Someday maybe I’ll figure out something cool to do with this space. In the meantime, find me:
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is badass. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of it, anyway. It’s a pretty traditional fantasy novel in a lot of ways, but the setting is based on Nigeria instead of the standard medieval Europe. Parts of the book were really gripping, and there were spots where my interest waned; it’s a little long and starts to feel repetitive by the end. There was definitely too much teen romance angst, too. I am looking forward to the movie, though.
Educated by Tara Westover is absolutely my favorite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a disturbing story, but told gorgeously. I could not put it down, couldn’t start another book right after it, and didn’t want to listen to anything on my commute but all the author interviews I could find for a few days. Absolutely stunning.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was a good choice for just before a trip to Atlanta, since that’s where much of the novel is set. I’m beginning to think I might just be an especially impatient reader because, as with many other books recently, I was less compelled by this near the end. That might also be because a highlight of the book was the section of letters between the main characters, more toward the beginning. Jones did a beautiful job of balancing a personal, intimate story with the reality of mass incarceration and wrongful conviction. I am impressed any time an author can really get me to empathize completely with characters who are in conflict with one another, and she does that flawlessly. (I keep thinking that I would hate the dolls Celestial makes, though. All dolls are creepy and bad.)
The List by Jade Chang feels kind of preposterous to include as “book” since it’s an essay that comes in ebook format, but my rule is: if Goodreads says it’s a book, I concur. And this was fun! I love Jade Chang and will read whatever she releases.
Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller inspired me to really take up the practice, more commonly known as bullet journaling. I’d tried it a little bit before and incorporated certain elements into my to-do lists, but this inspired me to go all out with the core ideas. Because I’m so late to this blog post, I can tell you that 2+ months later my journal is an incredibly useful daily companion. I’m glad this book got me started with it.
I’d been excited about Sherry Thomas’s Lady Sherlock series since I heard it existed, and it took me approximately forever to get through the library queue for A Study in Scarlet Women. I can’t be that upset, though, because it came at just the right time: I was starting a new job and this was a very fun escape to mystery/intrigue/descriptions of buttery pastries. Was it a little long, did I not really remember who any of the characters were, were some of the plot choices questionable? Sure. But did I just sort of float along enjoying it and then place a hold for the next one? Absolutely.
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton was so, so much fun. Creepy & funny & just… really unlike anything else I’ve read in recent memory. I’d placed a hold based on some random internet recommendation and didn’t know anything about it. I couldn’t put it down and ended up talking about it to anyone who would listen. I just read Burton’s (extremely cool) bio and now I’m thoroughly excited for her next book, too.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan hooked me from the beginning. It helped a little that the protagonist was a lady software developer from Michigan! I raced through the first 3/4 or so of the book, and then the ending let me down. But I still think about this book when I feed my sourdough starter, so there’s that.
(Ever so slightly behind schedule, but here we are!)
I think I had an expectation mismatch with I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez. I must’ve placed the hold ages ago and then just…forgot what the book was. It turns out to be a young adult novel! It was fine. I think I would’ve loved it if I’d been able to read it when I was younger, but I didn’t connect with it as much as an adult. Still a perfectly good book, still would read whatever Sánchez comes out with next, but it didn’t blow me away.
Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire was fascinating & really educational/thought-provoking, as evidenced by the fact that I have over 350 Kindle highlights for it. Definitely the kind of book that could have its own lengthy post. It’ll make you think a lot about what kinds of magical thinking & irrationality you buy into, and what the large-scale consequences of that could be. Andersen is pretty smug and very dismissive of lots of religious beliefs, which can get irritating even if you think he’s mostly right. But the book is just deeply interesting, and offers a lot of insight on how we got to…you know, where we are.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was exquisite. I was completely absorbed in it and can’t wait to read more from Thomas. I thought she did an incredible job of capturing her protagonist’s daily life: the microaggressions she deals with at her mostly white school, the tensions between members of her own family, the grief and trauma she deals with after the unjust & tragic central event. I cried a lot and laughed as well.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was a long-awaited library hold that did not disappoint. I don’t think I liked it quite as much as Everything I Never Told You, but it was close. Ng is amazing at moving you through different characters’ perspectives. Some plot points were a little obvious, but even when I knew what was coming I very much wanted to know how we’d get there.
Everything this month was an e-book. Maybe I am really joining the 20th century.
Still in progress but very good and deserving a mention: The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty. 📚
My expectations were perfectly set for The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Someone somewhere on the internet said it was basically like a really fun fan fiction: not a ton of historical accuracy or depth, but plenty of witty dialogue, intrigue, & gay romance. Plus pirates and alchemy! It was hard to put down, though it dragged a tiny bit toward the end for me. I appreciated the notes Lee included after the ending, explaining the historical inspiration for some elements of the story.
I know it’s not cool to like John Green, but Turtles All the Way Down was great and I loved it. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It’s very John Green, too: precocious teens with excellent vocabularies dealing with potent coming-of-age stuff. The protagonist suffers from a form of OCD and we experience her compulsions along with her through her first-person narration; I think it’s a pretty graceful and compassionate story of coping with mental illness (though I’d be curious to hear what others thought, especially folks with firsthand experience). Plus a lot of parts were funny enough to read aloud to my partner. Would definitely read a spin-off about main character’s BFF Daisy, or just Daisy’s Star Wars fanfic.
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara was gripping. I don’t read a lot of true crime and I was a bit nervous about this one, but McNamara was pretty sparing with the grisly details. They were present when necessary, but there weren’t so many that reading the book completely terrified me. (Might’ve been different if I lived alone in a single-story home, though! Ditto if they hadn’t finally caught the guy.) McNamara was a very talented writer and I wish we could’ve had more books from her. I’ve heard that the paperback release will include some info on the killer’s apprehension, so I’ll have to track that down when it comes out.
A couple I didn’t finish in June: The Idiot by Elif Batuman and The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang. Both were library loans that still seem promising, but were just mismatched for the time I ended up getting them. I’ll try them again eventually. The news was extra awful and overwhelming (even by 2018 standards! which is saying something!), especially toward the end of the month, and it became quite difficult to focus on fiction.
Abbott #2, #3, & #4 by Saladin Ahmed – As I’ve mentioned before, Abbott is my first foray into single-issue comic-reading. I didn’t mean to let three issues pile up, but I was sort of glad I had! Comic books are so tiny and I loved being able to spend more time with this story by reading all 3 of these in one sitting.
Hey Ladies by Michelle Markowitz & Caroline Moss was just as funny as everyone says it is. If you liked the column on The Toast (RIP) or have ever been involved in a wedding, you’ll laugh. I think a lot about how perfect the ending was. It’s worth noting that there’s a lot of humor about body-related stuff (extreme diet/exercise) – all of it comes from a good place, but if that’s something you need to avoid, be aware.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows means I’ve obviously finished my series re-read! I’d started it right around Christmas, so it took longer than I predicted. This is definitely the book I’ve read the fewest times and I was kind of amazed at how many parts I just didn’t remember. I skipped the epilogue, as is correct.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan was a much anticipated library rental, for which I’d waited forever, and then…eh. It was fine. Well-researched and atmospheric, but bloated. Also I kept thinking various lady characters were falling for each other and they never were. Toward the end there were two alternating point-of-view characters and I only cared about one of them. I never skim, but I skimmed that other character’s chapters because it was the only way I was going to find out how the whole thing ended. I regret nothing.
King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild may have been a bit of an attempt to course-correct upon realizing that my reading so far in 2018 has been very fluffy and fiction-heavy…but who cares about that, this book was incredible and I’m so glad I finally read it (I’d been sort of vaguely meaning to since, um, high school). It’s not short on stomach-turning details of atrocity because, y’know, colonialism – but it is also the story of one colonial system’s reform and eventual downfall, as well as the birth of the human rights movement, and there’s hope in that. The most incredible part, to me, was how close this story was to never being told – in the final chapter, you meet Jules Marchal, the Belgian civil servant who uncovered this story of millions of people needlessly dying and then dedicated himself to learning & illuminating what had really happened. And he was up against some odds, considering Leopold had literally burned most of the official records in a multiple-day bonfire! The connection between this awful past and modern global relations is not lost on Hochschild, either. I’m curious about his perspective on more current events, and I’m so happy to see he has a book of essays due out in the fall.
The Power by Naomi Alderman completely blew me away. I could smell some of the settings. It’s probably a little played out to call this book “electric,” but that is the word that constantly came to mind. It just felt different than other books to me; I was dying to know what happened next but I kept taking little sips of it, like it was too good to stay with for too long. It’s definitely disturbing in some places – I flinched or groaned out loud often enough for my partner to ask what was going on with me a few times. I’ve read some fair criticism since finishing it, some of which I completely agree with, but the experience of reading it was still everything I could’ve asked for; it’s gotta be my favorite of the year so far. Will stay mad forever that I was out of town when my book club discussed this.
That’s it for the whole month! Which seems impossible because I feel like all I do is read? I’m in the middle of a lot of books, though, so next month’s post will hopefully be full of good stuff. 📚
A non-book April thing so good I wanted to tell you about it: this tahini granola recipe is the bomb. I made it twice this month and am fixing to make it again soon. Subbed raisins for the dried mulberries and it’s definitely the best granola I’ve ever eaten, let alone made.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan seemed like the perfect book to take on a vacation. With the upcoming royal wedding, a fun story about an American marrying into English royalty felt timely, too. Unfortunately, the book was neither perfect nor fun, just long and boring. I finished it out of stubbornness. Disappointing, because I like Cocks & Morgan’s blog well enough.
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince marks the part of the series I haven’t re-read several times and so don’t remember nearly as well. I thought this was going to be the time I was going to get through the Major Death without crying a whole bunch. I was wrong. (Or maybe I was sorta right? I got through the death itself dry-eyed, but the characters’ reactions in the aftermath broke me right down.)
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon was sweet and heartfelt and just a delight. I appreciated that the characters were diverse in various ways without it being a big deal; a secondary character’s bisexuality is revealed as matter-of-factly as her hair color. I did have a few nitpicks about tiny things that felt anachronistic, like when a college student writes down an address to a party. This book is set right now! He 100% would’ve texted it! But the thing that delighted me the most might’ve been the protagonist’s dream of becoming a web developer. The whole story is set at a coding class for high school grads and it just warmed my little web-developing heart so much. I would love to read more by Menon.
Better late than never with this post, right? April books coming up next! 📚
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory was a treat. I’m a fan of Jasmine already, mostly via her weekly newsletter and her Twitter feed. Her debut novel is a romance about a Black protagonist who falls for a white dude. It’s fun but not mindless, and mentions delicious food a lot. It would be perfect if you wanted a vacation read or a palate cleanser after something heavy. I almost wish I’d saved it for one of those occasions, myself, but of course there’s always next time.
Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton took me a while to get into – and once I was into it, I was into it. All I knew going in was that it involved a researcher completely isolated in the Arctic. I love to read things about cold places in the winter, so that was all I needed to know. Once the story began unfolding I was transfixed. The descriptions of some of the Arctic settings were so rich. Get ready to think a lot about loneliness, love, family, & redemption. The ending left a lot of questions unanswered, and I’m glad.
Made for Love by Alissa Nutting was 100% the weirdest thing I’ve read in a while, and I absolutely loved it. The protagonist is a dirtbag, the plot is absurd, the writing is hilarious and often profound. It made me uncomfortable often, and at one point I thought about stopping because I was so grossed out by something, but I also couldn’t stop – I had to know what was going to happen. So weird, so delightful. I definitely want to read more by Nutting.
Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix – Technically I finished this re-read the morning of March 1, but let’s count it for February anyway. I used to buy into the popular opinion that this was the worst HP book, but I’ve come around, largely thanks to a friend who pointed out that all of Harry’s shouting/insufferable behavior is an achingly accurate portrayal of what adolescence feels like. It’s fun to read these with full knowledge of the plot; I find myself turning out the lamp and going to sleep during some of the most suspenseful parts, knowing what I can look forward to (or dread) when I pick it back up.
Maybe not finishing: I have to confess that I bought the scurrilous Michael Wolff book when it came out in January (I couldn’t resist!), but I haven’t touched it in several weeks. It’s just not easy to read about so many completely terrible people (even though – or maybe especially because – I read about those same terrible people in the news literally every day).
Up next: The theme of March is “hello every library hold you have ever placed is now available,” so I’m drowning in books and uncertain how many of them I can possibly read before they’re due back. Only one way to find out! 📚
Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire. I’m re-reading the series, for the first time in way too long. There’s something so cozy & wintry about these books; the ideal way to read them is obviously in a comfy armchair with a hot chocolate. Bonus points if it’s snowing outside. For now I’m focusing solely on the books and trying to just enjoy the warmth & nostalgia, but after I finish my re-read I’ll probably revisit some of my favorite episodes of the fantastic podcast Witch Please. I am also eagerly awaiting the Binge Mode Harry Potter series!
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. Well, this sure was a book and I sure did read it. I didn’t give it a star rating on Goodreads, which is how you know I was feeling ambivalent about the experience. The writing was evocative and sometimes beautiful. The characters were deeply unlikeable and frustrating. I would probably read another thing by this author.
Total Cat Mojo: Everything You Need to Know to Care for Your Favorite Feline Friend, by Jackson Galaxy. My friends bought me this for my birthday and I surprised myself by devouring it in like 3 days. I’ve read a handful of books on cat behavior, but this was the most useful by far. I’ve already incorporated some of what I learned from it, and I was truly surprised & delighted by some of the things I didn’t know. There were places where I could’ve used more details, and it was repetitive in some ways, but I think that’s understandable for a book that’s striving to do as much & be as useful as this one does and is. I know I’ll turn to it with my cat questions, at least whenever it’s not being borrowed by a cat-loving friend.
Abbott #1 by Saladin Ahmed. It is extremely cool that you can count single issues of comics as books on Goodreads, this is going to help my 2018 read count a lot! And I didn’t know this before because this is my first ever single-issue. I even subscribed to it through my local comic shop! I’m so excited!! Anyway this story rules so far and I can’t wait for the next installment. It’s especially dreamy to see 1970s Detroit in the beautiful artwork. You can see what I mean, and read an excerpt, here.
Up next: continuing and maybe finishing my Harry Potter re-read; new releases The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory & Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh; #Abbott #2; The Turner House for book club; hopefully some other surprises. 📚