The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein

Okay, first off, I know I don’t look like a Star Wars fan but as I’m sure many can attest, Star Wars is my jam. It’s like Rocky but the nerdy version and less fighting meat racks & running up stairs. Star Wars reminds me of the days and weekends spent with my brother and dad just watching the original trilogy and trying to figure out who shot first. Which was Han — am I right or am I right?

Anyway, I picked this book up on a win because a blog I follow recommended it and I needed a geeky yet fun book to read. I honestly thought that this was a fun read about some nuances to Star Wars trivia that I didn’t know before. But what I didn’t realize is that I’d finish this in 48 hours (because, ya know, sleep and work. adulting stuff) and learn more than I thought I would about religion, philosophy, and political rebellion in terms of pop culture and potentially the world’s largest movie phenomenon.

I almost want to read this book again right now just to absorb all the knowledge dropped on me in 180 pages — it’s a short read with a ton of references to studies, papers, and more that were actually done on the relevance of Star Wars in today’s society and culture. It makes sense if you think about it and if you’ve seen every installment, including the less than stellar trilogy in the early 2000’s.

Anyway, the author, Cass R. Sunstein, is one of the United States’ most cited law professors both stateside and internationally. He’s married to the US ambassador to the UN and has been published more times than I can count on any limb. His main argument is that while Star Wars is a timeless installment in our media files, it also draws a lot of parallels to modern and current affairs.

Take for instance, the Empire v. the Resistance. throughout Amerian history, when has there not been some sort of counter culture or outright rebellion against the government? For Christ sake, we were founded on one when our Four Fathers led a revolution against England on religious freedom and taxation with representation. Sunstein (what a fun last name by the way) dives into how each factor of Star Wars is basically a metaphor for strife, overcoming hardship, and making something out of nothing. He also highlights the potential reasons why a movie like Star Wars was such a hit and became such a classic today. It’s mostly, as with anything, timing and a bit of luck. Plus, in the 70’s, there was Nixon, and from what I’ve heard from first hand accounts and history books — the people needed any form of good they could get.

Additionally, I was shocked to find out that not only George Lucas but also Fox Films, who financed the original trilogy, didn’t even think Star Wars was going to be a success and that it’s a loose remake of the old Flash Gordon series. Star Wars makes you feel good. It makes you realize that there are people with truly good intentions and that there is real evil in the world. We’ve all got both sides in us, it just depends on which side we feed the most and what circumstances we fall into when we need to make the decision the most.

Read this book. You need to. It puts our history into perspective and how we can learn from the past without fear of knowing we’ll repeat the same mistakes again with our own children.

Favourite quote: Because casual chains are so complex, and because so many events are necessary conditions for others, the idea of a butterfly effect is not at all preposterous. If someone’s dog had gotten sick on an important occasion, or if someone else had stayed home….perhaps everything would have been different. World changing butterflies are everywhere; they define our lives. 

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Kristin Hannah ‘The Nightingale’

I literally just finished this book and all i have to say is wow. This book is powerful beyond measure, even though it starts off slow. I picked this book up a few months ago because a friend recommended it and I needed more books, naturally, even though my bookshelves are close to overflowing.

This book follows a pair of sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, during WWII. One sister gets incredibly involved in The Resistance, saving over 100 lives from Nazi soldiers and the other is barely trying to stay alive yet saves dozens of Jewish children. This book is a gut wrencher and it will make you feel things. Have a box of tissues ready once you finish, I bawled like a baby. Good thing I could snuggle with my dog afterwards.

This book is enlightening into what it took to just survive during WWII in France when the Germans and the SS took over. It’s a great piece of historical literature that dives into just how heinous the SS and the Nazis really were. I don’t think we can really grasp that level of hatred today if you’re not a minority and it’s mindblowing that somebody, let alone a group of people, can hate that intensely.

The Nightingale seemed apt for these times in America. There is so much hatred, bigotry, and more going on that it’s absolutely despicable. We have people that refuse to denounce some of the biggest hate groups simply to ‘preserve history’ yet it’s clear that the longer these groups are thought to be acceptable, the more damage they can do to those who are considered ‘different’.

This is a tangent I could go on and on about and still feel like i haven’t gotten anywhere. AFter all, who am I to talk? I may be a woman living in America but I’m also Caucasian. I read books like The Nightingale to remind myself of history lessons that should never be forgotten or repeated, ever.

Do yourself a favour and read this book. It starts off slowly — to be honest, I almost stopped reading it in the beginning — but it picks up and man, this book is a whirlwind. Once it gets going, you can’t put it down.

Favourite quote: Getting out of bed was not appealing but neither was starving to death. 

5/5 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

It always seems like after i read an intense book, the next book I almost always read is one of poetry. Maybe because it was my first love or maybe its because it soothes my soul. Or both. Probably both. Anyway, on to this.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One is beautifully written. You’ve probably seen some of Amanda Lovelace’s work on either TUmblr, Youtube, or a variety of social media. It’s short, sweet, and makes you think. It’s gut wrenching at times and exhilaratingly inspiring in others. I finished it in maybe 3 hours, if that, and I have absolutely zero regrets about it.

If you want a good Sunday afternoon read that will tear on your heart strings, comes with a trigger warning, and will leave you feeling strong & beautiful, then this book is for you. It dives deep and swims wide, so fair warning. But you will not be able to put it down. So you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

5/5 

Bear Town by Fredrik Backman

Oh my god. This novel. I say this about a few books but this book in particular, it’s a gut shot, heart wrenching, and humbling. It follows a hockey team from the middle of nowhere in the midst of a brutal sexual assault. And it makes you reevaluate how you see rape & sexual violence.

My mom actually suggested this book because she wanted to get my insight into if the author actually did a good job surrounding hte subject matter. She thought he had but as anybody would, she wanted an insider’s perspective. And it opened a dialogue that was fantastic. This book is a critical read that will be tough at times to read and will pull on everything you instinctually know. But I promise it’ll be worth every page.

The author builds the characters up so that you really know and understand them before you even learn about the assault. Then the second of the novel is a gut punch on every page. It follows the intricacies of how we view and understand sexual assault. How we talk about it. ANd how we dismiss the victim statements while protecting the assailant. It’s a messed up system and you could be the perfect victim, yet you’ll still get the statements that you could have done something differently, you could have done something better to be more believed.

Bear Town hit close to home for me. Which is probably why it took me so long to finish it. I wanted to savour it, i wanted to appreciate it in the only way a fellow survivor could. This is heavy subject matter and I wanted to make sure I was in a mindset to appreciate it adequately. And though the first page alludes to the ending, you don’t see it full circle. You don’t anticipate what’ll happen, though you certainly can appreciate it.

Pick up this book anywhere books are sold. Challenge yourself in how you talk and think about sexual assault. Ask yourself if you would believe somebody if they told you a mutual friend had raped them. And see how you can change that narrative. You can start by picking up Bear Town. 

Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

I am obsessed with this author. Roxanne Gay is phenomenal. I’ve also read her book Bad Feminist and it was enlightening. Difficult Women was no different. Gay divides up the book with short stories about — you guessed it — difficult women. Each story is endearing, heartbreaking, and gut wrenching. They highlight women, real women, with lives, secrets, and scars. It’s beautifully written and you won’t want to put it down.

I highly recommend this book. As a woman reading this, I related to more stories in this than i care to admit publicly. I fell in love with characters as well as the possibility that my story was difficult but still so incredibly valid.

This book is wonderful. It’ll punch you in the gut at times but it’ll make you fall in love with your “flaws” as well. It’ll make you proud of all the things you can accomplish with the body you’ve been given and it’ll remind you that there are women out there just like you.

Pick this book up wherever books are sold. It’s a quick read but it’s worth it.

“The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabrielle Bernstein

My nutritionist/holistic coach (oh hey Stevie) recommended this to me a few weeks ago, during one of our last phone sessions. And I just finished it, having read most of it on a flight back from San Francisco for work & family. Needless to say, I am obsessed with this book. It’s wonderful and has just the right amount of cheesiness for a self help book.

Gabrielle Bernstein is apparently a pretty well known guru who’s all about meditation, giving into the power of the universe and total new age stuff. But this is the first time i’ve ever really heard of her and I’m definitely incredibly tempted to buy her other two books.

I think my favourite part of the book was definitely her guided meditations and ways to actually give into the universe without feeling super cheesy or weird about it. It’s a great book and a really easy read if you’re looking into some of the new age stuff but don’t know where to start.

3.5/5 

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

TW: this will be frank in discussion about sexual assault and revenge. If you are in danger, please either call 911 or, if you need help, RAINN at 1-800-656-4673.

This book has been wreaking havoc with my nightmares and has probably been the main reason why I’ve been in a weird mind space recently. It’s not because of the way it’s written or the themes it dives into. I mean, it’s a YA novel, for goodness sake’s. It’s about the subject matter and how close I am to it, whether i care to admit it or not.

The Female of The Species is heartwrenching and an important novel to read, especially today. It’s about a few teenagers — Peekay, Alex, and Jack — with appearances by other key characters as well. Alex lost her sister in one of the most violently brutal ways a person can go, in my opinion. She goes because someone took the time to rape, torture, and murder her in seemingly cold blood. Or on a meth binge, that part’s not really clear.

Anyway, we come into the novel after the attacker of Alex’s sister has been killed (we learn later on that it’s Alex. this isn’t a spoiler, promise) and the small town is coming to grips with not only one murder, but two. Though this book revolves around high school students and the weirdness that is high school, it dips into some pretty significant themes. Like how do you say no when you’re terrified for your life? And is it rape if you froze? And does God frown upon it if you have sex while on an altar in a historically abandoned, rotting church?

The Female of The Species also takes into account how in several other species, the female is often, more so than not, the protector. The defender. And the one who brings home the bacon, often literally. They’re the strongest links and often the ones that are defended first, not because of weakness but of  necessity. And this novel brings the conclusion that the human species isn’t too far off either from the natural kingdom.

Alex is the protagonist and throughout the book, you can tell she has no problems taking revenge out violently, if the end result takes out a child molester, a rapist, or another vile kind of person. And she understands that her decisions were hers and hers alone. And Peekay & Jack are drawn to her, not because they knew what she was capable of, but because of her strength and her ability to remain standing while everything else was crumbling.

I picked this book up for selfish reasons. I wanted to read a book where an assailant got justice, vigilante or judicial. Mostly, I wanted to see someone with a harrowed past actually be talked about like they were human, instead of some space case where what has happened to them will be all they ever be. And this book broke my heart. It made me cry more times than I care to admit, not because anything necessarily sad happened. But because I know the themes all too well. Maybe not to this degree but Mindy McGinnis has a way of writing that even the coldest of hearts will have their muscle grow a few times too large after reading this. Even the Grinch couldn’t read this without a little change in soul.

Anyway, if you have the steadfast resolve to pick this book up and finish it cover to cover, be prepared for your insides to go through the ringer. Be prepared to question so many things and be at the ready to have things distorted for you.

Maybe it’s the current political climate, maybe it’s that women make up most of the purchasing decisions, but YA novels are becoming more and more nuanced with real, honest stories. ANd though I often feel a little old to be reading, it feels really great to know that a generation is being taught through novels that sexual assault is nuanced, gray, and horribly complicated. And according to this book, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Favourite quote: I wonder what would happen if I went down there, took a ball out of the cage, and pretended to have sex with it. I think people would stop & look….but boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll. 

6/5