Bookish Jay and Reading Mermaid challenge update #1

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Time for the first update of 2018 in the Bookish Jay and the Reading Mermaid Challenge.

Autobiographies--Celebrity--Young Adult--Mental Health--Dodie
--me,too old for this

Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions, and Life Lessons by dodie ★★☆☆☆

20180308_094232I am not the intended audience for this book and that’s okay. Twenty years ago, I would have eaten it up with a spoon. Although, twenty years ago, this book wouldn’t have been written because it skims the life and work of an artist/songwriter who found stardom via YouTube, a service only 13 years-old. The subtitle is pretty literal. Dodie divulges her obsessions, makes some confessions, albeit haphazardly, and offers varying lessons about life; specifically that of a twenty-two year old YouTube sensation. Now a confession of my own: I don’t really watch any YouTubers. With the recent exception of my friend, Sandra’s Disney park channel and the occasional creep on my teen nephew’s vlog, the only thing you’d find on my YouTube history are music videos and the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow.

However, for the young millennial adult or teen who identifies with online fandom, struggles with anxiety, detachment, obsessive disorder, borderline eating disorders or any other mental or emotional health issues (a rather large base demographic) I can see Dodie’s appeal. Though the lessons aren’t relatable to my life, I respect the attempt to impart wisdom to other young people. Lessons include: avoid over-drinking (switch to water after two), recognize emotionally abusive relationships (it’s not okay to be manipulated into feeling like a lesser person, or degrading yourself to show your partner you ‘care’), and advice on how to deal with pain by anticipating it to be thirty times worse (written while getting her…areas waxed).

20180307_110623Secrets will probably end up as ‘A book from a library‘ selection for the Challenge and it fits, since I noticed it while it sat on the library holdshelf. Drawn in by the colors, song lyrics, and simple drawings interspersed with descriptions of a young woman’s mental health journey. I likely won’t heed her tutelage on setting up my Boomerang app before I throw together a salad, but I’ll try her Ramen recipe, and I will recall Dodie’s gentle self-care reminder “When you can’t find your purpose in a day, make it to look after yourself.”

Scent pairing: Dodie describes her early life as happy as a constant swirling carnival. The Bathing Garden’s Carnival Junkie seems appropriate with Blue raspberry snow cone, berry lemonade and strawberry cotton candy.


 --Folktale, Russian
 --Good vs evil

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden | Book depicting a forest on the cover ★★★★☆

“In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But as danger circles nearer, Vasya must defy even the people she loves and call on long concealed dangerous gifts–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.”–|Provided by Del Rey, publisher.

Not a new story; a young girl rebels against the family and societal constraints placed upon her, embracing the freedoms of the forest, river and fields instead. Creating a kinship with the animals and spirits who dwell there, while possessing a special magic which threatens those who don’t understand and wish to control it. A transportive setting, rich character development for even minor players, and immersive feel of a fairytale come-to-life all contribute to making this novel a sensation. But the subtext of nature vs. religion and the subtle, clever way Arden reveals a critical aspect of the plot are less recognized, yet, vital in pushing The Bear and the Nightingale to a memorable read.

As Vasya grows up and into her power, the slow-burning suspenseful plot comes to a head and sacrifices must be made. Unfortunately, originality and tight-plotting are also sacrificed as Bear climaxes in typical genre fashion. The conclusion, though somewhat messy, was satisfying, for the first in a trilogy. Minor complaint; the excessive use of multiple names referring to the characters, in Russian, had me turning back a few times to check who was being addressed. *Modest warning: this is no Young Adult fantasy. There were moments, afterward, when I couldn’t shake a heightened sense of palpable unease. Okay scared, I was scared, that was some scary sh*t. Honestly it felt good, it’s been a while since I’ve been properly frightened by a story.

Scent pairing: Winter Nights by L3 Waxy Wonders and Below Zero by Lasting Scent Candles capture the dark edginess and drop in temperature as the forest grows ever threatening.


 --Books and reading
 --choir, preaching to
 --glee, filled me with

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence | Epistolary story selection ★★★★★

If I could review using all heart and smiley emoji’s I would. I’m trying really hard not to fan-girl all over this book, but how could I not? A Librarian’s hilarious love letters and break-up notes to the books in her life! This was written for me, how I wish written by me, but you needn’t be a library insider to appreciate Dear Fahrenheit. It’s for the readers; those who remember the first time they fell in love with a story, their break-up with a series they thought they’d be into forever. People who pick up a book because it makes them feel better about themselves, but never actually get around to reading it. All told in direct, pee-one’s-pants-from-laughing, yet, heartfelt style.

Dear Annie~
On your letter to Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey, I got you beat because, even worse, I had to say erotica to a little old man (he read through the whole series).
From the love confession to The Virgin Suicides, I think I get it now. Your admittance of no plot and an electric story at the same time makes sense. The golden hazy feel of swoony prose which makes you want to abandon Facebook for astronomy, languid hair brushing and listening to Bread must be akin to the way Wes Anderson films make me want to play old records, wear colorful pastels and fall improbably in love. Although, yours is closer to obsession.
Your withering send off to the Twilight series made me call out, “Preach, sister, preach!”
The ode to Penguin Roget’s College Thesaurus filled me with deep affection to which only another lover of language could relate.

Thank you for enhancing awareness of the ways books transform lives. For reminding me of my purpose as a public servant, the letter to Fahrenheit 451 sprang tears to my eyes. For giving each book in the library it’s due even when it has to go. Thank you most of all, for not minding that I’m borrowing your subject heading format to introduce my reviews from now on, see above.

P.S. You should dig up The Odyssey, it’s awesome!

Scent pairing: Biblichor (n) The comforting, faint and musty smell of old books♥


--Animals, Mythical 
--Wizards, J.K.Rowling's Wizarding World 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander | Gorgeous cover art ★★★☆☆

Newt Scamander is a fictitious author created by J. K. Rowling and is delightfully cataloged under SCA in the library. This new edition spans the gap of the first version, a slim 36 pgs. in 2001, and the (bloated) movie screenplay released, 2016. At 88+ pgs., this “classic compendium of magical creatures that has delighted generations of wizarding readers,” provides further introduction to the beastly best. There’s Scamander, philosophy on the nature of beasts, Muggle questions answered, and even more beasts for identification/classification.

Never gave this manifestation of the Wizarding World much thought until this playful cover art, by Headcase Design, captured my imagination. Featuring cover illustrations styled as zoological diagrams. While reading, I realized that within the Potter series, beasts remain mostly hidden. Sure, Hagrid introduces a few in Care of Magical Creatures and the troll, dragons and Fluffy make infamous appearances, otherwise, beasts are an afterthought to the storyline as Harry and crew battle through their school years. According to FBaWtFT, beasts roam the countryside, odd that Harry and Hermoine didn’t encounter any while on the run in the Deathly Hallows.

Lacking the informal margin notes of Harry, Ron and Hermoine present in the first edition lessens the flavor. Although the definition of a ‘beast’ controversy is enlightening: What distinguishes ‘beast’ from ‘being’ anyhow? Number of legs? What about centaurs? Merpeople? Trolls? Mildly amusing with the Ministry of Magic’s designation of a creature’s danger using Xs. Uncovering beasts familiar from Harry Potter, Grindylows XX, those featured in the Fantastic Beasts film, the Erumpent XXXX, and some which seem derived straight out of a nightmare, the Japanese Kappa XXXX (wth?) was fun. The book provides a sweet simple reading diversion. I truly enjoyed the playful footnotes, such as, why Muggles seem obsessed with faeries. However, I was disappointed the keen cover illustrations didn’t continue inside. Infrequent and unsophisticated in-text drawings are a missed opportunity here; guess I’ll have to check out the Illustrated edition to catch a glimpse.

Scent pairing: something fresh and clean should compliment, it’s doubtful these beasts smell like roses.

the great alone trail (2)_LI

--Wilderness survival, Alaska 
--Ex-prisoners of war 
--toxic relationships

The Great Alone by Kristen Hannah | Historical fiction ★★★☆☆

“In 1974, a former Vietnam POW, suffering from flashbacks and nightmares, moves his family to Alaska to live off the grid in an attempt to find peace, restoration, and freedom. They will face dangers, both internally and externally, as they face the ultimate test of the human spirit”-|Provided by St. Martin’s, publisher.

The publisher’s blurb is misleading. Alone follows Leni from 13 years-old, when she’s uprooted by her unstable father and yielding mother to the remote Alaskan wilderness to start a new life. It continues throughout her tumultuous young adulthood, to her later life when she confronts the truth of those years.

I’ve always been enamored by stories set in Alaska, the mystery, the majesty, even the remoteness, yet I wasn’t enamored with this Alaska. Hannah illuminates the grandeur of nature found in an untouched Alaskan landscape. She details the hardships endured and also the cooperative spirit of homesteaders, which populate the small hamlet with colorful characters named, Large Marge and Mad Earl, giving a heartbeat to the frozen tundras. But when she narrows the scope of the story inward, on the trauma the Allbright family experiences, the violence becomes harrowing and claustrophobic.

With so much time spent alongside these characters and a straightforward plot, foreshadowing trouble on the horizon, I should have been all in, but I wasn’t. There’s an inevitability, I won’t say predictability, that held me back from fully connecting to the story. Perhaps I was always waiting for that other shoe to drop, perhaps it suffered from one too many climactic moments. I’ll concede the action extends further into the lives and consequences than expected, but is hampered by uneven pacing. Excessively drawn out in the beginning and rushed near the end. Leni is admirable and resilient, so too, must be the reader (it borders on epic). Redemption may be found, but inhabiting this Alaska left me feeling cold.

Scent pairing: tobacco, rawhide, snow and bad ideas.

Whew! Thanks for reading and please share your interesting reads. Are you in a bookish challenge? How is it going?

6 thoughts on “Bookish Jay and Reading Mermaid challenge update #1

  1. Bahahaha! And what do bad ideas smell like anyways? 🙂 Ooh, wait, I know, I’ve played this scent blending game before – uh, a bad idea would be chocolate chip mint, kiwi and…let’s see…malted milk. Oh yeah, now THAT’S a bad idea.

    You’re doing so well, my friend! Extra motivation because the challenge has got your name on it this year? 😉 I’m just teasing, but seriously, that’s a great idea – maybe if I took more responsibility for things, I’d be past the book and a half mark (you will be so annoyed when you learn that what’s holding me up is actually The Deathly Hallows, the next-in-a-series prompt. Am I the only person on earth not totally spun by the books? I find them such a darn slog. An enjoyable slog, but a slog all the same.)

    Dear Fahrenheit 451 sounds awesome; I’ve wanted to shout my love for certain books from the rooftops, but then there are others I just want to hurl off a rooftop…maybe after I’ve muttered some choice words at them as well (13 Reasons Why, I’m lookin’ at you.) And whu…wha…uh…hmm, is that you admitting that The Virgin Suicides is NOT a gigantic, steaming pile of nostalgia-laced horse crap? I mean, it could very well be those things, but like you said, I suspect it’s one of those books that provokes a larger feeling in the reader than a mere “I liked that/I didn’t like that.” Sunshine-dappled hair brushing while, like, Gilbert O’Sullivan warbles in the background is soooo the soundtrack of that book (also the movie.)

    As always, thank you so much for supporting my silly little vlogging side project, it really means a lot. 🙂 Glad to be filling your YouTube feed with weird Disney vlogs you’re totally not interested in!


    1. Oof, hit reply too soon. That’s what I get for responding at work and getting interrupted with patrons, what’s wrong w/these ppl? Comin out in a snowstorm to pick up books! They really do love to read.

      I understand your HP DH slog, I listened to the audio and even the amazingly talented Jim Dale couldn’t keep my attention, I had to take a mini-break. BUT (big but) once I got to a certain point after on/off listening, I wanna say the Hogsmeade chapter; Holy wizard balls, it all starting moving so fast and major STUFF was happening and I couldn’t stop listening until I needed another emotional break after The Battle of Hogwarts. 😦 It’s bloated but I still cherished it.

      Dear Fahrenheit is hilarious, it’s a must-own for me. Btw, I thought you were way into Virgin Suicides, but Spence is obsessed! She actually moved to the town where the story takes place (she says not for that reason, but I’m not so sure). Dear F451 is my most enjoyable, talk-back-to-the-narrator read in a long time.
      You’re welcome friend and fill on, I don’t mind being the most well-informed non-attending Disneyite I know;)


  2. You definitely have experienced a wide variety of genres so far! I was tumbling around the idea of doing a summer mid-way recap but you convinced me to go ahead and do one this week. I will have to check out the Dear Fahrenheit book for sure. In fact the inspiration for the title might just be my pick for the “classic” spot. I love Ray Bradbury’s short stories so I think it is time I dove into that novel. Thanks for the update and I look forward to following along! xoxo


    1. You’re welcome! I’ve been following along with our # and I’ve seen lots of variety in your choices too, although a lot seem to be upcoming tv series if I’m not mistaken…I’ll probably read Alias Grace at some point this year, looking forward to your reviews:)

      Same w/Bradbury’s short stories, There Will Come Soft Rains and The Pedestrian were memorably haunting and I read them over 25 yrs. ago! F451 will always hold a special place in my heart, it made such an impression and delivers on many levels. I feel it’s a book I didn’t know was IMPORTANT until I was finished reading, quality thought-provoking stuff!


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