Road Trip: Wild Iris Bookstore

2/3rds of us recently went on a road trip to visit Wild Iris Books, Florida’s only Feminist + LGBTQ bookstore located in Gainesville, Florida. It was a great experience and the people who work and own the bookstore are super knowledgeable. If you ever get a chance, you guys should check it out.

“Established in 1992, Wild Iris Books is Florida’s only feminist bookstore. Celebrating an inventory and event schedule that lifts up feminism, we have been a strong part of the activist community for many years. Check out our in-store stock of women’s studies, minority and civil rights studies, queer and trans resources, alternative children’s books, alternative spiritualities and healing modalities and more.”

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Paula Hawkin’s Girl on the Train

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3.0 Stars

Let me preface this review by saying, I absolutely loathed every single character in this goddamn book. They are all pieces of shit and I know there are people out there like this which makes me chuckle and also inexplicably angry. The only person I did not think was an asshole was Rachel, and that’s because she is pathetic. I felt bad for Rachel because she got dealt some shitty cards in life but I can’t relate with someone so dependent on another person that they destroy their own lives because they cannot live without said person.

Despite my inability to bond with any of the main characters I enjoyed this book which is super rare. If I don’t vibe with at least one character, I usually can’t bring myself to finish a book. The fact that this book was plot driven was what kept me turning the pages.

By the middle of the book, I had already guessed who had done what but I still kept reading because I was interested to see how and when the truth would be exposed. I don’t want to include any spoilers so I’ll leave it at that. The ending was a bit meh for me but I think it was because I was so engrossed in the events leading up to the unveiling of the mystery that I was expecting more. Still an entertaining, quick read.

Movie is out on October 7th. I’m interested to see how they portray this story on film. Here’s the trailer: Click (Plenty of hot dudes in the movie, haha).

I chose to pair this novel with Hendrick’s Gin because throughout the novel Rachel drinks a shitload of canned gin and tonics which always left me craving some good gin. Hendrick’s is my favorite gin. You don’t even need a mixer for it, you can just drink it straight or with just a bit of lemon.

Quotes: “I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.”

“I have lost control over everything, even the places in my head.”

“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps”

” ‘When did you become so weak?’ I don’t know. I don’t know where that strength went, I don’t remember losing it. I think that over time it got chipped away, bit by bit, by life, by the living of it.”

“I want to drag knives over my skin, just to feel something other than shame, but I’m not even brave enough for that.”

Format: Paperback.

Danielle Fisher’s A Bit Witchy

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 1.5 Stars

I received this book in exchange for an honest opinion and review.

So I enjoyed the lead character, Lena, in the beginning for a few reasons; one of them being she wasn’t described as being an impossibly perfect girl. In fact, she’s full figured, dirty minded and incredibly clumsy. I enjoyed her self-deprecating way of speaking and thinking.

On the other hand, the men in this book are all overtly horny at all times. They all sound like fuckboys. It was funny the first few pages but after a while, it became trite and annoying. The constant objectification of women and Lena’s somewhat begrudging acceptance of it I honestly didn’t dig.

The lore of this book is hella disjointed. Since it’s the first book in the series, it should have a lot more background information that is explained clearly. The entire guardian angel premise was confusing and was not fleshed out enough. So there’s a god who assigns angels but also reincarnation is a thing but none of this is ever explained. And where did the Fates come from, are they similar to the ones in Greek mythology? In addition to this, the story didn’t flow well. The author introduces characters and then they disappear and you never hear from them again. What happened to them? The battle scene towards the end was an incoherent shit show. I had no idea what the hell was happening. The conversations throughout the book are terrible, often times cringe worthy.

I feel like this book has potential due to its interesting concept but at best this reads like an incomplete first draft. Also, I think the book needs a different title, there is nothing witchy about this book; the title is misleading.

I decided to pair this book with GolfBeer‘s G-Mac’s Celtic Style Pale Ale. There is no distinct flavor to this beer or anything that makes it stand out. The book has potential unlike this beer but I felt it was an appropriate pairing; a mediocre beer for a mediocre book.

Format: E-Book.

Naguib Mahfouz’s Arabian Nights and Days

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4.0 Stars

In Arabian Nights and Days, Mahfouz entwines both social and individual morality. This novel really made me think and question how I view people, society, and morality. If these characters abandoned their beliefs effortlessly in these exceptional circumstances, then one has to wonder: did they ever really have any morals? Were they ever inherently good or were they only good because they had to be? This book was published in 1979 and is still insanely relevant and will continue to be as long as humans remain… well, human.

Mahfouz utilizes genies to explore and analyze humanity’s willingness to abandon their morality and conversely the deep-rooted good people who do the exact opposite. I couldn’t help but repeatedly think about The Walking Dead while reading this. Although both seem very different at first glance, the concept of morality is examined in both narrations. When the zombies attack, everyone and everything goes to shit. Once viewed as noble individuals suddenly became trigger-happy rapists and selfish, thieving, liars.

Throughout Arabian Nights and Days, Mahfouz reminds us that simply because someone presents an appearance of being moral it does not necessarily mean they are. Morality is found etched in a person’s very being; it cannot be altered, regardless of the situation. It should not matter what may happen to that individual, they will keep those beliefs and principles. This is important to view in society today where there are numerous wolves in sheep’s clothing and many cowards disguised as heroes, whether it is in politics, work, or even within our own families. Mahfouz allows the reader to ponder these moral issues from the safe distance of an observer. Towards the beginning of the novel, Umm Saad tells Sanaan al-Gamali, “Under the skin of certain humans lie savage beasts.” This sentence sums up the entire novel. When an individual is put into a dire situation, one can truly view what makes up the person. Arabian Nights and Days leaves the reader wondering if they, themselves, are in fact savage beasts.

I chose to pair this novel with Blue Moon‘s White IPA and (just like the novel) I surprisingly really dug it. So this beer bears similar qualities to other IPAs but the flavoring has a certain twist to it, I’m assuming it’s the exclusive hop strain, Huell Melon. I assumed this was going to be a shitty IPA but I was wrong. Just like some people may seem to be really moral and noble, they may just be deviants and cowards. You never know, haha.

Format: Paperback.

Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles

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4 .0 Stars

This series was incredibly enjoyable. All the books in this series are retellings of fairy tales in a sci-fi-esque future. All their stories intertwine to create a riveting and awesome adventure. Cinder is a super rad protagonist. By her name you can imagine that she is a reimagined Cinderella. She is a funny, sarcastic, and spunky cyborg mechanic. She is a great feminist, actually, all the female leads are great feminists.( I also love Iko! She is hilariously fantastic. Wolf and Scarlet make my heart ache. ♥)

As a brown girl, it is refreshing to read a Young Adult series where all of the characters are not white by default. I grew up reading books with white characters and always found it difficult to imagine myself as one of the characters, to relate to, or fully indulge myself because of this sometimes. Thank you, Marissa Meyer, for doing what all these other Young Adult authors whom I have read seem to be unable to do; and that is to make a diverse group of characters. Not only personality wise but ethnically too (Interracial love! YAY). This really made it great for me. Not only are there various races but also people from different planets, androids, and cyborgs. It’s great. It might not concern many readers but diversity is something I look for in my books. I’m excited for all the nonwhite teens who will read this and think, “Yaaasss Princess Winter is Black like me!” or “Cinder is Asian like me! Finally!” Ok, I’m done.

Although some stuff was predictable there are still numerous surprises and you won’t even breathe from anticipation, once you get towards the end. I was excited to see what happened after each installment. I am so sad that it’s over. I  might just read the entire series again!

I definitely see various tidbits that were inspired by Sailor Moon in the series which makes the fangirl in me squeal.

I paired this series with Rogue‘s Morimoto Imperial Pilsner. This beer starts off tasting sweet with a floral scent and finishes with a somewhat bitter taste (not too harsh) that reminds me of Cinder’s “take no shit” attitude.

List of the books in the series, in order of release:
Cinder
Scarlet
Cress
Fairest
Winter

Formats: Paperback. Hardcover.

Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

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3.2 Stars

There are a shitload of footnotes, let us just get that out of the way. Also, if you can’t roll with lingo you don’t understand or have to look up, then you’re probably going to be annoyed with this novel.

I dug The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I feel as if this story is the Dominican Republic’s One Hundred Years of Solitude or our House of the Spirits; it is a text that encompasses a nation, its culture, and its people.It’s about three generations of a family that desperately tries to get away but cannot escape the “fuku,” which is in layman’s terms, a curse. I liked that Diaz included some information on the D.R.’s history and of Trujillo. I feel like many people around the world do not know much about this country but need to in order to understand this family. And for us Dominican readers, seeing our slang words, cultural sayings and history in a novel is great and gives a sense of solidarity.

I think this book is more than Oscar wanting to get laid, which is basically the gist of this novel but there is also so much more.  That being said, I found Oscar to be hella annoying. Jesus Christ, I wanted to beat the shit out of this kid. I understand, it’s hard not fitting into the expectations your culture, people and family have set for you but damn, do you really have to be that whiny? I enjoyed everyone else’s stories and histories except for Oscar. Really, every other character was more interesting than him. I loved reading the female voices in the novel and would have probably liked the book better if the book were about them and had Oscar as a side character.

All in all, it was a decent read. (Also, I have to represent the Dominican writers, especially since there are so few of them in the mainstream, American literary game.)

Quotes: “It’s never the changes we want that change everything.”

“For the rest of his short life he existed in an imbecilic stupor, but there were prisoners who remembered moments when he seemed almost lucid, when he would stand in the fields and stare at his hands and weep, as if recalling that there was once a time when he had been more than this.”

I chose to pair this novel with Ballast Point‘s Grapefruit Sculpin because it is a great combination of old and new flavoring, much like Diaz weaves old school Dominican culture with new. Citrus flavoring and hops are usually always a win and the slightly bitter aftertaste is there to remind you it’s an IPA (in case you forgot due to the awesome grapefruit aroma and flavoring). It is reminiscent of all the instances I started to enjoy the novel and then I would read Oscar’s sections and start to like it less. I like drinking this when it is super cold.

Format: Paperback.

Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine

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5 STARS

I absolutely loved this book.Written in somewhat of the same vein as One Hundred Years of Solitude and House of Spirits, Love Medicine follows a family line that is connected through heartache, betrayal, and love.

Erdrich focuses on a community of women who do what is needed to provide for their families and keep some sense of order in their communities and their own lives despite the greed and the sabotage of the men around them. Although it appears these women lead chaotic lives, they remain the glue that keeps the tribe together. The themes of love, grief, strength, and motherhood can be explored through the lives of Marie Lazarre Kashpaw, Lulu Nanapush Lamartine, and June Morrissey (these are my girls, yo).

Marie Kashpaw is my favorite character. She has quotes that slay; one example: “I don’t pray. When I was young, I vowed I never would be caught begging God. If I want something I get it for myself” I love this so much, I guess because it reminds me of what my mother has always taught my sisters and me, and that is to not wait for help. Help yourselves.

Erdrich is a magician. She weaves an amazing story that fatally hits you in the chest and brutally crushes your soul. Her prose is beautiful and honest. I have no other words than, read it.

I paired Love Medicine with my own medicine (you like that? Haha): Rogue‘s Yellow Snow IPA. It has a hoppy, citrusy scent with a deep-rooted bitterness. I am very picky with IPAs but I enjoyed this one. The lingering bitterness reminds me of how this book kept me thinking long after I finished it. I am a Rogue fan girl so this is slightly biased (“Slightly” because I fucking loathe their attempt at whiskey, ugh. No one’s perfect).

Format: Paperback.