We’re moving!

We are moving over to Wires and Waves as part of a new series called “Wires and Waves Reads.”

Hope to see you there!




An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

I just finished An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, and I am hesitant to say it was good. It was heavy and beautifully written and captivating, but I can’t call it good. “Good” reduces it. 

Gay brings us into the mind of Mirielle, a Haitian-American who is kidnapped and raped during a visit home to see her parents. The title is a reference to the animal that she is reduced to at the hands of these men, these men who rob her of her safety, her confidence, and her ability to be a mother or a wife. They rob her of her ability to do anything beyond survive. She tells herself that nothing can break her, but by the end of the novel, she admits that she died during those thirteen days.

I am still reeling from this novel. I kept turning back to look at the picture of Gay and to read the words, “this is her first novel” to remind myself that this was a work of fiction. It felt so real. I don’t know anything about Gay’s personal life or how she filled this story with such roaring emotion, but it felt so real*. I feltthis book. 


“There is nothing you cannot do when you are no one.”

“I became two women– the one who remembered everything and the one who remembered nothing. This required a delicate balance.”

“In impossible circumstances one is faced with impossible choices.”– Sebastien, Mirielle’s father, who does not quite understand the meaning of this.

*Edit: I read this interview with Gay after writing my review. It gives some insight into her background. 


A Room of One’s Own

I just finished reading A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, and I was surprised at how relevant it remains today. If you aren’t familiar, it is an essay she wrote while on a speaking tour at two colleges in England where she was not allowed full use of the campus facilties. The essay contains her meditations on women and fiction, and she concludes that women writers need money and a room of their own to be successful writers. Essentially, women need independence. In lieu of a review, I am going to share one of my favorite excerpts from the book and just tell you that you should read it (man and woman alike) for general empowerment.

books v woolf



Summer reading list

big sur river

Summer has barely begun, and I am already three books deep. That’s the beauty of one summer class and a ten hour work week. I am taking a collection management course, and it’s going to be a little intense since it’s smushed into the summer session. I am currently reading a book about the civil war (which one of my pre-K kids calls the “silver war”) from which I am to glean managerial and organizational details. Yawn.

I keep ordering books and borrowing books from the library, and I really don’t have a plan for them until I gain an understanding of how busy this semester will be. Nevertheless, I am creating a summer reading list in an attempt to navigate my ocean of books. Without further ado, I present to you Christina’s Summer Reading List (that she will maybe, probably read or at least attempt to).

1. Wild, because duhhh

2. An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay. This book is blowin’ up over at the Rumpus and pretty much everywhere. Roxane Gay is a legitimate literary force to be reckoned with, and I am excited/nervous to read this. I think I will probably cry a lot.

3. All the Light we Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This book is getting attacked with critical acclaim in a way I haven’t seen in a while. I have read a book of his short stories, so I know that the acclaim isn’t just hogwash. Also, he came to my college once, so we are practically friends. I’ve got to support ol’ Anthony.

4. A Witness in Exile, by Brian Spears. Spears is the poetry editor of the Rumpus and a poetry professor at Drake University (which is where my bff Amy lives, holla). I follow him on Tumblr, and his poetry is so heavy and emotional that I find myself needing more all the time. So, I bought it and it is on its way to me.

5. The Sea Around Us, by Rachel Carson. I picked this book up yesterday in Prospero’s in Kansas City, and I am so glad I did. I have never heard of it, and I don’t know how, because everybody loves it. It uses poetic language to depict the sea in a way that only actually watching the waves can do (or so I’ve heard).

6. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. I always thought this just looked like a boring movie, but my interest was piqued when we discussed it in a class a few years ago. I am really digging Virginia Woolf right now, and I have heard great things about this novel.

7. The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman. I read excerpts of this book in a class, but I have never read the whole thing. Nevertheless, I am continuously extolling its virtues to my husband in hopes that he’d read it. Surprise! My professor recommended (see: encouraged, see: mandated) us to read this book this semester.





I just re-read Wild,  a book that shook me up last year. It comforted me and reinforced my love for Cheryl Strayed. I’d love to sit down with her and listen to her talk about anything. Also, she gives great advice, so I’d love to ask her a million questions. She has a way of speaking so simply and sneaking in a gut punch simultaenously. She gets under my skin in a good way. I know that phrase typically means that someone annoys you, but I don’t know how else to describe it.

In YA news, The Fault in Our Stars movie comes out in a week! I am excited and a little nervous. I sense that it will probably be good, but all the hype has kind of discouraged me.

I have a few books to review, but in the meantime I thought I’d make a list. If we are going to be friends, you need to understand my affinity for lists. I’m reading A Room of One’s Own and lots of poetry on the interweb, so I’ll probably talk about some of that soon.

Continue reading

Book Swap! (And book update)



I am currently reading two great books and learning a lot about myself and the world in the process. I can’t go anywhere without either of these. I recommend them, and I’ll review them both when I’m done.

NOW. I own a lot of books. I am greatly attached to my personal library, which is funny since I have only read about half of what I own. I want to share my treasures with you guys! I was thinking it would be fun to do a monthly book swap or something. I haven’t thought out the logistics, but I’m hoping it will be my very own sisterhood of the traveling pants but with books (and maybe brothers, too). Let me know if you’re interested and we will get it going!

Library in Paradise: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

“Library in Paradise” is a new series here at Sweet Valley Books. Jorge Luis Borges was quoted as saying “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” I believe the books included in this series should be put in that great library in the sky. 




goldfinch art

(Lovely illustration borrowed from The Telegraph)

I completed The Goldfinch a couple weeks ago and, if my blog title is any indication, you might guess that I loved it. It reads like a modern epic, with the protagonist provoking empathy, anger, love,frustration, and sadness in a way that only the most round of characters can do. The reader begins with Theodore Decker as a twelve-year-old boy, and it ends with him in his 20′s. The novel revolves around Theo’s obsession with Fabritius’ painting “The Goldfinch” and the enigmatic “What if?” that haunts all of us in one way or another. I know a book is good (really, really good) when I curl up in the fetal position after I finish it. Tartt’s novel contains the best parts of Crime and Punishment, Catcher in the Rye, and the Great Gatsby.

Much of it feels like a fever dream so thick that you are Theo. I will come back to this again and again, and I recommend it to all.

Five out of five stars!