“Bookish and the Beast” by Ashley Poston – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


“Bookish and the Beast” by Ashley Poston is the final book (as of writing) in the Once Upon a Con trilogy. For fans of Reading Our Shelves, you’ll remember our first review was for the second book in this trilogy “The Princess and the Fangirl.”

Nisha and I both gave the previous book ☆☆☆. Looking back, I think my main dislike for “Princess and the Fangirl” was my general dislike for the fairytale “Prince and the Pauper” as well as how much time was spent at ExcelsiCon. I do enjoy stories that take place in one central location, but those are for short stories and novellas.

So going into “Bookish and the Beast,” I had higher hopes knowing that it was going to take place in a library over an extended period of time.

As usual I listened to the audiobook and I have to say that I loved that Caitlyn Kelly was one of the two narrators. She is my all time favorite book narrator. Curry Whitimire did a great job as well, so kudos.


Looking back at my previous comments related to “The Princess and the Fangirl” I quickly realized that less ExcelsiCon the better. Ashley Poston might have read my mind because there was just enough of ExcelsiCon to establish the aura that is her Once Upon a Con series aesthetic but not shoving it down your throat.

The opening of the book is the ending of that year’s ExcelsiCon. Starting with the big ball and leading to the meet-cute. Rosie – our “Belle” – isn’t too enthused about this ball. It’s too loud and too many people. So she goes off to find someplace quiet and meets Vance – the “Beast” – and his amazing General Sond cosplay (spoiler it’s the actual movie wardrobe).

I very much enjoyed this meet-cute. It sets up Rosie and Vance as two individual people, not just a fan and actor respectively. Rosie isn’t defined by her love of Starfield which seemed to be more prevalent in the previous two books. Yes, she loves Starfield, but her love is more rooted in the Starfield book series and it’s connection with her recently deceased mother.

Vance on the other hand is a nice and charismatic young man, but as the book goes on he shows how his Hollywood lifestyle has somewhat rotted his brain, making him believe he is the bad boy everyone thinks he is.

I’m not going to spoil the novel in this review, but I will speak now on some of my favorite sections and my thoughts on a couple characters. Ashley Poston did a fantastic job with “Bookish and the Beast” that I encourage all of you to read it,

First off, one of my favorite scenes was when Rosie meets Vance. The real Vance, not the General Sond cosplayer. There’s a dog and a pool and a book. It’s funny and sad at the same time. It made me want to shove Vance in the pool too.

Like with “Geekerella” and “The Princess and the Fangirl,” Ashley Poston adds in scenes from Starfield. These scenes are from the novels based on the TV series. They focus on General Sond, who is believed to be the “Big Bad” who steals Princess Amara from the hero Prince Carmindor. There’s a lot of complexity in the relationship between Amara and Sond, and I hope Poston continues to explore the world of Starfield.

Rosie’s father, aka Space Dad (you’ll understand when you read the book), is my favorite side character. The love he shows his daughter and his “I used to be big into the punk scene in my youth” aura made him unique and lovable.

Overall, I would give “Bookish and the Beast” ☆☆☆☆☆. It is my favorite in the entire Once Upon a Con series. You can tell the passion for the story that Ashley Poston put into it as well as all the Beauty and the Beast tie ins. It’s a love letter to geekdom and booklovers young and old. There’s lots of nerd culture and book culture and sweet YA romance. Everything I enjoy in a book, and more.


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“Born A Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah – Review

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK

“The memoir of one man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed.”

Goodreads


“Hustling is to work what surfing the Internet is to reading. If you add up how much you read in a year on the Internet—tweets, Facebook posts, lists—you’ve read the equivalent of a shit ton of books, but in fact you’ve read no books in a year.”

Trevor Noah

I wanted to start with that quote because, as avid readers, I thought you all would appreciate it.

Firstly, all the friends who recommended this book to me said I had to listen to the audiobook, because Trevor reads it himself.  So, that’s the format I chose. Not only is Trevor funny, and a good storyteller, but he’s also fluent in multiple South African languages… which helps greatly, as he uses several in this book.  (Let’s be honest, my brain wouldn’t have the first clue how to pronounce anything in Zulu, even if I was just reading it quietly to myself!)  This is a pretty quick listen, as the audiobook is just shy of nine hours long.

The book tells stories from Trevor’s youth, up until his early twenties.  While he is pursuing stand-up comedy by the end, it does not talk at all about his career as a comedian.  I would say the main topics are race and racism, growing up poor, and his relationship with his mom. Random anecdotes on religion, extended family, and schoolboy shenanigans are also fun rides.  Anyone who came of age in the nineties is sure to feel a kinship with him when he reminisces on the slow hell that was making mixed CDs in Windows ’95. 

While I don’t want to give away too many of the details, a few stories certainly stand out above the rest.  The story of him having a friend named Hitler really stuck with me.  He talked about how, in Africa, Hitler was just one of many “bad dudes” in history books.  He’s not seen the same way there as he is in Europe or America. Then again, various African nations had had dictators and genocides of their own, so those seemed more threatening. One of the things that this story highlighted for me was how we’re shaped by the stories of the culture we’re in, and how we have to understand the stories of other places and cultures to understand the people who come from these places. 

Eventually, Trevor and his friends are scheduled to perform for a high school of Jewish kids.  Obviously, things go awry.  When the administrators at the school get offended, and tell the boys to leave, Trevor interprets their actions as coming from a racist place – racist against them, as black kids.  He only figures out later that it’s the “Hitler” thing that made them mad.  This part brought to mind the George Bernard Shaw quote: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”

A few quotes from the book that highlight the topics of race, and related issues:

 “Language, even more than color, defines who you are to people.”

“In any society built on institutionalized racism, race mixing doesn’t merely challenge the system as unjust, it reveals the system as unsustainable and incoherent. Race mixing proves that races can mix, and in a lot of cases want to mix. Because a mixed person embodies that rebuke to the logic of the system, race mixing becomes a crime worse than treason.”

“In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don’t see the person it affects. We don’t see their face. We don’t see them as people. Which was the whole reason the hood was built in the first place, to keep the victims of apartheid out of sight and out of mind. Because if white people ever saw black people as human, they would see that slavery is unconscionable. We live in a world where we don’t see the ramifications of what we do to others, because we don’t live with them. It would be a whole lot harder for an investment banker to rip off people with subprime mortgages if he actually had to live with the people he was ripping off. If we could see one another’s pain and empathize with one another, it would never be worth it to us to commit the crimes in the first place.”

Another big aspect is Trevor’s relationship with his mom.  Obviously, I did not grow up as a mixed child under apartheid… but I did grow up with a single mom, so some of his musings really struck a chord with me.  His mom seems like a defiant, strong-willed woman who wanted a better life for herself than her family had had, and a better life for her kids than she had had.  The final story in the book is about his mom being shot. I got to the part where he finds out she’d been shot… right as I pulled into my drivewa, done with running errands. I was in shock, and thought to myself, “there’s no way I can stop and get out of the car right now.  Oh crap, I have ice cream in one of my grocery bags.”  Needless to say, I ran into my house and turned the story back on, so I could find out what happened! 

I should mention that the stories in this book are grouped more by theme than by chronology. So, there are some characters that you meet more than once, and you may not know their full story until later on in the book.  Stick around, though, and he’ll put all the pieces together for you.


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