NICE TRY, JANE SINNER Is a Top Book of 2018, For Sure

Phew, Y'ALL. Lianne Oelke has written what is possibly going to be on all my lists of favorite 2018 reads. I began NICE TRY, JANE SINNER on the first day of the year and finished it this Sunday; yes, that's how good I think the book is, I think it'll stay at the top of the list all year long! According to the synopsis: 

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Recently expelled from high school, Jane Sinner grudgingly enrolls in community college, a situation made slightly more bearable when she joins a student-run reality show. House of Orange is her chance to start over—and maybe even win a car (used, but whatever)—and no one there knows what she did in high school. What more could she want? Okay, maybe a family that gets why she’d rather turn to Freud than to Jesus. But she’ll settle for using HOO’s growing fanbase, and whatever Intro to Psych can teach her, to prove to the world—or at least viewers of substandard television—that she has what it takes to win.

Sounds intriguing, no? I read this book because I was given a free eARC on Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion, and my honest opinion is this: this book rocks.

Here's a link to my Goodreads review in which I rave about it. 

Basically, this book was one of the most well-done examples of a good young adult voice that I've read in a while. Jane is about the definition of "caustic," with an exceedingly biting tone and total no-nonsense approach to life that I adored. She's not like me (I'm overly emotional and she likes to pretend she doesn't have any) but I related to her on a visceral level, and I adored just how strongly her personality came through. When I write (and read) voice is one of the most important things to me, and this book nailed it.

I won't talk about the part I loved the most about this book because SPOILERS, but I will say it accurately depicts what a lot of people go through during certain hard times. For that reason, it was at times a tough read; I had to take a break in the middle of charging through the words in order to reset my mind. It does deal with mental illness in a very unflinching way; but that's how I prefer to write and read, so I'm not mad about it.

Another thing the book does really well is experiment with funky format and structure. The way the dialogue is written, as though it's a script, actually makes it really easy to read and to forget that it's in a journal-format, which is not always my favorite. It was good, though, because you get the feeling Jane wouldn't be so honest if it weren't in her journal. 

This book turned my emotions topsy-turvy and I legit have a very real, very strong book hangover because of it. I'm...obsessed. 

Give Lianne a follow on Twitter or check out her website, and I would highly recommend ordering this book because, y'all, it's just that good.

Have you read NICE TRY, JANE SINNER? Let us chat about it!!! It's SO GOOD, RIGHT???

Suki Kim's North Korean insightful masterpiece

I felt like I was there.

The cold seeped into my bones as I read about frigid nights bundled under too many blankets.

Fear invaded my heart at the idea that I was being watched every second of every day, every email, blog post, communication monitored.

It was as if I, too was walking the frozen walkways of PUST, the English-language university just outside of Pyongyang where journalist and writer Suki Kim spent six months teaching the "creme de la creme" of North Korean students.

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I'm talking about the immersive writing in Kim's 2015 investigative reporting memoir, WITHOUT YOU, THERE IS NO US, about the time she spent as an writer pretending to be a missionary pretending to be nothing more than an English teacher in the elusive regime that, in recent days, has infiltrated American news with fight and American people with fear.

We've all heard the stories about North Korea amping up its missile testing; we've probably either seen or read about the tweets sent by our president in reaction to said missile tests; and a lot of people are wondering what it means.

It reignited, in me at least, a curiosity about this regime. 

I'm fascinated by the idea of North Korea; that there exists a country out there that is closed-off from the rest of our increasingly global world? That they hate Americans—me—and are groomed to do so by their government? That apparently you can (but probably shouldn't) visit, but only on state-sponsored, highly controlled trips? It's a mystery and an enigma.

I bought my copy of Kim's book in part as a reaction to a controversy it sparked; there are those who decry her description of the book as investigative journalism because it has such a strong memoirist element. I read an article Kim had written in defense, and being a woman who finds investigative reporting and memoir equally intriguing, I thought a combination of the two would be simply entrancing.

I wasn't wrong.

The book gripped me, nearly from the first page. Kim does an excellent job of placing the reader right there with her in the narrative, to the point where I began to feel affection for the young men she taught in the same motherly way she did.

And it's timely, now more than ever as headlines are nearly constantly filled with news about the reclusive country in the north of the Korean Peninsula.

If you're interested in North Korea or in politics or in good books written with a strong narrative, I would have to recommend you buy this book. It's well worth it.