Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: The Power Of Myth – Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers

The Power Of Myth – Joseph Campbell & Bill Moyers

Campbell's most impressive gift was his ability to take a contemporary situation, such as the murder and funeral of President John F. Kennedy, and help us understand its impact in the context of ancient mythology. Herein lies the power of The Power of Myth, showing how humans are apt to create and live out the themes of mythology. Based on a six-part PBS TV series hosted by Bill Moyers, this classic is especially compelling because of its engaging question-and-answer format, creating an easy, conversational approach to complicated and esoteric topics.

Review: I’ve lost track of how many people have recommended this book to me over the years. I was told that it would change my life. It would alter the way I looked at the world. It would completely transform the way I think about literature. After all that hype, I had massive expectations for this book.

Did it meet my (probably unrealistic) expectations? No. Will I read more of Joseph Campbell’s work in the future? Yes.

The Power of Myth is written as an interview between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell. They discuss mythology and whether or not it’s still relevant in modern times. This book covers a lot of ground. They talk about everything from ancient civilizations, to love, to Star Wars. Since this is a philosophy book, it’s fairly dense. It took me about two weeks to read it, and I still felt like parts of it went over my head. This is the type of book that you have to read several times to really “get” it.

A “myth” is a story that helps form the basis of a culture. The main goal of a myth is to teach people how to behave in their society. Joseph Campbell claims that myths are still relevant in today’s world. Here are the main points of his argument:

1. Cultures around the world have very similar myths. Motifs of creation, death, resurrection, and heroism crop up over and over in different stories. This suggests that there are some universal human values.

2. Mythology can teach us about the history of the world because myths evolve as different cultures interact.

“Whether you call someone a hero or a monster is all relative to where the focus of your consciousness may be.” – The Power of Myth

3. Technology has forced us to go from isolated tribes to a global society. The old myths don’t work for us anymore, so we have to come up with new ones that apply to everybody.

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.” – The Power of Myth
“We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.” – The Power of Myth

4. Modern American society lacks myths. For example, there is no widespread ritual that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. This can lead to young people inventing their own rituals, such as gang initiation. In ancient societies, there were transition rituals for different stages of life.

“Society has provided [children] no rituals by which they become members of the tribe, of the community. All children need to be twice born, to learn to function rationally in the present world, leaving childhood behind.” – The Power of Myth

5. Even though myths are old, they still have things to teach us. Myths are about the adventure of being alive. Campbell urges people to “follow their bliss.” Do what feels right and makes you happy.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” – The Power of Myth

This book didn’t change my life, but Joseph Campbell is a good storyteller. My favorite parts are when he tells different myths from around the world. There are a lot of similarities and common themes between them. I didn’t like the analysis of the myths as much as the myths themselves. Some of Campbell’s opinions are too mystical and hippie-ish for me. I’m not a spiritual person. Parts of the book made me feel like a cynic. Following your bliss is great, but it’s not always practical in the real world.

“We're so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it is all about.” – The Power of Myth  

I didn’t love this book, but the myths interested me enough that I’m looking forward to reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Holiday Gift Guide

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. It’s time for a holiday gift guide. I’m going to tell you which book to buy for all the bookish people in your life.

Holiday Gift Guide

1. For the young ones.

The One and Only Ivan – Katherine Applegate
Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.  
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.  
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

2. For the teenage ones.

More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera
The Leteo Institute's revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto—miracle cure-alls don't tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. But Aaron can't forget how he's grown up poor or how his friends aren't always there for him. Like after his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it's not enough. 
Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching setup on his roof, and he doesn't mind Aaron's obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn't mind talking about Aaron's past. But Aaron's newfound happiness isn't welcome on his block. Since he can't stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.  

3. For the ones who like beautiful illustrations.

Through the Woods – Emily Carroll
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.  
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.  
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there . . .

4. For the ones who want to laugh.

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson

In her new book, Furiously Happy, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

5. For the ones who like history.

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.  
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

6. For the quirky ones.

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil – Stephen Collins
On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless.  
Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying, unstoppable . . . monster*!  
Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, most importantly, are they going to do with Dave?  
(*We mean a gigantic beard, basically.)

7. For the ones who like short stories.

A Guide to Being Born – Ramona Ausubel
A Guide to Being Born is organized around the stages of life—love, conception, gestation, birth—and the transformations that happen as people experience deeply altering life events, falling in love, becoming parents, looking toward the end of life. In each of these eleven stories Ausubel’s stunning imagination and humor are moving, entertaining, and provocative, leading readers to see the familiar world in a new way. 
In “Atria” a pregnant teenager believes she will give birth to any number of strange animals rather than a human baby; in “Catch and Release” a girl discovers the ghost of a Civil War hero living in the woods behind her house; and in “Tributaries” people grow a new arm each time they fall in love. Funny, surprising, and delightfully strange—all the stories have a strong emotional core; Ausubel’s primary concern is always love, in all its manifestations.

8. For the ones who hate the hype train.

This Side of Providence – Rachel M. Harper
Arcelia Perez fled Puerto Rico to escape a failed marriage and a history of abuse, but instead of finding her piece of the American dream, she ends up on the wrong side of Providence. With three young children, Arcelia follows a rocky path that ultimately leads to prison and an agonizing drug withdrawal. But her real challenge comes when she’s released and must figure out how to stay clean and reunite the family that has unraveled in her absence.  
Through rotating narrators, we hear from the characters whose lives and futures are inextricably linked with Arcelia’s own uncertain fate: her charming, street-savvy son, Cristo, and brilliant daughter Luz; their idealistic teacher, Miss Valentín, who battles her own demons; and the enigmatic Snowman, her landlord and confidante.

9. For the ones who can’t be categorized.

Midwinterblood – Marcus Sedgwick
Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.  
In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, and victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost.  
In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon—the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon—this is the story of Eric and Merle, whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting.

10. For the ones who want to think.

Stuck in Neutral – Terry Trueman
Shawn McDaniel is an enigma and a miracle—except no one knows it, least of all his father. His life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. Not even those who love him best have any idea what he is truly like. In this extraordinary and powerful first novel, the reader learns to look beyond the obvious and finds a character whose spirit is rich beyond imagining and whose story is unforgettable.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: Leaving Fishers – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Leaving Fishers – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Dorry is unbearably lonely at her new high school until she meets Angela and her circle of friends. She soon discovers they all belong to a religious group, the Fishers of Men. At first, as Dorry becomes involved with the Fishers, she is eager to fit in and flattered by her new friends' attention. But the Fishers make harsh demands of their members, and Dorry must make greater and greater sacrifices. In demonstrating her devotion, Dorry finds herself compromising her grades, her job, and even her family's love. How much is too much? And where will the cult's demands end?

Review: I’m always searching for well-researched fiction about religious abuse, so when a fellow book blogger recommended Leaving Fishers to me, I immediately tracked down a copy.

The main character, Dorry, moves from a rural town to the city. She’s lonely in her new high school until she meets a group of kids who call themselves the Fishers of Men. They all attend the same church. Eager to fit in, Dorry quickly joins their church and makes a bunch of new friends, but soon her friends’ demands become overwhelming. They want her to spend all of her time with them. They punish her for her “sins” and convince her to give her college savings to their church. Dorry feels like she’s losing control of her life and decides to leave the Fishers. (That’s not a spoiler. Look at the title.) But, leaving isn’t as easy as it seems.

The research in this book is on-point. I have read a lot of nonfiction about cults and religious extremism, so I have a fairly good understanding of how these things work. Leaving Fishers follows the cult-initiation “script” so closely that I could almost predict what would happen next in the story. That might sound like a bad thing, but it isn’t. I love that the author actually did her research. So many authors don’t. They just repeat stereotypes and misinformation.

Unfortunately, the research is the only thing I love about the book. The writing is very bland, and I never got invested in the characters’ lives.

My main problem with the book is the character development. There isn’t any. I know that the Fishers’ religion has completely taken over the characters’ lives, but they should still have personalities, right? Dorry has a crush on one of the boys in the group, and I don’t know why. I don’t even remember his name because he’s a cardboard “hot guy” character. All of the characters are flat, even Dorry. I think this book would have benefitted from being longer and slower-paced. It’s only 260 pages. So much stuff happens in those pages that we don’t have time to learn about the characters. Everything feels rushed.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. I’m thrilled that the author did her research, but is it possible for a book to be too well-researched? At the end of the novel, Dorry meets an ex-Fisher who tells her all about cults. Their discussion is too educational for my tastes. Between the lack of character development, the rushed plot, and the educational ending, the book feels like a cautionary tale instead of an entertaining novel. The message is Watch out for cults, kids. I guess that’s a helpful message, but it’s too heavy-handed for me.

Leaving Fishers is one of the better-researched cult novels I’ve read, so if you’re looking for accuracy, I’d recommend this one, but I was expecting more than just a cautionary tale.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Sunday Post #73: I’m not dead; I just feel like I am

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news. It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Book Date. I get to tell you what I’ve read recently.

I’m home! I now have a master’s degree and bronchitis. One of those things is more pleasant than the other. 

Me, trying to figure out how people take mirror selfies.

I’ve missed you guys. On Thursday, I’ll tell you all the awesome and ridiculous stuff that has been happening. I hope my fellow Americans had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review Leaving Fishers by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
  • On Tuesday I have a bookish holiday gift guide.
  • On Wednesday I review The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.
  • On Thursday I wrap up November.

In My Reading Life

In the last few weeks, I’ve read Anyone? and Zia, The Teenage Zombie by Angela Scott. I also read Bound by Duty by Stormy Smith and Floor 21 by Jason Luthor. Right now, I'm reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

Sign Up For #ReadIndie & Win Fabulous Prizes

I’m on the review team for #ReadIndie! I’d love it if you joined us.

“Welcome to the first ever #ReadIndie challenge! This event was created to promote indie authors who we think are amazing! What is this challenge, you ask? #ReadIndie is a two week time span in December during which we will only be reviewing and promoting indie titles.  
So what is #ReadIndie all about? This isn't necessarily a read-a-thon. Instead, the challenge is simply to post indie reviews for two weeks in place of the reviews you would normally post. However, each review you post and link up will gain you an extra entry into an indie book giveaway! This is ALL about spreading the word about incredible authors who don't necessarily get the hype that they deserve.”

Please consider joining #ReadIndie and helping us promote indie books in December. Head over to Cornerfolds to sign up and find out more.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I have a master’s degree.
  2. Being home with my dogs.
  3. Thanksgiving.
  4. Catching up on all the trashy TV I missed.
  5. Books on sale.

Take care of yourselves and be kind to each other. See you around the blogosphere!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Picture Books I’m Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a Thanksgiving freebie.

I wasn’t a book lover when I was a kid, but there are a few picture books that I remember my parents and teachers reading to me over and over. These were my childhood favorites.

What was your favorite picture book as a kid?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Discussion: Bookish Opportunities: A Public Service Announcement

Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight host the 2016 Discussion Challenge.

Normally, I hate it when people start a post with a disclaimer, but I’m going to do it because I’m talking about a BookTuber in our bookish community. I’m not trying to spread hate or drama. (We already have more than enough of that.) Blogs and YouTube videos only show a small part of a person’s existence. I don’t know anything about this BookTuber’s personal life or her agreements with publishers. I’m not trying to call her out or imply she did anything wrong. Her videos just made me think about bookish opportunities, which inspired this post. Disclaimer over. Read on.

Bookish Opportunities: A Public Service Announcement

In 2014/2015 I tried very hard to get interested in BookTube. It was difficult for me because I don’t have the best attention span for TV or online videos. I tend to zone out. Blogs are easier for me to concentrate on, but BookTubers are a huge part of the bookish community, and I wanted to support them. I eventually found a small group of BookTubers who I enjoyed watching.

One of the BookTubers I subscribed to had a bubbly personality and was a lot of fun to watch. Many of the videos she posted were book hauls. She got a lot of books. Most of them came from publishers. I liked her videos, but I became really interested in them when she started working with a literary award committee. I pay attention to most of the major literary awards and usually buy the winners and whichever finalists sound interesting. A committee for a literary award sent this BookTuber all of the novels from the award’s longlist. My mind was blown. Reviewing an entire award longlist would be my book blogger dream. If an award committee sent me a giant box of books, I’d probably hyperventilate from nerdish excitement.

The BookTuber said she was going to review all of the books and tell us which ones she thought would win. I eagerly awaited her reviews. And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited. Months passed with no reviews from her. The award committee announced the shortlist, and I was still waiting for reviews. Then the winner was announced. I was still waiting for reviews. The BookTuber mentioned the award a few times, but it mostly seemed like she’d forgotten about it.

Then the end of the year came. In her year-end wrap-up video, the BookTuber said she’d read 20 books that year. I was surprised because she’d probably hauled several hundred books over the course of the year. I’d assumed she was one of those magical people who are able to read a book a day. (How I envy them.) When she said she’d read 20 books that year, I realized she probably hadn’t read the award longlist. Maybe that’s why she hadn’t talked about it very much.

I felt annoyed and betrayed. I was psyched to find out that award committees sometimes worked with book reviewers. It seemed like an amazing opportunity, and this BookTuber didn’t appear to do much with it.

This is my public service announcement: As bloggers, we occasionally get the chance to do really cool bookish things. I realize that blogging is a hobby, and real life gets priority over it, but if you have the chance to do something interesting, please don’t squander it. Have tons of fun with it, and try to follow through on what you promised. That will show the publishing industry that we’re serious about our book obsession. Then they might let us do even more cool stuff.

Let’s discuss: Has blogging given you any interesting opportunities? Have you been to conferences? Interviewed authors? Gotten coveted ARCs? Done anything unique with social media?

If you haven’t, what’s your wildest blogging dream? 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review: Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. 
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Review: Remember that time I bought a few romance books to get out of my reading comfort zone? Well, this was one of them. I put off reading it for months because the author has won many awards for her romance fiction. In my love-phobic world, that would automatically put a book in the “don’t touch with a 50-foot stick” category. But, I read Me Before You, and . . . it was good. There are actually a lot of things I like about it.

Me Before You follows two characters, Will and Louisa. Will lived a fast-paced life, until he was hit by a motorcycle and became a quadriplegic. Will’s parents hire Louisa to take care of him and to convince him not to go through with his plan to commit assisted suicide. Since this is a romance, Will and Louisa fall in love, but love may not be enough to change Will’s plans.

This book is so much more than a love story! It’s about the ethics of assisted suicide and the challenges that disabled people face in a world that’s not made for them. It’s also about two very different people who slowly learn to get along.

“ . . . I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn't have met, and who didn't like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.” – Me Before You

Honestly, I didn’t like either of the main characters on their own. Will is a jerk, and Louisa is kind of . . . vapid? That sounds horribly mean, and the author probably intended for her to be bland, but other than her unusual clothing choices, there doesn’t seem to be much going on with Louisa. I did like the characters when they were together and learning from one another. At first, Will is just a paycheck and a curiosity to Louisa. She treats him like an object that she needs to care for. As the story goes on, she learns to listen to him and respect his choices. He may be paralyzed, but he’s not an idiot. He has opinions and can make decisions for himself.

The book also shows what it’s like to live as a quadriplegic. This is the most interesting part of the story for me because I’d never read a book with a quadriplegic protagonist before. I’d never thought about how difficult life would be for people in that situation. It’s hard to watch Will struggle with everyday activities. For him, it’s humiliating to need help and to be stared at or overlooked when he’s in public. I can understand why he would be depressed about it.

“I will never, ever regret the things I've done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.” – Me Before You

My biggest problem with Me Before You is the message it sends. The message I got from it is, “If you can’t have grand adventures, life isn’t worth living.” Before Will’s accident, he traveled the world, had tons of amazing sex, and participated in extreme sports. Now that he’s quadriplegic, he’s considering suicide because he can’t have those types of adventures anymore. Louisa is (mostly) satisfied with her life in a small town, but then Will basically bullies her into traveling and going on adventures. In Will’s opinion, Louisa is wasting her life.

This whole adventure thing kind of makes me uncomfortable. I’d love to visit Paris or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but that’s not financially or physically possible at this point in my life. Those things may never be possible for me. My life is still valuable, even without the expensive adventures. There are many ways to enjoy life.

If you’re romance-phobic like me, then this book might be a good way to get into the genre. There is a love story, but it’s not the entire focus of the book. The story and the characters give you plenty of other things to think about.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent TBR Additions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is ten books I’ve recently added to my to-be-read list.

Recent TBR Additions

Boy Erased: A Memoir – Garrard Conley

The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.   When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness. 
By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community.

The Complete Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming—both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.

The Cresswell Plot – Eliza Wass

Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father. 
Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice. 
Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

Epileptic – David B.

David B. was born Pierre-François Beauchard in a small town near Orléans, France. He spent an idyllic early childhood playing with the neighborhood kids and, along with his older brother, Jean-Christophe, ganging up on his little sister, Florence. But their lives changed abruptly when Jean-Christophe was struck with epilepsy at age eleven. In search of a cure, their parents dragged the family to acupuncturists and magnetic therapists, to mediums and macrobiotic communes. But every new cure ended in disappointment as Jean-Christophe, after brief periods of remission, would only get worse. 
Angry at his brother for abandoning him and at all the quacks who offered them false hope, Pierre-François learned to cope by drawing fantastically elaborate battle scenes, creating images that provide a fascinating window into his interior life. An honest and horrifying portrait of the disease and of the pain and fear it sowed in the family, Epileptic is also a moving depiction of one family’s intricate history. Through flashbacks, we are introduced to the stories of Pierre-François’s grandparents and we relive his grandfathers’ experiences in both World Wars. We follow Pierre-François through his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, all the while charting his complicated relationship with his brother and Jean-Christophe’s losing battle with epilepsy.

The Forgetting – Sharon Cameron

Nadia lives in the city of Canaan, where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before. But every twelve years the city descends into the bloody chaos of the Forgetting, a day of no remorse, when each person's memories–of parents, children, love, life, and self–are lost. Unless they have been written. 
In Canaan, your book is your truth and your identity, and Nadia knows exactly who hasn't written the truth. Because Nadia is the only person in Canaan who has never forgotten. 
But when Nadia begins to use her memories to solve the mysteries of Canaan, she discovers truths about herself and Gray, the handsome glassblower, that will change her world forever. As the anarchy of the Forgetting approaches, Nadia and Gray must stop an unseen enemy that threatens both their city and their own existence–before the people can forget the truth. And before Gray can forget her.

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places – Colin Dickey

Colin Dickey is on the trail of America's ghosts. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination, but why? His own fascination piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and "zombie homes," Dickey embarks on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in our most famous haunted places. Some have established reputations as "the most haunted mansion in America," or "the most haunted prison"; others, like the haunted Indian burial grounds in West Virginia, evoke memories from the past our collective nation tries to forget.  
With boundless curiosity, Dickey conjures the dead by focusing on questions of the living—how do we, the living, deal with stories about ghosts, and how do we inhabit and move through spaces that have been deemed, for whatever reason, haunted? Paying attention not only to the true facts behind a ghost story, but also to the ways in which changes to those facts are made—and why those changes are made—Dickey paints a version of American history left out of the textbooks, one of things left undone, crimes left unsolved. Spellbinding, scary, and wickedly insightful, Ghostland discovers the past we're most afraid to speak of aloud in the bright light of day is the same past that tends to linger in the ghost stories we whisper in the dark.

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

If I was Your Girl – Meredith Russo

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone. 
And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it. 
Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

The Light Fantastic – Sarah Combs

Delaware, the morning of April 19. Senior Skip Day, and April Donovan’s eighteenth birthday. Four days after the Boston Marathon bombing, the country is still reeling, and April’s rare memory condition has her recounting all the tragedies that have cursed her birth month. And just what was that mysterious gathering under the bleachers about? Meanwhile, in Nebraska, Lincoln Evans struggles to pay attention in Honors English, distracted by the enigmatic presence of Laura Echols, capturer of his heart. His teacher tries to hold her class’s interest, but she can’t keep her mind off what Adrian George told her earlier. Over in Idaho, Phoebe is having second thoughts about the Plan mere hours before the start of a cross-country ploy led by an Internet savant known as the Mastermind. Is all her heartache worth the cost of the Assassins’ machinations? The Light Fantastic is a tense, shocking, and beautifully wrought exploration of the pain and pathos of a generation of teenagers on the brink—and the hope of moving from shame and isolation into the light of redemption.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry – Fredrik Backman

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. 
When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

Have you read any of these? Which should I read, and which should I avoid?