Contributor Book Review of ‘Into the Water’

26231600_10214850905207741_4225366720394738555_n

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins
Review by: Noelle Simonson

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

If you’ve read Girl on the Train, you are aware of Paula Hawkins’ writing expertise. She knows how to craft a world and the people within it. However, this book was different. Into the Water, while also a thriller, wasn’t quite as thrilling. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. If I could, I’d probably rate it 3.5 stars because it doesn’t quite hit that 4-star mark.

The world within Into the Water is a complex one. With at least eight different narrators, it is somewhat hard to follow. I was listening to the audiobook on my way to and from work and that made it easier to comprehend because of the different voices for the narrators. It took me until about halfway through to remember who was who and what their background story was. Though I understand the necessity of having this many characters, it might have been better to have longer excerpts from each narration, not as many character jumps, and to tighten up the loose ends. There are still some parts of the story left unanswered and that’s part of the reason for my middle-high rating.

Lena and Jules were mainly the only characters within this novel that I found interesting. Everyone else, except for Erin, fell a little flat. I found the ending to be somewhat predictable and didn’t leave me wanting more. It’s like I already knew what was going to happen before it did. I don’t want to keep comparing this to Girl on the Train, but after such a compelling page-turner, this is not what I had hoped it would be. The writing was just as good but the story was not. The characters were complex and some of them were even horrifyingly bad. As in, most of the people within the town were just not good people. Each of them had their own personal vendetta and seemed guilty of Nel’s death. I wish we could have seen more from Nel’s perspective as it would have been easier to sympathize with her and understand why she did what she did.

Overall, I recommend reading this book. It wasn’t a difficult read by any means and it was definitely enjoyable. Just don’t expect the world.

You can purchase Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water here.

My Thoughts on Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why

13-reasons-why-serieNetflix

A little over a year ago, I read Jay Asher’s novel, Thirteen Reasons Why. I hadn’t heard of the book until the news that it would be made into a Netflix original series. So, I read it in time to watch season one right when it released and there were areas I was happy with and others that felt dangerous. If you’ve seen or heard about the show, you are likely aware of the controversy that it brings with its existence.

The book is about a teenage girl who commits suicide. She leaves behind a series of cassette tapes, which hold recordings of the thirteen reasons why she felt driven to take her own life. The T.V. adaptation is astronomically different than the book, as so many other details and events are added in. With the tremendous popularity the show has received, there has been high praise in addition to contrasting warnings to avoid the show entirely. Before you begin watching, you need to know that this show is explicit and can be triggering. There are graphic scenes of sexual assault and suicide that you need to be aware of before making the decision to push play. Some viewers that have experienced depression, self-harm, and attempts at suicide have been caught off guard and triggered back to their old ways of thinking. This is not the intention behind the show but has been a result of its release. I feel that the first season of the show does a solid job of offering insight into what suicidal thoughts, bullying, slut-shaming, rape, and suicide look like in today’s society. However, there wasn’t enough of a focus on mental illness or an accurate portrayal of depression, which is what leads people to suicide. Many argue that this is an irresponsible, inaccurate look at a suicidal individual and glamorizes suicide, as a result. I’m glad that the show changed the way that Hannah Baker kills herself in the show, as I think the way she did it in the book would be less painful to watch and therefore more glorified to vulnerable viewers.

As for the rape scenes, I completely understand why they were triggering.  I think the graphic hot tub scene was necessary because it shows young men an example of rape that isn’t the woman screaming “no” or struggling. Often times, women feel frozen in the fear of the moment and they can’t consent, as a result. If your partner does not give you a clear, verbal “yes”, they are not consenting. Too many young men are failing to realize this, so I am glad that this highly popular show used their platform to clearly show such an important message to their adolescent male audience. I hope that season one of this show positively affected young men in that way. Maybe a male viewer wasn’t clear on consent, as many teens aren’t, and future rapes were avoided by changing his viewpoint. I’m not a teen boy and cannot attest to that, but I can’t help but hope that at least one man will better understand consent thanks to this show. Women aren’t the issue in our country’s despicable rapist culture–men are. We shouldn’t be given rape whistles and told to travel in pairs and to dress modestly. Men need to be held accountable and be the focus on how to stop raping, rather than telling the victims how to avoid being raped.

Rape isn’t always a strange man jumping out of the bushes and assaulting a woman. In fact, a friend or acquaintance is far more likely to be the perpetrator of sexual assault. 93% of victims already knew their rapist. From a study found on RAINN’s website, 59% were acquaintances and 34% were family members. Also, according to RAINN, 94% of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms during the two weeks following their assault. For 30% of women, these PTSD symptoms are still very present 9 months afterward. 33% of women who have experienced rape contemplate suicide and 13% attempt suicide. With this being said, these statistics are not and will never be accurate because these are only from those who have reported their rapes and their experiences following their rapes. More people who are raped don’t report their incidences than those who do. If you need help after being sexually assaulted, call RAINN at 1-800-656-4673. They are a very helpful resource.

I do not think that what Hannah did was the right choice and, while the bullying and assault that she faced filled me with anger, I don’t blame any of the thirteen for her death, directly. While I understand why Hannah felt the way she did, she made the worst choice that a person can make. She could have survived, fought against the injustice, and gone on to live an incredible life. I’ve seen online opinions that feel some of Hannah’s reasons for committing suicide were “petty,” but I don’t think anyone should be able to decide whether another person should feel hurt by something that wouldn’t hurt us. Hannah was in dire need of mental health support, which she did not receive in any form and was not mentioned in the first season of the show.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens, with over 5,000 attempts each day in the U.S., this subject needed to be discussed. The author of the book, Jay Asher, said, “Suicide is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it happens, and so we have to talk about it.”

Now onto Season 2. The new season dropped just two days ago, on May 18th. I binged this new season even more quickly than I did the first time around. There were things that I felt they did an excellent job with, but other things that I am appalled by and disgusted with. If you haven’t yet finished this season, feel free to bookmark this blog post for later and read on. Proceed with caution. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Continue reading “My Thoughts on Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why”

My Top 20 Favorite Reads of 2017

pexels-photo-192940.jpg

Last year, I read some incredible books and I wanted to take the time to share some of my favorites with all of you. In 2017, I read 88 books. The previous year, I read 41 books and in 2015, I only read 29, so it’s safe to say that I am making steady progress. Though many of those 88 changed my life, I’ve decided to narrow it down to my top 20 favorites, in no particular order. Without further adieu, here they are:

  • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  • The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • My Only Wife by Zhock Zhimpse
  • Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
  • Before a Million Universes by T.W.R. Shelton
  • Fondly by Colin Winnette
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
  • The Peacock Door by Wanda Kay Knight
  • Girls Like Me by Nina Packebush
  • Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
  • You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Say by Phoebe Robinson
  • Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim
  • The Girls by Emma Cline
  • Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
  • New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Alchemy for Cells & Other Beasts by Maya Jewell Zeller and Carrie DeBacker

    It was a great year of reading and I’m eager to share what I’ve been reading so far in 2018. I highly suggest you all get your hands on these 20 books. Feel free to check out my “read” list on my Goodreads to see the other 68 titles I read last year.

    Which of these have you read? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

10 Holiday Gift Ideas for the Bookworm in Your Life

pexels-photo-688017.jpg

The holidays are just around the corner, which means now is the time to purchase gifts for your loved ones. While I may not be the person to tell you what your tech-y brother or your garden-loving aunt have on their wish lists, if you have a book lover in your life, this list should help ease your gift buying trepidations.

Readers Gonna Read Enamel Pin

il_570xN.934625135_koux.jpg

Help the bookworm in your life promote their book-obsessed lifestyle with this adorable enamel pin.

“Books Turn Muggles into Wizards” Socks 

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.54.10 AM.png
Every bookworm knows that books turn muggles into wizards, so now they’ll have some adorable socks to prove it.

Gift Card(s)

gift_cards.jpg

If you don’t know which books the bookworm you’re shopping for is longing for, a gift card to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Half Priced Books, Book Outlet, or Thrift Books are an excellent alternative!

Frostbeard Candle

old_books_8oz_soy_candle_front_1024x1024.jpg
Bookworms love candles, so bookish candles will surely be a hit. Frostbeard has a multitude of different scents that come in different forms and sizes.

Edgar Allen Poe Socks

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.54.56 AM

The bookworm in your life’s feet will be cold nevermore.

“When In Doubt, Go To the Library” Shirt

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.56.06 AM.png

Because you can’t go wrong with a Hermione Granger quote t-shirt.

“Please Go Away I’m Reading” Throw Pillow

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.44.15 AM

Finally, a throw pillow that says what your bookworm really wants to say.

Book Page Holder

il_570xN.1342981777_l3k6.jpg

Now, the bookworm in your life can keep those pesky pages in check.

Book Beau (Protective Book Sleeve)

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.46.27 AM.png

Book lovers always keep their current reads on hand, which typically means they’re either being tossed into a purse or backpack (and getting bent) or being held (and getting rained on or risking being dropped). This book sleeve from Book Beau will solve all of their problems, while also being their most stylish bookish accessory. The Book Beau comes in many different patterns and sizes.

Book Beau Bean (Lap Pillow for Reading)

Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.47.19 AM.png

The Book Beau Bean makes reading more comfortable! Give your bookworm the gift of relaxing reading this holiday season.

Do you have more bookworm gift ideas that you want to share? Leave some links in the comments section below. Share this post to drop not-so-subtle bookish gift hints to your Facebook friends. Happy holidays, bookworms!

SaveSaveSaveSave

Book Review: ‘Girls Like Me’ by Nina Packebush

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 11.52.04 AM.png
Credit: Read, Sav, Read. 

Girls Like Me by Nina Packebush

I just finished reading this book and am at a loss for words. This book is revolutionary! Here is the synopsis included on the back of the book:

“Sixteen-year-old queer-identified Banjo Logan wakes up groggy in a juvenile mental ward. She soon realizes that the clueless therapist and shiny psychiatrist can’t help her come to terms with her genderqueer boy/girlfriend’s suicide, the fetus that’s growing inside her, or answers the question of why she cuts.

She’s befriended by two fellow patients–a strange and slightly manic queer Ethiopian girl and a shy, gay boy disowned by his born-again Christian parents. Girls Like Me is a powerful coming of age story of a pregnant gay teenager who realizes that friends may make the best medicine.”

Being a queer teen mom, reading this book was moving, to say the least. It’s a struggle to be different–to be an outcast. When you fall on the outskirts of society’s pressured norms, you end up feeling really alone. I am a major bookworm and find it really special when I can relate to a story in a way that makes me feel less alone in my experiences. With that being said, this is the first book that has applied to that particular area of my life. I so, so wish that I could have gotten my hands on a copy of this book four years ago when I was pregnant. However, I am overjoyed that queer teens and teen moms and queer teen moms will have this book to comfort them. Girls Like Me was diverse, in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation, mental health, social class, and so much more. I appreciate Nina Packebush for telling a story that has desperately needed to be told.

This is a book that I couldn’t stand to put down and I highly recommend that you all buy and read it as soon as possible! You can purchase your own copy of Nina Packebush’s Girls Like Me here.

Hooray for diversity and representation. Leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Book Review: ‘Before a Million Universes’ by T.W.R. Shelton

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 10.51.20 AM.png
Credit: Read, Sav, Read. 

Before a Million Universes by T.W.R. Shelton

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.

Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Before a Million Universes’ by T.W.R. Shelton”

Credit: Read, Sav, Read. 

I added two new tattoos to my collection and they’re finally book-themed.  The left is an outline of Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the right is a quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Both were done by Ben Stagner in Bellevue, WA at Deep Roots Tattoo and Body Piercing.

Do any of you have bookish tattoos? Tell me about them in the comments section below.