November 2021 Books

Books Reread

Scholastic/David Fickling Books

The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
Book Hangover Alert**
His Dark Materials book 3 of 3
CW: death, child abuse, kidnapping, violence, war
The thrilling conclusion to the series! I reread this book in preparation for the third season of the HBO show. I’ve read the whole series before but I didn’t remember very much of this book. I mentioned in my review last month of the second book, that I didn’t get the anti-Christian allegory when I read the books as a child. Looking back now, it’s pretty obvious… I mean God literally dies. Maybe it was that I didn’t go to church as a child? Anyway, I still love these books and I love the final message that heaven isn’t a place we’re going after we die, it’s something we’re building ever day of our lives in the world we live in.
5/5 mulefa

New Books Read

HarperCollins Publishers

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doer
CW: ableism, war, gore, homophobia, terrorism, radicalization
I really liked All The Light We Cannot See, so I was excited to hear another book by Anthony Doer was coming out. It wasn’t quite as good, I don’t think, but I did enjoy it. A friend told me they dislike his “flowery language,” but I have to say I actually really like his writing style. I like the rich descriptions even if there is a lot of description. I also liked the way this book wove together stories set in the 1450s, in present day, and in the future. I liked how everything tied together in the end, and I liked the emphasis on climate change. I also really enjoyed the snippets we get from Diogenes’ Cloud Cuckoo Land story, and the segments about Konstance. Some things I didn’t like as much: I couldn’t help but notice that the story of Omeir and Anna was pretty similar to Werner and Marie-Laure. One is an unwilling participant in a conquering army, the other is a girl alone in a city besieged by a foreign army, and of course they end up meeting. I’d also like to talk about Seymour. Although I think Doer does a good job of making him a complex character that we empathize with, I think he relies heavily on standard and sometimes harmful stereotypes about autistic people. For example, Seymour is your classic white, male, traditionally-presenting autistic who fixates on something (owls and climate change), has trouble making friends, and has violent outbursts. There is so much diversity in autism and these stereotypes mean people who don’t present this way don’t get the diagnoses they need. There is also no evidence that autistic people are more prone to violence than neurotypicals (people with any disability are in fact more likely to be victims of gun violence and police brutality), and there is no empirical evidence that autistic people are more susceptible to radicalization by terrorists. Doer buys in to both of these stereotypes. Even though Seymour gets a redemption arc, I was disappointed with Doer for choosing to strengthen these stereotypes.
3.5/5 secret owls

Sorry, I read mostly e-books and audiobooks this month, so not many nice photos.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divinia by Zoraida Córdova***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW (from Book Trigger Warnings): alcohol, body horror, child death [not graphic], death, drowning [off-page, not graphic], infidelity, parental neglect, sexually explicit scenes, smoking
I’ve been neglecting my Book of the Month choices; this one was from August and I’m just getting around to it. It was fabulous and I adored it. I loved the themes of immigration and family and the way they are explored. I was also struck by the unique magic of the house and the family; often I think we get stuck with witch and/or magic family stereotypes, but I found the magic in Córdova’s novel really refreshing and different from what I’ve read before.
5/5 flowers growing out of humans

W. W. Norton & Company

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo***
Happy Native American Heritage Month! I loved listening to Harjo read more of her poetry. I like the way she’s really connected to the sound and phonetics of the poetry. If you’re following the blog, you’ll know I read another of her poetry books in September. I liked this one but I think I liked the other collection more. My favorite poem was “Washing my Mother’s Body,” which was a sweet and intimate portrayal of grief. As with the other collection, I felt I learned a lot about Indigenous culture, practices, and history through Harjo’s art.
3/5 memories

Disney Publishing

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: fat-phobia
Amazing. Everything I hoped it would be. Even though this is a retelling of Cinderella and it is set on a Bachelor-type reality show, two ostensibly un-feminist things, it still manages to be a feminist story. I really appreciate that this version of Cinderella doesn’t include an abusive stepmother and step sisters. And while there is some drama and little cattiness on the reality show, there’s also some great female friendships, which we love to see. It was just overall lovely to read. I have one more thing to say but it’s a spoiler so read on at your own risk.

Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD

I really loved that at the end Cindy didn’t have to choose between falling in love and getting her dream job/dream career. So often in movies and books women are portrayed realizing that love is more important than their career and giving it up, and men never have to choose between the two. There’s no reason Cindy shouldn’t have both.

5/5 amazing shoes

Harper Trophy
(I’m sorry, I don’t know why the picture is so small)

Princess In the Spotlight by Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries book 2 of 11
This series is so fun and it’s a really easy read. My sister and I call these Junk Food Reads. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading Junk Food Reads, on the contrary, you should not only read highly literary novels that you need to think hard about. Sometimes you just need an easy read about teenaged problems. I love the conversational tone and strong voice of these books. I also love how through Mia, Cabot explores universal teenaged problems, even though Mia is not a normal teenager. I do hope throughout the series we get to explore Mia and Lilly’s friendship more, because overall at the moment, I don’t feel like Lilly is really that good of a friend to Mia.
3/5 secret admirers

Quicksand by Nella Larsen***
CW: n-word, anti-Black racism
This book, and Passing (see next entry) is a classic from the Harlem Renaissance. Both books were well-received critically when they were published, but Larsen sort of faded into obscurity after writing them. She only published the two novels and a few short stories, but she’s definitely an important figure in African American literary canon. Both books deal with being a biracial upper-class African American in the 1920s, which is not a perspective I’ve read before. Reading it sort of feels like sinking into quicksand, which I’m sure was the intention. Throughout the book, the protagonist tries to find somewhere she feels she belongs and is happy, but though changes provide her respite and a little happiness, she always slips back into discontentment and an unnamed satisfaction. I think Larsen was probably speaking to a pretty common feeling at the time (and perhaps even now), for biracial women, even privileged ones, to feel

Passing by Nella Larsen***
CW: n-word, anti-Black racism, colorism
This book focuses on those who are able to ‘pass,’ or someone of mixed race who is able to be mistaken for white and may choose to live as a white person. I thought Larsen did a really good job navigating the complex relationships within white, Black, and multi-racial communities. There is a lot of privilege associated with being lighter skinned an able to pass, but that also alienates people who never feel they fully belong to white society or Black society. Individuals living as white also live in constant fear of being found out. Another book on this subject I would recommend is The House Behind the Cedars by Charles Chesnutt, who may have been one of the first writers to address passing.


Roc Paperback

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
CW: sexual manipulation, rape, threatened rape, gore, incest, sexual abuse, misogyny
The Dresden Files book 6 of 17
Chugging right along with this series. Still enjoying it. I enjoyed the themes of family in this book and I was happy that we got to know a little more about Murphy who is probably one of my favorite characters. I like the way Butcher puts a new spin on vampires with his Black Court, Red Court, and White Court vampires and how they’re all a little different, and none of them are the cliched, misunderstood, love interest. That being said, the White Court vampires are pretty repulsive and rape-y, and I just feel gross reading about them.
3/5 frozen turkeys falling from the sky

Little, Brown and Company

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie***
CW: anti-Native racism, death of family members and friends, alcoholism and drug abuse, child abuse, bullying
This is a classic of YA literature and of Native American literature. It’s similar to the Princess Diaries books in conversational tone, though the themes are much heavier. I do really enjoy the comics that Junior draws and there is lightness and Indian humor to counter the sad parts. I would definitely recommend this book, but I also think you should make sure it’s not the only Native American book you read. Alexie does debunk some stereotypes but he reinforces others. Of course, many stereotypes are rooted in some truth, and Alexie speaks to his own experiences, but it’s important that we don’t just have one story about any group of people, because there is so much diversity across Native peoples.
3.5/5 comics

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Post Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Inheritance of Orquídea Divinia to rep Ecuadorian immigrants. Read An American Sunrise to learn more about Native American life and to appreciate the current Poet Laureate of the United States. Read If the Shoe Fits for feminism, female friendship, and body positivity. Read Quicksand and Passing to learn about navigating biracial identities and to appreciate one of the great Harlem Renaissance writers. Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian to learn about Native culture and issues.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

October 2021 Books

I read a lot in October. Do I need another hobby???

Books Reread

Doubleday

Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
A Discworld novel
This book was also in my list of favorite stand alone novels. Pratchett is always hilarious but I just love the absurdity of a talking cat and talking rats running a scam of the Pied Piper. So many fun characters and hilarious circumstances. This is probably my single favorite Pratchett book, even though all of his are so good.
5/5 tap-dancing rats

Scholastic Point

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
His Dark Materials book 2 of 3
I just watched the second season of the His Dark Materials HBO show. It’s great, but as I was watching I realized I didn’t remember the second and third books very well. So I thought I’d read them again. I love to listen to the audiobooks in this series because Pullman reads them himself with a full cast and it’s amazing. If you were wondering, the second season of His Dark Materials follows The Subtle Knife pretty much exactly. When I read it when I was young I didn’t understand that it was an anti-Christian allegory. Just like how I didn’t understand the Narnia books were a pro-Christian allegory. But I love both of these series and I didn’t end up religious, so I guess I don’t really understand writing proselytizing children’s books if children aren’t going to even understand the allegory until they reread it as an adult. Or maybe other children are more perceptive than I was? Anyway I love this series. The first book is my favorite but I love them all.
4/5 spectres

Dream Country by Neil Gaiman
Sandman Volume 3 of 12
CW: rape, sexual slavery
Just like Volume 2, I don’t know whether to put this in Books Reread or New Books Read. All of the stories in this volume were familiar from the Audible Sandman radio play, but I enjoyed revisiting them and enjoying the artwork. Death is still my favorite character. I really love the Midsummer Night’s Dream segment of this volume. I also really appreciate Dave McKean’s Art.
3/5 face masks

New Books Read

The Dial Press

Untamed by Glennon Doyle***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: eating disorders, addiction and alcoholism, homophobia, infidelity, police brutality (mentioned), sexism, suicide, gang rape, school shootings
I don’t even have words for how much I liked this book. I laughed, I cried. Nothing will ever be as cute as Glennon and Abby’s love story. Not only was it interesting and insightful, it felt like it was making me a better, more mindful person. I also think it was incredibly brave of Glennon, not only to make the choices she made in her life, but to write a book about them. She had already written two memoirs about her life coming out of addiction and bulimia, her faith, and salvaging her marriage after her husband’s infidelity. But despite putting her life back together and being a good mom and wife, she was still denying herself truth and happiness. Untamed is about her journey toward her truest and most beautiful self and life. I feel like it sounds hokey when I say it, but it was so powerful. I’m tearing up thinking about it.
11/10 cheetahs

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
The King Killer Chronicle book 1 of 3
CW: mass murder, some gore, drugs
My coworker lent me this book, as it’s his favorite book. Usually when people recommend a book to me, they just mention it and that’s the end, but he actually brought the book to me and has been excited to lend me the second one now that I’ve finished the first one. The Name of the Wind is a classic high fantasy novel. It’s good, I really enjoyed it, although it does kind of feel like a lot of backstory/lead up to the main event, which is the mysterious Chandrian. It’s the first in the series and honestly there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding the main conflict/bad guy which I guess we won’t really deal with until books 2 and 3. I did think there were about 150 pages in the middle that didn’t need to be there, and I thought the female characters were pretty lacking. You don’t even get one until 250 pages in and then she’s the love interest and she’s “not like other girls” (*insert eye roll*). There were 3 other girls in the novel, one of which existed only to be saved by the main character, and the other 2 were, I think, supposed to be mysterious, but ended up being boring because we knew almost nothing about them (the love interest was also supposed to be mysterious, which ends up seeming a lot less mysterious when they all are mysterious). Anyway, I know this book was written in the early 2000s and it’s not like canonical fantasy has ever been particularly feminist (see Tolkien who had no female characters at all in the Hobbit). I’d also like to point out that the last book in the series isn’t even out. After 13 years. I know it sounds like I didn’t like it, but I did overall.
3/5 powerful names

Aurum

Size Matters Not by Warwick Davis***
CW: ableism
If you’re someone who likes movie trivia or are into sci-fi, fantasy, or cult horror movies, I would recommend this book. It’s the autobiography of Warwick Davis, little person and actor. Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you’ve probably seen one of his movies. His first role was the Ewok Wicket in the Return of the Jedi. Since then, George Lucas has cast him as various characters in every subsequent Star Wars film. His other really famous one is Professor Flitwick and Griphook the goblin in Harry Potter. But he was also in Labyrinth, Willow, the Leprechaun films, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, various Narnia adaptions, and so much more. His book was funny and charming and full of interesting stories.
3.5/5 ewoks

HarperTrophy

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries series book 1 of 11
This book is my manager’s favorite series. I love the movies so I thought I would read the first book. Which was a mistake, because now I have to read the whole series. Meg Cabot’s books are so readable. At first I thought Mia was a little annoying, but really, she was just a realistic 14 year old. She was flawed but definitely grew on you. It was different than the movie, but still super fun, so I’m interested in reading the rest.
3/5 Italian hairdressers

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: gaslighting, abuse, kidnapping, madness
I bought this book as a birthday gift to myself and I am well pleased. I adored Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Clarke’s other novel that is about 5 times as long as this one. She meticulously crafts her worlds, and the whole mystery and point of view are so fascinating. I felt this strange nostalgia and longing for this other world Piranesi lives in, even though 1) I’ve never been there, and 2) it sounded kinda terrible actually.
4.5/5 mysterious halls

Scribner

The Institute by Stephen King
CW: institutionalization, torture and abuse (physical and emotional), murder and attempted murder of children, suicide, anxiety, depression, PTSD, disability and racial slurs
This was a month of book recommendations. My best friend recommended this one to me. She doesn’t read a ton but she knows me super well. I don’t usually read horror so I haven’t read much Stephen King, but this one is more of a supernatural thriller. King really knows how to write a page turner. I listened to the audiobook and I couldn’t turn it off. I was interested in the ethical implications of the book, though I won’t say more (spoilers).
3.5/5 dots

Sisters in Arms by Kaia Anderson***
CW: anti-Black racism, n-word, misogyny, racially and sexually motivated assault
This was my Book of the Month for July (yep, still behind). I always like learning about the hidden figures from history. This historical fiction novel centered on the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (subsequently the Women’s Army Corps) and the first class of women officers, specifically the Black women officers. They were segregated into their own corps but still excelled and aided the war effort. I was also really interested in the author’s note at the end which talked about which characters were real people or inspired by real people and which events really happened. I also love a story about female friendship.
3.5/5 mislabeled letters

Orion

From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty***
CW: death, dead bodies, some gore
If you watch the Ask a Mortician YouTube Channel (which I highly recommend) you’ll be familiar with Caitlin Doughty. In this nonfiction book, Doughty recounts her travels around the world to witness different death rituals, practices, and the industries and infrastructures for death. Doughty is respectful, thoughtful, and funny, and the book brings insight into mortality and our relationship with death as humans.
3/5 composted bodies

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
This is my October Book of the Month and I feel bad that I still haven’t read August or September’s BOTM but I felt like I needed a witchy, Halloweeny read. If you remember, I read A Discovery of Witches last month, but if you’re going for a book about a witch who doesn’t really use her powers and works in human (i.e. non-magic) history at a university and falls in love with a somewhat dangerous man, then definitely go for this one over A Discovery of Witches. The Ex Hex was fun, flirty, sexy, witchy, and, best of all, feminist. The banter was fabulous and I loved that Rhys and Vivi were always asking for consent even though they were clearly both into each other.
3.5/5 chattering plastic skulls

Ballantine Books

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
CW: death, drugs, alcohol, cannibalism (with scientific twist)
I really loved The Martian, Weir’s first book. And I was really disappointed by Artemis, Weir’s second book. But I decided to give his third a try anyway. I don’t think I liked it quite as much as The Martian, but I did still really enjoy it. I don’t know a ton about science, so I feel like I didn’t really understand much of what Grace was talking about whenever he was solving a problem, but that also means that nothing really seemed that far-fetched to me (except maybe the amnesia). I do think it’s odd (or maybe just amateurish?) that none of Weir’s main characters ever have any families or friends. It’s certainly easier from an author’s standpoint to not have to make up a whole childhood, a best friend or friends, parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, lovers for your characters, but it’s also not as believable. Grace’s only friends are his coworkers from Project Hail Mary? Really? He has no family members? And no reason not to have either of these things? Grace is basically the same dude as Mark Watney from The Martian, except a chemical biologist and teacher instead of a botanist. Actually the main reason I didn’t like Artemis that much was because I thought the main character Jazz wasn’t believable. Weir is good at science and good at plot, but I do think he could work on character. Anyway I did really enjoy this book. It was a fun interstellar mission to save multiple planets. There were aliens, many near death experiences, and also friendship.
3.5/5 alien lifeforms

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
CW: slavery, gore, fantasy racism, attempted suicide, drugs and substance abuse, slut-shaming, PTSD, discrimination, misogyny, violence, war, murder
While we’re on the subject of character, I hate to say it but Bryce and Hunt are basically the characters as same as Aelin and Rowan from Maas’s Throne of Glass Series. She’s a half-human, half-fae princess with lot’s of magic power who is great at fighting, smart and snarky, and getting over traumas including but not limited to her boyfriend and best friend being brutally murdered. He’s a full blooded, centuries old immortal with great magic power who is being forced against his will to serve an ancient and evil overlord after losing his immortal lover. They start off hating each other but have to work together and eventually fall in love. (Spoiler! Skip next sentence) She frees him from his servitude. (End of spoiler) Now. All that being said, I really liked it. Luckily I really like the characters, even though they were the same as Aelin and Rowan, and I was still rooting for them and happy about them falling in love. I was interested in all 800 pages of the mystery, and Maas really knows how to keep a story moving. I was interested in the magical/technological city that Maas created and the different magical creatures that populated it. I’ll definitely still read the rest of the series.
3.5/5 Starswords

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Untamed really just to become a better person. Read Size Matters Not to learn about ableism in the film industry and the world at large (no pun intended). Read Sisters in Arms to learn about the hidden figures in United States military history. Read From Here to Eternity to grow your empathy for the way other cultures handle death and learn not to say “that’s gross” or “that’s so weird” of others’ customs.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

September 2021 Books

Books Reread

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros***
CW: rape, sexual harassment
I read parts of this book in high school and read the whole thing in college. Now I’m volunteering with a 9th grade English class and they’re reading this book so I read it again. Cisneros is just such a beautiful writer. Her prose is simple and clean, but so poetic and evocative. It’s easy to read but there’s so much going on under the surface. It’s still magical even after reading it several times.
4/5 houses

The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman
Sandman Vol 2
CW: violence, gore, serial murder
I don’t know whether to put this in new books read or in books reread. I listened to the Audible radio play of Sandman which goes through the first 3 volumes I believe. I had read the first volume of the comics when I listened to it but no more. So when I read this volume, the story was familiar, but the illustrations were new to me–and since Sandman is a comic, the illustrations are pretty important.
3.5/5 “cereal” killers

Orchard Books

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
If you read my post on my favorite stand alone novels, this book was in there. I first read this book when I was younger and really enjoyed it. Reading it again I didn’t remember very well what had happened but I still really enjoyed it. I loved that Charlotte develops so much over the course of the book and that she’s such a strong female character. One thing that bothered me that I don’t remember noticing when I was younger was how cowardly the crew was. They never spoke up against the captain or for their peers. It also strikes me as an allegory for how the upper classes keep control of the working classes. There are a lot more of the working classes than there are of those in power, but by keeping the working classes divided and suspicious of each other, those in power keep them from organizing against the power structures. Anyway, if they had worked together from the beginning, they could have solved their problems faster.
4/5 round robins

New Books Read

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian
This was my book of the month for June (I’ve gotten a bit behind reading my BOTM picks), and I enjoyed it. I maybe shouldn’t have read it almost back to back with The Mists of Avalon as that led to a lot of comparison between the two. I don’t really know what (if anything) is “canon” as far as the story of King Arthur goes but it interests me that the kinship ties in each version I’ve encountered are different. Like in The Mists of Avalon, I liked the feminist spin on the King Arthur tale, centering the story on Elaine this time instead of Arthur or Morgana/Morgaine. I also appreciated how Sebastian characterized Guinevere, who we so rarely get to see as anything but a pious and subservient queen turned seductress. Even in The Mists of Avalon, though she’s a rounded character, she isn’t much of a feminist. I also really enjoyed the way Sebastian wove the story forward and backward in time using Elaine’s visions of various futures. She created a really delicious tension between Elaine and the fate she was trying to control. And finally, I love the way all three women, Elaine, Guinevere, and Morgana, were able to forge their own path despite the seemingly inevitable futures laid out for them.
3.5/5 fateful visions

Oneworld Publications

The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: gun violence, rape, drug trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, racism
This book was so good; it was really hard to put down. I loved it, but it was pretty intense, so don’t go for it if you’re looking for something light. I loved the way Boulley represented her Native culture and practices. I also loved the sense of community with the Elders; there are a couple of scenes of the protagonist and the Elders that I just keep thinking about and they make me feel all warm inside every time I do. I learned a lot about being enrolled as a tribal member, prejudices within tribes, casinos, and the meth epidemic. One more thing I want to mention: I always hate when books have titles like “The [insert profession of a man]’s Wife/Daughter/Sister” because the woman is totally defined by her relationship to this man, however this book makes a point of discussing this and linking it to a Native story that the protagonist rejects because the woman doesn’t get her own name. So I love that self-awareness.
4.5/5 suspicious hockey pucks

Penguin Books

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
All Souls Trilogy book 1 of 3
I was disappointed by this book. I was really interested in the history and the alchemy and the magic and the mystery of the manuscript, but then Harkness had to go and ruin it with this overblown romance with a vampire. Personally I think vampires are a bit overrated. Sure he’s super handsome and strong, but he’s also super problematic. Why can’t anyone write a progressive vampire for once? Matthew’s misogyny, his controlling tendencies, his annoying overprotectiveness, and his anger issues are excused because he’s been alive for 1500 years (things were different back then, men treated women differently in those days) and because he’s a vampire (he can’t resist his predatory instincts–*big eye roll*). C’mon, the dude’s been alive for 1500 years, he couldn’t have gone to therapy in all that time to work through this stuff? Anyway, the romance really did not do it for me (also, who thinks being touched and kissed by cold hands and lips is a turn on?). I did read the whole thing because I was hoping to find out more about the mysterious manuscript and the secret of Diana’s parents’ murder. Then I realized it’s the first book in a trilogy so while we found out some answers, we didn’t find out all of them. I won’t be reading the rest of the books.
3/5 objects from the past

W. W. Norton and Company

Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo***
Joy Harjo is the current Poet Laureate of the United States, serving in her second term. Some of her books including this one are available to Audible members for free so I definitely recommend listening to them. She also reads her own poetry in this one which is always nice to hear a poet reading their own work. I do wish I could both read and listen to the poems because that’s how I best understand poetry but I did really enjoy listening to Harjo’s work. I liked the way she sort of sang some of the poems, reminiscent of some tribal music.
3.5/5 holy beings

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The House on Mango Street to learn more about Chicana experience. Read The Firekeeper’s Daughter to learn more about Native communities and values, and the affects drug trafficking and MMIW have had on those communities. Read Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings to celebrate the poetry of the US’s first Native Poet Laureate.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

August 2021 Books

Books Reread

Doubleday

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
**Book Hangover Alert
I made my parents listen to this when we drove from Colorado to California and they didn’t really know what was going on. This is a nonlinear narrative, which I know some people struggle with. But it’s definitely one of my favorite books. I just adore how the stories are woven together and how all stories are really one story. I also think Morgenstern is a master of creating lush magical worlds for her readers to inhabit. I absolutely loved The Night Circus, her first book, and both the night circus and the harbors on the starless sea are meticulously crafted, gorgeous places that fill me with the same longing that thinking about Narnia or Hogwarts or Neverland make me feel.
10/10 kitchen bees

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
CW: rape, violence, abusive relationships, racism and xenophobia
Every time I read or reread a David Mitchell book I feel like I have to read all his other books again too. I’m always finding new connections within the book and to his other books. I love how how his characters flit across all his novels. This was only the second time I’ve read this one, so I was excited to read it again and jog my memory. It’s not my favorite of his books but it definitely still has those elements of interconnection that are my favorite part of his work. I listened to the audio book this time and while there was nothing wrong necessarily with the narrator, I do wish they had done multiple narrators. Each section of the novel has a different POV character so it would’ve been nice to have a different narrator for each one. I also didn’t feel like the Night Train section worked with the narrator they chose; that section is almost entirely dialogue with no tags and I didn’t feel like the narrator managed to change his voice enough for each of the speakers.
4/5 backpackers

New Books Read

Canongate Books

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
CW: suicidal ideation, suicide attempt (unsuccessful), emotional abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, overdose
This is a pretty new book which was hyped and recommended to me, and I think made the Amazon bestsellers list. I thought it was very disappointing. Interesting concept but poor execution. Boring and predictable. A bit like The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but not good. I’ve made an effort to read books by more diverse authors so I haven’t read many books by white men lately, but this book just screamed that it was written by a white man who was used to being successful without having to strive for more than mediocrity. (I feel like that was harsh, but I also feel like it was true.) I also want to talk about ableism with this book. The premise is that the main character (whose name I’ve already forgotten) ends up in this Midnight Library which is filled with all the alternative lives she could have lived if she had made different choices. The lives were super predictable for one thing, but also Haig fails to recognize that every one of us is one accident away from being disabled for life. We never get to see a life where the main character deals with a physical disability (though she does have depression and anxiety). Haig mentions a few lives (but doesn’t spend any time on them) where the main character broke some ribs in an accident. I just feel like there was a really interesting opportunity to explore disability and different perspectives that was missed. It felt like the novel was trying to make a deep and insightful statement about life and the meaning of life, but it ended up feeling trite and obvious. Also I saw the ending coming from like the beginning.
2/5 book-bound lives

HarperCollins

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, sex trafficking, rape, sexual harassment, racism, domestic violence, alcoholism
This book just won a Pulitzer and it deserved it. So good. I love Louise Erdrich. The story is based on the Indian Termination Policy, a policy in the 1950s where the federal government tried to sever all ties with Native nations and stop recognizing tribes with the goal of assimilating all Natives into mainstream American society. Many tribes fought against this policy, including Erdrich’s tribe, specifically her grandfather. The story is a fictionalized account of the Turtle Mountain band of Chippewa Indians’ fight to retain their tribal status and what remained of their lands. The story also followed some of the women of the tribe and explored the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which is still a problem today. I learned a lot from this book.
4.5/5 sleeping bears

HarperCollins

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston***
CW: domestic abuse, racism
For some reason I thought this was going to be a slave narrative and I’m not sure why I thought that. But this book is actually set in the 1930s. Hurston’s writing is really gorgeous. There were some really strong images that Hurston created that I’m still thinking about. I just love how everything was described and the way she nested the narrative inside a story on the porch. The way Janie’s character develops throughout the story was really interesting too, how she comes into her self-actualization and is finally able to use her voice.
3.5/5 hurricanes

Feiwel & Friends

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann***
We love to see that biromantic, asexual representation! I think I’ve now read 3 books with asexual characters in them and I’m ready to see more! I loved the way Alice was secure in her asexuality but also worked through and explored all her feelings. I also really appreciate that Alice wasn’t white so we got to see the intersection of her race and sexuality. This book was super fun and still read like a YA romance novel, even though there was no sex, which proves to me (but maybe not everyone, idk) that sex isn’t necessary in romance novels (or in romance period).
4/5 on the Cuteness Code

Alfred A. Knopf

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
CW: incest, religious persecution
Is this 1 book or 4??? I don’t really know. I just know it’s 50 hours in one chunk from Audible. I’ve been listening to it since like January, taking a break between each part and I’ve finally finished it! I really liked hearing the story of Camelot from the perspectives of the women in the story. Bradley manages to give each one a distinct voice and a unique personality where in other versions, Morgaine and Guinevere are pigeonholed into more archetypal roles, and the other female characters are barely mentioned. I do wan’t to mention that Bradley has been accused of pedophilia and sexual abuse which is not in any way okay. We could have a longer conversation about separating the art from the artist and what to do when books we like are written by terrible people, but for now I’ll just say, I believe survivors.
3.5/5 enchanted swords

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

The Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas***
**Book Hangover Alert
Throne of Glass book 6 of 7
CW: ableism, trauma, war, violence against women

First of all let me just gush over this cover, even though this is totally not the cover of the edition that I got from the library! Look at that badass, handsome man in a wheelchair on the cover of a book! The representation! I could write a whole essay about the intersection of ableism and masculinity in this book, but I won’t put you through that. I really liked this book. I was worried because I had heard that Aelin isn’t in this one, and while I missed Aelin and Rowan, I really enjoyed getting to follow Nesryn and Chaol and watch them develop. I’m not trying to spoil things for people who haven’t read books 1 through 5, but the rest of the review will contain light spoilers. I appreciate that Maas doesn’t make her young characters stay with the first person they fall in love with. It’s unusual in books that characters have several different partners throughout a series until they find the right one, but that’s how it is in real life. The most interesting aspect of this book for me was the way Chaol’s healing and injury were handled. I love how Maas confronted ableism and life as a wheelchair user. The focus really wasn’t on “curing” or “fixing” Chaol of his disability, but on healing his internal trauma and coming to terms with the new limitations of his body and different accommodations he will need. I also loved how Chaol’s mindset changed throughout the book as he faces his own internalized ableism.
5/5 ruks

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: domestic violence, alcohol abuse, PTSD, death of a parent, cancer, trauma
This book was so good! I got it in a mystery grab bag sale from the library and it was a really good find. I love the way Hannah captures Alaska. I haven’t been there but I think she does a great job of giving Alaska the nuance of being a beautiful but also unforgiving place full of complex people. Speaking of complex people, I love how she creates flawed and believable characters. It was also such a page turner! I couldn’t put it down! Not spoiling the ending but it was perfectly bittersweet.
4/5 ways to die in Alaska

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Night Watchman to learn more about Native issues in the early 20th century to present day. Read Their Eyes Were Watching God for a look at early feminism in the Black canon. Read Let’s Talk About Love to get more LGBTQ+ representation, particularly diverging from lesbian or gay romance. Read The Tower of Dawn for a look at disability and its intersections with masculinity.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

July 2021 Books

Books Reread

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Book Hangover Alert** (Gaiman’s books always give me a book hangover)
CW: suicidal ideation, violence, stalking, child death
As I’ve mentioned before Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites. I love this book. It makes me miss London a lot. But it’s also nice to read it whenever I move somewhere new because it’s about knowing and loving a place, learning its secrets, and finding belonging. This time I read the version illustrated by Chris Riddell who has to be one of my favorite illustrators. I loved see his interpretations of characters I know so well.
5/5 gap monsters

How the Marquis Got his Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
Companion novella to Neverwhere
I’d read this when it first came out and I hadn’t read Neverwhere recently when that happened. This time I read them back to back, and while I still enjoyed it, I did notice that Dunnikin, the Sewer Folk man, speaks in this story. In Neverwhere he uses a kind of sign language when he talks to Old Bailey and it’s implied that the Sewer Folk don’t speak. Aside from that I like the story. I love the Marquis de Carabas so it’s nice to get to spend more time with him, and I enjoy his brother very much.
3.5/5 fabulous coats

New Books Read

Tom Doherty Associates

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
Wayward Children book 5 of 5
CW: body dysmorphia , child abuse (mentioned), grooming
The last Wayward Children book! I enjoyed all of these, though I still think book 4 was my favorite. It was nice to visit Jack and Jill again who featured in books 1 and 2. There’s just something so magical about a door into another world. I didn’t list the books in this series as Books for a Social Consciousness books, but I would like to applaud the inclusion of trans, gay, and neurodivergent characters.
3.5/5 skeleton horses

Bloomsbury Publishing

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon***
CW: Alcoholism, death (including parental and loved ones), depression, grief, infertility, miscarriage, plague, suicide (mentioned), suicidal ideation, war (some based on religion)
Dragons, witches, magic, pirates, it seems like it’s a combination that can’t fail. This book was hyped a lot and I felt bad that I wasn’t crazy about it. The world building was really intricate and we love to see diversity in fantasy. But I thought the characters were kinda boring and I felt like every time Shannon killed one of them off she was trying to make me feel something, which didn’t work because I did not care about them. Tané was my favorite character but it seemed like she had less page time than other characters like Niclays Roos, who I literally could not have cared less about. Also this book was supposedly about dragons and there weren’t nearly enough dragons. And it was too long.
3/5 magical oranges

Do All Indians Live in Tipis? by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian***
CW: racism, alcoholism, gambling, genocide
The short answer is “No.” I worked as an intern at NMAI in college and this book was a gift given to me at the end of my internship. It’s a really great primer for those looking to learn more about Native Americans and their culture. It has answers to many of the questions you’ve probably had about Native Americans, but didn’t want to ask a Native person to spend emotional labor educating you. The one downfall of the book is probably the same one the museum has, which is that it tries to cover the native peoples of the entire American continent and Hawaii, which is a tall order. Many of the questions have some variation of “different tribes do different things.”
3.5/5 tipis

Disney Hyperion

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan***
Book Hangover Alert**
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book 3 of 3
The thrilling conclusion! I really enjoyed this series. Specifically in this book I was glad we got to learn more about Magnus’s floor 19 hall-mates because although they’ve been in all 3 books, we haven’t had much backstory for them. I say this every time, but I love the representation in this series. Loved the ending, but I won’t say more about that.
4/5 pottery to the death classes

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW from the author’s website: On-page: Drinking, light drug use (weed), semi-public sex, exploration of depression and anxiety, memory loss and cognitive issues, familial estrangement, familial death, grief, missing persons, implied PTSD. Off-page, past, and alluded to: Homophobic violence and hate speech, police violence, the AIDS crisis, racism, childhood neglect, arson, historic hate crime resulting in loss of life
This might be the best book I’ve read this year. I read McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue in January, and it was fabulous. This one might be better. It has all the swoony LGBTQ+ romance of Red, White & Royal Blue but with mystery, magic, LGBTQ+ history, and a unique New Yorkness. I love McQuiston’s writing style. Their characters are so interesting and well developed. I also loved that every relationship in the book was queer. We love to see it.
7/5 subway trains

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover. Every book in this post is a Book Hangover Book.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Do All Indians Live in Tipis? To answer many of your questions about Native Americans. Read The Ship of the Dead to see positive disability and gender fluid representation in fantasy. Read The Priory of the Orange Tree to see more BIPOC and LGBTQ+ representation in fantasy. Read One Last stop for LGBTQ+ representation and history.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

June 2021 Books

New Books Read

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan***
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book 2 of 3
CW: child abuse, ableism 

I don’t know why Uncle Rick can’t give anyone in the Magnus Chase series a non-traumatic backstory or a happy family life. But anyway I’m glad the characters all found each other. We also love to see that representation: a Deaf character, a gender-fluid character, Muslim characters. I’m not going to do much of a review because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. I’m definitely really enjoying this series and I’m excited to read the last one!
4/5 trickster giants

Swamp Thing: Twin Branches by Maggie Stiefvater
This is Maggie Stiefvater’s first graphic novel. It’s fun and I love the art. It is a bit short; I would have happily read a much longer version. I will say though, that one of my favorite things about Stiefvater’s writing is her descriptions. Of course we get the art in the graphic novel, but it is a shame to lose her exceptionally well crafted descriptions in favor of just dialogue.
3/5 definitely dangerous experiments

Mister Impossible by Maggie Stiefvater
Book Hangover Alert!**
The Dreamer Trilogy Book 2
CW: suicidal ideation

The Raven Cycle is one of my favorite series and I also adore the first 2 installments of The Dreamer Trilogy (who doesn’t want more Ronan Lynch???). I loved getting to read about art and art history with a magical twist. I also enjoyed the focus on environmental issues and how there were no simple solutions. I still love Stiefvater’s writing style. And her characters. And the magic. And just the whole plot. I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to spoil it, but there is one thing I want to acknowledge for those who have read it.

Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD

I just want to say I am both impressed and a little annoyed that Stiefvater has used this same plot twist in like 3 of her books and I’M STILL SURPRISED BY IT. Book 1 of the Raven Cycle: Ronan: “Oh, yeah I took Chainsaw out of my dreams.” One of the other Raven Cycle books: Ronan: “Oh, yeah I took Matthew out of my dreams.” This book: Ronan: “Oh, yep. Bryde is one of mine too.”


5/5 dreams

Aladdin and the Arabian Nights
CW: anti-semitism, racist/stereotypical drawings, domestic violence
I really enjoyed getting more familiar with these fairytales. Some of them I had heard before, but many I had not. I liked how many of them were sort of like nesting dolls, feeding into each other, and all were nested in the tale of Sheherazade. I have a really lovely illustrated copy of the tales, but I was frustrated that the illustrations were really stereotypical, depicting most of the middle easterners as ugly, dark-skinned barbarians, with the exception of virtuous women, who were fair-skinned, and virtuous youths (heroes like Aladdin), who were also fair-skinned.
3/5 magic carpets

Penguin

Fifty Words for Rain by Asha Lemmie***
CW: attempted suicide, physical, mental, and sexual abuse, anti-black racism
This was recommended to me by a friend and it left me with a lot to think about. The book is set in Japan in the 1950s and 60s and tells the story of a biracial girl born to a Black American and a Japanese woman from an influential, Imperial Japanese family. It was really interesting to read about racism in Japan, because I feel like most of the books I read that deal with racism are set in the US. I loved seeing Nori develop throughout the story into a self-actualized woman with her own voice. I was also impressed by the complex depiction of Nori and Akira’s sibling relationship. I still don’t know how I felt about the ending. I feel like I wasn’t totally satisfied with Nori’s choice, but I also feel like that is at least in part because I come from America and a very individualistic culture. I think those from collectivist cultures, like many Asian cultures, would empathize more with the ending. But I’d love to hear other people’s perspectives.
3.5/5 music lessons

Death Masks by Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files book 5 of 17
Another solid installment. I am quite impressed that Butcher can write them so consistently; there’s none of the wavering in quality that you sometimes see in other series (or not yet, anyway). I will say, these books are definitely written by A Man (TM). I don’t know what straight men’s obsession with nipples is. Personally, I don’t find them particularly sexy, but male writers will never miss an opportunity to point them out. I would also just like to say that no matter how cold it is, there are some fabrics that you will never be able to see nipples through, even if she’s not wearing a bra. Heavy kimono silk is one of them.
3.5/5 religiously magical objects

Disney Press

Lore by Alexandra Bracken
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: discussion of child marriage, violence, gore, ableism
This book is like the Purge + Greek gods in New York City. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very hard to put down. The banter was top notch. I liked the characters and I really liked the brutal depictions of the Greek gods. Myths tell us that the gods weren’t good people, but I think people still tend to romanticize them a lot.
4/5 bronze masks

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
CW: suicide, murder of children
This one is also about Greek mythology because apparently I’m obsessed. Ariadne was my Book of the Month for May. It was good, but also very sad. Though, to be fair, if I had known more about the myth of Ariadne, I might’ve known that going in. Something I really liked about this book was the contrast between the sisters Ariadne and Phaedra. Often in books the female characters aren’t very fleshed out and are very similar to one another. I also feel like when we see feminist characters, we sort of get this idea that there’s only one way to be a feminist, and I really loved the way Ariadne and Phaedra embodied different ways of being a feminist. Though, I also don’t think either of them was able to fully actualize herself, not necessarily through any fault of her own, but more as a result of the repressive and misogynistic society they live in.
3.5/5 cups of wine

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
CW: manipulation, abuse, suicidal ideation
This was an odd, charming little book. It’s a little fairytale, a little thriller, a little romance, a little mystery. I really liked the characters and the writing style. It was super easy and quick to read, but the images were really strong and evocative. Its ending was just the right mix of bitter and sweet and satisfying.
3.5/5 Orphans

The House of the Four Winds by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
One Dozen Daughters Book 1
I enjoyed this one. It was another that I got in a mystery grab bag sale from the library. But I always love a good pirate/sailor tale, especially if the the female lead is pretending to be a man. I appreciated that the story wasn’t easily predictable, but I did wish Clarice got to do a bit more sword fighting. The world building was a little weak, just in that it’s set in our world basically, just with all the countries renamed and with some magic. I guess they just didn’t want to make it a historical fiction. I just noticed that it’s listed as One Dozen Daughters book 1. Can we safely assume that there are or will be 11 more books covering Clarice’s sisters?
3.5/5 pieces of enchanted treasure

Books Read for the Community Cats Podcast Blog

The Feline CEO by Lynn Maria Thompson
Thompson’s slim book is all about how to make yourself the best CEO you can be, using the wisdom of the cat to change up the way you’re thinking. Not a CEO? Much of the advice, including confidence, presenting yourself well, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, viewing the big picture from up high, are useful for everyone’s daily life. The book also comes with online exercises and bonus material to help readers change the way they’re thinking and apply feline wisdom to their lives. I did think the metaphors were a tad strained at times, but overall the advice seemed sound, though I am not a CEO, so I can’t speak to that specifically.
2.5/5 cats

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Hammer of Thor to get some great representation of different kinds of people in fantasy. Read Fifty Words for Rain to learn about racism in Japan.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

May 2021 Books

It’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, but it’s kind of a coincidence that I read several books from that community. We celebrate anyway!

New Books Read

HarperCollins India

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian***
CW: suicide, substance abuse
I’ve had this book on hold at the library for weeks and I’m so glad I wasn’t disappointed. The book is a treat for those who are fascinated by stories of alchemy. What I particularly loved was that it was rooted in Indian mythology of alchemy and not in the Western canon. I also loved how the novel challenged perceptions about the history of Indian immigrants to the US (namely that it’s a recent phenomenon). I did think Neil, the protagonist, was a bit annoying, mostly just in how selfish he was, but I realize characters need to have flaws and he mostly overcomes it by the end. I’m still thinking about this scene near the end of the book that I won’t spoil, but it’s so euphoric and beautiful and the images were so strong.
3.5/5 gold bangles

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez***
CW: suicide attempt (not successful), suicidal ideation, death of a family member, anorexia, child abuse, sexual assault
I knew this book was going to be sad and it was. The premise is sad: Julia’s sister is killed in a car accident and she is left without her sister and with the weight of her parents’ expectations that she be a ‘perfect Mexican daughter’ like her sister. This is a coming-of-age story of a teenaged writer trying to find her voice and her place among her family and in the US as a child of undocumented immigrants. It reminded me a bit of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (see February 2021 book blog), though I don’t think I liked it quite as much. As a character Julia is pretty angsty and abrasive, though she definitely has reason to be. Overall though, it was a hopeful and lovely book that I think a lot of teenagers probably need.
3.5/5 quinceañera dresses

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala ***
First book in a planned series
CW: indications of evidence planting and police intimidation, drug use, fatphobia, racism, domestic violence (this is the warning Manansala puts in the author’s note at the beginning of the book, specifically for Filipino readers)
This was my Book of the Month for April and it was so fun. It’s a cozy mystery and its good pacing keeps the pages turning and your mouth watering. The protagonist, Lila helps run her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, but then when Lila’s ex-boyfriend ends up dead from poisoning at her restaurant, she has to figure out who is framing her. I’m usually not much of a mystery reader, and the last mystery I read (see The Accidental Alchemist in the November 2020 blog) was not good. I liked that everything I complained about in that book was handled much better in this book: I cared about the characters and their backstories, I cared about solving the mystery, and the answer to the mystery was satisfying. I also liked that I wasn’t immediately able to guess the killer, but was able to put together the clues and arrive at the answer just a hair ahead of Lila. I also appreciated the nuance of the characters from Asian diasporas. I think it’s easy as a white person to lump together immigrants from all parts of Asia, so I liked the way Manansala explored the differences and similarities in experience of her Filipino, Korean, Indian, and Japanese characters. Left me hungry for more (more novels, and also more Filipino food).
4/5 plates of adobo

In the Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes
Based on the title of this book, I did not have particularly high hopes that I would like it. I was pleasantly surprised! I want to say this book reminded me of the Awakening by Kate Chopin, but in the best possible way, as I didn’t actually like the Awakening that much. It follows a young couple in the 1960s that moves to Saudi Arabia to work at the Aramco oil drilling site. I really liked Barnes’s writing style and how she explored femininity and feminism through the lenses of two different patriarchal societies. I loved how the protagonist Gin evolves through the story to become a strong, independent, and self-actualized woman. I also liked that the ending wasn’t super predictable. I won’t spoil it, but it wasn’t the way I would have expected the story to end.
3.5/5 Arabian horses

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan***
CW: institutionalization and torture of disabled (and perceived disabled) people, child abuse, war and death
Weaving forward and backward through time, and through past lives, Tan creates a nuanced and rich novel. I loved the way the past lives of the characters paralleled their current lives. I didn’t think Olivia, the protagonist, was particularly likable at the beginning but she is an extremely human and believable character, which I commend Tan for, and she is more likable by the end. I loved the stories Kwan told and the descriptions of China. I also really appreciated Tan’s portrayal of sisterhood and family. Kwan and Olivia’s relationship was really nuanced and I loved the way it developed over the course of the novel.
3.5/5 snowy owls

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy***
CW: sexual assault, domestic violence, alcoholism, police brutality, incest
Roy’s writing is gorgeous. The tempo, the cadence, the sound, the way she uses metaphor and repetition. I also loved the way she built tension and a deep sense of dread throughout the novel by revealing the picture bit by bit and not in chronological order. But I will say, I didn’t love the plot or the characters. I feel like a lot of adult and literary fiction is just about miserable people doing miserable things and that was definitely the case here. My sister told me I wasn’t really going to like this one and she was right, but I’ll still say that the writing style is what kept me reading to the end.
3/5 spoiled puffs

Books read for the Community Cats Podcast Blog

Animalkind by Ingrid Newkirk and Gene Stone
CW: graphic descriptions of violence against animals
Part 1 of Animalkind reads a bit like a very long list of fun facts about animals. If you’re already an animal lover and enjoy watching nature documentaries, or you’ve studied psychology, then much of the information won’t be particularly new or surprising. In part 2 of the book, the authors make the case for not using animals in medical testing, for clothing, for food, or as entertainment (as in circuses), emphasizing the cruelties of these industries. They include a rather exhaustive list of alternatives to using animals in these industries. Though I don’t doubt the cruelties chronicled in the book, I did feel that the way they chose to share these abuses sensationalized the violence, much like our 24 hour news cycle, which just desensitizes us to violence. The arguments for not using animals also seemed not to really consider the full complexity of many issues. In the discussion of clothing, synthetic fabrics are heralded as an alternative to animal-based products, but we shouldn’t pretend that these are without their problems. Both the production and even just the washing of polyester and acrylic fabrics create microplastics that usually end up in the ocean, ultimately still hurting animals, just fish instead of sheep. It has also been well documented that laborers in the textile industry are often exploited. In the discussion of food there was no acknowledgement that veganism is often inaccessible for people who live in food deserts or low-income areas. It also tends to be gentrified and elitist. Though the authors suggested many brands of vegan chocolate, no mention was made of the fact that most cocoa is harvested by exploited workers who are often children

While I absolutely agree with everything the authors are arguing, I found the book not nearly as compelling as Our Symphony With Animals, in which Dr. Ahktar (see September 2020 book blog) uses personal stories illustrating the human-animal bond to make a similar argument. I do like that Animalkind gives the reader a guide for what they can do personally to help animals in these industries (i.e. weaponizing your power as a consumer and a voter, advocacy, and more).
2.5/5 whale songs

Related: Read Staging Tourism by Jane C. Desmond for a nuanced discussion of why humans have always been fascinated by animal bodies and the exploitation that is animal tourism.

But First, Rumi by Chitra Ramaswami
CW: descriptions of cruelty toward animals
On the Community Cats Podcast, host Stacy always asks podcast guests how they first became passionate about cats. But First, Rumi is Ramaswami’s story. A quick read, the memoir documents how she met Rumi, a street cat who lived near her family’s home in Oman. Ramaswami began feeding the stray and he gradually wormed his way into her heart, as many of us will understand. Their story explores the deep human-animal bond and how saving an animal can be like saving yourself. Though she admits she was not much of a cat-person prior to meeting Rumi, Ramaswami fell in love with the Omani Mau and then became aware of the many problems facing animal welfare in Oman. She attempts to reconcile the kindness of the people with the cruelty she observes when it comes to the street cats. At the end of the book she also suggests ways to help the community cats in Oman and what can be done to promote kindness and compassion toward all animals.
3/5 Omani Maus

The Little Book of Boards by Erik Hanberg
Though I’m not on the board of any kind of nonprofit, I felt Hanberg’s book was a great primer for anyone who might want to be. He starts off with what a board does and what your duties are as a board member, which sounds simple but is very useful for those who have never served on or worked with the board of a nonprofit. The second part of the book is devoted to the duties of board leaders (committee chairs, board officers, and the board president). The book finishes off with an extensive appendix of resources including how to update bylaws, how to create an effective committee structure, how to recruit board members, and more. Hanberg’s book is slim and full of practical advice. I would say it’s definitely a good book to pick up if you’re thinking about joining the board of a small nonprofit. Hanberg also has other books for small nonprofits on social media (The Little Book of Likes) and fundraising (The Little Book of Gold).
3/5 nonprofits

Human-Animal Interaction: A Social Work Guide by Janet Hoy-Gerlach and Scott Wehman***
This is a good read for social workers, shelter workers, and veterinarians. The authors discuss how human-animal interaction can be integrated into social work practices to better meet the client where they are. They point to domestic violence situations where survivors might be unwilling to go to a shelter because of a pet, clients with suicidal thoughts who haven’t committed suicide because of the pet they care for, those who have lost a pet and are suffering from disenfranchised grief, and older clients who worry what will happen to their pet if they go to the hospital or die. Though pet owners know how important animal companions are in their lives, this is something that has not been fully explored within the realm of social work as far as the benefits as well as stressors that can come from pets, and the social supports that should be in place to help people and their pets thrive. The book is a great place for social workers who want to incorporate animal-based therapy and support for clients, as well as for shelter workers and veterinarians who want to take a more holistic approach to the care of both pets and clients.
3/5 animal companions

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Gold Diggers to learn more about the Indian American experience as well as Indian immigration history and Indian mythology. Read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter to learn about the experience of undocumented immigrants and the difficulties of mental illness. Read Arsenic and Adobo for some diversity in the mystery genre, as well learning about the diversity of the Asian diaspora. Read The Hundred Secret Senses to learn more about colonialism in China as well as the Chinese-American immigrant experience. Read The God of Small Things to read a classic of Indian literature and to learn more about the caste system and the affects of colonialism in India. Read Human-Animal Interaction to grow your empathy for humans and animals and to learn how we can best support that symbiotic relationship with social change.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

April 2021 Books

Books Reread

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. And it’s been ages since he released a novel. I decided to reread some of his books. I’d only read this one once so it moved to the top of the list. I love mythology of all kinds, but I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as I am with other pantheons, so it was nice to read again, especially since I’ve recently been watching all the Marvel movies. I do love that the original myths are significantly more weird than the versions in the MCU.
4/5 monstrous children of Loki

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan***
Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard book 1 of 3
CW: ableism, child abuse, anti-Muslim sentiment
I wanted to read the rest of this series but I realized I didn’t remember this first book well enough so I read it again. I enjoyed it perhaps even more than I did the first time. It was especially nice because I had just reread Norse Mythology so I was all brushed up on my myths. I love Rick Riordan. I love how inclusive his books are. I think this is the first book I’ve read with a Deaf character who uses ASL. I’d love to talk to someone from that community to see if they thought he did a good job, but to me it seemed like he did his research.
3.5/5 angry World Tree squirrels

New Books Read

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison***
CW: anti-Black racism, alcoholism, colorism, violence, sexism, incest, ableism
I was so pleased when I got this book in a mystery book grab bag sale from my local library. I’ve been meaning to read more Toni Morrison. Morrison is definitely a national and literary treasure. I’m just awed by her literary craft. But that’s not to say I didn’t have to check Sparknotes to learn about all the biblical references I missed. I did enjoy reading this book, but I also wish I had a book club or an English class to discuss it with. It’s one of those books that I don’t feel like I can get as much out of it reading it alone. Morrison does use ableism as a literary device, which is pretty common, especially in older works, but I wish it wasn’t. One of Milkman’s legs is shorter than the other, indicating he’s morally stunted. By the end of the book, when he’s grown up and matured and overall become a better person, the disability goes away. These tropes are harmful to the disabled community.
3.5/5 pairs of gossamer wings

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Book Hangover Alert**
This was my March Book of the Month book. Fabulous. Loved it. Couldn’t put it down. I loved that it was full of interesting and unique female characters. I loved the way it built tension so seamlessly throughout. I loved the way it weaved forward and back through time to tie the fates of several women together. The only thing I didn’t love was the way Nella’s disability was characterized. Nella has some sort of degenerative disease and she believes it’s because she sells poisons and many people have died as a result. This plays into the classic stereotypes in literature of people who are morally corrupt having a physical disability as a mark from God that they are not good people (see what we discussed above with Song of Solomon). Which is obviously harmful to the disabled community. Now, Nella does mention that her mother died of a similar disease, which implies that maybe it’s more of a genetic disease, as Nella’s mother only sold cures, no poisons. And maybe it would make sense for Nella to believe that her disease is a punishment for her sins, since she lives in 18th century London, where those views would be prevalent. But since the disabled community is still discriminated against today, it’s tricky to play into that stereotype without it seeming harmful.
4.5/5 bottles of poison

The Mask of Apollo by Mary Renault
I got this book as a mystery book subscription from the local bookstore in Frederickburg, which I did for a while during the beginning of the pandemic when I could afford it. Reading this book was kind of like getting thrown into 4th century Greece and being told to swim. Renault’s world building and all the research she must have done were stunning. I liked reading about Niko and the Greek tragedies, and I appreciated that even though she wrote the book in the 1960s, she didn’t shy away from portraying the acceptance of queerness in ancient Greek culture. (Though there was a lot of unresolved sexual tension between Niko and Dion.) But I did feel I was in over my head when reading about the politics of the time.
3/5 mysterious masks

A Promised Land by Barack Obama***
CW: anti-Black racism
Former President Obama is such a remarkably intelligent and thoughtful person. It was really nice to read more about his start in politics through his first term in office. It was interesting to learn more about many of the events that took place just as I was beginning to become politically aware. Obama does a great job addressing the complexities of every difficult situation and decision that a president has to make. I liked hearing about his climate policy and how difficult it was to pass the ACA. The whole book did frustrate me a little though, because it is full of so much hope and it’s impossible not to think about where we might be today if we hadn’t had 4 years of Trump after the Obama years. I do think maybe he could’ve trimmed it down a little though. I did enjoy listening to Obama read the audiobook.
3.5/5 presidential dogs (Rest in Peace Bo)

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
King of Scars Duology book 1 of 2, Grishaverse
CW: suicide, child abuse, child marriage
I’m sure everyone is watching Shadow and Bone right now, and isn’t it fabulous? I really enjoyed the Shadow and Bone series and the Six of Crows duology, so I was excited to read King of Scars. I love Bardugo’s world building and her characters, and I love that we get to keep visiting the Grishaverse from different perspectives. Bardugo is so clever with her plots and storylines and you’re always on your toes, desperate to know what happens. I also appreciate that she includes disabled characters and it’s not a big deal.
MILD SPOILER AHEAD: I guess the only thing I don’t love is villains who just keep coming back and are super hard to kill. I think it gets a little tiresome.
4/5 saints

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Sword of Summer to see people of different abilities and backgrounds represented in fantasy. Read Song of Solomon to experience a classic of Black literature and American literature. Read A Promised Land to get a better idea what it was like to be the first Black president and to understand all Obama did for America.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

March 2021 Books

New Books Read

HarperCollins

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas***
CW: unintended pregnancy, gang violence, drugs, and gun violence
I love that Angie Thomas’s books all take place in the same neighborhood. This book focused on Maverick Carter, Starr’s father from The Hate U Give. (If you haven’t already read that book, seriously, what are you waiting for?) Thomas is a master at creating characters and distinctive voices. This book was hard to put down, the tension building masterfully. I loved the way this book examined toxic masculinity, particularly in the Black community, and teenaged fatherhood. I feel like there are a lot of books about teenaged mothers, but not as many that address what it’s like to be a teenaged father. This book also breaks the stereotype of the absent Black father and invites us to examine the systemic barriers and racism that can lead to a father being absent. I liked it a lot, though probably not quite as much as Thomas’s first two books; I am really fond of Starr and Bri.
4/5 new babies

Tom Doherty Associates

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
CW: abusive relationship, alcohol abuse, assault (physical and sexual), death, depression, drugs, prostitution, sexism, suicide (attempted), war
I read another book last year about an immortal and I was so disappointed that a character who had been alive for 400 years could be so boring. I did not have that problem with this book. I really liked Addie as a character, in fact I liked all the characters. It’s also always nice to see casual LGBTQ+ characters that are secure, even when that’s not the main focus of the story. I liked Schwab’s writing style and the way the story wove forward and back through time. The only thing I wasn’t really sold on was the ending. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Have you read it? What did you think? Also, one more thing. Schwab has a character who is getting her PhD in art history and she misidentifies Girl with a Pearl Earring as a Rembrandt. It’s a Vermeer. Editors??? You just missed that one???
3.5/5 forgotten faces

Feiwel and Friends. I had a whole photoshoot at the cemetery planned and then I remembered I read the e-book on Libby and I didn’t have a physical book to photograph.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas***
CW: transphobia, character abuse (off-page), deadnaming of a trans character, death (parental), gender dysphoria, homophobia, misgendering of a trans character
This book was hyped a lot on Book Tok and Bookstagram and I was so ready to love it…and then I didn’t. I really wanted to love it. I thought the concept and cultural context was super cool, but I was not into the writing style. The language was repetitive and cliched. I found the character of Julian kind of obnoxious, which the protagonist, Yadriel, finds endearing, but I didn’t find it that endearing. I thought the pacing was off; there’s a big mystery to solve and Yadriel is still going to school and coming home on time for curfew? I know Yadriel was pretty straitlaced, but he was willing to skip school to make out with Julian, so it seems like he should be willing to skip school to find the murderer. I feel like I figured out the mystery long before Yadriel did, like he didn’t even try that hard. NOW, that being said, somewhere there’s a Latinx trans kid (or many) who is reading this book and feeling seen and validated for the first time in their life and I am so happy for them.
3/5 human sacrifices

Infinite Country by Patrica Engel ***
CW: assault (sexual and physical), sexual harassment, racism, alcohol abuse
This was my February Book of the Month and I read it straight through during the big snowstorm in Colorado. This book was gorgeous. The writing was absolutely beautiful and achingly sad. It is a story of a family separated across borders between the US and Colombia and examines themes of family, illegal immigration, justice, and loss. The characters were so human and the story of illegal immigration so universal and yet still personal. This is a great book to read to grow your empathy for immigrants and understand why so many are trying to come to the United States, even when our country is arguably not much better than theirs in terms of safety and opportunity. While it can seem like many immigrants come to the US and “why don’t they just come here legally?” it’s so important to remember how difficult it is to come here legally and it’s important to remember the role the US government has played in destabilizing Latin American governments and backing military dictators.
4.5/5 correctional girls schools

The Desolations of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs
Peculiar Children book 6 of 6
The final book in the series! This whole series was pretty solid. I enjoyed reading every book. I like Riggs’s style and character development. It’s hard to have a lot of characters and make each of them distinct, but I think he does a good job. He also writes good dialogue, and I liked how the dialogue reflected well if the characters were older or from England or the US. Often it can seem that a writer is really forcing old fashioned or dialect dialogue from a place that isn’t where the author lives. Not to give away any spoilers, I was happy with the ending, though I do think it’s a bit tiresome that Miss Peregrine is always telling the children (some of whom are like a hundred years old) to stay home because saving the world is too dangerous. Like hasn’t she figured out yet that, 1) they won’t listen to her, and 2) she can’t save the world without them? I also think it’s a little annoying that Jacob is always sneaking off to save the world himself so as not to endanger his friends. They are all as willing to die to save the world as he is, and they’re more likely to save the world if they work together.
3.5/5 peculiar abilities

Chronicle Books

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger***
CW: racism, classism, death of a family member, grief
Surprisingly and entirely coincidentally, this book was a little like Cemetery Boys in that it’s about young people who can raise ghosts and and a mysterious murder. I did like the writing style more than Cemetery Boys though. I also loved reading about Lipan Apache characters and the way storytelling was woven into the narrative. I was intrigued by the world in Elatsoe, but I also feel like I could’ve done with a little more information/explanation about it. I also appreciated that Ellie, the protagonist, and Jay were working hard to solve the mystery (as I didn’t feel Yadriel in Cemetery Boys was), and I only solved a few pieces of the mystery before Ellie. My only critique is that Ellie was a 17-year-old character that read to me more like a 12-year-old. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I haven’t figured out why she came across that way to me. I also think it’s important to point out that a lot of YA has 17-year-old protagonists who act like adults, which is not how real 17-year-olds act, so maybe media has created a bias?
3.5/5 ghost dogs

Books read for the Community Cats Podcast

My book reviews CCP blog post can be found here.

Catland: The Soft Power of Cat Culture in Japan by Sarah Archer 
I first heard about this book on Episode 377 of the Community Cats Podcast. If you’ve listened to the episode (which I highly recommend), you’ll know all about Archer’s book Catland: The Soft Power of Cat Culture in Japan, which, since I first heard about, I’ve been super excited to read. Archer is a writer, curator, and design and material culture historian, and in Catland, she examines Japan’s fascination with cats through the ages. The book is filled with gorgeous color images of life with cats in Japan and it is truly a joy to look through. Archer explores Japan’s rich history of cats, including in woodblock prints from the Edo period and the proliferation of the maneki neko, or beckoning cat as a symbol of welcome and luck, the concept of Nekonomics, or the net economic benefit that cats or cat imagery bring to a community in Japan, and the arts and crafts industries that cater to cats and cat lovers. The book is full of charming locations like shrines full of resident cats, cat cafes, bathhouses and train stations with cat mascots, cat pop culture icons like Hello Kitty and Doraemon, and kawaii (cute) products and characters. Archer definitely convinced me that Japan should be the next location on my travel wishlist (as soon as we can travel again!).
Rating: 5/5 Hello Kitty keychains

$5 for a Cat Head by Linda Chitwood
Linda Chitwood, founder of the Homeless Animals Relief Project, shares stories from her 25 years of animal rescue. The Homeless Animals Relief Project provides spay/neuter surgery for low-income pet owners living in rural Mississippi and 100% of the proceeds from this book go back to supporting their mission. I enjoyed reading the stories of animal rescues, both successful and heartbreaking that Chitwood shares. She also includes hands-on tips and lessons learned for others involved in animal rescue. Though at times a bit preachy and heavy handed, the stories are engaging and there is a lot to be learned from Chitwood’s experiences.
Rating: 2.5/5 rescued road-side animals

The Lives and Deaths of Shelter Animals by Katja M. Guenther***
CW: descriptions of neglected, abused, and euthanized animals
Probably everyone who works in the animal welfare industry should read this book. Dr. Guenther is an Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of California, Riverside, and she brings an anthropologist’s eye to the inner workings of one of the large animal shelters in Los Angeles. She explores how race, gender, class, and species intersect in the complex hierarchy of the shelter system. I learned so much from Dr. Guenther’s book and her keen observations made me rethink my assumptions and biases. Though I am a cat person and Dr. Guenther tended to focus on dogs, I was fascinated by her analysis of pit bulls and the ways in which racial perceptions impact them and affect their chances of being euthanized rather than adopted. Dr. Guenther also takes on what she calls “the myth of the irresponsible owner,” where pet owners from lower income, non-white areas tend to be blamed for the various systemic barriers that result in their needing to surrender animals to the shelter. Overall, I felt Dr. Guenther’s book is an extremely important work that encourages us to be more compassionate and reminds us that the oppressive systems at work in society at large are also at work in the microcosm of the shelter. The book invites us to rethink the entire sheltering system to make it more equitable and humane.
5/5 misunderstood pitbulls

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Concrete Rose to understand more about Blackness in America, including Black fatherhood and Black masculinity. Read Cemetery Boys to learn more about the trans experience, particularly in the Latinx community. Read Infinite Country to learn more about undocumented immigrants and the problems in Colombia (and much of Latin America) that were caused by American interventionism. Read Elatsoe to learn more about the Lipan Apache and more about Indigenous experience in general. Read The Lives and Deaths of Shelter Animals to learn more about systemic racism and how race, gender, class, and species interact to create inequality and cruelty.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

February 2021 Books

New Books Read

Fable by Adrienne Young
Fable book 1 of 2
This book reminded me of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, but with pirates. How can you go wrong? I’ve been wanting to read this book because of the gorgeous cover (who says we don’t judge books by their covers?) and I finally got it from my hold at the library. Was not disappointed. I loved the adventure and the character development and the world building. I’m excited to read the next one.
4/5 rare gems

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: sexual harassment, attempted sexual assault, misogyny
Elizabeth Acevedo’s book The Fire on High was one of my favorite books of 2020, so I promptly put everything else she’s written on hold at the library (and of course they all came in at the same time like they always do). Clap When You Land was gorgeous and lyrical and I couldn’t put it down. I literally read straight through the Super Bowl to finish it and I didn’t even know what team had won even though I’d been sitting on the couch the whole time. It was sad and hopeful and the characters were lovely and complicated and complete. It’s a novel-in-verse, written entirely in poetry. I feel like that’s intimidating for some people who aren’t familiar with poetry, but do yourself a favor and just give it a try.
5/5 island dogs

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin***
CW: anti-Black racism, n-word
It’s Black History Month so this was my official Black History Month read, recommended to me by my African American lit professor at UMW. James Baldwin is just such a wonderful writer. This book was two essays about the experience of being Black in America. The first is addressed to Baldwin’s young nephew and is about race in American history and society. The second much longer essay discusses the intersections of race and religion. Definitely something white people should read. The book was written in 1963, but it’s still unfortunately, very relevant.
3/5 young preachers

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: misogyny and slut-shaming, body shaming, sexual harassment and unwanted touching, parental abuse and parental abandonment mentioned
Everything Elizabeth Acevedo has written is perfect. About a budding poet, The Poet X is also a novel-in-verse and it’s so gorgeous. I’m so jealous of how good a poet Acevedo is. As a writer, I loved that this book was about a young writer finding her voice. I also loved how her English teacher encourages her to come out of her shell; teachers are so important. Also I cried. I loved it so much.
5/5 young poets

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots***
Hopefully the first book in a series
So funny! This book is about a temp worker who does data analysis for supervillains. After an accident with a superhero that leaves her injured, the main character Anna, goes to work for the most villainous of the supervillains, determined to bring the superheroes down. I loved the moral grayness of all the characters. Often in superhero stories the heroes are good and the villains are bad and there’s never any doubt about that, but in Hench all the characters are so painfully human and they’re all trying to do what they think is right. The book also examines the collateral damage wrought by heroes, something I think about a lot watching superhero movies. The dialogue was snappy, Anna was smart and funny, the characters were interesting, and I love seeing casual queerness in books where that’s not the central focus.
4/5 superheroes with terrible names

The Conference of the Birds by Ransom Riggs
Peculiar Children book 5 of 6
I had to read the Wikipedia pages for each of the previous books because–let’s be real–the first book in this series came out 10 years ago. I read the first one right when it came out and really enjoyed it, then the other books came out pretty slowly every few years and I was always forgetting where we’d left off in the previous book. But once I’d refreshed myself on what was going on, I really enjoyed this installment of the series. My only complaint is that (SPOILERS AHEAD) I’m sad Jacob and Emma aren’t together anymore. I realize Emma wasn’t over Abe and maybe it was always a little weird that Emma had dated both this dude and his grandfather, but I was totally invested in it. I also feel like Noor is cool but Jacob has known her for like 30 seconds and they’re a thing now? Maybe considering that the world is potentially ending, now isn’t a great time for romance in general.
3.5/5 creepy photographs

Books I bought in February

I was sad in February so I bought a lot of books, most of which I haven’t read and most likely won’t end up reading soon.

Execute the Office by Colin Rafferty
This is a book of essays about US presidents written by one of my professors from UMW!

The Wicked Step-Brother and Other Tales by Warren Rochelle
This a book of queer fairytale retellings by another of my professors (and also my advisor) at UMW!

The Toll by Neal Shusterman
I love this series and I actually have already read this book, but I decided I needed to buy it to complete my set.

The Conference of the Birds and The Desolation of Devil’s Acre by Ransom Riggs
I actually did read The Conference of the Birds the same month I purchased it, which is a surprise. Hopefully I’ll read The Desolation of Devil’s Acre soon. I feel like I have to, since my complaint about the other books in the series is that I read them too far apart.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
I joined a book of the month club this month, because obviously I don’t have enough to read…

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Clap When You Land to explore immigration and family and the realities for women in the Dominican Republic. For more on sex workers in Sosúa, DR, read What’s Love Got To Do With It? by Denise Brennan, an anthropological text on the relationship between sex workers and tourists. Read The Fire Next Time to learn more about the Black experience in American during the last 50 years, and to read more from a giant in African American literature. Read The Poet X for discussion of immigrant experience as well as body shaming and the balancing of traditional culture and progress. Read Hench for well-adjusted queer characters in a super hero story.
Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.