You’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost) by Felicia Day

dayIn this book Day talks a lot about being “situationally famous”-that at certain places and among certain crowds she is hugely famous, but anyone out of that setting just doesn’t know who she is. So as you read this entry you either know who she is, or don’t. In a nutshell, Day is an actress/writer/producer best known for creating (and starring in) the web series The Guild, and also co-starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog (a Joss Whedon production), and then she headed up a big YouTube channel called Geek & Sundry. She’s known for being a big part of the gaming/geek world and HUGE in the Twitter world.  Somehow I never looked at a single thing on Geek & Sundry and I kind of hate Twitter so I miss out on her there, but I was a fan of The Guild and Dr. Horrible. She runs with the Wil Wheaton/Joss Whedon crowd (and in the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was one of the new slayers!) And add to that list of things she does, talented writer. Because this was a super enjoyable, engaging, funny book. I hesitate to say memoir, that term doesn’t seem right, though it is about her and it is in the Biography section, so there you have it.

So yes, it is a memoir in that Day recounts growing up as a weird homeschooled kid and her rise to fame. But what I think makes this good and enjoyable for all, is that she tells the stories and anecdotes as a way to embrace her differences and show how being weird and different is totally ok and makes you who you are. I’m kind of in total awe of her now after learning that in addition to all the stuff I already knew about her, it turns out she’s super smart and a violin prodigy as well. She went to college at 16 and ended with a 4.0. So she’s brilliant and funny, but you get the feeling that in real life she wouldn’t be intimidating but could be your friend. Although maybe not, because you also find out that she’s pretty neurotic and her drive to succeed led to some pretty serious depression and mental health problems.

I loved finding out how The Guild came about and how it was created. Fascinating details! The book ends on a bit of a downer when she talks about #GamerGate, a terrible phenomenon that I hadn’t even been aware of happening, but makes you lose your faith in people.

So, would you enjoy this book if you are not part of that world? Absolutely yes. It’s funny, thoughtful about the internet, and also an interesting look at a particular moment in time when web series were new and YouTube was also brand new.  And perhaps also if you enjoyed Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me? or Tina Fey’s Bossypants, this would be up your alley as well.

Rapture Practice: A True Story about Growing Up Gay in an Evangelical Family by Aaron Hartzler

raptureI admit that I began reading this with undisguised fascination for the inner rules and workings of an evangelical Christian family. But it really ended up being more than that. Hartzler is a good writer and manages to convey his genuine love and affection for his family, all while beginning to question the very tenets of his faith. He is also gay, something he is slowly realizing (though never comes out and acknowledges during the book.) I did find myself fascinated and horrified by his parents’ strict rules and thought it was pretty amazing that raised as he was he was able to question the logic of the actions of God (for example, if everything is preordained, why would God bother to create a world that would require the bloody sacrifice of his son? and, best of all, if his parents felt he was damaging his soul by listening to an Amy Grant cd, how could it be that serial killer Ted Bundy could accept Jesus before being put to death and get into the same heaven?)
Well written, but it definitely left me wanting more (something he acknowledges in the afterword. Though I will add a different question I want answered-did he remain friends with Bradley?)

Making Your Mind Up by Jill Mansell

makingI really enjoyed this a lot-a nice long book, nothing too strenuous or worrisome, lots of good cheeky fun-just like I like a British rom com. Speaking critically though, I found it bizarre that there was a second story (I wouldn’t even call it a subplot) that was never tied in to the main story. It was strange-as if the author wanted to tell this other story but it wasn’t big enough for its own book so she just stuck it in there and then for one page had the the main character of that story and the main character of the main story show they were friends by hanging out together. I also found it unusual (not necessarily bad) that a main event, anticipated, happens, and there is quite a lot more of the story to go. Over the top characters, of course, but like I said, I really enjoyed this and I kind of liked how long and rambling it was.

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Remember how on my birthday I responded to every Facebook birthday wish with a book recommendation? I was so tickled this summer when one of my librarian friends said she liked the idea so much that she did the same thing on her birthday! And this is the book she recommended to me.

princessxI LOVED this. Some graphic novel pages thrown in, a mystery [two girls create Princess X in story and pictures, one girl dies, the other one doesn’t believe it, and a few years later she sees Princess X pasted up all over the city), and a wild story. I loved how it came together and the girls’ friendship. Isn’t it convenient, though, how often in fiction (books or tv or movies) some teenager is always an amazing hacker? Have you ever known one in real life? I haven’t, but the world of fiction is lousy with these geniuses. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and was super caught up in it. Terrific story.

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

bartI loved this. What a fascinating story, so fresh and interesting. And of course it was super appealing to me because of the crossword puzzle aspect. I think Will Shortz is great and love doing crossword puzzles and all sorts of word games and if Will Shortz hasn’t yet read this (surely he has), he must.

Stanley and Vera meet as teens in the early 1960s when they are in the National Spelling Bee. From then on the two are drawn together and their lives intertwined. They come together and apart, and when they are apart they find each other through crosswords. Both are incredibly intelligent and share a talent for developing crossword puzzles. They hide clues in the answers that are secret messages.

I loved the details about crossword puzzle construction and every time one of them was featured. I also really liked Stanley and Vera. Flawed, yes, but not unlikable. They are so smart and have unusual upbringings and they just don’t click with mainstream society.
This is Bartsch’s first novel and I have to say-I thought it was really well written. Check out this sentence I enjoyed: “With mechanical precision Vera put her sword through her final exams and executed her long and challenging papers.”

I found myself wondering who I could recommend this book to. It’s completely engaging, interesting, unique, and yet, like Stanley and Vera, probably a little out there and not for everybody.  But I think I’ll try to  share it with as many people as I can anyway!

Hugo & Rose by Bridget Foley

hugoI found the premise of this book absolutely enchanting. Every single night since she was a little girl Rose has dreamed of the same place, a land where she has adventures with Hugo. Hugo and Rose meet together in their dreams every night and have grown up together. Now, even though Rose is a happily married adult, she still sees Hugo every night and has merry adventures.  Her husband and children know about Hugo, but her husband knows that Hugo is the man in her dreams, not of her dreams.  Then one day Rose sees Hugo in real life. I mean, how great is that premise? What will happen next? Will it affect her marriage? Does Hugo feel the same way about Rose? Can they tell people? It’s just such an interesting concept. And it really didn’t go in any way I thought it would from that point.  I found the ending sad, but couldn’t think of any better way for it to conclude (and it did make sense.)

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

3rdwifeI thought this was fantastic. A friend told me she’d read a bad review so I let this languish on my shelf for over a week, but then I picked it up and was immediately engrossed. Just as well written and engaging as her other books. I think Jewell has definitely become a writer who I will read whatever she writes, right up there with Liane Moriarty. I couldn’t wait to figure out the “mystery”, but was also apprehensive about what sorts of unseemly secrets might be revealed. Though just as good as The House We Grew Up In this book had a much warmer tone, and no horrid uncomfortable reveals.

Beginning with the death of a woman, you are never really sure if it was an accident or suicide. You soon find out she is the third wife of a man who seems to have it all-two previous wives, children by both of them, and both of those families get along. It’s like he has the absolute best of both worlds.  But after Maya’s death he begins to question whether things are as good as he thinks they were. A terrific story about things not being what they seem, and fractured families. I thought it was very honest and really enjoyed it.