All posts by jaleenajo

A Year in Bookmarks



Although I love my library used book sales (as my massive book hauls and upcoming post illustrate), I also love checking out local independent bookstores. This year I was lucky enough to visit eight independent bookstores, and collected bookmarks along with the books I found there. I love finding new spaces to explore, and finding hidden gems within those spaces.

Library Book Sale Buying Binge Part 2!


I went to another library book sale (I’m seriously impressed with the number of library book sales they have in my area!) and had a very, very good book buying day. If you can’t tell, I’m trying to build up my bookshelf, and I have a weakness for reasonably-priced used books. Here’s what I picked up:

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut: science fiction classic that I remember reading in the library in high school. I’ve been wanting to do a reread since then–I remember the haunting feeling while reading it, but not the specifics.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: ditto on wanting to do a reread. I have stronger memories of the terrible, terrible movie version that I saw than of the book, which is just not okay.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury: one of my all-time favorites. It’s a series of short stories and all of them are haunting and beautiful and magical. I want to reread them and then rereread them, since it’s been awhile!

And as for books I haven’t read:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: this was on a list of highly recommended short novels I found. Sometimes you need a good short book to break up the more epic ones.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: ditto!

Sula and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Beloved is one of the most amazing books I’ve ever read. Incredible, heart-wrenching, profound, disturbing, makes you sob when you read it. I keep meaning to read more of her work and haven’t yet–so now I will.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson: fiction, won the Pulitzer Prize, and about a North Korean soldier. I’m interested to see how this one is.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I like to mix up my fiction with some nonfiction, and this comes highly recommended.

Beach Read Rec: Station Eleven IS Science Fiction



Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven has generated a lot of buzz–not only because it’s well-written, which it is, or because it was nominated for the National Book Award (and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and the Arthur C. Clarke Award), but also because of its author’s take on its genre. Back in October, she ignited controversy by tweeting “I actually don’t think of Station Eleven as sci-fi, but am fully prepared to concede that I may be alone in this….”

In and of itself, it’s a fairly innocuous tweet. It’s an author talking about her own work, and expressing an opinion while acknowledging the opinions of others. She followed it up by telling the Washington Post, “My only objection to these categories is that when you have a book like mine that doesn’t fit neatly into any category, there’s a real risk that readers who only read ‘literary fiction’ won’t pick it up because they think they couldn’t possibly like sci-fi, while sci-fi readers will pick up the book based on the sci-fi categorization, and then be disappointed because the book isn’t sci-fi enough.”

My problem is this: when an author says that their work is “literary fiction,” what they really tend to mean is that it’s well-written. The idea that something can’t be science fiction because it’s “literary,” then, doesn’t make sense to me, because that would mean that science fiction itself is inherently not literary; that it occupies a rung below realistic fiction in terms of quality. And not only is that inaccurate, but it’s offensive to science fiction writers and readers alike. It minimizes the profound works of science fiction writers like Octavia Butler and Ursula LeGuin, and it alienates readers who are drawn towards science fiction concepts with complex characters and intricate plots. Lately, so many authors are working to push genre boundaries and create transcendent, well-written works that are unique in story and technique

This being said, I do think that Station Eleven would make a great unconventional beach read. The format of several intertwining stories keeps the action fresh if you’re reading for long periods of time–to summarize briefly, the story revolves around three main characters: Arthur, a Hollywood star who dies of a heart attack while performing King Lear on the eve of a flu pandemic; Jeevan, a paparazzi-turned-paramedic who attempts to resuscitate him; and Kirsten, a former child actress who grows up traveling with a Shakespeare company in post-flu America. There are sequences that take place before, during, and after the outbreak of the Georgia flu, which originates in Russia but soon spreads globally to decimate the global population and create a new world made up of small, isolated communities. The post-flu sections with Kirsten were some of my favorites: the writing is dreamlike and the terrain, and action, feels somewhat surreal. I also loved the plot thread describing where the novel’s title originates from: that of a graphic novel called Station Eleven depicting life on a planet-sized space station far from Earth. I found the reading experience to be itself both isolating and surreal, and in that way very, very beautiful. My only criticisms would be that I didn’t feel that Kirsten’s character was explored in the depth that it could have been, and I honestly think that the book could have been significantly longer and still retained its impact.

Overall, it was at least an 8 out of 10 for me. And I maintain that it IS science fiction–science fiction that’s well-written. Which is exactly how I like my science fiction.

Library Book Sale Buying Binge


This post is in celebration of most recent library book sale haul. I love going to library book sales–they’re a great way to find an excellent selection of books for extremely reduced prices. The six books I found above cost a total of $8, and all were new or like-new quality. Even better (or at least almost as good) as the books that you bring home from library book sales is the experience of searching, sorting through boxes of books donated by library members to find the hidden gems. I love finding books I recognize, even if I don’t end up buying them–and I love finding books I’ve never heard of to take home as well. This time I found:

The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Goff — about a young woman returning to her hometown in Upstate New York and uncovering its secrets, some of which are supernatural. I’d heard of this one but didn’t remember it in detail, and love the intriguing premise.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler — Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was one of my favorite reads of 2015 so far, and I’m interested what she does with the concept of a book club reading Jane Austen.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn — I read Gone Girl last year and found it addicting, intricate, and surprising. I initially had checked it out from the library, but when i saw it I couldn’t resist getting a copy for my shelf for re-reading purposes.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri — I’ve read a lot of Lahiri’s short stories and I believe that she is one of the best writers out there today. Her stories are always entrancing, so I’m interested to read her full-length novel.

Possession by A.S. Byatt — I’ve heard this is a challenging read for lovers of literature. I’d like to be up to the challenge!

Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov — Less well known than Lolita, this work is supposedly more surrealist than realistic.

Beaches and Books: an Introduction


Welcome to Beaches and Books, a nontraditional beach reading blog for nontraditional readers. I don’t do all of my reading on the beach–although I wish that were possible–but when I read I try to capture the transitory perfection that comes with immersing yourself in a transcendent read while the sun warms you and the waves crash. I believe that reading can be simultaneously relaxing and invigorating, and with this blog I want to share my passion for reading and talking about books with other readers.

What do I like to read? First of all, I read books that are unique. I like books that take nontraditional approaches with both style and genre, and that can continuously surprise me. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, in all its iterations: speculative fiction, magical realism, slipstream, New Weird. I like elements of the futuristic and the fantastic in what I read, and I especially like books that bend and shatter genre conventions. That being said, I also read realistic fiction, nonfiction, and historical fiction, and I’m always trying to challenge myself with new genres.

I read because I love it, and I want to start writing about books more because I love talking about reading. I love recommending books and getting recommendations from others. I hope that you will enjoy reading this blog as much as I love writing it.