Buy Borrow Bypass: On Grief

Book Riot does this great feature called “Buy, Borrow, Bypass” and I like it, so I’m going to do that here.

AMothersReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

Sue Klebold is best known as the mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold – and she knows it. Although her memoir twists around April 20th, 1999 (both the Before and the After), it’s not really about Columbine or even Dylan. Instead, A Mother’s Reckoning is an open-ended exploration into all of the small and large decisions she made as Dylan’s parent and also all the ramifications of those decisions – both in 1999 and 2016. Each memory has the benefit of hindsight, but also Klebold’s many years working to prevent suicide and murder-suicides. I enjoyed the biographical sections and self-reflections more than the psychology and push for mental health awareness, and readers looking for a biography of either Dylan or Columbine should best look elsewhere.

Verdict: BORROW

RosalieLightning

Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart

Honestly, I thought Rosalie Lightning was just okay. I wanted to like it, to come out of the  100ish pages that comprise Tom Hart’s graphic memoir after the death of his daughter Rosalie with some kind of reaction other than ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Unfortunately, grief is too messy for that. It’s too abstract and it takes too many forms to be universally understood in any one medium. And perhaps I was looking at Rosalie Lightning as the tribute that it could have been, the celebration of a child’s brief life in color and abstract form. Instead, Hart uses drawing to climb out of the hole she left behind. And, in experiencing that grief with him, I felt that maybe I wasn’t supposed to be a part of the process at all.

Verdict: BYPASS

WhenBreathBecomesAirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This posthumous memoir is a gut puncher. You know that its author, Paul Kalanithi, ultimately died at thirty-six from metastasized stage IV lung cancer before you start reading. It’s there: in the small blurb on the back cover, in Kalanithi’s author bio, in Abraham Verghese’s forward, in every piece of publicity the book acquired since it was published in January. Kalanithi’s death permeates the text, hanging over our reading experience as it must have for Kalanithi himself. Except that, I don’t think he would want us to dwell. For Kalanithi, death was just another facet of life – a question to be answered, yes, but not something to be feared or avoided. He explains for us (and possibly his daughter) how and why he became a doctor, and it is in that meditative reflection in exacting prose that we are forced to confront our own fears and anxieties about death and the unlived life. Just reading his memoir makes me hope that I can accomplish in my lifetime what Kalanithi did in his.

Verdict: BUY

Top Ten: Books Set Outside the US

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was a rewind, so I chose to cover July 19th’s list: top ten books set outside the US. Although I mostly read books set in England, I was able to find ten books set wholly (or partly) in ten different countries (and also another planet).

ttt_BooksSetOutUS_A

Czech Republic: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

England: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

France: A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot

Germany: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

India: The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

ttt_BooksSetOutUS_B

Iran: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Italy: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Mexico: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño

Turkey: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Mars: The Martian by Andy Weir

Half Year Haul: January to July, 2016

In case you’re nosy like me, here’s everything I acquired in the last six months!

IMG_3056 Lauren Conrad Style by Lauren Conrad

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (still have read any Toni…)

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (read my review here!)

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

IMG_3494Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home: No-Nonsense Advice That Will Inspire You to CLEAN like the DICKENS by Thelma Meyer

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin (ZOMG)

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes

The Doctors Are In: The Essential and Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who‘s Greatest Time Lord by Graeme Burk and Robert Smith

Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey McCarter

Review: The Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

RegionalOfficeIsUnderAttackTitle: The Regional Office Is Under Attack!
Author: Manuel Gonzales
Rating: ★★★½
Summary: In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack. Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.


The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is a weird little book that isn’t really like anything else and takes a bit of time to get into but is otherwise laugh-out-loud funny and wholly original. (A.k.a., I very much enjoyed it.) Manuel Gonzales throws you into the plot and expects you to keep up – which would be a turn-off in any other book – but after a couple of chapters, you’re, like, “okay, I got this.” The three stories, which interweave and overlap until you can finally parse out how everything fits, start to feel normal as head-scratching confusion turns into heart-racing anticipation.

Story one is the titular attack on the Regional Office, which is “an army of superwomen” who have been recruited and trained by the Office’s founding members, Mr. Niles and Oyemi, “to fight the evil forces of darkness” and who have already, in the book’s diegetic past, “saved the world from destruction, from self-annihilation, from the evil forces of darkness, from inter-dimensional war strikes, [and] from alien forces… like the retrieval of the Tremont Hotel from inter-dimensional, time-traveling assassins who intended to murder a future madame president by kidnapping and murdering her great-grandmother.” There are a lot of players in the first few chapters, and maybe a little too much going on, but someone named Rose is, like, doing parkour in a magic ventilation shaft and some woman named Sarah has a mechanical arm that looks like any other arm and you’re kind of okay with all of it. (Like I said, it’s a weird little book.)

Story two follows Rose and Sarah as they are recruited into and then eventually join Assassin Training Camp and the Regional Office, respectively. Except that Gonzales introduces them to you in the heat of the moment and then backtracks in such an apologetic and explanatory way that you don’t really mind knowing point D before points C and E before you’re also led to realize points B and A.

Then, interspersed with all of that, is story three, an in-universe biography of the attack on the Regional Office, appropriately titled The Regional Office Is Under Attack: Tracking the Rise and Fall of an American Institution. We are never told who is writing this book, or how they got all this informational on a super secret spy ring operating out of a travel agency, but it’s another one of those ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ moments that you just kind of roll with.

My main question throughout the whole novel – which I will say gets answered by the book’s close – was, What is the difference between Assassin Training Camp and the Regional Office? Gonzales keeps you guessing, all the way up to the final, final twist, but you kind of don’t mind – because, well, you’re reading about coteries of super-powered female assassins who know martial arts and have literal super powers. I mean, I can’t even really describe this book. Is it a revenge story? A heist? Die Hard meets Mission Impossible? I don’t know!!! I was just genuinely invested – in how Rose’s story fit in with Sarah’s, and how both women were going to survive the Regional Office being under attack, and maybe what the heck was going on – that learning the identity of the “defector from within” almost (kind of) felt like an after-thought.

Top Ten: Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was top ten things books have made me want to do or learn about after reading them, but I tweaked it slightly to include things I actually learned or did rather than things about which I got curious or still want to do.

BetweenTheWorldAndMeWhenBreathBecomesAir

1. I want to learn to be be more socially & racially aware of my privilege because of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

2. I want to learn to be braver and more proactive (and have less regrets) because of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

 

 

WeShouldAllBeFeministsBadFeminist

3. I’m learning to say the ‘f’ word with pride because of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

4. I’m learning to be more forgiving of myself because of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

 

 

LolitaWhereThingsComeBack

5. I learned that there are just some things about which I can’t read because of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

6. I learned that I can’t relate to teenagers anymore because of Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

 

 

TheRoyalWeFourthComings

7. I want to study abroad because of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

8. I want to live in NYC because of Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty.

 

 

ASpyAmongFriendsLipLock

9. I wanted to Google because of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre.

10. I wanted to tumble down the romance rabbit hole because of Lip Lock by Susanna Carr.

Five Favorite: Book Art

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

There are some super crafty people out there, and some of them make super cute book-themed art. Here are five of my favorite pieces.

IHeartBooks

I Heart Books by renduh, $15.00+

LiteraryMapLondon

Literary Map of Britain by The Literary Gift Company, £12.00

LiteraryMapUSA

Literary Map of the USA by The Literary Gift Company, £12.00

PencilMeAmpersand

Pencil Me In by Popglory, n/a

SherlockModernDesign

Sherlock modern design by Jeff Langevin, $15.00+

I also love the 8-Bit prints by Adam Lister and Mike Wrobel’s work, especially his Game of Thrones series.

Have your own five favorite book art? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!

New to the Queue #1

Jamie of Perpetual Page Turner started this and I love it so I’m (politely) stealing it!

I add a lot of stuff to my TBR list, my Netflix queue, and my library holds list. Here’s stuff I want to actually seek out and consume right now.

Stuff I Want to Read

NttQ1_TBR

Adulthood Is a Myth: A “Sarah Scribbles” Collection by Sarah Andersen (Amazon)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (Amazon)

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston (Amazon)

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (a.k.a. #HamilTome) (Amazon)

I Will Find You: A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors (Amazon)

Stuff I Want to Watch

NttQ1_TBW

Ghostbusters

The Night Of

The Secret Life of Pets

Star Trek Beyond

Zootopia

Stuff I Want to Listen To

NttQ1_TBL

2 Dope Queens

In the Heights Original Broadway Cast Recording

Love Make the World Go Round” by Jennifer Lopez and Lin-Manuel Miranda

Waitress Original Broadway Cast Recording

What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress by Sara Bareilles

What did YOU add to your queue?? Let me know!