post instead (And from now on my posts will be books read Monday-Sunday anyway). Absolutely loved it though, and can't wait for book 3.

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell
This was a strange book in which the chapters alternate between text and graphic novel, but when everything finally comes together I found it to be a really powerful and wonderfully told story.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
For a book reflecting on a woman's aging and her daughter's death, this was surprisingly less depressing than Didion's last book, her memoir on her husband's death The Year of Magical Thinking, but it's not less beautifully written.

Free Four: Tobias Tells the Story by Veronica Roth
A quick story that retells a Divergent scene from Four's perspective. An intense and easy read, I really enjoyed it. It'll be neat if Roth ever writes another one, it's so interesting to see the other side of the story.

The New Guy and The Invitation by Kelley Armstrong

Two bonus short stories from The Gathering that are a nice compliment to the novel and also available online for free. The New Guy shares the scene where Maya first meets Rafe and is a great look into her first impression, and The Invitation is told from Rafe's perspective when he goes to Maya's birthday party and it was interesting to see what was going through his mind and the complex dilemma he faced when it came to her. They both have spoilers for The Gathering but if you've already read the novel I definitely recommend reading these two (you can find them on Armstrong's website).

This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers
Even though this book has zombies in it, it's really a human story, and it's one the Summers' imbues with her own brand of sharp and powerful emotion. I really enjoyed it.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

One of those books I started reading and then abandoned when the thesis stress got really bad, I finally had a chance to finish the audiobook this weekend. While I enjoyed it, it was really different than the two other series (Midnighters and Uglies) that I've read by Westerfeld and I felt it went a little too heavy on the non-fiction alternating chapters about parasites; they dragged down the story pace. Still, really creative and I definitely liked this unique spin on vampires. 

The Chameleon Couch by Yusef Komunyakaa
I haven't read a single collection of poetry so far this year. Clearly I needed to fix that, and I'm glad I picked this beautiful National Book Award finalist collection to jump start myself back into poetry. I'm about to move and don't have any other collections with me, but I'll definitely need to read some more poetry this summer.

I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits
Beautifully written but I wasn't really in the mood for most of last week. Then today (Sunday) I sat down and devoured the last 2/3rds in almost one sitting. Emotional, powerful, original. There were a few things I disliked about it, sometimes it moved so quickly I could barely get a sense of the characters, but overall I was very impressed by Markovits words.

What I plan to read this week:
The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
Time to think about checking some of the 2012 reading challenges off my list, and one of those is to read a Westerfeld series (I read 2 last year!). Obviously Peeps is kinda cheating because it's only two books, but I already owned the first one and was curious about them. This one has different characters though and is more of a companion (though it does take place afterwards), it'll be interesting to see how it compares. 

The Guardians by Sarah Manguso
A tiny non-fiction book about Manguso's friend that died. I loved her writing in The Two Kinds of Decay even if the book itself spent too much time on the science, and I'm excited for this one and hoping for pure feeling.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
I'm on a book tour for this (my first in a long time) so it'll be nice if I get to read and schedule that early. The book itself, I'm not sure if it's YA or not– I see conflicting info, but all of the info indicates that it will be awesome regardless.

What are you reading this Monday?