Reading with My Sister | Review: Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #1) by Raina Telgemeier

Nothing quite beats the feeling from walking into the library not knowing what to get and walking away victoriously with two exciting reads. Raina Telgemeier graphic novel adaption to the Baby-Sitters Club with Kristy’s Great Idea was one of them.

One of my greatest accomplishments as a big sister is passing on my love for books to my ten-year-old sisterand I can thank in part Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels for kicking it off with a bang, specifically with Sisters, which my sister still recites certain scenes from today, like, the infamous road trip. So spending this past Shabbat poring over this newest release was a walk down memory lane for us.

For me, what I personally cherish in these books is how timeless Telgemeier’s writing feels. Like, when I read other middle-grade books I’m self-aware throughout the story that this is meant for younger audiences, but there’s something so appealing in its nostalgic nature.

I also appreciated how this particular book on babysitting kids showcases situations with how to deal with the not-so-kind moments, similar to How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk, wherein it opens up with a kid acting a certain way (throwing tantrums, asking big questions, opening up) and through the Baby-Sitters Club we see a number of ways to react in a helpful manner.

And as always, the art was astounding and perfectly captured those quintessential summer days spent frolicking outside with friends, thinking of what to do next.kristy's great idea- bookspoils

It’s also interesting looking back on my 2018 reading challenge to suddenly realize that Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts was my second book of the year (and first graphic novel), just like Kristy’s Great Idea is my second read of 2019.

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My Favorite Book Quotes: The Books That Helped Shape Me Through their Words

In my recent reading year, I’ve taken notice of how different the books I reach for now are from just a couple of years ago, and it got me thinking about all those different books I used to pile up on my list of favorites and what I would think of them now if I approached them with fresh eyes, whether I would have the same visceral reaction I had that first time or none at all.

It also made me reflect on why I considered them my favorite books in the first place, was it the story or rather the sense of feeling known and seen on the page that made me cling to the book long after I had closed the last page?

Looking back, I can see a clear pattern forming over time wherein each book that presented itself at a certain time in my life came to explain a piece of me, and it creates this effect where all these favorite books of mine come together to form a bigger picture, which I can look back on to and understand more clearly the role they had in my growth.

And to think that this all came to my understanding simply by scrolling through my list of Goodreads quotes that I had pinned in my profile. Suddenly all these books that have slipped my mind over the months came back to show just how much joy and clarity they brought me. And I have this immense desire to capture this particular emotion through this post because as the years go on, I’ll hopefully have new books to share, so I’d love to revisit the emotions these brought out in me repeatedly.

I seek immense comfort through the written word, so the more accurate term for these would probably be “passages” instead of “quotes” because it’s often the story told through the words that I seek comfort in. This might also influence my decision to often seek out books that are entirely character-driven and grounded in reality; to explain all that I cannot put into concrete words. And it creates this interesting resolution where I know that when I’ll reexperience these emotions (may it be confusion, sadness, intense love) I can seek out their words and take comfort in its simplistic explanation, all whispers of things I’d loved.

“Great books help you understand, and they help you to feel understood.”
John Green

An example of what inspired this whole idea in the first place was rereading The Raven King this past week, which I haven’t done since my first whirlwind read on the day the book came out, and going through the last book in the series reminded me of just how closely I cherished these characters. I saw a piece of me within this group: Ronan has my roots to family, Blue has my all-encompassing relationships, Adam has my perceptive intensity and… All these components that evoked the memory of how good it feels to read a book that gets you, which brought me back to the Goodreads quotes for this series since I can’t commit to rereading the whole series; I just wanted the string of highlights.

And there are so many books that produce a similar effect in my heart, so I had to come up with a concise list to share. And these aren’t necessarily my favorite books to date, but rather it’s their words that made me click and understand a part of myself that I was seeking out at the time of reading and through their given words I felt known and seen by another human (“without the body odor and the eye contact,” sorry, the Cather Avery in me slipped out). So this may not be a list of all-time favorite books, because those constantly change as I grow and evolve, but rather a list of books that helped me come to terms with realizing so much that I needed to know.

These were certainly favorites at the time, and now, looking back they’re favorites for helping me understand that which only in hindsight I can understand I was asking for an answer that unveiled itself through the written word.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by by Leslye Walton

The thing with rereading a book that blew you away the first time, it’s then quite the disappointment when all those scenes that stuck with you from your first read turn out to be not as grand as you remembered. Like a certain character detail that I blew up in my hand turned out to be less than one page in the book, and I was confounded as to how that was possible…

Since this book follows three generations, and when I read it I fell into the world of Emmeline, aka the first generation we go back to, I was aghast to find her discussed less than 100 pages because all the details of her life had stuck with me so closely. It’s been over three years and I still remember details of her marriage, her bakery and her dear friend at the bakery, her eccentric family members and their stories, the stories of the neighborhood. I can recall everything clear as day, maybe even better than my own memories, so it surprised me when I revisited the story to find that they were discussed in such a small amount of pages.

Since Emmeline’s journey encaptured me the most, it’s also her phrase that came to mirror my own thoughts:

She struggled to distinguish between signs she received from the universe and those she conjured up in her head.

This brings me back like nothing else to my confused state at the time of reading this book where I experienced this unmoored reality, teetering the ground between who I was and who I wanted to become so I was almost desperately seeking out all that would help explain it to me. I cherished this book, and the magical realism genre, for a long time following.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater:

Ava Lavender was the perfect build-up for this grandiose series that touches on all things magical from dark creatures to tarot readings to having that something more in your life, which is captured to the point in this passage:

“The predictions that came out of 300 Fox Way were unspecific, but undeniably true. Her mother had dreamt Blue’s broken wrist on the first day of school. Her aunt Jimi predicted Maura’s tax return to within ten dollars. Her older cousin Orla always began to hum her favorite song a few minutes before it came on the radio.”

This still strikes a comforting note within me.

I touched before, at the start of this post, on just how much I relished in the world of this raven group, and I’ll forevermore be grateful for the solace they granted me in feeling so included in their dynamic. And the curious thing is there’s more than one group to seek that something more in, Maura and Calla and Persephone were always something I looked forward to reading about on the page.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell:


If you’ve been around for a while on this blog (long enough to read my two reviews for Fangirl, 1&2), you know by now there isn’t one quote that can fully encompass how much this book means to me. I’ve read it countless times since my first time reading it because it’s the only physical book I have that I actually enjoy. I genuinely end up rereading it every Shabbat when the book I took home from the library inevitably disappoints me. I gravitate towards Rainbow Rowel’s Fangirl because it’s a familiar and comforting world to sink into. The characters feel so close to my heart, same for the writing; I can recall the words by heart now, so much so that when I read a certain scene, I’ll start laughing ahead of time because I recall what line awaits. Scenes with Reagan or Levi never disappoint.

The book recently re-released its new paperback edition with a glowing full-color illustration by Mara Miranda-Escota of one of my favorite Cath and Levi scenes (reading on the love seat!), plus it has minty stained edges. Be sure to snatch your copy here:

I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This: A Memoir: Nadja Spiegelman

My love for honest and compelling lifetime works began with uncovering this book: I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This. It opened my eyes not only to the genre of Memoir, which I then solely devoured for the following months but I realized through Nadja Spiegelman chronicles just how fierce and all-encompassing mother-daughter relationships can be.

The things my mother did not see about herself, I did not see, either.

This book holds a lot for itself, but I’ll always hold it dear for holding open that doorway for me to peek in. My subsequent phase of memoirs, where other people come to a concrete understanding through chronicling their lives, I was hoping to catch some of that for my own understanding. It’s very often that we can find our thought mirrored in others. And I found two others which created a similar effect:

Trevor Noah’s account resonated with me on a more deeper level than I was expecting for a comedic memoir, from the way his mind works with language to the fierce nature of his mother, Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah. I still think about them to this day. Though at the core it holds a troubling tale of coming-of-age during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa, Noah takes the joys and pangs of his life and makes sure to mix in some much-needed humor. This checks it all off:

“Nearly one million people lived in Soweto. Ninety-nine point nine percent of them were black—and then there was me. I was famous in my neighborhood just because of the color of my skin. I was so unique people would give directions using me as a landmark. “The house on Makhalima Street. At the corner you’ll see a light-skinned boy. Take a right there.”

The latter book by Diane Guerrero uncovered a deep, hidden part in me which I had stored away for years, yet through Diane Guerrero’s unflinchingly honest story of recounting her adolescence, it all came flooding back. Like, the memory of betrayal of experiencing her first period but not having the one person who’s supposed to know it all, it’s a story that still sticks with me to this very day. Also, her touching upon the fact that people touching her makes her uncomfortable made me connect with her instantly because I needed to hear that I wasn’t alone, though I was secretly hoping for her to reveal the source of it, though her mother had her inklings.

Basically, reading memoirs feels like coming out of a good therapy session. And funnily enough, there are excellent books by Irvin D. Yalom just on this concept of accompanying through the written word a therapy journey that most likely mirrors your own thoughts and fear: Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy.

The title story of the collection remains a favorite of mine in particular since it touches upon the concept of obsessive love versus healthy love, which, boy, did I need to hear that at the time.

“Perhaps the function of the obsession was simply to provide intimacy: it bonded her to another—but not to a real person, to a fantasy.”

At the time of this revelation, not a lot of memoirs were out in the bookish world so I ventured over into family stories which granted me much of the same, plus delicious drama.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The intricately thought out sequences that move this book still hinder me speechless. At the core of Little Fires Everywhere lies a tale of motherhood and love. I was especially in awe of the way Celeste Ng can characterize such specific components within each figure that we meet; everyone stood out as their own person through this intense character-study. And ever since I read this particular passage below that transcends words; I can never look the same at the subtlety in the growing relationship between a mother and her child without hearing this echoed in my mind.

“It had been a long time since her daughter had let her be so close. Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there were something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare—a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug—and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

The audience needs more books from the author. Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55

I would love to know in the comments below if you have any similar bookish quotes that have helped you in any way that you would like to share.

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Girlhood and Coming-of-Age Review: The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe

I was on the search for a lightweight book to bring with me for a day full of travel, when the simple beauty of this cover, filled in tan, freckled skin, enthralled this fellow tan, freckled gal to pick it from the tucked away library shelf (the second time around). Funnily enough, I made a trek back to the library later that same day to grab the book because it wouldn’t escape my mind from that morning sighting when I had failed to pick it up.

Rainbow Rowell recommended Rufi Thorpe’s Dear Fang, With Love years ago, which meant for me that this author would nail down life specificities the way I enjoy in Rowell’s books. The Girls from Corona del Mar did not disappoint within the first page, reading about a loving family’s presence in Lorrie Ann’s life.The Girls from Corona del Mar bookspoils

And it took me a single sitting, reading swiftly through ten pages, to realize this was something to hold on to. I particularly enjoyed how the first couple of pages started with a tantalizing proclamation, “You’re going to have to break one of my toes,” then veered off to familiarize these characters, and ended the paragraph the same way it started so that we’re included in their motives; a full circle.

Set in the mid-90s, The Girls from Corona del Mar follows two best friends, Mia and Lorrie Ann, through spot-on observations on life, growing together and apart, and always having that nature pull to return to each other. This read like an extremely attentive and introspective novel, full of vivid stories on Mia’s lifelong friendship with Lorrie Ann. My mind was bursting with all that I wanted to note down with each page I read. You know it’s a good book when you close your eyes at the end of the day and continue completing the story in your head.

Normally, friendships between girls are stowed away in boxes of postcards and ticket stubs, but whatever was between me and Lorrie Ann was not so easy to set aside.

I was surprised to find a unique storytelling mode where, instead of having two narrators who each tell their own tale, we follow Mia’s perspective of Lorrie Ann’s toils through the details Lor gives her best friend. You can peek this in the passage below:

“I love you,” Lorrie Ann lied. (Was it a lie? I never knew, exactly. I couldn’t understand her love for Jim and so I made my peace with Lor’s decisions by assuming her feelings for him were either feigned or a delusion, but perhaps they were not. Perhaps she loved him with the same animal part of herself that couldn’t let that baby go.)

I really liked how the author gained control with this little insert because Mia went a little off-task into Lor’s (the name Lorrie Ann is a pain to type) world, and the usage of first-person brought it back to the narrator.

I’ll be honest by saying right off the bat I was as wrapped around Lorrie Ann’s finger as much as Mia. Something about the utter kindness and goodness of her always shone so brightly on the page. It’s best told in this incident that captures Lor’s character through the author’s storytelling:

Once, when we were about ten, Lorrie Ann had been given too much change at the Chevron snack shop: she had paid with a ten, but the man must have thought she gave him a twenty. Lorrie Ann didn’t even notice until we were five blocks away, and then insisted we walk all the way back so that she could give him that unearned ten-dollar bill, which as I recall was soft and wrinkled like wilted lettuce. I am sure Lorrie Ann would never remember that day, such an insignificant anecdote, but in my mind it became a central organizing allegory about the differences between us.
Everything I had in life was half stolen, a secret, wilt-y ten-dollar bill that Lorrie Ann would have been too good to keep, but which I could not force myself to give away.

What makes so much of these eyeful remarks is how grounded in reality they are.

I was initially won over by Lorrie Ann with this truthful statement when faced clearly, at only eighteen, with an impossible choice: “But don’t you learn to love someone?” Lorrie Ann asked.

This right here is what too many novels fail to realize when they proclaim that love is all or nothing. Love isn’t some overbearing emotion that takes control of your sane thought process, love is something that you need to discover how to do with morality. “You don’t fall in love. You grow in love.” Love is recognizing the grandiosity of the person standing before you; love is including that person within your own being.

Her thought process of said impossible choice is demonstrated touchingly. She had this terrible death happen within her family, which she concludes as her fault for not being good enough or observant enough of the signs in her life, so she doesn’t want to set off something now that’ll make bad things appear back in her life. She chooses what she deems the right thing. What follows changes the trajectory of her life and Mia’s along with her.

And yet it was not me but Lorrie Ann whom the vultures of bad luck kept on visiting, darkening the yard of her house, tapping on the panes of her windows with their musty, blood-crusted beaks.“Wake up, little girl!” they cried.“We’ve got something else for you!

I felt suspended the entire time I read through this reflective and tumultuous story. So much of this novel is built on the many tragedies that befall Lor despite her best. And I kept wallowing over just how many they are… I mean, I came to relish whenever Lor walked back into Mia’s life, though knowing it’s only when something unfortunate happens makes it a bittersweet pill to swallow.

At a certain point, when the only times these two communicate is when something bad occurs to Lorrie Ann, it became an exhausting process of “Oh, what now?” It read like a condensed version of A Little Life, which I liked for the subtle quips on life but disliked immensely for throwing tragedy after tragedy my way. It takes away from the realness of life when we only meet these two characters when tragedy strikes. I wanted to spend more time in the in-between moments that make up a lifetime. When everything’s shit, however, it makes you appreciate little gestures of kindness, simple as a sweet nurse over the phone reassuring Lorrie Ann.

On a random note, I enjoyed how the title chapters are indicant of what’s ahead. It’s a little touch that shows how much a book means to an author.

And I’m still so in awe at how this book kept me enthralled page by page with its eyeful observations. This is an author that lets no moment slip by; you have to be really sensitive of your reality to succeed in writing down what you see in real life. And I, for one, am a complete sucker when it comes to introspective novels that reveal a deeper layer that lies within us.

The Girls from Corona del Mar nails down the complexity of maintaining a long-distance friendship. I admired, in particular, what was said about feeling like a character in a book, like, you don’t exist unless I pick you up.

“That came out awful, but what I mean is that when you are a half a world away, it seems more like something happening in a novel, you know, and we’ve lived apart for so many years now that you are kind of like that for me, except when I see you, then you are suddenly terribly real, and that made Jim’s death real and now I feel like I can’t catch my breath because everything is too real for words.”
Lorrie Ann looked at me critically for a moment, as though I were a gem she were assessing through one of those tiny eyepieces. Then she said, “I know exactly what you mean. For most of the year you are just a character in a book I’m reading. And then when you do show up, I think:  Oh, God, it’s her! It’s her. The girl I knew when I was a kid. My friend.”

This is such a sweet moment too real for words… And then this moment on how talking over the phone never fully captures the true experience in a single phrase: “I’m not sure,” Lorrie Ann said, and I wished I could read her face.”

They hold this interesting dynamic wherein Mia feels forever endowed by Lorrie Anne’s virtue. Her “opposite twin.”

I did not pursue my relationship with either for personal reasons, but because I sincerely believed they were the two best specimens of humanity I had yet to run across on the planet.

But when this book turns bad, it goes down all the way. It hit a point of no return after the 150-page mark, and I was left dumbfounded. I felt truly betrayed by the inorganic change in character happening halfway through. I had spent so much time with this book, singing its praises, only to have this abrupt tomfoolery wherein the most moral character had everything immoral thrown her way. I’m still in a state of shock. It came to the point where I had to point the book cover face down on my nightstand, till its fast return to the library the following day, because  I couldn’t bear to look at it without some semblance of anger flaring up inside me. It felt like two completely different stories were being told: One of genuine storytelling, using many sharp observations about family life, and telling a truthful tale of girlhood. And the other is focused on tearing down what we build up for the past 100 pages. Like, when Mia starts being the moral compass for Lorrie Ann that’s when you know something fishy is going down in the storytelling.

 

 

This unnatural change of pace made me feel beyond exasperated. It’s all that I had been warned about on immorality was shown with a turn of a page. W H Y ??? I’ll just say one thing: Those questioning the system of justice while claiming that ridding a child of its life because of a disability are exactly those that the system exists for. I mean:

“Zach’s suffering is not more than a child’s in the Congo just because we are genetically related.”

How is one supposed to react calmly to reading such utter BS? She’s talking so coldly about her own son, and I’m wondering how this is the same person from the start of this book. I cannot stand when good characters are destroyed this way. This felt like an amateurish and insensitive dissection on a character’s life.

I just don’t have the patience anymore to deal with such crude remarks being made for n, such as comparing genocides and reducing both in the process of doing so.

Cue my search for a new favorite book to calm my storming rage.

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