May 2022 Books

New Books Read

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
**Book Hangover Alert
I loved this book. It was my March BOTM pick and I loved the mystery of it and the magic of maps. Shepherd really managed to instill a sense of wonder in the art of looking at and learning from maps. I feel like I appreciate maps in a whole new way now. I also liked the development of Nell’s character and the growth of her found family throughout the story.
4.5/5 gas station maps

Barnes & Noble Classics

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
There are spoilers in this review. I feel like they aren’t really spoilers because this book has been out for over 150 years, but just in case you want to read it (which I actually don’t recommend) don’t read the spoilers. I’m not sure why I finished reading this book. It’s definitely way too long. And only the parts about Anna Karenina are interesting. I did not care about Levin and how much he liked farming and that he found God in the end (spoiler alert, I guess?). Also, if I had a nickel for every time the death of a horse early in a Victorian novel foreshadowed the death of the leading lady, I’d have two nickels, which isn’t a lot but it’s weird it happened twice (another spoiler, I guess). All in all, you should just watch the Kiera Knightly movie instead, even though Vronsky has terrible hair and a bad mustache.
2.5/5 unfaithful partners

Audible

Diary of a Hounslow Girl by Ambreen Razia***
This was an adaptation of a play arranged for Audible. It addressed some important themes for young women, especially young women of color from underprivileged backgrounds. It’s a story of a young woman trying to balance the expectations of her family and cultural roots with finding her own freedom growing up in the UK.
3/5 pretty hijab pins

Pushkin Press

I Live a Life Like Yours by Jan Grue***
Grue spoke at a panel on disability and creativity at the Bay Area Book Festival which I went to a few weekends ago. I really liked the panel and thought Grue had a lot of interesting things to say, so I went and read his memoir. I like his writing style and how scholarly it was. It wasn’t simply a catalogue of his own experiences, but a story very much in conversation with disability theorists.
3.5/5 wheelchairs

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
CW: racism, unnecessary killing of fish and sharks
This was an old book I think my dad was trying to get rid of but I stole it. It’s a fun adventure story. It is a very “boys will be boys” thing to decide to float across the Pacific in a wooden raft just because no one would publish your theory about how the South Pacific islands were populated. It’s also a very white man thing to say “no, of course there’s no way primitive people from Peru could have sailed all the way to the South Pacific in wooden rafts” even though both Peruvians and Polynesians had stories about people who left before the Inca rose to power and sailed west (Peru’s story), and ancestors who arrived from the east and peopled the islands (Polynesia’s story). But I digress. I enjoyed reading it, even though I had a hard time getting over the author’s torment of sharks for no apparent reason (boredom?) and the fact that they just chucked all their trash into the ocean as they went. I know they’re certainly not the first or the only people to litter in the ocean, but it still annoyed me. It also annoyed me that Heyerdahl felt like he had to mention the skin color of every person they encountered who wasn’t white. It is certainly a product of the 1950s. I also can’t get over that they actually developed film on the raft from their film cameras.
3/5 balsa rafts

Little, Brown

Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson
CW: domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking
This was a solidly average book. It was enjoyable but not special. I liked learning about the music business and I liked how it highlighted the misogyny in the industry, especially in country music. I liked the full cast audio recording, especially as Dolly Parton reads one of the characters. I did feel like there were some story threads that were dropped and never got resolved, and I would have appreciated being able to solve at least parts of the mystery on my own as a reader before we were just told at the end. I liked that Annie Lee was trying to be a strong independent woman, but it got annoying that she would never ask for help and needed rescuing in the end.
3/5 guitars

I felt like I should have gone to Muir Woods to take a picture of this book but this tree by my apartment had to do.

The Overstory by Richard Powers***
**Book Hangover Alert
I’m still not really sure I’ve processed this book. It was really good. But I wouldn’t necessarily say it was enjoyable to read. It’s about trees. About forests and about ecosystems and about sentience that humans have no right to destroy. It will probably change the way you think about trees and it will probably make you very sad about deforestation, like it made me. But there is a grain of hope at the end? That I might not ever live to see?
4/5 redwoods

Tom Doherty Associates

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders***
CW: genocide, fantasy racism, transphobia (mentioned)
This was exactly what I hoped it would be: a queer escapist space fantasy. I loved the focus on strong friendships and bodily autonomy and consent. I loved that every character shared their pronoun in their introduction and I loved that all the characters asked for permission before they touched each other. It was a fun read and I’m excited to read the rest of the series. My only real criticism is that I wish fewer of the aliens had died and that more aliens had gotten to be major characters, apart from the Earthlings.
3.5/5 universal translators

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston***
CW: homophobia, religious trauma
This one was fun. I picked it up at the Bay Area Book Festival after I heard McQuiston speak on a panel, and I also got it signed! I don’t think I liked it quite as much as McQuiston’s first two books, but it was still a fun read. I liked the exploration of queerness in the context of a small southern town and a religious school.
4/5 pink notes

Simon and Schuster

The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande***
CW: alcoholism, PTSD, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect
A memoir of a young immigrant from Mexico trying to make her way in the United States. This isn’t an easy story to read. Grande has faced a lot of really difficult struggles. But in her story we can learn more about immigrant experiences and the realities of the ever elusive American dream.
3.5/5 first generation college graduates

Scout’s Honor by Lily Anderson
CW: PTSD, death
This book was fun! It was exactly the monster-killing, sisterhood vibes I was hoping for. I really appreciated that the main character was struggling with trying to decide whether to be a part of a toxic organization and try to change it from within, or to quit and get out of that space. I relate to that struggle. There were just a couple things I didn’t like as much. I do resent a little bit all the insinuations that Girl Scouts just sell cookies. I also thought it was gross that the author kept pointing out whenever Kelsey slurped spit off her braces. While this is a believable character trait, it’s gross and I don’t want to read about it. There were a couple of sections of the book inexplicably in verse and I feel like it was necessary or really added anything, but overall I enjoyed it.
3.5/5 mulligrubs

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong***
**Book Hangover Alert
Who gave Ocean Vuong permission to write like that? This is his third book, second poetry collection, and I think it’s his strongest. He’s always been amazing but he’s just getting better. Favorites include “Beautiful Short Loser,” “Dear Sara,” “The Last Prom Queen in Antarctica,” and “Woodworking at the End of the World.”
4/5 ants on the page

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: see Author’s Note at the beginning of the book
I adored this book. I bought it after hearing Ferguson speak at the Bay Area Book Festival and the only regret I have is that I didn’t get it signed by her. We love that Native and asexual representation so much. This book was just so well done, I don’t even know what to say. I loved the characters; I loved the struggle of balancing your identity with what other people want you to be; I loved the sense of community and the focus on the land. Also I just really want to eat all the ice cream described in the book.
5/5 reds

**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 Diary of a Hounslow Girl to learn about balancing cultural and familial expectations with finding freedom and identity. Read I Live a Life Like Yours to learn more about disability experience through a non-American lens. Read The Overstory to grow your empathy for trees, the earth, and the environment. Read Victories Greater than Death for a diverse sci-fi story. Read I Kissed Shara Wheeler for an exploration of queerness in the context of a small, southern, religious town. Read The Distance Between Us to learn about the immigrant experience. Read Time Is a Mother to learn more about AAPI and LGBTQ+ experience. Read The Summer of Bitter and Sweet to learn about Native and asexual experience.

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 2022 Books

I didn’t read much this month because I was trying to finish writing my novel.

Books Reread

Audible

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
You know I love a full cast audiobook. And I love both Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It was really nice to revisit this book which I haven’t read since before the TV adaptation came out. It’s still funny. I still love Crowley and Aziraphale. There are a few jokes that haven’t aged like fine wine, (looking at you Madam Tracey’s spirit guide) but overall it’s still a really good book.
4/5 nice and accurate prophesies

New Books

Redhook Books

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: misogyny, racism
I heard about this one on BookTok and it did not disappoint. I loved Harrow’s prose and the connection of witches to the women’s suffrage and workers’ rights movements–that’s something I haven’t seen done before. I also loved the LGBTQ+ representation; it’s not every day we get another asexual character. I thought the magic system was really cool. I liked the bittersweet ending.
4.5/5 words and ways

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende
CW: rape, genocide, gore, colonialism
I love way Allende writes. This novel had such a strong voice, and I liked the focus on a strong historical woman often forgotten. I was left a little uneasy that the protagonists are Spanish conquistadors. I do think Allende does a good job of not glorifying them or the colonization of South America, and she doesn’t flinch from describing the atrocities committed by the Spanish. But I guess I wanted the protagonists to come to a point where they condemned imperialism, even though I know that’s probably not historically accurate.
3/5 water divining rods

Penguin Random House

True Biz by Sara Nović***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: ableism, oralism, mention of forced sterilization, institutionalization
Amazing. I loved this. It was my sister’s Book of the Month pick for April, and immediately after she finished it, I read it. I’ve never read a book where the characters used primarily sign language, so that was super cool. I loved the emphasis on Deaf culture, history, and issues facing the d/Deaf community. I also appreciated getting to see a coming of age story where Deaf teenagers get to do teenager things; often there’s a misconception that disabled people are asexual and don’t get out much and don’t enjoy the same things we all do. I learned so much from this book and highly recommend it to everyone.
5/5 hand signs

Join the BOTM cult.

**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 Once and Future Witches for a feminist fairytale with LGBTQ+ themes. Read True Biz to learn more about Deaf culture, ASL, and ableism.

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 2022 Books

Books Reread

Wildwood Dancing by Juliette Marillier
Book Hangover Alert**
Wildwood book 1 of 2
I just got the companion book to this one, and I wanted to reread it before I read the companion. I forgot how much I like this book. It should probably be on my list of favorite books. It is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” It’s set in Transylvania, and it’s just superb. Jena, the main character, is one of my favorite strong heroines. I love the feminism and the sisterhood in this book as well. Highly recommend.
5/5 enchanted frogs

New Books Read

Random House Publishing Group

The Maid by Nita Prose
CW: ableism, manipulation, drug use
We’re going to be talking about disability studies a lot in this blog. The Maid is told from the perspective of Molly, a maid in an upscale hotel. To me, she reads as autistic and maybe having OCD as well. Neither of these diagnoses are named by the author, who just calls Molly “socially awkward,” which I felt was weird? Did she feel that if she named them, people would criticize her for the representation? But by not naming them, I felt it made these identities seem taboo. I read a few reviews trying to get an idea of whether people though Molly’s characterization was an accurate representation of neurodivergence. The reviews were very mixed. As far as I could tell, Prose does not identify herself as neurodivergent. I do not identify that way either, so you may take my review with a grain of salt. I felt that even though the characterization relied on many stereotypes of autism and OCD, they weren’t negative stereotypes, and Molly was still a round, relatable, sympathetic character. Though she is at times manipulated by those around her, the reader doesn’t doubt her intelligence or her empathy, and her disability actually helps her do her job and makes her who she is. Overall it was a fun locked-door mystery.
3.5/5 cleaning carts

Anchor Books

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: the holocaust, anti-semitism
I don’t know if this was a Book Hangover, or I just felt sad after finishing it. Last month I read The Betrayal of Anne Frank, and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t actually ever read Anne Frank’s diary, despite having visited her museum in Amsterdam and reading the aforementioned book. So I finally did it. What struck me most about Anne Frank’s diary is how normal she seemed. She was just a normal 15-year-old girl, with normal 15-year-old thoughts and feelings living her life during a momentous moment in history. But when I think about, we’re living though a momentous moment in history right now and, like Anne, somehow we’ve all figured out how to carry on as if this were normal. The other thing that struck me about the book was just the terribly sad dramatic irony. Because the reader knows what happened to Anne. In her final entries, Anne could see the end of the war was coming. She had so much hope for her future, was planning her return to school, and she was betrayed and died so close to the end of the war.
3.5/5 food ration coupons

Cazadora by Romina Garber***
Book Hangover Alert**
Wolves of the World book 2
CW: misogyny, homophobia
I told you all last month how much I loved Lobizona, and I’m still really enjoying this series. I loved getting to see more of the Septimus world in this book and I loved getting to meet some new characters. I like that it kept me on my toes and I didn’t know what was going to happen. The ending was a surprise for me and I’m super excited to for the next one to come out! I hope Manu and her friends can continue to speak their truth.
4/5 septibol matches

Audible

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This is only the second Austen novel I’ve read. It’s not as good as Pride and Prejudice but I did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the narrator of the audiobook. I liked that I could tell which characters I was supposed to like, not only by what they said, but by the various annoying voices the narrator gave them, while the likable characters had likable voices. I haven’t read many Gothic novels, but I did enjoy the way Austen pokes fun at Gothic tropes and subverts Gothic conventions.
3.5/5 mysterious trunks

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
CW: ableism, scientific animal testing, medical testing without consent
I almost didn’t put this one on here, because it’s just a short story and not a novel (there is a novel but I only read the short story version), but The Metamorphosis is pretty short too. And this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want. My dad recommended this short story to me. It is a really interesting piece of science fiction. I’ve been thinking about it a lot from a disability standpoint and it leaves me…uneasy? It is certainly an interesting concept and I think it brings up a lot of good questions about humanity. I felt maybe the author’s intention was to highlight a theme of human dignity and universal worthiness, but I really just felt Charlie was an object of pity. His disability is separated from him and made into the villain, which goes against the identity model of disability studies which posits that the disability cannot be separated from the identity of the person. But I was also interested in the fact that Charlie at the height of his intelligence in the middle of the story was just as isolated as Charlie with his disability, perhaps proving that a cure for mental disability isn’t a good idea. I also get stuck on consent; Charlie can’t consent to this operation and he doesn’t have anyone advocating for his wellbeing separate from his utility as a scientific test subject. Even though Charlie is at first grateful for the operation, if he had been able to give informed consent, I would feel less weird about it. I’m not going to rate this one because I feel too conflicted.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: abandonment, rape, abortion, racism, alcohol and drug addiction, AIDS
I got this as a gift for recruiting my sister into the cult of Book of the Month. It was stellar. Last month I read The Bad Muslim Discount, and I enjoyed that this book and that book took place at about the same time in American history. It was interesting to compare the Muslim experience to the Puerto Rican experience over the same time period. I loved Olga and all her family dynamics. I love the exploration of how doing something for a cause greater than yourself can also come with personal sacrifices. At what point is it worth it? I also highly recommend reading the poem that inspires the name of the book.
5/5 very fine linen napkins

(If you, too, would like to be recruited into the cult of Book of the Month, use this link.)

Bloomsbury USA

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron***
Book Hangover Alert**
I really enjoyed Cinderella is Dead which I read last year, so I was excited to read This Poison Heart. Honestly, I think it was even better than Cinderella is Dead. I loved the mystery of the creepy house left to you in a will. I loved the secret magical community. I loved all the plants. I loved Black and LGBTQ+ characters in a fantasy, and it wasn’t a big deal. I’m already ready for the next book. Also, isn’t the cover just gorgeous?
4.5/5 carnivorous plants

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The Last Pow-Wow by That Native Thomas and Steven Paul Judd***
CW: anti-Native racism, blood quantum, genocide, alcohol and drug addiction
This was a free audiobook on Audible and I’ve had some mixed results with the free Audible books (see the November 2020 book blog) but this one was really good. It was told in almost short stories that all intertwined and met together at the end at The Pow-Wow of All Pow-Wows. That Native Thomas reads the book, which I really enjoyed. His style reminded me a lot of other Native storytellers I’ve heard. I liked how the book mixed in history along with issues relevant to Natives today and also fantastical elements. I did feel the style was a little heavy on telling rather than showing (something we talk a lot about in creative writing), but I also felt that style was very much in keeping with more traditional Native storytelling, and it didn’t make me not like the book.
3.5/5 fancy dancers

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
There is something so oddly relatable about Gregor Samsa waking up one morning as a gigantic beetle and still feeling like he should go to work. I don’t know if Kafka intended this to be a disability narrative, but I do think that author intention doesn’t matter as much as reader interpretation. Maybe I’ve just been thinking a lot about disability this month, but Gregor’s transformation strikes me a little like a narrative of someone who becomes disabled. He is isolated from his family. At first they try to help him and support him, but then they begin to feel he is a burden. They stop being able to communicate with him, thinking that he can’t understand them anymore. Eventually they decide they can’t take care of him anymore and Gregor isn’t really inside the beetle anyway. I hope this isn’t most people’s experience of becoming disabled, but I do think it shows how family and friends can drift away from you when something happens to change the way you have to live your life.
3/5 beetles

Sourcebooks Inc

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: homophobia, microagressions
I really enjoyed this. I was chasing the high of Red, White & Royal Blue and, while I don’t think I liked this one quite as much, it was still very fun. A+ banter and I loved the friendships portrayed as well. Both main characters had some inferiority complex problems that were a bit annoying but it was so funny I forgave them. It was also very charmingly British.
4/5 dung-beetles

Collins Crime Club

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A Hercule Poirot mystery
CW: colonialism, ethnocentrism, racism (directed at the natives of Egypt)
So good. I haven’t read many of Christie’s novels but I have enjoyed them every time. I do think I should read more of them. I won’t say too much about Death on the Nile since I don’t want to spoil it, but I love how she creates her mysteries. There’s always some details I can guess or figure out on my own, but I can never predict the full picture, which is so exciting.
4/5 Egyptian ruins

Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier
Book Hangover Alert**
Wildwood book 2 of 2
This is the sequel to Wildwood Dancing above. I loved it. It followed Paula, one of Jena’s younger sisters. It’s set in Istanbul and it was full of magic and mystery. Also there were pirates. Fabulous. It’s probably not quite as good as Wildwood Dancing but I loved that it allowed me to live in that world a little longer. The only thing I’m mad about (and I am IRATE) is that Marillier left the ending just a little open for a third book about Stela, the youngest sister, and didn’t wrap up all of Tati’s loose ends, also leaving those for a third book. AND THEN her stupid American publisher asked her to write a different series and not finish this one. The audacity. This book came out in 2008, so I guess I’m not that hopeful that she’ll write a third book, but I want that more than anything.
4/5 dashing pirates

Orion

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty
CW: death, dead bodies
Everybody has questions about death. Let a mortician answer them for you. This book is a collection of common death questions from children. It’s interesting, funny, and informative. Even though they weren’t necessarily the questions I would have asked, I still learned a lot.
(The answer, by the way, is probably yes, if your cat or dog is starving several days after you die.)
3.5/5 dead bodies in the plane seat next to you

HarperCollins

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy***
Book Hangover Alert**
Dumplin’ book 3 of 3
CW: homophobia, fatphobia
If you loved the Dumplin‘ movie (and if you didn’t you’re probably a monster), then you should absolutely read the book and then read the next two books in the series. I loved this story of a baby drag queen in a small town. I loved Waylon’s relationships with his parents, grandmother, and sister. I loved that we got to visit characters we fell in love with in Dumplin‘ and Puddin‘. It was feel good. It was queer. I read it in like 3 sittings.
4/5 rainbow cummerbunds

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
Book Hangover Alert**
Elements of Cadence book 1
I loved this. Definitely the best fantasy book I’ve gotten from BOTM (though I did really like Piranesi). I loved the world Ross created on the island of Cadence. I loved the Scottish folklore. I loved the magic and the delicate relationships between characters. I loved the mystery, and I was surprised by the plot twist. The ending was bittersweet and left me very ready for the next book.
4.5/5 enchanted plaids

Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
CW: bigotry
I have some students reading this play for class, so I read it too to be able to help them with their essays. It really is a play about 12 angry white men in a room. But it’s pretty good. It shows how biases can prevent people from being objective, which is an important lesson. I also love how the characters revise and change their opinions as they discuss the case (I mean it would be a boring play if they didn’t), but I love that it shows people changing their minds when presented with new information–something it seems many people resist doing.
3/5 switchblades

Wide Awake by David Levithan***
CW: anti-semitism, racism, homophobia
I read a lot of gay books this month too. Loving that energy. This book was written in 2006, so before Trump and accusations of stealing the election, but it’s so oddly prescient. It’s set “in the near future” and it tells the story of the election of the first gay Jewish president. After he is elected and Duncan, the protagonist, and his friends are hopeful that love has won and the country is finally moving forward, the new president’s opponent tries to say that the election was fraudulent, despite losing both the popular vote and the electoral college. It reminded me so forcefully of both the election in 2016 and in 2020. I loved that it was a story about hope and about standing up for what you believe in. I also loved the portrayal of Duncan’s Christian friends; it was a nice reminder that some Christians think the most important idea in the Bible is love.
3.5/5 bad Christian pop songs

Simon and Schuster

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds***
CW: gun violence, death, drugs, gang violence
This is a beautiful novel-in-verse. I read it really quickly but it was really good. It takes place in the 60 seconds a boy is in an elevator, on his way to kill the man who killed his brother. It explores grief, cyclical trauma, Black masculinity, and how society has failed poorer communities. It’s a really powerful novel, beautifully written, and very relevant. My students are going to read it in their class and I expect a lot of them will relate to it.
4/5 elevator ghosts

Princess in Waiting
Princess Diaries book 4 of 11
I must admit these are starting to wear on me a bit. I sort of wish the books in the series took place farther apart from each other, so we could see a bit more character development. I still think Micheal is too old for Mia and Lilly could be a better friend. They’re still funny and charming, but they do all sort of seem the same.
2.5/5 moon rocks

**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 Diary of a Young Girl to learn more about the Holocaust. Read Cazadora for an Argentine-inspired, feminist fantasy. Read Olga Dies Dreaming to learn more about Puerto Rican history and the Puerto Rican experience. Read This Poison Heart for a fantasy that includes many characters of color and LGBTQ+ characters. Read The Last Pow-Wow to learn more about Native history, culture, and current issues. Read Boyfriend Material for a lovely gay romance. Read Pumpkin for a queer coming of age in a small town. Read Wide Awake for a hopeful political story of love and acceptance. Read Long Way Down to learn about Black masculinity and cycle of poverty that leads to gangs and violence.

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 2022 Books

New Books Read

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis
CW: ableism, racism, misogyny
I actually finished this on January 31st but I had already posted the January book blog. I loved almost everything about this book. I loved the parallel story lines and the art history elements and the examination and contrast of women in 1919 and 1966 who were all unique trailblazers in their own way. What I didn’t love about this book is a spoiler so read on at your own risk.

Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD

The resolution to the mystery was that Miss Winnie is faking her deafness. I talked about this a bit last month as well, but the stereotype that disabled people are faking their disability to get benefits is so harmful. I was just really disappointed by that solution.

3.5/5 sculptures

Audible Original

The Sandman Act II Radio Drama by Neil Gaiman
CW: (from Audible) “This content is not for kids. It is for mature audiences only. Just like the original graphic novels, this audio adaptation contains explicit language and graphic violence, as well as strong sexual content and themes. Discretion is advised.”
I’ve mentioned on this blog before that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I’ve read all his novels and short story collections, so I’ve been slowly trying to read and listen to the Sandman comics as well. Honestly, I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea. I’ve been trying to like it, but it’s a little too gory and violent for me. There are always a few stories in each volume that I like, but overall I don’t love it. This radio drama covers about Volumes 4-6 (doesn’t cover quite all of 6) of the comics. It’s really well performed and has a lot of big name actors. Kat Dennings as Death is one of my favorites for sure.
3/5 weird families

Lobizona by Romina Garber***
Book Hangover Alert**
Wolves of No World book 1
CW: misogyny, immigration detention, ICE
I loved this so much. It made me super nostalgic for Argentina, reading it felt like coming home (which is also how reading Harry Potter makes me feel). It does have a magic school and witches and magic, but it also has things that would make HP better if it did have them, for example, diversity. Our protagonist is an undocumented Argentine immigrant trying learning how to balance the different parts of her identity. I just can’t even explain how much I loved it. I need the next book. Someone give it to me.
5/5 brujas

Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
Book Hangover Alert**
The main character in Lobizona is reading Cien Años de Soledad and she gushes about how much she loves it. This made me want to read it. I don’t have a copy of it but I do have a copy of Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Honestly, I was surprised. I didn’t expect to like it and I really did. It was hard to put down and I’m still trying to figure out how Márquez did it. I didn’t feel like I cared or felt bad for Santiago Nasar who dies at the beginning (whose death was foretold), but I couldn’t stop reading. I wanted to read this in Spanish but my reading level isn’t quite that high in Spanish. I liked his style a lot. The most interesting part of this book for me was the sort of bystander effect that pervades the whole community. There’s only one person who actually tries to stop the murder, but as a woman she doesn’t really have any power to stop it. I’m also thinking a lot about the woman whose accusation kills Nasar and how women have to go to extreme lengths to escape unwanted marriages and shame and all the double standards related to the sexual lives of women verses men.
4/5 pig slaughter knives

Hodder & Stoughton

The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis***
Book Hangover Alert**
The First Sister Trilogy book 2 of 3
CW: body dysphoria, sexual slavery, fantasy racism, medical experimentation
I really liked this one, maybe even a little more than the first one. The first one had to do a lot of world building so we knew what was going on, and this time, we just got to enjoy the plot and characters. Again I love the diversity of the characters; we have a few nonbinary characters, an asexual character, some wlw relationships, disabled characters. One thing I love about these books is the portrayal of the resistance fighters against the oppressive governments. Often in novels resistance fighters are unambiguously good guys and I really like how Lewis shows the hard decisions and the gray areas and the ease with which those fighting oppression slip to the level of their oppressors.
4.5/5 bioweapons

Doubleday

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
CW: femicide, serial murder
I really like Ray Bradbury, but this one wasn’t my favorite. It’s billed as a novel but it’s really more like a collection of short stories or vignettes all set in the same town over one summer. Some of them I liked a lot, but it wasn’t super novel-y in my opinion. I don’t think it was as good as Something Wicked This Way Comes or Fahrenheit 451. I really like Bradbury’s writing style and the way he uses descriptive language. My usual complaint for his books is the lack of distinctive female characters that aren’t like “mother” or “wife” tropes. I liked in this book that there actually was a memorable female character in Lavinia. There were a few other female characters, but she was the most interesting.
3/5 happiness machines

HarperCollins

The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: the Holocaust, anti-semitism, persecution of LGBTQ+, Sinti and Roma, and disabled individuals
In the wake of all the book banning, particularly of Maus, I thought this was an appropriate read (since I’ve already read Maus), and my best friend highly recommended it. This book was utterly fascinating. I learned so much. I loved the compassionate way the cold case team explored the mystery and how they grappled with how anyone could betray another to the Nazis. It’s so important for us to study history and see the effect that extraordinary circumstances have on ordinary people so that we can understand how so many ostensibly good people went along with the Nazis.
4/5 secret bookcase-doors

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
CW: sexism, murder, suicide
This book is lauded as one of–if not the–best science fiction book of all time. I didn’t love it. It was a bit dry. It was about politics and economics which people seem to think is groundbreaking in a science fiction book…but I guess I don’t usually choose to read science fiction because I want to read about politics and economics? And my tired old complaint: there is only one female character and she’s a nasty, nagging wife. Just felt pretty “eh” about it.
3/5 future plans

Faber and Faber

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
CW: classism, discrimination
I guess the theme this month is science fiction. I really liked this book. I thought it was really unique. It’s written from the perspective of an AF (Artificial Friend) and the voice and the perspective are really interesting. I liked the way this future world was revealed to us slowly through Klara’s keen observation. I also enjoyed thinking about all the different ethical considerations when dealing with artificial intelligence and gene editing. What rights should androids have?
3.5/5 artificial friends

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: classism, discrimination, poverty
This was BOTM’s Book of the Year last year and it deserved it. It was great. I cried. I laughed. I cheered. I raged. I reveled in the story of two strong, gritty women and the ways they each come into their own. I also learned so much about the Great Depression, which was apparently much worse than I ever knew. I labeled this as a Book for a Social Consciousness. Usually books with that designation will be by authors of color, feature characters of color or different LGBTQ+ identities. This one is by a white woman and about descendants of Italian immigrants who were trying to survive during the Great Depression in Texas and California. It touches on themes of classism, worker’s rights, immigration, and how easy it is to “other” outsiders when times are tough. Somehow, even though it’s about the Great Depression, it’s still super relevant to today.
5/5 Hoovervilles

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
CW: fatphobia, ableism, anti-Native stereotypes
Bill Bryson is one of my favorite travel writers. He’s so funny and has such amusing observations even when he travels to a place, stays one night in a hotel, eats in one restaurant, and complains about how expensive all the attractions in the area are. This is one of his older books, and some of the humor does rely on negative stereotypes about disabled people, fat people, and Native people, which is, of course, not ideal. But overall, it was fun to go with Bryson on his long road trip across small town America.
3/5 perfect small towns

Don’t you hate it when libraries put stickers over the title???

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: domestic violence, sexual coercion, war, anti-Muslim racism, illegal immigration
I don’t really know what I was expecting from this book but it surprised me every step of the way. I loved the intimate portrayal of different experiences of Muslim immigrants living in the US through events like 9/11 and the Trump presidency . I liked the messy characters and their messy lives and Anvar’s messy family (but not Safwa’s messy family). Very contemplative and nuanced and kind.
4.5/5 bubblegum ice creams

**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 Lobizona for a more diverse fantasy experience that grapples with trying to change entrenched cultural norms. Read The Second Rebel to see more diversity in science fiction. Read The Betrayal of Anne Frank to learn more about the Holocaust and the realities for Jews, other marginalized identities, and those who tried to help. Read The Four Winds to learn why Amazon’s company town idea is such a bad one that we really don’t need to repeat. Read The Bad Muslim Discount to learn about different Muslim perspectives.

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.

January 2022 Books

Books Reread

George Allen & Unwin

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
I just recently rewatched the Hobbit movies and realized I didn’t really remember what was in the book and what was added for the movie. It turns out that the movies are actually very accurate, only adding a smattering of orcs and extra action sequences, and one minor love subplot. This is definitely the most accessible Tolkein book if you’re trying to get into Lord of the Rings. Definitely one of my favorite fantasy novels.
4/5 dwarves

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Book Hangover Alert**
This is one of my favorite books. It was on my list of favorite stand alone novels, which I suppose isn’t entirely accurate as it does have a companion novel. But anyway, I stand by my review that it’s the perfect princess book. The girls of Mount Eskel are chosen to attend the Princess Academy and at the end of their studies, the prince of Danland will choose his bride from among them. I love this feminist fairytale that appears to be about girls competing for the hand of a prince, but is really about girls learning to love and support one another and their community. I love to see how Miri grows throughout the novel. I also love the full cast audiobook recording.
5/5 linder hawks

New Books Read

The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All by Josh Ritter
I adored the voice of this novel; it’s so distinct and evocative. The novel is an American tall tale about lumberjacks in the 1920s and 30s. I haven’t enjoyed reading about an annoyed old man this much since A Man Called Ove. Ritter brings such lyricism to his writing–as well he should since he’s also a singer-songwriter. And the book comes with a playlist so that’s always nice.
4/5 heirloom axes

HarperCollins

Princess in Love by Meg Cabot
Princess Diaries book 3 of 11
I know I keep saying this, but I still love Cabot’s super readable and relatable voice. She really keeps the pages turning and readers rooting for Princess Mia. I know freshman girls don’t see dating a senior boy as weird, but now that I’m an adult and past those days, I do feel like Mia’s and Micheal’s relationship is a little weird. Eighteen and fifteen really are pretty different.
3.5/5 secret love notes

Bradbury & Evans

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Dickens was paid by the word and it shows. Did this book need to be over 800 pages? Probably not, but I still enjoyed it enough to read the whole thing. If you follow the blog, you know Dickens is one of my favorite Classics authors. I love how he’s constantly critiquing his society. I felt this novel was kinder and more nuanced in its approach to the disabled characters than, for example, A Christmas Carol, which holds up Tiny Tim solely as an object of pity and purity. The characters of Miss. Mowcher and Mr. Dick are much more thoughtfully realized and David revises his first opinion of both of them when he gets to know them and begins to understand the hardships they face moving through the world with their respective disabilities. I listened to the audio book and I thought Richard Armitage gave a great performance. One thing I didn’t love was Dora. She was so annoying and spoiled and childish, and I couldn’t believe how long it took David to realize Agnes was clearly the girl he should marry.
3.5/5 workhouses

I didn’t realize this book has eyes until I was outside photographing it.

Gilded by Marissa Meyer
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: death, gore, death of children
I do love a fairytale retelling. And I love a book by Marissa Meyer. Meyer’s latest novel is a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin and I really enjoyed it’s dark glimmer. Everything about the world was lush and fantastical, but there was an edge of darkness and danger underneath all of it. I like the way the story unfolded with Serilda telling her made-up tales and discovering more about the mysterious Erlking and her magical friend who can spin straw into gold. One of my favorite novels is Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik and as they’re both Rumpelstiltskin retellings, it’s hard not to compare the two. I definitely enjoyed Gilded, but I think I liked Spinning Silver just a little bit more.
3.5/5 spinning wheels

Orion

A Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: war, refugees, trauma
Stunning. Gorgeous. Heartbreaking. Haunting. Hopeful. Poignant. Joukhadar’s book The Thirty Names of Night was one of the best books I read last year, and even though it’s only January, I expect this book will be on my best books list for this year. A story of Syrian refugees told parallel to a historical fairytale. I just loved it. I love Joukhadar’s beautiful writing style.
5/5 eagle eyes

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal***
The Sands of Arawiya Duology book 1 of 2
CW: torture, child abuse, trauma, death of family members, misogyny, mind control, slavery, child trafficking
Sometimes I think Booktok overhypes books. I was led to believe this would be the best fantasy book I would have read in a while, but it was not. Whenever I disagree with Booktok I somehow always feel like something is wrong with me. Did I miss something about the book that, had I gotten it, would have made it amazing? I liked the world–it was cool to see a world inspired by the Middle East and North Africa–and the concept (although we have seen the concept before of “protagonist must bring back magic to the world”–see Children of Blood and Bone and the first several Throne of Glass books), but I thought the prose was a bit clunky and confusing in places. I often had to reread sections to figure out what was going on and there were a lot of pronoun/antecedent problems. I thought the characters were a bit underdeveloped as well, and I didn’t always understand each character’s motivation. I have another thought but it contains spoilers so read at your own risk.

Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD

Was it just me or was there a lot of unresolved homoerotic tension??? I felt Zafira had unacknowledged feelings for Yasmine, and it seemed like Altair and Nasir flirted through like the first half of the book. Which was then weird when they turned out to be BROTHERS.

3/5 evil ifrit

A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw
CW: domestic abuse, torture, murder
This was my December Book of the Month and I couldn’t put it down. There were a lot of things I didn’t get done because I was reading this book instead. It started off like a fairly standard missing person mystery, but spiraled into an ethereal, magical realism dream and I just HAD to know what was going to happen. One thing I do want to talk about though, is stereotypes, and this is going to contain a spoiler.

Read More: SPOILERS AHEAD


Throughout most of the book, Bee is blind. Literature has a long history of the trope of the “blind seer” or someone who is physically blind but can see “beyond,” whether that be seeing the future, knowing things about people, or even just having really acute senses apart from sight. While this is not necessarily a negative stereotype, it reminds me of the autistic savant stereotypes in that people expect all autistics to be savants or all blind people to have other special powers, which can still be damaging. The other thing I want to mention is that at the end of the book we find out that Bee isn’t actually blind. She was hypnotized into thinking she was. I feel like this feeds into both the stereotype that blind people, or disabled people in general, are faking their disability in order to get special treatment, as well as the stereotype that simply mental effort, or “believing you can overcome” can get rid of a disability. Those are negative and harmful stereotypes, and I expect the author was not trying to buy into them, but our implicit biases can do a lot to continue the cycle of oppression.

3.5/5 silver book charms

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong***
CW: each essay comes with it’s own content warnings
I think everyone should read this book. I learned so much from each and every one of these wonderful essays from amazing disabled advocates. Some of them I had heard of (I read Haben Girma’s memoir in 2020) but many of them I had not heard of, and I’m so glad I now know a bit more about the work they’re doing. I liked all the essays but a few of my favorites were “If You Can’t Fast, Give” by Maysoon Zayid, “There’s a Mathematical Equation That Proves I’m Ugly – or So I Learned in My Seventh-Grade Art Class” by Ariel Henley, “The Erasure of Indigenous People in Chronic Illness” by Jen Deerinwater, “The Isolation of Being Deaf in Prison” by Jeremy Woody, “Radical Visibility: A Disabled Queer Clothing Reform Movement Manifesto” by Sky Cubacub, and honestly so many more. The true strength of the book is its intersectionality. So many of us have a one dimensional idea of disability, but as the largest minority group, disabled people are so diverse and it’s important to understand how various marginalized identities work together.
5/5 inclusive clothing brands

PRH Canada Young Readers

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao***
Book Hangover Alert**
Iron Widow book 1 of more than one
CW provided by the author: “Please be aware that this book contains scenes of violence and abuse, suicide ideation, discussion and references to sexual assault (though no on-page depictions), alcohol addiction, and torture.” I would also like to add foot binding, misogyny, and femicide
I think this was a BookTok book too, but it was so great. Someone please get me the sequel immediately. I loved the originality and the immersive world. I loved the complex characters that weren’t always good people, but always someone the reader could root for. I mentioned in my review of Keeper of the Night that I thought the characters were just unlikable, and even in We Hunt the Flame, I didn’t didn’t feel like the characters’ complexities were fleshed out enough for me to really care about them. But in Iron Widow, even though Shimin and Zeitan are not perfect, or even particularly nice, they’re relatable and I wanted them to succeed.
4/5 chrysalises

Saga Press

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse***
Between Earth and Sky book 1 of 3
CW: body horror, sexual abuse and trafficking, suicide, graphic violence
This epic fantasy is set in a world inspired by the ancient civilizations from the Americas and there is a lot to admire here. It was kind of a slow build and it took me a little while to get into the story, but I was fascinated by Roanhorse’s world building and the different societies and cities she created. I also loved that we got to see some LGBTQ+ representation, as we know many native societies in the Americas were far more accepting of diverse gender and sexual identities–one of many things lost to colonization and often not taught in history. Older fantasy is very white, straight, and set in magical England, so I love that we are starting to see more diverse fantasy worlds. I also want to lift up Roanhorse’s blind character. We talked above about blind characters in A History of Wild Places (if you read the spoiler) and I want to say I think Roanhorse did a much better job with her blind character. He is a blind priest, sort of going with the trope of the blind seer, but he’s also very human, and his abilities with spacial perception are explained through his training and the magic he uses to borrow sight from crows. Reading the author’s note, I know Roanhorse did a lot of research and even consulted with Elsa Sjunneson, who has an essay in Disability Visibility that I highly recommend.
3.5/5 crows

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: abortion, alcohol use, colonialism, racism, domestic abuse, car accident (hit and run)
This is a retelling of The Great Gatsby, which is a classic that I like, but honestly, I think I liked this version more. Everything I loved about the original was there–the decadence, the languid prose, the delicious tension building, the careless characters. This version follows Jordan Baker instead of Nick Carraway, which is of course an improvement because Jordan is inarguably the best character. But this Jordan is Vietnamese, dealing with racism and colonialism and being brought up by white American socialites far from her cultural heritage. And did I mention it’s a fantasy? And LGBTQ+? Demons, the damned, ghosts, living paper, LGBTQ+ relationships–and none of it seems out of place in Fitzgerald’s story. I already mentioned the tension building and the prose, but I’m going to mention them again because they were great. The tone and style of the prose mimics Fitzgerald’s original, giving you the feeling that you are reading The Great Gatsby, while at the same time managing to feel fresh and new. And the tension building throughout is masterful. I loved it.
5/5 cut paper dragons

**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 A Map of Salt and Stars to grow your empathy for Syrian refugees. Read We Hunt the Flame to experience a fantasy set in a world inspired by the Middle East and North Africa. Read Disability Visibility to learn so much about disability and how it intersects with other marginalized identities. Read Iron Widow to enjoy LGBTQ+ sci-fi in a world inspired by ancient China. Read Black Sun to discover a fantasy world inspired by ancient civilizations of the Americas that also celebrates LGBTQ+ identities and deals with disability. Read The Chosen and the Beautiful if you thought Fitzgerald’s version was a little too white and a little too straight.

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.

css.php
Font Resize