Turtles All the Way Don’t

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
Genre: YA
Published October 10 2017
Dutton Penguin

Image result for turtles all the way down john greenJohn Green’s latest novel since his successful The Fault in our Stars tackles a subject that Mr. Green is intimately familiar with: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Green has openly discussed his own OCD on his YouTube series and in essays. While trying to write a follow-up to TFIOS he struggled with not just the pressure of creating something after such a career-changing novel, but his own mental battle. So he took his OCD and used that as not just fuel, but subject matter for Turtle’s All the Way Down.

As someone with my own diagnosed mental challenges (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), I was intrigued by the premise of TAtWD. The story is told through the eyes, and thoughts, of Aza  Holmes, who like her creator, has OCD. The reader sees Aza’s OCD through compulsive thoughts and actions, including her fear of bacteria, which is physically expressed through a cut in her thumb that she constantly opens, drains (of bacteria) and reapplies Band-Aid after Band-Aid. Aza is an interesting protagonist, she is vulnerable and honest, but she’s also got that touch of “manic-pixie-dreamgirl” that John Green insists on adding to all of his female characters.

Which leads us to the plot, which is pretty thin, solidly John Green, and completely not groundbreaking. Aza and her best friend Daisy are on the hunt to find out what happened to local billionaire Russel Pickett, who disappeared leaving his sons alone in their mansion playground. Aza knows Davis Pickett, Russel’s son from camp years ago, where they connected over the deaths of their parent’s (Davis’s mother and Aza’s father). The two reconnect and start to solve the mystery of the missing millionaire. Except not really. The amount of sleuthing in this book is minimal and it really proves to be a thin backdrop for the relationship between Aza and Davis, which is equally thin, and proves to be a thin backdrop for Aza and her mental illness. Now, I admit that I prefer plot-heavy books to character-driven dramas, but I know there is a place for character driven books as well, and if they’re done right they can be just as page-turning and compulsive of reads. I also wonder if John Green is trying to make a statement that Aza’s mental health totally overshadows any “plot” in her life. If so, maybe I needed a bit more acknowledgement that this was his plan.

But thin plot isn’t the only problem. One reason I was excited to read this book was because of the concept of a character with a mental disadvantage. There were really well written moments where I really think Green presented an accurate representation of something so hard to represent. For example, when Aza struggles with taking her medication because she isn’t sure if taking a pill to make you more like yourself is actually not being who you really are, the discussion of the unmedicated reality of one’s personality versus the medicated. But I think Green missed the mark entirely by not naming Aza’s OCD. Throughout the book Aza’s friends and mother, and even her therapist, talk about her anxiety, her “unique” personality, her challenges. But they don’t name the disorder. The term OCD shows up exactly zero times in the entire novel. And for this, I must fault Green. Sure maybe he didn’t want to write an “OCD Book” after writing a “Cancer Book.” But that’s exactly what he did, and when his fan base is teenagers (and other lovers of YA!) he needs to take responsibility for the fact that his job is no longer just “writer,” he is also an educator. Yes, sure, the point comes across what Aza has, but with no official diagnosis mentioned a lot could be confused. Readers may think that Green is simply writing about anxiety. And while anxiety is one symptom of OCD, it is certainly not the only one.

I applaud Green for showing us what it is like inside Aza’s brain, and I know it is no easy feat to write about a disease that has little physical manifestation, a disease of the thoughts and mind. There are some really wonderful moments, but as a whole Turtles All the Way Down relied too heavily on Green’s characters and tropes that have become too convenient and well, tropey—best friend fights, car accident plot-devices, philosophizing teenagers, and an unneeded teenage romance all included. The last few pages of the novel are truly wonderful, perhaps semi-autobiographical, and beautifully written, but they feel almost misplaced in a novel that ultimately let me down.

City of Saints and Thieves

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Genre: YA, Thriller
Published January 24th 2017 
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers

33956433City of Saints and Thieves is a refreshing YA thriller. Set in Kenya, the story revolves around Tina. A character unlike any I have met in YA before, Tina is a refugee from Congo who escaped with her mother when she was very little. Her mother got a job as a maid for the Greyhill family, a wealthy member of the “Ring,” the wealthy part of Sangui City. Five years ago, after having Mr. Greyhill’s illegitimate daughter, Tina’s sister Kiki, Tina’s mother is murdered. Shot in the head. Now, Tina seeks revenge against her mother’s murderer—Mr Greyhill.

Tina is now a thief, a member of the Goondas gang. She lives on a rooftop, and survives in the shadows. She is planning her biggest break-in of all, a mansion in the Ring, where she will avenge her mother. Her plan is simple. Dirt. Money. Blood. But as things unravel, Tina learns that her mother had many secrets, and revenge is not as easy as she thinks.

City of Saints and Thieves takes the reader from the streets of Kenya to deep in the Congo on a page-turning adventure. With a unique cast of characters, vivid details, and a protagonist ready to kill for answers, this novel is both pleasurable and interesting. I found myself learning about the Congo and the women who have survived the terrors of war, while cheering on Tina. While there are some romantic elements that didn’t needed to be there, and the plot dragged a little at the end, the writing is engaging enough to forgive these slight imperfections. If you’re looking for a YA thriller in a unique setting, City of Saints and Thieves will not disappoint.

Adventures of a Bookshop Ho

I keep telling myself “your blog is called Adventures of a Bookshop Girl” and yet you’ve kiiiiinda stopped posting about books lately.

I was going to post about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, but I wanted to wait until after my book club met, in case any of them were stalking me (hi guys!). But book club has come and gone, and I never reviewed it on here. Brief review: I liked it. I didn’t love it. I really appreciated Junot Diaz’s writing, and his merging of genres, but I still kind of felt like I was watching everything from arms length and didn’t entirely connect to the story. And it’s not because I have nothing in common with the characters. I still think you can connect with a book without relating to it. There was just the magic spark missing for me. But I really really liked it, and it was so close to having that Missing Thing. Yeah…worst book review ever. Moving on.

I told myself I would post about the Next Book I Read. My last blog review was on Midwinter Blood. Right after that I read Insurgent, which is the sequel to Divergent. I didn’t want to post a review about that one because it’s the middle of a trilogy, and it would be hard to do so without spoilers. (spoiler: I read it really fast and enjoyed it for what it is: mediocre fluffy YA. I like Divergent better.) And then I went right into reading Allegiant, the third and final book in the series. And something terrible happened. I just didn’t give a damn about this book. And I stopped reading entirely. And then the book was due back at the library (what? I work at a bookstore and I go to the library. judge away.). I never finished it. So I started Ready Player One last night. I LOVE IT.

But. I have Allegiant BACK from the library. AND book club just extended our deadline for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, AND we’re meeting to talk about Remains of the Day soon.

In summary. I’m reading three books at once. I’m usually a book monogamist. I now feel like a dirty, filthy book slut. My plan: sit my ass down and finish Allegiant. Read Ready Player One really. damn. fast. And then get back into my book club books.

Challenge accepted.

Time to read!

What about you guys? Do you ever read more than one book at a time?

Portland Dining Month: Tabla

March in Portland is Portland Dining Month, which means restaurants all over town offer a $29 dinner that usual incorporates a sampling of different choices from their menu. Most restaurants pick one appetizer, one main course, and one dessert to highlight, but some have other variations on the $29 deal.

On Sunday night I had the pleasure of dining at Tabla. Tabla calls themselves a “Mediterranean Bistro,” but for the geographically confused this might make you automatically think “Greek food!” It’s more Italian based fare here, though not the heavy red-sauce based Italian, a lighter, less Americanized Italian. Tabla’s Dining Month selection actually allowed each diner to choose their own appetizer, pasta, and main course from the entire menu. Options!

I started with the winter salad:

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I picked the salad because it has my favorite olives, castelvetrano. They’re those big lime green olives you see at the fancy olive bars at Whole Foods and New Seasons. They’re almost buttery in taste, and definitely a common indulgence of mine. The olives complimented this salad well, and it was a nice, crispy, fresh start to my meal. Although I did find the inclusion of celery in a salad odd, it actually worked well and added a nice crunch.

For my pasta dish I chose the crab tortellini: 

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I have been to Tabla a few times before, and always ordered the Tabla Ravioli, which I highly recommend. But I’m glad I decided to change things up. The tortellini is made from fresh pasta, and each one was stuffed nicely. Sometimes I’m afraid of ordering things like tortellini or ravioli at restaraunts instead of actual pasta because the servings tend to be skimpier, but this was just right. The crab was actually hard to taste at first, so if you’re wary of seafood this dish isn’t overly seafoody.

For my entree I went with the Braised Pork Braciole:

photo 4 

It’s basically a pork ragu. The sauce was good and tomatoey, and the pork was tender. There’s polenta on the bottom, and I was surprised and delighted by how creamy it was. The entire dish was delicious. At this point I was rather full, so I’m happy to report that the leftovers heated-up nicely the next day.

I highly recommend Tabla, even after Portland Dining Month is over. After March they still have a Three Course Dinner option on the menu that is only $33, which for what you get is a fantastic deal. The service is fantastic, the dining room was nice and quiet even though the restaurant was full, and most importantly the food is consistently good.

In case you’re interested in other PDX Dining Month options, Eater PDX put together a list of the best deals.

Stay tuned as I continue to eat my way through Portland!


Tabla on Urbanspoon

Shamrock RUN!

First of all, I totally forgot to post a weigh-in last week:

Starting Weight: 176.6 lbs
Last Weigh-in: 168.4 lbs
This Weigh-in: 167.2 lbs
Difference: -1.2 lbs
Total Difference: -9.4 lbs

My body does NOT want to get to the 10 lb mark. Which is too bad because I’ve already started saying “I’ve lost ten pounds.” Whoops. Anyway, the past few weeks have had many celebrations (birthdays, bachelorette parties, etc.), and while I’m definitely making better decisions that I would have in the past a) it has NOT been easy and b) I think this week and continuing on I need to REALLY switch up my priorities and stop with the gaining/losing one pound a week thing. It’s like the same pound every week, it either goes up or down!

Moving on! I did something amazing yesterday. I ran an 8k. And when I say ran, I mean RAN. None of this run/walk business for me!

The Shamrock Run was the morning after my friend’s bachelorette party, so we were a little tired:


Those are “did we really spend all night bacheloretting and now we’re running an 8k” faces.

The Shamrock Run, for those non-Portlanders, is probably Portland’s biggest run. Ok that’s completely unofficial, I really have no idea and don’t feel like googling, but man it is CROWDED. But I love the color green, so it’s ok by me. I wish I had taken more pictures but my phone was dying and I needed my playlist to make it through. The run is along the waterfront and through downtown Portland. It’s a pretty flat run until the end when there’s a bit of a hill, which of course was a lovely challenge during the last mile of the race.

Now let it be known: I had not been training. I signed-up for the race thinking it would encourage me to train, but really I had gone on maybe 4 runs total this year before the race. I was completely expecting to run/walk it. But something kicked-in, and I just never stopped running. I literally cried when I got to the finish line, I was so proud of myself.

The ironic thing? My time last year when I ran/walked was faster than this year’s time! But that’s ok. This run was more about proving to myself that I can get back into the running game. I’m now motivated to NOT lose my running lungs/legs and to keep it up, so I’m signing-up for a 10k. Which kind of scares me, but I think I can do it. Maybe I’ll even train beforehand!

One last side note: Last week was definitely slow in the blogging department, but I have quite a few posts planned, so don’t leave me! I’m still here, I promise!