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Zero-By-2020: To Be Read in March

I hope it’s not weird that I’m starting this in March. I just found a lot of cool library books in February, and I’m W E A K. (Which I ended up returning most of them unread so I could tackle something bigger, my TBR.)

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If you’re not sure what Zero-By-2020 is, it is this new project I’m starting where I’m going to reduce my physical To Be Read pile to zero books by 2020. I’m going to make monthly TBRs, wrap-ups, perhaps participate in challenges and read-a-thons to help get my TBR to zero or at least a more manageable number. I am also planning on creating challenges that you can participate in too! Throughout my journey, I am going to share my struggles, my tips and tricks, and my thoughts on these books.

My physical TBR stands at around 200 books; I’m not sure of the exact number as I unhauled books and hauled more afterwards. Seeing as I only read about 34 books last year and about 28 the year before, I’m not sure how I’m going to accomplish this project. But, I am going to try my best to take a stab at it.

Without further ado, let’s begin with my TBR for March!

Book One: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (550 pgs)

19063 It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.

By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.

But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

I feel like I’m one of the only people in the book community who has not read The Book Thief yet. I’m really interested in the history of World War II and this book has a really cool concept, so I have no idea why I haven’t picked it up. In March, I will though!

Book Two: Bluets by Maggie Nelson (99 pgs)

 Bluets winds its way through depression,

coverdivinity, alcohol, and desire, visiting

along the way with famous blue figures, including Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Yves Klein, Leonard Cohen and Andy Warhol. While its narrator sets out to construct a sort of ‘pillow book’ about her lifelong obsession with the colour blue, she ends up facing down both the painful end of an affair and the grievous injury of a dear friend. The combination produces a raw, cerebral work devoted to the inextricability of pleasure and pain, and to the question of what role, if any, aesthetic beauty can play in times of great heartache or grief.

Much like Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s DiscourseBluets has passed between lovers in the ecstasy of new love, and been pressed into the hands of the heartbroken. Visceral, learned, and acutely lucid, Bluets is a slim feat of literary innovation and grace, never before published in the UK.

This book came heavily recommended by Jen Campbell, on YouTube. I was very intrigued by its small size and buttery cover. I’m so excited to dive into it!

Book Three: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (216 pgs)

thepenelopiadNow that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality—and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

I really like Margaret Atwood and Greek Mythology so this is definitely a good mix!


For now, I’m just going to pick three books to read as I’m not sure how many I will get through in the month. Next month’s TBR is going to be pretty cool so keep an eye out for that!

 

 

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Book Review #42: It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE is a darkly comic, honest and unapologetic illustrated account of the daily struggles with mental health. Ruby Elliot, aka Rubyetc, is the talent behind the hit tumblr account, ‘Rubyetc’, which has over 210k followers and growing. Taking readers on a journey through the ups and downs of life, the book will encompass everything from anxiety, bipolar disorder and body image to depression and identity, shining a light on very real problems – all framed with Ruby’s trademark humour and originality.

Ruby balances mental health with humour, making serious issues accessible – and very funny. With the superb talent to capture the essence of human emotion (and to make you laugh out loud), this book is as important and necessary as it is entertaining. IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE will include mostly never-before-seen material, both written and illustrated, and will be an empowering book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make things ok.

Being a former Tumblr addict, I had to admit I hadn’t followed Ruby Elliot during my many years scrolling through the site. But, first seeing this book in a bookstore drew up some hint of familiarity, like I had seen the drawing style before.

It first reminded me of Allie Brosh’s non-fiction cartoonish account of parts her life and her struggle with depression, Hyperbole and a Half. While Brosh’s debut was only in part describing her experience with mental illness, It’s All Absolutely Fine is completely dedicated to describing the struggles of the author’s mental health.

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At times dark and simply poignant, and other times hilarious, Elliot relatably recounts her struggle with mental illness through written pieces and short cartoons. Though only a part of her life, Elliot manages to share how it sometimes takes over, feeling like there is nothing else.

 

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from It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot, 2016

 

Elliot’s drawing style is very simple, yet signifies the often erratic side of mental health. The book is separated into parts, sharing specific experiences, although not chronological. This was less a complete autobiographical account and more of a sharing of experiences that are all too common. Some cartoons, unexpectedly give hope that things will get better.

 

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from It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot, 2016

 

While there are no graphic depictions of these, It’s All Absolutely Fine does mention self-harm, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Keep that in mind if you are still experiencing these or are in recovery.

Ruby Elliot’s sharing of her personal life through art shows others, even people who haven’t experienced mental illness, how difficult it can be and it is an invaluable piece of media that everyone should read.

 

★★★★

Four stars!

 

Book Review #41: Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman

Revenge is worth its weight in gold.

When her father is murdered for a journal revealing the location of a hidden gold mine, eighteen-year-old Kate Thompson disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers—and justice. What she finds are untrustworthy strangers, endless dust and heat, and a surprising band of allies, among them a young Apache girl and a pair of stubborn brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, a startling truth becomes clear: some men will stop at nothing to get their hands on gold, and Kate’s quest for revenge may prove fatal.

I listened to this book on audio, and it was narrated by Amy Rubinate. The audiobook didn’t add a whole lot extra to the experience, but it was good all the same. I think it might be better to check this out on audio if you don’t like Kate’s way of speaking while reading. It is much better to listen to; I really enjoyed her turn of phrase.

Vengeance Road was everything I needed in a western and much more. Too long have westerns been a sausage fest of cowboys and filled with damsels in distress. Kate Thompson shows that not only women can be tough and stop at nothing to get what they want, but they can also have flaws, moments of weakness, and make mistakes. Pretty much every woman we meet in this story has their own strengths, and they are not flat characters.

The plot was just enough kicking ass and taking names as much as it was a survival story. Kate had nothing left to her life, other than the urge to take revenge for her father’s murder, and that really showed in the initial tone of the novel. Kate didn’t really care for what happened after she would take revenge on the Rose Riders, nor did she care if she died as long as she would take the leader with her. She thought she would never care about anyone. There is a budding romance in this book, and it was enough of a slow-burn for me to actually root for them and care whether or not they actually got together.

This novel had so much action packed into it and it was so easy to invest in the characters lives. I’m saddened that it only has 3.88 on GoodReads because it deserves so much more. The cover is gorgeous and the story is the same.

I keep flipping my rating from four to five stars and back again; when I lowered it to four, I couldn’t think why I should leave off a star because there is nothing I would change about this novel. It is truly that good. Bowman really has crafted a genuinely amazing story, one that I would be glad to pick up again.

 

★★★★

Five Stars!

 

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