I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

There are few reading experiences that I’ve enjoyed more than listening to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The audio book I listened to was read by the author, who sadly passed away in 2014. This was my first experience with Maya Angelou and it felt deeply personal.

This book is a memoir of Angelou’s childhood. She lived a tumultuous childhood, filled with negligent parents, being raised by your grandparents, and teenage pregnancy. Angelou remembers a time of both love and abuse, happiness and pain, and freedom and captivity.

As I listened to this memoir, I understood why schools have it on reading lists and why it is a banned book. Growing up in a suburban Southern town, I can’t imagine that I would have read this book in high school, even though I took advanced English. This book is the type that people in high school should be reading- one that resounds with truth and they can connect to in a personal way.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know if I ever want to read it again. It was sad and true. Nevertheless, I recommend it to everyone.



Before the Fall

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is about a man who performs a heroic act, and then he has to live with the consequences. This novel follows Scott Burroughs, a painter who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. After a plane crash from a flight he never should have been on, Scott saves the life of a boy who is now the sole inheritor of a media empire.

This novel slowly picks apart the mystery of why the plane crash happened by diving into the backstories of the people aboard the plane. I love stories that start with the center of the story and then pick apart everything else to give the viewer the full picture. This succeeds in this, as you would expect from the creator and writer of Fargo.

Overall, I really liked this novel up until the end. Hawley is a master of spinning narrative out of a central event. But I thought the ending of the novel was cliché. Hawley is too good of a plotter and writer to fall into the traps that he did. But this novel will make a great blockbuster movie and it has already been optioned.


The Handmaid’s Tale

When I read this book for my 2016 Reading Challenge, I’d just heard about the TV series for Hulu. I’m reviewing this book through a recommendation. If there’s anything else that you want me to read and review, please don’t hesitate to ask! When I say that this book changed the way I think, I do so without a hint of irony. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is literary without being pretentious and, since January 20, 2107, closer to reality in the United States than we ever expected.

For those unfamiliar with the novel, it follows the story of Offred, a woman who is a Handmaid. Handmaids are women whose function is to sexually satisfy and bear children for the elite of a new religious oligarchy. But these men who are the head of the new system also have wives. Offred is assigned to The Commander and his wife, Serena Joy, because she is infertile. In actuality, The Commander is infertile, but men are not allowed to be infertile under the laws of Gilead, the new nation and government.

I’ve read the majority of classic dystopian novels. This one stands out to me for three reasons: the female protagonist, its subsequent focus on female issues, and that it is from the perspective of someone who remembers ‘before’. I like 1984 and Brave New World, but they have no concern for women beyond the typical archetypal roles of whore and/or mother. The Handmaid’s Tale is from the perspective of a woman who remembers the freedom she had before the current extreme patriarchal society that took over.

I can’t really express how much this novel affected me in just a few short paragraphs. I have trouble articulating it at all, actually. I read literature to gain perspectives that aren’t my own. But we are just a few small steps away from a United States that could resemble the one that Offred lives in. I love this novel because it’s a mixture f many of my favorite genres: dystopian, feminist, and sci-fi/fantasy. Every word of this novel resounded with me and I already can’t wait to read it again.


Everything, Everything

I read this YA novel at the recommendation of a coworker and because of the recent movie staring Amandla Stenberg, who also played Rue in The Hunger Games. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is the story of Maddy, who is sealed off in her house due to an extreme illness. Literally, anything from the world could kill her. But then Olly moves in next door and she has to ask herself what she would do for love.

One of my favorite parts about this novel is the multiple formats used to tell the story. There are journal entries, blogs, plane tickets, drawings, and many other creative ways that Yoon created the narrative. This also made the novel pass extremely quickly. Most of the “chapters” were just a few pages. It felt almost more like a scrapbook of her experience. While a device like this can feel kitschy, it actually drew me deeper in to the novel. It was like I stumbled upon a stranger’s mashed-up diary and learned about her through it.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel. It could have easily gone on too long, but I felt like one complete story. I can’t wait to watch the movie so I can compare the two. I feel like this story will translate extremely well to the big screen.


Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly is the source material for the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name. This non-fiction book follows the lives of several revolutionary black women who worked for NASA.

For this one, I was able to read the book before I saw the movie. The movie took some liberties for time and dramatic effect, but it was closer to the source material than I expected. The book gives so much more information than the movie is able to. The book goes in depth into the women’s entire lives, not just this small time in their lives.

The women discussed in this book are amazing. They did all the things that a lot of women do: they got married, had families, and tried to give their children a better future. But they also had jobs at NASA, where they performed the calculations that sent the first American astronauts into space. On top of all of that, they dealt with the inequality of racial prejudice and segregation.

This book wasn’t always the clearest. Several of the women have the same first name and it frequently switched from story to story. I almost wish I had watched the movie first, so I could have had a mental picture to help me keep track. But overall, I enjoyed this book and learning about these amazing women.


Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen

After watching The Crown on Netflix, I saw this audiobook at the library. I read on Goodreads that this book almost follows that events of Season 1 completely. I found Kate Williams to be a good writer, but she also read this audio and it was impossibly slow.

Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II in her childhood and her early days as queen. One of my only complaints is that this book focuses occasionally on Elizabeth’s younger sister, Margaret, and her affair with Group Captain Peter Townsend. While this was a large part of Elizabeth’s early reign, I felt like Williams was more interested in Margaret’s affair than the impact it had on Elizabeth and her relationship with the church, her government, and her people.

Overall, I liked listening to this book. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I could have sped through it on Overdrive. Williams paused between every sentence. I can see where this would be helpful with such an information-heavy book, but it annoyed me. This book helped fuel my interest in Queen Elizabeth II and tide me over until the next season of The Crown.


Deadpool: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1

This collection of comics by Daniel Way featuring Deadpool span several different series to make one cohesive story line. If they hadn’t been collected in that order, I highly doubt I would have enjoyed the story the same way.

Prior to this, my Marvel knowledge featured information solely from MCU and what I’ve seen in passing on the internet. From everything I’ve seen of cosplayers and elsewhere on the internet, and Ryan Reynolds’s portrayal in the movie, Deadpool was a little less witty than I thought he was going to be. I never thought that the movie version of Deadpool would show a nuanced version of the character, but there you go.

Overall, I enjoyed Deadpool. It was fun, light, and the storyline flowed well. The skip in art styles from series to series was a little jarring (why does Black Widow’s hair have to be different for every incarnation of her character?) but overall, I enjoyed the series and thought it was a nice introduction into the comic side of Marvel. It took me forever to finish. I wasn’t terribly invested in the story. And because I was expecting something less misogynistic, for whatever reason. (Actually, I know the reason. It’s Ryan Reynolds.)