HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton

Book cover: HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie ParnesThere was a lot that went on behind the scenes after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2008 presidential election. As one of the superstars of the Democratic party, she’d been expected to breeze on in as the front runner for the election, but as we all know by now, the Obama campaign crushed her in the primaries. HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, written by political journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, look into what happened the the aftermath of this defeat.

The authors note that after her failed presidential bid, Clinton didn’t yet know what her next move would be. One thing was for certain: she hadn’t expected having to return to the Senate. Those still rooting for her encouraged the new administration to give her a position of importance, and when Obama offered her the Secretary of State position, both camps had to proceed cautiously. There was still a lot of animosity and mistrust between the Clinton and Obama worlds in the early days, but Clinton eventually managed to win most people over by working tirelessly to fill her new role and showing everyone that she could support Obama and his policies. She traveled the world, earned Obama’s trust and respect, and fulfilled her tasks as Secretary of State almost without a hitch until Benghazi happened. In the time since she’s stepped down as Secretary of State she’s laid low politically, but pretty much everyone is waiting for her to announce her intent to run in the 2016 presidential election.

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On Divergent, Sex, and Assault

Book cover: Divergent by Veronica RothSpoilers & trigger warning after the jump.

Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian Chicago that has been split into five factions based on different virtues: Abnegation, which focuses on selflessness; Erudite, which focuses on intelligence; Dauntless, which focuses on bravery; Candor, which focuses on honesty; and Amity, which focuses on peacefulness. Children are raised within their parents’ factions, and every year, all sixteen-year-olds go through a special test  to see which faction they belong to. They then have a choosing ceremony to pick which faction they’d like to be in, regardless of their test results. Most stay with their families, but all go through a trial period; if they don’t make it, they’re kicked out and become factionless, doomed to a life of homelessness and poverty.

Beatrice and her brother are both participating in the choosing ceremony this year. They’re Abnegation, and their parents work in government. At the moment, Abnegation is at odds with Erudite; Erudite has been spreading rumors about Abnegation in an attempt to take more control of the government. It’s more important than ever for Abnegation to stick together. Beatrice has always felt like she never fully fit in with Abnegation, but the thought of changing factions and leaving her family forever pains her. Her test she and her brother take the day before the ceremony are supposed to make everything clear, but they only confuse her even more.

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Quickies: Claire of the Sea Light & Asunder

Book cover: Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge DanticatClaire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

Publisher/Year: Knopf, 2013
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Robin Miles
Length: 7 hrs, 3 minutes
Source: Library

What it is: Claire Limyé Lanmé (Claire of the Sea Light) Faustin is a little girl growing up in the fictional fishing village of Ville Rose, Haiti. Her mother died in childbirth, and on Claire’s seventh birthday, her father, Nozias, decides to give her to a local shopkeeper so that she can have a better life. The book all takes place on this one day that the shopkeeper comes for her, though it dips into the past as it highlights the lives of several of the villagers.

Why I listened to it: I just wanted to (Danticat has long been on my to-read list), and the cover called out to me. It’s pretty.

What I thought: This is not your traditional novel; the book is more like a series of related vignettes that have been strung together. The book begins and ends with Claire, but the chapters in between are told from the perspective of people only tangentially linked to Claire’s life. It was a little confusing at first, especially since I was listening on audiobook. I sometimes wasn’t sure if the book had skipped a few chapters; that’s how different the plot could be from one moment to the next. At first, I went, “Hey, what happened to Claire?” Danticat gets you emotionally attached to her, only to set her aside for most of the book in order to focus on a handful of other characters’ lives. But it works. In the end, you only have glimpses of lot of different characters, but you feel for all of them. It’s a slim novel that leaves you wanting more, and yet it’s perfect the way it is.


Book cover: Asunder by Chloe AridjisAsunder by Chloe Aridjis

Publisher/Year: Mariner Books, 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher

What it is: Marie works as a guard at the National Gallery in London. She enjoys the silent atmosphere and the responsibility of watching over the artwork. Doing so keeps up part of her great-grandfather’s legacy: he was the guard on duty when a suffragette sliced apart a famous painting at the beginning of World War I; he fell and wasn’t able to stop her. But after nine years of working at the National Gallery, Marie is also stuck in a rut.

Why I read it: I enjoyed Aridjis’s debut novel, Book of Clouds.

What I thought: Like her first book, Asunder is oftentimes more atmosphere than plot. Large chunks go by where not much happens other than Marie’s meandering observations of the world. She does artwork with eggshells (symbolism). She observes people walking by (symbolism), especially at the museum. A class comes in, and the professor process to teach her students about craquelure, the natural and unavoidable cracking of paint on a canvas as time goes by (this was actually one of my favorite passages in the book). Anyway, cracks on a canvas. More symbolism. Obviously, something is happening with Marie. But, in keeping with the subdued and introspective nature of Aridjis’s writing, there are no mind-blowing, thrilling plot twists. If you need action in your books, this definitely isn’t the book for you. Personally, I find Aridjis’s works to be vaguely weird, philosophical, and slow. I liked it.

A Girl Walks into a Wedding

Book cover: A Girl Walks into a Wedding by Helena S. PaigeA GIrl Walks into a Wedding is the second book by Helena S. Paige, the pseudonym of co-authors Helen Moffett, Sarah Lotz, and Paige Nick. I was really curious about it because of its format, something I’d seen before in erotica ebooks and in children’s books (ha!) but never in print books aimed at adults: you’re given multiple scenarios and periodically get to decide your own fate.

The plot, if you can call it that, is pretty straightforward: your best friend is about to get married and you’re her bridesmaid. You choose things like whether your dress is tasteful or hideous, and whether or not to take the new guy you’re dating to the wedding or to go solo. From there it branches out even more: Do you want to have a one night stand? Is the guy you’ve chosen a total bore? Do you catch your best friend doing naughty things the night before the wedding? You get the idea.

As you can imagine, it’s pure fluff. I’d always wondered what this type of format would be like in print format, and now I know. It’s weird. You’re given a choice, then you’re directed to go to page__ for X scenario or to page __ for Y scenario; I think this format is better suited for ebook because tapping the link of your choice is less awkward than finding the right page and seeing a bunch of “The Ends” along the way. It also makes the book reaaaally short. The earliest point I saw “The End” was on page 97, and that included several skipped sections where you had jump to your scenario of choice.

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Only the Good Die Young

Book cover: Only the Good Die Young by K. K. HendinRemember when the New Adult genre burst onto the scene a couple of years ago and was suddenly all the rage? As I don’t read much Young Adult fiction, I never really looked into New Adult or figured out the difference. After reading K. K. Hendin’s Only the Good Die Young, the light bulb finally went off in my head and I went, “Ohhhhh, now I get it!” Aiming slightly older than typical YA, Only the Good Die Young is about Milcah Daniels, an eighteen-year-old facing stage three breast cancer, a double mastectomy, and the possibility of dying very soon.

When we meet Milcah, she’s very bitter and angry. She’s a smart girl who’s supposed to be living up her first year in college; instead, she’s living in an empty apartment in Houston going to her cancer treatments. She’s also a foster kid, so even though she’s eighteen, she qualifies for assistance from the state with certain conditions, one being that she must re-enroll in school (this time through an online program). She doesn’t see the point in doing that since she thinks her death is imminent, but until she does die, she’s decided to just go through the motions of life.

One day, Milcah sees a new tattoo parlor and decides to go in, and she meets the sexy tattoo artist named Callum Scott. The two hit it off, and though it’s obvious Callum wants more, Milcah keeps her diagnosis a secret and keeps pulling away from him every time he tries to build on their friendship. She doesn’t see the point in getting close to anyone because she’s going to die anyway and they’ll just get hurt.

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