Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

YA binge, Austen, Africa, and Hitler

Silence (Hush, Hush, #3)Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I didn't like this one as much as the first two. There wasn't enough snark and parody of the genre. Instead, it kind of gave itself to the genre, and that made it less enjoyable. However, I still had fun reading it.

Crossed (Matched, #2)Crossed by Ally Condie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

No offense to this book - it was lovely and earnest, just like the first - but it's not for me. I don't like Ky, so.

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really MatterA Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter by William Deresiewicz

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I was really hot and cold on this one. Sometimes I loved it because it was like talking over all the Jane Austen books with someone who appreciates them just as much as I do, and a literary expert (well, PhD) no less. Plus, the author was really likeable, which is essential in a memoir like this one where all you're doing is spending time with this guy and the thoughts inside his mind. Other times, however, it rubbed me the wrong way because it turned into something like a book club discussion with just this one other person (the author) and he was the only one who ever got to talk (because it's his book, you know).

Plus, at times I wasn't sure who the intended audience for this book was. For people who already love Jane Austen (like me), this book is pages and pages of preaching to the choir. So maybe it's for those who don't care to read Jane Austen books, then? Well, no, because he assumes a great deal of familiarity with all of Austen's books. He throws around character names and plot points and spoilers and excerpts of key passages with very little introduction or resolution - for example, he talks for pages and pages about Fanny Price being the target of Henry Crawford's affections but I don't think he ever mentions the fact that Fanny rejected him and married Edmund instead.

So I guess the key audience for this book is someone like the author, or at least someone like he was at the beginning of the book - somebody who has read one or two Jane Austen books and hasn't cared for them at all. I can think of only one person in my entire acquaintance who has read Jane Austen and NOT liked her, so that is a very small sliver of audience indeed.

Anyway, the point is that you will probably enjoy good portions of this book - quite a bit, even - if you like Jane Austen. But get ready for the preachiness.

Hallowed (Unearthly, #2)Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tons of fun, just like the first. Plus, this is an actual passage in the book:

"I sneaked out to his house a couple times in the middle of the night to watch over him while he slept, just in case. This was dumb and admittedly creepy in an Edward Cullen kind of way, but it was the only thing I could think to do."

Reading that make me cackle with glee. As you can see, this is another very self-aware book like Hush, Hush (though it's not as snarky), and I enjoyed it so much more than other books that take themselves so SERIOUSLY.

Son of the Shadows (Sevenwaters, #2)Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. It was very engrossing but I felt like the two main characters were vaguely drawn. I didn't really understand them or their motivations. Lady knows how to tell a story, though.

Don't Let's Go to the Dogs TonightDon't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mom has been telling me to read this book for years. I am so glad I finally did. It's difficult to explain why I loved it so much. It's full of real, flawed, imperfect people who make mistakes and drink too much beer and express uncomfortably racist opinions in a setting that is so completely foreign to me (1970s, 80s, and 90s Malawi, Zambia, and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe) that I can hardly begin to imagine what it was like.

And Fuller doesn't try to paint a clear, complete picture of what those countries at large were like. She keeps this memoir very focused on her own family - actually, just her own experiences - and I think it's stronger as a result. I loved that the concept of age was very nebulous throughout the book. It follows a roughly chronological narrative but at any given point in the book I was never quite sure if she was 7 years old or 9 or 12 or what. But isn't that what childhood memories are like?

Don't go into this book thinking, as I did (from a glance at the cover), "Oh, how fun it will be to romp through someone else's strange adventures overseas!" This is not a fun romp. It is heartbreaking, haunting, beautiful, and sometimes hilarious - like when a young Alexandra ("Bobo") tells her mom's friend outright that she's so hungry all the time because she has worms in her bum. Awesome.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinIn the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting, but ultimately disappointing. I am so glad the Foreign Service has reformed because a lot of what bothered me about this book was how irresponsible some of the people in it acted. In 1930s Berlin, no less! Talk about a place where you maybe want to be smart. But no, ambassador dude was always offending his FS superiors and fumbling meetings with dignitaries and maybe wanting to speak out about the Nazis but doing it in awkward ways. And then his daughter - his mid-20s daughter - oh yeah, his mid-20s daughter came with him on the assignment, along with his almost 30-year-old son. What the heck? Anyway, his daughter was so irresponsible and flighty and pretentious and foolish that I was surprised she didn't single-handedly derail what little influence the ambassador had.

Anyway. There was no real climax to this book. It was just kind of a bunch of mistakes that people made and no redemption. Worth a read for some of the history but be prepared to be aggravated on every page by the actions of the main characters.

Why I hated Men Who Hate Women

The beauty of summer