Virtual Book Club: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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I’ve been looking forward to reading this book since the day I finished reading Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You in the spring of 2016. I just happened upon that book randomly at the local library. I’d been in a bit of a dry spell, reading-wise and Everything I Never Told You all at once flipped the switch inside of me and made me hungry for books. I went back to the library to find more books by her but there weren’t any. She hadn’t written any! Until now. *rubs hands together*

I’ve always had a love affair with first works by an author. It’s kind of like a musician’s first album—here’s the piece that’s been living inside of them for ages and they’ve had a lifetime to turn it over and make it perfect. Or, at least, that’s how I imagine it. And when the second book comes around, I’m eager to read it but not often as enchanted as I was that first time. This time was different. Little Fires Everywhere held me just the same.

Ng is a master storyteller. She is exactly what I’m looking for in literature. She can take all these individual strands and move them about in ways that make you eager to follow along, not sure where she’s taking this and then at the end you can see this magnificent braid with just a few fly-aways because she’s not afraid to leave some questions unanswered.

Sometimes I believe in spoilers and sometimes I don’t. For this particular book, I’m not going to tell you much. I don’t want to tell you any of the plot secrets and I don’t want to tell you my interpretation, either. Because I really want to hear how it spoke to you.

But in the first chapter, we more or less open on a house on fire. One of the fire inspectors knew that it was arson because there were “little fires everywhere.” Hearing the title of the book in the very first chapter piqued my interest in the direction of fire. So for the rest of the book I was noting when anything was described with fire language. This set me on a path of seeing what was living at the heart of this story: obedience vs rebellion.

As a girl who’s spent the past few years intentionally following my own arrow (and thusly repeatedly disappointing a certain type of people while also empowering another type of people)—this theme resonated with me in powerful ways. But who knows—it could just be this very thing in my life that saw that theme in the first point. Maybe it’s not there? Maybe it is? Who could know?

I can’t wait to have our book club meeting and find out (I’m writing this early and setting it to post after we’ve had our book club meeting but at the time of this writing, it has as of yet not taken place)! Our book club meetings are always so fun. I’m always in a weird mood and don’t really want to do it but the second we all start talking, it fills my joy-tank all the way up. Nothing fills me up like a book discussion does.

Anyway, go order Little Fires Everywhere. It’s just as good as Everything I Never Told You. Hell, order them both.

For the month of February we’ll be reading Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. I’m really stoked to get into this story. I haven’t seen the movie, yet! I know, I know. But I’m really excited to get into this one.

XOXO, Lib

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul + August’s Book Reveal

Every single time I sit down to write one of these book reviews (and I’ve written, like, 13 by now?) I think, “Oh, but I don’t know how to do this.” I open up this blank word document and my brain, as it does when faced with any kind of expectation, goes into primate mode. “Book. Did like. Would recommend.” Is that good? Will you take that? Cool. Good talk. Thanks for stopping by, today.

No, but for real, this collection of essays has been such a joy to read through. I liked it so much that half-way through the copy that I got from the library, I returned it, went down to Bluebird Books, and bought my own copy. I did this so that I could underline the parts that felt so right that I couldn’t just leave them alone like they didn’t touch my soul.

One such passage: Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.

Just take a moment with that.

She writes about the things you would expect a feminist child of immigrants to write about in 2017. She writes a touching story of visiting India for a cousin’s wedding. She writes about rape culture. Body image. The way we behave on the internet. The usual. But she has a fresh take that’s different from everything that’s been shared all over Facebook. And her writing style is so inviting and funny–it’s damn funny. And musical.

She told a story about when she was in college and how she and her friends lived themselves into a situation where they realized that one of them was likely a very serious alcoholic. She captured the progression so beautifully. The way it starts out so innocent and fun but eventually climaxes in a hard realization and a drunken fight. I love the way that she wraps up that story, too. It’s not about alcoholism or drunk stories. It’s about the way we get off on our own moral superiority. And she’s right, too.

One of the latter chapters deals with body image. She talks, specifically, about hair. How the hair on her head is seen as perfect and luxurious whereas the hair on her body is an absolute shame and something that she can’t be expected to reasonably control no matter how much time she devotes to it.
She says, “It’s easier to rebel against hair norms if you’re a woman generally unburdened by them in the first place. … For it to really matter, for your rebellion to extend outside yourself, you have to have been born with hair-baggage–that nagging reminder that what comes out of your body naturally makes you repulsive, or tells people that you’re deserving of a slur, or that your sexuality can exist only in a specific vacuum of kink or generous acceptance.
As the owner of a fat body, I finally felt like someone out there understands me and the particular brand of self-worth that I go back and forth between celebrating and starving for. The way she is at a constant battle between “fixing” and accepting Her Thing. Me, too, Scaachi.

I’m going to be revisiting this book again and again as time goes on. I know this is one of those books that you read and then pick it up in a year and hear all new things. I feel really grateful to have come across this book right now.


9780399563997Next month, we’re going to be reading Amanda Wakes Up by Alisyn Camerota. I don’t know much about this book except that all of the reading podcasts that I listen to are talking about it and recommending it. This is one of my favorite ways to approach a book–with little to no knowledge about it, just the understanding that other people are reading it with you and so many people have great things to say about it.

As always, if you want to join our virtual book club just let me know! Shoot me a message on Facebook and I’ll add you to our group. Also don’t forget to head over to Staci’s blog to read her take on One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter. I love reading her thoughts after I’ve settled on my own.

Tell me what you’re reading! Are you keeping up with your summer reading list or has it gone out the window with mine?

XOXO, Lib

Three Wishes by Laine Moriarty + July Virtual Book Club Selection

I’ve had such a limited amount of spare brain space this month that I wondered if I’d even get around to reading this month’s Virtual Book Club selection. So I put it off and put it off and put it off. One day, when I was so tired of packing things into boxes, I just sat down and started to read. It sucked me in and I finished it in two days! Which, long time readers well know, is pretty unusual for me since I’m usually a pretty slow reader. But, man, Liane Moriarty does a great job of serving me up these subjects and characters that I don’t know that I’m going to be so interested in.

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We decided to go for a light summer read for June and I think Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty was the perfect choice. One fun little fact: this story takes place in Sydney, Australia. So, yeah, it does take place in the summer but it’s also mostly centered around Christmas/ New Years time. I had to remind myself that the Southern Hemisphere has a different season calendar than we do here in the states.

So this novel is, at its core, a family drama (my go-to genre). It’s certainly comedic, though. Moriarty injects humor so effortlessly and realistically. She keeps the mood light by putting her characters into perfectly ordinary and relatable circumstances where the drama takes place.

Three Wishes opens with triplets, Cat, Lyn, and Gemma, celebrating their birthday in a restaurant. A huge portion of the beginning is told from the perspective of onlookers—you can almost picture it as a series of talking heads in a documentary style. These talking-head type scenarios play out throughout the book, too. We go with these women through relationships, dealing with personal struggles, and secrets. I think it’s a really engrossing book—just like everything else I’ve read by Moriarty.

If I was to boil down the main theme of this story as it revealed itself to me, it would be the interconnection of people. A few times in the book, other characters complain that the triplets are too connected to each other. Sometimes, maybe it’s true, but sometimes there are instances where you lay down your whole life for someone else. How are we to ever know, in the moment, which is which? I thought that the talking-head style interjections, also, were a really creative way to showcase the way that we affect other people in the world without even really being aware of it.

41nYcChc04L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In July we’re going to be reading One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul. It’s a collection of essays and all I know of this book at this point is that it has a beautiful cover and it’s on all the “you HAVE to read this, OMG” lists this summer. I’m debating whether or not I should learn more about it but I think I won’t. I’ll just leave it blind for now. That sounds kind of fun to me.

As always, message me if you’re interested in joining our book club and I’ll add you to our top secret Facebook Group where we talk all about books, reading, what we haven’t read, what we want to read, what we read and hated…
And don’t forget to check out Staci’s site to see what she thought of Three Wishes. One of my favorite parts of this book club is getting to find out what different people thought of the same text. Staci always has new and engaging insights (I especially love it when one of us loved something and the other person didn’t).

Have you read either of these books or anything by either of these authors?
What’s your go-to genre of choice when it comes to books?

XOXO, Lib

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn + June Virtual Book Club Selection

“Who wants to die? Everything struggles to live. Look at that tree growing up there out of that grating. It gets no sun, and water only when it rains. It’s growing out of sour earth. And it’s strong because its hard struggle to live is making it strong. My children will be strong that way.”
― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

For being a novel that deals mostly with themes of strength-through-adversity, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was a captivating read.

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This is a largely autobiographical novel—Betty Smith’s first published work. It chronicles the life of Francie Nolan, starting in 1912 when is 11-years-old. The book follows her through becoming a full woman at the age of 17. Francie’s family was a poor one. Her father, an alcoholic who occasionally kept regular work. Her mother worked tirelessly to keep the family afloat and held tightly to the dreams that she had for her children. Everyone talked about how profoundly beautiful her mother was—but she was self-conscious about her rough and ragged hands that came from working so hard to make a living.

The book itself reads an awful lot like a huge collection of short stories. Nearly every chapter goes through the classic story structure of building crisis, climax, and dénouement. Because of this, it didn’t feel like the novel itself was particularly plot-driven but I did keep reading because I was so interested in the characters. Everyone has their dreams and plans to have them realized—you want to see if things will shake out in their favor. But also, since there’s a high climax in every single story, there are some parts that maybe don’t seem all that believable. I don’t mind that–I can suspend disbelief for a while, particularly when our narrator is a child who is just trying to figure out all these things happening around her all the time.

I loved this book so much more than I had ever expected. For starters, I tend to gravitate towards contemporary literature. The idea of reading a book that took place before WWI, did not particularly appeal to me. Secondly, I haven’t talked to a single person who read this book and didn’t count it as one of the best of all time. That kind of hype can make me feel obligated to like something. And like a teenager, I tend to rebel against that. So if this book was able to break through those two seemingly impenetrable barriers, it must be really, really good. These things kept me from picking up the book right away but once I started, I only ever put it down reluctantly.

In a book so long and covering such a vast period of time, so many different themes and topics are discussed and it would be impossible to cover them all in a reasonable amount of time. Of course, I’m drawn to the feminist themes through the book.
I think that having a female main character/ hero is going to just naturally have some girl-power moments but this one had some overarching themes about how women are keeping the family (the world?) together.

In her own family, Francie’s mother is unable to rely on her husband to help keep the family financially secure. She takes on a job as housecleaner of the new apartment building where they move to in exchange for lodging for the family. She comes up with creative ways to get the children the things that they need—from trading house cleaning for piano lessons to coming up with creative games to play when they’re low on food in the house. She does all she can to maintain the children’s innocence even in some terribly dark times.
Francie also has two aunts—one of whom has carried 10 babies to full term, just to burry them just a few hours later when we meet her, though she never gives up her dream of having a child. Her other aunt has to step up when her husband is unable to work and she becomes the first female dairy delivery driver in Brooklyn. Her grandmother is full of wit and wisdom and teaches her daughters the art of saving money by nailing a version of a piggy bank to the floor in the closet so you can’t get to the money unless you absolutely need to. Francie sees these women and is proud to be in their lineage and she even carries on the legacy of self-sufficiency in so many ways.

“Those were the Rommely women: Mary, the mother, Evy, Sissy, and Katie, her daughters, and Francie, who would grow up to be a Rommely woman even though her name was Nolan. They were all slender, frail creatures with wondering eyes and soft fluttery voices. But they were made out of thin invisible steel.”

I recommend A Tree Grows in Brooklyn to everyone I come across. There’s just so much in it—so much covered. Through out most of the book I kept thinking about how I wanted to mail it to my niece who is going into the seventh grade in the fall. There is, however, one small but powerful incident involving a sexual predator that keeps me from poping it in the mail right away. The whole incident is maybe 1/2 a page out of over four hundred but still. Maybe in a few years when she’s going into high school I’ll feel better about it. But, who knows, maybe kids can deal with more than I can. Lord knows that Francie Nolan could. She was so strong and brave. I, on the other hand, know that I’ve grown a lot more sensitive in my older years.


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Next month our Virtual Book Club will be reading Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. We wanted a fun, summertime read and this looks like it just might be a good choice! I’ve loved every Moriarty book I’ve read. I feel like she’s really good at making the most mundane parts of life dramatic and important.

Our book club “meets” in a Facebook Event at the end of the month where we get together and talk about books. If you want to be added to our group comment or message me on Facebook and I’ll get you in there! Also, a few of us write blog posts like this one, though it’s certainly not required for membership. Go check out Staci’s review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Have you read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? I want to hear all about what you thought of it.

XOXO, Lib

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The Handmaids Tale + April Virtual Book Club Selection

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you wonder if the universe is conspiring to keep you from doing something even though you don’t even believe in stuff like “the universe conspiring” but so much has gone wrong that there’s got to be more than coincidence at play? Was that just me just now? Okay, cool. Moving along.

Before February was even over, our Virtual Book Club had decided that Margaret Attwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale would be our book for March. At that time, I ordered the book from Amazon.com. At the time of this writing—March 28—it still has not arrived.

When I could tell that it was taking a really long time for the book to be delivered, I decided to check it out at the library only to find that it was being read by someone else. We didn’t have a copy at the book store where I work. I downloaded it on audiobook and the file wasn’t working. And so I decided that the good lord simply did not want me to be reading this book at this time and I accepted it. Other friends offered ideas for how I could get my hands on it but, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m a really slow reader and knew I wouldn’t be able to get through it without feeling very stressed out. So I just decided I wouldn’t be able to read the book and write a review this month. And can I tell you a secret?

It felt really good. It felt really good to take this one thing off my plate this month.

That being said, I really want to read The Handmaid’s Tale. And hopefully I’ll get to read it when it comes in the mail but Hulu is releasing a series based on this book soon and I’m so stoked to watch it–I know I won’t be able to wait on that.

So since I wasn’t able to read it, all I know about this book I learned from the trailer and from the articles about how a lot of conservative people are angry about it because they think that it’s an attack on Trump’s America. This TV series was in development long before Donald Trump was even nominated to run for the presidency. This book was written in 1985, though, and I feel like if you’re seeing horrifying similarities between the society that exists in a 30 year old dystopian novel and a government that has your full support—maybe think a little bit more about what it is you are standing for. But hey, that’s just me.

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For the month of April we’re turning a corner and reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. This is one of those classic books that I’ve never read and I’m not sure I even know what it’s about at all. But it is cited as a favorite of so many people—I’m excited to give it a read!

Have you ever read either The Handmaid’s Tale or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? What did you think? I, for one, am glad we’re reading older books. Left to my own devices, I tend towards exclusively contemporary fiction.

XOXO, Lib